Last September, a Category 5 hurricane battered the small island of Cuba with 160-mile-per-hour winds. More than 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm. Although the hurricane destroyed 20,000 houses, no one died.
What is Cuban President Fidel Castro’s secret? According to Dr. Nelson Valdes, a sociology professor at the University of New Mexico, and specialist in Latin America, “the whole civil defense is embedded in the community to begin with. People know ahead of time where they are to go.”
“Cuba’s leaders go on TV and take charge,” said Valdes. Contrast this with George W. Bush’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina. The day after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Bush was playing golf. He waited three days to make a TV appearance and five days before visiting the disaster site. In a scathing editorial on Thursday, the New York Times said, “nothing about the president’s demeanor yesterday – which seemed casual to the point of carelessness – suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.”
“Merely sticking people in a stadium is unthinkable” in Cuba, Valdes said. “Shelters all have medical personnel, from the neighborhood. They have family doctors in Cuba, who evacuate together with the neighborhood, and already know, for example, who needs insulin.”
After Hurricane Ivan, the United Nations International Secretariat for Disaster Reduction cited Cuba as a model for hurricane preparation. ISDR director Salvano Briceno said, “The Cuban way could easily be applied to other countries with similar economic conditions and even in countries with greater resources that do not manage to protect their population as well as Cuba does.”
The above will undoubtedly be dismissed as lefty propaganda, even though the United Nations has acknowledged Cuba’s efficiency. But, of course, the UN is just a bunch of corrupt COMMUNISTS! Bush and his neo-Nazi friends say so, so it must be true. Oh, apart from when a country ignores a UN resolution that the US instigates, then that justfies going to war. Funny that, eh?
My thanks to Joalby for sending me this educating but ultimately depressing article. I’ve not written about Katrina because the scale of the loss is just too horrible, anything I write will sound trite and petty.
But the above article angered me so much. That America, the richest country in the world, can have such an appalling lack of care and organisation is staggering. And yet, tiny Cuba, which has been under continuous economic attack by the US for decades, manages so well that it receives praise from the UN. What the hell is going on?
It’s a one way deal with Bush: Americans are expected to pay their taxes, send their children to die in pointless wars and then wave the flag when the bodybags come home. But when a national disaster occurs…?
An Editor and Publisher article Wednesday said the Army Corps of Engineers “never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security – coming at the same time as federal tax cuts – was the reason for the strain,” which caused a slowdown of work on flood control and sinking levees.
“This storm was much greater than protection we were authorized to provide,” said Alfred C. Naomi, a senior project manager in the New Orleans district of the corps.
Unlike in Cuba, where homeland security means keeping the country secure from deadly natural disasters as well as foreign invasions, Bush has failed to keep our people safe. “On a fundamental level,” Paul Krugman wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, “our current leaders just aren’t serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don’t like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on prevention measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.”
It all comes down to a question of priorities. Please read the full article, linked above.