Archive for February 20th, 2014

Natural Disasters and Planning: the Cuban State and Popular Participation

February 20, 2014

4

How the Cubans Do It
Natural Disasters and Planning: the Cuban State and Popular Participation
by NELSON P. VALDES – counterpunch

“Cuba’s disaster’s preparedness put us to shame”
– Richard Erstad, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

SOME FACTS

In the last 13 years Cuba was visited by 16 hurricanes and tropical storms. Here is a brief overview of some of the disasters.

November 4, 2001: Hurricane Michelle-
Saffir-Simpson Scale: 4
Impact on 45% of territory, 53% of pop affected, economic consequence: $1 billion USD.
Winds: 216km/hr.
Evacuated: 712,000. Public shelters: 270,000
Deaths: 5

September 20, 2002: Hurricane Isidore
Saffir-Simpson Scale: 2,
6 hours in Pinar del Rio province, lasted 12 hours inside Cuba
Winds: 160 km/hr
Gusts: 220 km/hr
Evacuated: 280,000 (and farm animals)

October 1, 2002: Hurricane Lili,
Saffir-Simpson Scale: 2, same course as Isidore.
Wind: 110 km/hr
Evacuated: 165,830 (86,000 shelters)

August 13, 2004: Hurricane Charley,
Saffir-Simpson Scale: 2.
Wind: 220 km/hr
Gusts of 280 km/hr
Evacuated: 149,000
Location: Havana and Pinar del Rio provinces. Stationery over Pinar del Rio for 6 hours.

September 12, 2004 – Hurricane Ivan,
Saffir-Simpson Scale 5,
Winds: 250 km/hr
Gusts: 310 km/hr.
Locations: Isla de la Juventud and Pinar del Rio.
Evacuated: 1, 500,000

July 5, 2005 Hurricane Dennis
Saffir Simpson Scale,
Winds: 240 km/hr
Gusts
Location
Evacuated: 600,000

How Do the Cubans Do It?

First, you plan. In the Cuban case the plan covers and is applied at the national, provincial, city/town/hamlet institutions – including the neighborhood.

Second, coordination (“conscientious and prepared network of volunteers, disaster responders, and public health officials who all work together”). You rely on the community organization you have; you depend on the very people who are to be evacuated. (People helping people within their respective neighborhoods).

Third, you educate the population about hurricanes and the Simpson-Safir scale. [Kids are even given math problems to determine the movement of hurricanes].

Fourth, you provide constant information and you relate the level of threat to the measures that have to be taken, depending on unfolding circumstances. And the mass media makes sure the population understands.

Fifth, you give natural disaster control the highest possible importance through the use of television, radio and community organizations – including churches, schools and police.

Sixth, you use national political leaders and specialists to communicate with the people and you put the very leaders of the government in the middle of the hurricane, to be with the people so that they should not be considered forgotten

Seventh, you practice the evacuation plans at times when there is no hurricane season.

Eighth, when the threat appears in the form of a disturbance in the east Caribbean, the television channels and radio stations in the country begin to follow the potential threat, from day to day. The whole country will function on the basis of the precautions, everything comes to a standstill until the hurricane threat ends

Ninth, you will get a population that knows, depending of its location and its force, what will be necessary to do, when and how. Moreover, Civil Defense begin to issue the proper press releases.

Tenth, evacuation occurs 24 hours, at least, prior to the hurricane striking the mainland.

Eleventh, the evacuation takes place according the specific national, regional or local plan. Everyone knows where to go to be picked up. Evacuation is done on the basis of residence.

Neighbors and people who might be in a particular area know to where they will be evacuated. The neighborhood physicians accompany the evacuees, so they will know what his/her patients’ medical history and needs. The reception points where the evacuees go will have, consequently, the medical supplies that are needed for the specific population

Twelfth, the points where the evacuees are taken are know beforehand and are set up with water, good, and cots to sleep. There are also toilet facilities. As a rule, however, people are evacuated to other people’s homes (mostly relatives and friends).

Thirteenth, electric and gas services are cut off a few hours before the hurricane hits the area.

Fourteenth, the state provides the necessary resources for an evacuation: experienced command and control organization, appropriately trained personnel who have well defined plans, pertinent and flowing information among those involved in the evacuation, transportation, food, medical personnel and reception facilities. The people who are to be evacuated are, themselves, part of the resource used to evacuate the population.

In 2005 United Nations emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland noted that the Cuban program shows that, usually, ”You don’t get any headlines for prevention.” Thus, we seldom hear of Cuba’s unique and participatory preparedness. The New York Times has reported that “Cuba manages hurricanes well,” according to Russel L. Honoré, “who commanded military relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.” He has noted that the United States government “could be learning” from the Cubans. [1]

Yet, Cuba confronts serious problems when it comes to reconstruction after a hurricane. Avoiding the worse consequences of natural disaster depends on human capital and mass mobilization. Our analysis suggests that the Cuban disaster management system has a strong record when it comes to certain features of disaster preparedness and response, including natural hazard risk communication, scientific weather prediction and geological detection. Cuba also has a strong capacity for evacuation and other types of disaster natural prevention.

But as Benigno E. Aguirre and Joseph E Trainor note the island also has limited financial resources that hinder a rapid recovery. Indeed, after the natural disasters the country faces many difficulties in reconstruction, and recovery. [2] The US economic embargo/blockade does not help either.

