By Fidel Castro
04 May, 2007
hold nothing against Brazil, even though to more than a few Brazilians
continuously bombarded with the most diverse arguments, which can be
confusing even for people who have traditionally been friendly to Cuba,
we might sound callous and careless about hurting that country's net
income of hard currency. However, for me to keep silent would be to
opt between the idea of a world tragedy and a presumed benefit for the
people of that great nation.
I do not blame Lula and the
Brazilians for the objective laws which have governed the history of
our species. Only seven thousand years have passed since the human being
has left his tangible mark on what has come to be a civilization immensely
rich in culture and technical knowledge. Advances have not been achieved
at the same time or in the same geographical latitudes. It can be said
that due to the apparent enormity of our planet, quite often the existence
of one or another civilization was unknown. Never in thousands of years
had the human being lived in cities with twenty million inhabitants
such as Sao Paulo or Mexico City, or in urban communities such as Paris,
Madrid, Berlin and others who see trains speeding by on rails and air
cushions, at speeds of more than 250 miles an hour.
At the time of Christopher
Columbus, barely 500 years ago, some of these cities did not exist or
they had populations that did not exceed several tens of thousands.
Nobody used one single kilowatt to light their home. Possibly, the population
of the world then was not more than 500 million. We know that in 1830,
world population reached the first billion mark, one hundred and thirty
years later it multiplied by three, and forty-six years later the total
number of inhabitants on the planet had grown to 6.5 billion; the immense
majority of these were poor, having to share their food with domestic
animals and from now on with biofuels.
Humanity did not then have
all the advances in computers and means of communication that we have
today, even though the first atomic bombs had already been detonated
over two large human communities, in a brutal act of terrorism against
a defenseless civilian population, for reasons that were strictly political.
Today, the world has tens
of thousands of nuclear bombs that are fifty times as powerful, with
carriers that are several times faster than the speed of sound and having
absolute precision; our sophisticated species could destroy itself with
them. At the end of World War II, fought by the peoples against fascism,
a new power emerged that took over the world and imposed the absolutist
and cruel order under which we live today.
Before Bush's trip to Brazil,
the leader of the empire decided that corn and other foodstuffs would
be suitable raw material for the production of biofuels. For his part,
Lula stated that Brazil could supply as much biofuel as necessary from
sugar cane; he saw in this formula a possibility for the future of the
Third World, and the only problem left to solve would be to improve
the living conditions of the sugarcane workers. He was well aware â€“and
he said it-- that the United States should in turn lift the custom tariffs
and the subsidies affecting ethanol exports to that country.
Bush replied that custom
tariffs and subsidies to the growers were untouchable in a country such
as the United States, which is the first world producer of ethanol from
The large American transnationals,
which produce this biofuel investing tens of billion dollars at an accelerated
pace, had demanded from the imperial leader the distribution in the
American market of no less than thirty-five billions (35,000,000,000)
of gallons of this fuel every year. The combination of protective tariffs
and real subsidies would raise that figure to almost one hundred billion
dollars each year.
Insatiable in its demand,
the empire had flung into the world the slogan of producing biofuels
in order to liberate the United States, the world's supreme energy consumer,
from all external dependency on hydrocarbons.
History shows that sugar
as a single crop was closely associated with the enslaving of Africans,
forcibly uprooted from their natural communities, and brought to Cuba,
Haiti and other Caribbean islands. In Brazil, the exact same thing happened
in the growing of sugar cane.
Today, in that country, almost
80% of sugar cane is cut by hand. Sources and studies made by Brazilian
researchers affirm that a sugarcane cutter, a piece- work laborer, must
produce no less than twelve tons in order to meet basic needs. This
worker needs to perform 36,630 flexing movements with his legs, make
small trips 800 times carrying 15 kilos of cane in his arms and walk
8,800 meters in his chores. He loses an average of 8 liters of water
every day. Only by burning cane can this productivity per man be achieved.
Cane cut by hand or by machines is usually burned to protect people
from nasty bites and especially to increase productivity. Even though
the established norm for a working day is from 8 in the morning until
5 in the afternoon, this type of piece-work cane cutting tends to go
on for a 12 hour working day. The temperature will at times rise to
45 degrees centigrade by noon.
I have cut cane myself more
than once as a moral duty, as have many other comrade leaders of the
country. I remember August of 1969. I chose a place close to the capital.
I moved there very early every day. It was not burned cane but green
cane, an early variety and high in agricultural and industrial yield.
I would cut for four hours non-stop. Somebody else would be sharpening
the machete. I consistently produced a minimum of 3.4 tons per day.
Then I would shower, calmly have some lunch and take a break in a place
nearby. I earned several coupons in the famous harvest of 1970. I had
just turned 44 then. The rest of the time, until bedtime, I worked at
my revolutionary duties. I stopped my personal efforts after I wounded
my left foot. The sharpened machete had sliced through my protective
boot. The national goal was 10 million tons of sugar and approximately
4 million tons of molasses as by-product. We never reached that goal,
although we came close.
