Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cuba looking for relief

Cuba looking for relief
Matt Halip
Issue date: 11/21/08 Section: Features

A hurricane, which creates massive waves, torrential downpours and
violent twisters, is one of the most feared phenomena on earth.

Few fear the wrath of a hurricane more than Cuba, which has been
devastated by Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Gustav, and most recently
Tropical Storm Paloma. When the powerful storms struck the island, they
severely damaged crops and left some 200,000 homeless. With estimated
losses of $5 billion, one of the world's last communist regimes is
facing an uphill battle.

"Never in the history of Cuba have we had a case like this," said
President Raúl Castro, according to The Miami Herald.

Following the damage to the island's food supply, housing, and
electricity grids, there have been several questions regarding Cuba's
ability to get by without massive international aid. Cuba's most
valuable export crops, citrus and tobacco, suffered big losses. Almost
half the sugar cane fields were flattened and the coffee harvest has
also been badly affected.

"It is impossible to solve the magnitude of the catastrophe with the
resources available," said Carlos Lezcano, director of the National
Institute of State Reserves, according to The Miami Herald. "The
reserves are being tested. We shall have to prioritize."

In the aftermath of the storms, Cuba's main allies flew to the rescue.
Russia sent four large cargo planes carrying 200 tons of relief
supplies. Brazil and Spain sent smaller shipments. Venezuela is expected
to make a big contribution, though details are not yet known.

Even though the damage done by the hurricanes was immense, Cuba declined
help from the United States. The Bush administration offered Cuba
$100,000 in relief aid, later raising the amount to $5 million. Instead
of accepting, Cuba demanded that the United States lift its trade
embargo to enable it to buy much needed reconstruction materials.

With or without the help of the United States, Cuba believes they will
come out of this crisis stronger than before.

"It's rather unlikely that sweating and starving Cubans go rioting in
the streets, even less so against a government that has been effective
in disaster preparation and response," said Johannes Werner, editor of
Cuba Trade and Investment News, according to The Miami Herald. "Cubans
have a track record of coming out stronger in far worse situations."

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