Venezuela and Cuba Deepen “Strategic Alliance”

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis | April 29, 2013

Mérida – Venezuela and Cuba signed 51 bilateral agreements related to energy management and social programmes in areas including healthcare, education and recreation this past weekend and pledged to spend $2 billion on bilateral social development projects this year.
The agreements were signed during Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s visit to Cuba over the weekend.
“We came to ratify a strategic…[and] historical alliance,” Maduro told Cuban press.
Details of the bilateral agreements are yet to be released, though Maduro described the deals as focusing on “social development”.
After meeting with Maduro, Castro told the press that the agreements reaffirm Cuba’s “unyielding will to continue co-operation in solidarity with Venezuela, determined to share our fate with the heroic Venezuelan people”.
The agreements represent Cuba’s largest source of foreign capital, according to AFP.
In his first trip abroad since being sworn in as Venezuela’s new president, Nicolas Maduro also met with former Cuban president Fidel Castro.
“I spent over five hours with Fidel, talking, sharing memories of Comandante Chavez, remembering how he and Chavez had built this alliance, which is more than a strategic partnership,” Maduro stated, according to the Havana Times.
The visit was criticised by Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who during his recent election bid advocated for cutting most ties with Cuba.
“Our great lackey is travelling to Havana to get instructions from his boss,” he tweeted on Saturday.
Venezuela is Cuba’s largest trade partner, currently providing the island nation with more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day. In exchange, over 30,000 Cuban medical personnel work in Venezuela.
During his election campaign, Capriles maintained his long standing policy that if elected, “not another drop of oil” would be sent to Cuba.
However, his views on the doctors are less consistent; alternating between offering them citizenship and accusing them of being spies involved in a “Castro-communist” plot and threatening them with deportation.
Maduro indicated that his administration would maintain continuity with former president Hugo Chavez’s Cuba policy, stating that the two countries “will continue working together”.
According to the Uruguayan newspaper La Republica, Maduro’s next international trip will be to Uruguay, where he is expected to meet with the country’s leftist president Jose Mujica.
The newspaper cites diplomatic sources as stating that the trip will take place around May 7, and will be part of a regional tour.
However, La Republica’s report on Maduro’s travel plans have not been officially confirmed by the Venezuelan government.