During an interview today in Havana, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff told reporters that the problem of human rights is an issue that affects every country and that the subject shouldn’t be used as a weapon of ideological struggle.
“It is not possible to make human rights a political weapon of ideological-political struggle. The world should learn that it is something that all countries of the world including our own must be responsible for,” she said.
“He who throws the first stone, has a glass roof. We in Brazil have ours. I agree to talk about human rights only in a multilateral perspective,” she added.
Brazil’s ministry of Foreign Affairs has granted a visa to Cuban journalist and blogger Yoani Sánchez so she can visit Brazil. Sánchez opposes the Cuban regime and has been writing on human rights violations in Cuba.
Even with the Brazilian visa, however, the blogger still needs authorization from the Cuban government to leave the country. Commenting on the case, Rousseff said that Brazil did its part and the next step is up to Cuba.
Rousseff arrived in Cuba last night and is having a busy day today. She will pay her respects at the grave of Jose Marti (1859-95), a national hero, political thinker, and leader and martyr of the Cuban independence movement. She will also have lunch with the Cuban president, Raul Castro.
In the afternoon, Dilma will visit the Porto de Mariel, located 50 kilometers from Havana, where as part of a strategic project the port is being expanded, modernized and transformed into an industrial center. A glass factory is being built there. Brazil is financing some 80% of the construction that will cost a total of $683 million.
Dilma arrives at a moment of great changes in the economy of Cuba with economic relations high on her agenda as she seeks partnerships and bilateral agreements in a number of areas: technical, scientific and technological endeavors mainly in agriculture, food security, health and production of medicines.
Raul Castro has called for a “change of mentality,” and authorized free market sales of cars and real estate for the first time since the Cuban Revolution over 50 years ago, as well as the opening of small businesses. There are also plans for the voluntary retirement of hundreds of thousands of civil servants.
Cuba’s economic difficulties have been exacerbated by the American embargo (in place since 1962) and the collapse of the Soviet Union that subsidized the Cuban economy during decades.
Rousseff arrived in Havana five days after the Brazilian government issued a visa to Sánchez, one of the country’s principal critics of the government of Raul Castro.
The gesture was seen by NGOs and specialists in international relations as a sign that Brazil would discuss the issues of human rights and the political opening of the Raul Castro regime at meetings with Cuban authorities during the visit by president Dilma.
However, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty) says that the visa was issued in response to an invitation by moviemaker Cláudio Galvão da Silva who invited Yoani to a screening of a documentary, “Conexão Cuba-Honduras.”
Brazil’s minister of Foreign Relations, Antonio Patriota, denied that human rights would be referred to in public statements by Dilma while she is in Cuba. Patriota preferred to praise the opening of political dialogue between the Cuban government and the Catholic Church with regard to political dissent, rather than a broad discussion of regional human rights.
Approximately two years ago, the Raul Castro government and Spanish authorities have been negotiating with the Catholic Church in Cuba for the gradual liberation of political dissidents.
So far, dozens of them have been released and sent to Spain. At the same time, a local movement in Cuba of women who have relatives who are political dissidents, known as the Ladies in White, has protested publicly and attracted media attention.
Patriot declared that Brazilian and Cuban authorities constantly discuss human rights. According to Patriota, Brazil’s position is that the most pressing human rights problem in Cuba is the American prison at Guantanamo.