San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

China, Venezuela discuss energy, social development deals

CARACAS, Venezuela – Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on a tour of Latin America, met his Venezuelan counterpart Elías Jaua on Monday to discuss boosting cooperation in a range of areas including energy.

The diplomats also talked about enhancing collaboration on industrial development, as well as education, housing and cultural matters, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said.

Beijing is an important source of investment capital for Venezuela, which sits atop the world’s largest proven crude oil reserves.

In September, China pledged to invest more than $20 billion in Venezuelan oil and social cooperation when President Nicolás Maduro paid his first visit to Beijing.

China and Venezuela had trade worth more than $20 billion in 2012.

Wang, who was due to meet later with Maduro, an elected socialist, voiced support for political dialogue aimed at ending more than than two months of opposition protests against widespread shortages, hyperinflation and the repression of demonstrators.

“We trust in the ability and intelligence of the Venezuelan people to settle independently and on their own, the current problems,” Wang said, describing the countries as “friends … who understand and support 21st century socialism.”

At least 41 people have been killed since a wave of demonstrations against Maduro’s government broke out in early February.

Maduro, the hand-picked successor to the late leftist icon Hugo Chávez, was narrowly elected to office in a controversial election one year ago.

A former bus driver and union leader and the self-proclaimed political “son” of Chávez, Maduro was sworn in on April 19, 2013, pledging to carry on his mentor’s socialist legacy.

The top Chinese diplomat arrived in Caracas from his first stop in the region, Cuba.

China is Cuba’s number two economic partner after Venezuela and is a critical source of financing for the Americas’ only Communist-run nation, which is cash-strapped and cannot get financing from most lenders.

After his Venezuelan visit, Wang was to head to Argentina and Brazil, the latter being South America’s industrial, farm and financial giant.

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