Chavez says Russia lends Venezuela $4 bln for arms

* Chavez spending billions of dollars on armed forces

* Washington has arms embargo against Venezuela

* Chavez promotes officer on U.S. “kingpin” list

CARACAS, Nov 27 (BestGrowthStock) – Russia gave Venezuela a $4
billion credit to buy weapons when President Hugo Chavez
visited Moscow last month, adding to billions the socialist
leader has already spent on re-equipping the army.

Venezuela and Russia have forged deep ties in energy and
defense, with Russian investment flowing into the OPEC member’s
oil fields at the same time as Chavez has become one of
Moscow’s most important weapons customers.

Washington views with suspicion Chavez’s purchases of
tanks, fighter jets and air defense systems in the last few
years but the soldier-turned-president says he is merely
modernizing Venezuela’s aging kit.

“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,” Chavez said on Saturday at a ceremony to celebrate
90 years of Venezuela’s air force.

“We are simply doing the task of defending the fatherland
from the threat of empire and its allies.”

Chavez gave no details of what equipment the Russian money
would be used to buy. In April, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin had said Venezuela was considering $5 billion of weapons
orders.

Poor diplomatic relations between Chavez, who first won
office 12 years ago, and the United States, which he calls an
empire, led to a U.S. arms embargo against Venezuela in 2006.

Without access to spare parts, Venezuela’s fleet of about
20 U.S.-built F-16 fighters has fallen into disrepair, giving
Chavez a strong argument for buying new equipment from Russia
and China.

Venezuela is awaiting delivery of tanks and air defense
systems from Russia and is buying a dozen Y-8 transport planes
from China. Beijing has already sold Venezuela K-8 training
jets and an extensive radar system to replace surveillance
capacity lost under the U.S. embargo.

Also on Saturday, Chavez promoted General Henry Rangel
Silva to the highest rank in the army. Rangel Silva is on the
U.S. “kingpin” list because of accusations he helped Colombia’s
FARC rebels smuggle cocaine.

Chavez says such charges are motivated by a U.S. desire to
discredit his government and says recent military purchases
such as the radar systems will help fight drug traffickers.
(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel;
Editing by John O’Callaghan)

Chavez says Russia lends Venezuela $4 bln for arms