[News] Fidel - Hurricane as Nuclear Strike
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 4 11:16:03 EDT 2008
September 4, 2008
When Gustav Hit Cuba
Hurricane as Nuclear Strike
By FIDEL CASTRO
It is not an overstatement. This is the general
expression of many compatriots. It was the
impression of the Revolutionary Armed Forces
Chief of Staff Major General Alvaro Lopez Miera,
an experienced soldier, when he saw the twisted
steel towers, the shattered houses and the
devastation everywhere in the Isle of Youth.
"It has been a hard blow; I couldnt even imagine
it," Ana Isa Delgado, the Party secretary and
president of the Defense Council in that
important municipality, said in a voice that was
hoarse but steady and resolute. "Ive never seen
anything like it in the almost 50 years Ive
lived here!" said an astounded resident. A young
soldier getting out of an amphibious vehicle
shouted, "Lets demonstrate that we are ready to
give our lives for the people!"
In Herradura, looking at the devastation all
around him, Army Corps General Leopoldo Cintra
Frías shared his admiration for and amazement at
the peoples courage and said, "This is like
seeing a nuclear explosion." He came close to
seeing one in Southwest Angola, if the South
African racists had decided to drop one of the
seven bombs supplied them by the U.S. government
on the Cuban-Angolan forces. That was a
calculated risk, however, and the most convenient tactics were adopted.
Polo was accompanied by Olga Lidia Tapia, Party
first secretary and president of the Provincial
Defense Council, who never doubted for a second
the results of the efforts and determination of her compatriots.
In all honesty, I daresay that the photos and
film footage shown on national television on
Sunday reminded me of the desolation I saw when I
visited Hiroshima, victim of the first nuclear strike in August 1945.
With good reason, it is said that hurricanes
release an enormous amount of energy, equal,
perhaps, to thousands of nuclear weapons like the
ones used on the cities of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. It would be worthwhile for a Cuban
physicist or mathematician to do the relevant
calculations and make a comprehensible presentation.
Now the battle lies in feeding the hurricanes
victims. The difficulty does not lie in
reestablishing electricity as soon as possible.
The problem in the Isle of Youth is that only two
of 16 bakeries all equipped with electric ovens
and generators were able to operate
immediately; the buildings had been severely
damaged. They needed to receive bread or
crackers. The amount of roofing and other
materials needed for housing at this time is
enormous. And the Isle of Youth is separated from
the main island by the sea. Its not enough to
fill up trucks with food and material to send there directly.
Our Armed Forces have sent airfield and land and
air transport specialists. Day and night, with
the help of generators, planes can land on the
Isle of Youths airports. Their mission is to
wage a battle for the people without wasting any
resources. They will act with the same spirit in
devastated areas of Pinar del Río (province). All
agencies and institutions have their assigned
tasks; they are all important. But goods do not
come out of the blue. Sharing involves sacrifice.
Lets not give ourselves the luxury of forgetting this in a few days.
Adverse events should serve to make us work more
efficiently every day and for rationally and
fairly using every piece of material. We must
fight against our own shallowness and
selfishness. One hundred million dollars
signifies just nine dollars per inhabitant, and
we need much more. We need 30 times, 40 times
that figure just to meet our most basic needs.
That effort must come from the work of our people. Nobody can do it for us.
Obviously, our capacity to disseminate news has
increased and our people, who know how to read
and write, are also highly educated.
Kcho, the painter, went by plane to the Isle of
Youth, his birthplace, and sent us a letter about
the high morale of his compatriots. These are a few paragraphs:
"It seemed important to me, after arriving on the
island and seeing with my own eyes and feeling
with my body everything that was happening, to
get in touch with Richard so that you could know
about the terrible situation in this special municipality.
"I have no words to express the reality of what I
saw yesterday in the Isle of Youth. In all my 38
years, I have never seen anything like it and the
people I talked to in my province have never seen
anything worse, but incredibly, their morale is
Many have lost their homes and
almost everyones belongings, beds, mattresses,
TV sets, refrigerators, etc., are ruined. Most of
the population is in this situation; it is
estimated that of the 25,000 homes on the island
and this is not the final figure some 20,000
have been affected to some extent, and half of
those 20,000 have no roofs or are totally destroyed.
The brigade of 52 electrical line workers from
Camagüey worked until 3 a.m. and started work
again today at 6:30 a.m. with tremendous
determination. They are expecting another group
of 60-plus workers from Holguín
There are still many unresolved problems, such
as houses that were destroyed by Hurricane Michelle in 2001.
"There are serious problems with food
is like a prison right now, precisely because it
is an island, even though flights have resumed
Money has no value because there is nothing to
buy and nowhere to go to buy anything.
"Human solidarity is the most important thing
right now. Morale is high but that will not last
forever; it will be necessary to resolve some
things in the coming days. As electric power is
reestablished, (it would be good to) create
information points where people can gather to
learn about what is going on in the country and
the municipality, or just to listen to music or spend some time together.
"Right now the province is a theater of military
operations during a truce, where people are
happy because theyre still alive, and not
thinking much about having lost their belongings.
They are trying to save whats left and adjusting
to that new situation, but as the days go by
their morale may fall and they could become depressed.
The conditions in the hospital are subhuman,
and only the determination and convictions of
revolutionary men and women are making it function.
