Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that his air force has started receiving new Chinese-made military transport planes that his government decided to buy in response to a U.S. ban on weapons deals with his country.
Chavez said during a televised Cabinet meeting that the first two of the Y-8 planes that Venezuela has bought from China have arrived. He has said previously that Venezuela agreed to buy a total of eight planes from China last year for nearly $353 million.
The U.S. government in 2006 banned arms sales to Venezuela, citing the country’s ties with Iran and Cuba and accusing it of not fully co-operating in counterterrorism efforts. Chavez has instead turned to Russia and China, spending billions of dollars on fighter jets, transport planes, radar systems, helicopters and assault rifles.
“The United States refused to supply us with parts” for its older C-130 military planes, Chavez said, calling that one reason for buying the Chinese planes.
Chavez has built close ties with China, which has agreed to lend Venezuela more than $36 billion in exchange for oil shipments in recent years.
Venezuela also has long had tense relations with the U.S. government. The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has been without an ambassador since July 2010, with Chavez rejecting Washington’s nominee for ambassador and accusing him of making disrespectful remarks about Venezuela’s government. That led Washington to revoke the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S.