Chávez builds a Russian arsenal

MIAMI — With the acquisition of hundreds of tanks, helicopters and bulletproof vehicles as well as submarines and missile networks, Venezuela is arming itself at a speed unprecedented in the history of the South American country.

Experts consulted by the El Nuevo Herald have said that Hugo Chávez’s government has created unrest in the region with purchases to expand its military that total more than $15 billion.

The analysts warned the purchases are made in an improvised fashion, following a “dubious” process with no bidding or prior studies, which could lead the country to acquire a Russian technology difficult to adopt and rejected by segments of the National Armed Forces.

The funds Chávez is using for the purchase of these new weapons, the largest in the nation’s history, are in good part coming from loans.

“There have been important acquisitions in the country but never of such magnitude,” said Carlos Julio Peñaloza, former chief of the Unified Command of Venezuela’s Armed Forces.

And it could end up being a lot more than $15 billion.

Some analysts said the purchases made so far add up to about $30 billion, a figure Chávez himself has said he wishes to spend to modernize the country’s armed forces.

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