July 30, 2009 / 9:16 PM / 11 years ago

China and Venezuela sign $7.5 bln railway deal

CARACAS, July 30 (Reuters) - Venezuela and China formed a joint venture on Thursday worth $7.5 billion to build a railway that will link farm and oil regions in the South American country, a senior official said.

The China Railways Engineering Corporation (CREC) will hold a 40 percent stake and the Venezuelan state will own the rest, said Infrastructure Minister Diosdado Cabello.

The 468 km (290 miles) of railway are to link grain and cattle production in southwestern Cojedes state with oil fields in eastern Anzoategui state.

“Now the (farmers) will have a railway to help them with their crops,” Cabello was quoted as saying in a government statement.

The project will generate 7,500 jobs and is to be completed in 2011, he added, after signing the agreement with Bai Zhong Ren, vice president of CREC.

Venezuela, which depends heavily on trucks to transport cargo domestically, has begun construction of several railway lines to link regional production centers.

The government intends to build thousands of homes for workers who will develop the Orinoco field of extra-heavy oil.

Some investment plans that have been highly publicized by President Hugo Chavez’s socialist government are held up by red tape, a shortage of funds or technical difficulties. (Reporting by Enrique Pretel; Translating by Raymond Colitt; Editing by John O’Callaghan)

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