From Volume 7, Issue 23 of EIR Online, Published June 3, 2008

Ibero-American News Digest

Mexican Congressmen Demand Funding for PHLINO Project

May 30 (EIRNS)—Congressman Carlos Navarro López, head of the Rural Development Committee of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, and fellow committee member Cong. Martín Ramos Castellanos, joined a well-attended press conference May 29 at the federal Congress, given by four leaders of the "Pro-PLHINO of the 21st Century Committee," to insist the money allocated by Congress for technical feasibility studies of the Northwest Hydraulic Plan (PLHINO) be released, quickly, so that Mexico can secure its food self-sufficiency and avoid starvation, at a time of global food crisis.

The PLHINO is the long-planned engineering project, joining 16 rivers in Mexico's three northwestern states of Nayarit, Sinoloa, and Sonora, which would open up at least 800,000 hectares of land for farming. Lyndon LaRouche has championed the PLHINO for decades, and LaRouche's associates in Sonora play a leading role in the Pro-PLHINO Committee, which was founded last year by more than 30 rural producer, labor, and grass-roots groups from the area.

The Pro-PLHINO Committee leaders targetted the head of the National Water Commission (CONAGUA), José Luis Luege Tamargo, for holding up the funds for the PLHINO on spurious ecological grounds. Should Luege Tamargo succeed in diverting or slowing down implementation of the PLHINO, he would be committing "a crime against the Mexican population which is threatened by hunger as a consequence of the world food crisis," Committee leaders warned.

The Congressmen stated that the Rural Development Committee will take its fight for funding for technical, not ecological studies, to the whole Congress, and fight to get an annual budget line for the project included in the 2009 budget.

The press conference was held in the midst of an intense debate in Congress over what Mexico should do about the food crisis. The Pro-PLHINO Committee, joined by the members of Congressional Rural Development Committee, detailed just how far the PLHINO will go in ending Mexico's dependence on foreign food imports, including the possibility of doubling wheat production and increasing corn production by 40%, nationally.

Mexico Can and Must Be Self-Sufficient in Food Again

May 26 (EIRNS)—Mexico can readily produce enough grain to feed 150 million people, according to Antonio Turrent, former director of the National Institute of Forestry and Agricultural Research. Mexico's population of about 110 million has become dangerously dependent on food imports to meet over one-third of its basic food consumption needs. Conditions of imposed import dependency, and skyrocketing grain prices have caused the food issue to become a subject of national debate.

As in Argentina, the discussion centers on the need for government measures to ensure that people have enough to eat, before allowing the cartels to export food, and on the ability to sharply increase domestic food production. In Argentina, the goverment is actually taking such steps; in Mexico, various institutions are making these demands of the free-trade-dominated Calderón government. This has been the case especially after President Felipe Calderón's May 25 announcement of emergency measures to address the food crisis, which only intensify the same free-trade policies that destroyed Mexico's agriculture in the first place.

According to Turrent's remarks published in the May 13 edition of La Jornada, Mexican grain production can be quickly increased, by:

* Irrigating some 2 million hectares of arable land in Sonora, Sinaloa, and five other states. This coincides with the PLHINO projection of irrigating some 800,000 hectares in Sonora and Sinaloa alone.

* Planting corn on 9 million hectares of fertile land in the southeast region, which is currently used as pasture land.

* Returning to corn production in six other states where it has been largely abandoned, due to globalization and free-trade decimation of Mexico's agriculture.

WWF: Brazil's Biofuels Program Is 'Good Business'

May 29 (EIRNS)—In a report issued by its Brazilian office, Prince Phillip's World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has happily endorsed the Brazilian government's insane biofuels program, which produces ethanol from sugar cane.

"From an environmental point of view, it's good business to substitute ethanol for gasoline," WWF's Brazilian director Luis Fernando Laranja told the BBC on May 25, adding that the study "endorses the position held by the Brazilian government." He particularly emphasized that Brazilian ethanol has been proved to be extremely effective in reducing the greenhouse effect.

While noting that certain precautions should be taken to protect Brazil's ecosystem and biodiversity, Laranja affirmed that his study dispels certain "myths" about ethanol production. He denied that sugar-cane production is expanding into the Amazon region, or that it in any way interfered with food production. In order to prevent environmental damage, he said, new areas should be designated as "protected" from the expansion of sugar cane. Other areas for sugar-cane production should be "strategically" located.

Laranja didn't comment on the fact that a large portion of Brazil's sugar cane is produced by virtual slave labor, and that the Labor Ministry has more than once in the past year been called upon to rescue cane workers who were forced by company owners to live in sub-human conditions.

IADB Food Program Will Exacerbate Poverty, Promote Biofuels

May 27 (EIRNS)—The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) announced today that it is extending a $500 million credit line to assist its member countries in dealing with the food crisis afflicting the region. In a press conference announcing the initiative, Bank president Luis Alberto Moreno warned that unless action is taken, all the economic advances achieved by the region in recent years could be wiped out by the impact of rising food prices, throwing millions back into poverty.

The credit line has yet to be approved by the Bank's board, and details as to what it will offer remain to be seen. But it's worth remembering that Moreno sits on the board of the Inter-American Ethanol Commission (IEC) founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and that during his tenure as head of the IADB, he has made the Bank synonymous with biofuels development. The IADB is up to its eyeballs in a host of projects that Bush's IEC and other financial predators are setting up in Central America.

Asked by one reporter whether the Bank had "reevaluated" its support for ethanol production, given the severity of the region's food crisis, Moreno defensively responded that the Bank was taking proper steps to make sure that the ethanol projects it financed wouldn't exacerbate the food crisis. In fact, he insisted, the Bank only funds ethanol programs based on sugar cane (!), pointing to Brazil as the great leader in this area. He then lamely asserted that the region wants to see "standards established" for biofuels production, to take into account the concerns of nations most severely affected by the food crisis.

Another aspect of the IADB's announced "assistance" program is its recommendation that governments use the Bank's credit line to encourage expansion of "conditional cash transfer" programs, first developed in Mexico under the name "Opportunities," and later enthusiastically embraced by New York Mayor Michael 'Mussolini' Bloomberg. These "CCT's" reward the poor for "good behavior": They receive stipends if they keep their children in school, have them vaccinated, or successfully perform mundane tasks. They are intended to keep the poor impoverished, and nothing else.

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