There is no greater contrast to the way a country reacts to a hurricane than the way the Cuban government and the Bush regime reacted to their respective disasters.
A hurricane with 160 mile-an-hour winds recently battered the small island of Cuba. Equally notified in advance as the Bush regime was about the impending catastrophe in New Orleans and the Gulf states, the Cubans efficiently evacuated 1,500,000 people.
Because the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution in the local communities are so well organized, everything went smoothly without the loss of one life. “People had their medicine with them and doctors were fully prepared for all emergencies,” commented Jim Prigoff, Sacramento activist and photographer. “There was zero looting as people were able to take their TVs and limited other property with them.”
The Cuban people, even with dramatically far less resources than the United States, have survived extreme hurricanes and flooding because the government mobilizes to put people first, evacuating hundreds of thousands and providing necessary food, water and medical care immediately.
In contrast, the Bush administration did nothing about Hurricane Katrina until it was too late for thousands of people, even though it knew about the impending disaster for a week in advance. The devastation that even hardened reporters were stunned by is well known to everyone -- and the true scope of the disaster, both in lives and property lost, won’t be known for months or even years.
Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless, while the Mayor of New Orleans estimates that 10,000 people may have died -- all because of an uncaring, racist administration that puts the priorities of poor folks last. The majority of those who died and are homeless are poor and African American.
The federal government of the most wealthy country in the world, under the “leadership” of Bush and FEMA’s Michael Brown, could not provide food, water, clothing, shelter and rescue people until thousands were already dead, even though reporters were able to get in and out of New Orleans, Biloxi and other stricken communities.
The levees failed for only one reason -- because the money needed to restore them was diverted to killing people in an illegal war and occupation in Iraq and the ironically named Department of “Homeland Security.” Because there was no real plan for evacuation, more than 20,000 people were herded into the Superdome without adequate food, shelter, water or medical care for days.
“By Wednesday, the stench was staggering,” the New York Times said on September 1. “Heaps of rotting garbage in bulging white plastic bags baked under a blazing Louisiana sun on the main entry plaza, choking new arrivals as they made their way into the stadium after being plucked off rooftops and balconies. The odor billowing from toilets was even fouler. Trash spilled across corridors and aisles, slippery with smelly mud and scraps of food.”
In response to this horrible tragedy, Cuban President Fidel Castro on the evening of September 2 reiterated Cuba's offer, first made on August 30, to send doctors and medical equipment to provide desperately-needed assistance to those who have become the victims of both Hurricane Katrina and of the Bush administration's meager and criminally negligent response.
Cuba is offering to send 1,100 medical doctors with 26.4 tons of medications and diagnosis kits at no expense to the U.S. (they will even bring their own food and water). This is a great humanitarian gesture by Cuba, considering that the U.S. has imposed an illegal economic blockade on the country for over 40 years.
“These medical doctors have the necessary international experience and elementary knowledge of the English language that would allow them to communicate with the patients,” said Castro. “We stand ready waiting for the US authorities' response.”
Castro urged the United States government to set aside its political differences and to place humanitarian concerns as their number one priority. But the Bush regime to date refuses to take this badly needed help, as it has not yet responded to offers for hurricane aid from dozens of other countries, including Venezuela, Iran and Canada.
“There is now a dire need for medical attention in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and in other Southern states,” according to an urgent action alert by International ANSWER. “The Cuban doctors, nurses and professional healthcare staff are world renowned for their medical expertise and their ability to provide assistance even in the most difficult conditions.”
These doctors and the medicine and equipment stand ready to fly to Houston and can arrive within hours as soon as they get permission -- permission that thus far has not been given by the U.S. government. In their public statements about countries that have offered assistance, the Bush administration has not even acknowledged this offer from Cuba!
As one who lives in a city dependent on levees, Sacramento, adjacent to the California Delta, I fear that that the Bush regime’s response would be the same in Sacramento as it was to the hurricane in New Orleans -- too little, too late. Sacramento residents are currently mobilizing to prevent this from happening if a big winter or spring flood burst the levees in our region.
The Bush regime is a criminal one, the worst presidential administration in U.S. history, which cares nothing about the people of New Orleans, the U.S., Iraq or the rest of the world. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their neo-con cohorts care only about corporate profits and waging illegal wars that kill thousands of innocent people.
In the long term, the solution to preventing more New Orleans-style disasters is:
(1) Massive popular resistance in the streets to force Congress and the president to pull out of Iraq and provide massive aid to Hurricane Katrina survivors.
(2) The impeachment of Bush and Cheney.
(3) War crimes tribunals for Bush, Cheney and other regime officials.
However, in the short term, there are many things you can do to help the Hurricane Katrina survivors. One easy and meaningful action you can take is to send a letter to Congress and Bush today demanding that the U.S. allow the Cuban doctors to enter the country and begin assisting in the relief efforts! International A.N.S.W.E.R. has set up an easy-to-use mechanism to facilitate sending a quick email to George W. Bush and the Congressional Representative in your District and Senators in your state with your demand.
ANSWER has provided a sample letter, but you can customize your message to get your point across. Please take a moment now, by clicking here, to send a message to Bush and Congress: www.pephost.org/CubaAidAlert.
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CUBAN PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO REITERATES MEDICAL CARE OFFER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE in his remarks during the TV round table, September 2, 2005, 6:00 pm:
"Our country is ready to send, in the small hours of morning, 100 clinicians and specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine, who at dawn tomorrow, Saturday, could be in Houston International Airport, Texas, the closest to the region struck by the tragedy, in order to be transferred by air, sea or river to the isolated shelters, facilities and neighborhoods in the city of New Orleans, where the population and families are that require emergency medical care or first aid.
"These Cuban personnel would be carrying backpacks with 24 kilograms of medications, known to be essential in such situations to save lives, as well as basic diagnosis kits. They would be prepared to work alone or in groups of two or more, depending on the circumstances, for as long as necessary.
"Likewise, Cuba is ready to send via Houston, or any other airport of your choosing, 500 additional specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine, with the same equipment, who could be at their destination point at noon or in the afternoon of tomorrow, Saturday, September 3.
"A third group of 500 specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine could be arriving in the morning of Sunday, September 4. Thus, the 1100 said medical doctors, with the resources described tantamount to 26.4 tons of medications and diagnosis kits, would be caring for the neediest persons in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
"These medical doctors have the necessary international experience and elementary knowledge of the English language that would allow them to communicate with the patients.
"We stand ready waiting for the US authorities' response."
Dan Bacher is an outdoor writer, alternative journalist and satirical song writer from Sacramento, California. He is editor of the Central America Connection and contributes to numerous publications and websites, including Dissident Voice, CounterPunch, Because People Matter and the Sacramento News & Review. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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