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Cuba after the Hurricane

January 9, 2013

Cube was directly in Hurricane Sandy’s path and suffered the most severe destruction of all affected countries, when the storm moved over Eastern Cuba with winds of 175 km/h and gusts of up to 225 km/h.

11 Cubans died despite the evacuation of 340,000 people to safe shelters, 20,000 buildings were completely demolished and another 200,000 were severely damaged. The storm destroyed 43,000 roofs. Among the damaged buildings were 896 schools, serving 180,000 students. 129 schools were so severely damaged that the classes have to be held in temporary facilities (private homes, libraries, community centers).

Many areas lost power and running water for days and 1.4 million people still do not have access to safe potable water, which poses a significant sanitary risk. The volume of debris was so high that it obstructed for days access to vital production and public service facilities. The state-owned utility company Empresa Electrica emphasized that the task was and is still titanic since it means building practically all of the secondary networks from the ground up.

The losses to industry, infrastructure (hospitals, schools, electricity lines, water and sewage pipes), and agriculture amount to 2 billion US$, it is the second biggest storm damage in Cuban history.

Storms and trade winds
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This two earlier blog posts described the hurricanes impact and the situation immediately after the storm, the following text is an update about the current status.

A man salvages bricks from rubble on a street after hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba

The eastern provinces and especially Santiago are still building sites and the reconstruction will take month, if not years. Considering the fact that damage from hurricane Ike in 2008 is still noticeable it does not seem far-fetched to assume that people will still be rebuilding when the next hurricane hits.

Cholera and dengue fever epidemic

In the wake of the hurricane Cuba is suffering from a dangerous outbreak of cholera and dengue fever, fueled by Hurricane Sandy’s floods.

More than a dozen deaths have been reported. Hospitals and prisons (Mar Verde prison, Boniato prison) have been quarantined at times. Schools have been shut down, and so have restaurants and street kiosks which are selling juices and other products made with water.

Government buildings have established hand and shoe disinfection stands at their entrances. Public health officials go from door to door asking if anyone is suffering from diarrhea, vomiting or fever. The authorities also distribute water purification tablets.

In Havana so many dengue cases are filling the hospitals wards that there is a shortage of medicines, needles, bandages, chlorine, soap, and other medical supplies.

Health workers are driving around Old Havana issuing notifications by loudspeaker, telling people what precautions to take, urging them not to try to cure themselves, and announcing training sessions where medical staff is taught how to contain the two epidemics.

Several municipalities (La Tinta, Maisi, Imias, Mayari, Moa) are quarantined.

In August there was a cholera outbreak in the eastern city of Manzanillo, which ended after three deaths and 417 confirmed cases. Without the storm floods and the destruction of vital infrastructure the Cuban authorities would have easily contained the epidemic, but broken water and sewer pipes, flooded latrines, and left behind puddles created ideal conditions for cholera bacteria and dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

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Cuban expatriates in Miami were quick to point out that only 65 percent of Cubans have access to piped drinking water and that sewage services reach only 38 percent of the population, accusing the government of negligence and mismanagement.

Cuba is not an affluent country and the limited resources have to be carefully allocated. Safe drinking water and sanitation until now was ranking behind the priorities of food security, housing, health, and education. This will have to change, but the installation of new pipe systems and sewage treatment plants will not be done by taking IMF loans or inviting US corporations, it will be done by a concerted effort of the population with the help of Cuba’s genuine friends.

International relief efforts

In the days after the storm cargo planes from Venezuela, Panama, Bolivia, Ecuador, Japan, Russia, and China  arrived at Santiago’s Antonio Maceo International Airport. Venezuela and Mexico immediately sent ships. Russia is sending construction materials to restore buildings.

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund has allocated 5.5 million US$ for Cuba through UNICEF, FAO, UNFPA, WFP, WHO, and UNDP. The European Union intends to donate 4 million Euro, however, as the DG ECHO’s Operational Reserve is exhausted and only 2 million Euro are immediately available it remains to be seen how much money will be sent. 

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There are also private initiatives and Cuba Benefit Relief Concerts (for instance in Berkeley, CA and Vancouver, Canada).

MEDICC and Global Links, with the aid of the Pan American Health Organization, are sending medical supplies and equipment, chlorine tablets, hospital furnishings and critical medical books for the medical school to Santiago.

http://medicc.org/ns/
https://www.givedirect.org/ give/givefrm.asp?CID=4894

The Canadian Network on Cuba has started a Sandy Relief Fund campaign
http://www.canadiannetworkoncuba.ca/

The US government is absent from the list of donors and even accused of obstructing humanitarian aid to the Caribbean Island. One relief agency wrote: Be aware of the fact that the Obama administration, which has already seized more than a billion dollars destined for Cuba, is relentless in its efforts to pursue ways of continuing this practice; so be careful of the vehicles you use to send aid to Cuba.

One cannot have it both ways. Cuba has endured a strict US embargo since 1960 and by comparing other Caribbean nations with Cuba, one could easily come to the conclusion that this embargo didn’t hurt and to the contrary was rather beneficial, allowing Cuba to develop a unique socialist society and to some extent autarchic economy without outside interference.

Haiti has the closest economic ties to the USA, it is the poorest nation in the Americas. Coincidence?

