Monday, September 29, 2008
In previous situations, Boca de Camarioca in the 60’s, Mariel in the 80’s and the last one in the mid 90’s, always the Cuban authorities had, in some justified way, allowed it to go on until the US authorities were forced to some kind of agreement. But it was always first provoked by rigid US policies that did not take in consideration the consequences of such policies.
I think that the Cuban Government and Party have the means and political tools to avoid such a situation today, but it is obviously a possibility.
As you have been probably able to watch, the destruction in Pinar del Río, Holguín and Las Tunas, but not only in these provinces, has been enormous and it has hit private houses in the worst way. Just as much, it also hit agricultural production and electrical energy infrastructure.
There is already a certain scarcity of sweet potatoes (bonitato), malanga (I don’t know the name in English), bananas and plantain, fresh pork and goat meat and others basic food in the “agromercados” and it will get worse. There is also a problem in the CUC ("dollar") stores to get cooking oil (you can only get soya oil), tomatoe paste, canned fish and meat, frozen chicken, cheese and fresh meat.
The only solution is a rapid recuperation of agricultural production. The private agricultural sector is the main producer, but can not do it by itself, It is needed that the state farms under their various forms of organization increase production, something they have been unable to do in 50 years, without huge investment in machinery, fertilizers, insecticides and other inputs that are no longer available.
As the destruction is shown by TV, people get surprised to see how poor the houses were before the hurricanes, and slowly everybody is starting to realize that it will take decades to bring housing to, even, the previous poor situation.
An immediate political result of the destruction is the solidarity and unity of purpose that brings among the people. This is probably true in every country. In Cuba it is even more so, as the Government and Party had created a solid organization that includes more and more people to people solidarity, to confront hurricanes and heavy rains. Also because of the quick and effective response to start reconstruction, that includes, even, cultural groups with well known artists performing in the more severely affected areas. Of course the limited resources are the main problem.
But, is difficult to predict how the mood will change as the reality of an even poorer country, with even more economic and social problems, takes hold slowly of people's minds.
So, yes it is almost certain that there will be an increase of emigration. Whether it will be massive and illegal, depends of many factors. Of course the impact of a limited in time lift of the embargo, or the increase in remittances and traveling, will help to avoid that this problem gets out of hand. As has happened in the past, I doubt the US Administration will take in consideration the consequences of their fanatic anti-evolution policies. Even without massive emigration, it is always safer for you not to provoke problems to your neighbor that can affect you in the long run.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Hurricanes Shift Debate On Embargo Against
By Joshua Partlow
Wednesday, September 24, 2008; A01
For the first time in the 47-year history of the
But even the most hawkish Cuban exile groups are pushing the Bush administration to go much further. Traditionally a voice for greater isolation of the Castro government, the Cuban exile lobby has asked Congress to lift the four-year-old rules that limit Cuban Americans to sending $300 every three months to immediate family on the island and to making just one trip to
So far, though, the Cuban government has rejected the
"I will not be surprised if we're looking at a major immigration crisis in the next few months," said Silvia Wilhelm, executive director of the Miami-based Cuban American Commission for Family Rights, an organization that promotes closer U.S.-Cuba relations, who visited the island after the hurricanes. "We're talking a situation that is very critical for the Cuban people."
The question of who should help the Cubans in times of need and to what degree has shaped
Four days after Gustav struck
But on Sept. 13, six days after Hurricane Ike barreled into the island of 11.4 million people, the Bush administration raised its offer to $5 million, which
The Cuban government requested building materials instead of the blankets and "hygiene kits" the aid included, said José Cárdenas, the U.S. Agency for International Development's acting assistant administrator for Latin America and the
"These people are in dire need," he said. "We certainly hope that they would just accept it and get this stuff to the people who need it."
