From: Guido Nejamkis, Reuters
Published April 5, 2007 12:00 AM

Brazil Rejects Fidel Castro's Rap of Ethanol Plan

BRASILIA -- Brazil's government rejected Wednesday Cuban leader Fidel Castro's criticism of a Brazilian-U.S. biofuel plan and signed up Ecuador as the latest partner in its regional ethanol promotion program.

The intention to promote large-scale ethanol production was "genocidal" and would worsen global hunger by turning food into energy, Castro said in an editorial Wednesday.

But Marco Aurelio Garcia, foreign affairs advisor to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said that Castro did not understand biofuels. Brazilian biofuel had caused no problems for food production, he said.

"The world's problem is not a shortage of food but income," Garcia told reporters in the capital Brasilia.

Ethanol production topped the agenda at President Bush's meeting with Lula at Camp David Saturday.

The United States produces ethanol from corn and Brazil from sugar cane and they intend to promote it in other developing countries.

Castro had said that the surge in demand for corn would push up grain prices, while the threat of a U.S. invasion of Iran is keeping oil prices high.

Brazil signed up Ecuador Wednesday as the latest partner in its biofuels alliance.

"We are going to support Ecuador in its national biofuel program. Our countries are determined to promote this revolution of clean and renewable energy, which creates jobs and preserves our forests," Lula said after meeting Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who vies with Brazil for regional influence, has also criticized biofuels.

"Chavez has oil, we have ethanol," Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said Monday.

But Garcia tried to downplay the standoff with Chavez and Castro Wednesday.

"We don't want to turn ethanol into an ideological problem. Lula is obsessed with ethanol and he's not going to stop making that known now," Garcia said.

(Additional reporting by Raymond Colitt)

Source: Reuters

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