October 16th 2007
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban leader Raul Castro sign 14 new economic agreements. (Prensa Presidencial)
Mérida, October 16, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)- Cuba and Venezuela announced an increased economic and political alliance yesterday after signing several bilateral economic agreements. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban leader Raul Castro met in Havana on Monday to discuss a number of joint projects as a part of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), and President Chavez proposed a future joining of the two countries into a confederation.
Just as Cuba and Venezuela were the first two countries in the formation of ALBA, the new regional alliance that Nicaragua and Bolivia later joined, the Venezuelan president suggested that Cuba and Venezuela be the first in forming a confederation of nations.
“Now we should be looking ahead, Cuba and Venezuela could perfectly form a confederation of nations in the near future, two countries in one,” he proposed.
The proposal comes as the two nations continue to forge a tighter relationship, both economically and politically. President Chavez spent the weekend in Cuba where he paid tribute to the 40th anniversary of the death of Che Guevara, and broadcast his Sunday TV and Radio show Aló Presidente from the island. Chavez said on the show that the two countries are governed by “just one government.”
“We are going towards a confederation of Bolivarian nations,” he said in reference to the South American independence leader Simon Bolivar who proposed the unification of the region in the 19th century.
“We are going to transform this group of ALBA countries, and more countries, into a confederation, the unification of our people. We are going to transform it into a regional power,” he said.
Cuba and Venezuela signed a total of 14 economic agreements yesterday, including a joint oil refinery, the exploration for oil in Cuba and in the Gulf of Mexico, an underwater fiber optic cable connecting the two countries, and several joint companies to undertake other ventures. They also made agreements to study many other prospects for “a growing process of union and integration.”
By the end of the year the two governments plan to inaugurate a refinery on the southern coast of Cuba that will initially process 65 thousands barrels of oil per day, and later up to 108 thousand barrels. An old Soviet plant that stopped functioning after the fall of the Soviet Union, the refinery will require an initial investment of 236 million dollars to modernize and expand.
The two countries’ state oil companies signed joint contracts to explore oil in western Cuba, as well as in Cuban territory in the Gulf of Mexico. A joint company was created to exploit nickel and other mineral deposits in Cuba, and agreements were signed to study the construction of a petrochemical plant, the production of cement, and the creation of an industry to construct ships for fishing, among other proposals.
President Chavez also proposed the establishment of “aggressive” plans to increase agricultural production in both countries with the goal of making them self-sustaining in their food supply. He emphasized the need to break the countries’ dependence on food imports and said that agriculture is the most important sector to develop.
“We should make this our highest priority and concentrate our best researchers, our best scientists on searching for the best land, and accelerate the production of materials, tools, machinery, and fertilizers,” he said.
The Cuban leader Raul Castro expressed his satisfaction with the growing alliance between the two countries and applauded the new agreements.
“With the signing of these agreements we make a significant contribution to the growing process of unification and integration between Cuba and Venezuela that began with the Cooperative Agreement signed by both countries on October 30th of 2001,” he said.
Raul Castro emphasized that commerce between the two countries has seen a continued increase with a tendency to increased diversification and cooperation. According to the Cuban leader, the two countries are now carrying out 352 joint projects in 28 different areas of economic and social development. He emphasized that these types of projects are now growing to other parts of the region as well with the entrance of Bolivia and Nicaragua to the ALBA block.