In an attempt to fulfill the request for building materials, the
But Fidel Castro, who because of illness handed over official power to Raúl in February but remains highly influential, has signaled that the Communist Party would reject the
"Our country cannot accept a donation from the government that blockades us," he wrote recently in Granma, the party's daily newspaper. "The damage of thousands of lives, suffering, and more than $200 billion that the blockade and the aggression of the Yankees has cost us -- they can't pay for that with anything."
Despite the offers, many Cuban exiles who favor more contact with the island have sharply criticized the Bush administration.
"A whole group that you could consider extreme right-wing a year ago is now in favor of two very important changes," said Alfredo Duran, a
Last week, El Nuevo Herald, a traditionally hard-line Spanish-language newspaper in
"Now, they offend intelligence and sensibility," the paper said. "That absurd strategy does not benefit North America's best interests nor puts pressure for the return of freedom to
The Cuban American National Foundation, historically the most powerful Cuban exile organization, still supports the embargo. But it is now actively campaigning to eliminate the travel and remittance restrictions, and recently sent a letter to President Bush urging him to waive them. The president of the foundation, Francisco Hernandez, said the Cuban government is taking advantage of the storms to win international political support while the Bush administration is "tying the hands of its friends, the Cuban American community."
"We all have, down here in Miami, a terrible sense of frustration at this administration at this time, because we are wasting the greatest opportunity for those who want freedom and democracy in Cuba to help and to be agents of change in Cuba," said Hernandez, who took part in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and described the current U.S. policy as an "even bigger mistake."
The winds flattened fields of sugar cane, the coffee harvest was hurt badly, and tobacco-curing sheds collapsed. Millions of acres of crops were damaged in the storms. The destruction left an estimated 200,000 people homeless and left others facing severe damage and long delays in the arrival of building supplies to repair what remains.
"Everything was destroyed -- look at this," said Linda Meléndez, the sun beating down into what was her living room before Hurricane Gustav tore the roof off her home here in this city of 40,000 people set among cultivated fields.
The Cuban government had classified her house as a partial loss, she said, preventing her family from receiving wood to build a temporary backyard hut.
"How long can we wait for materials?" she said.
On the way west out of
Here in Los Palacios, every house appeared to have sustained at least some damage. But the rebuilding effort, in comparison to the chaos of neighboring
Rubble and debris have been swept into piles along every street. Several residents said the government had assessed the damage and outlined the building materials they were supposed to receive. Many people were living with friends and neighbors, had moved into public buildings or were constructing small wooden shacks in their yards until the supplies arrived.
"I have never seen a storm like this; it was terrible," said Mario de Jesús Fuentes
His family went 15 days without electricity. Prices of gasoline and cooking oil have risen. The stores have shortages of rice, he said, and there is hardly any meat at the butcher's.
"We have no money now," said his mother, Encarnación Campos, 81, who has a son living in
Thursday, September 25, 2008
LETTER TO EDITOR: Help for Cuba
For observers of the diplomatic chess match being played between Havana and Washington over humanitarian relief to the victims of hurricanes Gustav and Ike in Cuba, it is easy to overlook the positive steps taken by the U.S. government following its initial timid offer of $100,000 in assistance.
Despite at least five rejections by the Cuban government of U.S. offers of assistance, the administration has moved quickly to get assistance to the victims of the hurricane damage in Cuba.
These measures include: expediting licenses for nonprofit organizations wishing to send assistance to Cuba, delivering approximately $1.7 million in aid through nongovernmental organizations working in Cuba, and authorizing the sale of $250 million in agricultural goods to Cuba, including lumber.
The latest U.S. offer includes $6.3 million worth of construction materials to help Cuba rebuild. Though these offers fall short of the immense estimated need for the Cuban people (projected to be between $4 billion and $5 billion), they represent positive steps that deserve praise.
U.S. officials have proved their willingness to work with Cuban officials (even sit down with them) to make the legitimate U.S. offer of assistance more palpable for a regime with an already bruised ego.
