L.A Times | 8/28/2009 12:00:00 AM
Venezuela-Colombia dispute unsettles region where military spending is rising sharply
Aug 28--Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has raised the stakes for Friday's meeting of South American presidents by threatening to break relations with Colombia over plans to give U.S. troops a 10-year lease on its bases.
Even so, the bases deal has created uncertainty about regional stability and provided yet another justification for nations to spend big on their militaries.
Venezuela has poured about $4 billion into Russian weapons to counter the threat Chavez sees from the billions in U.S. military aid to Colombia. Ecuador is buying 24 Brazilian warplanes and six Israeli drones to keep a closer watch on its borders. Bolivia has opened a $100 million line of credit with Russia to buy weapons.
These purchases were in the works even before details of the bases deal were revealed last month by The Associated Press — and defense spending around the region is up sharply, mostly in the name of routine modernization.
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