Venezuela, Cuba sign $3 billion in joint projects

Chavez and Raul Castro will on Sunday attend in Havana a summit of the ALBA, a leftist bloc Chavez founded in 2004.

Venezuela, Cuba sign $3 billion in joint projects

Cuba and Venezuela signed cooperation deals worth nearly $3 billion on Saturday.

Venezuela, an OPEC member, has become a vital source of energy and trade for Cuba in recent years and it exports 98,000 barrels of crude a day to the cash-strapped Caribbean nation on favorable financing terms.

"We've signed 264 contracts worth a total of $2.951 billion," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in a televised speech, saying another 20 similar agreements would be inked later this month.

The cooperation deals relate to health, fishing, education and sports projects and the countries will also form at least seven joint state-run companies in the sugar, aluminum, transport and farming industries.

Cuba, which is heavily dependent on imports of fuel and food, pays part of its Venezuelan oil bill with the services of 40,000 doctors and other professionals.

Chavez and Raul Castro will on Sunday attend in Havana a summit of the ALBA, a leftist bloc Chavez founded in 2004 as a counterweight to the US-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas.

ALBA's nine members include Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda.

Chavez also said he would try to convince Fidel Castro to joint the two-day ALBA summit either Sunday or Monday. Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since his July 2006 operation.





Agencies








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