Monday, September 22, 2008

Venezuela To Buy Planes, Create $6 Billion Investment Fund In China

CARACAS (AFP)--Venezuela will buy combat and training aircraft from China this week, leftist Venezuela President Hugo Chavez confirmed in a TV broadcast Sunday.

The purchases will be made as part of a six-country tour, Chavez said in his broadcast of the "Alo President" TV program from the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, hours before leaving on a "strategic interest" trip to Cuba, China, Russia, Belarus, France and Portugal.

Chavez, a staunch foe of the U.S. government, confirmed that during his stay in Beijing, he will purchase 24 K-8 aircraft "to train fighter pilots." The planes could be part of Venezuela's air force by next year.

The president also confirmed that while in Beijing, he will arrange the construction of tanker vessels in Chinese shipyards, with the aim of installing a shipyard in Venezuela in the future.

These plans come in addition to the construction of a refinery in China to process oil from Venezuela and plans to create a bi-national company to install a refinery in the remote oil-rich Orinoco region in eastern Venezuela.

Caracas provides 500,000 barrels of oil per day to Beijing, a trade which is expected to increase to one million barrels a day by 2012.

Chavez, who describes China as a strategic ally, will move forward with a $6 billion bilateral investment fund. China will contribute $4 billion to the fund, and Venezuela$2 billion.

Caracas will use the fund for "socialist productive projects."

"Before we had to go to Washington to beg for money. Not now. Now we negotiate with the Chinese," said Chavez.

Chavez announced that during his visit to Beijing, the investment fund will benefit from an additional $4 billion for further "development" in Venezuela.

After China, Chavez will head to Moscow.

Venezuela in recent years has been broadening its military ties to Moscow, and Chavez backed Russia in the recent Georgian conflict.

Last week, Russian supersonic Tu-160 bombers for the first time flew training runs with Venezuela in an area of the Caribbean traditionally considered the U.S. military's sphere of influence.

Chavez's trip is expected to last until Sept. 27.

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