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Venezuela willing to expand cooperation agreement with Cuba

Minister of Energy and Petroleum Rafael Ramírez Thursday claimed Venezuela wants to expand the Venezuela-Cuba Integral Cooperation Agreement that has been in the spotlight of harsh criticisms because of both the large amounts of money and the poor accountability it involves.

Ramírez, who is also the president of state-owned oil holding Pdvsa, told the official TV channel VTV that the Venezuelan Government has a "responsibility" to make the agreement extend across areas such as agriculture, science, housing, technological exchange, joint installation of industrial plants, and organization of joint ventures.

"We are talking about ALBA here (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, which is President Hugo Chávez' response to US-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA). We have been moving forward with Cuba, but other countries have joined this newfangled exchange system. This is an extraordinary system, as it allows us to set free from unfair trade mechanisms."

He dismissed remarks earlier this week by former Pdvsa directors Humberto Calderón and José Toro Hardy, who claimed that Cuba demanded a USD 339 million payment from Venezuela even though Caracas this year has shipped almost 100 million bpd of crude oil to the island -which exceeds USD 2.2 billion.

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Venezuelan government gives aid to farmers hit by rains

02:57 PM. HEAVY RAINS. Venezuelan Executive Vice-President Elias Jaua reported that the government is designing plans to support farmers, cattlemen and peasants of the state of Mérida who have been hit by heavy rains that have caused crop losses.