This tragedy has presented the U.S. government with a unique opportunity to demonstrate the generosity of America. U.S. officials' willingness to take these positive steps is evidence that some in our government understand the importance of this opportunity.
Recognizing the Cuban government's stubborn unwillingness to accept U.S. assistance, these officials would do well to press on the administration the value of family-to-family assistance in circumstances such as this and advocate to suspend restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba by Cuban-Americans.
The U.S. government's willingness to take these steps stands in contrast to a cruel regime that rejects the assistance its people so desperately need and prefers to play politics rather than ensure the well-being of its citizens.
Cuba Study Group
You are quoted in the Miami Herald today:
''It's hard to understand -- hard -- how they put politics ahead of suffering,''
We agree that Cuba should be more flexible about receiving US hurricane assistance. However, I also think that Washington is putting politics ahead of suffering at least as much as Havana.
FRD has circulated on line the following letter to the President which currently has about 950 signers, many of whom are Cuban American. I encourage you to review the list and browse through the comments http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Cubafloodaid/signatures.html.
- Because of the devastation suffered by Cuba from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and the history of conflict and suspicion between our countries, creative means must be found to enable the traditional compassion of Americans to express itself in assistance to the Cuban people in a timely fashion.
- We urge an immediate 180 day suspension by Presidential order, or by legislation, of Treasury and Commerce Department restrictions and licensing requirements for humanitarian travel and remittances by all Americans and assistance from not-for-profit organizations granted tax-exempt status by the IRS.
Without this kind of paradigm changing breakthrough, officials of both countries will continue to posture and score points with their respective audiences, and the Cuban people will pay the price.
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
145 Palisade Street, Suite 401
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
GranmaHavana. September 19, 2008Statements by Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez RoqueGenocide and the latest anti-Cuba propaganda showBy María Julia MayoralStatements by Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque THE economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States for 50 years is the main obstacle to Cuba's development, the well-being of the Cuban people and, under the current circumstances, all the work involved in recovering from the extensive damage caused by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, stated Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque in Havana.He affirmed that, since its implementation, the blockade has resulted in more than $93 billion in losses, which at current dollar values is the equivalent of $224.6 billion. He noted that this figure is based on conservative estimates, including only duly documented losses; there are many direct and indirect effects that have not been quantified.Last year saw the most brutal implementation of the blockade, the foreign minister said. At today's prices, economic damage in 2007 totaled $3.775 billion. Irrational persecution of businesses, banks and citizens of the United States and other countries continues, including the obstruction of Internet sites related to Cuba, he noted.At our country's proposal, this coming October 29, a draft resolution will be submitted to the United States General Assembly for a vote on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade. It will be the 17th time that the issue has been put to the consideration of that important body and, last year, Cuba's demand received a "yes" vote from 184 of the 192 member nations.Cuba is confident that it will once again receive the overwhelming support of the international community, Pérez Roque affirmed. "The blockade is a violation not only of our rights but of the sovereignty of third countries and the rights of their businesses and citizens. It flagrantly violates the rights of the U.S. people and Cubans who live there, and according to the Geneva Convention, qualifies as an act of genocide," he affirmed.QUITE DIFFERENT ATTITUDESIn response to questions from reporters, the minister said that, in the wake of the disasters caused by Gustav and Ike, more than 20 countries have offered Cuba humanitarian aid, donations and cooperation projects, and another dozen have sent messages of encouragement and their willingness to cooperate. This contrasts with the attitude taken by the United States.A U.S. State Department information sheet published a few days ago confirmed an attempt to launch a propaganda campaign in order to try to divert attention from the broad debate and the reiterated appeals of the international community to lift the blockade on Cuba, Pérez Roque noted.That information sheet, titled "Humanitarian Assistance to the Cuban People after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike," says that after Gustav's passing, the U.S. government granted licenses for $250 million in agricultural sales to Cuba. This is an attempt to present the bureaucratic process imposed on U.S. companies - which includes obtaining licenses from the State and Treasury Departments, plus other agencies - as proof of that government's willingness to sell food to Cuba, when in reality, the obstacles to that process still prevail.That distortion was described