How Cuba handles hurricanes
September 6, 2005 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Weathering the Storm: Lessons in Hurricane Risk Reduction from Cuba [pdf] Oxfam America report described Cuba's community-based response system in April 2004, five months before category 5 hurricane Ivan tore across the island but resulted in zero deaths. From Medicc Review: "Of those evacuated, fully 78%...were sheltered in the homes of family, friends or neighbors. 8,026 tourists were transferred to safe areas. 359,644 boarding school students were transferred to their homes. 898,160 farm animals in vulnerable areas were moved to safer ground." The International Red Cross had similar praise for Cuba's planning after Hurricane Michelle in 2001: " The contrast between events in Cuba and earlier disasters, such as Hurricanes Mitch and Georges in 1998 and the floods in Venezuela in 1999, is enormous."
posted by mediareport (34 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Of course, the third comment here is worth noting, too:

A man who lives in the historic district of Pinar del Rio City said the Cuban government had been very insistent on evacuating certain areas. "We know that at 5 a.m. police went into Carlos Manuel with buses to take people out by force. The order was that they had to make sure not one life was lost.'

When told of the UN praise for Cuba's preparations, the man huffed: ``Of course the government here can activate better than others, there is total control here.'

Just trying to lay out the issues fairly.
posted by mediareport at 8:38 PM on September 6, 2005

We already have a Cuba and hurricanes thread.
posted by jb at 8:45 PM on September 6, 2005

Complete personal freedom seems to be a pretty big tradeoff for being saved at the possibility of a 100-year hurricane ... even if you get to bring your 'fridge and all the Cuban money you can carry in a wheel-barrel ... guess that "Liberty or Death," doesn't mean much to a bureaucrat at the U.N.
posted by jbelkin at 8:53 PM on September 6, 2005

jbelkin: So you're saying that to emulate a sucessful strategy used by Cuba = trading in your complete personal freedom? I don't get it.
posted by Edible Energy at 8:58 PM on September 6, 2005

We already have a Cuba and hurricanes thread.

Damn, sorry. The Oxfam report goes into a lot of detail, and I forgot it had been posted here already. I've flagged this as a double and will repost it as a comment in the other thread.
posted by mediareport at 9:02 PM on September 6, 2005

Clearly, jbelkin has never been to Cuba. If he had, he would know that most Cubans -- indeed, most people -- would rather have full bellies, a roof over their head, access to a world-class medical system, support in periods of natural disasters, and a moderate amount of freedom, than they would American-style Liberty.
posted by Elpoca at 9:03 PM on September 6, 2005

I forgot it had been posted here already

The issue, not the link, I mean. Still, it's a double.
posted by mediareport at 9:03 PM on September 6, 2005

This FPP has, I think, more links than the previous post. I appreciated it, and vote to keep it.
posted by Elpoca at 9:06 PM on September 6, 2005

at the current exchange rate of 21Cuban peso to one USD ,and if they are a big enough stooge to fidel, it would take more than a wheel barrow to buy a new car there. If there were any new cars to be bought.
posted by garficher at 9:08 PM on September 6, 2005

Oh no!!!! Life without new cars!!! It's unbearable!
*stabs self in the heart*
posted by Edible Energy at 9:11 PM on September 6, 2005

THanks, Elpoca. I especially liked this pro-decentralization, kind of anarchist bit on page 48 of the Oxfam report:

4. The Potential for Disaster Mitigation:
Focus on Local Government

Cuba’s reliance on local government authorities for risk reduction has demonstrated real benefits as a disaster mitigation strategy. Taking into account the differences in political systems, there is potential positive impact in strengthening the role of local government in risk reduction in Central America. The political will so lacking in the national arena often exists at the local level. Promoting local government as a principal actor in disaster preparedness and response builds on the philosophy behind decentralization, which is to make local government more accountable to the population.

posted by mediareport at 9:16 PM on September 6, 2005

It's funny how Americans always compare living in Cuba to living in the US as proof positive of their superior way of life. Wouldn't Jamaica or Haiti be fairer?
posted by wilful at 9:25 PM on September 6, 2005

Life in Cuba sucks in some ways, in that there's little money to go round, and not always enough for more than basic food.

But if you compare it to capitalist Haiti, or capitalist Jamaica, or even capitalist Mexico, there's no question that having enough to eat for everyone (mostly organic food too, because they can't afford chemical fertilizers!), free healthcare, free education to University level, and a stable society where people are taught to look after each other, makes all the difference.

And having fewer cars does very little harm, either.

on preview: what wilful said.
posted by cleardawn at 9:56 PM on September 6, 2005

Clearly, jbelkin has never been to Cuba. If he had, he would know that most Cubans -- indeed, most people -- would rather have full bellies, a roof over their head, access to a world-class medical system, support in periods of natural disasters, and a moderate amount of freedom, than they would American-style Liberty.

