US cites Venezuelan links to Cuba in arms sales ban

Campaign News | Wednesday, 17 May 2006

State department spokesman says intelligence cooperation with Cuba and Iran determined action

Washington 16 May: The Bush regime is citing alleged Venezuelan intelligence links to Cuba and Iran as a reason behind its decision on Monday to ban arms sales to Caracas.

The State Department said on Monday that the decision to halt weapons sales to Venezuela stemmed from "a formal determination by the administration that the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is not cooperating with the United States in the fight against terrorism."

But at a news briefing on Tuesday, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack added that the ban also stemmed from Venezuelan intelligence cooperation with Iran and Cuba and ties with the two main Colombian insurgent groups.

"In our judgment, they over the course of the year developed a much closer and stronger intelligence-sharing relationship with the intelligence agencies of Iran and Cuba," he said.

"We also have concerns about their failure to stop transit of certain individuals through Venezuela. We also have concerns about Venezuela serving as a transit point for types of arms. We have concerns about their links to the FARC and ELN. So there's a broad menu here of concerns that we have. Like I said, I can't get into all the details of it. But these are not decisions that we take lightly."

The US action will have little practical effect since Venezuela does little military business with the United States, and has shifted in recent years to other suppliers.

But it underlines the increasingly frosty US relationship with Mr. Chavez, who has been accused by Bush regime officials of undermining democracy at home and trying to export his brand of left-wing populism to other countries in the region.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez Araque has charged that the US decision to halt arms sales is intended to prepare the political conditions for a US military attack.

McCormack warned Venezuela against its reported intention of selling its fleet of US - made F-16 fighter aircraft to another country, perhaps Iran.

He said that Venezuela was bound by a 1982 contact under which it acquired the planes to seek US approval for any third-party transfer, and he made clear that permission for a sale to Iran would not be forthcoming.

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