Venezuela and Mexico topped the list last year of nations purchasing military equipment from Spain, with the two countries collectively spending more than 340 million euros (about $492 million).
Hugo Chávez’s government came in first on Spain’s list by spending 212 million euros (about $307 million), about 18.7 percent on Spain’s total military equipment sales. Among the items purchased by Venezuela were two coastal surveillance vessels and ammunition for ships.
Mexico, which is in the midst of a four and half year old drug war, purchased 132.7 million euros (about $192 million) worth of military equipment, including six transport planes and aircraft parts.
Rounding off the top five buyers was the United Kingdom , Germany and the Czech Republic respectively. The United States was the sixth largest buyer of Spanish military equipment. and spent 75.1 million euros (about $108 million).
Besides Latin American and European nations, Spain also sold military equipment to countries in the Middle East and North Africa that included Libya. Exports in 2010 to the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi consisted of night vision goggles (7.84 million euros) and parts for repair and maintenance of aircraft engines (3.38 million euros).
The Spanish government suspended the licenses to sell arms to Libya in February due to the measures imposed by the international community against Gaddafi for the repression of rebels in the country. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in April that Gaddafi’s forces had used cluster bombs made in Spain in 2007 against rebels, but the Spanish Defense Ministry said he was unaware that the weapons were being used by the Libyan regime.
Gaddafi, who is under international pressure to step down amid a popular uprising, NATO airstrikes and charges of crimes against humanity, still has friends in Latin America like Venzuela’s President Chávez.
Chávez considers Gaddafi a good friend and has criticized the military intervention by U.S. and European forces in the North African nation.
In March it was reported that from 2006 to 2010 Chile was largest buyer of weapons in Latin America and ranked 11th worldwide in total arms purchased. Venezuela was also named on the list compiled by The Institute for Peace Research.
The report also noted that Russia and the United States exported about half of the weapons bought around the world between 2006 and 2010.
Photo: breezy421 @ Flickr.