Brazil aims to be Cuba's top partner, diplomat says
(EFE Ingles Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Havana, Oct 17 (EFE).- The senior career official in Brazil's Foreign Ministry said here Friday that his country aims to become Cuba's principal economic and political partner.
"We want to be the No. 1 partner of Cuba in its process of economic and social development, and also in political relations," Samuel Pinheiro said at the start of a meeting in Havana with Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
Pinheiro pointed out that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva gives "a very special, very personal attention" to ties with Cuba, especially to efforts aimed at boosting bilateral economic links.
Lula visited Cuba earlier this year for talks with Fidel and Raul Castro that signaled Brasilia's heightened interest in the Caribbean nation, apparently spurred by Raul's elevation to the Cuban presidency.
While showing no signs that he intends to loosen the Communist Party's grip on power, Raul Castro has moved to overhaul Cuba's creaking economy and is seen as much more pragmatic and flexible than older brother Fidel, sidelined by illness since July 2006.
So far this year, Brazil has extended $350 million in credit to finance exports to Cuba and the involvement of Brazilian firms in building highways on the communist-ruled island.
Brazilian state oil company Petrobras is also said to be interested in tapping into what appear to be substantial petroleum deposits beneath Cuban territorial waters.
Brazil, Pinheiro said, "has done and will continue doing" whatever it can to help Cuba recover from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which hammered the island between Aug. 30 and Sept. 9, causing more than $5 billion in damage.
The Brazilian government dispatched 15 tons of food and emergency supplies to Cuba in the wake of the storms.
Pinheiro is scheduled to meet with several other officials before concluding his visit on Saturday. EFE
Copyright ? 2008 EFE News Services (U.S.) Inc.
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