Spain Modernizes Venezuelan Tanks, Violating EU Sanctions

Venezuelan AMX-30 tanks during maneuvers. ANDREW ALVAREZ (AFP/Getty Images)

The Spanish government agreed to help modernize aspects of Venezuela’s fleet of tanks, despite the fact it violates a European Union-imposed embargo on arms sales to Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime, reported this week indicated.

El País reports that Spanish officials agreed to sell €20 million worth of tank parts in the first of 2018, despite a EU authorization approved in November 2017 that prohibited member states from selling arms to the Venezuelan government. The sanctions were a response to the regime’s use of excessive force against anti-government dissidents and its responsibility for the country’s ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis.

The Spanish government, now under the control of socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, maintained that “the safeguard clause included in the EU sanctions allows for the authorization of export licenses based on those contracts,” despite the fact its final political approval was agreed after the embargo was put in place.

The embargo included a weapons ban to prevent the sale of military equipment that can be used for repression or surveillance of Venezuelans and freezing of assets and travel restrictions on senior regime officials. The only exceptions to such sales were in the cases of supplying material for humanitarian aid or for United Nations operations and the “execution of contracts signed before November 13, 2017, and auxiliary contracts necessary for the execution of the same.”

Government statistics on defense exports from Spain’s Secretary of State for Trade show that the export of the tank components will bring in €20 million to the Spanish treasury, meaning that the arms sales are nearly ten times greater than all Spanish arms sales to Venezuela in 2017 (€3.5 million) and in 2016 (€2.6 million).

According to El Pais, Spanish work will include the modernization of 86 AMX-30 combat tanks, vehicles originally manufactured in France. The process forms part of a €70 million upgrade of the vehicles to incorporate more sophisticated technology and electronic equipment as the Maduro regime appears to gear itself up for a conflict with the United States or neighboring Brazil and Colombia.

Addressing a military rally in Caracas last month, Maduro described himself as a “warrior of peace,” but warned that American or other foreign troops would “not make it out alive” if they tried to topple his regime.

“You must be ready to go to the heart of the enemy who dares touch Venezuelan soil – to go to the heart of the enemy and to tear out his heart in his own territory,” he declared. “We will defend our homeland from imperialists and oligarchs and traitors, whether they are in Bogotá or Brasília.”

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