Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday accused Washington of blocking a sale of Brazilian military aircraft to his government and said he could turn to China instead to purchase warplanes.
An ardent foe of U.S. President George W. Bush, Chavez last year sought out arms deals with Russia, Spain and Brazilian manufacturer Embraer to modernize the military in Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter and a key U.S. energy supplier.
U.S. officials, who brand Chavez a negative influence in South America, worry his government's purchase of attack helicopters, patrol ships and new automatic rifles could test the stability of the region.
"The United States did not authorize Embraer to make the planes for Venezuela because Embraer uses U.S. technology, just like they tried to stop the Spanish making boats for us," Chavez told officers at a military academy.
Washington must authorize companies such as Embraer to sell military systems containing U.S. components to third countries. Caracas was negotiating to buy Tucano type turboprop training planes from Brazil.
"If we are independent, they want to neutralize our military power," he said. "We'll wait to see if Brazil solves the problem, if not, then China also makes training planes, warplanes and bombers."
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and an official at Embraer in Brazil declined to comment on Chavez's remarks.
Venezuela last year signed a US$2-billion deal to buy ships and transport aircraft from Spain and ordered military helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles from Russia.