Under capitalist social relations, the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria continues to wreak havoc and untold misery on working people in Puerto Rico, other Caribbean islands, Texas and Florida. In sharp contrast to the U.S. rulers and other colonial powers in the Caribbean, Cuba’s socialist government carefully prepares for these kinds of disasters well beforehand.
The excerpt below is based on a 2005 interview with Gen. Moisés Sío Wong in Our History Is Still Being Written: The Story of Three Chinese-Cuban Generals in the Cuban Revolution. Sío Wong was president of the National Institute of State Reserves for more than 20 years.
“Our most important reserves are the patriotic reserves of our people,” he said. After Hurricane Irma the revolutionary people of Cuba poured into the streets to provide emergency services to those who had been hit hardest, restoring power and beginning to rebuild — using the reserves which had been put away for just such an emergency. Copyright © 2005 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
There is a decree of the president of the Council of State in which Fidel defines our policy on the reserves. In the first “whereas” he says: “The increase, preservation, and monitoring of the material reserves is an indispensable condition for the security of the nation, for feeding the population, and for the people’s well-being.”
That is the role of the reserves. …
A good example of why we have the reserves is Hurricane Michelle, which struck Cuba in November 2001. We were able to repair all the hurricane damage, and we did it in less than a year. Because we could count on a reserve of fuel, food, construction materials, roofs, power poles and cables, and so on. We were able to deal with the damage to 160,000 homes in seven provinces, 13,000 of them totally destroyed.
In July 2005 Hurricane Dennis battered ten provinces, damaging more than 175,000 homes, among them 28,000 completely destroyed, with total losses reaching US$1.4 billion. It’s the most destructive hurricane our country has faced since 1959. It was a Category 5 storm, the maximum on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The force of its winds reached more than 300 kilometers [185 miles] per hour. Some of the mountains in eastern Cuba suffered ecological damage that will take fifty years to heal.
In contrast to Cuba’s approach, we’ve seen the consequences of natural disasters in countries far richer than we are, with much greater resources. A while back I was reading an article about relief claims made by people in Florida who had been affected by Hurricane Andrew, I believe. Andrew hit there in 1992 — the “storm of the century,” they call it — and people are still waiting for claims to be settled. They haven’t received aid promised by the U.S. government more than a decade ago!
But within a year after Hurricane Michelle we had repaired everything. And since agriculture was also hit, we supplied an additional quantity of rice, grain, and oil to those provinces that were affected. That’s the way we respond to any natural disaster. That’s what we are doing now to deal with the damages inflicted by Dennis.