Wed, Dec 09, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Venezuela acquires thousands of missiles

SPLASHING OUT Venezuela has bought more than US$4 billion in Russian arms since 2005, including fighter jets, helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles

AP AND AFP , CARACAS

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Monday that Venezuela had received thousands of Russian-made missiles and rocket launchers as part of his government’s military preparations for a possible armed conflict with neighboring Colombia.

“They are preparing a war against us,” Chavez said during a televised address, repeating a charge he has been making for months. “Preparing is one of the best ways to neutralize it.”

Both Colombia and Washington deny having any plans to attack Venezuela, but Chavez argues said they were together plotting a military offensive against Venezuela. Chavez said his government was acquiring more weapons as a precaution.

“Thousands of missiles are arriving,” Chavez said.

The former paratrooper-turned-president did not specify what type of missiles, but said Venezuela’s growing arsenal includes Russian-made Igla-1S surface-to-air missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Chavez, who has been feuding with Colombia for months, said an agreement between Bogota and Washington allowing the US military to increase its presence at seven Colombian military bases poses a threat to his country. Colombia said the deal was only to help it fight the war on drugs and insurgents inside its territory.

ARMORED DIVISIONS

Chavez also said on Monday that Russian tanks, including T-72s, would be arriving “to strengthen our armored divisions.”

Venezuela has bought more than US$4 billion in Russian arms since 2005, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, dozens of attack helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. In September, Russia opened a US$2.2 billion line of credit for Venezuela to purchase more weapons.

Meanwhile, Chavez said on Monday that US President Barack Obama may be well-intentioned, but he’s still stuck in the past when it comes to supporting Honduras’ recent, post-coup election.

“Poor Obama must be full of good intentions ... why not,” Chavez said in a televised speech recalling his meeting with the US leader at the Summit of the Americas in April in Trinidad and Tobago.

“He approached me and I saw he was a bit confused, so I gave him a good book. He told me then he was going to speak about the future, not the past,” Chavez said.

“But look here, Obama: What happened in Honduras is the old way and you’re backing that,” Chavez said.

TOO FAR LEFT

On Nov. 29, Hondurans voted Porfirio Lobo to office to succeed ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya was ousted in a military-backed coup in June amid criticism the elected president leaned too far to the left and too close to Chavez.

The US called the post-coup election “a significant step forward” in solving Honduras’ political crisis, while regretting that a deal to restore the ousted president had not been implemented.

Addressing Obama, Chavez said: “You’re supporting thugism behavior ... I don’t think you’ve read the book [I gave you].”

The book, Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina (The Open Veins of Latin America) by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, is about the region’s colonial past and exploitation by the world’s big powers — themes hammered constantly by Chavez.

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