September 22, 2005

Ivan the Terrible and Other Disasters

It seems fitting that a country in which blacks and whites fought side by side for identity and independence would also set the standard by which emergency response should be measured. In September 2004, a category-5 storm known as Ivan The Terrible passed through Cuba, unleashing 160-mph winds and destroying property like a special effect in a Roland Emmerich movie. The government knew Ivan was coming and had time to prepare, evacuating 1.5 million people (out of a total population of 11.5 million) and securing as much property and farm goods as possible. There were no deaths in Cuba as a result of Ivan the Terrible.

In early July of this year, Hurricane Dennis spread its 105-mph winds to mark the strongest hurricane to hit Cuba this early in the season in over 150 years. At least 10 people died, and, again, 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated.

Hurricanes are a staple of the Cuban experience… I remember the serious looks in the adults’ faces during a hurricane in the late 1960s (my one hurricane memory from childhood). Our home in Havana was new enough and strong enough to survive, and we were happy when it was over. But during the hurricane’s visit there was a frightening feeling that anything could happen. In recent years, hurricanes Isodore and Lili have also left scars on the island.

Last year Cuba also had to deal with the worst drought in the island’s history. Not only did it damage over 40% of the farmlands in Eastern Cuba, but nearly 4 million Cubans had to count each drop of water they consumed.

Of course, the worst disaster Cubans have had to deal with is a man-made embargo that has lasted over forty years now and grown into a category 5 blockade.



Blogger Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Well, at last you have defined yourself; you are not just anti-American but pro-Castro. The greatest unnatural (as in "desnaturalizado") disaster that has ever befallen Cuba is Hurricane Fidel, which has wreaked chaos on the island for more than 50 years. In case you didn't know -- and now it is plain that you don't know anything about Cuba -- Cuba has the highest suicide rate in the world; the highest abortion rate; and the lowest birthrate. In order words, our country is on the path to extinction. But you naively blame this hecatomb on the "embargo?" What has Cuba got to sell us? Castro isn't even producing sugar anymore. And if Castro wants to import anything, he can do so from any of the 190 countries that could trade with Cuba. Of course, nobody wants to trade with Cuba. Its $60 billion foreign debt -- the largest per capita in the world -- makes it a very poor risk. In fact, there isn't a single country in the world that Castro hasn't stiffed. What money he can squeeze from Cuba goes into Castro's Swiss bank account, which Forbes Magazines estimates at $675 million. Grow up.

9:05 AM, September 23, 2005  
Blogger Manuel A.Tellechea said...

A "category 5 blockade." How cute! Did you stay up all night thinking of that one? How may U.S. ships are encircling Cuba to carry out this "blockade?" The entire naval fleet, I should think.

3:49 PM, September 23, 2005  
Blogger Jerry A. Sierra said...

I am neither anti-American nor pro-Castro. I have no plans to return to Cuba “after he’s gone,” and I love my new country (the U.S.) enough that I vote in every election, I try to be a good citizen, and I worry a great deal about our future as a nation.

I speak my mind because I believe it is not only my right to do so and my responsibility, but a very American act in itself. I try to be careful not to insult anyone who might disagree with me, but I figure that if they don’t like what I’m saying they can just go somewhere else. That’s what Democracy is all about.

If you insist that not taking a hard-line against Castro (which in reality means against Cuba) is the same as supporting him then I insist that you’re totally wrong. And let’s be clear once and for all, I’d love a free and democratic Cuba, but that can only happen through peace. We must avoid the killing and destruction that some would take as their revenge. Most of the Cuban population was not even alive at the time of the revolution in 1959.

As far as the category-5 hurricane comment, it really didn’t take that long…

6:39 PM, September 23, 2005  
Blogger Manuel A.Tellechea said...

"... Castro (which in reality means Cuba)..." No comment necessary.

5:37 PM, September 24, 2005  

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