Cuba supporters in Canada launch hurricane relief fund

Introduction by Robert Johnson

September 14, 2008 (Socialist Voice) -- Cuba has been assaulted in quick succession by three powerful hurricanes. Gustav, Hanna and Ike left a trail of massive destruction, the worst that Cuba has experienced in more than four decades. This was a cruel blow to the Cuban people, who have set an example to the world of selfless generosity despite their limited material resources. Under the leadership of their workers and farmers government, Cubans have now set to work to repair the damage.

BBC video: Hurricane Gustav rages through Cuba (note: this video has no sound; apologies for the 30-second advertisement which precedes the footage).

Canadian government aid to Cuba in this time of crisis is minuscule. The Canadian media, which has reported extensively on hurricane damage in Louisiana and Texas, has been all but silent on the devastation in Cuba.

In face of this inaction and silence, it is important for supporters of the Cuba revolution act effectively. The Canadian Network on Cuba has issued an appeal for funds to help them in their reconstruction effort; the initial goal is to raise $100,000 as soon as possible. The CNC has issued a public appeal for funds, which we reproduce below.

The appeal is signed by Keith Ellis, an emeritus professor of the University of Toronto and an honorary member of the Union of Artist and Writers of Cuba. Dr. Ellis is the chair of the CNC’s Cuba Hurricane Fund Committee.

The Canadian Network on Cuba <cnc@canadiannetworkoncuba.ca, www.canadiannetworkoncuba.ca> coordinates the work of organizations in solidarity with Cuba across the country: local groups, trade unions and political organizations. Its counterpart in Quebec is the Table de concertation de solidarité Québec-Cuba <info@tcsqc.ca, www.solidaritequebeccuba.qc.ca>.

The CNC’s fund appeal was issued on September 2, before hurricane Ike compounded the devastation wrought by Gustav and Hanna. Although the winds of Ike were not as strong as those of Gustav, the later hurricane travelled across the entire island from east to west, drenching it with massive amounts of rain. In areas previously struck by Gustav, Ike toppled structures that had been weakened by its predecessor. Preparing for Ike, Cuba’s civil defense system organized the evacuation of 2.5 million people, more than 20% of the population, from high-risk areas. Despite these efforts the storm caused the death of seven people.

A September 11 report by the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina updates some of the information contained in the CNC’s appeal, taking into account the effects of hurricanes Hanna and Ike. It says that the path of destruction stretches for more than a thousand kilometres across the island. In some areas of the country the scenes resemble those of an earthquake: sealed-off roads, houses demolished into scattered brick and dust, some flooded; electrical cables and towers toppled; plantations devastated.

At least 30,000 families have lost their homes; another 320,000 homes have suffered serious damage.

Agriculture has been severely affected. Preliminary reports indicate “colossal losses” in the production of bananas, corn (maize), sugar cane, coffee, yucca, guava, avocados and poultry. In the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo 300,000 tins of coffee have been destroyed.

According to Prensa Latina, initial estimates by international agencies are that Cuba’s losses could total more than three billion dollars. This imposes an enormous burden on the country’s economy.

Socialist Voice urges its readers to distribute the following appeal as widely as possible and to contribute generously to the fund.

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Canadian Network on Cuba
2 September, 2008

Dear Friends,

As you already know, Cuba has suffered the fierce attacks of a hurricane. This one, Gustav, is considered to be the most devastating in the last forty years. Having caused severe flooding in its early stages in eastern Cuba, it grew in strength and size in the warm Caribbean waters and, after demolishing the special municipality of the Isle of Youth with its awful force, invaded Pinar del Río, Cuba’s most westerly province. By this time it had achieved a diameter of some 450 kilometers with the most destructive winds and rains packed into the eastern side of the monster. Although Pinar del Río bore the brunt of the damage, ravaged by sustained winds of 240 kph, with gusts as high as 350 kph, the area of damage extended to include the provinces of Havana, City of Havana and Matanzas.

The damage touched all sectors of the economic and social life of the region. In large parts of Pinar del Río and Isla de la Juventud, houses, schools, hospitals and other public buildings that weren’t demolished, lost their roofs or suffered other kinds of damage. This means that warehouses that stored supplies and commodities such as rice, sugar, flour, tobacco, could not avoid exposing them to the elements. Cultural and recreational facilities were damaged or destroyed. Ferris wheels were turned into mangled metal, as were transmission towers used for electricity or communications. Damaged high-tension power lines, roads and bridges added to the toll. The agricultural sector has suffered severely. Hundreds of hectares of bananas fell early, as did citrus fruit. Sugar cane was massively affected, and sophisticated irrigation equipment was ruined. The part of the fishing industry based in the Isla de la Juventud was gravely hurt.

