The Princeton Public Library will be hosting the Princeton Human Rights Film Festival next weekend, May 11 – 13, 2007.
The selection of films is quite remarkable, so I’ll be posting on them this week. Today I’ll discuss The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
The documentary, “The Power of Community – How Cuba Survived Peak Oil,” was inspired when Faith Morgan and Pat Murphy took a trip to Cuba through Global Exchange in August, 2003. That year Pat had begun studying and speaking about worldwide peak oil production. In May Pat and Faith attended the second meeting of The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, a European group of oil geologists and scientists, which predicted that mankind was perilously close to having used up half of the world’s oil resources. When they learned that Cuba underwent the loss of over half of its oil imports and survived, after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, the couple wanted to see for themselves how Cuba had done this.
During their first trip to Cuba, in the summer of 2003, they traveled from Havana to Trinidad and through several other towns on their way back to Havana. They found what Cubans call “The Special Period” astounding and Cuban’s responses very moving. Faith found herself wanting to document on film Cuba’s successes so that what they had done wouldn’t be lost. Both of them wanted to learn more about Cuba’s transition from large farms or plantations and reliance on fossil-fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers, to small organic farms and urban gardens. Cuba was undergoing a transition from a highly industrial society to a sustainable one.
Cuba became, for them, a living example of how a country can successfully traverse what we all will have to deal with sooner or later, the reduction and loss of finite fossil fuel resources. In the fall of 2003 Pat and Faith had the opportunity to return to Cuba to study its agriculture. It was a wonderful trip. They saw much of the island, met many farmers and urban gardeners, scientists and engineers – traveling more than 1700 miles, from one end of Cuba to the other. It was all they had hoped for and more.
Here are some facts that Pat and Faith probably don’t know about:
Cuba is aggressively pursuing the acquisition of oil:
According to Gustavo Coronel, who was a member of the first board of directors (1975-1979) of PDVSA, following nationalization of Venezuela’s oil industry; Coronel has worked in the oil industry for 28 years in the United States, Holland, Indonesia, Algiers and Venezuela, Venezuela’s sending Cuba around 93,000 barrels per day but it could be even higher.
Under the terms of an arbitrary oil supply agreement to Cuba, Chavez is giving Castro a subsidy of between $3 and $4 billion.
The main contribution Chavez is giving Castro is in the form of oil. In an agreement signed by the two heads of state in October 2000, without proper consultation with, and approval by the peoples of the two countries, 53000 barrels of Venezuelan oil per day started to be sent to Cuba. This agreement was for 15 years. The Cubans can pay 25% of the oil shipments over the 15 years of the agreement, at interest rates of 2% and 2 years of grace. Payment requires no international guarantees, as is the case in normal commercial transactions of the Venezuelan petroleum company. Since commercial rates that Petroleos de Venezuela pay international lenders are substantially greater, it is easy to conclude that much of the Venezuelan oil going to Cuba under the terms of this agreement represents a gift from Chavez to Castro. On the basis of what we know of the details of the agreement, its favorable economic terms and the fact that an important portion of the oil can be paid in services, it is possible to estimate that no less than 10-13,000 barrels of oil per day are being given to Castro for free. At the current prices of oil, this handout of Chavez to Castro is already of the order of $3 – 4 billion during the 15-year term of the agreement. This is a considerable amount of money, taken away from a country where poverty afflicts more than 80% of the population.
Just last year
Venezuela has also agreed to supply 70,000 barrels per day of unrefined oil to the factory in south central Cuba.
Fidel Castro’s government has stepped up work on 36 new oil wells in partnership with Chinese and Canadian companies, officials said on Thursday.
The Cuban government is generally silent about oil matters, but this week Communist Party newspaper Granma also reported that Cuba had drilled its deepest oil well yet near Varadero, east of Havana.
Diplomatic sources said Indian, Norwegian and Spanish companies would begin searching for crude oil in the gulf.
And then there’s the food:
I have posted in the past on this article by Humberto Fontova comparing Castro’s government rations to the daily rations of Cubans slaves as mandated by the Spanish King in 1842:
The Food Ration in 1842 for slaves in Cuba:
meat, chicken, fish– 8 oz
Rice– 4 oz
Starches– 16 oz
Beans– 4 oz
Castro Gov. Ration since 1962:
meat, chicken, fish– 2 oz.
Rice– 3 oz
Starches– 6.5 oz
Beans– 1 oz.
While Pat and Faith rhapsodize about “small organic farms and urban gardens” and how “Cuba was undergoing a transition from a highly industrial society to a sustainable one”, they ignore the fact that people are on starvation diets, unless they can grow some food because they’re living on less than $20 a month. The minimun salary in Cuba is $10/month. (see also this post)
Retirees earn pensions of $7 per month.
Maria earns a pension equal to about $7 a month. But the monthly rations Cubans can buy in peso stores last about a week. Health care is free, but state-subsidized pharmacies sit bare.
If she can’t find pills and food at pharmacies and peso stores, Maria must buy them in dollar stores or on the black market at higher prices.
Pat and Faith apparently don’t realize that people trying to exist on slave rations must grow their own food out of need, not out of choice.
And now for the “transition from a highly industrial society to a sustainable one” part:
The inescapable fact is that Castro has ruined the most industrialized Latin American country, and a food importer, and now the U.S. is Cuba’s food lifeline:
Castro, whose ruined nation shipped $780 million worth of vegetables, sugar and agricultural exports to the U.S. in the 1950s, has turned his nation into a lunar wasteland over his 48-year dictatorship, its famous sugar industry now gone. Does Castro take responsibility? No. He blames global warming, not his disastrous decisions.
But Cuba’s land lies in ruin not because of bad weather but because its massive propaganda-driven ‘great sugar harvests’ of the 1960s ruined the land in the name of making Castro’s arbitrary quota — and because no citizen can own or trade land for its most efficient use. Now, Cuba grows so little food it must import it from the very nation its leader denounces and undermines and blames.
In fact, it’s Castro’s dirty secret: The U.S. is Cuba’s food lifeline. The U.S. sells $340 million in food a year to Cuba just so its ration books can be worth the paper they’re printed on.
The U.S. is Cuba’s top trade partner, but Cuba ranks only 32nd on the U.S. list.
Don’t expect any of those photos to be shown at the Princeton Human Rights Film Festival.
I’ll continue this series of posts tomorrow.
In the meantime, Gates of Vienna posts on another filmmaker featured at the PHRFF.
In Cuba, don’t expect any Human Rights Film Festivals at the public library: INDEPENDENT LIBRARIAN HAS BEEN DETAINED
UPDATE, MAY 12: Welcome, Michelle Malkin readers. Please note that the film festival is hosted by the Princeton Public Library, not by Princeton University. Indeed, it is ironic that the director of the PPL is also the director of the American Library Association, since Cuba has repressed the free circulation of books by independent librarians. The ALA has repeatedly refused to support the jailed Cuban librarians: read more about it at this post.
Update, Thursday, 31 May: Welcome, ALA readers. You might want to read my report of the showing. Please note my suggestion: if the Princeton Public Library is calling its film festival the Princeton Human Rights Film Festival, it might be a good idea not to ignore the human rights abuses in the systems it defends, such as the medical apartheid system prevalent in Cuba, when three eye-witnesses in the audience wanted to talk about it.