Cuba's new leader praises Maduro in 'solidarity' visit to Venezuela
By Deisy Buitrago and Andreina Aponte CARACAS (Reuters) - Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel flew to Caracas on Wednesday for his first foreign trip as head of state, a show of solidarity for Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, whose controversial re-election this month has drawn condemnation in the West. 'I pledge to you that no matter how big the challenges, you can count on Cuba today and forever,' Diaz-Canel said after meeting Maduro in the Miraflores presidential palace. 'Venezuela now needs our solidarity,' he earlier told Venezuela's Constituent Assembly, a pro-government legislative superbody.
By Deisy Buitrago and Andreina Aponte
CARACAS (Reuters) - Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel flew to Caracas on Wednesday for his first foreign trip as head of state, a show of solidarity for Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, whose controversial re-election this month has drawn condemnation in the West.
"I pledge to you that no matter how big the challenges, you can count on Cuba today and forever," Diaz-Canel said after meeting Maduro in the Miraflores presidential palace.
"Venezuela now needs our solidarity," he earlier told Venezuela's Constituent Assembly, a pro-government legislative superbody.
The United States, the European Union and major Latin American countries have condemned Maduro's May 20 re-election, saying it did not meet democratic standards.
Two of his rivals were barred from standing and the election board is run by loyalists. The U.S. government imposed new sanctions on the crisis-stricken oil exporter.
But China and Russia have warned against meddling in the Socialist-run country, and fellow leftist governments in the region from Cuba to Bolivia have offered their support.
"Your words express the best of the Cuban people and we are forever grateful for the support you have given us," said Delcy Rodriguez, a senior Maduro ally who heads the Assembly, which critics say has undermined the opposition-controlled legislature, the National Assembly.
Maduro was the first foreign leader to meet with Diaz-Canel last month after he succeeded Raul Castro to become president of the Communist-run island.
Venezuela, which holds the world's largest oil reserves, exchanges crude for Cuban medical and other technical services, though deliveries have dropped in recent years during an economic implosion in the country of 30 million people.
"We felt (Maduro's) victory as our own," Diaz-Canel said. "Venezuela has supported Cuba in many ways throughout its history. We have a debt of gratitude."
Venezuelan opposition politicians say bilateral relations with Cuba are deeply unfavourable.
"Maduro did not sell the country, he handed it over. NATIONAL SHAME!" tweeted opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido, posting a picture of Diaz-Canel wearing a sash with the yellow blue and red Venezuelan colours on Wednesday.
Diaz-Canel flew to Venezuela with his wife Liz Cuesta as first lady, in a break with custom during the nearly 60 years' rule by the Castro brothers Fidel and Raul who generally travelled without their spouses.
Diaz-Canel's visit came as Cuban authorities faced the chaos of flooding in the wake of Subtropical Storm Alberto that has killed already four people and prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands.
(Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta in Havana and Vivian Sequera and Alexandra Ulmer in Caracas; writing by Andrew Cawthorne and Luc Cohen; editing by David Gregorio and G Crosse)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.