Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced details of an arms build-up which he says will include a sophisticated missile defense system. “We’re going to have a tremendous air-defense system, and with with missiles capable of reaching 200 kilometers,” Chavez said during a televised speech April 27 at a military academy in Caracas. He boasted the plan “will convert Venezuela into a nation truly invulnerable to any external threat, invulnerable to any plan of aggression.”
Chavez denied any aggressive agenda behind the build-up plans. “They are necessary investments. We’re not going to attack anybody,” he said. Also included in the plans is spending of more than $561 million for factories to build automatic AK-103 assault rifles, munitions, and detonators.
In addition, he said Venezuela would open one facility to train pilots to fly Russian M-17, M-26 and M-35 helicopters, and another to overhaul F-5 fighter jets. Venezuela is also considering building a plant to maintain Russian helicopters, he said.
Venezuela last year signed an agreement with Russia to buy 24 Sukhoi fighter jets and 53 helicopters. That followed earlier deals to acquire 100,000 AK-103 rifles and other helicopters. Those military purchases are estimated to have cost around $2.7 billion. Chavez has also previously said that he is considering purchasing arms from Belarus and Iran. (AlJazeera, April 28)
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