Venezuela president brings Cuba donation in wake of hurricane

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers and pro government governors in Caracas, Venezuela. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

HAVANA (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro arrived in Cuba on Thursday evening in a surprise visit to bring a donation of goods after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the Caribbean island, state-run media there said on Friday.

Cuban President Raul Castro received Maduro at the Havana airport, state-run television showed. The two countries are close ideological and strategic allies against what they call U.S. imperialism.

“This aid will contribute to making up for the damage caused by Hurricane Irma,” state-run radio station Radio Reloj said.

Cuba and Venezuela became strategic allies in 2000 with the rise to power of Socialist Hugo Chavez in the South American country, which holds the world’s largest oil reserves but is undergoing a major economic crisis.

An agreement to exchange oil for medical and other technical services underlies their economic relationship and continues despite a drop in oil deliveries by Venezuela and payments to Cuba for services.

Millions in Venezuela are suffering from food shortages and soaring inflation.

Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn