Marco Sibaja-Associated Press, 09/18/09
BRASILIA, Brazil — Major military weapons purchases by Brazil and Venezuela won’t spur an arms race in South America and are necessary to protect borders and natural resources, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Friday.
Silva also downplayed concerns raised this week from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that purchases planned by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could destabilize the region.
“Venezuela is a country with huge amounts of oil and natural gas, and Chavez was the victim of a coup, so it’s normal that he is getting prepared,” Silva said in an interview with Brazil’s Radio Guaiba. Chavez was briefly ousted from power in a 2002 coup.
Brazil is on the verge of signing a multi-billion-dollar deal to buy 36 new fighter jets and has already signed a contract with France to purchase submarines and helicopters. Latin America’s largest nation also is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a program to develop a nuclear submarine.