What the West’s only communist nation has done right
By Erica Gies for Grist.org
09 Aug 2006
Reports that Fidel Castro turned over power to his brother Raul last week because of surgery for intestinal bleeding have brought a flashback to the Cold War, with reporters rushing to doodle prematurely on his grave and interview the vociferous hard-right Miami expat constituency that has helped dictate U.S.-Cuba policy for the last 47 years. But they’re missing a vital part of the story.
Tired of my government’s hyperbole on the subject, I visited Cuba not long ago. I wanted to see it for myself and draw my own conclusions, before Castro died and the United States annexed it as a Sandals resort.
Erica Gies is a freelance environmental writer in San Francisco, California.
Castro: U.S. hasn’t responded to Katrina offer
HAVANA, Cuba (CNN)—Cuban President Fidel Castro told more than 1,500 doctors Sunday night that American officials had made “absolutely no response” to his offer to send them to the U.S. Gulf Coast to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Castro, a longtime adversary of the United States, initially offered to send 1,100 doctors and at least 26 tons of supplies and equipment, but the Communist leader announced Sunday during a televised speech that he had increased the number of physicians to 1,586. Each doctor would carry about 27 pounds of medicine.
The Two Americas
Tr u t h o u t | Perspective
Saturday 03 September 2005
Last September, a Category 5 hurricane battered the small island of Cuba with 160-mile-per-hour winds. More than 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm. Although the hurricane destroyed 20,000 houses, no one died.
What is Cuban President Fidel Castro’s secret? According to Dr. Nelson Valdes, a sociology professor at the University of New Mexico, and specialist in Latin America, “the whole civil defense is embedded in the community to begin with. People know ahead of time where they are to go.” “Cuba’s leaders go on TV and take charge,” said Valdes.
Contrast this with George W. Bush’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina. The day after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Bush was playing golf. He waited three days to make a TV appearance and five days before visiting the disaster site. In a scathing editorial on Thursday, the New York Times said, “nothing about the president’s demeanor yesterday – which seemed casual to the point of carelessness – suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.”
“Merely sticking people in a stadium is unthinkable” in Cuba, Valdes said. “Shelters all have medical personnel, from the neighborhood. They have family doctors in Cuba, who evacuate together with the neighborhood, and already know, for example, who needs insulin.” They also evacuate animals and veterinarians, TV sets and refrigerators, “so that people aren’t reluctant to leave because people might steal their stuff,” Valdes observed.
Update, July 4, 2007:
UN Official: Cuba Solved Energy Crisis
Havana Correspondent for the Associated Press
Wednesday, July 4, 2007; 3:41 PM
HAVANA — Cuba has solved crippling energy shortages that plagued the island as recently as 2004 without sacrificing a long-term commitment to promoting environmentally friendly fuels, the head of the U.N. Environment Program said Wednesday.
The electric grid still relies too heavily on wasteful gas-flare reactors and heavy polluting diesel generators, but the communist government has taken important steps toward developing wind and solar power, as well as ethanol from sugar cane, said Achim Steiner, the program’s executive director.