The good news is that – thanks to the precautionary measures, in which Cuba leads the world and which involved moving a quarter of a million people to safe shelter – not a single life was lost. Five lobster fishermen who were missing at sea for a time were found after an intensive air and sea search. However, regrettably four were lost in accidents during Hurricane Ike.

Cuba, like other Caribbean countries and parts of the United States, occupies a geographical space that is in the path of hurricanes. This space is now more prone than ever to disastrous hurricanes as a result of climate change. Hardly has Gustav passed than Hanna and Ike appeared on the weather map like a caravan of doom. That Cuba should be a victim of this increased frequency is a striking injustice, since Cuba is the country least to be blamed for the deteriorating climatic conditions that fuel hurricanes. Let us remember that when the World Wildlife Fund in 2006 evaluated countries throughout the world to determine how they ranked with regard to sustainable development, based on economic and human development and protection of the environment, they found that Cuba was the only country that met the criteria.

Hurricanes will continue to batter Cuba. The island can frustrate them only to a certain extent, chiefly through deepening scientific knowledge of their behaviour and the achievement of a social organization based on solidarity, trust, egalitarianism and fairness. The day after Gustav passed, roads were being cleared and swept, food was being shipped to affected areas from provinces that were better supplied, linemen were arriving in Pinar del Río from Santiago to work “as long as is necessary,” and public health brigades were ensuring salutary conditions. Building materials were being distributed to those who needed repairs to their homes. The energy revolution has introduced technologies that have resulted in speeding up the restoration of electricity after damage to the grid. The presidents of the Defense Councils of Pinar del Río and Isla de la Juventud, both women, are being received in the various communities they visit, with cheerful demonstrations of confidence in them and in the Revolution. A badly damaged hospital in one of the communities in Pinar del Río was the place of birth of a boy during the hurricane. He was named Gustavo for the hurricane and David for the Cuban people’s spirit of fighting against great odds.

That fighting spirit must also be imbued with the patience of Sisyphus, because the unwanted meteorological phenomenon stubbornly recurs. A previous CNC donation went precisely to one of the again affected Pinar del Río communities to provide roofs for some 200 houses. We hope that these roofs have survived. The fighting spirit must also be buttressed by financial resources.

At this time of writing, two days after the disaster, the total cost of the damage has not yet been assessed, but it will surely be billions of dollars. Even though Cuba has not requested aid from us, the friends of Cuba, led by the constituent members of the Canadian Network on Cuba, will want, as they usually do, to do everything possible to help. In view of the great expense, we should imaginatively seek out new additional sources of funds-from different levels of government, farmer’s associations, trade unions, cultural groups-and in general widen the circle of the friends of Cuba. We should work to include people who are indignant at injustice, those who understand, for example, that one of the main reasons why the Bush administration let some of its citizens die rather than accept Cuban medical help at the time of Katrina was because they wanted no easing of their brutal embargo, even when Cuba was faced with terrible natural disasters. Let us approach Canadians with some of the information included in this piece and, as José Martí would do, believing in their goodness.

The need for funds to recover from hurricanes Gustav and Ike is urgent. We aim to forward to Cuba an initial contribution of $100,000 as soon as possible. We hope that in this hour of Cuba’s need, you will find it possible to respond in a spirit that reflects our respect and appreciation of the generosity and determination of the Cuban people.

One hundred per cent of your donation will go to Cuba either directly or in shipping requested materials to help in the reconstruction. There are two ways to send in donations. The charitable organization “Mackenzie-Papineau Memorial Fund” , registered Canadian charitable organization # 88876 9197, is working with us to collect donations for Cuba Hurricane Relief. Either way, you will receive a charitable tax receipt:

1) Send your cheque made payable to the “Mackenzie-Papineau Memorial Fund”, clearly stating “For Cuba Hurricane Relief” on the memo line, together with your name, address and telephone number if it is not already on your cheque so a tax receipt can be issued and sent to you (or state that a tax receipt is not needed).

