Chinese President Xi Jinping meets his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro at the Revolution Palace in Havana, on July 22, 2014. -AFP
HAVANA: Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in Cuba, officials said, the last stop on a Latin American tour that has stressed trade and aid more than ideology.
“Inside Jose Marti International airport, Xi was welcomed by first Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel and diplomats from the Chinese mission here,” Cuba’s state news agency Prensa Latina reported.
Xi arrived from Caracas for a two-day official visit to the Americas’ only one-party communist nation.
The Chinese leader is looking to bolster trade and cooperation with Cuba. Beijing already is Cuba’s number-two trade partner after Venezuela, and its top source of credit.
Xi – who has visited Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela on this trip – had a meeting scheduled with President Raul Castro, 83, at the Palace of the Revolution yesterday. The two leaders were expected to sign bilateral agreements.
Today, Xi will visit Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second-largest city which was hard hit in October 2012 by Hurricane Sandy.
Many believe Xi will announce Chinese cooperation in the city, perhaps in rebuilding housing.
The Chinese leader also could pay a visit to retired revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, 87, who led Cuba for five decades. He stepped aside eight years ago during a health crisis.
Earlier in Caracas, Xi signed a oil and mineral deals with Venezuela.
On the trip, he has reached out to resource-rich countries such as Venezuela and Argentina at a time when they are often shunned by the United States and Europe.
“Venezuela has become one of the top countries for Chinese investment ... our seventh oil supplier and fourth Latin American trade partner,” Xi said in Caracas.
The Venezuela visit comes after the Chinese leader agreed to an US$11bil (RM34.9bil) currency swap with Argentina and extended much-needed investment to President Cristina Kirchner, whose cash-strapped government, locked out of capital markets since defaulting on its debt in 2001, is staring down the threat of another default.
Xi kicked off his tour last week
by proposing a new US$20bil (RM63.5bil) infrastructure fund for Latin America, underlining the fast-growing Asian giant’s increasing interest in the region.
He also launched a new US$50bil (RM158.8bil) development bank along with the other emerging powers of the so-called BRICS group – Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa – at a summit in Brazil.
This is Xi’s second visit to Latin America and the Caribbean since taking office in 2013. — AFP