Caracas, March 21st, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro met with the revolutionary guerrilla legend and former president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, on Saturday as part of a series of high-level talks that saw the renewal of key agreements between the two countries.
Maduro touched down in Cuba just a day ahead of US President Barack Obama, whose much anticipated visit to the island this Sunday marks the first time that a sitting US president has set foot on the island since 1928.
The Venezuelan head of state was accompanied by a delegation of leading ministers, who sustained top-level meetings with their Cuban counterparts in Havana over the weekend.
According to statements, the government representatives discussed bilateral cooperation between the two allied countries over the coming fourteen years and agreed to the “2016 Annual Cooperation” plan– set to last until 2030.
“We were able to lay the foundations for the immediate design of concrete projects that will benefit the people of Cuba and Venezuela in different areas,” said Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, from Havana.
The plan is an extension of the many agreements that have been approved between Cuba and Venezuela over the past seventeen years, but will also include a re-orientation towards the fourteen “economic motors” recently announced by Caracas.
Earlier in March, Maduro went public with a new economic agenda in a bid to rejuvenate the country’s ailing economy on the back of a worldwide slump in oil prices.
“Fidel was particularly interested in our fourteen economic motors… Especially the production of food, new forms of producing using our own seeds, to become independent,” explained Maduro.
The latest agenda prioritises commercial and economic engagement between the two countries and includes treaties in energy and food production, tourism, culture, and healthcare.
“We are looking to take advantage of the Petrocaribe economic zone… and to set up a bilateral industrial platform with the capacity to export products to the Caribbean and North America,” said Vice-President for Economy Miguel Pérez Abad, who also accompanied the presidential visit.
The latest agreement will see the creation of bilateral commissions to tackle Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya and to assist Venezuela’s new drive in urban agriculture.
Venezuela’s health minister, Luisana Melo, also confirmed that the joint Venezuela-Cuba public health programme “Mission Barrio Adentro,” which has seen thousands of Cuban doctors deployed across Venezuela to treat the public and train a new generation of doctors, will also be expanded.
Cuba and Venezuela have been loyal allies since the Bolivarian revolution came to power in Venezuela in 1999. Together they have signed a number of different bilateral accords in areas ranging from Latin American integration to oil and health as part of the "Venezuela-Cuba Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement".
According to Rodriguez, their latest agenda will act as “an iron shield in the economic war against our peoples”.
Prior to his Saturday meeting with Castro, Maduro was officially presented with the “José Martí” National Award by the former leader’s brother and current president of Cuba, Raul Castro.
“I accept this award although I do not deserve it yet, I accept it as a commitment… to the Cuba of Fidel and the Venezuela of Chávez,” stated Maduro.
The award is the the highest honour that can be bestowed upon an individual in the Caribbean country.