Peru’s Garcia proposes solutions for environmental crisis threatening world hunger

President Alan Garcia called Friday on European, Latin American and Caribbean heads of state to increase production of food crops by 2 percent to prevent starvation for millions of poor people confronted by skyrocketing prices for wheat, rice and corn.

Garcia told nearly 60 presidents and chancellors assembled for the Fifth EU-Latin America Summit that while the cause of the rising prices “hanging over humanity” can be debated, taking action to stem the worldwide food crisis cannot be delayed.

“Some will say it is because of the changeover of crops for biofuels,” Garcia said in his speech to open the full-day conference of closed-door meetings focusing on trade, poverty reduction and global climate change. “Others can say it is the product of the increase of consumption by the large nations because of their growing populations on this earth.”

Garcia proposed that by increasing food production by two percent, “the food supply crisis will be solved for the next few years.” The “humble objective” would be a small price to pay to prevent millions of people from “falling into the horrific hell of hunger,” he added.

Such important matters “should not be left up to consultants or chancellors,” Garcia insisted. “Let us get to work because these commitments can be fulfilled.”

Garcia also reiterated his proposal to levy an international .50-cent tax on every barrel of oil or liquefied natural gas to fund reforestation projects in the Amazon region.

With just a few cents, we could create a $20 billion annual fund and this fund would permit us to reforest at least 50 million hectares that capture 2 billion tons of carbon,” Garcia said.

Heading into the summit, predictions abounded that the agenda might be sidetracked by a mounting diplomatic crisis over an Interpol report authenticating seized laptop computers that purportedly showed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had funded leftist FARC guerrillas to wage their insurgency against the Colombian government.

But Garcia urged participants to steer clear of regional quarrels and remain focused on the dire issues at hand.

An avid free-market convert, Garcia rediscovered some of his ideological roots, proclaiming, “We do not believe that the free market alone can bring order to the human species” — to the delight of Chavez, his main political rival in the region, who nodded in agreement while taking copious notes.

“That was an exquisite presentation by President Garcia,” Chavez said after the speech, in a televised interview. “It’s a vision that I share completely. Politics, I’ve always said, is like chivalry, it must be at the forefront. The market is something else. The market can’t regulate people’s lives. It’s what produces misery and inequality.”

Later Friday, Garcia swore in ecologist Antonio Brack as Peru’s first Minister of the Environment.

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