CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez said Monday that Venezuela has received thousands of Russian-made missiles and rocket launchers as part of his government's military preparations for a possible armed conflict with neighboring Colombia.
"They are preparing a war against us," Chavez said during a televised address, repeating a charge he has been making for months. "Preparing is one of the best ways to neutralize it."
Both Colombia and Washington deny having any plans to attack Venezuela, but Chavez argues they are plotting together a military offensive against Venezuela. Chavez says his government is acquiring more weapons as a precaution.
"Thousands of missiles are arriving," Chavez said. The former paratrooper-turned-president did not specify what type of missiles, but said Venezuela's growing arsenal includes Russian-made Igla-1S surface-to-air missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Chavez, who has been feuding with Colombia for months, claims an agreement between Bogota and Washington allowing the U.S. military to increase its presence at seven Colombian military bases poses a threat to his country. Colombia says the deal is only to help it fight the war on drugs and insurgents inside its territory.
Chavez also said Monday that Russian tanks, including T-72s, will be arriving "to strengthen our armored divisions."
Venezuela has bought more than $4 billion worth of Russian arms since 2005, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, dozens of attack helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. In September, Russia opened a $2.2 billion line of credit for Venezuela to purchase more weapons.