The Air Force general responsible for US military operations in most of Latin America said Tuesday that he does not believe Venezuela, despite ongoing arms purchases and close ties to Iran, poses a national security threat to the United States.
General Douglas Fraser was asked if he thought Venezuela’s newly announced development of unmanned aerial vehicles and continued purchase of billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry, including anti-aircraft missiles from Russia and other nations, did not present a danger to his country.
“From my standpoint, no, I don’t see it that way”, he told AP in a phone interview. “I don’t see them as a national security threat”.
Fraser, chief of the US Southern Command, said from his headquarters in Miami that he views the anti-aircraft missile purchases in particular as primarily defensive in nature.
He also said he did not consider Iran’s ties with Chavez’s socialist government to amount to a military alliance. “As I look at Iran and their connection with Venezuela, I see that still primarily as a diplomatic and economic relationship”, he said, with Iran using it to counter international sanctions over its alleged development of nuclear weapons.
Fraser’s comments echo a July 11 statement by US President Barack Obama that drew criticism from his presumed Republican challenger in November elections, Mitt Romney.
Obama said his “overall sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the past several years has not had a serious national security impact on us”.
Source: AP via Correo del Orinoco