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Citing domestic turmoil, Air Canada suspends service to Venezuela

An Air Canada jet sits at the gate on Jan. 8, 2014. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Air Canada decided to suspend its flights to and from Venezuela on Monday as anti-government protests continue to rattle the South American country.

"Due to on-going civil unrest in Venezuela, Air Canada can no longer ensure the safety of its operation and has suspended flights to Caracas until further notice," the airline said in a statement posted on its website.

"Air Canada will continue to monitor the situation and will evaluate the re-introduction of flights with the objective of resuming operations on the route once Air Canada is satisfied that the situation in Venezuela has stabilized."

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The first flights affected by the move are a scheduled departure from Toronto to Caracas on Tuesday evening and a flight from Caracas to Toronto on Wednesday morning.

The airline and travel agents have started notifying affected customers. Air Canada's reservations and ticketing office in Caracas remains open.

The airline said affected ticket-holders can obtain refunds while those who are mid-travel also have the option to be rebooked on other airlines at no additional charge.

Air Canada's suspension came just a few days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said any airline that reduced or suspended flights in and out of Venezuela would face severe measures.

Maduro said any airline that leaves won't be allowed back while he is in power.

Demonstrations have erupted in numerous parts of Venezuela during the past month over crime and a deteriorating economy.

Protesters have been voicing their dissatisfaction with inflation that hit 56 per cent last year, soaring violent crime and shortages of basic necessities such as corn flour and cooking oil.

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In a part of the capital, peaceful daily protests have devolved each afternoon into violent clashes with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and Molotov cocktails.

Only a small segment of the demonstrators stick around for the skirmishes, but the damage wreaked by an even smaller subgroup has been highly publicized on state television.

With files from the Associated Press

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