Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 01/07/2014 -- Historically speaking, Venezuela is an insignificant player in the world arms market. It imports nearly all its weapons, and in fact has almost no indigenous defence production capability. Venezuela's marked dependence on weapons imports has traditionally been somewhat offset by the diverse suppliers from which the country purchases its arms. The country still suffers from a US embargo of arms deals from 2006. As an important oil-exporting economy Venezuela retains substantial resilience despite recent economic mismanagement and heightened political risk. BMI's view is therefore that the economy will continue to see positive but disappointingly low GDP numbers. On the political front President Nicolas Maduro, elected in early 2013, will continue to follow the left-wing and nationalist policies of his predecessor the late Hugo Chavez. However, Maduro lacks Chavez' leadership skills and political instincts, and so will be more exposed to in-fighting within the ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) and may not be able to command as much army support as his predecessor.
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Over the last year Venezuela has been developing its significant arms procurement relationship with Russia - now estimated to be worth US$11bn in purchases so far. The country still maintains a large conscript army, although this has come in for criticism over alleged human rights abuses at home. Venezuela's anti-US foreign policy may now start to become an impediment to foregin-sourced funding and arms procurement, as ally Iran moves towards a tentative detente with the West. Regionally, Caracas is still aligned with Cuba and faces ongoing tension with pro-US neighbour Colombia amid localised drug trafficking and political insurgencies.
This 2014 update notes the following defence and security developments:
- To date Venezuela has purchased and received US$11bn worth of arms and equipment contracts from Russia - now a 'strategic partner'. In March 2013 it was reported that Russian banks had issued US$4bn in loans to Venezuela for the purchase of defence equipment.
- An 'Arms Expenditure Report' released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in April 2013 claimed that defence spending in Venezuela had increased 42%, compared to a Latin America regional rise of 4.2%.
- A modernized fleet of armoured personnel carriers was unveiled in July 2013. The Brazilian-made 6x6 armoured vehicle personnel carrier EE-11 Urutu is now equipped with a thermal camera produced by Belgian firm, Pegasus Technologies.
- Iran's changing relationship with the US and the West may affect Venezuela's Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV) technology programme. A December 2013 launch of the 'Arpia-001' - built with Iranian aid -ostensibly to monitor Venezuela's border territories will not, however, detract from a focus on conventional defence procurement.
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