President Hugo Chávez warned Tuesday he might share Venezuela’s U.S.-made F-16 fighters with Cuba and China, accusing the United States of making it difficult for his country to obtain spare parts for the aircraft.
CARACAS - (AP)—Chávez claimed the U.S. broke a contract to supply parts for Venezuela’s fleet of 21 F-16s and pressured other countries not to help maintain them.
`DO WHAT WE WANT’
‘‘We can do whatever we want with the planes. Maybe we’ll send 10 to Cuba, or maybe to China so that they can see the technology,’’ said Chávez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Venezuela originally purchased its fleet of F-16s in 1983. Until Chile acquired a fleet in 2003, Venezuela was the only Latin American country to possess the warplanes made by Lockheed Martin.
U.S. officials did not address Chávez’s comments specifically. The Pentagon said in a statement that it has not had any conversations with Venezuela about the sale of F-16s to any third country, and that regulations governing the transfer of U.S. military equipment are quite strict.
Chávez’s comments—made during a ceremony announcing Venezuela’s plan to launch a telecommunications satellite with the help of China—are the latest in a yearslong series of charges and countercharges that have strained relations with Washington. Chávez regularly claims the United States is trying to overthrow his government, an accusation the United States has dismissed.
In his comments, Chávez pledged to challenge U.S. ‘‘imperialism’’ at an upcoming Summit of the Americas, beginning Friday in Argentina and drawing leaders from 34 Western Hemisphere nations, including both Bush and Chávez