The disaster in Japan and a friend’s visit

Today I had the pleasure of greeting Jimmy Carter, who was President of the United States between 1977 and 1981 and the only one, in my opinion, with enough equanimity and courage to address the issue of his country’s relations with Cuba.

Carter did what he could to reduce international tensions and promote the creation of interest sections in Cuba and the United States. His administration was the only one to take a few steps to moderate the criminal blockade imposed on our people.

The circumstances were certainly not propitious in our complex world. The existence of a truly free and sovereign country in our hemisphere could not be reconciled with the ideas of the fascist extreme right wing in the United States, doing everything it could to ensure the failure of his proposals, which made him worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. Not an honor awarded to him for nothing.

The Revolution always appreciated his valiant gesture. In 2002, I received him warmly. Again I reiterate respect and appreciation for him.

Might the oligarchy which governs that superpower really renounce its insatiable desire to impose its will on the rest of the world? Might a system which generates presidents like Nixon, Reagan and W. Bush, with increasingly more destructive power and less respect for the sovereignty of others, honor such a purpose?

The complexity of the current world situation does not allow much attention to even relatively recent memories. Carter’s departure, today Wednesday, coincided with disturbing news about the nuclear accident caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which continues to arrive and cannot be ignored, not only given its importance, but also for the practical and almost immediate repercussions felt in the world economy.

Today the news agency AP reported from Japan, “The crisis in Japan’s earthquake and tsunami damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, worsened Wednesday when experts logged the highest radiation yet in nearby seawater.

“In Fukushima, radiation leaking from the plant has seeped into the soil nearby and made its way into produce, raw milk and even tap water as far as Tokyo, 240 kilometers to the south.

“In the meantime, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited a group of evacuees in Tokyo for about an hour.”

Reuters reported from Tokyo, “Japan ordered an immediate safety upgrade at its 55 nuclear power plants on Wednesday in its first acknowledgement that standards were inadequate when an earthquake and tsunami wrecked a facility nearly three weeks ago, sparking the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

“The announcement was made after the government conceded that there was no end in sight for the crisis and a jump in the levels of radioactive iodine in seawater added to the evidence of leaks from the reactors in the area around the complex and beyond.

“The discovery of highly toxic plutonium in soil at Daiichi had raised alarm over the disaster, which has overshadowed the humanitarian calamity triggered by the earthquake and tsunami, which left 27,500 people dead or missing.

“Before the disaster, Japan’s nuclear reactors had provided about 30% of the nation’s electric power. The percentage had been expected to rise to 50% by 2030, among the highest in the world.

“New readings show an increase in radioactive iodine to 3.355 times the legal limit, the country’s nuclear safety agency indicated, although the organization minimized its impact, saying that residents had left the area and fishing had stopped.

“Hundreds of engineers have been toiling for nearly three weeks to cool the plant’s reactors and avert a catastrophic meltdown of fuel rods, although the situation appears to have moved back from that nightmare scenario.

“Jesper Koll, director of equity research at JPMorgan Securities in Tokyo, said a drawn-out battle to bring the plant under control and manage the radioactivity being released would perpetuate the uncertainty and act as a drag on the economy.

“The worst-case scenario is that this drags on not one month or two months or six months, but for two years, or indefinitely,” he said.

“A byproduct of atomic reactions which can be used in nuclear bombs, plutonium is highly carcinogenic and one of the most dangerous substances on earth, experts indicated.”

A third agency, DPA, from Tokyo, “Japanese technicians are still unable to control the nuclear crisis three weeks after the accidents at the Fukushima power plant. The Japanese government has begun to consider extraordinary measures to contain the release of radiation.

“The idea is to cover the reactors with a kind of fabric. The recent high readings of iodine 131 in the ocean are an indication of the increasing radiation. The environmental organization Greenpeace has also warned of serious danger to the health of residents after making its own studies.

“Experts believe that the process required to definitively eliminate the possibility of a meltdown could take months. TEPCO has promised to improve the working conditions of technicians who are growing more concerned and exhausted all the time.”

While these events are taking place in Japan, the Bolivarian President of Venezuela has visited Argentina, Uruguay and is headed for Bolivia, promoting economic accords and strengthening ties with countries in our hemisphere determined to be independent.

At the University of La Plata, where the dictatorship supported by the United States eliminated, among thousands of Argentines, more than 700 students – 40 in the school of journalism – Chávez was awarded the Rodolfo Walsh Prize, in honor of one of the heroic revolutionary journalists assassinated.

Now, it is not Cuba alone, there are many peoples prepared to struggle, to sacrifice their lives for their homeland.

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Fidel Castro Ruz

March 30, 2011

6:51 p.m.