Pride & Dignity Against Wind & Rain
By Manuel Yepe*
The air of pride and dignity being breathed in Cuba in the days following the onslaught of a succession of atmospheric phenomena that swept through the Cuban archipelago in less than three weeks can only be compared with the air breathed here after the revolutionary victory at Bay of Pigs in 1961, or the collective ability to resist with dignity the worst dangers, displayed by the Cuban people after the Missile Crisis in October 1962.
From late August to mid-September, four tropical storms, two of which rose to the category of high-intensity hurricanes, provoked unprecedented destruction and damage in the infrastructures of the nation's 14 provinces and the special municipality of Isle of Youth.
It is estimated that 50 percent of the crops were lost nationwide.
About 340,000 homes were damaged (of which 30,000 were razed) and many schools, hospitals, clinics, factories, warehouses, tobacco-drying barns and buildings for the raising of animals and other farm and industrial purposes suffered considerable damage.
The nickel industry, Cuba's main export product, was paralyzed and will have to await the repair of its installations and mines for several days before resuming production.
The tourism industry, in addition to being affected by the cancellation of flights and hotel reservations, was seriously damaged, in terms of its infrastructure and the natural, architectural and cultural patrimony that girds its promotion.
Almost 4 million people were evacuated to protect their lives in less than a month, with multimillion-dollar expenses in transportation, food, medical attention and police custody of personal effects in the evacuated areas, but the humanitarian effort produced the expected results. Only 11 people were killed, almost all of them because of negligence in the observance of the protective measures set up by a Civil Defense Service whose excellence is recognized worldwide and is the pride of all Cubans.
Cuba takes pride in its efficient organization and broad participation in the defensive tasks against catastrophes, especially because of the priority given to the protection of human lives. This time, we learned about true acts of heroism, individual and collective, some of which were captured on film by journalists. Word of most of those acts was spread by mouth and sometimes exaggerated by the people's admiration.
Wide recognition has been given to the intense and extensive participation of the armed forces and the police and firemen corps in rescue actions where they placed their own lives in jeopardy.
A singular demonstration of the level of inclusion of Cuban women in managerial responsibilities is the fact that two of the regions worst affected by the hurricanes have Defense Councils led by women who are also top leaders of the Communist Party. They demonstrated great managerial control and efficiency in the coordination of all the urgencies and brilliantly kept the citizens informed of events, in their territories and nationwide, through their appearances in the media.
The media performed in an outstanding manner when covering the tense situation that lasted for several days in places isolated because of the inclemency of the winds, the floods and the debris. The memory of radio listeners, TV watchers and readers has recorded the names of a large number of colleagues, many women among them, who did their job with the self-denial demanded by that profession.
After the storm, the acts of generosity and valor by electrical and communications workers and construction workers of all specialties did not cease but multiplied. It is up to them now, with the support of all residents, to rebuild the communities, the homes and the public buildings that were destroyed or damaged.
Amid the panorama of destruction left behind by nature, Cuban men and women are stimulated by the dignity with which the government of their country has responded to the petulancy and arrogance with which the Government of the United States has attempted to humiliate this nation by imposing conditions to an aid that would therefore lack the value of solidarity that, no doubt, is the real will of our noble American neighbors.
*Manuel E. Yepe MenÚndez is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana. He was Cuba's ambassador to Romania, general director of the Prensa Latina agency; vice president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television; founder and national director of the Technological Information System (TIPS) of the United Nations Program for Development in Cuba, and secretary of the Cuban Movement for the Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples.
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