>Communist Bloc Military Updates: PRC boosts Venezuela’s airlift capacity with Shaanxi Y-8 sale, Moscow extends US$4 billion weapons loan to Caracas

>– Chavez and Ortega Take Step toward Forming “Anti-Imperialist Army” by Establishing ALBA Defense School in Bolivia

Pictured here: Leaders of the eight-nation Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas meet in Caracas on April 19, 2010.

Over the weekend, the state-run Bolivarian News Agency announced that Venezuela will buy up to 12 Shaanxi Y-8 transport aircraft from the People’s Republic of China. “These Y-8s will provide support for the operations of our C-130 Hercules transport planes…that have a range covering South America and to the north of Spain,” explained Major General Jorge Oropeza last Friday.

Oropeza continued: “Negotiations for the purchase of the Y-8s are in the hands of the Defense Ministry and it is hoped that these aircraft will be delivered to Venezuela sometime next year.” Oropeza indicated that the K-8 aircraft and JL11 radar systems that Caracas has also purchased from Beijing will be on display at the main ceremony marking the 90th anniversary of the Venezuelan air force.

The Y-8 aircraft is a medium-sized, medium-range transport aircraft produced by Shaanxi Aircraft Company and based on the Soviet Antonov An-12. It is one of the PRC’s most popular military and civilian transport/cargo aircraft, with many variants produced and exported. The An-12 is no longer made in Ukraine, but the Y-8 continues to be upgraded and produced. The Y-8 is capable of carrying 20 tons of cargo, as well as 96 soldiers or 82 paratroopers, dropping supplies, and functioning as an air ambulance. This means the Venezuelan air force will by 2011 be able to deploy 1,000 paratroopers, in addition to the nearly 400 airborne infantry that its six US-built Lockheed C-130 Hercules planes can currently transport.

The announcement follows a visit earlier this month to Caracas by General Chen Bingde, chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and the shipments earlier this year of 18 K-8 trainer/light attack aircraft and JL11 radar systems. On November 11, Chen led a high-ranking PLA delegation from Beijing on a three-nation tour of South America that not only took him to Venezuela, but also Ecuador and Peru. Ecuador’s socialist President Rafael Correa is closely aligned with Caracas, while Peru’s social democratic President Alan Garcia is closely aligned with the USA.

In General Chen’s entourage was Zhu Jinlin, commander of the PLA Xinjiang Military Area Command (MAC); Hou Jizhen, chief of staff of the PLA Shenyang MAC; Jia Xiaowei, chief of staff of the PLA Guangzhou MAC; Lin Jianchao, director of the General Office of the PLA General Staff Headquarters; Liu Zheng, chief of staff of the Headquarters of the PLA General Logistics Department; and Ci Guowei, deputy director-general of the Foreign Affair Office of the Ministry of National Defense.

This past September, Red China’s defense minister visited Mexico City, where he promoted bilateral military cooperation with President Felipe Calderon’s government, which is struggling to contain a major narco-insurgency, and contributed a PLA honor guard to celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence.

Thus, in light of the Y-8 purchase, if Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez wishes to intervene in any potential conflict in South America, Central America (like Honduras?), or the Caribbean Basin, his military will have the technology to do so. Before instigating two failed coups d’etat in 1992, Chavez was himself a paratrooper.

Incidentally, Venezuela’s fleet of 20 US-built F-16 fighters has fallen into disrepair since Washington imposed a military sales embargo in 2006. Since then, Chavez has augmented his air force with 24 Russian-built Sukhoi Su-30 multi-role strike fighters.

Last week, following a recent annual pilgrimage to Moscow, the Kremlin extended another, US$4 billion loan to Caracas for the purpose of acquiring additional armament from Russia. Venezuela has become Russia’s most important client state and energy partner in the Western Hemisphere. “We were in Russia not long ago and the Russian government has now given us a $4 billion credit to help us with defense equipment,” boasted Chavez said on Saturday at a ceremony to celebrate the Venezuela’s air force’s 90th anniversary. “We are simply doing the task of defending the fatherland from the threat of [the US] empire and its allies.”

In April, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin revealed that Venezuela intends to order up to another US$5 billion in weapons via state-run Rosoboronexport. Venezuela is awaiting delivery of T-72 tanks and air defense systems from Russia. Fearing an imaginary US-led invasion, Chavez has announced that he will deploy both the tanks and air defense systems along the Colombian border, although relations with Bogota have improved somewhat since the departure of President Alvaro Uribe.

On Saturday, per an earlier threat, Chavez promoted General Henry Rangel Silva to the highest rank in the army. Rangel Silva is on the US State Department’s “drug kingpin” list because of accusations he has helped the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia smuggle cocaine. Chavez retorts that such charges are motivated by Washington’s ongoing campaign to discredit his socialist government.

In a related story, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, a bloc of socialist states led by Havana and Caracas, has taken a small but important step toward forming an “anti-imperialist army.” Bolivia’s defense minister Ruben Saavedra was quoted by state radio as saying that ALBA will establish a defense school in Bolivia. The military doctrine and academic content will be developed in concert with member states Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Chavez and Nicaraguan counterpart Daniel Ortega first floated the idea of a pan-Latin American military in 2007.

Other states with socialist or social democratic regimes that hold observer status in ALBA are (formerly communist) Grenada, Haiti, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Syria.

One response to “>Communist Bloc Military Updates: PRC boosts Venezuela’s airlift capacity with Shaanxi Y-8 sale, Moscow extends US$4 billion weapons loan to Caracas

  1. mah29001 December 3, 2010 at 2:21 am

    >Again…we're oblivious to the fact that Russia and China are supporting Venezuela which wants to be like Cuba.

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