China's Hu extends credit, donations to Cuba

Campaign News | Friday, 21 November 2008

By Will Weissert for the Associated Press

Chinese President Hu Jintao left Cuba Wednesday after visiting a frail-looking Fidel Castro and promising at least $78 million in donations, credit and hurricane relief to China's communist ally.

A picture of Hu clasping hands with the 82-year-old former Cuban president topped the front page of the Communist Party newspaper Granma, above a picture of a grinning Hu shaking hands with Raul Castro, who replaced his elder brother in February.

China agreed to donate $8 million to Cuba and extend the second, $70 million phase of $350 million in previously agreed-upon credit to renovate Cuban hospitals. China also agreed to a five-year postponement of payments on $7 million in credit to Cuba from 1998, and delay until 2018 repayment of loans of undisclosed value from 1994 and 1995.

It is unclear if Beijing ever expects to be paid back.

China also agreed to buy Cuban nickel and sugar and provide food and roofing and housing materials to help Cuba recover from Hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma. Hu also brought 4.5 million tons in humanitarian aid, and China committed to a plan to help renovate Cuban infrastructure, including crumbling ports and an earthquake detection system.

Suffering from an undisclosed illness in a secret location, Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006. In the picture, he is wearing a red and blue track suit, and his thin gray hair and wispy beard are combed back.

"I see in person that you have recovered and have been energetic, so I feel very pleased," Hu told Castro, according to Granma.

"We are old friends. I am happy to see that you are as energetic as when I met you last time," Castro responded.

Hu then left for the Asia-Pacific Cooperation summit in Peru.

"It was a good trip with good results," declared Raul Castro after seeing Hu off at the airport.

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