Envelopes should be addressed to:

Mackenzie-Papineau Memorial Fund,
Att: S. Skup, Treasurer
56 Riverwood Terrace,
Bolton, Ontario, L7E 1S4

If you do not want a tax receipt, you can go directly to any TD Canada Trust branch and deposit money in the following bank account: Institution #004 Transit #03212 Branch #321, Acct.#: 500 1074 Mackenzie-Papineau Memorial Fund.

2) Make out your cheque to your local Cuba solidarity committee. Include your name, address and phone number, clearly stating “For Cuba Hurricane Relief”. The local committee will send one cheque together with a list of the names, addresses, phone numbers and the amount of the donation of the individual donors to the Mackenzie-Papineau Memorial Fund (Registered charitable organization # 88876 9197). Tax receipts will then be sent to individual donors.

3) If you wish, you can go directly to the Oxfam Canada website, http://www.oxfam.ca/. Click on Hurricane Relief and send in a donation specifying, if you wish, in the comment section that the donation go to Cuba. You will automatically and immediately receive a tax deductible receipt.

Yours in solidarity,

Keith Ellis,
Chair, Cuba Hurricane Fund Committee,
Canadian Network on Cuba

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 09/16/2008 - 07:57

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HAVANA, Cuba, September 15 (acn) The French Revolutionary Communist
League (LCR) reaffirmed its solidarity with Cuba after the
devastation caused by the passing of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in a
period of less than two weeks.

LCR leader Olivier Besancenot met with a Cuban delegation that
participated this year’s L´ Humanité newspaper celebrations in Paris.
Besancenot highlighted the island’s excellent preparation and
discipline when facing hurricanes. He reaffirmed his organization’s
solidarity with the Cuban people and their demand to lift the
criminal blockade imposed by the US on Cuba for more than four
decades, reported Prensa Latina news agency.

The US blockade prevents Cuba from purchasing essential items from
their nearby neighbour to the north to alleviate the damages suffered
by the victims of these hurricanes, noted the LCR.

Cuban News Agency
www.cubanews.ain.cu
ainnews@ain.cu

Worldwide call to artists and intellectuals to assist Cuba.

Our country is facing a dramatic situation. We have suffered the wrath of
two powerful hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, in just eight days. These natural
disasters have seriously affected food production and essential sectors of
the economy throughout the country. Although very few human lives were
lost, a massive amount of houses, schools and cultural institutions were
damaged or completely destroyed.

In view of this tragedy, a debate about the restrictions imposed by the US
on Cuban residents to visit and send supplies and money to their families in
Cuba has begun. Cuba has requested authorization to buy materials from
the US to repair homes and power lines. In addition, Cuba has requested
that US companies receive authorization to extend commercial credits to
the island to buy food. The Bush Administration's reply has been a
ridiculous offer of aid while ratifying their policy of political and
economic
blockade, even more cruel and immoral under the present circumstances.

We are sending an appeal to artists and intellectuals around the world to
demand an immediate end to the criminal US blockade and to promote
solidarity and support of our country.

