Thu, Feb 02, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Brazilian president declines to criticize Cuban exit permits

AP, Havana

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said on Tuesday that her country acted properly in granting an entry visa to Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, but that it was an internal matter for Cuba as to whether Sanchez would be allowed to leave the country.

Rousseff also demurred when asked whether she had any concerns about the country’s human rights record, saying it’s not her place to judge.

“He who throws the first stone has a roof made of glass. We in Brazil have ours,” Rousseff told Brazilian journalists accompanying her on a tour of Cuba and Haiti. The news conference was not open to foreign media based in Cuba, but her office posted audio of the encounter online.

Rousseff spoke on a day with a packed, trade-oriented agenda, including a tour of a port expansion project at Mariel, financed with the help of hundreds of millions of US dollars from her country.

She met with Cuban President Raul Castro to sign new cooperation agreements and announced credits of US$400 million to help Cuba purchase Brazilian food products, plus US$200 million for tractors and other equipment to stimulate Cuban agriculture.

“The major contribution we can make to Cuba is to help develop its economy,” Rousseff said.

Rousseff was asked about Sanchez, who last week got a visa from the Brazilian embassy to attend a film festival this month. Sanchez has said she’s awaiting word on whether Cuba would grant her the exit permit required for all nationals and Rousseff declined to weigh in on whether it ought to.

“Brazil gave the visa to the blogger. The rest is not a matter for the Brazilian government,” she said.

The issuing of the visa was not particularly surprising: By Sanchez’s own count she has received entry visas from 18 different countries in recent years and each time was denied permission to leave.

However, the timing just ahead of Rousseff’s trip was interpreted by some in Brazil that the president was departing from the diplomacy of her predecessor, former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was careful not to be seen as interfering in Cuba’s internal affairs.

The newspaper Estado de S. Paulo wrote in an editorial last weekend that Sanchez’s visa was another sign Brazil had “abandoned Silva’s populist showmanship” and made a “clear break with the automatic alignment of everything that was anti-American.”

However, Rousseff did not criticize her hosts under their own roof and mentioned concerns about the treatment of terror detainees at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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