CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez Sunday said 24 missile-firing Russian Sukhoi fighter jets have been delivered to Venezuela, and warned the recently reactivated U.S. Fourth Fleet to steer clear of Venezuelan waters.
"We've received the 24 Sukhoi aircraft" complete with pilots, crews and missiles, Chavez said on his weekly radio program.
"They're for defensive purposes, we're not going to attack anybody," Chavez said, adding that missile test-firing had already begun.
Chavez boasted the Sukhoi missiles have far greater range than those of the U.S. F-16 fighter jet, and proceeded to warn the Fourth Fleet the U.S. reactivated in July to keep out of Venezuelan waters.
"Any gringo ship that sails into brown waters (river waters) will itself turn brown and go to the bottom, because they'll not get through," Chavez said.
The fighter jets were part of a $3-billion military deal with Moscow that included tanks and Kalashnikov assault rifles, which the U.S. has criticized due to concerns some of the armament may end up in the hands of leftist Colombian guerrillas.
Mothballed for nearly 60 years, the U.S. Fourth Fleet for Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the Pentagon, has no aircraft carrier or large warships, lacks offensive capability and will not enter any river or maritime territorial limits.
Chavez turned to Russia for military hardware after he was spurned by the U.S., who refused to provide spare parts for F-16 jets Caracas bought from Washington in the 1980s.
Copyright 2008 AFP