Cuba's Raul Castro in Venezuela, 1st foreign trip

Por Venezuela Real - 12 de Diciembre, 2008, 21:52, Categoría: Política Internacional

Washington Post
December 12, 2008

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Raul Castro began his first international trip as Cuba's president in Venezuela on Saturday, a symbolic choice of destination aimed at strengthening ties with the island's socialist ally and main benefactor.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has long been a close ally of Raul Castro's iconic older brother _ Fidel Castro _ who in February ceded power to the 77-year-old Raul because of illness.

"Welcome to your home," Venezuela's socialist president said as he hugged Castro at the airport outside Caracas, where marines dressed in white uniforms stood in formation under a bright Caribbean sun. "Your visit is an honor for us."

Castro, who wore dark sunglasses and a gray suit, delivered greetings from his older brother.

"I bring a salute, a hug for all Venezuelans from the Cuban people and from the leader of the revolution, comrade Fidel Castro," he said.

The choice of Venezuela as Raul Castro's first foreign trip reflects Cuba's reliance on the oil-rich nation's backing.

Venezuela sells Cuba about 90,000 barrels of crude oil per day on preferential terms, and hopes to increase shipments to 150,000 barrels per day by 2013.

Venezuela's state-run oil company has also invested some $83 million since 2006 to rehabilitate Cuba's Soviet-era Cienfuegos refinery, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said in July.

Meanwhile, the Cuban government has sent Venezuela 30,000 Cuban doctors and nurses, as well as thousands of sports trainers and agricultural technicians.

Chavez _ a former lieutenant colonel-turned-socialist _ and Raul Castro laid flowers at a statue of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar in the capital's center on Saturday.

The two leaders then visited Bolivar's tomb, where Raul was presented with keys to the city by the mayor of Caracas' Libertador district, Jorge Rodriguez. A youth orchestra performed Venezuelan songs.

Later, they were to wrap up negotiations on 311 cooperation projects for next year at the presidential palace, Ramirez told delegation of Venezuelan and Cuban officials on Friday.

Cuba and Venezuela have already agreed to invest nearly $1.4 billion in joint projects this year, in addition to some $2.3 billion approved in 2006 and 2007, Ramirez said. Projects cover areas such as oil, health, education and agriculture.

"We have been advancing in a very important and sustained manner," he said.

The vice president of Cuba's Cabinet, Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, said cooperation between the two nations is even more important considering the world financial meltdown.

"The crisis generated by the capitalist system ... obliges our countries to make a sustained effort to advance," he said.

It was not clear exactly how long Castro planned to stay in Venezuela, but Venezuela's official news agency said the visit was going to last just a few hours.

Castro was expected to head next to a regional integration summit in Brazil, which opens on Tuesday.

Venezuelan officials had announced that Castro would come Dec. 14 for a summit of the ALBA regional trade bloc, but the gathering was postponed until next year.

de la dirección del
Nuevo Portal Principal

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