Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is on a tour of Latin America that started February 22 and is taking him to Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. It will be a busy trip. The agenda is varied and a little controversial. This is Lula’s last year of an 8-year presidency.
First, Lula went to Mexico for the Group of Rio and the new Latin America and Caribbean (CALC) summits. The latter is a new regional organization that pointedly excludes the United States together with Canada.
The US ambassador in Brasília, Thomas Shannon, played down the slight saying that the OAS (Organization of American States), the regional organization that does include the US, will only grow in importance over time.
A total of 33 presidents attended the Mexico summit and, among other things, they started the process to put an end to the crisis in Honduras and smooth the way for that country’s return to the international community.
Honduras was excluded from the Organization of American States in June following a coup that ousted an elected president (Zelaya). It is expected that CALC will recognize the government of Porfirio Lobo if it moves in the direction of national reconciliation by halting all action against the former president (Zelaya) and his followers.
In response to the beginning of petroleum exploration operations by a British oil rig off the coast of the Falkland/Malvinas Islands the presidents emitted a document recognizing Argentine sovereignty over the islands.
After Mexico, Lula went to Cuba for his fourth visit as president of Brazil. In Havana, Lula will announce Brazilian investments in the construction of the largest port in the Caribbean in that country. Brazil is contributing with at least US$ 150 million to the construction of the Mariel port.
Then, Lula will spend four to six hours in Haiti. That will be enough time for him to set up a partnership agreement with the government of René Preval for the reconstruction of the country devastated by an earthquake on Jan 12. Lula will offer assistance in road building, civil construction and fishing.
Lula will then travel to El Salvador to meet the recently elected president Mauricio Funes who is married to a Brazilian, Vanda Pignato, who was active in Lula’s political party, the PT, when she lived in Brazil.
Funes has publicly said that Lula is a political model for him. The two presidents will sign a partnership contract that will include a loan of around US$ 500 million from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) for small businesses in El Salvador.