CORRECTED-Venezuela warns airlines not to cut flights amid debt woes

viernes 14 de marzo de 2014 16:37 GYT

(Corrects to Avianca will reduce seat space from Peru, not suspend flights, paragraph 9)

By Deisy Buitrago

CARACAS, March 14 (Reuters) - President Nicolas Maduro on Friday warned airlines not to limit flights in and out of Venezuela, a day after reports a Colombian airline was reducing services to Caracas amid industry complaints of billions of dollars in unpaid debts.

"Airlines have no excuse to reduce their flights to Venezuela," Maduro said during a press conference.

"If airlines reduce (flights), I will take severe measures."

Airlines have struggled to obtain dollars in exchange for the bolivar currency as a result of long-running delays in Venezuela's 11-year-old currency control system.

The International Air Transport Association this week said that airlines are owed $3.7 billion and that some are considering halting service to Venezuela.

"If an airline leaves the country, it's not coming back while we are in government," Maduro said, casting the airlines' complaints as part of a wider "economic war" against his socialist government by political foes and businesses.

Maduro also said, however, that his government would pay debts to the airline industry.   Continuación...