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Chavez: Raul Castro to Visit Venezuela Saturday


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, will visit Venezuela on Saturday.

The trip will be Raul Castro's first official visit abroad since he replaced his brother, Fidel, as Cuba's leader in 2006.

Mr. Chavez announced President Castro's visit Wednesday, saying it has the same significance as Fidel Castro's trip to Venezuela in 1959. The visit was Fidel Castro's first trip abroad after he took power in the Cuban revolution.

President Chavez said the current President Castro is repeating history.

The Venezuelan president is a close friend and ally of Fidel Castro, who formally ceded power to his younger brother in February. He had given up the post provisionally following intestinal surgery in 2006.

Mr. Chavez said he and Raul Castro will pay tribute to South American independence icon Simon Bolivar at his burial place in Venezuela's National Pantheon, during the visit Saturday.

Mr. Castro was originally scheduled to visit Caracas on December 14 for a summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a Latin American trade alliance. But the gathering has been rescheduled for next year.

Venezuela is an important trade partner for Cuba. The Caribbean island imports nearly 100,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil per day, some of it paid for indirectly by supplying medical doctors to Venezuela.

The countries are also increasing cooperation in energy and oil production.

On December 16 and 17, both presidents are set to attend a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in Brazil.