>Next to Communist Cuba, Boliviarian Venezuela is neo-Soviet Russia’s biggest client for military hardware. Later this month Venezuela’s revolutionary leader Hugo Chavez will visit Moscow to conclude a US$2 billion arms agreement that includes 10 Il-76 Candid military transport planes, two Il-78-MK aerial tankers, and four Kilo-class Project 636 diesel submarines. The Russian transport planes and aerial tankers will replace US counterparts currently in service with the Venezuelan Air Force but which the USA refuses to upgrade due to political tensions between Washington and Caracas.
This will be the communist dictator’s seventh visit to Russia since assuming office in February 1999. During last summer’s Moscow trip (pictured above), in addition to power networking with then President Vladimir Putin, Chavez also rubbed elbows with Communist Party of the Russian Federation/Soviet Union Chairman Gennady Zyuganov. At the time Zyuganov declared: “Comrade Chavez is a reliable friend and very bright politician.” Comment is hardly necessary.
Venezuela to buy Russian weaponry worth $2 bln – paper
15:3112/ 05/ 2008
MOSCOW, May 12 (RIA Novosti) – Venezuela is planning to conclude several contracts with Russia next month on the purchase of military equipment worth at least $2 billion, a leading Russian business daily said on Monday.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is expected to pay an official visit to Moscow at the end of May to conclude the necessary agreements with Russia’s new President Dmitry Medvedev, who earlier pledged to maintain close military cooperation with Caracas, the Kommersant newspaper reported.
Oil-rich Venezuela is a major purchaser of Russian weapons and hardware. In 2005-2006, Venezuela ordered weaponry from Russia worth $3.4 billion, including 24 Su-30MK2V Flanker fighters, Tor-M1 air defense missile systems, Mi-17B multi-role helicopters, Mi-35 Hind E attack helicopters and Mi-26 Halo heavy transport helicopters.
Russia has repeatedly stated that it will actively participate in the modernization of the Venezuelan armed forces until 2013.
Kommersant said negotiations were underway on the purchase of 10 Il-76 Candid military transport planes and two Il-78-MK aerial tankers for the Venezuelan Air Force. The contract will be worth a total of $600 million.
Deliveries will be completed next year. The aircraft will replace six outdated American Lockheed C-130H Hercules transport planes and two Boeing 707-320C aerial tankers.
Venezuela and Russia have also agreed on the purchase of four Kilo-class Project 636 diesel submarines. The terms of the deal, estimated at $1.2 billion, were negotiated late last year.
The Project 636 submarine is designed for anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface-ship warfare, and also for general reconnaissance and patrol missions. It is considered to be one of the quietest diesel submarines in the world.
In addition, Caracas has expressed an interest in purchasing Mi-28NE Night Hunter attack helicopters.
Kommersant said Venezuela may buy at least 10 Night Hunters for a total of $200 million, with delivery beginning in the second half of 2009.
The advanced Mi-28N helicopters were inducted into the Russian Air Force last September. The first four aircraft will join the Russian Air Force in 2009 after additional testing.
Neo-Soviet Russia has also revitalized its military pact with neo-Sandinista Nicaragua but no arms shipments to Managua have yet been reported as far as we have been able to determine. Meanwhile, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is facing a 30-day strike by the country’s transportation workers, who are protesting Central America’s highest fuel prices. Pro-US opposition forces insist that the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front has embarked on a foolhardy endeavor to re-communize Nicaragua. Costa Rica-based Tico Times reports on the bus and taxi driver strike:
Nicaragua taxis, buses try putting brakes on gas prices
By Blake Schmidt Nica Times Staff
May 6, 2008
Nicaraguan taxi and bus drivers that transport an estimated 1.5 million people a day went on strike yesterday saying they won’t start up their engines again until the government sits down to negotiate a solution to skyrocketing gas prices, the highest in Central America.
Trucks drivers were also on strike, paralyzing the economy.
The strike comes as international crude oil prices topped a record $120 a barrel this week.
“There’s been no response from the president of the republic to end the strike,” said Vidal Almendárez, president of the Federation of Taxi Drivers. “There have been attempts to negotiate locally, but we’re telling them negotiations have to happen here in the capital.”
The federation, which represents an estimated 15,000 taxi drivers nationwide, began the strike along with the National Transportation Coordinator and the Interurban Transportation Directorate yesterday, which represent regional bus drivers.
The only bus drivers that have kept the motors running were those on urban Managua routes, which receive a subsidized gas price that is about half the market price for gas in Nicaragua, which was more than 90 córdobas a gallon this week ($4.70).
Almendárez said the rest of the country’s bus and taxi drivers want a deal similar to Managua buses, and want the government to sit down with driver union leaders to find a solution.
The government says it has offered to sell the cooperatives gasoline at cost – for a savings of roughly 6 córdobas ($0.30) less. But as of 6 p.m. yesterday evening, no agreement had been reached.
“We seek an alternative in which the price of gasoline is frozen so we can have a reasonable price for users. People aren’t able to pay these prices,” Almendárez told The Nica Times.
In addition to confronting high fuel prices, Nicaraguans are facing regional ripples in the global food shortage. Like Comrade Hugo, Comandante Ortega (pictured above) blames the world’s ills on capitalism. “The food crisis is an epic problem and represents the tyranny of global capitalism,” he piously intoned at a May 9 summit of 14 Latin American countries, convened in Managua under the umbrella of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). Other regional leaders like Honduran President Manual Zelaya echoed this sentiment. The Christian Science Monitor reports: “Honduras’s center-left President Manuel Zelaya, who has flirted with ALBA in the past, blamed the regional food crisis on a free-market economic model that he says has led to a ‘culture of dependence’ on cheaper food imports from subsidized US farmers.”