First signature
Alicia Alonso, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, Silvio Rodriguez, Cintio Vitier,
Pablo Milanes, Miguel Barnet, Chucho Valdes, Omara Portuondo, Eusebio
Leal, Leo Brouwer, Alfredo Guevara, Fernando Alonso, Nancy Morejon,
Cesar Portillo de la Luz, Rosita Fornes, Harold Gramatges, Graziella
Pogolotti, Pablo Armando Fernandez, Angel Augier, Julio Garcia Espinosa,
Anton Arrufat, Alexis Leyva (Kcho), Digna Guerra, Cesar Lopez, Fernando
Perez, Manuel Mendive, Juan Padron, Roberto Valera, Guido Lopez
Gavilan, Maria de los Angeles Santana, Frank Fernandez, Fina Garcia
Marruz, Roberto Fabelo, Fernando Martinez Heredia, Pedro Pablo Oliva,
Vicente Revuelta, Antonio Vidal, Carilda Oliver, Loipa Araujo, Aurora
Bosch, Ramona de Saa, Abelardo Estorino, Ambrosio Fornet, Luis
Carbonell, Electo Silva, Santiago Alfonso, Rogelio Martinez Fure, Eduardo
Torres Cuevas, Leonardo Acosta, Ramiro Guerra, Rene de la Nuez, Daysi
Granados, Eduardo Rivero, Alberto Mendez, Eslinda Nunez, Hector
Quintero, Alfredo Sosabravo, Veronica Lynn, Jose Antonio Rodriguez, Flora
Fong , Salvador Wood, Maria Elena Molinet, Zayda del Rio, Jose Milian,
Maria del Carmen Barcia, Jaime Sarusky, Martha Rojas, Francisco de Oraa,
Eugenio Hernandez Espinosa, Enrique Pineda Barnet, Juan Carlos Tabio,
Alfredo Diez Nieto, Mario Balmaseda, Sergio Vitier, Nelson Dominguez,
Pepe Rafart, Jose Antonio Choy, Jorge Ibarra, Maria Teresa Linares,
Eduardo Roca (Choco), Pachi Naranjo, Rolando Rodriguez, Jose Villa
Soberon, Senel Paz, Aida Bahr, Omar Valino, Omar F. Mauri, Hilda Oates,
Alberto Lescay, Enrique Molina, Pancho Amat, Raul Pomares, Maria Felicia
Perez, Patricio Wood, Carlos Diaz, Nelson Dorr, Miguel Iglesias, Roberto
Chorens, Adolfo Alfonso, Isabel Monal, Domingo Aragu, Zenaida
Armenteros, Ever Fonseca, Berta Martinez, Cristy Dominguez, Adigio
Benitez, Humberto Arenal, Adelaida de Juan, Carlos Alberto Cremata, Ivan
Tenorio, Gina Rey, Rebeca Chavez, Jose Rodriguez Fuster, Lorna Burdsal,
Juan Carlos Cremata, Osneldo Garcia, Zoila Lapique, Eduardo Arrocha,
Yolanda Wood, Rene Fernandez Santana, Lesbia Vent Dumois, Fatima
Patterson, Rosalia Arnaez, Carlos Padron, Sara Gonzalez, Eduardo Heras
Leon, Alex Pausides, Agustin Bejarano, Angel Alderete, Raul Santos
Serpa, Marilyn Bobes, Carlos Marti, Sigfredo Ariel, Alberto Guerra, Corina
Mestre, Xiomara Blanco, Rey Montesinos, Gerardo Alfonso, Alden Knight,
Rafael Lay, Jesus Ortega, Edesio Alejandro, Teresita Junco, Teresa Melo,
Arturo Arango, Magda Gonzalez Grau, Cary Diez, Alberto Luberta, Caridad
Martinez, Lourdes Gonzalez, Iraida Malberti, Gerardo Fulleda, Felix
Contreras, Esteban Llorach, Ana Maria Munoz Bachs, Radames Giro, Juan
Valdes, Jorge Nunez, Rodulfo Vaillant, Juan Gonzalez Fiffe, Sergio
Morales, Jorge Hidalgo, Carlos Tamayo, Ada Mirtha Cepeda Venegas,
Sixto Bonachea, Antonio Perez, Orlando Garcia Martinez, Jose Alberto
Garcia Alfonso, Enrique Gonzalez, Jose (Pepe) Vera, Alberto Faya.

To Sign up: www.concubahoy.cult.cu concubahoy@uneac.co.cu
concubahoy@cubarte.cult.cu

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Wed, 09/17/2008 - 11:45

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Preliminary Assessment of the Impact of
Hurricanes Gustav and Ike

       
       
Cuba was hit in the past few weeks by two major hurricanes that have caused widespread destruction and human misery. This is perhaps the worst natural disaster in the past half-century.       


Damage Reports:

  • Over 320,000 houses were damaged by the hurricanes. (1)

  • 50% of houses in Holguin have been irreparably damaged (2), 80% of houses in Banes have been destroyed. (3) In Nuevitas, Camaguey, at least 15% of the hotels were damaged. (4)

  • 70% of the agricultural production in Villa Clara was destroyed. (5)

  • Over 2 million Cubans have been displaced by the storms. (6)

  • The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported estimates of damage between $3-$4 billion USD. (7)

  • Cuba’s health care infrastructure is severely damaged: in Isla de la Juventud, the general hospital, “Héroes de Baire,” which serves 87,000 people, is not functional. “Comandante Pinares,” a hospital in the municipality of San Cristobal, serving 200,000 people, has been severely damaged. (8)

  • In Isla de la Juventud, “4,500 posts are reported down, 530 transformers damaged, 5,000 street lights destroyed and 38,700 electrical isolators and 800 tons worth of conductors are beyond repair.” (9) In Pinar del Rio, 55 km of the primary and secondary electrical network were severely damaged. (10)

