Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff made her first official visit to Cuba last month. In an email interview, David Herrero, a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations, discussed Brazil-Cuba relations.
WPR: How did Brazil-Cuba relations evolve under former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and what were Brazil's priorities?
David Herrero: Lula significantly expanded political engagement and commercial ties with Cuba. He visited the country four times as president and helped launch a $950 million modernization project -- financed mostly by Brazil’s development bank, BNDES -- at the Cuban port of Mariel. On the issue of human rights, however, he was at times criticized. In February 2010, for instance, after a Cuban prisoner named Orlando Zapata Tamayo died while on hunger strike, Lula was taken to task for his offhand comment, “Imagine if all the criminals in Sao Paulo went on hunger strike to demand freedom.” Nonetheless, Lula’s legacy was marked more by the blossoming cooperation his government fostered with Cuba: on agriculture, housing, oil and minerals, transportation equipment, tobacco, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and other sectors.