Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Fidel: The latest meeting with Lula

Reflections of Fidel

(Taken from CubaDebate)

I met him in Managua in July 1980, thirty years ago, during the commemoration of the first anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, thanks to my contacts with supporters of Liberation Theology, which were initiated in Chile when I visited President Allende in 1971.

Through Frei Betto, I knew who Lula was, a labor leader in whom leftist Christians had placed their hopes at an early stage.

He was a modest worker in the metallurgical industry who stood out for his intelligence and prestige within the trade unions, in the great nation that was emerging from the darkness of the military dictatorship imposed by the yanki empire in the 1960s.

Brazil’s relations with Cuba had been excellent until the dominant power in the hemisphere forced them to succumb. Decades went by until they slowly returned to being what they are today.

Each country lived its own history. Our country had to endure exceptional pressure in the incredible stages experienced since 1959, in its struggle against the aggression of the most powerful empire to have existed in history.

For that reason, the meeting that has just taken place in Cancun and the decision to create a Community of Latin America and Caribbean States has great significance for us. No other institutional act in our hemisphere during the last century reflects a similar significance.

The agreement was reached in the midst of the gravest economic crisis that has taken place in the globalized world, coinciding with the greatest danger of an human environmental disaster and, at the same time, with the earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, the most painful human disaster in the history of our hemisphere, in the poorest country of the continent and the first in which slavery was eradicated.

While I was writing this "Reflection," just six weeks after the death of more than 200,000 people, according to official figures in that country, the dramatic news came in of the damage provoked by another earthquake in Chile, which resulted in the death of close to 1,000 people to date, according to official figures, and enormous material damage. Especially moving was the footage of the suffering of millions of Chileans materially or emotionally affected by that cruel blow of nature. Fortunately, Chile is a country with more experience with that type of phenomenon, much more developed and with more resources. If it hadn’t had more solid infrastructures and buildings, an incalculable number of people, possibly tens or even hundreds of thousands Chileans would have perished. There is talk of two million affected and potential losses that range from $15 billion to $30 billion. In its tragedy, it can count on the solidarity and sympathy of the peoples, among them ours, although given the type of cooperation needed there is little that Cuba can do, while its government was one of the first to express to Chile its sentiments of solidarity, when communications were still down.

The country that is currently putting to the test the capacity of the world to confront climate change and guarantee human survival is, without question, Haiti, for constituting a symbol of the poverty from which billions of people in the world are currently suffering, including a notable part of the peoples of our continent.

What has happened in Chile with an earthquake of the incredible magnitude of 8.8 on the Richter scale, although fortunately at a greater depth than the one that destroyed Port-au-Prince, obliges me to emphasize the importance and the duty of promoting the steps toward unity achieved in Cancun, although I have no illusions as to the difficulty and complexity of our struggle of ideas in the face of the effort of the empire and its allies, inside and outside of our countries, to frustrate the unifying and pro-independence task of our peoples.

I wish to confirm in writing the importance and symbolism that Lula’s visit and our latest meeting had for me, from a personal and revolutionary standpoint. Already close to the end of his mandate, he stated that he wished to visit his friend Fidel; an honorable description that I received from him. I believe that I know him well. On more than a few occasions we spoke fraternally, within and outside of Cuba.

On one occasion I had the honor of visiting him at his home, situated in a modest district of Sao Paulo, where he lived with his family. For me it was a moving encounter with him, his wife and his children. I will never forget the familial and healthy atmosphere of that home, and the sincere affection with which his neighbors greeted him, when Lula was already a prestigious labor and political leader. Nobody knew then if he would or would not reach the presidency of Brazil, given that the interests and forces opposing him were very great, but it gave me pleasure to talk with him. The post was not so important to Lula, either; what satisfied him, above all, was the pleasure of fighting, which he did with impeccable modesty; which he fully demonstrated when, having been defeated three times by his powerful adversaries, he only agreed to allow his nomination by the Workers Party under strong pressure from his sincerest friends.

I will not attempt to recount the times that we spoke before he was elected president; one of them, among the first, was in the mid-1980s when we were fighting in Havana against the Latin American foreign debt, which at that point amounted to $300 billion and had been repaid more than once over. He is a born fighter.

Three times, as I said, his adversaries, backed by huge economic and media resources, defeated him at the elections. However, his closest collaborators and friends knew that the time had come when that modest worker would be the candidate of the Workers Party and the forces of the left.

His opponents definitely underestimated him; they thought that he could not count on any majority in the legislative body. The USSR no longer existed. What could Lula signify at the head of Brazil, a nation of great wealth but scant development, in the hands of a rich and influential bourgeoisie?

However, neoliberalism was entering into crisis, the Bolivarian Revolution had triumphed in Venezuela, Menem was in free fall, Pinochet had disappeared from the scene and Cuba was resisting. But Lula was elected when Bush fraudulently won in the United States, stealing the victory from his rival Al Gore.

A difficult stage was beginning. The initial steps of the new president of the United States were to set in motion the arms race and with that, the role of the military-industrial complex, and to cut taxes for the rich.

On the pretext of combating terrorism, he reinitiated the wars of conquest and institutionalized murder and torture as instruments of imperialist domination. Facts related to the secret prisons, which exposed the complicity of the allies of the United States with that policy, cannot be published. In this way, he accelerated the worst economic crisis of those which, in a cyclical and growing manner, accompany developed capital, but this time with the privileges of Bretton Woods and without any of its commitments.

