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Bolivia faces critics over purchase of aircrafts from China

Monday, October 5th 2009 - 13:10 UTC
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Minister Walker San Miguel, “we’re the South American country which less spends on the military” Minister Walker San Miguel, “we’re the South American country which less spends on the military”

Bolivia said on Sunday that it’s the South American country which least invests in military hardware and ratified it is not involved in any arms race. Defence minister Walker San Miguel statement follow the Bolivian decision to purchase six aircrafts from China which come on top of an open credit line for military hardware extended by Russia.

“Bolivia is the country which less spends in military and war hardware. We are very consequent with our commitment to the principles of peace, dissuasion, but we can’t have Armed Forces that do not access to the minimum equipment for their professional training and action if needed”, said the Bolivian minister.

The government of President Evo Morales has come under strong criticism for having approved the purchase of six Chinese built K-8 aircrafts with the purpose of combating the drug trade and to control “sensitive regions” of the country where the drug cartels prosper and have great mobility. The bill for the planes is 57.8 million US dollars.

The Russian credit line is for 100 million US dollars. There have been no announcements regarding the Russian loan.

Walker San Miguel said that the Armed Forces had been left aside for two decades regarding the renewal of “operational logistic equipment and elementary military hardware” and they currently are operating with obsolete equipment.

The minister also mentioned that Bolivia is no match to countries such as Brazil which recently announced military purchases totalling 15 billion US dollars or Chile that regularly updates its forces with windfall earnings from copper prices.

The aircrafts equipped with sophisticated radars were finally purchased from China since the first choice Czech Republic was cancelled because of a veto from Washington since the planes have “US technology”.

Last week President Morales complained that the donation of five choppers from Brazil for anti drugs surveillance was also suspended because they have US technology and the transfer must be approved by Washington.

“The US is not helping and Europe has its own regulations, so we went to China”, he said.

President Morales admitted that one of the weaknesses of the country’s combat against the drugs cartels is intelligence which was provided by DEA (Drugs Enforcement Agency) but he had them expelled from Bolivia for alleged “espionage”.

Morales also had the US ambassador expelled and promised DEA would not return to Bolivia as long as he is president.

The Chinese deal is part of a greater package: Beijing will build and launch into orbit Bolivia’s first satellite (at a cost of 300 million US dollars). The deal was signed by Morales and Chinese president Hu Jintao during the recent UN General Assembly.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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