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After Meeting Fidel, Brazil’s Lula Says Cuban Is Fit Enough to Lead Again

Lula snaps a picture of Fidel Castro Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, before leaving Cuba, where he went for a one-day state visit and after having met Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for about two hours and a half, told reporters in the José Marti international airport that he believes that the Cuban leader will return to power.

Castro has left Cuba's leadership on July 2006 due to illness. Lula, however, described Fidel as looking great, with a good disposition and great energy to talk: "Don't you think that we shared the time to talk. Fidel talked for two hours and I for half".

A picture released to the press shows the Brazilian president snapping a picture of Castro sitting on a chair. In another one both talk to each other. These are the first images of the Cuban leader that come to light in three months. Fidel was seen last in a conversation with Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez

Lula said that he was impressed with Fidel's disposition and called "incredible" "comrade Fidel's" lucidity. The Brazilian president then stated: "If one day I get sick I want to have the same capacity to talk as Fidel had talking to me."

According to Lula, Castros's return to power is just a question of time: "Fidel is ready to take on the political role he has in Cuba, the political role he has in the globalized world and for the whole mankind".

Credit Lines

Lula arrived Tuesday in Havana for a 24-hour visit to strengthen economic ties with Cuba. He signed a series of trade, cooperation and investment agreements in spite of the US economic embargo

These include an extension of credit lines to allow Cuba to buy more food from Brazil, and investment in Cuba's oil, transport and tourism sectors.

Since the collapse of its main benefactor the Soviet Union, Cuba has struggled to survive, particularly with the US tightening its trade embargo. Venezuela and China are now Cuba's biggest trading partners, offering easy credit terms and subsidized oil.

Brazil's Petrobras the largest Latinamerican corporation and a leader in deep water hydrocarbons exploration is also anxious to join other international companies (such as Spain's Repsol, Italy's ENI, Canada's Cherry) exploring for oil in the Gulf of Mexico under risk contracts in association with Cuba's petroleum company, CUPET.

During his short visit, President Lula is expected to offer a helping hand from what is one of Latin America's largest economies. A number of Lula's closest allies were exiled in Cuba during Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship. This is his second visit to the island since taking over the presidency in 2003.

President Lula's second visit was scheduled to taken place last year but was postponed several times. The official reason given by the Brazilians was that more time was needed to work out this complex set of trade and investment deals.

Lula and Fidel are two of the leading lights of left-wing politics in Latin America, but occupy different parts of the political spectrum. President Lula is considered part of what is known as the pragmatic left in Latin America.

He supports a free market economy at home and maintains good relations with the US. It is a position radically different from that of Cuba and its closest regional ally, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. There have also been disagreements recently between Cuba and Brazil, particularly over biofuels.

Fidel Castro has written extensively against the use of agricultural crops for biofuels of which Brazil is one of the world's leading producers. This is a critical period of transition in Cuba, with Fidel still recuperating and his brother and interim president Raul attempting to push through a series of economic reforms while maintaining the one-party state.

President Chavez's failed referendum in Venezuela was a timely reminder to the Cubans about the potential risks of tying themselves too closely to a single benefactor. President Lula's offer of additional trade and investment from Brazil could help Cuba's leadership in maintaining economic stability on the island during this period of change.

Bzz/Mercopress

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