(Taken from CubaDebate.cu)
by Fidel Castro Ruz, 19 January 2011
Translated by Granma International
I shall recount a little bit of history.
When the Spaniards "discovered us" five centuries ago, the estimated figure for the population of the island did not exceed 200,000 inhabitants, who lived in harmony with nature. Their principal sources of food came from rivers, lakes and seas rich in proteins; they additionally practiced a rudimentary agriculture which provided them with calories, vitamins, mineral salts and fiber.
The habit of producing cassava, a kind of bread made from yucca, is still practiced in some regions of Cuba. Certain fruits and small wild animals complemented their diet. They brewed a drink with fermented products and contributed to world culture the in no way healthy custom of smoking.
The current population of Cuba is possibly 60 times greater than the one which existed then. Although the Spaniards intermixed with the indigenous population, they virtually exterminated it with semi-slave labor in the rural areas and gold prospecting in river sands.
The indigenous population was replaced by the import of Africans captured by force and enslaved, a cruel practice which was implemented over centuries.
The alimentary habits created were of great importance to our existence. We were converted into consumers of pork meat, beef, mutton, milk, cheese and other derivatives; wheat, oats, barley, rice, chickpeas, French beans, peas and other legumes originating from different climates.
Originally, we did have corn and sugar cane was introduced as one of the plants richest in calories.
Coffee was shipped from Africa by the conquistadores; they brought in cacao, possibly from Mexico. Both of these, together with sugar, tobacco and other tropical products, became enormous sources of revenue for the metropolis after the slave rebellion in Haiti, which took place at the beginning of the 19th century.
The system of slave production lasted, in fact, until the transfer of Cuban sovereignty to the United States by Spanish colonialism which had been defeated by the Cubans in a bloody and extraordinary war.
When the Revolution triumphed in 1959, our island was a veritable yankee colony. The United States had deceived and disarmed our Liberation Army. One could not talk of a developed agriculture, but of vast plantations exploited on the basis of manual and animal labor which, in general, did not use fertilizers or machinery. The large sugar mills were U.S. property. A number of them occupied more than 100,000 hectares of land; others reached tens of thousands. In total, there were more than 150 sugar mills, including those owned by Cubans, which operated less than four months of the year.
The United States received sugar supplies from Cuba during the two World Wars and had granted a sales quota to our country in its markets, which was associated with trade commitments and limitations on our agricultural production, despite the fact that sugar was in part produced by them. Other decisive sectors of the economy, like ports and oil refineries, were U.S. property. Their companies owned major banks, industrial facilities, mines, docks, shipping and railroad lines, in addition to public services as essential as electricity and telecommunications.
For those who wish to understand no more is necessary.
Despite the fact that the need for rice, corn, fats, grains and other foodstuffs was important, the United States imposed certain limits on everything that could compete with its own national production, including subsidized beet sugar.
Of course, in relation to food production it is a real fact that, within the geographical limits of a small country, tropical, rainy and cyclonic, stripped of machinery, reservoir and irrigation systems and adequate equipment, Cuba could not have resources at its disposal, nor was it in a position to compete with mechanized production of soy, sunflowers, corn, pulses and rice in the United States. Some of them, like wheat and barley, could not be produced in our country.
It is a fact that the Cuban Revolution did not enjoy a moment of peace. The Agrarian Reform Act was barely decreed – before the revolutionary triumph had completed five months of existence – when programs of sabotage, arson, obstructions and the use of harmful chemicals were initiated against the country. These even came to include biological agents to destroy essential production and even human health.
In underestimating our people and their decision to fight for their rights and independence, they committed an error.
Of course, none of us had then the experience we have gained over many years; we set out from just ideas and a revolutionary concept. Perhaps the principal error of idealism committed was to think that there was a certain amount of justice and respect for the rights of nations when, certainly, that absolutely did not exist. However, the decision to fight would not depend on that.
The first task that absorbed our efforts was the preparation for the fight that was approaching.
The experience acquired in the heroic battle against the Batista dictatorship is that the enemy, whatever its strength, was unable to defeat the Cuban people.