by the foreign minister as "blatant manipulation," because everyone knows that food sales are not new; they have existed for several years, and they are not aid. Cuba must buy these products and pay for them upfront, in violation of regular international practices, but that was a stipulation of the U.S. government. Neither Cuban nor U.S. banks can participate in payment transactions; they have to recur to banks in third countries. This is not a question of trade, because it is a one-way operation. Cuba is prohibited from exporting to the U.S. market, and the ships that come to our countries return empty to the United States.The State Department document also says that the U.S. government provided immediate emergency aid of $100,000 to non-governmental organizations participating in humanitarian aid operations in our country. "We don't have the slightest idea of where that money ended up," Pérez Roque said, "and we never asked for it."The information sheet states that the United States is willing to provide up to $5 million. It has already made itself clear about the Cuba issue, Pérez Roque noted. This is a U.S. propaganda operation to try to make itself look like the "good guy," as Fidel commented in a recent "Reflection" column.The State Department sheet also says that the U.S. people are the greatest providers of humanitarian aid to the Cuban people; this is based on the manipulation of the following figures: According to the U.S. claim, last year, $20.6 million in non-agricultural humanitarian aid came to Cuba, along with $40.5 million in medical donations, making a total of $61 million. "We can confirm that during 2007, Cuba received donations from U.S. NGOs worth $6.1 million; in other words, 10 times less."In 2000, before President Bush entered the White House, more than 160 U.S. NGOs were participating in that humanitarian effort. They were institutions of diverse types from virtually every U.S. state and had licenses from the government of the time. Due to persecution by the Bush administration, today there are only 21 NGOs with licenses, Pérez Roque commented."For us, the main value of those deliveries is not based on figures but the nobility of the gesture, and we appreciate the efforts by U.S. NGOs who carry out that work in a noble and friendly way that speaks to the best values of that country's people and is done from a position of respect for and sympathy toward Cuba."According to the State Department, last year the people of that country sent humanitarian aid to Cuban people in the form of gifts worth $179 million, taking into account shipments from residents in that country to their relatives in Cuba. "The idea that the United States would try to present this as an effort by its government is insolent, because President Bush intensified the regulations and prohibitions related to this issue, reduced the value of permitted packages and changed the content of what can be sent, the frequency of deliveries and the category of those who may receive these packages, because they arbitrarily redefined the concept of family," he said."It is our duty to clarify the truth for public opinion, while that propagandistic aberration is being pursued with the goal of diverting attention from the main issue: we have not asked the United States for help because we cannot accept donations from a government that is blockading us; we are prepared to buy indispensable materials that U.S. companies place on the export market; we are requesting authorization for the supply of these resources and the normal credits used in commercial operations."If the U.S. government does not wish to do so definitively, Cuba has requested that it authorize these measures for the next six months, taking into account the damages caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike and the fact that the most dangerous months of the hurricane season are yet to come."To date, the U.S. government has not responded to the request officially reiterated for the third time a few days ago, Pérez Roque noted. This is still pending a response, but meanwhile, that country is mounting propaganda shows of rhetoric, of ill-intentioned publicity, at a time when our people are facing a situation of danger and pain.Referring to imperialism's real intentions, Pérez Roque noted that, this year, the U.S. government is spending - through just one of its agencies, USAID - $46 million on its mercenary groups in Cuba, with the aim of promoting internal subversion, and $40 million on maintaining its illegal, anti-Cuba radio and television broadcasts. "This is not even taking into account the CIA and other agencies."While the two hurricanes caused enormous devastation, the Cuban people and government are confident that we will continue moving forward, Pérez Roque stated. "Despite all of the adversities, including the ruthless and prolonged blockade, our country will continue moving forward and will do so with the united strength of all of its sons and daughters, without leaving anyone abandoned. We will demonstrate once again what a popular revolution and a people in power are capable of doing," he affirmed.In response to a question about relations with the European Union, the foreign minister observed that some progress has been made on normalization in recent months, especially since the EU finally decided to renounce its attempts to impose sanctions on Cuba.The EU made a proposal for political dialogue which Cuba accepted, but first it will be necessary to discuss and establish its foundations, and that means this must be done between equals, with respect for the independence of nations, the principle of non-intervention in domestic affairs, and of the sovereign equality of countries, he emphasized.Translated by Granma International .
