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
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
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;
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
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
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
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,
Chair, Cuba Hurricane Fund Committee,
Canadian Network on Cuba
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.
Assessment of the Impact of Hurricanes Gustav and
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
Over 320,000 houses were damaged by the
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
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs reported estimates of damage between $3-$4 billion
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)
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
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
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.
1. Hernandez, Marta. “Más de 320,000 casas
dañadas,” Granma, September 11,
2. “Holguín: Más del 50% de las viviendas ha
sufrido graves daños,” Cuba Encuentro, September 10,
3. “Prepararnos para la Recuperación,”
Granma, September 9, 2008.
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 FINANCIEROINTERNACIONAL S. A.,
Havana, Cuba in any of the below accounts
with the subject “Ayuda
Humanitaria por daños causados por el Huracan,” for
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
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
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
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
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
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.