Venezuela has become Cuba’s top trading partner, selling the Caribbean island $1.4 billion in oil and other goods annually, Cuba’s government said Monday.
Trading has increased amid strengthening political ties between the two countries under the leadership of presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba, who also share a close friendship.
The administration of President Bush has grown alarmed by the alliance, with some U.S. officials characterizing Chavez and Castro as troublemakers who are trying to destabilize Latin American democracies - something both of them deny.
Cuba is now buying $1.1 billion worth of Venezuelan oil annually along with another $300 million in food, construction materials, and other products, Foreign Commerce Minister Raul de la Nuez said on the first day of the island’s annual trade fair.
De la Nuez predicted trade between the two nations could reach $2 billion annually by the end of 2006. “At this moment (Venezuela) indisputably is the Cuba’s top trading partner,” he said.
Cuba, in return, has given Venezuela the services of thousands of doctors and other health professionals, as well as other professionals.
The International Fair of Havana, featuring products from more than 40 nations, runs through Saturday at the Expo Cuba fairgrounds on the capital’s western outskirts.