Venezuela Increase Economic Ties
By Anita Snow, Associated Press Writer.
October 16, 2007.
HAVANA (AP) -- Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez and Cuba's interim leader Raul Castro
oversaw the signing Monday of economic partnerships
in areas ranging from oil production to
tourism as the nations moved to further
integrate their economies.
Cuba and Venezuela, Washington's two strongest
critics in Latin America, are strengthening
their ties under the Boliviarian Alternative
for the Americas regional trade pact, said
the 76-year-old Castro, who has led Cuba
during his 81-year-old brother Fidel's extended
Venezuela and Cuba "can form a confederation
of republics, two republics in one, two
countries in one," said Chavez, whose
visit included a meeting with his friend
and ally Fidel Castro and an hourlong chat
Sunday while hosting his weekly live television
and radio show.
Chavez has championed his Bolivarian trade
agreement, which counts Cuba, Bolivia and
Nicaragua as signatories, as an alternative
to U.S. free trade pacts.
Castro appeared somewhat frail, but alert
and in good spirits in a videotape released
of the Saturday meeting. Castro sounded
animated during his telephone chat with
Chavez on his "Alo, Presidente!"
program, marking the first time the ailing
Cuban leader had spoken live in a broadcast
on the island since falling ill.
U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey
on Monday commented sarcastically that he
was "delighted that Fidel Castro has
had an opportunity to discuss things with
his good friend President Chavez. It's too
bad that in almost half a century of misrule
in Cuba, he's never had the same conversation
with his own people."
Among other agreements, Cuba and Venezuela
also agreed to explore creating joint cement
and mortar production plants, mining and
other energy projects and even a five-star
Trade between the two nations has burgeoned
in recent years under the close alliance
formed by Chavez and the elder Castro.