Chavez reaffirms ties to Cuba

Barry Stoller bstoller at
Thu Sep 6 12:31:36 MDT 2001

Reuters. 6 September 2001. Chavez Says Ties Make Venezuela, Cuba 'One

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela and Cuba, united in "one team" by their
growing cooperation ties, should spearhead an international campaign
against free-market capitalism, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said.

In a speech on Wednesday night opening a bilateral cooperation meeting
in Caracas, Chavez heaped praise on veteran Cuban President Fidel Castro
and his communist-ruled island and hailed a year-old economic accord
between the two countries.

"Now we can talk of a single team. This isn't two teams any more, this
is a single Cuban-Venezuelan, Venezuelan-Cuban team," he told high-level
delegations from both countries.

Since he took office in early 1999, Chavez has rapidly strengthened ties
between his oil-rich country and Cuba in a shift away from Venezuela's
past close political alliance with Washington.

Chavez, who during his speech took a call from Castro in Havana on a
mobile phone, said Cuba and Venezuela were creating an alternative to
the "neo-liberal" economic integration model he said was being imposed
on Latin America with U.S.-backed plans for a Free Trade Area of the
Americas (FTAA).

"We, Cuba and Venezuela, and other countries, through the circumstances
of our political will, are called upon to be a spearhead, and summon
other nations and governments," he said.

Chavez added the FTAA offered a "neo-liberal" integration option which
he described as the "caldron of hell itself."

"I think that Cuba is lucky that it's not being called (to join the
FTAA)," the Venezuelan president said.

Communist Cuba is excluded from the FTAA talks and Chavez has also
expressed reservations about whether Venezuela should join, saying he
will call a referendum on the issue.

Chavez said the Venezuelan-Cuban cooperation offered a ''revolutionary"
option, and he added: "Let's present it to other nations... let's offer
it as an alternative."

The 47-year-old Venezuelan president, who hosted a 75th birthday party
for Castro last month,listened earnestly on his phone when the Cuban
leader spoke to him. But he did not reveal what Castro had told him
during the phone conversation.

Earlier, Cuban Foreign Investment Minister Marta Lomas said the year-old
bilateral cooperation pact, which includes a strategic oil supply deal
for Cuba, had turned Venezuela into the island's biggest single trading

Two-way trade rose from $461 million in 1999 to $912 million in 2000,
and reached $541 in the first six months of the year, said Lomas, who
led Cuba's delegation to the talks. Under the bilateral cooperation
accord, Cuba was receiving up to 53,000 barrels per day of Venezuelan

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Barry Stoller

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