Russian Warships Approaching Venezuelan Waters for Maneuvers

November 24, 2008

CARACAS, Venezuela (ChattahBox) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that Russian warships will soon reach his country’s Caribbean coast for joint naval exercises. It’s the first such deployment by the Russian navy in the Caribbean since the Cold War.  Hello Cuba!

Chavez said the Russian ships “will enter Venezuelan waters within a matter of hours.” Russia is sending the nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great, the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko, and logistical vessels including a tugboat and a supply ship. The ships are scheduled to hold joint exercises with Venezuela’s navy starting Dec. 1.

Chavez has been boosting ties with Russia while tensions with the U.S. have grown, and he has bought more than $4 billion in Russian weapons. Chavez is also expecting a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev starting Wednesday as part of a Latin American tour.

Recent election results set the stage for more tensions as lower oil prices and soaring inflation increase the pressure on Venezuela’s President.  Venezuela’s opposition cut into President Hugo Chávez’s majority during local elections on Nov. 23, setting the stage for increased political tensions.

The opposition, a fractious coalition of more than a dozen political parties united only by their dislike of Chávez, won five of the country’s 22 contested governorships, including those for the country’s three most populous states, as well as the Caracas mayor’s office. Candidates of Chávez’s new United Socialist Party of Venezuela won the remaining 17, largely in the country’s less populated rural areas. Before the vote, the opposition held only two statehouses.

Venezuela, the fourth-largest oil supplier to the U.S., is facing a difficult 2009, especially in the face of falling oil prices. Revenue from oil makes up more than 90% of the country’s exports and provides the government with 50% of its money. Prices for Venezuelan crude, which is tilted toward less costly heavy oils, have fallen more than 70% since they topped $132 a barrel in July. Last week, the price closed at $40.68.

Analysts have estimated that Chávez needs oil at a price of at least $80 a barrel to cover current expenditures.


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