Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff on state visit to Cuba

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, arrived in Cuba Monday to discuss trade and cooperation issues, Reuters reported.

This is the Brazilian leader’s first trip to the island nation, where Raul Castro assumed powers of the presidency from his brother Fidel in 2008.

Roussef’s predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, expanded Brazil’s ties with Cuba on a variety of levels, but Rousseff is expected to focus mostly on economic issues. It is unclear whether she will visit Fidel Castro, the island’s former leader, Reuters reported.

Brazil's engineering corporation Odebrecht is embarking on a $800 million development the port of Mariel, near Havana, and Rousseff is scheduled to tour the facilities. 

Also unclear is whether the former leftist guerrilla, who was captured and tortured for years, will raise the issue of Cuba’s human rights abuses

Reuters reported:

“The recent death of hunger-striking Cuban dissident Wilman Villar has created pressure on Rousseff to raise human rights issues with Cuban leaders, but Brazilian media reports said she was unlikely to do so publicly.”

“Rousseff is going to be in a very awkward situation by choice,” former Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Felipe Lampreia told Bloomberg.

Brazil's current foreign minister said in Davos that the human rights situation in Cuba is not an "emergency," and instead said Rousseff's attention will be directed to other problems, such as the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Bloomberg notes that Brazil-Cuba trade has grown 30 percent per year since 2006 and reached $642 million last year.

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