Thursday, March 29, 2007

Castro criticizes U.S. biofuel policies

Posted on Thu, Mar. 29, 2007

Castro criticizes U.S. biofuel policies
Associated Press Writer

Fidel Castro lashes out against U.S. biofuel plans in an op-ed piece
published Thursday, a sign Cuba's 80-year-old leader may be taking a
more active role in public affairs after months sidelined by a still
undisclosed illness.

The article is written in the same kind of apocalyptic style Castro
typically adopts when discussing the impact of U.S. international
policies on developing nations, and there was no reason to doubt he was
the author.

President Bush's support for using crops to produce ethanol for cars
could deplete food stocks in developing nations, the article in the
Communist Party daily Granma asserts.

The headline reads: "Condemned to Premature Death by Hunger and Thirst
more than 3 Billion People of the World."

"This isn't an exaggerated number; it is actually cautious," says the
article distributed by e-mail early Thursday to international
correspondents by foreign ministry officials.

As in some shorter messages signed by Castro in the eight months since
he fell ill, the piece does not seem aimed at dispelling rumors about
his health, but rather at drawing attention to his stand on world affairs.

It was unclear what the message means in terms of Castro's future role
in domestic affairs.

In recent weeks, Bolivian President Evo Morales and several senior Cuban
officials have indicated that Castro could soon take a more active role
in public affairs and may even return to the presidency.

Castro temporarily ceded power to his younger brother Raul, the
75-year-old defense minister, on July 31 after announcing he had
undergone intestinal surgery. He has not appeared in public since.

Morales recently said from Bolivia that he expects to see Castro in
public on April 28 during a meeting in Havana with presidents
celebrating a regional trade and cooperation pact.

Castro's condition and his exact ailment are a state secret but he is
widely believed to suffer from diverticular disease, which causes a
weakening in the walls of the colon.

His older brother Ramon Castro told reporters Wednesday that Fidel was
doing very well but dodged questions about whether he would soon appear
in public. "He's in one piece," Ramon Castro, 82, said of Fidel as he
toured a cattlemen's fair and rodeo. "These Castros are strong!"

In his Thursday article, Fidel Castro quotes extensively from a
Washington-datelined story by The Associated Press reporting on a
meeting Monday between Bush and U.S. automakers and their comments about
using corn to create ethanol as an alternative to fossil fuels.

"The sinister idea of converting food into combustible was definitively
established as the economic line of the foreign policy of the United
States," he writes.

The Cuban leader notes that Cuba has also experimented with extracting
ethanol from sugarcane.

But if rich nations decide to import huge amounts of traditional food
crops such as corn from developing countries to help meet their energy
needs, it could have disastrous consequences for the world's poor,
Castro writes.

"Apply this recipe to the countries of the Third World and you will see
how many people among the hungry masses of our planet will no longer
consume corn," the article said. "Or even worse: by offering financing
to poor countries to produce ethanol from corn or any other kind of food
no tree will be left to defend humanity from climate change."

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