[MKE - Indymedia] What Can We Do after Two Hurricanes Devastated Cuba?

Art Heitzer aheitzer at igc.org
Thu Sep 11 19:31:32 PDT 2008

from Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba

    What Can We Do after Two Hurricanes Devastated Cuba?

Below is a summary of the unprecedented double hurricane assault on Cuba, and what we can do, especially for Wisconsin's seriously damaged sister cities in the province of Camaguey. This has 3 parts: 1) what Cuba has undergone; 2) how you can help with relief efforts; and 3) some emergency political steps to allow Cuba to feed its people and rebuild as soon as possible. But first, a quick overview.

In the last two weeks, Cuba was attacked by two Category 4 hurricanes, with winds up to 200 mph and torrential rains and flooding, affecting all 14 provinces, with 2.5 million evacuated, leaving mass devastation. The immediate human toll was minor compared to Haiti, where 1,000 deaths are reported so far from 4 hurricanes which hit there but with much less physical impact than attacked Cuba. Cuba typically has no deaths when there are scores in nearby countries, due to well organized preparations and evacuations -- which obviously disrupts the economy even aside from the massive injury suffered in recent days. 

The Wisconsin Medical Project, IFCO/Pastors for Peace and MEDICC are among the groups with relief campaigns (see below). And groups from the right to the left (including the Cuban American National Foundation, US Conference of Bishops, anti-embargo professional & activist groups) are asking the White House to temporarily lift restrictions on private sector donations and travel from the US. Largely ignored has been Cuba's request for a suspension in the US ban on private credit for its food purchases from the US and the absolute ban on its purchase of US materials for reconstruction. (See Cuba's statement at the end of this email; the US position was reported in the NY Times article featured in our last email, and is easy to find on line.) 

At our Sept. 9th Coalition meeting, we agreed to prioritize support for the Wisconsin Medical Project, which will send aid to Camaguey city and province, and earmark Milwaukee area contributions for Milw.'s sister city, the coastal port of Nuevitas (including the resort of Santa Lucia), which was badly hit after over 27,000 were evacuated, which is the bulk of its entire population.  For this & other reports by location, try http://www.miamifly.net/maps/cuba_ike/. For updated information on groups assisting Cuba and other news of the hurricane's humanitarian and political impact at its Cuba Humanitarian Assistance, visit blogsite. 

                                                                      I. Unprecedented Devastation 

With direct and sustained blows from hurricanes Gustav and Ike, Cuba has suffered unprecedented losses in agriculture, homes, electricity and the infrastructure this week. Thanks to Cuba's model evacuation system, there were no deaths on the island due to Hurricane Gustav and the death toll was limited to four despite the ferocious impact of Hurricane Ike. But the devastation is widespread. On Aug. 30, Gustav, a Category 4 hurricane, with record wind gusts over 200 miles per hour, pummeled the Isle of Youth and Pinar del Río province. Hurricane Gustav destroyed or damaged 100,000 homes in Cuba.  
Yet, as the people were quickly mobilizing to recover and rebuild from Gustav's destruction, Hurricane Ike, also a Category 4, tore through half of Cuba on Sept. 7 and 8, again with catastrophic damage to agriculture, homes and infrastructure. On the 9th, it resumed its path through western Cuba, and torrential rains continued Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 10th, the fourth day of Ike's onslaught.  

In Gustav, half of the Isle of Youth was flooded. Of the 25,000 homes there, 10,000 are without roofs or totally destroyed, 10,000 more are seriously damaged. Of the 16 bakeries that sustain the population there, 14 were destroyed. In one region of Santiago alone, more than 150,000 banana trees were wiped out. Agricultural production and storage facilities are leveled throughout the island. Cuba's agriculture cannot recover in sufficient time for the people to receive the food they need now and in the near future.   

In summary, Cuba is in dire need of a massive influx of purchases and donations of food, construction and electrical materials. Massive recovery efforts are underway on the island and the population is fully engaged. 

                       II.A. Wisconsin's Sisters in Cuba, Camaguey & Nuevitas, Hit Worse Than Ever Before

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