Raul Castro salutes Chavez in 1st trip as president

Cuban President Raul Castro spent Sunday in private meetings with socialist ally Hugo Chavez after publicly thanking the Venezuelan president for helping Cuba through difficult times. Castro - on his first trip abroad since becoming Cuba's president - was not scheduled to appear in public the day after he and Chavez agreed to joint projects worth more than $2 billion. Chavez, a longtime ally of Fidel Castro, gave Fidel's younger brother a warm welcome to Venezuela on Saturday, praising him for challenging US "imperialism" for decades. Castro, in turn, thanked Venezuela for increasing cooperation with the communist-led island.