Bush opposes Spanish military sales to Venezuela

24th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

24 November 2005, MADRID — The United States is pressurising Spain not go through with a planned sale of military aircraft and patrol vessels to leftist-governed Venezuela.

24 November 2005

MADRID — The United States is pressurising Spain not go through with a planned sale of military aircraft and patrol vessels to leftist-governed Venezuela.

Washington claims the sale would be a "destabilizing factor" in South America.

US envoy Eduardo Aguirre said Washington hopes "in the long run", the transaction involving 12 planes and eight coastal patrol vessels will happen.

But Venezuela's ambassador to Spain, Arevalo Mendez Romero, said within an hour of Aguirre's comments that Caracas will indeed sign contracts with Spanish firms to acquire the aircraft and boats.

He accused Washington of being the destabilizing factor in Latin America.

Sale of the Spanish-made military aircraft and patrol boats, which Madrid has said would be a big boost to the local aircraft and shipbuilding industries, could emerge as another element of tension between the Bush administration and the government of  Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The prime minister provoked Washington's ire last year when, straight after taking office in April, he pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq.

The previous conservative government had been one of Europe's staunchest supporters of the US-led invasion and occupation of the Arab nation.

In his speech to a gathering in Madrid of officials, diplomats and businesspeople,  Aguirre referred to the prospective deal with Venezuela, which is expected to be formalized at the end of this month.

He said the US government is concerned because what he termed the "immense sale" could be "a destabilizing factor in that region".

Aguirre added that the patrol boats and aircraft in question include US technology, something he said could prompt Washington to deny authorization for the sale.

He said that a decision on that remains to be made.

The diplomat noted that his government had on several occasions voiced concerns about the proposed transaction and said he was confident that "in the long run, it won't take place".

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said last week that Spain's defence minister, Jose Bono, would be visiting Caracas in the near future to finalise the relevant contracts.

Early this year, Spain and Venezuela signed deals under which the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia would be commissioned to build eight patrol boats, while aircraft manufacturer EADS-CASA would receive an order for 12 aircraft: 10 C-295 transports and two CL-235 maritime surveillance planes.

Bono told Spanish deputies in April that the proposed sales represent an expansion of cooperation with Venezuela and a stimulus for Spain's strategically important naval and aeronautics industries.

Chavez, a former paratroop colonel and failed coup-plotter before he was first elected president in late 1998, has emerged as a vocal critic of US policies.

Just last week, he called President George W. Bush a "murderer and a madman".

Washington accuses Chavez of having "totalitarian" designs, while Caracas criticizes the United States' "imperialist and interventionist" attitude toward Venezuela.

The Bush administration recently attacked the sale of 100,000 assault rifles and helicopters by Russia to Venezuela, claiming Chavez might use them to support rebel movements in nearby nations or undermine democratic institutions in the region.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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