Food Support for Eastern Cuban Provinces

Cuban hurricane-hit provinces of Camaguey and Holguin are delivered shares of agricultural products from the island’s central territory of Sancti Spiritus.

According to José Solenzal, governmental official in charge of the distribution affairs in Sancti Spiritus, over 10 000 quintals of soil products were sent to the abovementioned provinces despite loses provoked by the hurricanes in this central region of the island.

Solenzal also pointed out that similar shares are scheduled to be sent in November, tehrefore additional efforts are needed not to neglect any harvest time specially in the local municipalities of Jatibonico, Cabaiguan, Yaguajay and Taguasco.

Sancti Spisitus’s agriculture workers and farmers have been so far encouraging the so-called short term crops using dry lands and the combination of different crops.


Cuba Mobilizes against Epidemics

Havana, Sep 25 (Prensa Latina) Cubans are currently fostering a series of health measures to avoid epidemics in the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes that recently lashed the island state.

The Cuban Public Health Ministry has called for the hygienic-epidemiological control system to face disaster, and avoid diseases like dengue, hepatitis, leptospirosis and rabies, mainly.

Government and grass-roots organizations are on the alert to prevent outbreaks.

Bloodied, but unbowed

Desperate for international aid, hurricane-torn Cuba turns down any relief from its old foe, the United States

“NEVER in the history of Cuba have we had a case like this,” President Raúl Castro lamented after two powerful hurricanes, barely a week apart, struck the island, severely damaging crops and leaving some 200,000 homeless. Miraculously, Havana, the capital, was left virtually unscathed, as were the main tourist resorts, the oil industry and nickel mining. But with estimated losses of $5 billion, one of the world’s last communist regimes is facing a daunting task.

The enormous damage sustained to the island’s food supplies, housing and electricity grid raises big questions about Cuba’s ability to get by without massive international aid. Two of the island’s most valuable export crops, citrus and tobacco, suffered big losses. Luckily, the tobacco harvest was already in, but some 3,000 curing sheds where the leaves are stored were damaged. Almost half the sugarcane fields were flattened. The coffee harvest in the east has also been badly affected.

The government has admitted that it cannot cope alone. “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. “The reserves are being tested. We shall have to prioritise.”

Hurricanes Gustav and Ike could increase pressure on Raúl Castro to accelerate reforms to loosen the island’s centrally-controlled economy, much as his brother, Fidel, was forced to do in the early 1990s after the collapse of Cuba’s subsidised trade with the Soviet Union. Back then, reforms briefly opened the economy up to private enterprise, but Fidel Castro slammed the door shut again once the economy had recovered.

Since his brother fell ill in July 2006, Raúl has stressed the urgent need for Cuba to raise its domestic agricultural production to substitute for increasingly expensive food imports. To that end, he has introduced measures to redistribute idle land and allow farmers more autonomy. After years of decline, the agricultural sector had begun to show signs of modest recovery, with output up 5.5% last year. Citrus production rose 20%, having fallen by 41% over the previous three years. Sugar cane was also making a comeback.

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

But not even hurricanes of this ferocity could break down the lack of trust between Cuba and its old foe, the United States. Instead, the two have plunged into yet another round of political argy-bargy. The Bush administration offered Cuba $100,000 in immediate relief aid, later raised to $5m, but Mr Castro turned it down, demanding instead that America lift its trade embargo to enable it to buy urgently needed reconstruction materials. (In neighbouring Haiti by contrast, where the storm damage was worse, the United States promptly dispatched a helicopter-laden warship to help relief efforts, as well as pledging $19.5m in aid.)

In Havana, food markets are already running out of supplies and prices have shot up. Although some Miami-based Cubans may be eagerly anticipating anti-government protests, analysts do not consider this is on the cards—unless the government bungles the relief effort. “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. “Cubans have a track record of coming out stronger in far worse situations,” he noted.


Help for Cuba and Haiti

The devastating string of tropical storms and hurricanes that rushed through the Caribbean in the last month — Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike — left hundreds dead and tens of thousands of people hurt and displaced in Haiti. The country’s crops appear to be destroyed. In Cuba, Gustav and Ike destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes. A fifth of the population was evacuated to higher ground.

The scale of devastation calls for an extraordinary assistance effort that is, so far, not happening. While the United States has offered some emergency aid to Haiti, it has not done enough for an impoverished nation that Americans have a moral responsibility to help. And the Bush administration’s peculiar fixation with an obsolete trade embargo and deep-pocketed anti-Castro hard-liners in Miami is standing in the way of dispatching desperately needed assistance for Cuba.

In the last week, Washington has announced $10 million in aid for Haiti. It sent the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, which carries helicopters and airplanes, to assist in the relief effort. It is a good start. But Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, will need more. Only half the American aid is new money — the rest is being diverted from less urgently needed programs. And the United Nations has asked for more than $100 million to help those stricken by the storm.

Aid to Cuba is being complicated by outdated cold-war politics. The United States has, so far, offered only $100,000 in aid, with a promise of more if Cuba allows an American team in to assess the damage. Havana has foolishly rejected it. And the United States is refusing to temporarily ease core aspects of the longstanding trade embargo to help Cuba deal with the emergency.

The Treasury Department increased the dollar limit that organizations authorized to work with Cuban dissidents may send to Cuba. But Washington is refusing Cuba’s request to buy American construction materials to rebuild homes and repair the mangled electricity grid. It won’t allow Cuba to buy American food on credit, and it has, so far, refused to lift restrictions on the money that Cuban-Americans may send back to their relatives.

We believe the embargo against Cuba is about as wrongheaded a policy as one can devise. It gives credibility to the regime in Havana while contributing to the misery of ordinary Cubans, all for the sake of some votes in Florida. But we are not even asking the Bush administration to lift the embargo forever. The right thing to do to alleviate the crisis wrought by the storms is to temporarily lift all the restrictions on private remittances and private aid flows to Cuba.

Source: New York Times Editorial