Monday, September 22, 2008

I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In

While we're paying attention to other stuff (even Sarah Palin couldn't see this from her kitchen window):

Russian Warships Sail to Venezuela
Published: September 22, 2008
MOSCOW — A squadron from the Russian Navy’s North Sea Fleet sailed for Venezuela on Monday, a Russian Navy spokesman said, in a bid by Russia to bolster military links in Latin America as relations with the United States continue to deteriorate.

The convoy — including the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser Peter the Great and the anti-submarine ship Admiral Chabanenko — left the fleet’s base in Severomorsk bound for the Venezuelan coast, where the ships will take part in joint maneuvers with the Venezuelan Navy sometime in November, said Igor Dygalo, a Russian Navy spokesman.

Stung by the West’s strong condemnation of Russia’s actions in last month’s war with Georgia, Moscow appears to have redoubled its efforts to strengthen ties with Venezuela, Cuba and other Latin American countries, in moves reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s proxy battles with the United States in the region during the Cold War.

Last week, two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers flew to Venezuela for exercises over the Caribbean Sea, and a Russian delegation led by Igor I. Sechin, a deputy prime minister and chairman of the Russian oil company Rosneft, visited Caracas and Havana for talks on expanding economic ties. It was Mr. Sechin’s second visit to the region in less than two months.

The decision to deploy Russian warships so close to the American coastline could also be linked to the Kremlin’s frustration over the presence of NATO and American naval vessels in the Black Sea, a region Moscow considers its sphere of influence. Earlier this month, an American naval ship delivered humanitarian aid to Georgia in one of the country’s Black Sea ports.

Russia has denied that the war in Georgia had any connection to the Russian navy’s planned exercises with Venezuela. “These exercises were planned long before the Georgian-Ossetian conflict,” Mr. Dygalo said. “They are not linked to the conflict.”

Meanwhile, Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president, plans to visit Russia this week, his second visit in two months.

In an interview broadcast by Russia’s Vesti 24 television on Saturday, Mr. Chávez said Latin America was freeing itself from the “imperial” influence from the United States and needed Russia’s friendship.

“Not only Venezuela, but all of Latin America needs friends like Russia,” Mr. Chavez said. “For economic development, for the support of all Latin America, for the lives of the people of our continent.”

Everybody needs friends the color of Hugo:

from Russia Today
September 16, 2008, 16:21
Chavez painting fetches big cash
A painting by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has sold for US$ 255,000 in an auction to raise funds for his political party. 'The Yare Moon' was painted by the flamboyant socialist politician while he was imprisoned in Yare Prison for an attempted coup in the early 1990s.

Three Venezuelan businessmen joined forces to outbid a rival for the piece, which a presidential spokesman said had "symbolic value for the President and for the Bolivarian revolution".

The sale marks the theatrical president's first serious foray into painting, but he's no stranger to art.Chavez likes to open public appearances and political rallies with a few verses of traditional Venezuelan folk song, usually wearing his crowd-pleasing yellow, blue and red jumpsuit.

Last year he released a CD of folk music that featured him singing, and distributed it for free all over the country.

Every week millions tune into 'Alo Presidente', the President's weekly one-man television show.

If they're lucky, viewers might be treated to an interview with a charismatic personality, like his friend Fidel Castro. On the other hand, they might be subjected to an eight-hour speech by El Presidente, like in one episode last year. At the end of the marathon the government press secretary proudly declared the show had set a new record.

Chavez has even set his creative mind to developing new technology. The socialist leader has announced plans for a 'Chávez PC', which would be produced cheaply and sold to schoolchildren from poor families.

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