Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff joined Cuban leader Raul Castro here on Monday for the inauguration of the first phase of the Brazilian-led modernization of the port of Mariel.

The lead contractor on the $957 million container terminal is Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, while the work was financed, in part, with a $682 million loan from Brazil's state development bank, BNDES.

The Special Development Zone in Mariel, 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Havana, is a big part of Cuba's efforts to "modernize" its socialist economic model.

At the heart of the initiative to create a regional trading hub is a $900 million overhaul of the port that includes a 2,000-meter (6,550-foot) dock capable of accommodating deep-draft vessels and a terminal with the capacity to receive 3 million containers a year.

At least 400 Brazilian firms have participated in the port project.

The finished terminal includes a straight pier 702 meters (2,300 feet) long equipped with four super post-Panamax cranes and 1,140 electrical outlets for refrigerated containers.

"Brazil believes and is betting on the human and economic potential of Cuba," said Rousseff at the inauguration ceremony, which was also attended by the presidents of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro; Bolivia, Evo Morales; and Haiti, Michel Martelly, who are in Cuba for the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC.

The Brazilian president said that her country "wants to become an economic collaborator of the first order" for the communist-ruled island.

Meanwhile, Raul Castro emphasized the "advantageous conditions" of the Brazilian financing and the Mariel project and thanked the South American country for its cooperation in what he said was a "significant project for the Cuban economy." EFE