PARAMARIBO, Suriname - Suriname’s president said Saturday that the United States is proposing to build a facility in the South American country to test the performance of U.S. military vehicles in dense jungle.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates spoke about the proposed site during a meeting with President Ronald Venetiaan at the close of the U.S. official’s five-day, five country swing through the region, Venetiaan told reporters.
Venetiaan said his administration has previously discussed the facility with U.S. military leaders.
“If the U.S. wants to test military vehicles under jungle conditions, we have those conditions here and we can accommodate them,” Venetiaan said shortly after emerging from his meeting with Gates.
Venetiaan was not more specific about the U.S. military site or when it could feasibly be built in the Dutch-speaking country on the north shoulder of South America.
Before their private meeting at the presidential palace, Gates visited a huge U.S. navy hospital ship docked in Suriname’s territorial waters as part of a regional goodwill mission.
Medical volunteers on the USNS Comfort, a floating hospital built for wounded U.S. soldiers, has provided free vaccinations, eye exams, dental treatment and surgical procedures to some 85,000 patients in a dozen countries during their tour of Latin America and the Caribbean.
During a brief interaction with local reporters, Gates said the goodwill mission was not intended to counter the free medical care initiatives offered to the region by oil-rich Venezuela, which is now offering more direct state funding to Latin America and the Caribbean than the U.S.
“This mission was not directed against anyone,” Gates said. “This mission was completely positive.”