President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had a bilateral meeting with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, this Saturday (16). The meeting took place at the end of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Group of 77 (G77) and China
The meeting took place at the Palace of the Revolution – headquarters of the Cuban presidency – and lasted just over an hour. This is the third meeting between the two presidents this year. The first was at the Celac summit in January. The second meeting was in Paris, in June, after the two presidents visited Pope Francis.
During the meeting, issues related to the bilateral and regional agenda were discussed. Cooperation agreements were also signed that “will expand the exchange of technologies between the two countries”, according to the government, which added that these understandings “symbolize the resumption of diplomatic relations between Brazil and Cuba, which had been abandoned in recent years” .
This is the first official trip by a Brazilian president to Cuba in nine years. The official delegation that traveled to Cuba included ministers Paulo Teixeira (Agrarian Development and Family Farming), Luciana Santos (Science and Technology) and Nísia Trindade (Health), among others.
After the meeting, and before traveling to New York, where the president will participate in the United Nations General Assembly, Lula took the opportunity to visit Raúl Castro, historic leader of the Cuban Revolution. The meeting was held at the former president’s home and lasted around 30 minutes.
Brazil and Cuba will develop medicines together
In the health area, a cooperation protocol was signed that provides for the exchange of technologies and knowledge. The protocol covers a series of topics, such as: chronic diseases, vaccine development, biotechnology and biodiversity, communicable diseases, etc. Therefore, in addition to developing innovative products, countries seek to promote public and public-private partnerships.
Furthermore, a partnership is planned between state institutions from both countries – the Brazilian Fiocruz and the Cuban Biofarma. In this way, two medicines developed in Cuba will be transferred to national production: NeuroEpo, used to delay the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and Erythropoietin, used to treat anemia resulting from kidney failure. It is also used to treat leukemia and other diseases.
“The importance of this agreement is that Brazil benefits from the cutting-edge knowledge that Cuba has developed through years of investment in this area”, explained the Minister of Health, Nísia Trindade. “In this joint development, Brazil brings its experience in clinical research and its capacity for scaled production, in public and private laboratories.”
In addition, two more agreements were signed. In the area of Science and Technology, it was agreed to resume cooperation that began in 2002. Topics related to biotechnology, renewable energy, sovereignty and food security, among others, were defined as priorities.
In the agricultural area, technological exchange and cooperation initiatives were also defined. This is particularly beneficial for Cuba, which has seen its food production capacity decline in recent years.
The normalization of relations between Brazil and Cuba
The last time a Brazilian president had made an official visit to Cuba was during the government of Dilma Rousseff (PT), in 2014. The purpose of the trip was to supervise the investments that Brazil was making on the island. Just a year earlier, Cuba had begun to develop the “Mariel Special Development Zone”, an enclave of capitalist economy – located in a strategic area of commercial traffic – that operates on the island under a special regime of fiscal facilities that seek to attract investment. foreigners.
Dilma’s last visit to Cuba coincided with a process of normalization of relations between Washington and Havana – known as the “thaw”. At that time, the Obama administration had begun to develop some measures to ease the unilateral economic blockade it has maintained against the island for more than 60 years.
The investments that Brazil was developing on the island sought to take advantage of the business opportunities that were emerging in Cuba.
However, in 2016, the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff changed the course of the relationship. The Cuban government denied the legitimacy of the impeachment, describing it as a “parliamentary-judicial coup d’état, disguised as legality”, stating that “the coup plotters” intended to “end the social achievements achieved by the Brazilian people and implement a neoliberal government”. .
Upon taking office, Michel Temer (MDB) ordered the withdrawal of Brazil’s ambassador to Cuba, an unprecedented measure since the end of the dictatorship in Brazil. Diplomatic representation on the island was assumed by a chargé d’affaires – a lower level of representation. This meant a deterioration in diplomatic relations between the two countries.
With the arrival of former president Jair Bolsonaro into government, hostilities against the island intensified. Producing “a break with Brazilian diplomatic tradition”, as described by Roberto Colin, former charge d’affaires of the Brazilian embassy in Cuba – between 2020 and 2023 – in an interview with Brazil in fact. One of the most emblematic measures of this deterioration was the suspension of health cooperation between the two countries.
This process coincided with the arrival of Donald Trump (2017 – 2021) to the US presidency. This administration not only dismantled the “unfreezing” process between Washington and Havana, but also intensified the blockade’s aggressions against Cuba, adding 240 additional harsh sanctions against the island. Measures that – despite his campaign promises – the current Biden government has not reversed. These rules, together with the pandemic, were part of the causes of the economic crisis in Cuba.
In 2022, Brazil’s exports to Cuba will fall to practically half of what they were in 2012, just a decade ago. The picture portrays the loss of opportunities for both business and collaboration in areas such as health and biotechnology.
Since Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office last January, the Brazilian government has been trying to normalize relations between the two countries. The embassy in Havana was reestablished, allowing the resumption of diplomatic relations. He also began organizing a series of visits to the country in an attempt to reestablish lost ties. The last of these occurred a few days before the G77 Conference, when the Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency (ApexBrasil) signed an agreement to increase the participation of small and medium-sized companies in exports from both countries.
Lula’s visit to Cuba is the corollary of this process of normalization of relations between the two countries.
“It is of special significance that, at this time of great geopolitical transformations, this Summit is held here in Havana”, declared President Lula in his speech at the summit meeting. “Cuba has been a defender of fairer global governance. And to this day it is the victim of an illegal economic embargo. Brazil is against any unilateral coercive measure. We reject the inclusion of Cuba on the list of states sponsoring terrorism,” said the Brazilian president.
Thus, just a few days before the start of the UN General Assembly in New York, Brazil resumed the historic position it has maintained since 1992, the year from which the blockade against Cuba began to be discussed in the Assembly. A position that Brazil only failed to maintain during Bolsonaro’s presidency – breaking the unanimous position of support for Cuba from Latin American and Caribbean countries.
Editing: Thalita Pires