Russia seeking inroads among Latin American nations
Chris Kraul and Patrick J. McDonnell report from Lima, Peru, and Bogota, Colombia:
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Venezuela on Wednesday to boost economic and political ties, his latest stop on a Latin American tour coinciding with President-elect Barack Obama's preparations to take office.
Along with earlier visits to Brazil and Peru, the trip to Caracas reflects a strategy to re-engage a region that Russia largely has ignored since the fall of the Soviet Union. Venezuela has purchased more than $4.4 billion in arms from Russia, which in turn has committed huge sums for energy exploration in Venezuela.
Medvedev's red-carpet welcome at Caracas' Maiquetia airport followed Tuesday's arrival of four Russian warships, including the nuclear-powered Peter the Great missile cruiser, in the Venezuelan port of La Guaira. It was the most significant appearance of Russian military assets in the hemisphere since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
The Russian ships are to participate in joint military exercises with Venezuelan vessels and aircraft starting next week. Medvedev and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will review the Russian ships today.
-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City