  • In Pinar del Rio, over 25,900 metric tons of agricultural crops were lost, and another 1,184 damaged. 13,070 hectares of root vegetables, 2,931 hectares of grains, and 543 hectares of fruits and 3,306 tobacco houses have been destroyed. (11)


Outlook:

The next few weeks are critical for the Cuban government as to how it is going to react to meet the basic food, shelter and health needs of the Cuban people. It is also the first real test of General Raul Castro’s administration in a crisis situation. Raul has failed to appear in public, delegating the role of spokespersons to first Vice President Ramon Machado Ventura and second Vice President Carlos Lage. Whether this reflects Raul's management style or an inability to confront the Cubans in difficult situations or a personal crisis is too early to tell. Given the widespread disillusionment with his administration prior to the hurricanes, his current behavior is not likely to inspire support or gratitude from the Cubans. If the Raul Castro regime is unable to address the basic needs within a short time, levels of frustration and despair will continue to grow.

The intermediate term outlook for economic recovery is dismal. The hyper-bureaucratic and highly centralized nature of Cuba’s decision making process, together with the lack of resources, present formidable barriers to effective recovery efforts. Major reconstruction efforts will take a long time and they may not be totally successful.

In the short term, Cuba’s productive capabilities have been severely affected including significant damage in some key sectors (e.g., agriculture, tobacco, and tourism) further limiting the country’s purchasing power in international markets. In particular, tourism may suffer as foreign visitors curtail their travel plans given Cuba's uncertain situation. Additionally, labor productivity and discipline will decline further as Cuban workers focus on resolving (resolver) their more pressing shelter and subsistence needs. Activity in the informal economy and black markets will increase as well as corruption, especially as foreign aid arrives and is distributed by military and party bureaucrats.

Even if the Cuban government is able to avoid the short term worst case scenarios of a potential health crises and sustained widespread food shortages, the critical housing shortage and infrastructure reconstruction needs will go largely unmet. Cash strapped, with its credit lines exhausted, and with a reputation for not paying its debts, the Cuban government will not be able to mobilize the enormous financial resources necessary for the reconstruction effort needed. As it has done in the past, it will have to rely on low quality “temporary” repairs rather than reconstruction. Although aid is arriving from the U.S., Russia, Spain, and others, only the promised massive support from the Chavez administration could improve this bleak scenario.

Given this dreary outlook for long term recovery and the government’s inability to meet its citizens’ basic needs, important questions arise regarding the possibility of increased discontent, repression, and particularly the potential for a mass exodus if Cubans see escape from the island as their only option for an improved life. In short, the devastation caused by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike on top of Cuba’s abysmal sociopolitical and economic conditions could result in increased and prolonged instability.

_________________________________________________

Notes

1. Hernandez, Marta. “Más de 320,000 casas dañadas,” Granma, September 11, 2008.

2. “Holguín: Más del 50% de las viviendas ha sufrido graves daños,” Cuba Encuentro, September 10, 2008.

3. “Prepararnos para la Recuperación,” Granma, September 9, 2008.

4. Robles, Frances. “Rising waters threaten Hurricane Ike-ravaged Cuba,” Miami Herald, September 10, 2008.

5. Robles, Frances. “Rising waters threaten Hurricane Ike-ravaged Cuba,” Miami Herald, September 10, 2008.

6. Williams, Carol J. “Ike Moves into Gulf to Regain Strength,” Los Angeles Times, September 10, 2008.

7. “Los Daños de Ike y Gustav podrían sumar 4.000 millones de dólares,” Cuba Encuentro, September 10, 2008.

8. PAHO (Pan American Health Organization). “2008 Hurricane Season, Cuba Situation Report.”
http://www.paho.org/english/dd/ped/hurricanes2008.htm September 10, 2008.

9. “Cuba: Hurricane Season 2008 Emergency Appeal No. MDRCU001” ReliefWeb.

10. “Cuba: Hurricane Season 2008 Emergency Appeal No. MDRCU001” ReliefWeb.

11. “La agricultura, víctima de Gustav en Pinar del Río,” Granma, September 2, 2008.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Thu, 09/18/2008 - 09:10

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STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Yesterday, September 9, 2008, at 11:50 A.M., the Department of State
conveyed to the Interests Section of Cuba in Washington Note Nº 252/18
in which, after expressing its regrets for the additional damage caused
to the Cuban people by hurricane Ike, it insists in the visit to our
country of a "humanitarian assessment team" to "inspect the affected
areas".

