El Salvador bishop says US fuel project will hit the poor

By Ecumenical News International
April 19, 2007

A Lutheran bishop in El Salvador has spoken out against a proposal for the Central American country to host a pilot project to produce ethanol fuel from sugar cane and yellow maize due to escalating oil prices – writes Rafael Menjívar Saavedra (ALC).

"Since corn and sugar cane are the raw materials for the producing of ethanol for fuel in the country, we are opposed to it because its negative impact on the family economy will be greater than the benefits that it could bring about," said Bishop Medardo Gómez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod.

Following the visit of US President George W. Bush to Brazil, Central America and Mexico in March, El Salvador's government has proposed that it be the host country for a pilot project to produce ethanol from sugar cane and yellow corn.

Ethanol is growing in importance as an alternative to oil for cars and other vehicles that have traditionally used fossil fuels.

However, even though the crisis of the increase in gasoline prices, now around US$3.50 a gallon (3.78 litres), is affecting the Salvador economy, the proposal is facing strong opposition from some quarters.

El Salvador's foreign minister, Francisco Laínez, said a cooperation agreement had been reached between his country and the United States and Brazil for the development of bio fuels.

The ALC news agency said that according to Laínez, both Brazil and the United States will be sending technical assistance and providing training during April in preparation for the installation of the plant.

"Given that El Salvador is a small country, poor and deforested, we no not understand how the government has committed itself to carrying forward measures that beforehand are known to be damaging for the country," stated Bishop Gómez. He noted: "We are opposed to the developed countries continuing to tell us what to do and that as a country we not have a plan as a nation to guide us."

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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