Venezuela and Panama Reconnect Flights After Diplomatic Spat

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced he was restoring flights to Panama, one of the most popular connections for getting in and out of his crisis-stricken nation.

Speaking from a business expo in Caracas, Maduro announced that the route will resume Friday as part of an agreement he reached with his Panamanian counterpart, Juan Carlos Varela. Both nations will restore ambassadors and form a commission to help defuse an escalating diplomatic feud that saw Venezuela suspend economic ties with Panama.

“We have agreed to have the best bilateral relations and to channel differences in the best way possible,” Maduro said. “My thanks to President Varela.”

The Venezuela-Panama route was grounded as part of a sweeping response to Panama’s move to black-list Venezuelan government officials for conducting financial transactions in the Central American nation. In a tit-for-tat, Maduro sanctioned 22 individuals and over 90 Panamanian companies, including Copa Airlines, one of the few remaining major carriers servicing Venezuela.

In a posting on Twitter, Copa said it was awaiting “official notification from authorities to provide details of the restoration of flights.”

Since 2013, almost a dozen airlines have pulled out of the South American nation as Venezuela’s government struggles to meet obligations amid a spiraling economic crisis. While Copa had already reduced its exposure, the remaining flights and connecting traffic represented about 5 percent of revenue for the Panama City-based airline in 2017 according to estimates from Banco Bradesco SA.

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