Friday, January 26, 2007

Caracas, Havana cement ties

Caracas, Havana cement ties

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Wednesday welcomed Cuban Vice-President
Carlos Lage at the presidential palace of Miraflores, downtown Caracas.

A military parade group paid homage to the Cuban official upon his
arrival. Chávez and Lage, together with their delegations, entered the
Venezuelan ruler's office to hold a working meeting including eight
technical committees.

Neither the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information nor the
Cuban Government had advised reporters on Lage's and his large
delegation's visit to Caracas. Information on the visit was disclosed to
reporters a few minutes before their arrival in the presidential palace
of Miraflores.

Both governments initialed agreements to complete some USD 120,000 joint
projects in mining and telecommunications. This a new step to cement
their close political and economic ties -which have been the target of
harsh US criticism, Reuters reported.

The two countries executed an agreement to organize a joint venture
exploiting ferronickel intended to produce stainless steel in Venezuela.

"We will cash in on Cuban ferronickel and Venezuelan electricity to find
a niche in the marketplace," said Venezuelan Minister of Basic
Industries and Mining José Khan.

He estimated that USD 600 million would be invested in the steel
manufacturing plant, while other USD 521 million would be earmarked for
the ferronickel plant.

Cuban and Venezuelan officials also entered into an agreement to
organize a telecommunications joint venture that is to lay a submarine
fiber optic cable between Venezuela and Cuba. "It is a 1,552 km cable
allowing for high speed connection at a low price for Cuba and neighbor
countries," the Minister for Telecommunications Jesse Chacón explained.

Further, both government initialed cooperation agreements for rice
production in Venezuela intended for export to the Cuban market and to
overhaul Cuban railway network.

Regarding tourism, the two governments signed letters of intent to
create a joint venture in Tres Cayos, Cuba, and to establish a joint
tourism incentive program under which at least 100,000 low-income
Venezuelans are to visit the island every year.

The Minister of Tourism Titina Azuaje said the goal "is boosting
integration, cooperation and learning about our historic and cultural

Fidel is "almost jogging"
President Chávez, following his meeting with Lage, read a letter from
Cuban ruler Fidel Castro commenting about the visit of the Cuban
delegation to execute 15 cooperation agreements.

Castro asked Chávez not to disclose the letter. "I am going to show you
-who claim he is dying or he cannot talk or move- the stroke of his

Chávez said Lage told him that Fidel walked for several minutes on
Tuesday. "He is walking more than me, he is almost jogging."

Regarding the United States, Chávez claimed that George W. Bush
"threatens Venezuela when he threatens Cuba."

Translated by Maryflor Suárez R.

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