Brazilian Pres Faces Tricky Balancing Act On Cuba Visit

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Sep 25 07:33:40 MDT 2003


(Many people on the left and ultraleft have been
militantly critical of Lula over a range of issues.
His visit to Cuba will be of considerable interest
as it represents an act of solidarity with Cuba at
a time when Washington continues to try its best
to isolate the island, politically and economically.

In recent months we've seen Washington more
and more isolated on Cuba here in the Western
Hemisphere. The efforts by Brazil, Argentina
and Venezuela among others to pull together a
broad Latin American alliance, including Cuba,
is a big step in the right direction. Bush's poor
reception at the UN this week should serve to
further accellerate these processes.

(For those who haven't read Carlos Iglesias's
essay on the long and close economic links
between Cuba and Brazil, you may wish to do
that now. It helps you to understand why Lula
has already announced he won't be meeting
with oppositionists on this, his first official trip
to Cuba since being elected Brazil's president.)
http://www.progresoweekly.com/2003/09Sept/03week/Iglesias.htm
===================================

Brazilian Pres Faces Tricky Balancing Act On Cuba Visit

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

SAO PAULO (AP)--Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da
Silva will walk a diplomatic tightrope when he sees his old
friend Fidel Castro later this week, trying not to
antagonize Washington while balancing his role as a
regional leader.

In the nine months since taking office, Silva has made
regional integration the centerpiece of his foreign policy,
visiting nearly every South American nation or meeting with
their presidents in Brasilia.

In the same period, Cuba has come under international
criticism because of a crackdown on dissent in March in
which 75 Cubans were given prison sentences from six to 28
years.

Silva, a former union official and Brazil's first leftist
leader, arrives in Havana Friday for two days of talks with
Castro, the 77-year-old communist leader he has known for
decades.

A major focus of the trip will be Silva's concern that Cuba
does not "remain isolated from the concert of nations"
Tilden Santiago, Brazil's ambassador to Havana, told
reporters.

"If integration is to be achieved, Cuba cannot be left
out," said Mario Marconini, executive director of the
Brazilian Center for International Studies in Rio de
Janeiro.

Silva will also be testing his country's delicate
relationship with the United States, which has had no
diplomatic relations with Cuba for more than four decades.
The United States is both the largest exporter to Brazil
and the largest recipient of Brazilian products.

"If the visit turns out to be nothing more than a gesture
to please leftist forces in Brazil and in the rest of
world, it will be an empty and meaningless gesture,"
Marconini said in a telephone interview.

"But if it becomes part of a broader approach to the
Hemisphere it could turn into a constructive exercise that
should please even the United States," Marconini said.

Cuban dissidents and their supporters have asked Silva to
intervene on behalf of 75 activists sentenced to long
prison terms after a crackdown this year.

Silva should demand the release of the country's political
prisoners, Cuban democracy activist Oswaldo Paya said in an
interview published Sunday in the Folha de Sao Paulo
newspaper.

"Brazil should defend an opening in Cuba and a dialogue
between the government and the opposition," Paya said.

The Paris-based advocacy group Reporters Without Borders
has asked the Brazilian president to press for the release
of the 26 independent journalists among the 75 jailed
dissidents.

While recognizing Silva's political affinities with Castro,
the press group wrote this week that "no democrat of the
left or right would understand if these affinities were to
take precedence over respect for human rights."

Brazilian diplomats have said the president has no plans to
meet with dissidents on the island.

Economic issues will also be on the table during Silva's
visit.

Brazil's national Development Bank is negotiating a credit
line of up to $400 million to finance Cuban imports of
Brazilian machinery, farm equipment and food.

In 2002 Brazil exported $95 million worth of products to
Cuba and imported less than $10 million.

Updated September 25, 2003 2:24 a.m.



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