Venezuela Socialist Party deputy head visits ally Cuba for two days

HAVANA (Reuters) – Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello met with Cuban government officials on Friday during a trip to Havana in a show of unity even as Cuba is being courted to help resolve the political crisis facing its ally.

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello attends a rally in support of the government of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela May 20, 2019. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero/File Photo

Cuban state-run media said Cabello arrived in Havana on Thursday for a two day visit to discuss preparations for the Sao Paulo forum of leftist Latin American and Caribbean groups that will take place in Caracas next month.

The trip comes as the Lima Group regional bloc of 12 nations is calling upon Cuba to help find a solution to the political and economic chaos in Venezuela which has caused an exodus of millions and sharp increases in malnutrition and the spread of preventable disease.

Cuba, which has been a key backer of the Venezuelan government since the leftist Bolivarian Revolution that began under former president Hugo Chavez in 1998, has said it is open to help mediate but will never betray its ally.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Twitter he had held a “fraternal and useful meeting” with Cabello in which he expressed his country’s “solidarity”. They had touched on matters of international interest, he said, without offering further details.

Rodriguez is due to meet later in Toronto on Friday with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who said they will “discuss the role that Cuba can play in a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Venezuela.”

Cuba has mediated in other regional crises in the past most notably hosting the peace talks between Colombia’s government and Marxist FARC rebels.

However, analysts say Cuba, which receives subsidized oil from Venezuela in exchange for exports of Cuban professional services, has an economic interest in the Socialist Party staying in power. The Venezuelan opposition has said it would revise that deal.

The United States, which is trying to force out Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in favour of opposition leader Juan Guaido, has charged Cuba’s security forces with propping up Maduro, accusations that Havana has denied.

Cabello also met on Friday with the head of Cuba’s National Assembly, Esteban Lazo, with whom they discussed their countries’ “excellent diplomatic relations”, state-run website Cubadebate wrote.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Alistair Bell

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