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
be the first in forming a confederation of nations.
"Now we should be looking ahead, Cuba
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
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,"
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.