Count me out of that "most people" grouping that you obviously put yourself in. I'd rather have more than a "moderate" amount of freedom (whatever that means) and a leaky roof over my head. I can fix that leaky roof without getting attacked by the power apparatus, but once the freedom is attacked, I can't easily regain it.

I suggest you follow your bliss and move to that paradise.
posted by stirfry at 10:00 PM on September 6, 2005

Our law profs liked to call that a "negative" conception of liberty, stirfry, in that you're free to do what you want -- including be unintentionally unemployed, destitute, starve, etc. A positive view of freedom has it that you be free to do what you aspire to do -- and that takes a certain amount of support from the state, usually. But it can get in the way of the same degree of liberty for everyone in the negative sense.
posted by dreamsign at 10:14 PM on September 6, 2005

All very academic and theoretical, isn't it? Are these law profs in Cuba as we speak? How many boats or other floating devices head out from Miami every year going south?

You academics slay me with your conceptions of what is real and what should be real. A positive view of freedom, in my humble opnion, is one where the individual isn't harassed for expressing interests or talents. These are always tempered with compassion for others. I live with others, but those others are individuals like myself and not individuals with a hunger for power.

I usually don't like that "America, love it or leave it" kind of shit, but in the case of Cuba praise, and there are aspects to praise, I have to respectfully suggest you take a permanent visit.

Get back to as to how it goes for you.
posted by stirfry at 10:31 PM on September 6, 2005

So how many boats are leaving from Cuba to Haiti or Mexico? If it's just capitalism they crave...
posted by wilful at 10:35 PM on September 6, 2005

Sorry, stirfry, those particular academics are more knowledgable about the real world than I am -- and probably are more than you too. I've been to Cuba and it's no surprise to me at all that they'd handle a similar crisis better. Positive liberty isn't a couple of fancy words when put into action. It means a social structure, jobs, law enforcement, social assistance, librairies, daycare, and a few other things that can make a country great. It doesn't have to be extreme capitalism or extreme socialism with no choices in between. I reject your false dichotomy.

And I suggest you take an open-minded tour of the world.
posted by dreamsign at 10:50 PM on September 6, 2005

Clearly, jbelkin has never been to Cuba. If he had, he would know that most Cubans -- indeed, most people -- would rather have full bellies, a roof over their head, access to a world-class medical system, support in periods of natural disasters, and a moderate amount of freedom, than they would American-style Liberty.

Which is exactly why so many have died trying to leave this "worker's paradise".

Egalitarianism at the expense of liberty is no bargain. To call Haiti and Jamaica "capitalist" is like calling William Hung a singer, not exactly accurate.
posted by Polarisman at 11:26 PM on September 6, 2005

Which is exactly why so many have died trying to leave this "worker's paradise".

While no-one ever dies attempting to leave a capitalist country like, say, Mexico...
posted by pompomtom at 11:47 PM on September 6, 2005

Polarisman, what do you call Mexico, a democratic state and a member of NAFTA? And yet the number of Mexicans who have died trying to flee Mexico makes the number of Cubans who died in a similar situation look insignificant. Cuba is no "Worker's Paradise", but the Cuban people enjoy a number of benefits the rest of Latin America still struggles to provide, like free universal health care, free education, wages large enough to provide the basic needs for all families (habitation, food, clothing) etc.

It is a bit hard to have an informed discussion on this topic on American foruns, since Americans are legally forbidden to visit Cuba and most information available in the US about Cuba is filtered through very harsh ideological lenses (that is, they are either flat out lies or very distorted versions of the truth), but there is some non-biased information available out there.
posted by nkyad at 11:48 PM on September 6, 2005

So, no one wants to talk about the specifics of Cuba's hurricane preparedness planning? There are some really smart things there.

Ok, now I'm really fine with this thread being killed.
posted by mediareport at 11:57 PM on September 6, 2005

Mexico, a democratic state

See my comment about William Hung.

That the federal government is incompetent is really not the issue in my mind. The fact is that those with the most to lose with the flooding of NO, namely the citizens of NO and the state of LA, were ultimately responsible for their own protection.

To say after the fact that the feds should have prevented this when the citizens of the city (and the state) themselves did not make sure this did not happen seems disingenuous.

While the federal government should definitely help the states in times of need, to say that it is a good idea to put your own safety in the hands of others who don't even live in your state, let alone city, seems to me the definition of madness.

IMO those who had the most to lose should have made sure this never happened.
posted by Polarisman at 12:27 AM on September 7, 2005

I don't believe that is how it works in your system of government. Hell, I know that's not how it works. Hence all these discussions of when and why the federal budget for these necessary works was cut, and what your FEDERAL Emergency Management Authority is good for. One thing that I'm sure it's not good for is learning the lessons taht Cuba would willingly provide for free.
posted by wilful at 12:31 AM on September 7, 2005

Polarisman, Ayn Rand spill on aisle 3.

