- Rueters -
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern on Tuesday about what she said was the growing number of arms purchases by Venezuela and the potential for an arms race in the region.
"We have expressed concerned about the number of Venezuelan arms purchases. They outpace all other countries in South America and certainly raise questions as to whether there is going to be an arms race in the region," Clinton told reporters after a meeting with Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez.
The State Department said on Monday that President Hugo Chavez' announcement that Russia would loan Venezuela $2.2 billion to purchase 92 tanks and advanced anti-aircraft missiles might spur other countries to add arms.
Chavez, a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy, also set alarm bells ringing in Washington when he announced this month that Venezuela would step up energy sector cooperation with Iran, another U.S. foe.
In recent years, Venezuela has bought over $4 billion in weapons from Russia including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets. Critics say Chavez is gearing up for an arms race in Latin America, but he says he is modernizing the military for defensive purposes.
Clinton urged Venezuela to be more "transparent" about its weapons purchase policies.
"They should be putting in place procedures and practices to ensure that the weapons they buy are not diverted to insurgent groups or organizations like drug trafficking gangs and other cartels," Clinton said.