Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met with Cuban president Fidel Castro Ruz on Jan. 15 during a 24-hour visit to Cuba and met twice with interim president Raul Castro, who has headed the government since the summer of 2006, when Fidel Castro withdrew from public functions because of undisclosed intestinal problems. The visit included the signing of financial and commercial agreements, such as credits for food purchases and the expansion of the Che Guevara nickel plant, and offshore oil exploration. Brazil is Cuba’s second largest trading partner in Latin America, after Venezuela; annual trade is worth about $450 million.
Although Lula’s center-left government has kept its distance from Cuba’s Communist government, Lula told reporters during the trip: “I’m from a generation in love with the Cuban revolution; I have a special fondness for Fidel,” who he said was again “ready to assume his political role.” (La Jornada, Jan. 16)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 20