Cuba honours Venezuelan leader with medal ahead of Obama visit

Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 05:32 GMT, Mar 19, 2016 |

Cuba honoured Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with its highest state honour on Friday (March 18) in an act of defiance two days before U.S. President Barack Obama is due for a historic visit to Havana.

Maduro travelled to the Cuban capital with his Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez for talks to boost bilateral ties between the close allies and sign an agreement to bolster trade.

On Maduro’s itinerary was a ceremony in Havana’s iconic Revolution where Cuban President Raul Castro pinned the medal, known as the Order of Jose Marti, on the Venezuelan President in a show a solidarity between socialist allies that have stood together against the United States since Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, came to power in 1999.

Speaking at the ceremony, Maduro dedicated his prize to the people of Venezuela. The Venezuelan leader made reference to an “unconventional war” being afflicted upon the country, which Maduro has blamed on right-wing forces in the country and abroad who are seeking to destabilise the OPEC nation.

“This award is really for the heroic people of Venezuela who have struggled, who have not surrendered, who do not rest and who face up to an unconventional war. Marti’s strength, a dignified, strong Cuba which stands on its feet, I will take this to the people of Venezuela as an award for their heroism, for their fight, for their love, for their shared loyalty during these historic years,” said Maduro.