Today, September 10, at 7:20 P.M. the Interests Section of Cuba in
Washington sent to the Department of State Note Nº 046/08, in which it
conveys its appreciation for the expressions of regret by the
Government of the United States for the damage caused in Cuba by
hurricane Ike, and reiterates that Cuba does not require the assistance
of a humanitarian assessment team as it has a sufficient number of
trained specialists to deal with this task.

The Note emphasizes
that if the Government of the United States is really willing to
cooperate with the Cuban people it is requested to allow the sale to
Cuba of indispensable material, such as materials for roofing, for
building repairs and for the re-establishment of electric networks.

Likewise, it reiterates the request that the Government of the United
States suspend the restrictions preventing U.S. companies from
providing private commercial credits to Cuba for the purchase of
foodstuffs in the United States.

The Note also calls the attention of the Department of State that the
visit to Cuba of a humanitarian assessment team is not required to
allow the sale of the aforementioned materials and to authorize private
credits for the purchase of foodstuffs.

Lastly, the Note of the Interests Section of Cuba underscores to the
Department of State that its Note Nº 252/18 insists in a request that
the Government of Cuba had already replied to in Note Nº 1886 of
September 6, 2008, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but, and it is
highly significant, it does not actually respond to the two concrete
requests made by the Government of Cuba to the Government of the United
States in order to cope with the damage caused by hurricane Gustav,
that it once again reiterates.

On the other hand, during the last few hours, spokespersons of the
Government of the United States have attempted to justify the refusal
by President Bush to allow the sale to Cuba of indispensable materials
and to authorize private commercial credits to purchase foodstuffs in
the U.S.

Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, affirmed categorically on Sunday,
September 7: "I don't think that (...) the lifting of the embargo would
be wise".

The Spokesman of the Department of State, Sean McCormack, insisted, on
Monday, September 8, in a press briefing, on the alleged importance
that Cuba accept an assessment team to inspect damage "in situ".
Responding to the observation of journalists that other countries have
provided assistance without demanding a previous inspection of damage
in the field, McCormack responded evasively: ""See if the Cuban
Government changes its mind about allowing us to help the Cuban people".

On his part, the Cuban American Carlos Gutiérrez, U.S. Commerce
Secretary and Co-Chairman of the commission in charge of implementing
the Bush Plan against Cuba, expressed hypocritically yesterday: "...we
reiterate our offer to allow a USAID team to travel to Cuba to assess
the situation".

This is a cynical attitude of the Government of the United States. It
attempts to suggest that it is desperate to cooperate with Cuba, and
that we are the ones refusing. It lies shamelessly.

Why does the Government of the United States insist in the pretext of
carrying out an inspection "in situ" when the information disseminated
regarding the serious effects caused by the hurricanes in Cuba is
widespread and obvious?

Why does it use the precondition of sending an inspection team,
something that no one else has done among the scores of countries that
are already generously cooperating with Cuba?

Why does the Government of the United States refuse to allow Cuba to
purchase materials for building repairs, roofing or components the
re-establishment of electrical networks in the U.S.?

Why does if forbid U.S. companies and their subsidiaries in all
countries, to provide Cuba with private credit for the purchase of
foodstuffs, which today are essential to ensure food for the affected
population and to replace reserves in the event of new hurricanes?

These are the questions that the U.S. Government must answer.

These are the questions that the international community, that
overwhelmingly supports Cuba in its struggle against the blockade,
poses to the Government of the United States.

Cuba has not asked the Government of the United States for any gift whatsoever. Simply to be allowed to purchase.

Anything else is pure rhetoric, pretexts and justifications that no one believes.

Cuba will go forward. No hurricane, blockade or aggression will be able to prevent it.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba Havana, September 10, 2008

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Thu, 09/18/2008 - 09:15

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Reflections by comrade Fidel


http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/reflexiones/2008/ing/f160908i.html


PLAYING THE GOOD GUY ROLE AT OUR EXPENSE?


When the US administration hypocritically offered $100,000 in aid to

cope with the catastrophe caused by hurricane Gustav --after an in

situ inspection to assess the damages-- the response was that Cuba

could not accept any donation from the country blockading it. Also,

that the damages had already been assessed and that we only asked for

the ban to be lifted on the export of indispensable material and

credits associated with commercial transactions.


Some in the North shouted themselves hoarse that Cuba’s refusal was

unthinkable.