Brazil, for its part, in the last eight years under Lula’s direction, surmounted obstacles, increased its technological development, and promoted the weight of the Brazilian economy. The most difficult part was his first term, but he was successful and gained experience. With his tireless battling, serenity, sangfroid and growing dedication to the task, in such difficult international conditions, Brazil reached a GDP of close to $2 trillion. Information varies according to the sources, but all of them place it among the 10 largest economies in the world. Despite that, with a surface area of 8.524 million square kilometers, compared to the United States, which possesses just a little more territory, Brazil has only reached 12% of the gross domestic product of that imperialist country, which is plundering the world and deploying its armed forces in more than 1,000 military bases throughout the planet.

I had the privilege of attending his investiture in late 2002. Also present was Hugo Chávez, who had just confronted the traitorous coup d’état of April 11th of that year, and subsequently, the oil strike organized by Washington. Bush was already president. The relations between Brazil, the Bolivarian Republic and Cuba were always good, with mutual respect.

I had a serious accident in October 2004, which seriously limited my activities for months, and became gravely ill in late July 2006, in virtue of which I did not hesitate to delegate my functions as the head of the [Communist] Party and the State, in the proclamation of July 31st of that year, with a provisional nature, which I soon afforded a definitive one when I understood that I would not be in a position to assume them once again.

With respect to the gravity of my health, it allowed me to study and meditate; I devoted myself to that and to reviewing materials concerning our Revolution, and to publishing "Reflections" now and then.

After falling sick, I have had the privilege of being visited by Lula every time he has traveled to our country and speaking at length with him. I will not say that I always agreed with all of his politics. I am, on principle, opposed to the production of biofuels based on products that can be utilized as food, conscious that hunger is and may be increasingly a great tragedy for humanity.

However — and I say this in all frankness — this is not a problem created by Brazil, much less by Lula. It is an inseparable part of the world economy imposed by imperialism and its rich allies, who, in subsidizing their agricultural production, protect their internal markets and compete on the world market with food exports from Third World countries. These, in turn, are forced to import in exchange industrial articles produced with their own raw materials and energy resources, having inherited their poverty from centuries of colonialism. I perfectly understand that Brazil had no alternative, in the face of disloyal competition and U.S. and European subsidies, but to increase ethanol production.

The infant mortality rate in Brazil is still 23.2 per 1,000 live births, and the maternal one is 110 per 100,000 births, within the industrialized and rich countries, it is less than 5 and 15, respectively. Many other similar such figures could be cited.

Beet sugar, subsidized by Europe, snatched away from our country the market for sugar derived from sugar cane, precarious and temporary agricultural and industrial work which kept sugar workers unemployed for a large part of the time. The United States, for its part, also took over our best lands and their companies owned our industry. One day, abruptly, they stripped us of our sugar quota and blockaded our country in order to crush the Revolution and Cuba’s independence.

Today, Brazil has developed the cultivation of sugar cane, soy, and corn with high-performance machines that can be used for those crops with extremely high productivity. One day when I observed film footage of a 40,000-hectare piece of land in Ciego de Avila dedicated to soy cultivation, in rotation with corn, where they will try to work throughout the whole year, I exclaimed: that is the ideal socialist agricultural enterprise, highly mechanized with very high productivity per person and per hectare.

The problems of agriculture and its installations in the Caribbean are hurricanes, which in a growing number, are devastating its lands.

Also, our country has elaborated and signed with Brazil the financing and construction of an extremely modern port in Mariel, which will be of enormous importance for our economy.

In Venezuela, they are using Brazilian agricultural and industrial technology to produce sugar and use bagasse as a source of thermoelectric energy. They are advance-party teams which are working in a likewise socialist enterprise. In the Bolivarian Republic, they are using ethanol to improve the harmful environmental effects of gasoline.

Capitalism developed consumer societies and also the waste of fuel, which produced the risk of dramatic climate change. Nature took 400 million years to create what our species is consuming in just two centuries. Science has not yet solved the problem of what energy will replace that which is now generated by oil; nobody knows how much time it will require, and how much it will cost to solve it on time. Will it be available? That is what was discussed in Copenhagen, and the Summit was a total failure.

Lula told me that when ethanol costs 70% of the value of gasoline, it is no longer profitable to produce. With the largest forest on the planet, Brazil is to progressively reduce tree felling by 80%, he said.

Today it has the best technology in the world for drilling at sea, and can extract fuel located at a depth of 7,000 meters of water and in the sea bed. Thirty years ago, that would have seemed like a science fiction story.

He explained the high-level educational programs that Brazil proposes to take forward. He highly values the role of China at a world level. He said with pride that trade with that country has risen to $40 billion.

One thing is indisputable: the metal worker has currently become an outstanding and prestigious statesman who is listened to respectfully in all international meetings.

He is proud of having received the honor of the Olympic Games for Brazil in 2016 by virtue of the excellent program presented in Denmark. It is also to be the venue for the [FIFA] World Cup in 2014. All of this has been the fruit of the projects presented by Brazil, which surpassed those of their competitors.

One great demonstration of his selflessness was his refusal to seek reelection, and he trusts that the Workers Party will continue to govern Brazil.

Some persons, envious of his prestige and his glory, and worse still, those working for the empire, criticized him for visiting Cuba. They utilized for that the vile slander that has been used against Cuba for a half century.

Lula has known for many years that in our country, nobody was every tortured, no adversary’s assassination was ever ordered, and the people have never been lied to. He has the assurance that truth is the inseparable companion of his Cuban friends.

From Cuba, he left for our neighbor, Haiti. We informed him of our ideas about what we are proposing in terms of a sustainable, efficient program, especially important and very economic for Haiti. He knows that more than 100,000 Haitians were treated by our doctors and graduates of the Latin American School of Medicine after the earthquake. We talked about serious things; I know about his ardent desires to help that noble and suffering people.

I will keep an indelible memory of my most recent meeting with the president of Brazil, and I do not hesitate to proclaim it.

Fidel Castro Ruz

March 1, 2010

12:15 p.m.

Translated by Granma International