President Dilma Rousseff highlighted Tuesday the touristic and economic potential of Brazil's historic cities at a ceremony where she announced an investment of 1.6 billion reais ($667 million) in those municipalities.

"I have no doubt that our historic cities are an extraordinary testimonial to Brazil, an extraordinary testimonial to the Brazilian people themselves, she said during a speech in Sao Joao del Rei, a colonial city in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais.

The program to preserve the buildings that form part of the historical heritage of these cities will invest in different projects until 2015, Rousseff said.

In its first stage the program will benefit 44 cities, which will be able to use the funds for projects of revitalization, restoration of monuments, and economic and social development.

The Brazilian government, in association with the benefited municipalities, has already identified 425 buildings and public spaces that need restoration.

The president also announced a line of credit of 300 million reais ($125 million) to finance works on specific buildings located in 105 cities with areas declared to be historical and artistic heritage sites.

"We know that the beauty and richness of our public assets increase if the entire historic site, including private buildings, is preserved," she said. EFE