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The BBC's Jane Ball in Cuba
"The deal has provoked anger amongst opposition politicians."
 real 56k

Friday, 27 October, 2000, 02:08 GMT 03:08 UK
Protests as Castro visits Venezuela
castro and Chavez
The two leaders have forged a strong friendship
Cuban leader Fidel Castro has arrived in Venezuela to full military honours, but there have also been protests at plans to offer his country cut-rate oil.

The communist leader is on a five-day trip - his first state visit to the South American country over 40 years.

Hundreds of well-wishers were at the Simon Bolivar International Airport, despite strong media criticism citing alleged human rights abuses by the Castro government.

Caracas protest
Thousands took to the streets of Caracas to protest

Relations between Cuba and Venezuela, the world's No 3 oil exporter, have got much warmer since left-wing President Hugo Chavez took office last year.

The two leaders are to sign a pact on Monday providing Cuba with a reported 106,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil daily on very lenient credit terms.

Tight security

Mr Chavez, 46, who has forged a warm personal relationship with the 74-year-old Cuban leader, joked and chatted with him amid tight airport security.

The two presidents left shortly afterwards to inspect the coastal state of Vargas, which was devastated by torrential mudslides last December.

'Fuera Fidel'

In contrast to the scene at the airport thousands protesting at Mr Castro's visit marched through Caracas.

Poster of Castro
There has been alot of media criticism of Fidel Castro
Protesters jeered and waved signs that read "Fidel get out" in Spanish.

Instead of giving aid to Cuba they demanded that money should be provided for underpaid workers and to create jobs in Venezuela.

But protests have failed to disrupt Mr Castro's arrival and President Chavez is insisting on helping Cuba, which is suffering from a 40-year economic embargo imposed by the United States.

He says Havana will pay for the Venezuelan oil by sending more doctors to Venezuela, helping develop tourism and sending advisers for the country's ailing sugar industry.

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See also:

20 Oct 00 | Americas
Venezuela signs cheap oil pact
14 Sep 00 | Europe
Fuel crisis: The Venezuelan view
01 Aug 00 | Americas
Chavez promises revolutionary change
31 Jul 00 | Americas
Chavez: Visionary or demagogue?
15 Oct 00 | Americas
Oil workers win in Venezuela
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