Venezuela: U.S. has no “moral weight” to criticize arms purchases

VENEZUELA — The Venezuelan government responded to U.S. government criticisms of recent arms purchases from Russia saying that the U.S. criticisms “have no political or moral weight.”

Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Nicolas Maduro said, “Any government of the United States that does not plan to dismantle its industrial, military and technological apparatus has no moral standing from which to express an opinion about any government of the entire world. Today, Venezuela is a free and sovereign country.”

He also said, “The United States sustains simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq and in addition to this it has investments in the development of weapons of mass destruction.”

Venezuela recently accepted Russia’s offer of a credit of approximately $2.2 billion for arms purchases. This comes in addition to a $1 billion credit that Russia granted Venezuela in June and $4.4 billion in purchases of military planes, helicopters, tanks and rifles from Russia since 2005.

Venezuela has said that its purchases from Russia are for necessary upgrades and replacement parts that the U.S., a former supplier to Venezuela now denies it. Maduro sustained that Venezuela’s military strategy is “eminently defensive” and oriented toward the defense of its territory and its natural resources against potential aggression from the U.S.

Last year, the U.S. re-activated its navy in South American waters and more recently signed a deal with Colombia to expand the U.S. military presence on seven Colombian bases, right across the border from Venezuela that holds some of the largest oil reserves in the world and the fifth largest reserve of gas.

The hollow criticisms that warranted Venezuela’s response came on Monday when U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ian Kelly called Venezuela’s purchases “an arm buildup” that “poses a serious challenge to stability in the Western Hemisphere.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a press conference on Tuesday that she was concerned and hoped to see “a change in the behavior and attitude on the part of the Venezuelan government.”

She said, “We urge Venezuela to be transparent in its purchases, clear about its purposes.”

Clinton’s call for transparency come after the U.S. and Colombia’s refusal to disclose the details of their recent military agreements, flying in the face of direct requests from several countries on the continent including Venezuela.

The Colombian government, the U.S.’s main lapdog in South America, is the second largest arms spender in South America, and according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, it has increased its military expenditures by more than 140 percent over the past 10 years.

In fact, the amount Venezuela has spent on arms purchases from Russia is about the same as the mostly military aid the U.S. has given Colombia between the years of 2000 and 2008.

The U.S. has increased its military spending by 66 percent over the past decade and is the world’s largest military producer and spender by far. Venezuela’s military budget is less than one percent of the U.S.’s, which tops $600 billion per year and accounts fro half of all global military spending.

The U.S. accounts for nearly 70 percent of global arms business, and has a history of military aggression against peoples of the world.

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