By Mario A. Flores
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chávez announced a new purchase of weapons from Russia arguing that the use of seven Colombian military bases by the United States is forcing his hand. Chávez said he would like to spend “not one cent in weapons,” but he must under the circumstances.
Chávez announced that the transaction would be in September but did not disclose the weapons involved or the amount he is spending.
“It’s going to be a series of agreements not just on weapons, although weaponry will be a significant component in order to enhance our operational capacity, our defense system and antiaircraft defenses,” Chávez said during an international press conference.
The announcement comes as the President of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, just completed a lightning visit to seven Latin American nations to explain Colombia’s decision to allow the United States to use the bases and address some of the concerns in the region. Uribe’s trip did not include Ecuador and Venezuela.
Although Uribe’s tour generated some understanding, it did not quell the uneasiness of neighboring states. Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay expressed reservations over the Colombia-United States agreement. Bolivia remains its harshest critic while Peru supports it, and Chile and Paraguay said Colombia has the right to make sovereign decisions, such as who it allows on its territory.
Chávez’s weapons purchase announcement also comes on the backdrop of Colombian accusations that the Venezuelan administration has been supporting the terrorist group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Colombian guerrilla group financed mostly by proceeds from the drug trade.
Evidence has surfaced in the last two weeks that ties Venezuela to weapons seized from the rebels and to collaboration between the guerrillas and high-ranking military and intelligence officials in Chávez’s government.
Chávez reacted to the accusations by freezing bilateral relations. This week, he accepted to meet with former Colombian president Ernesto Samper to discuss the quickly deteriorating situation between the two nations.
At the end of the meeting, Chávez said that “there are no mediators here, no possible mediation. The only way for calm to return is for Colombia to back away from its decision to hand over its territory to the United States so that it [the United States] can continue its aggression against us. There’s no other way.”
The Venezuelan leader warned that the use of military bases in Colombia by the United States, whom he calls “the Yankees, the most aggressive nation in the history of humanity,” can lead to war in the region.
For more information, please see:
El Pais – Chávez alerta del riesgo de guerra en Suramérica por el acuerdo militar entre Colombia y EE UU – 06 August 2009
RCN Radio – Chávez subraya al recibir a Samper: “No hay mediación posible” con Uribe – 06 August 2009
El Pais – Chávez anuncia otro pacto de rearme con Rusia – 07 August 2009