14 de junio de 2007
CARACAS, Venezuela --
Venezuela is studying buying Russian submarines that would transform the South American country into the top naval force in the region, a military adviser to President Hugo Chavez said Thursday.
Gen. Alberto Muller, responding to a Russian newspaper report that Chavez plans to sign a deal for five diesel submarines, said the government is "analyzing the possibilities" but that the money has not yet been set aside.
Oil-rich Venezuela has already purchased some $3 billion worth of arms from Russia, including 53 military helicopters, 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 24 SU-30 Sukhoi fighter jets and other weapons.
Washington, which calls Chavez a destabilizing threat to the region, has voiced strong concern about those deals.
The Russian business daily Kommersant said Chavez would sign an initial contract for five Project 636 Kilo-class diesel submarines during a trip to Moscow starting June 29 with the possibility of Russia supplying four state-of-the-art Project 677 Amur submarines later.
Muller told The Associated Press that those proposed purchases would make Venezuela's navy the region's strongest.
"Venezuela is interested in examining within a strategic context the possibility that these submarines fit our defense plans," Muller said.
Venezuela's priority is to strengthen its navy, which "is not of sufficient magnitude to defend Venezuela's coast and to ensure (the safety) of routes by which its exports leave," he said. Venezuela is the world's eigth-largest oil exporter.
Russia has also angered the United States by selling weapons to Syria and Iran and any additional deals with Venezuela would likely further strain U.S.-Russian relations, which are broadly seen as having plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War.