Mérida, June 13, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a surprise visit to Cuba yesterday afternoon to meet with the nearly recuperated Cuban leader Fidel Castro and to discuss the growing relations between the two countries. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega also was to arrive to the island to discuss the integration plans between the nations as a part of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).
"Long live Cuba, long live Fidel!" was first thing the Venezuelan president said upon arriving at José Martí Airport in Havana, Cuba. Chavez was received by the Cuban officials Carlos Lage and Felipe Perez Roque, as well as the Venezuelan Ambassador in Cuba German Sanchez Otero.
The six-hour meeting between Chavez and Castro focused on the plans for the joint development of the two countries as well as the advances in regional integration through the ALBA agreement. According to Cuban media reports, the leaders also discussed energy policy, the results of the "energy revolution" carried out in both nations, the challenges of climate change, and other important challenges for humanity.
Reports indicate that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is also planning on visiting the island, having cut short his travels during a tour through Algeria, Libya, Iran, and Italy.
Upon visiting with the Cuban leader, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez assured that Castro was "almost totally recuperated" from his health problems and insisted that it is time for Castro to retake his position at the head of the Cuban government.
"I'll say it here because I said it in Caracas, I think the time is coming for him to put on his uniform again," said Chavez at an event Havana today. "But time will tell, and he himself will decide of course," he said.
The visit by Chavez comes one week after Cuban state television broadcast the first interview of Castro during his ten months recovery from surgery. In the interview, the leader of the Cuban Revolution spoke for about an hour about different issues including his recovery. Chavez, who has become one of the only sources of information on the health status of the Cuban leader, assured after their six-hour discussion that the leader was in good condition.
Castro hasn't been seen in public since July 26th of 2006, shortly after an urgent intestinal surgery. His powers were ceded to his younger brother Raul who has been at the head of the government since that point. Castro has, however, since March, begun to write articles in the Cuban press about international affairs including U.S. involvement in Iraq, the use of corn to produce bio-fuels, and Washington's plan for free trade in Latin America.
New Plans for Integration
Today, during a meeting with Cuban university students in Havana, President Chavez suggested the construction of a gas plant in Cuba in order to allow for the processing of Venezuelan gas in Cuba. The plant will reportedly allow for the use of gas as vehicle fuel, in the production of petrochemicals, as well as for use in thermoelectric generators.
Chavez also announced that the work to expand and modernize the oil refinery located in Cienfuegos, Cuba should be finished by the end of the year. The project is being carried out by Venezuela's oil company Pdvsa in conjunction with Cuba's oil company Cupet with the intention of refining Venezuelan oil on the island. Chavez also mentioned that the project could include the building of an entire petrochemical complex.
After speaking at an event for the inauguration of a monument of Francisco Miranda in Havana, Chavez affirmed the existence of a new historic project of independence for Venezuela and Latin America. He concluded by commenting on the formation of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which he says is the continuation of the original project advanced by Francisco Miranda and Simon Bolivar for the union of Latin American nations.