OTTAWA -- Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro is criticizing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government for environmental damage caused by the extraction of crude from the Alberta oilsands.
The father of Cuba's communist revolution of more than half a century ago offered the observation in a characteristically rambling new essay on the state of hemispheric affairs that was published over the weekend.
The ailing octogenarian handed the Cuban presidency to his brother, Raul, four years ago, but still periodically offers up his musings on the world in postings on his government's website.
"Stephen Harper's Illusions'' is his latest instalment.
In it, Castro claims that the United States -- a country he loathes because of its economically crippling embargo -- is forcing Canada to extract oil, which is causing irreparable damage to the environment.
"I knew about the damage caused by the Yankees to the people of Canada,'' the essay said. "They forced the country to look for oil by extracting it from huge extensions of sand that are impregnated with that fluid, thus causing an irreparable damage to the environment of that beautiful and extensive country.''
He also accuses Canadian mining companies of harming millions of people throughout Latin America.
At 1,200 words, Castro's latest screed is mercifully short, compared with the day-long marathon speeches of his heyday.
But as always, the dictator lacks a decent editor.
Of Canada's mining companies, he references a previous article that he says, "provides further details about an issue that has been identified innumerable times as one of the main scourges that affect millions of persons, stated that mining companies, 60 per cent of which are financed with Canadian capital, worked following the logic of maximum yield at a low cost and in a short time; and that these conditions turn out to be all the more advantageous if in the places where they are stationed, tax revenues are minimal and there are very few environmental and social commitments..."
Castro covers several topics, from Argentina's claim on the Falkland Islands to Cuba's continued exclusion from the Organization of American States.
Without naming John Baird, he wonders how Canada's top diplomat views the disagreement over the Falklands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas.
"The honourable foreign minister of Canada does not dare to say whether or not he supports Argentina in the thorny issue of the Malvinas Islands. He has only expressed beatific wishes for peace to prevail between the two countries.''
Castro remains troubled by Cuba's continued exclusion from the OAS, the 35-member bloc that includes Canada and the United States. Harper is to attend an OAS summit in Colombia later this week.
Cuba has been suspended from the group since the early 1960s.
Castro finds an apparent irony in the fact that traditional Cuban-designed guayabera shirts will be worn by OAS leaders at the summit.
"The Caribbean shirt was first made by the banks of the Yayabo River in Cuba; that is why they were originally called yayaberas,'' Castro writes.
"The curious thing about this, dear readers, is that Cuba has been forbidden to attend that meeting, but not the guayaberas. Who could hold back from laughing? We must hurry up and tell Harper.''
Harper's new chief spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, read Castro's missive Monday afternoon, and said:
"I'll take a pass. No comment.''
Stephen Harper’s Illusions
I think –and I do not intend to offend anyone- that this is how the Prime
Minister of Canada is called. I deduced it from a statement published on
“Holy Wednesday” by a spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of that
country. The United Nations Organization membership is made up by almost
200 States –allegedly independent States. They continuously change or are
forced into change. Many of their representatives are honorable persons,
friends of Cuba; but it is impossible to remember the specifics about each and every one of them.
During the second half of the twentieth century, I had the privilege of
living through years of intensive erudition and I realized that Canadians,
located in the northernmost region of this hemisphere, were always
respectful towards our country. They invested in areas of their interest
and traded with Cuba, but they did not interfere in the internal affairs
of our State.
The revolutionary process that began on January 1st, 1959, did not
introduce any measure that affected their interests, which were taken into
account by the Revolution in maintaining normal and constructive relations
with the authorities of that country where a significant effort was being
made in the interest of its own development. Thus, they were not
accomplices of the economic blockade, the war and the mercenary invasion
that the United States launched against Cuba.
In May of 1948, the year that witnessed the foundation of the OAS, an
institution with a shameful history which did away with what little was
left from the dreams of the Liberators of the Americas, Canada was from
belonging to it. It kept that same status for more than 40 years, until
1990. Some of its leaders visited us. One of them was Pierre Elliott
Trudeau, a brilliant and courageous politician who died prematurely. We
attended his burial on behalf of Cuba.
