Shortly after statements by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld questioning Venezuela’s recent weapons purchase, Brazil’s ruling Workers Party (PT) issued a statement in defense of Venezuela, asserting that Latin America is no longer an extension of the Unites States.

“For many years the United States has considered Latin American countries as nations under its orbit, but that reality has changed,” said Paulo Ferreira, the PT’s secretary for international relations. “We live in a new cycle with new governments that have regional integration and self-determination policies,” Ferreira said.

On March 23, while visiting Brazil, Rumsfeld expressed concerns over Venezuela’s announced purchase of 100,000 Russian AK-47 rifles, saying that it could contribute to further destabilize Latin America. “I can’t imagine why Venezuela needs 100,000 AK-47s,” Rumsfeld said during a news conference in Brasília.

Venezuela has said the purchase of AK-47 rifles and 10 military helicopters from Russia, as well as Super Tucano light-attack propeller planes from Brazil, is intended to improve patrol efforts along its extensive border with Colombia.

Ferreira said Rumsfeld’s statements reveal “a mentality that unfortunately persists in the U.S. government, which considers Latin America an extension of its territory. … Latin American countries need to develop systems to guarantee their security.”

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel welcomed Brazil’s support for his country on March 25. Hailing the Brazilian statement as “a gesture of dignity,” Rangel said that it shows that “Latin American solidarity works.”

For Rangel, Rumsfeld’s visit to Latin America “has been a total failure. Neither Argentina nor Brazil subscribed the assertions by the Lord of War, Mr. Rumsfeld.”

He added, “Our country is not interested in fueling this confrontation with the U.S., but in seeking alternatives for the respectful treatment, along with other countries.”

— Radio Havana Cuba