Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wikileaks Cable- The American Airlines Crew And "Loco" Hugo Chavez

Although I firmly believe what Wikileaks is doing is, for the most part, a criminal act rather than a freedom of speech issue (but that's a topic for another post), some of the less potentially harmful information that has emerged has been rather bizarre. Take what happened at the airport in Caracas, Venezuela several years ago, when the captain and crew of American Airlines flight 903 were briefly held by Venezuelan authorities because of what amounted to the language barrier. According to a confidential, classified 2008 cable from the US Embassy in Caracas, the captain and flight crew had been detained because of the following announcement by one crew member:

"Welcome to Venezuela. Local Chavez time is ..."

If you remember, back in 2007, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, decided to arbitrarily create his own personal time-zone by permanently turning the clock back a half hour; simply because he could. And, as those of us who travel by air well know, passengers are always informed of the local time upon arrival at our destination. However, according to the cable, one Chavez groupie passenger, Nestor Maldonado Lanza, thought he heard "loco" instead of "local". For those of you who might not know Spanish, "loco" means crazy, which (ironically) Chavez is, but that's beside the point. Incensed at this perceived insult, Lanza immediately told National Assemblyman Carlos Echezuria Rodriguez (who was waiting for him at the airport) about these terrible Americans who had called his beloved Presidente "loco". The Deputy, in turn, called Vice President Carrizales, and from there it almost spiralled out of control- all because of one misinterpreted word.

Omar Nottaro, American Airlines Country Manager, managed to extricate the crew from what could have turned into an international incident, by some deft diplomacy which included apologies to various entities and off they went. Frankly, there should have been no need for apologies but when you are dealing with people like Chavez (who is clearly not in his right mind) and his minions, it's best to placate.

And apparently it wasn't an isolated incident- the cable also briefly mentions a Delta flight that had similar problems in Caracas.


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ClosetedDave said...

I'm Venezuelan and, certainly, this is a good thing to know. Not because it's relevant in any way, but only because it's funny as hell.

I would've loved being in that plane, sitting right next to that guy who got all crazy about it. It would've been so much fun, seriously.

By the way, Chávez and his people call the not-poor 'pityyankees'. So I'm a pityyankee, woo hoo!

Incognito said...

NASAINFORMATION: Thank you Santo, I will check it out, although I already have one or two Space station blogs I have added.

Incognito said...

CLOSETEDDAVE: I lived in Venezuela when I was a very young child.. Pre-Chavez days..

and yes, it is funny as heck. His antics are fuel for much humour. I think my favorite has to be when he sent tuna fish cans with his picture on the label to the survivors of the earthquake in central america.

I assume you are not in Venezuela any longer?