CARACAS — Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived on Sunday in Venezuela, the third leg of a Latin American tour aimed at bolstering trade with the region and sealing energy deals.
The Chinese leader's charm offensive, which has already taken him to Brazil and Argentina and will next bring him to Cuba, seeks to secure new bilateral trade deals, particularly for coveted raw materials.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro greeted Xi as he landed at the Maiquetia airport that serves Caracas, with dozens of dancers and musicians performing traditional musical pieces.
Following a visit to the tomb of revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar, Xi will meet with Maduro and address reporters. On Monday, he will meet with the leader of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, and sign a series of agreements with the Venezuelan government.
China is the second largest buyer of Venezuelan oil, with an average daily volume of 640,000 barrels, in part to pay off Venezuela's debt of around $17 billion. Both countries aim to increase the number of exports in the coming years to one million barrels a day.
Xi hopes to further develop his country's strategic relationship with Venezuela.
Relations have been warming between China and Venezuela where bilateral trade has been steadily rising, exceeding US$20 billion in 2012.
On Monday, Xi heads to Cuba, where he is to announce plans to build a factory producing "biosensors" for monitoring the blood of diabetics and other patients suffering from chronic illness, Cuban media reported. He will spend two days in Cuba, the last stop of his tour.
A group of Chinese business leaders who have expressed a strong interest in investing in the island will be accompanying Xi, reports said. — AFP