CARACAS — Russia has offered to help Venezuela set up its space industry, including a satellite launch site, as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made his first visit to the South American country yesterday.
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela announced Russia’s offer before Putin arrived, saying officials would discuss the possibility of setting up a “satellite launcher and a factory.’’ Chávez didn’t give details or say how much that might cost.
The countries are also discussing new weapons deals, Chávez said Thursday night in televised remarks, without giving details.
The Obama administration yesterday dismissed Chávez’s suggestion that his country wants to set up a space program with Russian help.
The State Department said that Venezuela and Russia are free to cooperate in any area they want but pointed out that the populist Chávez’s government is dealing with potentially more pressing matters for its citizens than “space travel.’’
“We would note that the government of Venezuela was largely closed this week due to energy shortages,’’ spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters. “To the extent that Venezuela is going to expend resources on behalf of its people, perhaps the focus should be more terrestrial than extraterrestrial.’’
Chávez has built close ties with Russia, buying more than $4 billion in Russian weapons since 2005.
Russian and Venezuelan officials said they planned to sign agreements for energy projects in Venezuela, as well as industrial, commercial, and agriculture projects.