CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday said he would allow Russian planes to use one of his nation’s islands on long-range flights, boosting ties between two countries at odds with Washington.
“I told President (Dmitry) Medvedev that every time Russian strategic (planes) need to make a stop in Venezuela as part of strategic plans, Venezuela is ready to help,” Chavez said during a weekly Sunday broadcast.
He said the offer to use La Orchila’s airfield did not mean that the Russian military would build a base in Venezuela, which has tilted left since Chavez took power in 1998 and is expanding its relations with Moscow.
A Russian general said on Saturday that Russian strategic bombers on long-range flights also would be prepared to use four or five airfields in Cuba — another U.S. adversary.
Venezuela has bought billions of dollars in military equipment, such as AK-103 assault rifles, from Russia, purchases that the U.S. State Department has said could destabilize the Andean region.
Two Russian long-range bombers flew to Venezuela last year in a visit meant to show Moscow’s military strength and boost bilateral ties with the Chavez government, which describes the United States as a decadent empire.
Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez on Saturday, prior to an OPEC meeting in Vienna, said the two nations would propose a system of automatic cuts in the supply of oil to global markets to stabilize tumbling prices.
Russia, which is not a member of OPEC but sent observers to the meeting yesterday, has boosted energy cooperation with oil-rich Venezuela in recent years.