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Air Canada suspends flights to Venezuela due to civil unrest

Opposition activists clash with the national police during a protest against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on March 10, 2014. JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images

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

In a statement posted on its website, the airline says it can no longer ensure the safety of its operation in Venezuela, which has been roiled by daily street protests over crime and a deteriorating economy for more than a month.

The airline said that it is monitoring the ongoing situation in Venezuela, and will resume flying into the country once “Air Canada is satisfied that the situation in Venezuela has stabilized.”

VIDEO Gallery: Venezuelan protests

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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.

Turmoil in Venezuela

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.

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.

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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.