Venezuela VP Says Country not in Arms Race. Tells U.S. to Stop Negative Statements

Venezuela's Vice-president Jose Rangel responded to statements by U.S. Assistant Sec. of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roger Noriega, who criticized Venezuela's deal to buy Russian helicopters and rifles.

Venezuela Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel
Venezuela’s Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said Roger Noriega’s suggestions that military equipment may fall in the hands of leftist insurgents in Colombia are reckless.
Photo: ABN.

Caracas, Feb,8, 2005 ( Venezuela’s Vice-president Jose Vicente Rangel responded to recent statements by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roger Noriega, who criticized Venezuela’s recent deal to buy Russian military helicopters and 100,000 rifles.

“U.S. Department of State spokespersons continue to issue impertinent statements, with the deliberate intention to provoke Venezuela. They will not achieve their goal because our country acts with great political responsibility and therefore it will not fall for such provocations,” Rangel said in a statement. 

“We have to say, once again, in the light of recent statements by Mr. Noriega, that Venezuela is a sovereign country that makes decisions that are of concern to Venezuelans. Venezuela is not advancing a policy of arms race, as we have explained at international forums and as it has been explained to several presidents of the region. Venezuela is simply replacing equipment of its Armed Forces with purposes of national defense. For this policy, we are only accountable to Venezuelans and to the country’s institutions,” Rangel said.

The capture of more than 100 Colombian paramilitary fighters outside of Caracas last year and the recent killings of Venezuelan soldiers in the Colombia border, have often been cited by government officials as evidence of the need to update the country’s military equipment.

The Vice-president said Secretary Noriega’s suggestions that military equipment may fall in the hands of leftist insurgents in neighboring Colombia are reckless. “This same argument could be applied to any other country in the same circumstances,” Rangel said. “The destination of the military equipment that Venezuela acquires is guaranteed,” he added.

Rangel said President Chavez has always has been in favor of maintaining good relations with the United States, but that U.S. spokespersons and officials insist of generating attacks and confrontations, such as the case of U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice who recently called Chavez a negative force in the region. “Statements of this nature are aimed at causing repeated disturbances in the relations between the United States and Venezuela. The responsibility clearly is on the North American side,” Rangel added.

The Vice-president questioned the fact the United States government frequently comments about events in other countries. “It is grotesque the fact that the U.S. government systematically expresses its preoccupation, very frequently, for what happens in other countries. 48 hours ago, they expressed preoccupation about what happens in Russia, now they do the same with Venezuela. I think this is the moment for the U.S. government to stop worrying about what goes on in the rest of the world and to worry about what happens within the United States: unemployment, growing poverty, gigantic fiscal deficit, disproportionate increases of the military budget, crime, the implementation of the Patriot Act that constantly violates citizen’s rights, violation of human rights by U.S forces in Guantanamo and in Iraq, among others. These facts are much more worrisome than the presumed problems observed by them in other nations,” he added.

Noriega also said the Bush administration will seek to persuade Latin American countries that Venezuela poses a threat to the stability of the hemispheric. Rangel did not comment on this particular issue.

U.S. – Venezuela relations have deteriorated recently following a string of negative statements by U.S State Department and White House officials. Dr. Condoleezza Rice recently called President Chavez “a negative force in the region.” Chavez responded by using undiplomatic language with sexual overtones in reference to Dr. Rice, which were sharply criticized both in Washington and by some of the President’s own advisors and close allies, according to sources close to the Chavez administration.