Venezuela hopes to double business with Cuba to $4 billion (euro3.4 billion) next year, including investments in housing projects and two Cuban oil refineries, said a commerce official attending an annual trade fair on the island.
The South American country is already Cuba’s top trading partner with $1.4 billion (euro1.2 billion) in commerce annually—the vast majority in exports of Venezuelan petroleum.
But Roger Figueroa, Venezuela’s vice foreign commerce minister, told The Associated Press Wednesday that his country plans to invest at least $2 billion (euro1.6 billion) more for the new projects with Cuba, and that annual commerce could reach another $2 billion (euro1.6 billion) by year’s end.
The $2 billion (euro1.6 billion) in investments includes $1 billion (euro838 million) to construct housing in both countries, and the rest for the operation of oil refineries in the southern region of Cienfuegos and the northern coast of Matanzas, he said.
“The possibilities for business with Cuba are enormous,” Figueroa said.
Cuba currently buys $1.1 billion (euro912 million) worth of Venezuelan petroleum annually on highly preferential terms, along with another $300 million (euro250 million) in Venezuelan food, construction materials, and other products, Cuban Foreign Commerce Minister Raul de la Nuez said earlier this week at the fair.
Cuba, in return, gives Venezuela the services of thousands of doctors, health workers, and other professionals.
Political ties between the two countries have grown increasingly tight in recent years under the leadership of Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who also share a close friendship.
The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has grown alarmed by the alliance in recent years, with some officials characterizing Chavez and Castro as troublemakers who are trying to destabilize Latin American democracies—something both leaders deny.
The International Fair of Havana, featuring products from more than 40 nations including the United States, runs through Saturday at the Expo Cuba fairgrounds on the capital’s western outskirts.