Caracas , Venezuela , September 20, 2006 —Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez confirmed yesterday that the Venezuelan government was currently negotiating the purchase of Russian military hardware including planes and helicopters. This is in addition to the $3 billion worth of equipment agreed with Russia in July.
The two countries are hoping to arrive at an agreement that will include at least 50 helicopters of the type Mi-17, Mi-35M and Mi26T, along with a fleet of large-scale Antonov transporter planes, “We are going to buy some Russian Antonov planes, similar even better than Hercules, in order to have a good transport fleet (…) and I am very interested in some training aircraft”, said Chávez.
The Commander of Avation for the Venezuelan army, General Victor Sánchez added that the army had plans to set up a training and technical service centre for the aircraft.
These new negotiations are unlikely to be looked on too kindly from Washington as the government there has recently stopped selling arms to Venezuela. They say the strengthening of Venezuela’s armed forces is a destabilising force in the region and have attempted to prevent other countries from doing the same. There has been some success. The Bush administration blocked the sale of Brazilian Supertucanos jets and cargo planes from Spain because they included components manufactured in the US. But Russia has been very open to doing business with Caracas.
The US has also forced the closure of the Venezuelan military acquisitions office in Miami. They say there is no point in it being there while the embargo is in place. It must be closed by the end of this month. The embargo also includes a prohibition on the sale of replacement parts for hardware purchased under already existing contracts. This includes Bronco planes, Hercules cargo planes, Dragoon tanks and F-16 fighter jets.
But Chávez remained defiant, “Despite the sabotage of the US government I am going to put every effort in to making sure those F-16s continue flying and remain operational,” he said.
Chávez said that Venezuela would have a truly impregnable military force within a few years. While boasting of Venezuela’s soon to be military prowess he did qualify his words by saying that Venezuela was a peaceful country and that the new hardware would be for purely defensive purposes. He was at a military base in Maracay in the state of Aragua to attend a military commemoration.
The $3 billion deal already signed with Russia in July included 24 Sukhoi-30 fighter planes and 53 attack helicopters. A few months before that Venezuela agreed to purchase 100,000 Kalashnikov automatic rifles in an agreement that was fulfilled in July. Already half of this order is in Venezuela.