The United States is concerned that Venezuela’s plan to buy over $2 billion (R14 billion) in weapons from Russia could set off an arms race in the region, a State Department spokesperson said.
President Hugo Chavez announced last week that Russia has agreed to give Venezuela a $2.2 billion (R16 billion) loan to purchase 92 tanks and advanced anti-aircraft missiles, Reuters reports.
State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly said the United States was worried about the arms deal.
“We have concerns in general about Venezuela’s stated desire to increase its arms build-up, which we think poses a serious challenge to stability in the Western Hemisphere,” Kelly told reporters.
“What they are looking to purchase and what they are purchasing outpaces all other countries in South America. And, of course, we’re concerned about an arms race in the region,” Kelly said.
In recent years, Venezuela has bought over $4 billion (R29 billion) in weapons from Russia, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets.
Critics say Venezuela is fuelling an arms race in Latin America, but Chavez says he is modernizing his country’s military for defensive purposes.
Venezuela is embroiled in a diplomatic dispute with Colombia over a deal to allow US troops access to more bases in the neighbouring country to help fight drug traffickers and guerrillas.
Chavez, a fierce critic of US foreign policy, says the Colombian bases plan could be used to launch an attack on Venezuela and increases the risk of war in South America.