Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lula, Bush, ethanol and Chavez drunk on it

Veneconomy has come up with a sweet editorial. Sweet because on the sugar cane to ethanol conversion it seems that Bush has scored (big?) against Chavez, even making him look like a fool. I did not get into this when I wrote about the post because, well, it was already long enough. But procrastination has a way to pay off. Thus the editorial repasted below. Enjoy!

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A champion of agricultural development? (March 14)

The agreement signed by Presidents George W. Bush and Luiz Inàcio Lula da Silva to develop ethanol could have a considerable impact on the economy of the region, even greater than that of the Great Gas Pipeline of the South being promoted by President Hugo Chávez.

The Bush-Lula agreement was a blow for Chávez’ leadership in the region, and his reaction was not slow in coming. Chávez, who tolerates no elbowing-in on his regional leadership, attacked this agreement from Jamaica with his customary fiery rhetoric, forgetting that, since 2005, he has been waxing enthusiastic over the use of ethanol on the grounds that it is an ecologically sound alternative. That is why PDVSA has been developing “a gradual plan for the sustainable production of bio-ethanol.” Even the local press reported less than a month ago that an agreement had been signed with Cuba to build 11 ethanol distilleries in Venezuela. Now, with Bush stealing the march on him, Chávez is crying out for fertile lands to be used to “produce food for people” rather than fuel for the rich.

However, when Chávez holds up ethanol as the work of the devil, he’s forgetting two things: first that this is a renewable energy resource that can be developed in a manner that is harmonious and sustainable and that, besides, it is a potential source of jobs; and second, that its production does not exclude the possibility of the raw materials being put to other uses. For example, sugar cane and corn can be used both for food and for the production of bio-fuels.

It’s incongruous, to say the least, for Chávez to try to set himself up as a champion of agricultural development in the region when, in the past eight years, he has chalked up not a single success in that area at home; quite the contrary. Far from having promoted the development of farming in Venezuela, Chávez, by dint of expropriations and confiscations of productive land, has provoked the collapse of the country’s productive capacity, making it even more dependent on imports of basic foodstuffs, despite his alleged desire to achieve food sovereignty.

Chávez’ term in office is chock-full of failures (quite apart from the corruption), among them “organoponic” crops and vertical henhouses, today consigned to oblivion, Ezequiel Zamora Sugar Mill, which succumbed to inefficiency and corruption, and the only information available on the Florentino Genetic Center, part of the confiscated ranch Hato La Marqueseña when it was in full production, is gleaned from the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands Report and Accounts for 2006, which shows that it posted a net loss of Bs.4.65 billion.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, called upon to be the guarantor of the country’s food sovereignty, is practically in the hands of Cuba, thanks to the large number of costly agreements signed by Venezuela in 2006.

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