Venezuela Buys Military Equipment

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, right, visits with Spain's Defense Minister Jose Bono at a ceremony where Venezuela and Spain signed an agreement in which Spain will sell 12 military planes and eight boats to Venezuela in a US$2 billion (1.7 billion euro) deal, Spain's largest-ever defense deal, in Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Nov.28, 2005. (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch) AP

Spain agreed Monday to sell 12 military planes and eight patrol boats to Venezuela in a $2 billion deal that the United States has threatened to block.

The U.S. State Department repeated concerns about the sale because the planes and boats carry U.S. parts and technology, but Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono joined Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in saying the sale should not concern Washington.

"Is there some rule that prohibits this sale? ... There is no international embargo," Bono said at the signing ceremony.

Spain is selling 10 C-295 transport planes and two CN-235 patrol planes, as well as four ocean patrol boats and four coast patrol vessels. It is Spain's largest-ever defense deal.

Bono said neither the boats nor transport planes were armed and that the patrol planes were only equipped for self-defense.

"This is not a warplane," he said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused Washington of hypocrisy for trying to hold up the sale despite using warplanes to invade Iraq and called it another example of how the U.S. attempts to dominate weaker countries.

"The imperialist aim doesn't want any country on this earth to develop. It wants to keep us as slaves, it wants to keeps us backward," Chavez said.

"We in Venezuela don't have to be giving any explanation, much less under imperialist pressure."

Last week, the U.S. ambassador to Spain, Eduardo Aguirre, said that Washington could refuse to allow U.S. technology to be transferred to Venezuela, adding that "in the long run we hope the sale won't go ahead."
  • Gina Pace