Chavez Allies Rush to Caracas for Cancer Vigil

Friday, 14 Dec 2012 05:41 PM


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Bolivian President Evo Morales and heads of state from other countries allied with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez are heading to Caracas for an emergency summit called after the socialist leader flew to Cuba for a fourth cancer-related operation.

Morales, who won backing from Chavez before his 2005 election, is making the trip tonight, Bolivia’s state-run news agency ABI reported. Caribbean leaders as well as members of the Bolivarian Alliance political and trade bloc, which also includes Ecuador and Nicaragua, will meet in the Venezuelan capital tomorrow.

Chavez has tapped the world’s largest oil reserves to provide about $7 billion annually in subsidized crude to allies including Cuba, more than three times what the U.S. spends in aid in the Western Hemisphere. In Nicaragua, Venezuela’s oil and aid program totaled $609 million last year, or almost 10 percent of gross domestic product, according to the Central American country’s central bank.

The summit will be held at the Plaza Bolivar in downtown Caracas, Agencia Venezolana de Noticias reported. The date coincides with the date of Chavez’s first meeting with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro 18 years ago and the 14th anniversary of Venezuela’s current constitution, the state news agency said.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro, speaking yesterday on state television, said Chavez’s condition had improved to “favorable” from “stable” after he suffered complications due to bleeding during a six-hour operation. He said the president will require a “delicate and prolonged process of post-operation recovery.”

“We ask that his favorable advances continue,” Maduro said today after praying for Chavez’s health at the Islamic Center of Caracas, where he said all the world’s mosques were praying for the leader. “We will come out victorious in this battle for the health and life of the president.”

Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state oil company, sends almost 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba in return for services including medical doctors and sports trainers, according to the company’s 2011 financial report.

Nicaragua paid for its 16,600 barrels a day of crude oil in 2011 with shipments of cooking oil, sugar, coffee, beans, meat, milk, and 20,000 pairs of pants, according to PDVSA, as the Caracas-based company is known.

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