Chávez biggest arms purchaser despite PP’s past concerns

Spanish sales of military hardware dropped by 43.7 percent from January to June of this year

Venezuela was the biggest purchaser of arms and military equipment from Spanish companies during the first half of the year, according to a report presented in Congress on Wednesday.

The government of President Hugo Chávez bought some 164.03 billion euros of equipment, accounting for 26.48 percent of all military sales by Spain, the secretary of state for trade said in the report. When he was in opposition, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy severely criticized his predecessor, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, for allowing the leftist Chávez to purchase arms and weapons from Spain. According to cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010, Washington in 2005 tried to pressure Madrid into not selling eight patrol boats — a 600-million-euro transaction — to the Chávez government because US officials feared they would be used for offensive purposes. Rajoy of the conservative Popular Party (PP) used Washington’s concerns to back his argument.

Yet the seventh of the eight patrol boats bought by Chávez was delivered in April while the last one is being assembled in Venezuela with Spanish technology. Ship builders in Puerto Real, Cádiz, have complained to the PP government that this move has taken away jobs in the industry.

Nevertheless, the sale of military hardware dropped by 43.7 percent from January to June of this year compared to the same period in 2011. During the first six months of last year, sales were listed at 1.09 billion euros, while for the first part of this year, they were 619 million.

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