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Cuba and Venezuela to build oil alliance

Castro and Chavez met to discuss a plan to provide Caribbean nations with oil on preferential conditions

Fidel Castro and Hugo ChavezShoulder by shoulder, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, met on Tuesday to discuss an oil alliance which would provide Caribbean nations with more fuel at preferential conditions. The deal would expand Chavez’s oil diplomacy and influence across the region, and could bring Castro a new opportunity to regain some political space within Cuba’s neighbours.

The meeting took place in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, and included more political definitions over the future of both countries and the destiny of Latin America. Chavez said he is leading Venezuela toward Socialism as harshly criticised US policies as imperialistic. By doing little to slow increased demand for energy, the world's most developed countries "are causing a humanitarian crisis for survival" among smaller nations, said the Cuban President.

But the real intentions behind these declarations are more pragmatic than rhetoric. Chavez’s foreign policy is based on Venezuela’s oil richness, with which the leftist leader is looking for support among the region.

The Venezuelan government has sealed bilateral agreements to develop oil and gas reserves with a number of countries as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Iran, China and many others. It is also fuelling the building of an energy loop across South America to prevent lack of supplying and make the region self-sufficient.

Last year, Chavez signed a deal with the Dominican Republic to sell up to 50,000 barrels a day of oil with preferential financing. Two months ago, Venezuela opened a new office in Havana for its state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., and announced it had increased sales to Cuba to 90,000 barrels a day.

In 2004, Venezuela helped Argentina to sort out its energy crisis by sending fuel oil tankers to Buenos Aires, which were dully exchanged for food. Leaders from Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela were expected to further advance on integration policies last week, but the trilateral summit was postponed as Brazil’s Lula had to remain in office to deal with the political crisis sparked by corruption allegations.

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