The wreckage of Matthew
In a real rather than an ideological sense, the benefits and moral superiority of a truly socialist based society are experienced by that society’s members, and witnessed by anyone willing to see, during times of crisis.
On the evening of October 4 last, the Category 4 (on a scale with an upper limit of 5) Hurricane Matthew smashed into the easternmost tip of Cuba’s Guantanamo province.
When it departed the national territory some hours later, what it left in its wake was truly Hiroshimaesque.
Still photographs of the devastation could not convey the consequent harsh reality and human heartache Matthew left behind.
The broader view that came from the first footage filmed by TV journalists from a Revolutionary Armed Forces helicopter gave a better sense of the shocking and awesome destruction.
Nobody died in Cuba as a result of the violent storm.
As yet, the death toll in Haiti, where it had wreaked havoc before arriving in Cuba, has not yet been established.
It is safe to say that there are more than 500 dead, many thousands injured and hundreds-of-thousands left homeless and destitute to despairingly face the perils of cholera and other infectious diseases.
It is noteworthy that the first help and friendly faces thousands of these unfortunate comrades have already, or will encounter, will not represent their own government, the UN, or any agency from a European Union member state far from—and responsible for—the horrific misery Haiti has been abandoned to for centuries past.
They have been helped, treated and healed by Cuban health professionals, many still unaware of how seriously their own families, friends and communities at home have fared.
This wonderful—and sadly necessary—courageous and life saving solidarity, a hallmark of the Cuban Revolution since its triumph in 1959, is truly a beautiful thing to behold.
Of course, you won’t read about it in Denis O’Brian’s1 or any other capitalist news rag.
Non-profit solidarity is not something they are inclined to promote.
In something that is as grossly criminal and offensive as Corn Laws to protect profits and ships full of grain sailing from Irish ports as millions of our grandparents’ parents lay starving on Ireland’s roadsides, O’Brian has taken thousands-of-millions of dollars out of Haiti over recent decades, almost all with the help of Mr. And Mrs. Clinton.
Poor, poor, Haiti…
O’Brian’s “lifetime” contributions (a loophole to evade single donation transparency regulations) to Clinton fundraising efforts have surpassed 25 million dollars to date. Imagine what his total theft must amount to on the basis of this figure alone.
Less than one of every hundred dollars actually donated (rather than promised and then reneged on) for relief in Haiti following the earthquake there, reached a victim in need.
The other 99 were spent (stolen?) on rent, vehicles, salaries, services, entertainment, communications, consultations, security, staff, evaluations, studies and other such niceties, to ensure that the noble servants of the multi-million dollar and fundamentally fraudulent disaster and poverty industries could enjoy “decent” working conditions.
A rich, comfortable, primarily white, well-financed and only somewhat transitory oligarchy arose to compliment forces of occupation disguised as peacekeepers.
In the U.S., where disaster prevention and relief is a great “everyman for himself free for all,” many lives were also lost and many more, as was the case with Katrina, have been abandoned to their fates.
From the moment a regional tropical front is noted on weather charts and a reasonable hypothesis about its potential trajectory can be established, Cuban meteorology services are on alert. Like in every other element of society here, a socialist ethos permeates all their reporting.
If the front becomes a Tropical Storm, very detailed and practical information is provided.
All relevant agencies are alerted to the potential threat.
If the trajectory seems likely to cross the national territory and the storm increases to Hurricane Force, harm prevention measures are implemented where required, and preparations for evacuations and emergency situations are initiated.
Everything the evacuees might need, including healthcare for everyday ailments, food, information and communications are provided for those who will not stay with family or friends.
Once established that the weather event will affect Cuba, the operation commences.
Evacuations are massive (in the case of Matthew almost 400,000 people,) orderly and calmly efficient affairs.
None of the fears of theft for leaving the little some own unattended, that cause countless deaths elsewhere, arise.
The President of the Republic, cabinet ministers with responsibility for all relevant departments and all other military, statutory and administrative authorities are on the ground in the area overseeing all operations.
Their very presence offers moral support, a sense of security and solidarity to the population. Many are still in the area as I write ten days after the storm. Their oversight of recovery lends seriousness and serenity to this traumatic phase.
Before evacuations, recovery and response action plans have been activated, all necessary personnel, equipment, resources and services are moved as close to the soon to be affected zone as is safe, for deployment immediately after the danger has abated.
Cuba is a poor, Third World, criminally blockaded country with serious economic problems, often cynically criticized for a “poor” human rights record.
It nonetheless makes incredible and inspiring efforts and sacrifices to ensure that her most vulnerable citizens are guaranteed their most basic rights to life, shelter, comfort, sustenance, care and material support in the face of phenomena that overpower the abilities and feint will of her rich, powerful, critical, cynical and greedy neighbor to the North.
Everyone whose home has been damaged by the hurricane will have at least half the cost of repairs covered by the state and can easily avail of low interest credits to cover the other half. Others who need more or a different form of support will get it.
The first of many of our brothers and sisters in Haiti knew about what Matthew was when strong winds and rain prophesized an imminent mortal assault.
Preparation and prevention consisted of disheartened efforts to gather up, and endeavors to protect, whatever few miserable possessions one might have.
Shelter and evacuation were nonexistent and recovery comprises desperate and fatalistically resigned people waiting in the vain hope that somebody might appear.
Dead are buried or not, food is scarce, rancid or non-existent and diseases thrive in the wreckage of the recent storm and the ancient and ongoing criminal neo-colonial rape and abandonment.
Perhaps the most telling—and undoubtedly the saddest and most moving—of the differences between the experiences of Cuban and Haitian victims of Matthew are not material.
They can be deciphered from the faces of those interviewed by news networks about their experiences and circumstances.
Cuban victims, of course saddened and traumatized by their losses, all seem not only healthy and well, but also truly determined, dignified, strong, grateful, patriotic, robust and defiant in the knowledge that their Revolution will not abandon them and that not one life has been lost.
The contrasting hopelessness, despair, un-wellness, shock, confusion, fear, hunger, thirst, the tragic desolation and death in the eyes, voices and hearts of their Haitian counterparts, should evoke compassion, outrage and fury in every right minded human being.
In a world of plenty, nobody should be so condemned to misery by modern day corsairs of capitalism.
I am not slow to criticize the many flaws, failings and frustrations of everyday life in Cuba.
But there are moments and events that put such trivialities into context and reassure those of us who have been chanting for years That a Better World is Possible.
Sean Joseph Clancy writes for the Irish monthly Socialist Voice, where this article originally appeared. He lives in Trinidad, Cuba.
—Counter Punch, October 18, 2016
1 Denis O’Brien is an Irish billionaire who was listed among the World’s Top 200 Billionaires in 2015 and is also Ireland’s richest native-born citizen. The New York Times has described him as “the biggest player in Ireland’s media landscape.”