Venezuela's new president visited Cuba on Saturday and signed up for a slew of joint projects, assuring a longtime ally of their continued support, according to Reuters.
Cuba, a small communist nation saddled with a US embargo, needs oil-rich Venezuela to shore up its own struggling economy. Therefore, the new Venezuelan leader's visit was watched for signs of commitment, result being: "Cuba/Venezuela Alliance Assured by Castro and Maduro," as The Havana Times reassuringly put it.
Officially, Maduro is pretty new on the job, having been elected president earlier this month in a vote contested by the opposition. But his leadership is not expected to stray from the status quo -- the 86-year-old was Hugo Chavez's political protege, and his trip to Havana is yet another sign of dedication to the nation's former leader given the warmth between Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro.
This was Maduro's first trip to Cuba as president, although he frequently visited the communist island nation during Chavez's hospitalization, during which time he was already serving as the nation's de facto leader. Chavez died in March.
Cuban leader Raul Castro wrapped up the 13th Cuba-Venezuela Intergovernmental Meeting by calling Venezuela “Cuba’s best friend, as Comrade Fidel has said," reported The Havana Times.
Maduro spent five hours talking to "Comrade Fidel," according to Reuters, emerging with this vow of friendship:
"We have come to Havana, Cuba, to say to the people of Venezuela, the people of Cuba, all the people of Latin America ... are going to continue working together, we came to ratify a strategic, historic alliance that transcends time, that is more a brotherhood than an alliance."
The two nations signed arrangements for 51 projects, and Maduro promised $2 million in funds for development projects, said Reuters.