Sunday, October 23, 2005

Chávez Highlights Potential For Vzla-Galicia Relations

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SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain – President Hugo Chávez said Sunday that there was great potential for economic cooperation between his country and the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia. Venezuela’s populist leader said the region offered ideal conditions for a “strategic alliance” that is “starting to take shape.” Chávez traveled to Galicia from Salamanca, where he attended the two-day Ibero-American Summit that ended Saturday. He was accompanied on his tour Sunday by the president of the Galician regional government, Emilio Pérez Touriño.

Chávez denied that Gallegos living in Venezuela feared the expropriation of their property by his government, blaming unfounded media reports for the notion.

“As far as I know, no Gallego has had property expropriated in Venezuela,” Chávez said.
Thousands of emigrants from Galicia have settled in Venezuela since the mid-20th century.
Venezuela’s populist president also defended his government’s purchase of patrol boats from Spanish firm Rodman, saying that the vessels were defensive in nature and joking about reaction to the deal.
Chávez later embraced a statue of St. James, taking part in a pilgrims’ ceremony at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Spain’s ABC newspaper, quoting reliable sources, reported that the Bush administration is studying blocking the transfer of U.S. technology used in the C-295 transport planes that Spain is planning to sell to Venezuela.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Madrid said he had no information on the report. The transport planes built by EADS-CASA have 50 to 60 percent of U.S. components, he said, adding: “It is true that as such it would need a U.S. export license.”
A Spanish government official dismissed the newspaper report, saying licensing the transfer of technology was an issue between companies. An EADS-CASA spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Spain announced in March it planned to sell 1.3 billion euros ($1.56 billion) of military and civilian equipment to Venezuela, including four coastal patrol ships, four corvettes, 10 C-295 transport planes and two maritime surveillance planes.
Earlier this year, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld criticized Spain’s sale to Venezuela of eight military patrol boats and 10 transport planes, calling the deal “a mistake.” The Spanish arms sale to Venezuela has not been finalized.
On Friday, Chávez told reporters in Salamanca: “The contracts are progressing ... We have the resources ready to make the first payment.”
Vice-Admiral Armando José Laguna Laguna, commander of the Venezuelan Navy, told reporters on Saturday: “The contract is practically ready to be signed ... We just need to set a date.”
ABC, a conservative newspaper generally critical of the Socialist government, said the C-295 is equipped with sensors for its optical, radar and camera systems that are of U.S. origin.
Spain could alternatively opt to use Israeli technology for the planes, but it is more expensive and it may not be able to get permission to do so either, ABC said.


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