Then, a few days later, when hurricane Ike swept the country from the

Punta de Maisi to Cabo San Antonio (from east to west) the neighbors

to the North were smarter; they softened their language. They spoke

of planes ready to leave with products valued in 5 million USD and

said that an assessment would not be required since they had already

done it with their own means; what else if not espionage on our

country. This time they would put the Revolution in a spot, they

thought; if we dared refuse the offer we would be in trouble with our

people. Perhaps they believed that no one here had watched the images

brought by the United States TV networks of the UN occupation forces

distributing food to the hungry Haitians who fought over it through a

barbwire fence with the result of several injured children.


Hunger in that country is the consequence of the long and ruthless

plundering of the peoples. There, in Gonaive, our physicians have

been risking their lives caring for the population as they do in

almost every municipality of that nation. This cooperation has

continued to be provided there the same as in tens of other nations

in the world, despite the hurricanes. The new and shrewd Note

received a categorical response: “…our country cannot accept a

donation from the government that is blockading it; however, it is

willing to purchase indispensable material that the US companies

export to other markets. Therefore, it requests authorization for

such exports as well as for the credits which is the common procedure

in every commercial transaction.


“If the US administration does not wish to do this permanently,

Cuba requests authorization for at least the following six months,

particularly mindful of the damages caused by hurricanes Gustav and

Ike and the fact the most dangerous months of the hurricane season

are still to come.”


It was not an arrogant reply; it is not Cuba’s style. As can be seen

in the Note, the view was modestly expressed that it would suffice

with the lifting of the ban for a limited period of time.


On Friday 12th, the US Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez,

dismissed the notion that the blockade could be temporarily lifted.


Obviously, the government of that powerful country is unable to

understand that our people’s dignity is priceless. The wave of

solidarity with Cuba, which comes from both big and small countries,

with resources and even without them, would no longer exist if Cuba

relinquished its dignity. Those who in our country are upset about it

are absolutely wrong. If instead of $5 million the figure were $5

billion the answer would still be the same. Not any money can pay for

the thousands of lives lost, the suffering of our people and the over

$200 billion lost to the blockade and the Yankee aggressions.


The partial official report explained to our people that in less than

ten days the country had lost over five billion dollars. It was also

explained that the estimates were made according to historic and

conventional prices rather inconsistent with reality. It should not

be forgotten that “the estimates of losses in terms of housing were

made on the basis of historic and conventional prices, and not on

their real value at international prices. Suffice it to say that in

order to build a lasting house that would put up with the strongest

winds a basic element is required which is in very short supply:

labor force. This is needed both for a temporary repair and for a

lasting construction. That labor force has to be distributed among a

number of production and services centers, some of them badly

damaged, thus the real value of a house in the world and the repay of

the corresponding investment is often greater.”


Nature dealt us a heavy blow but it is encouraging to know that our

struggle will continue steadily and restlessly.


There is no final answer to the economic crisis hitting the United

States, and consequently every other country in the world. But,

there certainly is an answer in our country to natural disasters

and to every attempt at putting a price on our dignity.


Fidel Castro Ruz


September 16, 2008


7:54 p.m.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Fri, 09/19/2008 - 16:40

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The Consulate General of Cuba inform about the ways for donations, the following:

 

All transfers must be, in preference, in Euros (EUR) or Canadian Dollars (CAD).

 

Very important: Do not use in any case the American Dollar (USD), American banks or from another nationality in American soil or under its jurisdiction.

 

In every transfer it must clearly stated that the beneficiary is the BANCO FINANCIERO INTERNACIONAL S. A., Havana, Cuba in any of the below accounts with the subject “Ayuda Humanitaria por daños causados por el Huracan,” for easy identification.

 

The banks and accounts to use are as follows:

 

Bank Name                                                 SWIFT Code              Account No.

 

In  EUR Germany

 

Dresdner Bank A.G.                                   DRESDEFF                 499/08089929/00/888

Commerzbank A.G.                                   COBADEFF                 400877502500 EUR

 

In  EUR  France

 

BBVA Paris                                               BBVAFRPP                FR7641189000011038055480124

Credit Mutuel                                             CMBRFR2B               118080091600020396811003

 

In  CAD Canada

 

National Bank of Canada,

Montreal                                                    BNDCCAMM             02929623600100101

 

Toronto Dominion Bank,

Toronto                                                     TDOMCATT              0360-01-2201925 TORONTO

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Fri, 09/19/2008 - 18:41

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Havana, Sep 18 (Prensa Latina) The Cuban government thanked on Thursday for the willingness of solidarity of several nations, which sent cargoes of humanitarian aid to complete the recovery works done in this county after hurricanes Gustav and Ike crossed the Island.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque called admirable the wave of solidarity that large and small countries have shown, the real value of which has been their attitude and willingness to help.

