Castro Urges Venezuela to Resist U.S. 'Aggression'

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

( - Cuban leader Fidel Castro began a five-day visit to Venezuela Thursday, greeted by full military honors as well as protests by Venezuelans who are angry at their government for plans to sell oil to the communist nation.

Castro used the arrival ceremony to level criticism at the United States.

As reported by Radio Havana, Castro, dressed in military fatigues, said, "If Cuba can resist almost 40 years of U.S. aggression, Venezuela can do the same."

Castro praised what he called the "strength" of the impoverished Venezuelan people in the face of "suffering," and he compared their plight to that endured by Cubans as they emerged from the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

"At the start of the revolution I saw much of this -- the hope of the people, who wanted schools, who wanted medical attention, who wanted work," Castro is quoted as saying.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also criticized the United States for its continuing economic embargo against Cuba. Chavez said the United States has too much influence in the Central and South American regions.

"Our policy is aimed at a search for equilibrium in the world, the construction of a multi-polar world and a strategy in which Venezuela plays a part in the world order," Chavez said.

Relations between Cuba and Venezuela, the latter being the world's third-largest oil exporter, have grown warmer since President Hugo Chavez took office last year. The United States imports a huge amount of oil from Venezuela.

During Castro visit, he and Chavez are expected to sign an agreement that will provide Cuba with a reported 106,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil.

In exchange for the oil, Castro says Cuba will send more doctors to Venezuela, advisers to help develop Venezuelan tourism, and Cuban advisers to help with Venezuela's ailing sugar industry.

Castro's airport arrival went smoothly because of tight security. The two leaders immediately left the airport for the coastal state of Vargas, which was devastated by torrential mudslides last December.

But in Caracas, Venezuela's capital, thousands of Venezuelans reportedly took to the streets to protest Castro's visit.

Many protesters shouted and waved signs saying "Fidel get out" in Spanish. Many protesters believe the Chavez government should give raises to underpaid workers and provide jobs in Venezuela instead of spending the money on Cuba.