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VEN 01On 27 November 1992 a failed Coup d'Etat led in many changes in Venezuela. The year after, the president was charged with corrpution and in 1998 Chavez was elected as the 64th president. Spinning Bolivarian revolutionary talk and with leanings towards Russia and China. Twenty years after the start of these changes, we visited around 27 November, still seen as significant a date by supporters of the current government, to see what had become of this socialist ideal.

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Venezuela has some oil riches, depending on the crude oil price, boycots and government's prudency, this means sometimes oil dollars are in abundance and the next year it is all gone. One of the more remarkable contracts in Latin America was for 24 Su-30MK2V fighter aircraft.

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Keen on highlighting important historic dates, some aircraft receive special markings. Also common when a unit celebrates an anniversary. Su-30 0564 marks 200 years of independence from Spain (Bicentenario) in 2011.

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Apart from the brutal and awesomely powerful Saturn Al-31Fs of the Su-30....

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...more mundane Chinese hardware became en vogue when cash dried up and Chinese influence grew. Eighteen K-8 basic jet trainers were delivered in 2010. Unfortunately, one crashed on 27 November 2012, the second mishap with the type here.

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The Aviación Militar Bolivariana succeeded in getting 14 of the 18 K-8s up in the air at the same time.

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More new hardware at the time, albeit less exciting, were a couple of Enstrom F280FX Sharks still in their former civil livery.

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27 November usually sees a parade of some sort. The AS332/532 Super Puma/Cougar fleet participated and is seen here on a practice run.

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Standing ready, but also on alert because the 2012 celebrations were somewhat ill-fated. Not only was former president Chavez in hospital, no less than three crashes ocurred. The K-8 we mentioned, but also an OV-10 a couple of days before as well as a Cougar that went to rescue the pilot. This may have been a symbolic turning point of some sort...

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But hey, we came to enjoy the hospitality, meet old friends and photograph sunset landings!

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Not to mention full power take-offs...

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Unknown to many, Venezuela was an early adopter of the F-16A/B way back in 1983.

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Litereally freshly delivered were a couple of Chinese An-12 clones, Y-8F-200W. To cover up the destination on their trip from China, white spraylat was liberally used and was very difficult to peal off for the support crews.

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With or without some remnants of it, the new colour scheme really looks stunning. Some fly-by's...

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...and a sunset a landing...

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...against a properly impressive background!

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We said 'so long' to our helpful friends after a couple of very memorable days, never knowing that it would be closer to a farewell...