In Cuba, recovery is slow and uncertain
On a clattering, old metal contraption rigged up in a drab concrete compound, Marlen Vargas López, a smiling soul with close-cropped hair, whipped up a fresh batch and pulled a lever to fill cone after cone with chocolate, the flavor of the day.
''It's refreshing,'' said one young man, stopped in front of the store in the scorching afternoon sun. ``At least it relieves the heat.''
The ice-cream treat was about all there was for sale at El Recreo, one of the few shops open in the dismal location south of Havana. Clara Balladares Gomes, another store clerk, said there were no snacks, no bottled water and no soft drinks at the rundown outlet.
While the flooding from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike has receded, filthy pools of stagnant water still lined the streets in front of the wood shack homes on a recent afternoon, giving off a stench.
The shanties were scarcely habitable before the western region of Cuba -- from the Gulf of Batabanó to the agriculture-rich province of Pinar del Río -- was pummeled by back-to-back hurricanes within eight days beginning Aug. 30. Now, the homes are musty, and many roofs leak when it rains.
Spotting newcomers in the street, a middle-aged woman in worn shorts trailed after the visitors, offering to provide overnight accommodations and meals at a ''casa particular,'' or private home that takes in guests.
Now, more than ever, she could use the money.
The twin natural disasters may be the worst to ever hit the communist island, with preliminary damage estimates for the two storms reaching an estimated $5 billion. According to reports in the Cuban newspaper Opciones, more than 444,000 homes were damaged, with some 63,249 destroyed. The electric grid was badly crippled. Gustav wiped out more than 800 tons of premium Cuban tobacco.
Numerous other crops also have been damaged. Last week, along a main highway in Pinar del Río, a small group of field workers, kneeling in a field of shallow water, used their hands to pull plants by the roots. One weary worker lifted his head and explained that much of the crop ``is damaged.''
Hurricane preparedness and massive evacuations clearly helped to minimize human injuries. Even hotel rooms on the island include detailed information on what to do in case of a hurricane. Several locals said they are used to the storms and closely monitor their tracks to know if they need to respond.
THE RELIEF EFFORT
Despite the devastation in the village of Surgidero de Batabanó, small boys -- the sons of local fishermen -- played in the street, merrily sloshing in filthy puddles.
Elsewhere, the government seemed to be working hard on the relief effort. In tourist-popular Viñales last week, many government workers joined in a cleanup, and workers from the electrical company were out in full force in a bid to restore power, erecting new poles and stringing lines.
Cuban officials blame whatever shortcomings are encountered on the U.S. embargo.
In the state newspaper Granma, an article said that a half-century economic war against the island will make it more difficult to rebuild, given that Cuba is a small country with limited financial resources.
But the government has reported little about the repeated offers of aid by the United States, which have been consistently turned down.
In the remote area of Surgidero de Batabanó, there was little sign of government aid on a recent afternoon, although two large tractor-trailer trucks, loaded with building blocks, rumbled through town on a delivery.
Even so, the residents of Surgidero de Batabanó count themselves relatively lucky compared with their neighbors.
The village, which sits about 30 miles south of Havana, serves as a launching point for ferries to the Isla de la Juventud, or Isle of Youth, a popular tourist destination that was devastated by the two hurricanes.
