Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Translation: Cubasolar president on debate

Cubasolar is a Cuban non-government organisation that promotes renewable energy and energy efficiency. The group publishes a colour magazine Energia y TĂș (Energy and You, see <www.cubasolar.cu>) that is widely available in Cuba. Below is an interview with Cubasolar president Luis Berriz by cubasolidaridad.org on ecological themes in the debate on the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines. The interview was published by the Basque website cubainformacion.tv.

Interview with Cubasolar president on Draft Guidelines debate

cubasolidaridad.org, March 10, 2011

Translation: Marce Cameron

Cubasolidaridad.org (CS): In the most general sense, in the debates that have been held we don't glimpse a concrete model of development but what would seem to be objectives that are mostly juxtaposed, without a clear integration or harmonisation. For example, [the Guidelines] talk about continuing with the socialist planning model without a corresponding evaluation of how it has functioned, that it must be modified but not the strategy of modification. What energy planning model will be implemented?

Luis Berriz (LB): Paco, before answering your question, let me tell you that what has been published is the Draft Guidelines and not the Guidelines. This draft is published as a basic document to begin the discussion with all of the people. I'll also tell you that this Draft has been discussed in hundreds of thousands of meetings in every workplace and even in every neighbourhood, where everyone has participated with all of their opinions. I can inform you that up to February 7 there have been 127,113 meetings with the participation of 7 million citizens, who made more that 2,346,000 interventions which comprise 619,387 proposals for deletions, additions, modifications, doubts and concerns about the content of the Draft Guidelines. You know that Cuba has 11 million people and a quarter of these are children, in other words, everyone has participated in the discussions. Now we'll see what happens to the Guidelines after the [Communist Party] Congress [in April].

Now I'll answer your question. The energy policy we aim to implement is that which leads to energy independence, that is, a policy based on the natural resources of Cuba, principally the sources of renewable energy, and premised on savings and energy efficiency.

CS: Also in the general sense, there is no mention of an environmental strategy, either in terms of conservation or the sustainable exploitation of natural resources. Why does this not appear in a development program such as this?

LB: This is something that has been widely discussed by the people and no doubt the Guidelines will be modified to reflect this.

CS: Concretely, it seems to us to be hardly a sustainable model in environmental and energy terms —the proposal for the tourism sector, with the priority given to the construction of marinas, golf courses, a model we're all too familiar with in Spain that's an ecological disaster, with its use of water, destruction of the coastline ... how can these proposals be made sustainable?

LB: I can't talk about Spain, but what we're talking about in Cuba is developing sane tourism, nature tourism and mainly the kind that involves contact with the Cuban people so they understand the reality of Cuba. As you know, Cuba does not promote sex or gambling tourism but prohibits them. Unfortunately, foreign tourism always has negative consequences in Cuba, where we face an undeclared war with imperialism and enemy agents can come here in the name of tourism to finance the counterrevolution.

CS: In terms of energy, sectors such as the co-generation of energy by the sugar industry through the use of bagasse [sugar cane stalks after sugar extraction] and sugar cane agricultural and forestry residues, and creating the conditions to co-generate energy in the inactive period in both refining and distillation, are prioritised. Given this, it seems to us that the decline in cane production makes such an alternative proposal possible. Does this not open the door to the production of biofuels such as ethanol via distillation?

LB: Paco, our country has produced ethanol for centuries as a by-product of sugar cane. It has been produced for medical and industrial uses and also, primarily, for our fine Cuban rum which I'm sure you've tried. Also, we're not against biofuels. What we're against is using products such as corn and soya for the production of fuels to satisfy the powerful [consumers in developed countries] when there are so many hungry people in this world. We're in favour of the production of biofuels in order to guarantee food production. Biofuels must be produced at a local level and for local use, and solely to achieve energy independence and sustainable development.

CS: Regarding renewable energy sources, "those that have the greatest economic impact in the short term" are prioritised. Is this not a contradiction, given that it may be better to prioritise those with a greater impact in the medium or long term?

LB: I don't know if this may be a contradiction in Spain, Europe or the US, but in country like Cuba that has been blockaded [by US trade sanctions] for more than 50 years and after the collapse of the socialist camp, when at one time we were absolutely alone, we're obliged to think about doing things that have short term economic benefits while also thinking about the medium and long term.

CS: Among the renewable energy sources there does not appear to be sufficient emphasis on the use of biomass, other than mentioning the sugar industry. Are there proposals for this?

LB: Yes, there are such proposals.

CS: Finally, is there a plan to quantify these Guidelines with indicators to ensure their implementation and objectives?

LB: Sorry, I don't understand your question. All I can tell you is that these proposed Guidelines aim to ensure the updating of the Cuban socialist system based on Marxism-Leninism. We have committed errors and all Cubans are aware that we have to change, but always for the better, that is, to strengthen our social system: Marxist-Leninist socialism.

You know us very well. If anyone believes in miracles — regardless of their beliefs, whether they be Christian, Islamic or something else — they'd realise that our Revolution is a miracle, because it has been able to overcome the cruel imperialist blockade for more than 50 years and help save thousands of lives in other countries of this world with its solidarity.

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