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Dozens Reported Dead as Cuban Airliner Crashes

In 1997, a Cubana de Aviación flight crashed off the island’s southeast coast three minutes after take off, killing about 40 people.

A year later, around 80 people were killed when a Cubana de Aviación plane crashed into a field after taking off from the airport in Quito, Ecuador. In December 1999, dozens of people, many of them Guatemalan medical students, died when a Cubana de Aviación flight skidded off the runway in Guatemala City. Then just a week after that, another of its flights crashed into a mountain in Venezuela, killing all 22 people on board.

There was confusion over which airline had leased the plane that crashed on Friday to Cubana de Aviación. Initial state media reports said it belonged to Blue Panorama, an Italian company. But that company said its plane was not involved. When reached by phone, an employee at Damojh Airline, also known as Global Air, confirmed the plane belonged to the company.

The crash came against the backdrop of Cuba’s struggle to improve commercial aviation on the island nation, which has long faced economic constraints from the United States embargo.

A day before the crash, Cuban state newspapers reported on a meeting Cuba’s new vice president, Salvador Valdés Mesa, held with key officials from the island’s aviation sector to discuss challenges.

The report said that Roberto Peña Samper, the president of the Cuban Aviation Corporation, bemoaned that the “embargo placed by successive American administrations prevents” the island “from acquiring the resources necessary to operate a larger fleet of planes and to enhance airport services.”

Cubana de Aviación suspended its domestic flights in March, several news outlets reported. The U.S. government-funded news site Radio Marti posted a photo of a sign on the airline’s door showing that all the flights had been canceled.

A security guard told Radio Marti that there were “literally no planes,” and added that the ones that remain are “in very bad condition.”

Source: NYT > World

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