Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva offered Nicaragua technical assistance in producing ethanol after talks Wednesday in capital Managua with the country's President, Daniel Ortega. Brazil will seek to contribute to growth, development and "social justice" in Nicaragua, Central America's poorest country, Lula told reporters.
Lula's trip follows three visits to the country by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez since Ortega took office in January. Chavez is selling Nicaragua cut-price oil and financing construction of the biggest refinery in Central America. U.S. officials and potential foreign investors say they hope the Brazilian president will prove a moderating counterweight to Chavez's influence.
After he arrived, Lula, whose country's economy is the biggest in Latin America, said he's willing to "sign as many accords as needed." Brazil has an annual gross domestic product of 966.8 billion US dollars compared with Nicaragua's 4.9 billion.
The Sandinista leader, who relied mainly on Cuba and Soviet support in the 1980s, has signed agreements with more than a dozen countries to fund social programs and alleviate Nicaragua's external 3.7 billion US dollars debt. Spain was among the most recent, canceling the 31 million Nicaragua owed and contributing 5.5 million for the country's health care.
Ortega said at the news conference that addressing Nicaragua's energy crisis is a priority. The country has experienced record daily blackouts, with power cut for as much as 12 hours a day, since mid-July, despite emergency generators and discount oil from Venezuela. Nearly 80% of Nicaragua's power supply is generated by oil.
"Every country has an energy problem," said Lula, who advocates Brazil's sugar-cane based ethanol as a safe and inexpensive way to power both cars and homes. "We have 30 years experience in making ethanol". Brazil is prepared to invest in ethanol production and in a potential hydroelectric plant.