Fidel and biofuel

In all the news reports about food costs, shortages, and riots, don’t expect the corporate media to remind you that it was none other than Fidel Castro who foresaw these events over one year ago.

You may recall in the April 5, 2007 issue, People’s Weekly World ran an article by Fidel headlined “Millions face early death from hunger, thirst” in which the Cuban leader sounded the alarm about the coming food crisis.

Condemning what he called “the sinister idea of converting food into fuel,” Fidel correctly predicted that capitalism’s relentless quest for fuel would take food out of the mouths of the hungry.

Fidel considered this threat to humanity so serious that it was the topic of the first and second articles he wrote after undergoing surgery in 2006. When they appeared in the Cuban newspaper Granma last year, US media attention was focused not on the content of his articles but rather on the fact that their publication suggested Fidel was alive despite characteristic American propaganda to the contrary.

Now, after months of rising food prices and spontaneous mass demonstrations around the world, even the IMF warns that hundreds of thousands face starvation and the World Bank projects 100 million people in poor countries could be propelled deeper into poverty. These twin capitalist institutions held an emergency joint meeting in April to “tackle” the issue. Their response to the global food crisis was a promise of more loans to farmers in so-called developing countries. In double-speak befitting an agent of imperialism, World Bank head Robert Zoellick offered: “We have to put our money where our mouth is now that we can put food into hungry mouths.”

The IMF/World Bank meeting was triggered by what the media has termed “food riots” around the world, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, the Philippines, Senegal, Somalia, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. The incredibly rapid and dramatic increase in the costs of basic staples has driven poor people into the streets to demand relief. The price of rice, for instance, has risen more than 40 percent since Fidel’s warning.

Experts mention various factors causing this food crisis – such as bad weather and growing demand – but the recent drive by the Bush administration to convert food into fuel is the chief culprit. In an article titled “How the rich starved the world” published in the New Statesman, British environmentalist Mark Lynas argues: “The irony is extraordinary. At a time when world leaders are expressing grave concern about diminishing food stocks and a coming global food crisis, [the US] government brings into force measures to increase the use of biofuels – a policy that will further increase food prices, and further worsen the plight of the world’s poor.”

As an example, Lyans continues: “American cars now burn enough corn to cover all the import needs of the 82 nations classed by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation as ‘low-income food-deficit countries.’ There could scarcely be a better way to starve the poor.”

In a world where one billion people live on less than one dollar a day, how can we justify growing food to fuel cars rather than feed humanity? Again, in a recent installment of “Reflections of Fidel,” the Cuban leader blames American imperialism for imposing “a civilization that depends on the consumption of hydrocarbons, where every individual member of a family moves around in automobiles which travel almost empty, [and] the nefarious idea of turning foodstuffs into fuel.”

Fidel’s prediction last year that US schemes to convert food into fuel would lead to global hunger not only reminds us as communists that his analytical mind remains sharp, but reinforces our understanding of Marxism as a science which allows critical and accurate examination of events and trends in this capitalist world.