Mérida, June 9th, 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Wednesday Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and senior members of his cabinet arrived in Havana, Cuba, on the final leg of their three-nation tour aimed at consolidating Latin American integration efforts. After visiting Brazil and Ecuador, representatives of the Venezuelan government met with their Cuban counterparts to discuss the advance of bi-national cooperation efforts.
Chavez, who was met by Cuban President Raul Castro at the Jose Marti International Airport, told reporters that he was “happy to be in Cuba – the land of giants, of Fidel, Raul, of the Cuban people.”
Discussions “Fruitful So Far”
As reported by TeleSURtv, a total of four bilateral working-groups (energy, technology and telecommunications, trade and commerce, food and agriculture) are currently meeting in Havana in preparation for a plenary session of the Venezuela-Cuba Joint Commission to be held late Thursday.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Cuban vice president Ricardo Cabrices said the discussions underway “have been quite fruitful so far.”
“We have established the working-groups, as is the norm during these types of meetings, and we are making headway in the analysis and in the deepening of each one of the subject areas that each working-group is responsible for,” said Cabrices.
According to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, one of the Venezuelan delegates, the ongoing collaborations between Venezuela and Cuba “have become an almost perfect system for exchanging the experience and strengths of both nations.”
“We are now focusing in on the subject of a joint economic development…that allows for a truly sustainable industrial development to help meet the true and essential needs of our peoples,” affirmed Maduro.
“Venezuela and Cuba will be together in good times and bad, today and in the future,” Maduro said.
On Thursday, Venezuela’s El Universal reported that among the numerous projects under discussion during the joint Venezuela-Cuba talks are: a recent agreement with China to expand the “Camilo Cienfuegos” oil refinery’s processing capacity (from a current 65,000 barrels per day to 150,000 post-expansion), the construction of an additional oil refinery in Matanzas province (designed to process 150,000 barrels per day), the construction of a liquid gas plant and a gas pipeline network covering a total 320km (198 mile).
Ricardo Menendez, Venezuelan Vice President for the Economic-Productive Sector as well as Minister of Science, Technology, and Intermediate Industry, discussed plans underway to develop a “pharmaceutical plant” in Venezuela using Cuban medical technologies.
The plant, said Menendez, will be built in Valles del Tuy (outskirts of Caracas) and is expected to employ some 2,000 people.
According to Menendez, the three-nation tour (Brazil, Ecuador, Cuba) now coming to a close represents a shift away from “the traditional import schemes” in previous integration efforts and begins a new “bi-national scheme of integration with the rest of the world.”
Menendez cited the recently installed fiber-optic cable linking Cuba to Venezuela’s own fiber-optic system as an example, stating that “this coming June 23rd concludes the experimental phase of the cable, allowing it to become fully functional starting in July.”
The undersea fiber-optic cable mentioned by Menendez first reached Cuba in February of this year, has an expected life span of 25 years, and with a 640-gigabyte capacity increases Cuba’s internet speed 3,000-fold. The cable, which cost an estimated $70 million US, links Venezuela’s La Guaira port to the eastern Cuban town of Siboney.
Venezuela, Cuba, and Latin American Integration
Of the numerous regional integration efforts spearheaded by Venezuela and Cuba, Maduro emphasized the importance of the School of Political Education for the ALBA Armed Forces, calling it a “vanguard experience not just in Latin America but for the entire world.”
“The objective [of the ALBA School of the Armed Forces] is to construct a Latin American doctrine of independence and peace, a doctrine that allows us to combine the beautiful projects and experiences that have brought our armed forces together, including doctrines such as the Martiana [of Jose Marti, Cuba], the Bolivariana [of Simon Bolivar, Venezuela], the Alfarista [of Eloy Alfaro, Ecuador], and the Sandinista [of Augusto Sandino, Nicaragua], as well as the doctrines of our Caribbean and Eastern brothers,” he said.
Maduro also referred to the upcoming 5-6 July 2011 foundational meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), saying that “South America, Central America, and the Caribbean will finally be together to take a historical step forward, a step that represents the possibility of constructing, within our own region, a great block of political, economic and social forces that serve as an identity of our people when facing the world community and that allows us to advance towards the construction of a multi-polar world of peace and without hegemonies.”
According to Maduro, the founding steps taken by initial ALBA nations Cuba and Venezuela have served as “a consolidated, hardened core that allowed for the construction of new types of relationships” based on cooperation and mutual aid between Latin American nations.