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.
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.
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.
Cold War politics appeared to take over Brazil’s Congress on Wednesday during a visit by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, with leftists heckling her as a pawn of U.S. imperialism and others praising her for standing up to Cuba’s communist government.
Sanchez, Cuba’s best-known dissident, has been followed by boisterous sympathizers of the Cuban government since she arrived in Brazil on Monday on her first trip abroad since receiving a passport to leave the Caribbean island.
After the screening of a documentary about Cuba that she was due to attend in northeastern Brazil was disrupted by demonstrators, Brazilian opposition politicians invited Sanchez to the capital Brasilia for a showing of the documentary in Congress.
Eduardo J. Gomez – America’s Quarterly, 01/18/2013
Brazil is once again seeking to enhance its international profile. But this time, rather than engaging in close partnerships with its fellow BRICS club members—Russia, India, China, and South Africa—Brazil is collaborating with a smaller nation: Cuba.
Since assuming office in 2011, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has worked closely with Cuban President Raúl Castro to strengthen their partnership in the hopes of further bolstering Brazil’s economic advantages and regional influence. She is achieving this by providing financial and technical assistance to help restructure Cuba’s economy while at the same time advancing Brazil’s economic interests through strategic investments in port infrastructure. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’ quickly deteriorating health has created incentives for Dilma to fortify her ties with Castro, gradually replacing Venezuela—Cuba’s biggest benefactor—as Cuba’s most important ally in the region.
But instead of bullying Cuba into following Brazil’s lead, Dilma is also gaining something in return for her citizens: technical assistance from Cuba to address educational illiteracy, a long-time developmental challenge for Brazil. In so doing, Cuba benefits by displaying its impressive success in education reform, while highlighting its potential to be an amicable partner in hemispheric affairs.
Argentina and Brazil Foreign Affairs ministers said in Sao Paulo both countries are committed that the next Summit of the Americas to be held in April in Colombia is the last without the participation of Cuba.
“This has to be the last summit in which Cuba does not participate”, said Argentine minister Hector Timerman, standing next to Brazil’s Antonio Patriota. The presence of Cuba is necessary so that “finally we have a Summit of the Americas”
Patriota recalled that at the previous summit then President Lula da Silva had openly expressed the support and need for Cuba to attend the meeting.