The island, off Cuba's south coast, remains in the dark after the consecutive storms knocked out electricity.
A COMMUNITY IN RUIN
Formerly known as the Isle of Pines, the island has a prison that once served as a cell for a young revolutionary named Fidel Castro. After a failed attack on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba on July 26, 1953, Castro and his accomplices were put on trial for the insurrection against Fulgencio Batista's government. At the trial, he declared he had no fear of prison, declaring that, ``History will absolve me.''
Most of the private homes on the isle that take in guests were among those leveled, making it difficult for residents who relied on precious tourist dollars. According to Cuban press reports, 80 percent of the poultry farming on the Isle of Youth also was seriously affected.
No one knows how long it will be before the isle will be able to restore enough infrastructure to attract tourists, who head there for its age-old cave paintings and outstanding coral reefs. But, for now, many travel officials are steering tourists away.
At Havana's airport last week, a ticket agent for Cubana airlines urged against visiting the Isle of Youth.
''Why would you want to go there?'' she asked. ``It's 100 percent finished.''
The name of the correspondent who filed this report was withheld because the reporter did not have the journalist's visa required by the Cuban government to report from the island.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Bush Plays Politics as Cubans Sufferhttp://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/09/cuban_crisis.html/print.html
By Stephanie Miller | September 23, 2008
Center for American Progress
With all of the talk and debate about the Bush administration's response to the financial crisis engulfing Wall Street, little attention is being paid to urgent and time sensitive legislation a few members of Congress have introduced in the last few days that would allow the United States to more effectively and meaningfully respond to the devastating humanitarian crisis in Cuba in the wake of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA), and Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), have introduced legislation that would temporarily ease heightened restrictions on direct family travel, remittances, and relief packages to Cuba that have been in place since 2004. Senators Dodd and Lugar's legislation contemplates widening the items that the Cuban government can purchase with cash to include items necessary for relief response. These are critical and important legislative measures that are even more noteworthy during this time of Wall Street bailouts because neither the House nor Senate initiative would cost tax payers a thing.
Efforts to respond to the crisis to date have been hijacked by political posturing by both the Bush administration and Raul Castro's government. The Bush administration has been offering aid and refusing to ease the restrictions on direct family travel and remittances that it tightened significantly in 2004, and the Castro government is refusing to accept any aid that does not involve a removal of the trade embargo. This leaves Cubans to confront the devastation on their own and Cuban Americans feeling despair as they hear from their relatives about the plight of people on the island.
Marlene Azola told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, and Oversight last week during her congressional testimony that while Haitian Americans can travel freely to Haiti to help their family and friends in the wake of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, Cuban Americans cannot exercise the same freedom. The Cuban people, not the Cuban government, are the ones suffering the most as a result of this policy. Even the President of the Cuban American Foundation of Miami, Francisco J. Hernandez—a man who participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion and has spent 49 years struggling against the Castro regime—said at the same congressional hearing:
"It is indefensible and intolerable that this issue be used to play politics while lives hang in the balance and while the ability to assist exists ... While we cannot force the Castro regime into providing a quick and even response to the crisis, we can unleash the goodwill and humanitarian support that the Cuban American community is eager to provide."
It is ironic that the same people who obsess about the growing influence of Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez and Russia in the Western Hemisphere—countries that have already provided aid relief to the Cuban people—are the ones stuck in a political jockeying match with the Castro regime that does nothing for the interests of the Cuban people or the interests of the United States in the hemisphere. As a Chicago Tribune opinion writer noted, "When the Castro brothers are history and the Cuban people contemplate what comes next, what they'll remember is that in September 2008, Hugo Chavez and Vladimir Putin were their friends. And we weren't."
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Canada helps Cubans affected by Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike
The Government of Canada today announced a $400,000 contribution to assist the people of Cuba affected by Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike.
