Rumsfeld: AK-47 Sales to Venezuela Wouldn't Be Good for RegionBy Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
I cant imagine why Venezuela needs 100,000 AK-47s, Rumsfeld told reporters in Brasilia during a joint news conference after meeting with Brazilian Vice President and Minister of Defense Jose Alencar Gomes da Silva. He delivered his comments before traveling to Manaus, a city in the Amazon area, to get a briefing on Brazils radar monitoring system.
Rumsfeld said he hopes the arms transfer doesnt occur. If it does happen, he said, then he couldnt imagine that it would be good for the (Western) Hemisphere. Venezuelas president, Hugo Chavez, casts himself as a Castro-style leader whos unafraid to contest American influence in Latin America.
Venezuela has announced its seeking acquisition of the rifles -- and helicopters. Senior U.S. defense officials question why Chavez would embark upon an arms buildup when Venezuelas military is already well-supplied.
Rumsfeld also characterized as inaccurate Argentine newspaper reports that say the United States wants to create a Brazilian-style radar system to monitor Argentinas skies.
Rumsfeld and the Brazilian defense minister said they had good discussions and pledged to continue to work together. The U.S. defense secretary said the United States and Brazil are longstanding friends, and he praised Brazils leadership role in the U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian mission in Haiti.
After the news conference at the defense ministry, Rumsfeld motored to the presidential palace to meet with Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, no relation to the defense minister.
Afterward, the defense secretary took a two-and-a-half hour flight from Brasilia to get briefed on Brazils Amazon surveillance system, known by the acronym SIVAM.
The $2 billion radar network was established in 2003 to monitor Brazils Amazon region. SIVAM is used to monitor deforestation and forest fires, as well as for territorial, climate/meteorological, and electromagnetic surveillance.
The Amazon forest region is the worlds last vast unexplored frontier, with jungles so dense in some areas the sun cant penetrate to the ground. Carved out of the jungle, Manaus was formally created in 1833 and evolved from a Portuguese fort.
After his SIVAM tour, Rumsfeld departed Manaus to fly to Guatemala City, Guatemala. Hes scheduled to visit March 24 with Guatemalan President Oscar Jose Rafael Berger Perdomo and Minister of Defense Carlo Humberto Aldana Villanueva.
Rumsfeld arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 21 to kick off a four-day Latin American trip. He is slated to return to Washington March 24.
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