The Associated Press
November 25, 2008

LA GUAIRA, Venezuela (AP) — Russian warships arrived in Venezuela Tuesday in a show of strength aimed at the United States as Moscow seeks to expand its influence in Latin America.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

Venezuelan sailors fired off cannons in a 21-gun salute as the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko docked in La Guaira, near Caracas. Russians sailors dressed in black-and-white uniforms lined up along the bow.

The deployment is the first of its kind in the Caribbean since the Cold War and was timed to coincide with President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Caracas — the first ever by a Russian president. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has eagerly welcomed the ships, basking in the support of a powerful ally and traditional U.S. rival.

Chavez wants Russian help to build a nuclear reactor, invest in oil and natural gas projects and bolster his leftist movement’s effort to limit U.S. influence in Latin America.

Chavez also wants weapons — he has bought more than $4 billion in Russian arms, including Sukhoi fighter jets, helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, and more deals for Russian tanks or other weaponry may be discussed after Medvedev arrives Wednesday.

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