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Washington campaigns to frustrate sale of Russian weapons to Venezuela

The operation complies with all international regulations. However, the US State Department lodged a formal protest with Russia in which demonizes President Chavez as a leftist agitator and a Castro-styled dictator. Moscow and Caracas rejected allegations.

As anticipated by PRAVDA.Ru in December last year, Washington is campaigning to frustrate the sale of Russian weapons to Venezuela -a large operation estimated in $ 5 billion-, despite the deal complies with all international regulations. On Thursday, the US State Department made public that it was “troubled” by Russia's military cooperation with the South American nation, suggesting that the arms could be used to aid leftist guerrillas in Latin America.

The arms pact announced last year by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez would give the South American OPEC member 100,000 AK-47 automatic rifles and 40 MI-35 helicopters. Venezuela is also evaluating Russian MiG-29 fighters as possible replacements for the old US F-16s.

The US opposition to the operation provoked reactions in Moscow and Caracas. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Interfax that the arms delivery “is a matter of cooperation between the two countries”. "Our bilateral cooperation does not go beyond any international norms and obligations. There is nothing to comment on," the minister was quoted as saying.

Interfax also quoted Moscow officials stating that Russia evaluates Washington's statements as unfounded and biased. "Moscow was surprised to hear about the U.S. State Department's concerns in relation to the possible shipment of Kalashnikov assault rifles from Russia to Venezuela," the source is quoted as saying.

In Washington, the Venezuela's ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez, said there appeared to be a campaign to discredit his country under way featuring critical media coverage attributed to unnamed officials. "It's clear that there is an orchestrated campaign. I don't know why, but the thing is to create the impression that we are a hostile country, a terrorist country, a pariah state," Alvarez said.

In fact, the US say Chavez is trying to prop up leftist uprisings across the continent to spread his leftist “Bolivarian Revolution” to other nations. Washington has been also hostile to Chavez’s ties with Castro’s regime Cuba and his personal friendship with the Cuban leader.

"Venezuela's plans to purchase various types and large quantities of weapons are extremely troubling," said State Department spokesman Lou Fintor. "Our concerns about these weapons purchases are heightened by Venezuela's tolerance for groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Colombian terrorist group the National Liberation Army, and others."

However, the US has repeatedly failed to probe allegations and not a single country in Latin America has supported US statements. What is certain is that since 2000, Washington has spent up to $3 billion in “military aid” to Venezuela’s neighbour, Colombia, to support an unsuccessful offensive against leftist rebels. It is also a fact that almost 1,000 US officers are training Colombian armed forces, in a move that breaks the balance of military power in the region. It is also a fact that the Washington- backed Colombian army has close links with the notorious far right death squads, accused of crimes against humanity by the United Nations, the Organization of American States and, paradoxically, by the US Congress more than once. It is also a fact that tons of US weapons have been found in possession of these death squads after being used to butch poor farmers in Colombia’s jungles.

Apart from this, the US media quoted recent intelligence reports stating that Chavez is moving to an authoritarian regime and to a closer cooperation with Cuba. Allegations about Venezuela’s authoritarian regime, come only six months after President Chavez accepted and won a recall referendum against him, validated by the OAS and the Carter’s Institute, among other international observers.

As for the cooperation with Cuba, PRAVDA.Ru is in position to confirm that about 20,000 -5,000 more than the figure quoted in CIA’s report- Cuban doctors and teachers are working in Venezuela in health and alphabetization programs. Cuba has similar deals with other nations in Africa and Latin America, which do not attract the attention of US spies.

US State Department statement came only a week after Venezuela announced its intention to shift its oil sales strategy to diversify oil exports away from the United States in favor of other nations in Latin America and Asia. It is also rumoured that Venezuela plans to sell its oil refineries in the USA because they are unprofitable. Oil rich Venezuela is world's fifth oil exporter and responsible of 15% of US crude imports.