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Chavez makes surprise visit to Cuba

world Updated: Feb 22, 2009 08:23 IST

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has arrived on a surprise visit to Cuba and met his counterpart Raul Castro, according to an official communique on Saturday.

This is Chavez's fifth visit to the island nation in less than a year and first since he won a referendum, allowing him to seek indefinite re-election and forge ahead with his socialist-inspired policies, EFE reported.

Chavez, who is leading a high-level delegation, landed Friday night at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, the communique said without further details of the visit.

The visit coincides with the first anniversary of ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro denouncing power and his brother Raul taking over as head of the state.

Venezuela is the chief trade partner of Cuba, to which it sells more than 90,000 barrels of crude per day under preferential financial conditions that allow the island to pay with medical, educational and sports services.

An official communique issued Saturday by the Venezuelan government said that the two countries "maintain a dynamic relationship though numerous accords that unite them in economic, energy, technological and social affairs, and whose vision is to strenthen their integration".

Chavez is the sixth Latin American president to visit Havana in less than two months, after Panama's Martin Torrijos, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, the Argentine Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Chile's Michelle Bachelet and Alvaro Colom of Guatemala.