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Foreign News: Bread and Liberty

3 minute read

The Erica Reed, sailing under the U. S. flag, manned by a U. S. crew, steamed last week into Barcelona Harbor carrying foodstuffs sent to Leftist Spain by U. S. friends and sympathizers. Lloyd’s of London reported that two Rightist armed patrol boats had signaled to the ship to stop four miles off Gibraltar. Instead, Captain Harry

Johnson ignored the signals, steamed unmolested up the Mediterranean Coast.* Dumped on the docks of the half-starved, refugee-jammed Catalan capital were 5,000 tons of wheat, enough to make 7,480,000 pound loaves of bread, bought from the U. S. Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation; 28,540 Ibs. of powdered milk (500,000 glasses); substantial quantities of canned meats and vegetables, rice and beans; 400 bales of clothing; 590,000 vitamin tablets, 100,000 quinine tablets, 100,000 aspirin, 26 Ibs. of nicotinic acid for pellagra victims.

Welcome as the cargo was, it was only a crumb in Leftist Spain’s empty dinner pail. The Erica Reed’s load was valued at $300,000; fortnight ago League of Nations experts estimated that $12,000,000 worth of food was needed by Leftist Spain during the winter to prevent near starvation.

Barcelona censors have lately blue-penciled foreign correspondents’ realistic descriptions of the Leftists’ desperate food situation, but last week they allowed to pass over the cables a frank summing up of the famine by former Premier Diego Martinez Barrio.

Declaring that “it would be childish to try to hide the gravity of our situation,” Senor Martinez Barrio said Leftist Spain had 13,000,000 inhabitants. These are so woefully underfed, he continued, that infant mortality is “increasing at an extraordinary rate.” Although pleading for help, the former Premier defiantly denied that Leftist Spain would ever be brought to surrender through starvation: “There is something that Spain esteems more than bread. That is liberty and independence. … Spain, hungry and naked or satisfied and clothed, places the prosecution of her war beyond the limitations of her necessities.”

Various correspondents in the U. S. on leave from Spain last week added: The army still eats comparatively well. Catalonia is worse off than Valencia, because Catalonia is rocky, industrial, grows mostly one crop of perishable vegetables. Valencia has three crops a year, grows rice and oranges in abundance. A ration card in Barcelona now entitles its holder to buy small amounts of dried lentils, corn meal, cabbage, turnips, one egg and 300 grams (approximately eight small rolls) of black “war” bread a week. Cats and dogs have virtually “disappeared.” Almost all livestock has been killed for food. There remains still some peasant hoarding of food. Last summer, for the first time, Leftist Spain’s vineyards began to show signs of neglect.

*Since the U. S., as well as France and Great Britain, still recognizes Leftist Spain as the legitimate Spanish Government and has not granted belligerent rights to Rightist Spain, any interference with U. S. shipping (as well as French or British) by the Rightist navy or air force would, under international law, be an “act of piracy.” Legal niceties have not prevented Generalissimo Francisco Franco, however, from bombing British and French ships and seizing Scandinavian ships, although so far. with few exceptions, he has let U. S. shipping alone.

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