In a pres conference at the Foreign Ministry headquarters, Perez Roque reported that 23 countries have already sent donations, the signification of which goes beyond their simple financial cost.

The minister assessed the work by different UN agencies, with which there is traditional close collaboration.

The head of the Cuban diplomacy explained that the worst problems are now in food production and housing, but he highlighted that nobody would be left on his/her own and the country would overcome this situation.

In this reference, the foreign minister said the damage by those hurricanes worsened the crisis originated by an international rise in food prices, but they are already working to reduce imports.

He asserted that Cuba would continue its solidarity aid to other people in the world, despite the current difficulties, worsened by the economic war that the United States imposed on this country 50 years ago.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sat, 09/20/2008 - 19:21

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Reflections by Comrade Fidel

 

TWICE THE SAME LIE

 

Reading the cables will suffice.

 

In the reflection I wrote the day before yesterday I expressed that Cuba would not accept any donation from the government that imposes a blockade against it, and that in the Note Verbale sent to the Interest Section of the United States we had requested authorization so that the US companies could sell to us construction material.  Said Note did not make any reference whatsoever to foodstuffs.  There was an additional request for the trade in those materials to take place under normal conditions, with credits included, something that is only logical considering that for eight years our country has been paying in cash for the few commodities that the US companies are authorized to export to Cuba.

 

Such request was all the more justified in the face of the emergency situation that was created as a result of the passing of the hurricanes.

 

It was precisely George W. Bush who, after hurricane Michelle violently hit the Island on November 4, 2001, authorized the sale of agricultural products to Cuba, which included wood as a crop deriving from silviculture, which is quite developed in that nation.  He did not insist on the in situ inspection when, as it is the case now, we responded that we had already completed such inspection.

 

We mostly imported foodstuffs.  In a few weeks we imported 4.4 million dollars worth of goods, once all the relevant arrangements were quickly finalized.

 

In 2002 we purchased 173.6 million dollars worth in goods; in 2003, 327 million dollars; in 2004, 434.1 million; in 2005, 473 million; in 2006, 483.3 million; in 2007, 515.8 million, and during the first semester of the year 2008, 425 million.  As can be seen, figures increased year after year, and quite likely this year, after the devastating impact caused by two hurricanes, the country would be forced to import a much higher volume only from the United States, particularly considering that prices have significantly increased and taking into account the colossal blow dealt  to agriculture.

 

The government of that country informed the world’s public opinion that it had authorized the sale of foodstuffs and wood, as if this were a new decision associated to both hurricanes, Gustav and Ike.  A full and complete mockery.

 

What did the speaker of the State Department say?

 

On Sunday September 14 he declared that from the moment when hurricane Gustav started to batter Cuba, the United States authorized 250 million US dollars worth in agricultural sales to the Island, including wood.  Before that, the Secretary of Commerce of that country had refused to grant any commercial credit.

 

Again on September 16, the State Department declared that the United States authorized some licenses as part of the assistance after the catastrophe caused by the two hurricanes, and those agricultural licenses included “wood, an important material for reconstruction.”

 

In addition to the lies, what were the arguments with which they tried to justify the ban on US companies to grant credits to trade with Cuba in a normal way? “The government of the United States must abide by Congress laws”. The blockade is supposedly a Congressional law by virtue of a perfidious amendment of convenience, similar to the Platt Amendment.  The President of the United States can declare war without consulting the Congress –something unheard of in the history of that country- and can not, however, authorize a US company to trade with Cuba under normal conditions.

 

In the message I sent to Hugo Chávez, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which described some of the experiences of our Revolution, I wrote:  as a result of “the ruthless and absolute economic blockade, we would not be allowed to purchase a single kilogram of food.  This slightly changed thirty years after, due to the pressure exerted by farmers, but this policy was accompanied by leonine financial and monetary barriers”.  The Venezuelan revolutionary leader himself has disclosed part of that message.

 

Everything is crystal clear.

 

By resorting to the same lie twice, the State Department has had no qualms to deceive the world’s public opinion, and they do it in a cynical way.

 

 

Fidel Castro Ruz

September 18, 2008

12:20 p.m.