Cuba and Venezuela Closer to Strategic Alliance
Caracas.- By the signing of 16 cooperation agreements early this year, relations between Cuba and Venezuela have reached new levels, bringing them nearer to the concept of strategic alliance.
These accords signed in Caracas, which cover the fields of oil, steel industry, agriculture, tourism and telecommunications, among others, are seen as a practical platform for complementation and cooperation, rather than competition.
We are taking a giant step in the process of union between the peoples of Venezuela and Cuba, said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, after the signing ceremony at Miraflores Palace.
In Maduro's opinion, this step contributes to strengthening the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA), a proposal of regional integration that aims to go beyond strictly economic matters, placing the people as its main objective.
Referring to plans, such as Barrio Adentro (Within the Neighborhood) that offers free medical treatment with Cuban aid to more than 15 million Venezuelans, ALBA "is today able to count how many thousands of men and women it has saved."
At least 50 million free consultations and 40,000 lives saved constitute one of the most significant expressions of the social content of this wide-ranging bilateral cooperation.
For his part, Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage, who attended the signing ceremony, recalled that from 2001 to 2006, the comprehensive bilateral accord went from $36.6 million to $840 million, and the next will be greater.
Regarding trade, Lage said it reached $460 million in 2001, and by the end of 2006, it was six times that figure, or $2.64 billion.
The agreements open the possibility of establishing 12 new joint ventures in several fields, which will join another nine already in operation.
These are not only important for bilateral relations, but also for marking the course of ALBA and the new concepts of cooperation, in the opinion of Cuban and Venezuelan authorities.
"It is a new social-human political model of union and integration of the peoples," stressed Maduro.
The projects include ship and port modernization and building, lending institutions for sea and railway transport, insurance and tourism, as well as joint oil prospecting research and the installation of a submarine optical fiber cable as part of an international telecommunication system, with ramifications to other countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
In the opinion of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, rather than trying to benefit any party in particular, these joint ventures are the basis of a single homeland.
They are structural projects that belong to a structural ALBA; it is not only trade, but a strengthened ALBA, he said.
Source: Prensa Latina