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Venezuela protests at Swiss arms embargo

The export of 1,200 nine-millimetre pistols to Venezuela was stopped by the Swiss government

Venezuela has protested at a Swiss arms embargo, which prevented the sale of handguns to the South American country. Switzerland imposed the ban over concerns that weapons were being passed to Colombian guerrillas.

Speaking in Bern on Thursday, the Venezuelan commercial attaché, Magda Ruizpineda, said the Swiss ban was unjustified, and there were no grounds for believing that the weapons would wind up in the hands of Colombian guerrillas.

Her comments come after the government announced that it had refused permission to a Swiss firm, which wanted to sell 1,200 nine-millimetre pistols to the Venezuelan army.

The export request was rejected by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) in June last year after consultations with the Swiss foreign ministry.

A spokesperson for Seco said the sale was stopped because of instability in Venezuela and concerns that the arms might fall into the hands of Colombian rebels.

Ruizpineda said the suggestion that weapons might be passed to Colombian guerrillas had damaged Venezuela's reputation internationally, and that she would be seeking clarification from the foreign ministry.

Roland Mayer, managing director of SAN Swiss Arms, which applied to sell the guns, said it had been given permission to sell arms up until 1999.

"The argument that the situation in Venezuela is unstable is not a convincing one at all," Mayer said. "Things have improved a lot since the election of the president, Hugo Chavez."

swissinfo with agencies


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