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.
Notes.
[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/30/science/hurricane-tips-from-cuba.html
[2] B. E. Aguirre and Joseph E. Trainor, Emergency Management in Cuba: Disasters Experienced, Lessons Learned, and Recommendations for the Future.https://www.google.com/search?q=Emergency+Management+in+Cuba%3A+Disasters+Experienced%2C+Lessons+Learned%2C+and+Recommendations+for+the+Future&oq=Emergency+Management+in+Cuba%3A+Disasters+Experienced%2C+Lessons+Learned%2C+and+Recommendations+for+the+Future&aqs=chrome..69i57.5309j0j9&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8,

Is the Cuba Blockade Ending?

February 20, 2014

! cuba-terrorismo

Stirrings of Disenchantment Among the Powerful
Is the Cuba Blockade Ending?
by W.T. WHITNEY
The U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, cruel and reviled across the globe, has lasted as long as did the stretch between the U.S. Civil War and World War I. But it may not last forever. Just recently, stirrings of disenchantment among powerful forces have cropped up nationally and in Florida, epicenter of Cuban émigré opposition to Cuba’s revolutionary government.

On February 11 the Atlantic Council released its poll on attitudes toward the blockade expressed during January. The Council surveyed 1000 people nationwide plus 617 Florida residents and 525 Latinos, all by telephone. The report became a main focus of news stories on blockade dissent appearing simultaneously.

Of those surveyed nationally, 56 percent – 62 percent of Latinos, – want normalization of relations, 61 percent oppose travel restrictions, 62 percent OK U.S. business dealings with Cuba, and 61 percent oppose Cuba’s designation as a terrorist nation. Among Floridians offering opinions, 63 percent call for normal relations and 67 percent oppose both travel restrictions and the terrorist label. And 52 percent of Republicans want normalization, as do 64 percent of Miami-Dade County Floridians.

“The majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle are ready for a policy shift,” concludes the Atlantic Council. “Most surprisingly, Floridians are even more supportive …This is a key change from the past.” And “Economic arguments prove to be most convincing for normalization.”

The splash from this survey report coincided with other ripples. The Washington Post interviewed Cuban exile and international sugar magnate Alfonso Fanjul, “one of the principal funders of the U.S. anti-Castro movement” and someone, who with his brother, “amass[ed] one of North America’s great fortunes.” Fanjul discussed trips to Cuba in 2012 and 2013.

“I’d like to see our family back in Cuba,” he said, and “if there’s an arrangement within Cuba and the United States, and legally it can be done and there’s a proper framework set up and in place, then we will look at that possibility.” Cuban American businessman Paul Cejas, a former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, traveled with Fanjul: “The embargo is really an embargo against America ourselves, because Americans cannot do business with Cuba, where there are incredible opportunities for growth.”

Ex-Florida governor and former blockade apologist Charlie Crist, Democratic candidate to be Florida’s next governor, announced a change of heart. Lifting the blockade, he said, “could help the Florida economy, creating more jobs in the state and allowing Florida businesses to sell goods and services to an island that has been largely closed to most commerce with the United States for more than 50 years.

On February 10 the Miami Herald published Senators Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) and Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) op-ed piece entitled “Time for a new Policy on Cuba.” Citing survey results a day before their release, they note that, “A majority of Americans, including Cuban-Americans, wants to change course,” and “so do we.”

While disparaging Cuba as repressive and an economic failure, the senators argue that “Trade with Latin America is the fastest growing part of our international commerce… Rather than isolate Cuba with outdated policies, we have isolated ourselves …Current policy boxes U.S. entrepreneurs and companies out of taking part in any of this burgeoning Cuban private sector.”

Remarkably, news in November, 2013 that President Obama had questions about U.S. Cuban policies quickly became old news. At a Miami political fundraiser he had suggested that “in the age of the Internet, Google and world travel,” old policies “don’t make sense.”

This time, news of the survey triggered real discussion even though, significantly, its findings were not new. In fact, annual Gallup polling on Cuba since 1999 has consistently demonstrated nationwide majorities in favor of “re-establishing U.S. diplomatic relations” and ending the blockade. Other surveys yielded similar results. A Florida International University opinion poll in 2008 showed that “a majority of Cuban-Americans now favor ending the … economic embargo and restoring diplomatic relations” with Cuba, 55 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

In releasing its report, the Atlantic Council attached a remarkably forthright advocacy statement to its recitation of data. Its report surely may be useful for having updated long established trends, but why did it command the attention it did?

The Council is no bit player in establishment circles. Former Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and Christian Herter founded it in 1961 as a support mechanism for NATO. It maintains close ties with prominent U.S. and European NGO’s involved with diplomatic and security issues. Weapons manufacturers are corporate members. Directors, some honorary, include diplomatic, defense, and intelligence honchos like Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, George Shultz, Wesley Clark, Michael Hayden, and Robert Gates.

Perhaps now, with movers and shakers taking things in hand, change really is on the way. But a thorny detail may need attending to: Cuban leaders are unlikely to discuss big changes with U.S. leaders without, first, the Cuban Five political prisoners being sent home. That’s the opinion of Stephen Kimber, author of the only English language book (“What Lies across the Water”) on the case of the Five.

Some of the recent news stories on new attitudes allude to Cuban imprisonment of U.S. contractor Alan Gross – he violated Cuban laws – as accounting for U.S. intransigence on the blockade. That brings to mind the possibility of a remarkable scenario: The Cuban Five prisoners are exchanged for Alan Gross so that talks may begin on establishing bi-national relations.

W. T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/19/is-the-cuba-blockade-ending/,


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