Of that amount, $200,000 will be transferred to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), allowing the IFRC and the Cuban Red Cross to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to 40,000 Cubans whose lives have been devastated by the impact of the hurricanes. Provisions will include water filters, temporary shelter materials, and other much-needed emergency supplies such as kitchen sets, jerry cans, mosquito nets, towels, mattresses and sheet sets. This is in addition to the $100,000 provided on September 6 for initial emergency responses in Cuba, Haiti and the Caribbean.
In addition, $200,000 has been set aside for the Cuba Community Development Fund to support relief and reconstruction proposals submitted by local Cuban organizations.
Canadian officials are monitoring all regions of the Americas that have been hit by the recent storms and will continue to work with trusted humanitarian partners to ensure that this assistance is making a difference.
– 30 –
Information:Media Relations Office
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Friday, September 19, 2008
's October surprise Cuba
last updated: September 18, 2008 09:13:40 PM
If you live in
That's because Ike devastated a little island off
In a country of more than 11 million people, 2.7 million evacuated their homes when Ike came through. Today, 444,000 homes in
Food supplies on the island are nearly exhausted. The crops and livestock for domestic consumption and cash crops like tobacco and sugar cane, necessary for the hard currency to import food - are devastated. The island's electrical grid is severely damaged and in some places non-existent. Communication towers are down across the country. Roads are blocked with rubble from collapsed buildings, trees, or just washed away. Schools, hospitals, and clinics have suffered extensive damage or are non-functioning.
And it will only get worse. With at least $5 billion of damage done to a nation where the average monthly salary is $17, the economy will not be able to support the Cuban population for quite some time. Even the Cuban military is on short-rations with perhaps a week left. With food shelves empty, hoarding and black market price gouging will quickly squeeze all families, displaced or not, with little to no income and no subsistence agriculture to fall back on. As the vast majority of Cubans become malnourished and post-disaster diseases increase in prevalence, the political situation is likely to become much more volatile within
All this could occur within the next six weeks. Faced with a displaced, hungry and frustrated population,
The U.S. government is now offering Cuba a $1.5 million package of temporary shelter for 10,000 families and household items for 8,000 with an additional $3.5 million conditional on the survey of a U.S. disaster assessment team.(1) In contrast, Haiti, which was hit by three storms, has already received $19 million in aid from the U.S. government. Even
Indeed, an increase in funding for traditional humanitarian items is not what
Without those supplies, the boats could very well sail before November. Americans with family in
It is now time to lift the embargo, let
The Bush administration is between a rock and a hard place. If it continues with business as usual,
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Patrick Doherty participated in the humanitarian operation in Kosovo and the Balkans. They are chairman and director, respectively, of the U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative at the New America Foundation, 1630 Connecticut Avenue NW, 7th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20009; Web site: www.newamerica.net.
This essay is available to McClatchy-Tribune News Service subscribers. McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.
© 2008, New
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Yesterday, September 9, 2008, at 11:50 A.M., the Department of State conveyed to the Interests Section of Cuba in Washington Note Nº 252/18 in which, after expressing its regrets for the additional damage caused to the Cuban people by hurricane Ike, it insists in the visit to our country of a “humanitarian assessment team” to “inspect the affected areas”.
Today, September 10, at 7:20 P.M. the Interests Section of Cuba in Washington sent to the Department of State Note Nº 046/08, in which it conveys its appreciation for the expressions of regret by the Government of the United States for the damage caused in Cuba by hurricane Ike, and reiterates that Cuba does not require the assistance of a humanitarian assessment team as it has a sufficient number of trained specialists to deal with this task.
The Note emphasizes that if the Government of the
Likewise, it reiterates the request that the Government of the
The Note also calls the attention of the Department of State that the visit to
Lastly, the Note of the Interests Section of Cuba underscores to the Department of State that its Note Nº 252/18 insists in a request that the Government of Cuba had already replied to in Note Nº 1886 of September 6, 2008, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but, and it is highly significant, it does not actually respond to the two concrete requests made by the Government of Cuba to the Government of the United States in order to cope with the damage caused by hurricane Gustav, that it once again reiterates.
