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The Blockade and Cuban Hurricane Relief

The Blockade and Cuban Hurricane Relief


"We are realists – we dream the impossible."
Ernesto 'Che' Guevara

It's official – Cuba has suffered $5 billion dollars worth of damage from hurricanes Gustav and Ike, according to both Cuban government sources and the United Nations. What's the big deal - that's only about a nineteenth of the losses they've suffered due to the U.S. blockade!

In only a week these two hurricanes decimated 80% of the country's agriculture, killed half a million chickens, and destroyed almost 50,000 tons of foodstuffs in warehouses and factories. Over three million people were displaced, many with only the clothes on their backs. Nearly half a million houses were damaged and over 60,000 completely destroyed. You have to hand it to mother nature – she managed to do in a week what 50 years of U.S. terrorist attacks and biological warfare couldn't – but, hey, Ike only killed seven whereas U.S.-based groups have totalled hundreds...

Cuba's not that special –they're not the only country to suffer catastrophic hurricanes – but they're the only country being actively prevented from recovering. Kind of like blind man's bluff meets the Von Trapps – the US has what Cubans need and could supply it all tomorrow, but they are keeping it just out of reach, teasing with packages tied up with strings – blockades are just one of their favourite things.

Call it cruel and mean-spirited, even inhumane, but U.S. administrations don't give a toss what you or anyone else thinks – just look at the UN votes since 1992 – then there were 59 votes for lifting the blockade, three against, and 71 abstentions, within five years the 'lift' vote had doubled, in ten years it had almost trebled to 173, and in 2007 was up to 187, with only one abstention and four against. 187-4 to lift the blockade, and a year later it's still in place. Now that's democrUSy.

2008, two major hurricanes with a tropical storm in between - the electricity grid all but annihilated, hard-currency cash-crops devastated, a couple of million people displaced, many hospitals and schools out of order, hardly any food – and Cuba's nearest neighbour, whose Congress boasts 100% religious affiliation (92.4% Christian, 6.9% Jewish, and 0.7% unspecified), ignores their formal requests to lift the blockade so they can purchase on the open market the goods and services essential to sustain the population for the next six months and repair essential services – now that's virtue - prUdence, juStice, chArity with bells on.

Maybe the UN will drop their bells, and actually do something when the vote is passed again next month....like have a resolution.

But Cuba is not asking for charity, just to be able to buy what they need from the nearest suppliers, such as food, specialised electrical components, and construction equipment and materials – which could be bought in the United States and transported to Cuba within days. The Cuban government has not requested special treatment, only the same access to goods and credit as any other purchasers.

Nor are Cubans asking for handouts, or sit-down money – they're movers and shakers! They're not asking for, and do not need, teams of external specialists to come in and do it all for them, as countries such as Haiti have been forced to do. Cuba has its own literate, educated, highly-skilled and highly specialised work-force – just look at how many of them are working in other ravaged countries as doctors, teachers, engineers. Cuba is asking only for the opportunity to buy the materials they need so they themselves can rebuild their electricity grid, their hospitals and schools, their houses –just like they did the first time around. But this time, they don't have 50 years to do it, they have only weeks, maybe months if they're lucky.

The blockade against Cuba, like George Bush himself, was already an anachronism even before Gustav and Ike hit. Like GW himself, it is the other most spectacular example of failed foreign policy in modern history, whose aim of regime change served only to strengthen the resolve of the people to preserve their sovereignty and right to choose their own political and economic systems, as well as to strengthen international opposition to interventionist US foreign policy anywhere and everywhere in the world.

Flying in the face of the principles of compassionate humanitarianism, of best practice development discourse, and even of capitalism itself ie the commercial benefit to its own floundering economy of trading with it's closest southern neighbour, the dying Bush administration's refusal to allow Cuba to purchase essential materials to alleviate the suffering of its people, millions of whose relatives will be voting in November, shows just how out of touch with any people, let alone it's own people, the current administration is.

Sadly, it seems unlikely the presidential candidates from either camp signify any real change, being equally unabashed tarts of the Miami mafia.

To continue to forbid U.S. companies and their subsidiaries in other countries to provide Cuba with the materials so necessary for its reconstruction, let alone private credit for their purchases, to refuse even to allow credit for food, so desperately needed for millions of Cubans today let alone to replace reserves for the rest of this hurricane season –will take religion, democracy, and thus hypocrUSy, to new depths.

But from Havana to the Sierra Maestra, even if they're the last left singing, we will surely hear voices:

Climb every mountain, ford every stream
Follow every rainbow til you find your dream.
A dream that will need all the love you can give
Every day of your life, for as long as you live.


Which may not be much longer, if this genocide is allowed to continue. Lift the blockade, you callous bastards.

*************

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