Heated Cuba Exchange in Brazil's Presidential Debate

Saturday, October 25, 2014
Here's the exchange on Cuba during last night's Brazilian presidential debate between incumbent, Dilma Rousseff, and her opponent, Aecio Neves:

Neves: We know there is an absolute lack of infrastructure, we need everything -- railways, waterways, ports. Instead, your government opted to fund the construction of a port in Cuba, spending R$2 billion in Brazilian money, in the money of Brazilian workers. Meanwhile, our ports are there awaiting investments. None of them have investments of that amount. To make matters worse, this funding has been stamped "secret" -- it is not accessible to the Brazilian people. What does your government have to hide in relation to the financing of the port of Mariel in Cuba ?

Rousseff: My government. Nothing. Now, I think you have a lot to hide when it comes to ad spending, which are clearly connected to his family's newspapers and television stations. I believe, Senator, that we need to stop and look at this issue of the Port very carefully. We financed a Brazilian company that has created jobs in Brazil. It generated so many jobs that, with the R$800 million contracted, we were able to generate 456,000 jobs. And I want to remind you that the government of Fernando Henrique also funded Brazilian companies to export and place products in Venezuela and Cuba. So I do not understand the dismay. Now, I want to return the issue of employment. Candidate, you left the country with 11,400,000 unemployed people. Candidate, that was the highest rate, second only to India, which had 41 million. You beat the record of unemployment, had record low salaries and when the gentleman refers to inflation, he's talking about the Itamar government, not the Fernando Henrique government.

Neves: Another lie madam, but back to Cuba which was my question, for perhaps I can reveal here today to Brazil the real reasons why this loan has been labeled a "secret," which is different from what she has spoken about. I received a document today and I am asking that it be sent to the Attorney General to investigate. It's a document from the Ministry of Economic Development, which says that the financing for Cuba is not like that normally given to other countries, where the deadline for payments is between 12 and 25 years. But the most concerning part is that all the financing solicitations by the Brazilian government and technical group were for guarantees to be given in a hard currency, usually U.S. dollars or Euros, from a credible international bank. Instead, the Brazilian government accepted that the guarantees be given in Cuban pesos from a bank on the island of Cuba. Is it fair to use the Brazilian people's money to do favors for a "friendly" country that does not even respect democracy?