Brazilian opposition members in congress expressed dismay at declarations made by president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva regarding the death of a Cuban dissent, Orlando Zapata, who died after a hunger strike that lasted 85 days.
Lula said little more than that he lamented the death and denied receiving any letters from Cuban dissidents asking for his intervention. Zapata died just as Lula arrived in Havana on February 24.
In an official note, the governing board of the DEM, an opposition party, said it was not happy about the meetings with the Castro brothers, Raul, now the president, and Fidel, the former president. The note said Lula should reconsider his support for the Cuban regime in light of its barbarous treatment of dissidents.
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defense approved a motion for a formal expression of grief at the death of the Cuban dissident and resolved to send a message of condolences to the family of Zapata through the Cuban embassy in Brasilia. The only vote against the motion was by João Pedro (PT, Amazon). The PT is Lula’s party.
Deputy Raul Jungmann (PPS, Pernambuco) condemned Lula’s remarks, in which the president sidestepped the whole issue of human rights in Cuba. Jungmann said Brazil was abandoning its traditional defense of universal human rights.
He also criticized Brazilian diplomats. “This will have consequences in the future. The weak response to what is happening in Cuba was a bad day for Brazilian diplomacy.”
However, the PT leader, Fernando Ferro rebuffed the criticism saying that what Lula did and said was in keeping with his position as a head of state.
“His declarations were diplomatic, careful declarations as required by his position,” said Ferro, adding that Lula lamented the death of the Cuban dissident without going into the issue of human rights because it would not be right to “condemn another nation.”
Ferro called Lula “a true democrat, a citizen who is respected around the world and in his own country, someone who has the political authority of a statesman, who is open to dialogue and invites others to participate on the international stage. Lula occupies a position of independence and has always shown respect for other nations,” said Ferro.