Bloomberg | By Romina Nicaretta and Andre Soliani
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he will sign agreements with Cuba during his visit this week to help the island-nation begin deep-water oil exploration.
``I will sign several accords in Cuba,’’ Lula said during his weekly interview on Brazilian radio today. ``Brazil is interested in helping Cuba discover whether they have oil in deep waters, as the country is very close to the Mexican gulf.’‘
Lula is traveling to Cuba for a second time since taking office in 2003 as Brazil seeks to boost investment and trade with the Caribbean island, where annual economic growth has exceeded 6 percent in each of the past three years.
Higher growth rates have led to a surge in imports into Cuba, which almost tripled to $8.92 billion between 2002 and 2006, according to the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Ministry. Cuba’s trade deficit widened to $6.35 billion in 2006 from $1.49 billion in 2002.
Brazilian exports to Cuba increased almost fivefold in the same period, reaching $343.8 million in 2006, the Brazilian Trade Ministry said, or about 0.2 percent of Brazil’s total exports. Brazil’s main exports to Cuba are electrical equipment, sugar, candy and meat products.
Brazil will also help Cuba build roads and a lubricant plant, Lula said. He plans to offer more than $500 million in financing to Cuba, Valor Economico reported today, without saying how it obtained the information.
No meeting with Cuban President Fidel Castro is scheduled, according to an agenda posted on the Brazilian foreign ministry Web site. Lula is scheduled to meet with acting President Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, tonight and again tomorrow. A meeting with Fidel Castro, who is ailing, will depend on a decision by his doctors, Lula’s spokesman told reporters in Brasilia Jan. 10.