"Pineros (the people of the Isle of Youth) are
revolutionary and combative and everybody is
working tirelessly (patients, relatives and
medical personnel). The 32 patients requiring
hemodialysis each accompanied by a relative and
nurses arrived in the capital yesterday at
approximately 4:00 p.m. They had spent 48 hours
without treatment but they were doing fine.
"The morale of the pineros is high, and they are
happy with the work being done by the
corresponding institutions, and by the fact that
not one human life was lost in Pinar del Rio, the Isle of Youth or Matanzas.
"I think that for the Isle to return to what it
was will take a lot of time with work and a lot
of resources, as if it were a province, because now, everything is devastated."
With his letter, he (Kcho) sent eloquent photos
of the devastation. On the envelope, he drew an
outline of the Isle of Youth with a Cuban flag flying.
The excellent painters who have always
accompanied our battles of ideas might leave a
record of this episode and encourage our people in their epic struggle.
Orfilio Pelaez in the Granma (newspaper) told us
about a hurricane that hit in 1846 with a record
minimum pressure of 916 hPa registered by a
machine. That happened 162 years ago, when there
was no radio, television, movies, Internet or
many other means of communication that sometimes
clash, creating chaos in our minds.
The Cuban population at that time was at least 12
times smaller. Using slave and semi-slave labor,
the country exported the largest amount of sugar
and coffee for a considerable part of that
century. Retirement did not exist, life
expectancy was much lower, and the illnesses of
old age were almost unknown, as was mass
education, which is so much needed for the
development of so many brains and brawn. Natural
resources were abundant. Hurricanes had a big
impact but did not signify a national disaster.
Climate change, quite far-off, was not even a subject of discussion.
In the Granma (newspaper) of today, Tuesday, the
same journalist tells us about the heroic feats
of our people in their battle for recuperation,
and the fruits of efforts made in recent years.
For his part, Rubiera, the scientist, made a
detailed observation of the ruins of the
Meteorology Institute facilities in Paso Real de
San Diego during his tour of Pinar del Rio; he
saw how the wind-measuring equipment registered
340 kilometers (per hour) when it was destroyed
by strong gusts of wind. It was been announced
that he will speak as part of the "Roundtable"
(TV/radio program) today. He has theories about what happened.
Juan Varela, for his part, has reported on damage
to the largest agricultural farm in Güira de
Melena, Habana province. This farm should have
produced about 140,000 tons of root vegetables,
grains and green vegetables this year. As I see
it, losses in work time, food products, farming
and irrigation equipment, fuel and other costs,
at international prices, total millions just at that enterprise.
However, the most impressive event, because of
the human drama portrayed, was reported by
journalist Alfonso Nacianceno and photographer
Juvenal Balan: the odyssey of the five crew
members of the Langostero 100 (lobster boat) from
Batabanó in Habana province. These workers had
been ordered back to port like all the other
fishing boats, in due time. By pure chance, they
were delayed. On Saturday, as the hurricane was
quickly advancing, communication with them was
lost. I had said in two previous reflections:
"Were lucky to have a Revolution! No citizen will be abandoned to his fate."
I found out the lobster boat was incommunicado on
Saturday, almost at midnight. Raúl had given me
news of the situation; he was confident in the
fishermens experience in dealing with storms and
hurricanes. He told me that at dawn, he would
send the necessary resources to find them. As
soon as the weather improved, the search started;
it eventually involved 36 boats, three
helicopters and two planes for almost two days.
There was no trace of the (lobster) boat, but
they found the shipwrecked men. What they
describe is incredible; whoever is familiar with
the sea knows what it means to spend endless
hours hanging on to an oar and then a buoy.
The revolutionary miracle happened and the fishermen were rescued.
But lets not get carried away by illusions. This
hurricane has left behind 100,000 homes hit to a
lesser or greater extent and the almost total
loss of things needed after a tragedy, as Kcho explains in his letter.
How many safe, hurricane-proof homes does Cuba
need? No less that 1.5 million houses for a total
of 3.5 million families. Lets estimate what it
would cost internationally for such an investment
according to figures used worldwide.
A family in Europe has to pay at least $100,000,
plus interest, for which they contribute $700 per
month of their income for 15 years. Ten billion
dollars is the approximate cost of 100,000 homes
for average-size families in the developed
countries, which are the ones that determine the
prices of industrial and food products in the
world. To this, we must add the cost of social
facilities that were affected and must be
rebuilt, economic facilities and those required for development.
It is only from our work, I repeat, that the
resources will come. While the new generations
are carrying out this task, the men and women of
this country need the solidarity, courage and
combativeness shown by the people of Pinar del Río and the Isle of Youth.
The empire is going through a difficult test at
this time, in the second half of the year,
involving its ability to deal with the
difficulties brought about by its lifestyle at
the expense of other peoples. Now they need a change at the wheel.
Bush and Cheney have almost been left out of the
Republican campaign for being warmongers and
undesirables. There is no debate about changing
the system; it is about how to preserve it at a lesser cost.
Developed imperialism will end up killing
everyone trying to enter its territory to become
wage slaves and have something to eat. It is
already doing so. The chauvinism and egotism generated by that system is huge.
We know that and we will continue developing
solidarity, our greatest resource within and outside of our country.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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