The OAS is supposed to be a regional organization made up by the sovereign
States of this hemisphere. Such an assertion, like many others which are
made everyday, involves a great number of lies. The least we can do is to
be aware of them, if we are to preserve the spirit of struggle and our
confidence on a more decent world.
The OAS is supposed to be a pan-American organization. Any country in
Europe, Africa, Asia or Oceania could not belong to the OAS just because
it has a colony, as it is the case of France in Guadeloupe; or the
Netherlands in Curaçao. But the British colonialism could not define the
status of Canada and explain whether it was a colony, a republic or a kingdom.
The Head of State of Canada is Queen Elizabeth II, although she vests her
powers upon a Governor-General appointed by her. Therefore, we could ask
whether the United Kingdom is also part of the OAS.
Likewise, the Honorable Foreign Minister of Canada does not dare to say
whether or not he supports Argentina in the thorny issue of the Malvinas
Islands. He has only expressed beatific wishes for peace to prevail
between the two countries. But Great Britain has there its biggest
military base outside its territory in violation of Argentina’s
sovereignty. It did not apologize for having sunk the ‘General Belgrano’
cruiser which was sailing outside the jurisdictional waters that they
themselves established which led to the futile sacrifice of hundreds of
youths who were doing their military service. We should ask Obama and
Harper what stand they will take in the face of the fairest claim by
Argentina to be given back the sovereignty over the islands so that it is
no longer deprived of the energy and fishing resources it so much needs to
develop the country.
I was really amazed after I made a much deeper analysis of the activities
carried out by Canadian transnationals in Latin America. I knew about the
damage caused by the Yankees to the people of Canada. They forced the
country to look for oil by extracting it from huge extensions of sand that
are impregnated with that fluid, thus causing an irreparable damage to the
environment of that beautiful and extensive country.
The incredible damage was the one caused to millions of persons by the
Canadian companies specialized in the mining of gold, precious metals and
An article published by the website Alainet a week ago, signed by an
Engineer on Environmental Quality, which provides further details about
an issue that has been identified innumerable times as one of the main
scourges that affect millions of persons, stated that mining companies, 60
per cent of which are financed with Canadian capital, worked following the
logic of maximum yield at a low cost and in a short time; and that these
conditions turn out to be all the more advantageous if in the places where
they are stationed, tax revenues are minimal and there are very few
environmental and social commitments…
According to the article, the mining laws in our countries […] do not
include any obligation or methodology to control environmental or social
impacts; the tax revenues that mining companies pay to the countries of
the region are, as an average, no more than 1.5 per cent of the revenues
The article adds that the social struggle against mining, particularly
metal mining, has been growing as long as entire generations are becoming
aware of the environmental and social impacts it causes.
It states that Guatemala has put up an admirable resistance against mining
projects, thanks to the indigenous populations’ awareness of the value of
their territories and their natural resources, which they consider a
priceless ancestral heritage. However, in the last 10 years, the
consequences of that struggle have been felt in the assassination of 120
human rights’ activists and advocators.
This article also describes the current situation in El Salvador,
Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, with figures that make us meditate
very deeply about the seriousness and harshness of the ruthless pillaging
that is being carried out against the natural resources of our countries,
thus mortgaging the future of Latin Americans.
The presence of Dilma Rousseff, who made a stopover in Washington while
traveling back to her country, will serve to persuade Obama that although
there are some who take great delight in making slushy speeches, Latin
America is far from being a choir of countries begging for alms.
The guayabera shirts to be worn by Obama in Cartagena has become one of
the main issues covered by the news agencies: “Edgar Gómez […] has
designed one for the US President, Barack Obama, who will be wearing it
during the Summit of the Americas”, said the daughter of the designer, who
added: “It is a white, sober guayabera, with a handiwork that is more
striking that usual…”
Immediately after that, the news agency added that the Caribbean shirt was
first made by the banks of the Yayabo River in Cuba; that is why they were
originally called yayaberas.
The curious thing about this, dear readers, is that Cuba has been
forbidden to attend that meeting, but not the guayaberas. Who could hold
back from laughing? We must hurry up and tell Harper.
Fidel Castro Ruz
April 8, 2012