Brazil's Rousseff meets with Raul Castro, focuses on economic ties
Jan 31, 2012, 19:28 GMT
Havana/Rio de Janeiro - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff met with Cuban President Raul Castro Tuesday in Havana, in an official visit that was to focus on economic ties.
In comments to Brazilian reporters in Havana, Rousseff declined to discuss the issue of human rights in communist Cuba and argued that they should not be used 'only as a weapon in the political-ideological struggle.'
'I agree to discussing human rights from a multilateral perspective. It is something that we have to improve in the world in general. We cannot think that human rights are a stone we throw at others,' she said.
Rousseff was specifically asked about the case of award-winning Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, who has recently been granted a Brazilian visa to attend the premiere of a documentary film in which she appears. Sanchez has repeatedly been denied the necessary exit permit to leave Cuba.
'The next steps are not up to the Brazilian government,' Rousseff said.
Brazilian authorities had said in advance that she had no plans to meet with dissidents while in Cuba.
Further, she slammed the decades-old US embargo on Cuba.
'The best way for Brazil to help Cuba is to contribute to ending this process which in my opinion does not lead to much except more poverty for the people who suffer the blockade, the embargo, the hurdles on trade,' she said.
Rousseff advocated 'a strategic, lasting association' between Cuba and Brazil and highlighted cooperation moves like the loans amounting to 200 million dollars that Brazil has granted the island to purchase food, and investments of over 680 million dollars to expand and modernize the port of Mariel, which she planned to visit later Tuesday.
'We believe it is crucial to create conditions of stability for the development of the Cuban people,' she said.
Rousseff arrived in Cuba late Monday, and in the morning she laid flowers at the Jose Marti Memorial in Havana's Revolution Square.
Later, she met with Castro, with Foreign Ministers Antonio Patriota of Brazil and Bruno Rodriguez of Cuba also in attendance, Cuban state media reported. According to Cuban Communist Party daily Granma, Castro and Rousseff highlighted the 'excellent' state of relations between the two countries.
Rousseff said she would be meeting with historic and ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro, although she did not say when.
She was to leave Cuba for Haiti Wednesday. Brazil has led since 2004 the UN Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH).
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