US aid to other countries has in every single case brought short time relief payed by longtime social and economic devastation. The intentions of private donors maybe were honest, but the coordination of relief efforts by the US government always made sure to pave the way for US corporations, resulting in the destruction of local trades, land grab, evictions, resource exploration (plus the inevitable ecological destruction), sweat shops, social and political turmoil.

US aid in every single case was a greek gift.

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Following are excerpts from a speech by LeiLani Dowell at the Workers World conference in November. http://www.workers.org/

Cuba’s love for human life

fidel castro 2An important biological species is in danger of disappearing with the rapid and progressive destruction of its natural life-sustaining conditions ­– man. We are just now becoming aware of this problem when it is almost too late to stop it.

It is necessary to point out that the societies of consumers are those who are fundamentally responsible for the atrocious destruction of the environment. They are born from former colonial powers and imperial politics, which in turn engendered the backwardness and poverty which are now beating down the immense majority of humankind.

With only 20 percent of the world’s population, they consume three-fourths of the energy which is produced in the world. They have poisoned the seas and the rivers. They have weakened and punctured the ozone layer. They have saturated the atmosphere with gasses which alter climatic conditions with catastrophic effects from which we are now beginning to suffer. …

If we want to save humanity from this self-destruction, it is necessary to better distribute the available wealth and technology of the planet. Less luxury and less extravagance in a few countries; for that matter, less poverty and less hunger in a large portion of the earth. … Make human existence more rational. Apply a fair international economic order. Make use of all the scientific knowledge necessary for ongoing development without contamination. Pay the ecological debt and not the foreign debt. Let hunger disappear and not mankind.

LeiLani Dowell WWThis quote is from the beloved leader of the Cuban people, Fidel Castro, from a speech at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, 13 years before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and 20 years before this month’s Hurricane Sandy. The US has persistently ignored that tomorrow is now; it has ignored it at the expense of the growing number of storm victims and survivors.

Over and over again, Cuba has had to pay for capitalism’s crimes against the very environment that sustains us as human beings. Cuba is a small island situated in the Caribbean Sea across from the Gulf of Mexico. So it has always been prone to hurricanes. But these storms have become increasingly destructive and deadly as a result of climate change generated by the profit system’s shortsightedness and greed. In 2006, Cuba was the only nation in the world that met the World Wide Fund for Nature’s definition of sustainable development.

And yet, each year as storms hit the region, Cuba avoids losing its people to the ravages of the hurricanes. When deaths do occur, they are minimal compared to those in other countries. This year, Cuba lost an unprecedented 11 lives to Hurricane Sandy. The US lost 132 — and those numbers will undoubtedly rise.

One could say that Cuba is able to protect its people because it has more experience dealing with hurricanes. But that’s actually only a small part of the equation.

The bigger part is the love and dedication to human life that a socialist system bestows on its people. In 2008, before Hurricane Gustav hit, Fidel said: “We are lucky to have a Revolution! It is a fact that nobody will be neglected.”

In Cuba major planning and preparation go into hurricane preparedness, and when they do hit, these plans are executed with precision. In Cuba, 55,000 people were evacuated from their homes before Sandy hit this year.

For the Cubans, “evacuation” doesn’t mean what it does in the US — where politicians stand on a podium and yell, “Get out!,” then blame those who “didn’t leave” because they didn’t have transportation, or because they have disabilities or medical situations, or because they have nowhere to go.

In Cuba, a plan is devised for how each person will be evacuated and where each one will go. If, for instance, there is an elderly woman living on the second floor of a house in a wheelchair, people are designated in advance to help carry her down the stairs, and they know which relative or which civil defense area is prepared to house her.

Because lives come before profit in Cuba, any and all resources are commandeered for the emergency relief — from boats and buses to buildings and communication networks. All social, economic and military organizations are involved in the effort and every community. Strong bonds of solidarity tie Cubans together as a safety net against any storm.

Now some would say, well, Cuba’s this small island with a smaller population than the US; they can afford to do this for their population. But the US is the wealthiest country in the world, with the most resources in the world.

There is absolutely no reason why the US cannot effectively organize protection for every single person in the country — no reason, of course, except its priorities. Capitalism’s main focus, its only reason for existing, is to secure the profits of the 1 percent, the ruling class. People’s lives — especially those of the poor, people of color and workers — are totally expendable.

Meanwhile, Cuba is saddled with a blockade that the US has imposed on it for some 50 years now. This makes getting even the most basic medicines, construction equipment, etc., extremely difficult. And Cuba still takes care of its people.

Again, it’s an issue of priorities.

Not only does Cuba take care of its own, but it also shares its expertise with the world. We can never forget the image of Cuban doctors lined up at the airport, waiting to fly to the US to aid survivors of Hurricane Katrina, only to be rejected by President Bush.

So this year, as we provide mutual aid, support and love to our sisters and brothers suffering from the storm — as we expose the ravages of the storm of capitalism upon our daily lives — we would like to give our thanks to socialist Cuba for its efforts in protecting the lives of the entire world, both politically and materially.

And we want to renew our commitment to destroy capitalism, so that the people everywhere can live. Cuba’s socialist system shows the way.

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Hurricane Sandy

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One comment

  1. tell me what you know of Somalia vs western imperialism 2006 to now … and did you hear of Glencore, a new private mercenary company to patrol for Somali pirates

    this Glencore (another Blackwater terrorist style group), the failed French attack today and all white colonialists are against Somalia … i gathered some history on this and trying to put perspective relevant to current events … between in Mali *sheesh*



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