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Saturday, 11 August, 2001, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Castro visits Venezuela

The Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, arrives in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, shortly to receive one of the country's top civil awards.

He's expected to be welcomed with full military honours then fly to the southern city of Ciudad Bolivar to receive the award, which commemorates Venezuela's declaration of independence in 1819.

President Hugo Chavez, a close political ally, said he'd welcome Mr Castro with love and affection.

During the three-day visit, Mr Castro's first foreign trip since he collapsed during a speech more than a month ago, the two men are expected to discuss a controversial agreement under which Venezuela supplies Cuba with cheap oil in return for health and sports training. A BBC correspondent in Caracas says the deal has caused resentment amongst local medics and coaches who complain they cannot find work.

President Castro is due to return to Cuba on Monday -- the day of his seventy-fifth birthday

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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