Brazil Beefs Up Cuba Ties with Deals and US$ 1 Billion Help Package

Fidel snaps Brazil Lula's picture Cuban leader Fidel Castro is lucid and healthy enough to resume a political role in Cuba, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said on Tuesday at the end of a 24 hours visit to the island during which ten bilateral agreements were signed.

"I think Fidel will soon assume his political role in Cuba, his historic role in Cuba and the globalized world," Lula told the press at Havana's international airport after meeting with Castro for more than two hours.

Pictures that were given to reporters moments before the Brazilian president left Cuba show Castro wearing a tracksuit and tennis shoes that have become his trademark since he fell ill. Castro is seen seated and grinning, his beard well-trimmed and his hair combed as he talks with the Brazilian President.

It was the first time authorities have released photos of Castro since October when he met with his good friend and Socialist ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

During his brief visit to Cuba, Lula da Silva signed ten agreements with the acting Cuban president, Fidel Castro's brother Raul. They include an aid package of up to one billion US dollars in credits. The deal will help Cuba increase its food imports and increase investment in infrastructure and oil exploration.

During Lula's visit, Cuba secured a commitment from the Brazilian state oil company, Petrobras, to search for oil reserves in Cuban waters.

The 24-hour visit was seen as an attempt by Brazil to improve ties with Cuba, and enhance its regional influence, which has been overshadowed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

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 have become its biggest trading partners, offering easy credit terms and subsidized oil.

Mercopress

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