Venezuela’s Chavez says Russian planes can use base

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.

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