The preparation of the country for the struggle became the people’s principal effort, and took us to episodes as decisive as the battle against the mercenary invasion promoted by the United States in April, 1961, which landed at Girón [Bay of Pigs], escorted by Marine troops and yankee aviation.
Incapable of resigning itself to Cuba’s independence and the exercise of its sovereign rights, the government of that country made the decision to invade our territory. The USSR had absolutely nothing to do with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. The Revolution did not assume its socialist nature because of the support of the USSR, it was the other way around: the support of the USSR came about because of the socialist nature of the Cuban Revolution. In that way, when the USSR disappeared, in spite of that, Cuba continued being socialist.
Somehow, the USSR found out that Kennedy was going to try and use the same method with Cuba that it implemented in Hungary. That led to the errors which Khrushchev committed in relation to the October Crisis, which I found necessary to criticize. But not only was Khrushchev mistaken, Kennedy was also mistaken. Cuba had nothing to do with Hungary’s history, neither did the USSR have anything to do with the Revolution in Cuba. This was the sole and exclusive fruit of the struggle of our people. Khrushchev only made the solidarity gesture of sending weapons to Cuba when it was threatened by the mercenary invasion organized, trained, armed and transported by the United States. Without the weapons sent to Cuba, our people would have defeated the mercenary forces in the same way that they defeated Batista’s army and seized from it all the military equipment that it possessed: 100,000 weapons. If a direct invasion of the United States against Cuba had transpired, our people would have been fighting through today against its soldiers who, without any doubt, would also have had to fight against millions of Latin Americans. The United States would have committed the greatest error in all its history and the USSR would possibly still exist.
A few hours before the invasion, after the cunning attack on our airbases by U.S. aircraft bearing Cuban insignia, the socialist nature of the Revolution was declared. The Cuban people fought for socialism in that battle, which went down in history as the first victory against imperialism in America.
Ten United States presidents have come and gone, the eleventh is passing and the Socialist Revolution is still standing. Also gone are all the governments that were accomplices of U.S. crimes against Cuba, and our Revolution is still standing. The USSR disappeared, and the Revolution continued advancing.
It was not undertaken with the permission of the United States, but was subjected to a cruel and merciless blockade; with acts of terrorism which took the lives of or wounded thousands of people and whose authors are currently enjoying total impunity; Cuban anti-terrorist fighters are sentenced to life imprisonment; a so-called Cuban Adjustment Act grants entry, residence and employment in the United States. Cuba is the only country in the world to whose citizens that privilege is given, a privilege denied to the people of Haiti, in the wake of the earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people, and the rest of the citizens of the hemisphere, those ones which the empire pursues and expels. Nevertheless, the Cuban Revolution is still standing.
Cuba is the only country on the planet that cannot be visited by U.S. citizens; but Cuba exists and is still on its feet, just 90 miles from the United States, waging its heroic struggle.
We Cuban revolutionaries have committed errors, and we will continue committing them, but we will never commit the error of being traitors.
We have never chosen illegalities, lies, demagogy, deception of the people, simulation, hypocrisy, opportunism, bribery, a total absence of ethics, abuses of power, including crime and repugnant acts of torture which, albeit with meritorious exceptions, have evidently characterized the conduct of presidents of the United States.
At this moment, humanity is confronting serious and unprecedented problems. The worst is that, to a large degree, their solutions will depend on the richest and most developed countries, which will reach a situation that they really are not in a position to confront, unless the world which they have been trying to mold in the interest of their egoistic interests and which is inevitably leading to disaster collapses around them.
I am not talking at this point about wars, the risks and consequences of which wise and brilliant people, including many from the United States, have conveyed.
I am referring to the food crisis produced by economic acts and climate change which are apparently already irreversible as a consequence of the actions of human beings, but which in any case the human mind has the duty to address with haste. For years, in reality time lost, the issue was discussed. However, the major producer of polluting gases, the United States, systematically refused to consider world opinion. Leaving aside the protocol and the usual foolishness of government officials in consumer societies, who with their access to power stun the influence of the mass media, the truth is that did not pay any attention to the issue. An alcoholic man, whose problems were well known, and who I do not need to name, imposed his line on the international community.
