I'm reprinting this with some caveats. I think that Frei Betto's analysis is absolutely correct with respect to hunger and the disproportionate amount of resources devoted to its eradication as opposed to propping up the financial markets. I think many would part company with Betto on the idea of combatting drug trafficking by crop eradication. This has been tried in various Andean countries and has not proved to be particularly successful. It is a solution imposed on the developing nations by developed countries unwilling and unable to effectively control the demand for illegal drugs and their trade among their own people. Worse, it has penalized the poor who are only trying to grow what they can most easily market, not to speak of the overall environmental and health effects of the herbicides being used. Frei Betto's response is too facile and he should study the economics of the drug trade more thoroughly before writing about this complex issue.
Frei Betto (English translation by Rebel Girl)
There are now 950 million people whose lives are threatened by chronic hunger. Last year, there were 800 million. The number has grown from then to now due to the expansion of agribusiness, whose technology makes food more expensive, and to the expansion of areas devoted to the growth of agri-combustibles, produced to satisfy the hunger of machines and not people.
Hunger is the most lethal invention of human injustice. It causes more deaths than all of the wars. It eliminates almost 23 thousand lives every day -- almost one thousand people per hour! The main victims are children.
Almost nobody dies for lack of food. The human being can withstand almost anything: corrupt politicians, humiliation, aggression, indifference, the opulence of the few. Even the empty plate. Therefore it can be said that no one dies because of a complete lack of food. The hungry, when they have nothing to eat, put in their mouths, in order to cheat hunger, leftovers gathered from the garbage, lizards, rats, cats, ants and various insects. The lack of vitamins, carbohydrates and other essential nutrients weaken the organism and make it vulnerable to illness. Stunted children die of a simple cold, because of lack of defenses.
There are only four causes of premature deaths: accidents (either workplace or traffic), violence (assassination, terrorism, or war), illness (cancer or AIDS), and hunger. The latter produces the highest number of victims. However it is the one that provokes the fewest protests. There are ongoing campaigns against terrorism or to cure AIDS, but who is protesting against hunger?
The poor do not protest. Only those who eat go on strike, go out into the streets, publicly demonstrate their discontent and make their demands. Since those people are not threatened by hunger, the hungry are ignored.
Now the leaders of the richest and most powerful nations of the world, meeting at the G-8 summit in Aquila, Italy, at the beginning of June, have decided to free up $15 billion to relieve world hunger.
How cynical on the part of the G-8! They are responsible for the growing number of hungry people. These would not exist if the urban nations had not adopted protectionist policies, customs barriers, and agrotoxin and transgenic seed producing multinationals. Nearly 5 million children would not die of hunger each year if the G-8 had not manipulated the WTO, providing incentives for social inequality and all that feeds into it: the latifundio, speculation on food prices, the private appropriation of wealth.
Only 15 billion dollars! Do the ladies and gentlemen of G-8 know how many millions they allocated, not to saving humanity but, rather, to the financial market, from September 2008 to June 2009? One thousand times that amount! Fifteen billion dollars is only enough to give a few candies to a few hungry people. Without taking into account that a good part of those resources will go into the pockets of the corrupt or will be used as money for electoral change. "I'll give you some bread, give me your vote."
If the G-8 really intended to eradicate world hunger it would promote changes in the commercial structures that govern production and world trade, and it would channel more resources towards the poor nations than towards the financial market and the defense industry.
If the owners of the world really wanted to end hunger, they would declare the latifundio a crime against humanity and would allow the free circulation of food, similar to what has happened with money. Similarly, if they also had the goal of ending drug trafficking, instead of capturing a few traffickers, they would use their war machines to definitively destroy the fields of marijuana, coca, opium and other plants, transforming them into family farms. Without the basic material, no trafficker can produce drugs.
To say that the G-8 is going to end hunger or save the planet from environmental degradation, is like hoping that next Christmas Santa Claus will bring the gift of a decent life for all the poor children. The cynicism is so great that the world leaders are promising to establish bases of environmental sustainability starting in 2050.
Now, if nature has taught anything obvious it's that by then we will all be dead. If the Earth has already lost 25% of its capacity for self regeneration, what will happen if the human race has to wait another 40 years before taking effective steps?
If those who are not hungry would at least have hunger for justice -- a virtue that Jesus called a blessing, then hope for a better future would not be in vain.