Castro wraps up visits to China and Vietnam
HANOI, Vietnam, Wednesday July 11, 2012 — Cuban President Raul Castro wrapped up a four-day state visit to Vietnam yesterday at the conclusion of an Asian tour viewed as an opportunity to study a working combination of socialism and capitalism.
Castro’s trip to Hanoi was aimed at boosting ties with a longtime communist ally that has boomed economically after embracing capitalism.
The 81-year-old Cuban president was welcomed by Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong at the presidential palace and subsequently held talks with President Truong Tan Sang, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, and National Assembly chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung.
"Our relationship has developed over many years based on our rich history," Castro said. "When one country is in need, we help each other and we share a lot of common opinions about global issues."
Last week, Castro visited China, where he signed a series of agreements, including a grant and an interest-free loan to help boost the Cuban economy.
His Asian tour presented an opportunity to view progress under a hybrid of capitalism and socialism. Vietnam and China have embraced market economy reforms and experienced rapid growth, while Cuba has remained largely poor.
Vietnam began revamping its system in the mid-1980s after failed collective farming left the country impoverished following the Vietnam War. Today, it is the world's second-largest rice exporter, supplying the bulk of Cuba's imports of the staple grain.
Castro last visited Vietnam in 2005 as defence minister before replacing his older brother Fidel as president in 2008. Two-way trade totaled $274million last year.
The trip came amid heightened tensions between Vietnam and China over disputed territory in the South China Sea.
On Sunday, a crowd of about 200 Vietnamese protesters marched through downtown Hanoi demanding that China stay out of Vietnam's waters. Demonstrations are rare in Vietnam, and police typically quash any form of political dissent.