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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chavez Considers Arms Ahead of Trip

CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez said Friday that he was considering arms purchases, including submarines and a missile-equipped air defense system, as he prepared for a tour of Russia, Belarus and Iran.

Chavez predicted his trip to Moscow, Minsk and Tehran starting Wednesday was sure to bother his critics in the U.S. government, which considers Chavez a destabilizing element in the region and has voiced strong concern about efforts to modernize Venezuela's military.

A top military adviser to Chavez said earlier this month that Venezuela was considering the purchase of Russian submarines, but Defense Minister Raul Baduel later denied that.

Chavez, however, dismissed Baduel's authority over the matter: "The only way that Venezuela would totally dismiss the possibility of buying submarines is if we didn't have a sea."

In Belarus, Chavez said, he will put "the final touches" on a plan to buy an air defense system, saying Venezuela's current short-range system was insufficient.

"What do you do today [faced] with the speed of supersonic planes like those of the [U.S.] empire?" he said.

The new system will have an "unlimited capacity" and will be equipped with long-range radars and missiles, he said.

"We don't want to shoot missiles at anybody, [it's] just a defense system. But if somebody comes here, well then, ssssssshhh," he said, imitating the sound of a missile in the air.

Chavez has previously mentioned the idea of a system with missiles capable of shooting down approaching enemy warplanes. It appears unlikely, however, that he is referring to an advanced missile shield like the one being developed by the United States, which has spent many times more than Venezuela's defense budget on the system.

Under Chavez, Venezuela has already purchased some $3 billion worth of arms from Russia, including 53 military helicopters, 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 24 Su-30 Sukhoi fighter jets and other weapons.