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Raul Castro, Diaz-Canel express support for Venezuela's Maduro

CUBA VENEZUELA | 21 de mayo de 2019

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza (l), along with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez (r), speak at the inauguration of the 18th Political Council of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba) in Havana on May 21, 2019. EFE-EPA/Ernesto Mastrascusa

Havana, May 21 (efe-epa).- The head of the Cuban Communist Party, Raul Castro, and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and expressed their support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, state-run media reported on Tuesday.

Castro and Diaz-Canel met on Monday evening with Arreaza, who arrived in Havana to participate in the 18th Political Council of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba), where one of the key issues to be discussed will be the situation in Venezuela.

In a statement published in the Tuesday edition of Cuban state-run newspaper Granma, the Cuban leaders and the Venezuelan diplomat met amid a "brotherly atmosphere, agreeing on emphasizing the solid links that unite Cuba and Venezuela" and "engaged in an exchange on issues on the regional and international agenda."

"Raul and Diaz-Canel reiterated their support for constitutional President Nicolas Maduro ... and the civil-military union of the Venezuelan people," while Arreaza "thanked the Cuban people and government for their ongoing solidarity," the official statement said.

Also present at the meeting were Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Venezuela's recently-appointed ambassador to Cuba, Adan Chavez, the brother of that country's late President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela is Cuba's main political and economic ally, and Havana has consistently supported Maduro and rejected the recognition given by more than 50 nations to the opposition leader of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the country's interim president.

The two countries since 2001 have had a broad cooperation agreement whereby Havana receives oil at subsidized prices from Venezuela in exchange for sending professional workers - mainly doctors and teachers - to the South American country.

In recent months, the United States has increased pressure and sanctions on Cuba, a country it accuses of backing and providing security and intelligence support to the Maduro government, something that Cuban authorities deny.

Washington considers most of the roughly 20,000 Cuban professionals providing services in Venezuela to be undercover agents, while Havana claims that they are simply professionals providing labor solidarity, especially in the areas of health and education.

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