Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that he will develop, together with Cuba, a large hotel complex on the Caribbean coast near Caracas, a tourist area left abandoned following the massive flooding that devastated the region in 1999.

"Several months ago I approved a large amount of funding to create it, and a Cuban company highly specialized in large tourist hotels is already at work restoring the big old hotels there, the Macuto Sheraton and the other, the Melia," the president said without naming the Cuban firm.

The floods in Vargas state in 1999, one of the worst natural disasters Venezuela ever suffered and which left more than 20,000 people among the dead and missing, caused such an immense amount of damage to the hotels of the area that they remain abandoned to this day.

At a campaign meeting broadcast from Vargas on state television, Chavez, who is running for re-election in October, said that where the installations of the American Starwood chain and the Spanish Sol Melia stand will be created "a tourist complex of the Caribbean."

He said that state-owned Venetur will handle the project together with the Cuban tourism company, though he gave no details as to what the project might cost.

"This has now begun because the private companies never wanted to restore those hotels. They couldn't see any profit in it," the president said.

"We'll finish the project with the help of Cuba and we'll hand it over to the people of Vargas to keep promoting tourism, not only in Vargas but in Venezuela," he said. EFE