The US State Department thinks Venezuela is on a military spree that is not commensurate to its needs and that is the reasoning the US is using to justify why the United States has vetoed the sale by Brazil of its military training jet Tucano to Caracas.

    During Friday’s (January 20) press briefing, US State Department’s spokesman, Sean McCormack, was asked if the United States would continue blocking the sale after a statement by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva that Brazil won’t accept American intervention and that he had tried to convince President Bush to approve the deal.

    Brazilian Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, joined in to say that the restrictions were not justified since Venezuela is not under sanctions.

    McCormack’s answer: "We have been in discussions with Brazilian officials regarding this matter and we continue to talk to them about it. But we – I would just say that in the past, and for example, I’ll use the example of a proposed sale of some Spanish armaments to Venezuela, that we have had concerns about those sales.

    "Those concerns center around a military – what we would consider an outsized military buildup in Venezuela. The Chavez government has chosen to activate its reserves and also to build up what I could only describe as what is a planned million-person civilian militia.

    "In addition to this, fueled by revenues coming from increased oil prices, there has been a – the Venezuelan Government has talked about a buying spree for military equipment. And all this planned buying spree is really outsized, in the analysis, I believe, of many, to Venezuela’s defense needs.

    "So we have expressed those concerns in the past. We expressed those concerns to the Spanish Government as well as to the Brazilian Government.

    Asked if the Brazilian and the Spanish situation were exactly the same involving the same kind of airplane, the spokesman replied:

    "I don’t think the proposed – the two proposed sales, I think, are for different kinds – different kinds of equipment. I think the Spanish sale involved some maritime patrol, armed maritime patrol sea craft and then some airplanes as well. And on the Brazilian sale, it has to do with the Super Tucano aircraft.

    The Brazilian Foreign Minister made a comment that State Secretary Condoleezza Rice was looking into the matter. Asked if she would have an answer soon, McCormack answered the journalists who cover the State Department:

    "We’ll keep the Brazilian Government updated on that and then we’ll try to do the same with you, as best we can."

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