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Brazilian chief Lula rekindles ties with Cuba at G77 summit in Havana

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met together with his Cuban counterpart Saturday in Havana, signaling a revitalization of ties between the 2 international locations within the first journey by a Brazilian president to the Caribbean nation in 9 years.

Lula was in Havana for the summit of the Group of 77 rising economies plus China. The group, based within the Sixties, is assembly in Cuba simply days forward of the U.N. Normal Meeting in New York.

Addressing the summit Saturday, Lula lamented the U.S.-led embargo of Cuba. The island “is the sufferer of an unlawful financial embargo. Brazil is towards any unilateral coercive measure,” he mentioned.

“We reject the inclusion of Cuba on the checklist of state sponsors of terrorism,” he added. Lula was referencing the U.S.’s checklist of nations it considers to have repeatedly offered assist for acts of worldwide terrorism. Nations on the checklist are topic to sanctions.

Cuba and Brazil share robust historic and demographic ties. Brazilian cleaning soap operas are well-liked in Cuba, and each have wealthy musical traditions.

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Lula and former Cuban chief Fidel Castro had been mates, and Lula’s slim victory over former far-right president Jair Bolsonaro in final yr’s election was celebrated in Cuba.

The occasion in Havana was a possibility “to officialize the reestablishment of political and diplomatic relations with Cuba that had been utterly deserted throughout the Bolsonaro administration,” mentioned Paulo Peres, a political scientist on the Federal College of Rio Grande do Sul.

Ties had been robust between the 2 international locations when Lula’s leftist Employees’ Get together was in energy between 2003 and 2016 however turned bitter underneath Bolsonaro, who was in favor of the embargo.

Lula and Cuba’s chief Miguel Díaz-Canel had been anticipated to debate Cuba’s debt to Brazil’s growth financial institution. Reported by the Brazilian press to face at round $540 million, the debt was primarily amassed throughout large works on Cuba’s Port of Mariel, situated roughly 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Havana.

Cuba stopped paying the mortgage in 2018. Bolsonaro allies on the far-right frequently used the difficulty to accuse Lula of preferring to construct a port in communist Cuba reasonably than finance nationwide tasks.

“The profitable restoration of the funds lent to Cuba to finance works carried out by Brazilian firms on the island might be related to counter the opposition’s criticism of the Employees’ Get together,” mentioned Antonio Jorge Ramalho Da Rocha, a professor of worldwide relations on the College of Brasilia.

Lula can be very all for rising Brazilian firms’ use of the port and profiting from its infrastructure to facilitate worldwide commerce with the Caribbean and the U.S., mentioned Peres.

An enlargement of commerce hyperlinks between the 2 international locations can be anticipated to be on the agenda. In 2022, Brazil had a commerce surplus of roughly $287 million with Cuba, in accordance with a January assertion by Brazil’s overseas affairs ministry. Brazil principally exported vegetal fat and oils, rice and poultry meat.

Cuba is within the throes of what some specialists have known as its gravest financial disaster for the reason that Cuban Revolution in 1959. Whereas elevated imports of a variety of products could be welcome on the island, the Cuban authorities is extensively thought to lack the funds to pay.

However Cuba can be going by way of a change course of, with the opening of small and medium-sized non-public firms. Since small ventures turned authorized in September 2021, greater than 8,000 firms have been launched in Cuba.

The 2 leaders had been additionally more likely to talk about Brazil’s “Extra Medical doctors” program, mentioned Peres. Launched in 2013, the initiative recruited medical doctors from overseas to work in distant areas of the nation the place there was an absence of health care providers.

Bolsonaro criticized this system, which led to its hasty suspension within the early days after his election in 2018.

Each international locations have an curiosity in restarting “Extra Medical doctors,” mentioned Peres. Cuba’s cash-strapped authorities would welcome the earnings from the medical doctors’ salaries, whereas Brazil continues to undergo from an absence of well being care professionals in rural areas.

Bolsonaro had little curiosity in worldwide affairs. Since taking workplace in January, Lula has been looking for to undertaking Brazil as a serious participant on the worldwide stage.

A part of that technique has been to take quite a few worldwide journeys, throughout which Lula has pushed for a revamping of the worldwide world order in favor of extra energy to World South international locations.

After his journey to Cuba, Lula will head to New York, the place he’ll give the opening speech of the U.N.’s Normal Meeting and meet with President Joe Biden in a bilateral assembly.

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