Castro hold more talks on first foreign visit to Venezuela

December 16, 2008 - 0:0

CARACAS (AFP) -- Cuban President Raul Castro held talks with diplomats and military officials Sunday during his symbolic first official trip to Venezuela, Cuba's vital political and economic ally.

The visit is the first by Raul Castro, 77, outside Cuba since he formally took over the presidency of Cuba in February, after replacing his ailing brother Fidel, 82, more than two years ago.
Castro was also to meet with Cuban specialists working in Venezuela. More than 30,000 Cubans, including doctors, teachers and sports trainers work in the country.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a staunch supporter of Cuba and close friend of former leader Fidel Castro, received Castro with military honors Saturday.
""Brother, welcome to your country,"" said Chavez.
""I bring greetings to all Venezuelans and an embrace from the Cuban people and the leader of the revolution, comrade Fidel Castro,"" Raul Castro said.
Oil-rich Venezuela is Cuba's main business partner, and aside from the symbolism of the visit, the two leaders are likely to discuss joint strategies to combat the global economic crisis, particularly low oil prices.
The visit comes only a few weeks ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, and Chavez has said the trip carries ""the same meaning"" as Fidel Castro's first international visit -- also to Venezuela -- after claiming victory in 1959.
""If only the destiny of our peoples could be one single destiny!"" Fidel Castro said in a speech at the time.
The two countries are hand-in-glove allies today.
During Chavez's visits to Cuba, the two leaders have agreed on projects in key sectors such as oil, nickel, communications and tourism, and set up joint companies in construction, gas, transport and food production.
According to official figures, bilateral projects since 2006 represent some 3.6 billion dollars, and the two countries plan in 2009 173 joint projects worth more than two billion dollars.