'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.
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© 2008, New