Yet another indictment of capitalism
Published Oct 26, 2005 10:04 PM
Once again, the great contrast in how
authorities responded to a natural disaster has illuminated the social and class
differences between the United States and Cuba.
Hurricane Wilma hit Cuba
twice. First, as it moved northwest through the Caribbean, it dumped an
unprecedented amount of rain on Cuba’s western provinces. Then, after it
hit Cancun in Mexico and swung toward Florida, it slammed the island’s
north shore with more rain and high winds that drove huge waves into the capital
city of Havana.
The recorded annual rainfall in Pinar del Rio, a fairly
dry western province, has never gone above 57 inches before. With Wilma and
earlier storms, the province’s total rainfall for this year is already at
Huge waves kicked up by Wilma breached Havana’s seawall
and flooded the city up to four blocks from the waterfront. Residents said the
flooding, which in places was three feet deep and inundated basement apartments,
was even worse than the 1993 hurricane that was dubbed “the storm of the
century.” The salt Wilma’s waves left behind is expected to cause
more damage to Havana’s buildings.
Despite all this, not one Cuban
life was lost to the storm.
For the first time, the Associated Press put
out an unbiased article on the effectiveness of Cuba’s emergency
preparedness system, which has been recognized by the United Nations and many
other countries as probably the best in the world.
Floods Havana but Kills None,” the AP report from the Cuban capital
appeared on Oct. 26 in the New York Times and several other U.S.
Why no Cubans died
“Part of the
country’s good fortune,” says the article, “could be because
Wilma never made landfall here, but many also credit the fact people in Fidel
Castro’s Cuba are instructed from an early age how to move quickly during
a natural disaster.
“The United Nations and other international
organizations have long praised Cuba’s track record in preserving lives
during hurricanes that regularly batter the island. When a tropical storm starts
brewing in the Caribbean, a well-oiled hurricane-response machine clicks on in
The article describes how everyone on the island is kept
informed when a storm nears. “Jose Rubiera, head of Cuba’s National
Meteorology Institute, starts making television appearances, contributing to his
near-celebrity status on the island. If asked on the street, most Cubans can
recite the storm’s latest coordinates and projected route.”
the storm looks like it is going to hit Cuba, the whole country mobilizes for
the evacuation phase.
“In the days before Wilma passed Cuba, about
700,000 people were evacuated in this country of about 11.2
“All the state’s resources are mobilized, focused on
the same goal: to ensure that no one dies.
“Vehicles are rounded up
to provide transport for people in danger areas, and schools and other
government buildings are converted into temporary
“Citizens serving on civil defense
committees—organized by community, by neighborhood, even by
block—also go into high gear, ensuring that each shelter is properly
stocked with food, water, blankets and other supplies. ...
time the storm hits, the streets are empty, with residents tucked away in
locations believed to be safe from whipping winds and drenching
Most of those evacuated—80 percent, according to
officials—were taken into their homes by other Cubans.
account continued: “‘Everyone helps each other here,’ Dayami
Gonzalez said Tuesday while cleaning up her Havana home after floodwaters that
had reached more than 3 feet inside began receding. ‘In the United States
it seems like there’s more egoism, where everyone just worries about
“Giraldo Garcia, 64 and retired, blamed the U.S.
government for the more than 1,000 Katrina-related deaths in New Orleans and the
rest of the Gulf Coast.
“‘It’s like those in power
don’t think about anything but war,’ Garcia said. ‘It was so
painful to see innocent people whose lives could have been saved.’ Garcia
praised his own country’s system. ... ‘If there’s any risk to
human lives, I know that the government won’t leave us to lady
Not mentioned in this article is that the Cubans also
don’t have to worry about what will happen to their jobs, or how they will
get health care if needed. In socialist Cuba, economic security, education and
health are guaranteed rights of all the people.
It seems to have taken the
terrible disaster on the Gulf Coast—where racism, poverty and the
protect-property-first attitude of the authorities led to such horrific levels
of death and suffering-to force such a truthful article about Cuba into the U.S.
Florida: curfews, no water
News about what is
happening in Florida since Wilma struck that very rich state is just now
starting to come out. At least six people are dead. Three million are still
without power, “including about 93 percent of customers in Broward and
Miami-Dade counties.” (New York Times, Oct. 26) Miami-Dade County is
predominantly [email protected] and Black.
People are lined up in their cars for
blocks expecting government deliveries of water and ice that don’t come.
They are being told to boil their tap water, but have no electricity to do so.
Dawn-to-dusk curfews are in place throughout the region. Who will be
stopped by the police? Wealthy whites, or poor African Americans and
By contrast, across the state in Naples, “one of the
wealthiest cities in the country” near where the hurricane first made
landfall, “ice and water distribution appeared to be going more
smoothly.” By Tuesday, Oct. 25, most of the streets there had already been
cleared of fallen trees and debris.
The hurricane also killed people in
Mexico, Haiti and Jamaica, where it did great damage. Most media coverage,
however, has focused on the problems faced by tourists in Cancun.
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