MANAGUA Delegations from over a dozen countries that are members of the Venezuelan-led oil alliance Petrocaribe agreed on Saturday to adopt a framework for promoting trade within the block.
At the close of the eighth-annual Petrocaribe summit hosted by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in this Central American capital, leaders agreed to focus efforts on boosting trade in regional transportation, communication, agriculture, tourism and social service projects.
"The journey has been very encouraging because in short order ... we have organized the essential components of a Petrocaribe economic zone," said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the close of the summit.
The trade agreement did not go into details, nor did the gathering formally discuss changing Petrocaribe's existing oil deals.
Maduro inherited leadership of the block after his predecessor, leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez, died in March, and Maduro won the election a month later to succeed him.
Chavez founded Petrocaribe in 2005 as an alliance that allows its current 18 member-states to buy oil from Venezuela at favorable rates and easy payment plans.
"Hugo Chavez's legacy will prevail," added Maduro.
Besides Ortega and Maduro, Bolivian President Evo Morales also attended the summit, as did Cuban Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino.
(Reporting by Ivan Castro; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Eric Beech)