Lula shows Fidel the “love”

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

See our last posts on Cuba and Brazil.

  1. Yoruba gods protect Fidel
    As we’ve noted before. From Reuters, Jan. 20:

    HAVANA — Yoruba gods protect ailing Fidel Castro from witchcraft and want to see him continue leading Cuba, the first priest of the Santeria religion to be elected to parliament said on Monday.

    “Olodumare says he is the one that should be there and so he is untouchable,” said Antonio Castaneda, a babalawo (priest) in the religion slaves brought to colonial Cuba from Nigeria.

    Hurricanes may batter Cuba this year, but Castro’s health will not break, according to the orishas (deities), he said.

    The 614-seat National Assembly elected on Sunday must approve Cuba’s top leadership at its first session on February 24, when Cubans will learn whether Castro will retire as head of state.

    Castro, 81, has not appeared in public since stomach surgery for an undisclosed illness forced him to hand over power temporarily to his brother almost 18 month ago.

    Santeria followers have believed their gods were on Fidel Castro’s side ever since a white dove landed on his shoulder during a victory speech in Havana after his 1959 revolution.

    Castaneda, who played the sax at Havana’s famed Tropicana cabaret for 30 years, never joined Cuba’s Communist Party, but considers himself a “revolutionary.” He praised Cuba’s social safety net despite widespread economic hardships Cubans face.

    He said 60 percent of Cubans believe in Santeria and he can give them a voice in the National Assembly. Castaneda won a seat as president of the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba, which is close to the government.

    The orishas augur a good year for Cuba, the babalawo said. “If Cuba marches ahead, so too does the Comandante,” he said.