Dreams of a different world
Sept 17--AFTER a two-week tour that included stops in Libya, Algeria, Syria, Iran, Turkmenistan, Belarus and Russia, where he placed orders for tanks and missiles, Hugo Chávez this week got what he seemed to be seeking all along: the attention of the United States. Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, worried that Venezuela’s weapons’ purchases might trigger an “arms race” in Latin America, and her spokesman described Mr Chávez’s actions as a “serious challenge to stability”.
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Nowadays Mr Chávez’s foreign policy gives top priority—outside Latin America—to forging an anti-American political alliance with Iran, Syria, Belarus and Russia. Mr Chávez told Le Figaro, a French newspaper, that he had clinched a deal on nuclear co-operation with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In response, France’s foreign minister reminded Venezuela that a United Nations resolution forbids Iran exporting material from its controversial nuclear programme, of which Mr Chávez is a supporter.
Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan’s veteran district attorney, told an audience in Washington, DC, earlier this month that Venezuela’s alliance with Iran was a direct threat to American interests. Bank accounts in Andorra, supposedly belonging to people close to Mr Chávez, have been frozen at the request of the United States Treasury, reportedly because of suspicions of links to terrorism.
But the more immediately worrying development may be Venezuela’s arms build-up. Mr Chávez has already spent at least $4.4 billion on Russian fighter jets, military helicopters and rifles. This month he said he had ordered 92 tanks and anti-aircraft missiles using a $2.2 billion loan from Russia. Press reports say three submarines may follow.
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