Vice-President Says Venezuela’s Weapons Purchases are Transparent

Vice-President Rangel responded to US Ambassador Brownfield's comments that Venezuelan weapons purchases were not transparent by denying this was true and suggested that US concerns are actually based in losing market share.

Caracas, February 12, 2005—In response to comments by the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, Venezuelan Vice-President José Vicente Rangel denied that Venezuelan weapons purchases are not transparent. Yesterday, Ambassador William Brownfield, defending U.S. State Department complaints about Venezuela’s planned purchase of 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and several helicopters from Russia, had said that the main reason for the Bush administration’s concerns about this purchase was the lack of transparency involved.

President Chavez reacted angrily this afternoon to the Ambassador’s comments, saying that no ambassador has a right to get involved in Venezuela’s internal affairs. “One has to ask whether there was transparency in the invasion of Iraq. The world knows President Bush lied openly about Iraq having chemical weapons,” said Chavez.

Ambassador Brownfield had said, “When there is transparency there is no confusion; when there is no debate and when information arrives in pieces, there is confusion.” Brownfield compared the Venezuelan purchase to Brazil’s recent purchase of new fighter jets, which he said was far more transparent. He also noted that the 100,000 AK-47s were more than Venezuela’s entire armed forces.  “The sorts of weapons, where they are to go, how they are to be used, all of this is information which would be helpful in terms of reassuring the international community, neighbors and other countries in the region,” said Brownfield.

The Ambassador said this is why the U.S. State Department is concerned about the weapons purchase. Earlier, State Department spokesperson Adam Ereli had said the Bush administration feared that the weapons might fall into the hands of Colombian guerilla fighters, who the U.S. considers to be terrorists.

Vice-President Ragel responded by saying, “[the State Department] expressed a preoccupation of the North American government because the equipment that Venezuelan will acquire could fall into the hands of the guerilla and of violent groups. Ambassador Brownfield, though, speaks of a concern that comes from an issue of transparency and is not an issue of sovereignty.” According to Rangel, this is a very different argument.

“One has to ask whether the U.S. concern might not stem from the fact that this equipment is being bought in Russia and not in the United States,” he also said.

Rangel went on to say that the Venezuelan arms deal was much more transparent than those of U.S. actions in Iraq. He mentioned that it was just reported that the Bush administration has refused to release details about its contractors in Iraq and that some of these contractors are connected to Vice-President Dick Chaney.

In a communiqué released earlier yesterday, Rangel also responded to a recent Washington Times article that said that the U.S. State Department had sent a complaint letter to the Russian Embassy in Washington about Russia’s weapons sale to Venezuela. According to Rangel, such a complaint is to be expected from the U.S., since it is concerned that Russia is encroaching on U.S. predominance in the world wide sale of armaments.

Rangel quoted comments by Russian spokespersons, who said that Russia can sell weapons to any country it likes, as long as these sales are within international agreements. Since Venezuela is not in a conflict with any other country or under UN sanctions, Russia’s sale of weapons to Venezuela is perfectly legal.