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Cuba and Venezuela ink deals worth two billion dollars

Cuba and Venezuela have signed here accords for 51 joint projects worth two billion U.S. dollars, local media reported Sunday. At the close of 13th Cuba-Venezuela Intergovernmental Meeting Saturday night, Cuban President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the deals for projects in such areas as education, health, sports, cultur, food production, construction, transport, communications, energy and support of social missions, Xinhua reported. Havana and Caracas agreed to jointly invest two billion dollars to develop these projects and also signed a memorandum to establish a bilateral medium- and long-term economic agenda. The investment also covers joint ventures in vital and strategic economic areas in both countries. Castro praised the significance of the Cuba-Venezuela Intergovernmental Meeting established by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez 13 years ago, promising to further solidarity and cooperation with Venezuela.

Maduro spoke highly of bilateral collaboration, saying that over 45,000 Cuban health workers have offered their services in Venezuela. "This is a strategic alliance transcending the times, more than an alliance. It is a fraternity, a cooperation model that should be extended," Maduro said.

It is Maduro's first official visit to Cuba after assuming the Venezuelan presidency on April 19. He held a five-hour meeting with former Cuban President Fidel Castro on Saturday after arriving in Cuba Friday night.

Venezuela and Cuba became close political and economic allies after Chavez took office in 1999. Venezuela sends around 130,000 barrels of oil to Cuba each day, while Havana provides professional personnel needed by Venezuela's social programs.

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