A Venezuelan soldier practises on an anti-aircraft artillery simulator as part of a defensive military exercise in conjunction with the general public in Caracas March 14, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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Venezuela possesses 5,000 Russian-made MANPADS surface-to-air weapons, according to a military document reviewed by Reuters, the largest known stockpile in Latin America and a source of concern for U.S. officials amid the country's mounting turmoil. Venezuela's socialist government has long used the threat of an "imperialist" invasion by the United States to justify an arms buildup. According to a Venezuelan military presentation seen by Reuters, the South American country has 5,000 SA-24 Man-Portable Air-Defense System missiles, also known as the Igla-S.A former Venezuelan senior army general and minister, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the information, told Reuters the MANPADS missiles are held mainly on the coast due to government fears of a U.S. attack.He told Reuters that Venezuela also holds 1,500 launchers, or grip stocks, which are fundamental to the operation of the missiles.Venezuela's MANPADS missiles, similar to the U.S. Stinger system, were purchased toward the end of Chavez's rule.The U.N. Register of Conventional Arms and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show the shipment of 3,800 MANPADS missiles from Russia to Venezuela over the last decade.Venezuela did not respond to a request for comment on any of those documents.
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