|Pepe Fanjul and the Clintons: friends through thick and thin|
As the Democratic primary debate rolls into Miami, this evening, moderators ought to ask the question of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders: do you support the sugar subsidy in the Farm Bill? It is like the question recently asked of the Democratic candidates about fracking: yes or no?
Floridians are sick and tired of paying the heavy costs of the industry's pollution, now coating both Florida coasts.
Historic January rainfall overfilled Lake Okeechobee, the state's largest waterbody. Through its command of water management infrastructure, thanks to massive campaign contributions, Big Sugar compelled stormwater releases to be routed away from its 450,000 acres south of lake and straight into rivers and bays serving millions of property owners, tourism-dependent businesses, not to mention the dying Everglades.
There are no secrets about Big Sugar's influence-peddling in both political parties.
In 2014, the Tampa Bay Times reported on secret trips offered to only GOP elected officials including Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam by US Sugar Corporation to the King Ranch in Texas. The King Ranch, that state's largest land owners, are strategic land owners in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
US Sugar Corporation thought nothing of ferrying legislators by private jet to secret meetings with Republicans. Why? Because their co-cartel "competitors" -- the Fanjuls (owners of Flo-Sun, Florida Crystals, and related enterprises) have been doing the same for many, many years at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. The relationship between the Clintons and the Fanjuls is not exactly news.
The ultimate solution to halting the endemic pollution of both Florida coasts, affecting millions of property owners and businesses, is to take lands out of sugar production in the Everglades Agricultural Area and convert those money pits into massive pollution cleansing marshes.
A more pointed question to ask of the Democratic candidates in tonight's televised debate: "Big Sugar is the symbol of corporate welfare in the U.S. The industry controls Tallahassee and Washington, DC through massive campaign contributions. Have you ever accepted free travel or trips to the Dominican Republic from sugar billionaires? Yes or no."
In 2015, Al Jazeera published an excellent series on the super-sized influence of the Fanjul empire in both the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. "A Sweet Deal: The Royal Family of Cane" quotes writer Junot Diaz who describes Casa de Campo: "the resort that Shame forgot".
Al Jazeera documents for the first time the Fanjul's manipulation of US Farm policy and how the sugar subsidy accrues to the advantage of its plantation in the Dominican Republic where working conditions are half-step above slave labor.
The report closely tracks the human suffering disclosed in the important documentary film, "Sugar Babies", pulled under mysterious circumstances in 2008 from the Miami International Film Festival, without explanation or any protest by the festival's supporter; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The foundation grew out of the Knight brothers ownership of the Miami Herald. It purportedly supports journalistic freedom and independence, but not in the 2008 case where the Fanjuls were put in the spotlight.
Big Sugar's pollution of national politics runs deep and strong through both political parties. One Fanjul brother, Pepe, takes the Republicans. The other, Alfie, takes the Democrats. It's all about making billions and the maximum profit possible by spreading campaign cash like fertilizer across America's political landscape. Owning a hide-away resort in the Dominican Republic doesn't hurt, either.
Let's see if CNN and Univision can bring that point closer to home, tonite.