(L-R): Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro with Cuba’s President Raul Castro during their meeting in Havana.

HAVANA, Cuba — Cuba and Venezuela signed new cooperation accords on Saturday for 51 projects, as newly elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, on his first trip to the island since his election on April 14, pledged to maintain the close alliance forged by his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Maduro said they would jointly spend $2 billion this year on “social development.”

“We have come to Havana, Cuba, to say to the people of Venezuela, the people of Cuba, all the people of Latin America … are going to continue working together, we came to ratify a strategic, historic alliance that transcends time, that is more a brotherhood than an alliance,” Maduro said at a signing ceremony in Havana’s main convention center.

Maduro told reporters he met with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, 86, for five hours on Saturday, “remembering Comandante Chavez, remembering that those two built this relationship.”

According to Reuters, Cuba receives an estimated 110,000 barrels a day of Venezuelan oil in exchange for money and the services of some 44,000 Cubans, most of them medical personnel, in Venezuela.

In 2000, Cuba and Venezuela created an intergovernmental commission that holds annual meetings to develop joint projects in a wide range of areas, among them healthcare, education, culture and economics.

Cuban President Raul Castro said that, along with the 51 projects, they had agreed on memorandum of understanding for the development and adoption of a “bilateral economic agenda” for the next five years.

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