Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

'Steely resolve of reporters exploited by pared-down employers'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

US judge calls Argentina bond swap offer illegal

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Cécile Duflot ruffles some feathers

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Media accused of pro-protester bias in Ferguson

Read more

DEBATE

The Murderous Lure of Jihad: Tackling ISIS and its Worldwide Recruitment (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

The Murderous Lure of Jihad: Tackling ISIS and its Worldwide Recruitment

Read more

FOCUS

Republicans block Obama's bid to hike minimum wage

Read more

WEB NEWS

Calls for ISIS media blackout after execution of James Foley

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users divided over Darren Wilson

Read more

  • Russian aid convoy drives into Ukraine

    Read more

  • US says Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen'

    Read more

  • Fear of Ebola sky-high among Air France workers

    Read more

  • Malaysia mourns as remains of MH17 victims arrive home

    Read more

  • Hollande is ‘nobody’s president’ says former French minister

    Read more

  • Reporter’s IS captors taunted family, asked for €100m ransom

    Read more

  • Two US Ebola patients leave hospital ‘virus-free’

    Read more

  • Turkey’s Erdogan names foreign minister Davutoglu as next PM

    Read more

  • US reaches historic $16.7bn settlement with Bank of America

    Read more

  • Special report: Supplying Ukraine’s soldiers on the front line

    Read more

  • Israeli air strike kills three top Hamas commanders

    Read more

  • France delivered arms to Syrian rebels, Hollande confirms

    Read more

  • Tensions high in Yemen as Shiite rebel deadline looms

    Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

  • French village rallies behind besieged elderly British couple

    Read more

Raul Castro in Caracas on first official trip

Video by Philip CROWTHER , Nadia CHARBIT

Latest update : 2008-12-14

Cuba's President Raul Castro made his first official foreign trip on Saturday to Venezuela, the country's main ally, ahead of a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in Brazil next week.

AFP - Cuban President Raul Castro arrived Saturday in Venezuela for a symbolic first official foreign trip to the communist island'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.
   
Initially set to last only a few hours, the trip was extended until Monday morning when Castro will fly directly to Brazil to take part in a Latin American summit, diplomats and officials said late Saturday.
   
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a staunch supporter of Cuba and close friend of former leader Fidel Castro, received Castro with military honors.
   
"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.
   
The Cuban leader placed a wreath at a statue of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar in central Caracas, in a repeat of a gesture made by his brother Fidel in the past, before holding talks with Chavez on economic issues.
   
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.
   
Venezuela supported Cuba during its 1990s crisis sparked by the break-up of the Soviet Union, and more recently during Fidel Castro's deteriorating health.
   
Cuba receives some 100,000 barrels a day of Venezuelan oil under easy-to-pay conditions, and Venezuelan experts are working with Cubans on a petrochemical project in the southern city of Cienfuegos. Venezuela's state-owned PDVSA is among firms searching for oil off Cuba's north coast.
   
More than 30,000 Cubans, including doctors, teachers and sports trainers work in Venezuela.
   
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 more than 300 joint projects in 2009.
   
Both countries, staunch foes of the market-minded US goverment, together set up the ALBA leftist trade alliance in 2004 as an alternative to US-backed free trade policies.
   
The Venezuelan leader closely follows the state of health of Fidel Castro, his ideological "father," and has visited the former president at least 13 times at the undisclosed location where he is convalescing.
   
Raul Castro was due to take part in private meetings on Sunday, before leaving Monday for a policy-coordinating summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in Brazil focused on integration and development.

Date created : 2008-12-13

COMMENT(S)