March 12, 2006:
French President Jacques Chirac has officially rejected Venezuela's bid to buy two Scorpone-Class diesel submarines. While France has sold military equipment to Venezuela over the years, sales have been modest (averaging no more than $1 million annually). The submarine deal would have involved serious money (a billion dollars or more), but the French rejected it for several reasons. Chirac is trying to rebuild relations with the U.S., but there's also serious concern about Venezuela's unstable President Hugo Chavez. French investments in Venezuela have been among those "foreign" interests threatened with "nationalization" by the Chavez regime. In addition, Chavez' barely veiled threats against the Netherlands West Indies and Guyana makes senior French diplomatic and military leaders concerned about his ambitions in the Caribbean.