On the other hand, during the last few hours, spokespersons of the Government of the
Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, affirmed categorically on Sunday, September 7: “I don’t think that (…) the lifting of the embargo would be wise”.
The Spokesman of the Department of State, Sean McCormack, insisted, on Monday, September
On his part, the Cuban American Carlos
This is a cynical attitude of the Government of the
Why does the Government of the
Why does it use the precondition of sending an inspection team, something that no one else has done among the scores of countries that are already generously cooperating with
Why does the Government of the
Why does it forbid
These are the questions that the U.S. Government must answer.
These are the questions that the international community, that overwhelmingly supports
Anything else is pure rhetoric, pretexts and justifications that no one believes.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
BY MYRIAM MARQUEZ
Behind the yellow tape blocking the side street in a residential neighborhood in
''This has been my job for 30 years,'' she says, smiling.
Her ''job'' in the Catholic order of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul is to serve the poor with good deeds as much as kind words. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless -- Catholic works of mercy that know no political boundaries, only God's love.
As people from
Now is no time to debate. It's time to do -- and our community knows it.
The Daughters of Charity have found overwhelming support from
In just six days, the sisters have sent four 40-foot containers with $100,000 worth of food, water and medicines to the
It all started with Sister Hilda Alonso, the 87-year-old nun who heads the Daughters of Charity in
Since 1994, the six nuns have sent containers to
For years, her former Inmaculada students have dropped by the nuns' tidy, spare home with donations, knowing they will get to the right people.
As she sat at her metal desk next to her twin-size bed with a white cotton cover in her little bedroom, Sor Hilda, as the sister is called in Spanish, noted that by the end of this week the nuns will have shipped about six containers -- as much as they usually do in the entire year.
''It's been extraordinary, the generosity of those who live here,'' she told me, adding that people of all ethnicities were coming by to give.
It's not just goods -- it's also money that's needed. It costs $5,000 to ship a 40-foot container to
I had heard about Sor Hilda's good works for years, and this summer I had visited her with a friend to learn more about this little woman from tobacco country in Pinar del Río who has taken on such a mammoth job. For all her years of hard work, she's still the Energizer Bunny -- but without the drums to call attention to herself.
As one Inmaculada volunteer told me Thursday about the nun she knew in
Now the sisters are working around the clock to get emergency aid to
The nuns in
''We are sending to the places that have seen the worst devastation,'' she said.
Next week, the nuns will start collecting sheets and other needs. But today, it's all about food, water and other essentials.
Most of all, it's about unconditional love.
The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul are accepting food, water, medicine and linens for hurricane victims in
Aid for the enemy
September 18, 2008
Americans have rightly focused on the terrible devastation Hurricane Ike caused in
Back-to-back hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, destroyed thousands of homes in
It would, however, like to buy some food and roofing nails and the like. The Bush administration says no.
Cuban officials declined the offer, partly because they couldn't stomach the conditions and partly because
Long-standing animosity between the two governments makes it nearly unthinkable for
Many Cuban Americans, meanwhile, want Bush to loosen restrictions on travel across the straits and suspend limits on how much money they can send to relatives on the island. They're joined by Sen. Barack Obama, who supported such changes even before hurricane season, and by Democratic congressional candidate Raul Martinez, who's trying to unseat Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a
The Bush administration says it may increase caps on how much Americans can donate to relief agencies working in
"The embargo is very separate," Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez says.
Tell that to the Cuban people reeling from the ravages of hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
In the twisted exile logic that has long dictated our policy toward
When the Castro brothers are history and the Cuban people contemplate what comes next, what they'll remember is that in September 2008, Hugo Chavez and Vladimir Putin were their friends. And we weren't.