The USSR had not disappeared;
that seemed impossible. The Special Period, which took us to a struggle
for survival and to economic inequalities with their inherent elements
of corruption, had not yet begun. Imperialism believed that the time
had come to finish off the Revolution. It is also fair to recognize
that during years of bonanza we wasted resources and our idealism ran
high along with the dreams accompanying our heroic process.
The great agricultural yields
of the United States were achieved by rotating the gramineae (corn,
wheat, oats, millet and other similar grains) with the legumes (soy,
alfalfa, beans, etc.). These contribute nitrogen and organic material
to the soil. The corn crop yield in the United States in 2005, according
to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) data
was 9.3 tons per hectare.
In Brazil they only obtain
3 tons of this same grain in the same area. The total production registered
by this sister nation that year was thirty-four million six hundred
thousand tons, consumed internally as food. It cannot contribute corn
to the world market.
The prices for this grain,
the staple diet in numerous countries of the region, have almost doubled.
What will happen when hundreds of millions of tons of corn are redirected
towards the production of biofuel? And I rather not mention the amounts
of wheat, millet, oats, barley, sorghum and other cereals that industrialized
countries will use as a source of fuel for its engines.
Add to this that it is very
difficult for Brazil to rotate corn and legumes. Of the Brazilian states
traditionally producing corn, eight are responsible for ninety percent
of production: ParanÃ¡, Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, GoiÃ¡s,
Mato Grosso, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina y Mato Grosso do Sul.
On the other hand, 60% of sugar cane production, a grain that cannot
be rotated with other crops, takes place in four states: Sao Paulo,
ParanÃ¡, Pernambuco and Alagoas.
The engines of tractors,
harvesters and the heavy machinery required to mechanize the harvest
would use growing amounts of hydrocarbons. The increase of mechanization
would not help in the prevention of global warming, something which
has been proven by experts who have measured annual temperatures for
the last 150 years.
Brazil does produce an excellent
food that is especially rich in protein: soy, fifty million one hundred
and fifteen thousand (50,115,000) tons. It consumes almost 23 million
tons and exports twenty- seven million three hundred thousand (27,300,000).
Is it perhaps that a large part of this soy will be converted to biofuel?
As it is, the producers of
beef cattle are beginning to complain that grazing land is being transformed
into sugarcane fields.
The former Agriculture Minister
of Brazil, Roberto Rodrigues, an important advocate for the current
government position, --and today a co-president of the Inter American
Ethanol Commission created in 2006 following an agreement with the state
of Florida and the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) to promote
the use of biofuel on the American continent-- declared that the program
to mechanize the sugarcane harvest does not create more jobs, but on
the contrary it would produce a surplus of non-qualified manpower.
We know that the poorest
workers from various states are the ones who gravitate towards cane
cutting out of necessity. Sometimes, they must spend many months away
from their families. That is what happened in Cuba until the triumph
of the Revolution, when the cutting and hauling of sugarcane was done
by hand, and mechanized cultivation or transportation hardly existed.
With the demise of the brutal system forced on our society the cane-cutters,
massively taught to read and write, abandoned their wanderings in a
few years and it became necessary to replace them with hundreds of thousands
of voluntary workers.
Add to this the latest report
by the United Nations about climate change, affirming what would happen
in South America with the water from the glaciers and the Amazon water
basin as the temperature of the atmosphere continue to rise.
Nothing could prevent American
and European capital from funding the production of biofuels. They could
even send the funds as gifts to Brazil and Latin America. The United
States, Europe and the other industrialized countries would save more
than one hundred and forty billion dollars each year, without having
to worry about the consequences for the climate and the hunger which
would affect the countries of the Third World in the first place. They
would always be left with enough money for biofuels and to acquire the
little food available on the world market at any price.
It is imperative to immediately
have an energy revolution that consists not only in replacing all the
incandescent light bulbs, but also in massively recycling all domestic,
commercial, industrial, transport and socially used electric appliances
that require two and three times more energy with their previous technologies.
It hurts to think that 10
billion tons of fossil fuel is consumed every year. This means that
each year we waste what it took nature a million years to create. National
industries are faced with enormous challenges, including the reduction
of unemployment. Thus we could gain a bit of time.
Another risk of a different
nature facing the world is an economic recession in the United States.
In the past few days, the dollar has broken records at losing value.
On the other hand, every country has most of its reserves in convertible
currencies precisely in this paper currency and in American bonds.
Tomorrow, May Day is a good
day to bring these reflections to the workers and to all the poor of
the world. At the same time we should protest against something incredible
and humiliating that has just occurred: the liberation of a terrorist
monster, exactly when we are celebrating the 46th Anniversary of the
Revolutionary Victory at the Bay of Pigs.
Prison for the assassin!
Freedom for the Five Cuban
Fidel Castro Ruz
April 30, 2007 6:34 p.m.
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