CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez said yesterday that Venezuela had received thousands of Russian-made missiles and rocket launchers as part of his government's military preparations for a possible armed conflict with neighboring Colombia.
"They are preparing a war against us," Chavez said during a televised address, repeating a charge he has been making for months. "Preparing is one of the best ways to neutralize it."
Both Colombia and its ally the United States deny having any plans to attack Venezuela. Chavez argues they are plotting together a military offensive against Venezuela. Chavez said his government was acquiring more weapons as a precaution.
"Thousands of missiles are arriving," Chavez said.
The former paratroop-turned-president did not specify what types of missiles but said Venezuela's growing arsenal included Russian-made Igla-1S surface-to-air missiles.
Chavez, who has been feuding with Colombia for months, says an agreement between Bogota and Washington allowing the U.S. military to increase its presence at seven Colombian military bases poses a threat to his country.
Colombia says the deal is only to help it fight the war on drugs and insurgents inside its territory.
Chavez also said yesterday that Russian tanks, including T-72s, would be arriving "to strengthen our armored divisions."
Venezuela has bought more than $4 billion worth of Russian arms since 2005, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, dozens of attack helicopters, and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles.
In September, Russia opened a $2.2 billion line of credit for Venezuela to purchase more weapons.