[News] Fidel - Hurricane as Nuclear Strike

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 4 11:16:03 EDT 2008


http://www.counterpunch.org/castro09042008.html

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 couldn’t 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. "I’ve never seen 
anything like it in the almost 50 years I’ve 
lived here!" said an astounded resident. A young 
soldier getting out of an amphibious vehicle 
shouted, "Let’s 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 people’s 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 hurricane’s 
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. It’s 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 Youth’s 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. 
Let’s 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:

"Dear Fidel:

"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 
still sky-high
 Many have lost their homes and 
almost everyone’s 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
 The island 
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 they’re still alive, and not 
thinking much about having lost their belongings. 
They are trying to save what’s 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: 
"We’re 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 
fishermen’s 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 let’s 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. Let’s 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.




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