CARACAS, Aug 22 (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday said it would be a “good idea” to look into buying missiles from Iran, a day after Colombia said Venezuela was considering such a plan amid growing ties between Caracas and Tehran.
Iran in May supplied gasoline to Venezuela to ease chronic shortages, triggering alarm bells in Washington as the two countries expand trade relations amid efforts to undermine aggressive U.S. sanctions programs.
“It had not occurred to me, it had not occurred to us,” Maduro said during a televised broadcast with cabinet members, instructing Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino to follow up and jokingly telling his cabinet to keep the plan a secret.
“Padrino, what a good idea, to speak with Iran to see what short, medium and long range missiles they have, and if it is possible, given the great relations we have with Iran.”
Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Thursday that Maduro is looking to buy Iranian missiles and is handing over weapons made in Russia and Belarus to Colombian armed groups, citing intelligence reports.
Weapons purchases appear relatively unlikely for Maduro, whose government is struggling to buy basic food and medicine or to provide fuel to the population due sanctions as well as chronic dysfunction of the country’s refineries.
(Editing by Alistair Bell)