TEGUCIGALPA – Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made a brief stop in Honduras earlier this month to sign several bilateral accords and lobby for the opening of talks leading to a free-trade treaty between Central America and the nations of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR).
Lula told journalists he was calling for “a free-trade accord … that respects the asymmetries of the economies of the countries, and will be able to contribute to opening new markets for economies like that of Honduras.”
MERCOSUR includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, though the latter is still in the process of becoming a full member.
On Aug. 6, Lula signed six cooperation agreements with Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, and offered Brazil’s help – via the staterunoil giant Petrobras – to the much smaller country in exploring for petroleum and/or developing hydroelectricity projects.
Other pacts signed by the two leaders included cooperation on water resources, support from Brazil for fighting HIV/AIDS and training in systems for livestock production, among others.
He also paid tribute to Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodríguez – the archbishop of Tegucigalpa – for the role he played in helping to achieve forgiveness for the foreign debt of poor countries.
“We are today reaping the fruits of his pioneering efforts to prevent, under the pretext of collecting debts, the international community from making impossible the economic recovery of the poorest countries,” he said, standing together with Zelaya.
Rodríguez played a decisive role in the Vatican policy to achieve forgiveness for debt, mainly when he presided over the Latin American Bishops Council, or CELAM, from 1995-2000.
The Brazilian leader said in a commentary published by the Honduran press that his country seeks alliances for cooperation and investment in biofuels in Central America and the Caribbean.
“Biofuels can play an important role in a global strategy of development and protecting the environment,” Lula said in his op-ed piece.
The President said Brazil is looking for “triangular associations” with industrialized countries to increase the flow of resources for new projects in Central America and the Caribbean.
“We are also working to create a global market for ethanol – a market where this green fuel benefits the largest possible number of developing countries,” Lula said.
He added that his visit marks the beginning of a new phase in relations between Brazil and Honduras, established a century ago. In a brief statement to the press after his arrival, Lula expressed his “great joy” to be the first Brazilian President ever to visit this Central American country.
Lula said that the ethanol industry “up to now has directly created one and a half million jobs and indirectly four and a half million jobs in Brazil,” while the biodiesel program “still in its initial stages, already employs more than 250,000 people.”
“Alcohol and biodiesel offer an authentic option for sustainable growth,” he said.
“Besides creating jobs and profits with export farm products, it opens doors to establishing local biochemical industries, technological development and value added.”
Lula added that Brazil has offered Honduras cooperation and technology, and both countries have exchanged technical missions to judge the feasibility of developing biofuels in this Central American country.