The problems have suddenly increased as a result of phenomena which are being repeated on all continents: heat waves, forest fires, loss of harvests in Russia, with many victims; climate change in China, heavy rainfall or drought; progressive reduction of water reserves in the Himalayas which is threatening
India, China, Pakistan and other countries; torrential rain in Australia, which has flooded almost one million square kilometers; unseasonable and unprecedented cold in Europe with considerable agricultural impact; unusual cold in this country and the United States; unheard of rainfall in Colombia which has affected millions of hectares of arable land; precipitation never witnessed before in Venezuela; catastrophes in Brazil's large cities caused by heavy rain and drought in the South. There is virtually no region in the world where such events have not taken place.
The production of wheat, soy beans, corn, rice and many other grains and legumes, which constitute the nutritional base of the world – the population of which has today reached an estimated 6.9 billion, rapidly approaching the unprecedented figure of seven billion and where more than one billion are suffering hunger and malnutrition – is being seriously affected by climate change, creating a most serious problem worldwide. As reserves have not been totally replenished, or only partially so for some items, a serious threat is already causing problems and destabilization in many nations.
More than 80 countries, all of them in the Third World, already as such facing real difficulties, are threatened with true famines.
I will limit myself to citing these statements and reports, very briefly, which have been published over the last few days:
"The United Nations warns of danger of new food crisis," January 11, 2011, according to AFP.
"We are in very tense situation," agrees the FAO.
"Some 80 countries face a deficit of food."
"The global price index of basic agricultural products (grains, meat, sugar, oleaginous seeds, milk) is currently at its highest level since the FAO established the index 20 years ago."
"United Nations," January (IPS)
"The United Nations Agriculture and Food Organization (FAO), with its headquarters in Rome, warned last week that world prices of rice, wheat, sugar, barley and meat […] will be subject to significant increases in 2011…"
"PARIS, January 10 (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy takes his campaign for greater global food price and currency stability to Washington this week…"
"Basel (Switzerland), January 10 (EFE) - Jean Claude Trichet, president of the Central European Bank (BCE), speaking for the directors of G-10 central banks, warned today of a marked rise in the price of foods and the threat of inflation in the emergent economies."
"World Bank fears a crisis in food prices," January 15 (BBC).
President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, told BBC that "the crisis will be deeper than that of 2008."
"MEXICO DF, January 7 (Reuters) -The annual rate of inflation in food prices tripled in Mexico during November in comparison to previous months."
"Washington, January 18 (EFE) - Climate change will aggravate the short supply of food, according to a study."
"For more than 20 years, scientists have been warning about the impact of climate change but nothing has changed apart from an increase in the emissions which cause global warming," Liliana Hisas, executive director of the U.S. affiliate of this organization, told EFE.
Osvaldo Canziani, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and scientific advisor for the report, indicated that "all around the world, episodes of extreme meteorological events and climate conditions will be experienced and increases in average surface temperature will exacerbate the intensity of these episodes."
(Reuters) January 18, "Algeria buys wheat to avoid shortages and unrest.
"A source at Algeria's Agriculture Ministry said total purchases of around a million tonnes by the country's state grains agency so far this month were designed to avoid shortages in case of unrest."
(Reuters) January 18, "Wheat shows a strong gain in Chicago after Algerian purchases."
The Economist, January 18, 2011, "Worldwide alert over food prices."
"Among the main causes are floods and droughts produced by climate change, the use of foodstuffs to produce bio-fuels and speculation in the commodities market."
The problems are dramatically serious. However, not everything is lost.
The current estimate of wheat production has reached the figure of almost 650 million tons.
That of corn exceeds this quantity, at close to 770 million tons.
The production of soybeans could come close to 260 million, an estimated 92 million in the United States and 77 million in Brazil. They are the largest producers.
The general data about grains and legumes available in 2011 are known.
The first issue to be resolved by the world community would be to choose between food and bio-fuels. Brazil, a country in development, would then have to be compensated.
If the millions of tons of soy beans and corn invested in bio-fuels were to be directed to the production of food, the extraordinary price increases would be stopped and the scientists of the world could propose strategies to, in some way, halt or even reverse the situation.
Too much time has been lost. It is time to do something.