Brazil to finance plan to upgrade Cuba's airports

Havana, May 7 (EFE).- Brazil will finance a project to expand and modernize Cuba's airports, state media on the Communist-ruled island said Tuesday.

Brazil's development, industry and foreign trade minister, Fernando Pimentel, and Cuba's head of foreign trade and foreign investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the project.

They also reviewed "the positive progress of bilateral economic relations," in particular the progress of work at the port of Mariel, near Havana, the Prensa Latina news agency said.

Brazil is one of the driving forces behind the project to expand the port of Mariel and is contributing $682 million to do so.

The aim of the project, which is considered emblematic of the two nations' bilateral cooperation and will be carried out by Brazilian firms, is to substantially modernize the port for Cuba and convert it into a zone where Brazilian firms can establish themselves.

On Monday, Cuban President Raul Castro met with Pimentel and they discussed and agreed to continue strengthening bilateral relations.

Pimentel's visit to Cuba coincided on Monday with that made by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to Brasilia, where he was received by President Dilma Rousseff.

According to the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, trade between Brazil and Cuba increased sevenfold over the past 10 years to a record $661.6 million in 2012.

Brazilian exports to the island grew by 36.8 percent between 2010 and 2012.