Samantha Pearson and Joe Leahy – Financial Times, 5/4/2015
Brazil’s federal prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into the country’s wildly popular former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, putting further pressure on his embattled protégée President Dilma Rousseff.
The probe into illicit influence peddling in Cuba, among other countries, comes as federal police also revealed they are also investigating suspected money laundering in transactions by two companies owned by João Santana, the political mastermind behind the election victories of Mr Lula da Silva and Ms Rousseff, both of the centre-left Workers` Party, or PT.
The prosecutors’ office in Brazil’s capital Brasília confirmed reports by a local magazine that Mr Lula da Silva is being questioned by their anti-corruption unit over claims he helped construction conglomerate Odebrecht win contracts overseas between 2011 and 2014.
Associated Press – The Independent, 09/17/2014
Marina Silva, a front-running presidential candidate who grew up in the Amazon jungle and could become the first black to lead Brazil’s government, said Wednesday that if elected she’ll improve ties with the U.S. and strongly push for human rights in nations like Cuba.
She spoke exclusively to The Associated Press in her first interview with a foreign media outlet since being thrust into Brazil’s presidential campaign after her Socialist Party’s original candidate died in an Aug. 13 plane crash.
Silva, a former Amazon activist, senator and environment minister who pushed policies that helped Brazil slash the rate at which it was destroying the jungle, has found herself at the center of a suddenly hot presidential race pitting her against President Dilma Rousseff, with whom she’s running in a dead heat in the latest polls. The incumbent represents the Workers Party, which Silva helped found three decades ago.
Daniel A. Medina – Quartz, 7/16/2014
Last summer, long before before Brazil was demolished 7-1 by Germany in the World Cup, the country faced a crisis of another sort. Millions of citizens marched in cities across the country to demand wholesale reforms to the country’s crippled public health care system, which faced huge shortages of doctors and a failing infrastructure.
That’s when the tiny island nation of Cuba stepped in to this neglected area of the world’s seventh-largest economy.
Under Brazil’s Mais Médicos (“More Doctors”) program, which pays foreign physicians to work in underserved areas of the country, Cuba sent 4,500 doctors to rural areas in the Amazon and to the underserved slums known as favelas in its booming cities. The move angered Brazil’s doctors’ unions, who protested outside hospitals, and the Brazilian Medical Association filed a lawsuit in the country’s Supreme Court questioning its existence. Protestors denounced the program as only a temporary solution to a systemic problem, saying the changes should come internally, not by importing doctors.
Fernando Caulyt – Deutsche Welle, 2/13/2014
Many Cuban doctors work in Brazil, but the lion’s share of their salaries are kept by Havana. Out of protest, one doctor has applied for asylum, putting Brazil in an embarrassing situation.
It is not exactly what Ramona Rodriguez had expected: In October of last year the Cuban doctor arrived in Brazil, a country with a severe shortage of physicians, to work in the far northeast state of Para, on the border to Suriname and Guyana.
There are very few doctors in this region of Brazil. Statistically, there is less than one physician for every 1,000 inhabitants. By comparison, Germany has a ratio of 1 to 233.
Loretta Chao & Paulo Trevisani – Wall Street Journal, 2/10/2014
A second Cuban doctor is confirmed to have defected from a controversial program to bring thousands of medical professionals to underserved regions of Brazil, according to Brazilian health officials.
“To all my friends on Facebook who sent me messages of concern about my absence, I thank you,” said a message posted to a Facebook profile under the doctor’s name, Ortelio Jaime Guerra.
Wall Street Journal, 2/9/2014
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff traveled to Davos, Switzerland, last month with a message for international investors: Brazil is about to become more competitive. “I want to emphasize that we will not be weak on inflation,” Mrs. Rousseff said. “Fiscal responsibility is a basic principle of our vision for economic and social development.”
On the way home, Mrs. Rousseff stopped in Cuba, where she inadvertently signaled the opposite. The Brazilian government’s development bank—known by its Portuguese initials BNDES—has dumped almost $700 million in subsidized credit into Cuba to finance the renovation of the Port of Mariel. On Jan. 27, Mrs. Rousseff cut a ribbon at the project and promised another $200 million in BNDES credits for a second phase of construction. On the same day the Brazilian newspaper Valor Economico reported that Cuba is now the third top destination for BNDES loans.
What a destination. Since 1959, Castro Inc. has racked up unpaid foreign debt and other claims totaling nearly $75 billion—including $35 billion owed to the Paris Club. Cuba is one of the world’s most notorious deadbeats, and the Cuban economy is moribund. So it would seem a high-risk venture to pour credit into the Castro boys’ pockets.
A Cuban doctor working in Brazil sought asylum on Wednesday complaining that Cuba’s communist government takes too big a slice of her pay, authorities said.
Ramona Rodriguez, 51, sought refuge on Tuesday in the office of Ronaldo Caiado, leader of the center-right Democratas party in the lower chamber of Brazil’s Congress, and slept the night on a sofa.
She is one of 7,378 Cubans who are in Brazil as part of a program that hires foreign doctors to tend the sick in slums and remote rural locations where there are no Brazilian physicians.