CARACAS, Venezuela – Blame it on the World Cup. That's what Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is doing to explain the decision by several airlines to slash flights to the South American nation.
Alitalia and Panama's Copa Airlines this month became the latest carriers to cut flights to protest the government's refusal to allow them to repatriate proceeds from ticket sales in the country.
Foreign airlines say they have the equivalent of $4 billion trapped in the socialist country converted at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per U.S. dollar.
Maduro on Thursday said the "bourgeois" media opposed to the government is spreading lies that airlines are abandoning the country for good.
Instead he said carriers are diverting flights to Brazil to meet surging demand to attend the World Cup beginning next month.