Skip to comments.Chavez Kalashnikov factory plan stirs fear
Posted on 06/19/2006 4:16:29 AM PDT by Flavius
CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez's plans to build the first Kalashnikov factory in South America are stirring fears Venezuela could start arming his leftist allies in the hemisphere with Russian assault rifles.
Chavez denies such ambitions, saying his government bought 100,000 Russian-made AK-103 assault rifles and a license from Moscow to make Kalashnikovs and ammunition to bolster its defenses against "the most powerful empire in history" the United States.
Some political opponents and critics suspect Chavez, a former paratrooper, has other intentions, such as providing allies such as Bolivia with arms while forging an anti-Washington military alliance.
"Our president has always had a warlike mentality, but now it appears this mentality is turning into a mission that could easily extend to other parts of Latin America," said William Ojeda, a presidential candidate who hopes to run against Chavez in the December election.
Chavez has said "Venezuelan blood would run" if the United States tried to invade Cuba or Bolivia, though he has not said his government would provide them with weapons.
The Bush administration also is concerned about Chavez's intentions.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday that Venezuela appeared to be in the midst of an "outsized military buildup for a country of that size and the nature of the threats" in the region.
"They've already purchased 100,000 AK-103 assault rifles from Russia. So I'm not quite sure what else they might need a factory for," McCormack said. "It certainly raises serious questions about what their intentions are."
The first 30,000 of those rifles have arrived in Venezuela, with the rest due by year's end.
"If the president says he'll send Venezuelans to defend other Latin American nations, nobody should doubt that he's willing to send them weapons as part of his anti-imperialist vision," Ojeda said.
Ojeda pointed out that Bolivia's new socialist president, Evo Morales, referred to Chavez as his "commander" during a recent ceremony marking the 78th anniversary of the birth of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the revolutionary who was captured and executed in Bolivia 39 years ago.
Chavez has provided a helicopter and pilots to Morales to ferry him around in the weeks ahead of a July vote for a constituent assembly that will rewrite the Bolivian constitution.
Chavez vehemently denies that Venezuela's recent defense deals worth an estimated $2.7 billion constitute a military buildup or that he poses a threat to regional stability, as U.S. officials allege.
His military advisers argue that Venezuela needs new rifles to replace outdated weapons such as Belgian-made FAL assault rifles and to have enough guns for up to 2 million reservists.
Gen. Alberto Muller, a Chavez adviser, said the Kalashnikov factory would be able to produce 20,000 to 30,000 rifles a year. Construction is expected to begin within four to five years, he said, but Chavez may want to build it sooner.
The Kalashnikov has been manufactured in more than a dozen countries, including Cuba, Egypt and Poland. Imitations are also widely produced. It is used by the armed forces of more than 50 countries as well as militant groups from Afghanistan to Somalia.
Muller said there are no plans to export guns because Venezuela will need all the rifles it produces.
But defense analysts say corrupt officials in Venezuela's low-paid armed forces raise the possibility that weapons and ammunition could wind up in the wrong hands a likely concern in neighboring Colombia, where leftist rebels have been battling the government for more than four decades.
"Colombia will certainly be concerned about the ammunition factories to be built in Venezuela," said Anna Gilmour, a Latin American defense expert at the London-based Jane's Information Group.
Unlike assault rifles, ammunition lacks serial numbers and is thus untraceable.
Then there is the issue of Venezuelan civilian militias.
"I understand the FALs are to be diverted to the new civilian militias, in which case they will be extremely hard to keep track of," and might be quickly resold in the country or abroad, Gilmour said.
Military authorities have said strict controls, including serial numbers inscribed on each rifle, prevent them from being stolen or sold.
Venezuela is also buying 15 Russian helicopters for $200 million, and Chavez said last week that his government would buy 24 Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jets.
McCormack said Washington will ask the Russians to reconsider the deals.
After personally handing out new Kalashnikovs to soldiers Wednesday, Chavez inspected one of the AK-103s.
"I don't miss with this rifle," he said, training the gun on the horizon.
that horizon is screwed chavez can hit it every time.
In this photo released by Venezuela's Miraflores Press, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez handles a Russian AK-103 rifle as his Defense Minister Orlando Maniglia looks on in Fort Tiuna in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, June 14, 2006, at a ceremony where Chavez replaced his military's aging Belgian FAL rifles with new Russian AK-103 rifles, and in turn gave the Belgian FAL rifles to the reserves. Chavez's plans to build the first Kalashnikov factory in the Western Hemisphere are sowing fears Venezuela could start arming leftist Latin American allies with the fabled Russian assault rifles. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press,Marcelo Garcia)
I dont believe there is any doubt in most people's minds that Chavez has plans to be the Venezuelan Saddam Insane.
Its a damned shame he doesnt use the resources of his country to help his people. Why cant dictators become beloved by helping their people instead of becoming evil power hungry dogs.
Todays Insane Triumvirate, Ahmadinejhad, Chavez and Kim Il Jung. Third worlders with big evil ideas.
There goes our evil plan to invade Bolivia. Shucks.
In fairness though, i like this rifle!
It's a mistake for Chavez to give Venezuelans rifles, they will only shoot themselves, or maybe him. Instead the country could use a few more central sewer systems.
Hooo-boy. Looks like we should pass a law requiring ammunition sold in California to have serial numbers on it, in order to bring to heel South American ferment.
yeah imagine that
And maybe the new ammo production will relieve 7.62x39 supplies here.
Well, what else should we expect from the commies... They dont have any idea that Hugo doesnt even care about them too...
In an unrelated matter, Chavez plans to replace outdated German-made Mercedes Benz with Trabants.
Ping to venezuela and Russia list
Russia has plans to make RPG's and other weapons in Venezuela as well. Possiblities include tanks, aircraft, and missiles.
Speaking about Spetsnaz... They are present in Venezuela, with Chinese special Ops. They are jointly training the Venezuelan military.
Take a Finnish Valmet instead if you can get your hands on one. Much less of a paint sprayer, but somehow the Finns managed to retain reliability.
Where can I get a Soviet AK-103?
And maybe the new ammo production will relieve 7.62x39 supplies here.
It looks like the one that Chavez is pointing at the sky is in the 5.45x39mm caliber of the AK74. That could indeed make it more popular in some South American circles than the maintenance-intensive and more expensive US-supplied M16A2 and M4 5.56mm rifles.
The larger the quantity in series production, the greater the cost reduction per individual piece, up to a point.
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