A small civilian aircraft, pursued by Venezuelan military jets, crashed Thursday into the Caribbean Sea near the island of Aruba, officials on the island said.
Arthur Dowers, Aruba’s justice minister, said in a telephone interview that he was waiting for confirmation from Venezuela about whether the jets had fired on the airplane before it went down. He said officials in Aruba were investigating the cause of the crash. Investigators have found body parts, wreckage and packages of what appeared to be drugs at the crash scene, he said.
The Aruban police said they received a call about the crash at 6:45 a.m., and that the plane had gone down to the west of the island, a popular tourist destination.
“The information we have is confirmed, that it was pursued by Venezuelan military planes,” Mr. Dowers said. “What we do not have is any involvement with them bringing down the plane.”
Aruba is less than 20 miles off the coast of Venezuela.
In recent years Venezuela has become an important transfer point for drugs, especially cocaine, moving from Colombia toward the United States, according to American officials.
Typically drugs are smuggled by the ton into Venezuela, where they are loaded onto planes and flown to Central America, Mexico or Caribbean islands. From there they are moved north to the United States. Venezuelan jets have occasionally shot down aircraft said to be carrying drugs.
“We have found packages that at this moment have not been tested but can give the indication there was some kind of illegal substances being transported by this plane,” Mr. Dowers said. “We suspect it will be drugs.”
The episode occurred after the Venezuelan authorities this week denied reports that a onetime aide to the powerful head of the National Assembly and to former President Hugo Chávez defected to the United States to provide information about Venezuelan government officials’ alleged involvement in the drug trade.