Fri, Dec 12, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Raul Castro to make Venezuela first overseas trip

AFP , CARACAS

Cuban President Raul Castro is to arrive in Venezuela on Saturday on his first overseas trip since taking over from his brother Fidel Castro, President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday.

“Raul Castro will visit us on Saturday. Welcome president!” Chavez said during a public event late on Wednesday.

It will be the first visit by Raul Castro, 77, outside Cuba since he assumed the presidency in July 2006, replacing his ailing older brother Fidel, 82.

Venezuela is Cuba’s main trading partner: the Caribbean island 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 city of Cienfuegos.

Cuba in turn sends medical personnel and sports trainers to Venezuela.

Venezuelan Information Minister Jesse Chacon told reporters on Tuesday that Raul Castro is to attend a Dec. 14 summit in Caracas of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a Latin American trade bloc.

The summit is to look at ways for Caribbean nations to pay for Venezuelan oil in ways less dependent on US-dollar transactions. It will also examine the regional effects of the global economic crisis.

Chavez was effusive as he described the Cuban leader’s visit.

The visit “has for us the same significance of the visit of Fidel [Castro] in 1959,” Chavez said, referring to Fidel’s first trip abroad after the Cuban revolution triumphed nearly 50 years ago.

“Raul is going to repeat history,” Chavez said.

The first thing Castro will do is visit the historic national cemetery to honor the memory of Simon Bolivar, a leading hero of South American independence, Chavez said.

Dec. 16 to Dec. 17, both presidents are due to attend a broader summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in eastern Brazil.

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