Spain Resists U.S. Attempts to Block Venezuelan Aircraft Sale

The U.S. government told Spain that it would not allow the sale of spanish military patrol boats to Venezuela, as these include U.S. technology and would destabilize the region. Spain said it would proceed with the sale anyway, with non-U.S. parts, if necessary.

Caracas, Venezuela, 13 January 2006 – The Spanish government has said it will still sell 12 military planes to Venezuela despite a strong diplomatic effort by the U.S. to stop them. The Spanish Vice-President, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, said Spain, “must comply,” with its Venezuelan contract.

Yesterday, the U.S. government tried to decisively stop the sale of Spanish military planes to Venezuela. The U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Eduardo Aguirre, told the Spanish government on Thursday night they could not sell the planes as they used some U.S. technology.  

According to reports, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid said, “In a region that needs political stability, the actions and frequent declarations of the Venezuelan government contribute to regional instability.” The US Embassy said the Spanish sale would, “complicate this situation.”

U.S. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said today, "I think that when you’re talking about armed patrol boats, maritime control aircraft, as well as other kinds of aircraft, it raises a lot of questions about their potential use and what effect that may have on the stability in the region."

In response, De la Vega said the unarmed transport planes, “have no offensive character.” The Spanish Vice-President said that there were a series of reasons why the U.S. tried to stop the sale. “This is a series of reasons the Spanish Government naturally does not share,” said De la Vega.

Replacement technology from other European countries would be used and the sale would go ahead, added De la Vega. The Spanish subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company EADS-CASA is building the planes. It could find the parts from German, French or Italian makers.

The deal was worth $1.7 billion for Spain when signed last November 28. It may cost more now that replacement parts need to be bought. The deal is the largest military sale Spain has ever made. De la Vega said that the contract will also create 1,000 new jobs in Spain over the next few years. 

For the past several months the U.S. government has been warning the Spanish government about the issue of U.S. technology being sold to Venezuela. It is only now they have tried to firmly block the deal. 

In a speech to the National Assembly today, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the U.S. is determined to attack Venezuela and that the blocking of arms sales were an example of U.S. imperialism. Chavez said the country must build up its defenses to prepare for a possible U.S. attack and buy more weapons.