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    Was Huricane Sandy Nicer to Cuba Than The U.S.?!
    Two Governments, Two Responses

    By Alison Bodine

    Hurricane Sandy Devastates US and Cuba

    132 people dead. An estimated 63 billion dollars in damages. 8.5 million people without power and heat. One might think that these statistics come from the effects of a devastating natural disaster hitting a developing country with little resources able to respond to powerful storms, but they do not. This is the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the richest country in the world, United States of America.

    As hurricane Sandy swept across the eastern U.S. a path of destruction left the especially the poorest and most oppressed people devastated and without any support or resources. When the financial heart of the U.S., the New York Stock Exchange, opened 2 days after the storm, aid workers and doctors contracted by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, were held up behind bureaucracy that left them waiting rather than helping those effected by the storm. Five days later 30,000 to 40,000 people in New York City were still in need of shelter, including 20,000 who live in public housing. After 11 days, tens of thousands of people in NYC public housing projects were still without heat, hot water and electricity.

    Before hitting the U.S., Hurricane Sandy had already taken the lives of 65 people in the Caribbean. As the storm unleashed vicious winds and and rain over Eastern Cuba, the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Holguin and Guantanamo suffered the biggest losses. 11 people were killed, despite all precautions and care taken by the Cuban revolutionary government to save and protect human lives. 226,604 homes were completely or partially destroyed. Hundreds of thousands were left without electricity.

    Yes, the impact of Hurricane Sandy in Cuba was immense, but looking at the aftermath, there is a clear difference the effect of this natural disaster on the people of Cuba and the people of the U.S.

    It Starts with Preparation

    Cuba is recognized internationally for their preparation for natural disasters that puts human lives before property and profits. As soon as it was clear the Hurricane Sandy was heading right towards Cuba, mass evacuations of over 340,000 people were organized.

    As, Dr. Luis Foyo Ceballos director general of the Cuban Red Cross said in a recent interview “There is an important link to the longer-term disaster preparedness work of the Cuban and the government... Vital preparations we made prior to included evacuating people, livestock and valuables from low-lying areas that were at risk from sea and storm surges and strong winds.”

    Time to Rebuild

    In a Oct 27th article from Reuters, Alexis Martinez, who had lost the roof off of his own house in the storm, summed up the response of the Cuban government and people to the destruction when he described “My wife is mobilized for public health and me for the rubble brigade. Our son is with his grandmother, and the roof we’ll see about later. Right now there are things more urgent to do.”

    Rather then hiding behind long lines of red tape the government of Cuba took immediate steps to ensure that people would be able to get back to their normal lives as soon as possible. Workers poured in from all over the island to participate in work brigades, with over 500 people joining 72 brigades charged with restoring electricity alone.

    In every level, people in Cuba are mobilized for reconstruction. Workers in other provinces have given their support to Cubans affected by the Hurricane, such as the farmers in Artemisa that sent 980 tons of root vegetables. Cuban schoolchildren resumed classes almost immediately, even if their schools were damaged, they were reopened in peoples homes or community spaces. 186 grocery stores that faced extensive damages were relocated and reopened. Construction supplies are being sold at a 50% of their normal cost, with partial or complete subsidies from Cuban government, as well as low interest loans are available.

    Why the Difference?

    So how is it that Cuba, a small island nation that has suffered under a criminal U.S. blockade for over 50 years can provide the planning, organization and quick disaster relief to those devastated by Hurricane Sandy? Because the government of Cuba puts human life and needs first.

    Days after the Hurricane U.S. President Obama visited the disaster areas, promising immediate assistance to victims, and then continued on his busy campaign trail. Cuban President Raul Castro went to Cuban city of Santiago, where he remained until all power to the city was restored.

    Now people in the U.S. are left alone with little resources and big battles with insurance companies, while people all over Cuba are united together and mobilized for reconstruction. The road to recovery in both countries is long but revolutionary Cuba is leading the way.

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