‘The Rich Do Not Know Hunger’
Speech to the United Nations World Food Summit, Rome, October 1996
Hunger, the inseparable companion of the poor, is the offspring of the unequal distribution of the wealth and the injustices in this world. The rich do not know hunger.
Colonialism was not alien to the poverty and underdevelopment afflicting today a large segment of mankind. Neither is the offensive opulence and the squandering by the consumer societies of the former metropolis which have subjected to exploitation a large number of countries on Earth. Millions of people in the world have died fighting hunger and injustice.
What kind of cosmetic solutions are we going to provide so that in 20 years from now there would be 400 million instead of 800 million starving people? The very modesty of these goals is shameful. If 35,000 people — half of them children — are starving to death every day, why is it that in the developed countries olive groves are being torn down, cattle herds are being sacrificed and large amounts of money are being paid so that the land is kept unproductive?
If the world is rightly moved by accidents and natural or social catastrophes that bring death to hundreds or thousands of people, why is it not equally moved by that genocide which is taking place every day in front of our eyes?
Intervention forces are organised to prevent the death of hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Zaire. What are we going to do to prevent the starvation of one million people every month in the rest of the world?
It is capitalism, neoliberalism, the laws of a wild market, the external debt, underdevelopment and the unequal terms of reference that are killing so many people in the world.
Why is it that $700 billion are invested every year in the military instead of investing a portion of those resources in fighting hunger, preventing the deterioration of the soils, the desertification and deforestation of millions of hectares every year, the warming up of the atmosphere and the greenhouse effect that increase the number of hurricanes, the scarcity or excess of rain, the destruction of the ozone layer and other natural phenomena which negatively affect food production and man's life on Earth?
The waters are polluted, the atmosphere is poisoned, nature is being destroyed. It is not only the lack of investments, education and technologies or the accelerated pace of the population growth; it is the environment that is deteriorating and the future that is growing more hazardous with every passing day.
Why are increasingly sophisticated weapons still being produced after the Cold War is over? What are those weapons for if not to dominate the world? Why that ferocious competition to sell to underdeveloped countries weapons that will not make them more powerful to defend their independence while they would rather be killing hunger?
Why is it that criminal policies and absurd blockades that include food and medicines are being added to all this with the purpose of annihilating whole populations out of hunger and diseases? Where is the ethic, the justification, the respect for the most basic human rights and the common sense of such policies?
Let the truth prevail and not hypocrisy and deceit. Let us build an awareness on the fact that hegemonism, arrogance and selfishness must cease in this world.
The bells that are presently tolling for those starving to death every day will tomorrow be tolling for all mankind if it did not want, or did not know, or if it could not be sufficiently wise to save itself.