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Cuba’s Fidel Castro welcomed Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to the Karl Marx Theater in Havana and signed an agreement of unity that is designed to be an alternative to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Two documents were signed that the leaders say constitute the highest expression of unity and the will of both governments to increase the range of cooperation and bilateral relations in general — a joint declaration and a agreement for the application of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA.

“ALBA is the antithesis of the annexationist Free Trade Agreement of the Americas that the United States is attempting to impose,” said a semi-official report from the Cuban government.

Chavez received the Carlos Manuel de C?spedes Order, by agreement of the Council of State. Castro quoted de C?spedes, known as the father of the nation who, in reference to the great country of Bol?var remarked: “Venezuela, which opened the way of independence to Spanish America and traveled it gloriously until Ayacucho, is our illustrious teacher of freedom.”

Chavez praised Castro, Che Guevara and Salvador Allende, the deposed leader of Chile.

“We are in full battle, and this will be long, hard, and difficult,” added Ch?vez, who confirmed that only the fortitude of the Venezuelan people had made it possible to undertake the Bolivarian Revolution.

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