Venezuela plans new Caribbean naval base

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez says a big naval base will be built on Venezuela's largest island.

Chavez says Margarita Island's strategic location off Venezuela's coast in the Caribbean Sea makes it perfect for "a naval base of large proportions."

Margarita covers an area of 1,020 square kilometers (394 square miles). It is a popular tourist destination and is home to about 450,000 Venezuelans.

Chavez says a naval base there will help authorities fight drug trafficking.

Chavez's office said Monday that the president visited the island on Sunday along with American actor Sean Penn and Venezuelan Indy car driver Milka Duno.

U.S. officials have expressed concern about Venezuela's Russian-backed military buildup.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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