Chavez says his country is buying more arms because it feels threatened by Colombia's decision to give US troops greater access to its military bases.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
Russia has opened a $2.2 billion line of credit for Venezuela to purchase weapons including armored vehicles and surface-to-air missiles, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Sunday.
Venezuela is buying more arms because it feels threatened by Colombia's decision to give US troops greater access to its military bases, Chavez said.
Repeating a frequent theme of his presidency, the socialist leader said the United States would like to invade Venezuela and seize the country's oil fields. He said the bases in Colombia could help the US stage such an attack.
The arms deal was announced last week during Chavez's visit to Moscow, and he gave details Sunday. Chavez said the deal calls for Venezuela to buy 92 Russian-made T-72 tanks as well as Smerch anti-aircraft missile launching systems.
He didn't say how many missile launchers Venezuela was buying.
"The Russian government approved financing for $2.2 billion. For what? For weapons, and we must thank them," Chavez said. "We've decided to install a powerful anti-air defense system."
Last week, Chavez said the deal also included the purchase of ground-to-ground missiles with a range of up to 186 miles (300 kilometers). He said they were needed to improve Venezuela's defenses.
Venezuela and Colombia have been feuding for months over the negotiations between Bogota and Washington that would allow the US military to increase its presence at seven Colombian bases under a 10-year lease agreement. Colombian and US officials say the agreement is necessary to more effectively help Colombia fight drug traffickers and leftist rebels.
Venezuela has already bought more than $4 billion worth of Russian arms since 2005, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, dozens of attack helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles.
Chavez said nobody should be alarmed by Venezuela's newest arms purchases. Venezuela "doesn't plan to invade anybody," he said.
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