I get it now: nothing compares to US capitalism and if does, it still doesn't because, you know, their's is different--and much, much worse. We have lots of stuff and it's because we are so damn smart. It has nothing do with geography, natural resources or anything else. Begins singing: We're too sexy for our country, too sexy for our sexy.
posted by a_day_late at 4:13 AM on September 7, 2005

"Thus, it is equally important to consider the role played by other “intangible” qualities in making the Cuban system work so well. These include community mobilization, solidarity, clear political commitment to safeguard human life, and a population that is “disaster-aware” and educated in the necessary actions to be taken in event of a disaster."

This is an excellent document, thanks mediareport for posting it.

I think those "intangible" elements are the main thing that Cuba is doing right and the US is doing wrong - not just in hurricane preparedness, but in lots of other areas too.

Solidarity comes from a sense of shared destiny - and that's exactly what the US system hasn't got.
posted by cleardawn at 5:33 AM on September 7, 2005

The example of Cuba *should* give us food for thought. This is the 21st century in the U.S. of A. Does it really *have* to be a question in this day and age of "give me liberty or give me death"? I wonder how many of the thousands dead in NOLA never really had the freedom of that choice...
posted by Misciel at 6:49 AM on September 7, 2005

I think it was said on the other thread about this, but the real issue with Ivan and Cuba was that Cuba wasn't even really hit by the storm, it was grazed and thus spared any real damage.

I did find the decentralization part of it to be interesting though. There's a lot of focus on places like Metafilter as to what we can expect from local governments. Indeed, the assumption seems to be that generally, most disasters require the resources of the federal government to prevent.

The suggestions in the Oxfam report are mainly for Central American countries where centralized governmental structures are far weaker than they are here, but I think we could learn something from them. While I think we all agree that there is a federal role in disaster response, it would seem that we need to more clearly think out what that role should be.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:09 AM on September 7, 2005

I suggest you follow your bliss and move to that paradise.

The dead poor people in New Orleans would almost certainly rather be alive poor people in Cuba.
posted by Elpoca at 7:59 AM on September 7, 2005

Bulgaroktonos, New Orleans was also 'missed', rember the initial relief when the storm took a slightly different path than anticipated?

The real damage came after the levees broke; preventing that is merely a matter of choosing to build higher/heavier barriers. Here in Holland we have invested a huge amount of money to make sure the chances of getting wet feet are 1 in 10000 years for the economically most viable parts. In New Orleans this number is 1 in 230 years, in other words the authorities chose to spend their money elsewhere. With that kind of probability, there should have been a (better) evacuation plan.
posted by beno at 8:46 AM on September 7, 2005

All these puerile comments suggesting either (1) move to Cuba you pinko or (2) how come they all want to come here v. (3) it's so great in Cuba, (4) they take care of the poor so well...

Of course American socialists don't really want to move to Cuba, under the disingenuous guise of "well, we from here!".

And of course there's a happy balance between Fidel wanting to trap people in the country and the anti-immigration types here not wanting more of them here either.

I'm sure Fidel would be happy to have talented and successful (ahem) American socialists coming to work for the proletariat, and to get rid of those pesky dissidents he keeps arresting.

I have a modest proposal. How about a one to one swap? One Cuban refugee/immigrant for one American Castrophile.
posted by reality at 2:48 PM on September 7, 2005

Of course American socialists don't really want to move to Cuba, under the disingenuous guise of "well, we from here!".

Like most people who see commies in their tv sets and everywhere else they glance, you can't see what's before your eyes. This is not your country. It our country (all of us). We're not moving cause you think we should and no, we are not in love with Fidel or Cuba, but we are willing to learn from everyone. If Fidel, or whoever, has some good ideas, we are open enough to look. Our minds have not shut down to the possibility of improvement. We want to take the idea, improve it, make it our own [AMERICAN!!!]. Scream all you want for us to get the hell out. While you are at it, get your friends to scream too. We are not leaving and we will make your/our country better for you and your children while you hunt for homos, commies, and other pariahs of the moment.
posted by a_day_late at 3:20 PM on September 7, 2005

Defensive bunch, huh.

There are many islands where life can be a bit less of a rat race than in certain North American countries -- Caribbean included.

*looking out window at DC, fondly remembering life in the Comoros and Madagascar*

And, as for freedom, well... we can always remember on our commute in.
posted by pwedza at 8:43 PM on September 7, 2005

Cuba is exactly like being a prisoner in the United States. You will do as you are told - don't like it? - there are ways of dealing with you from annoying to permanance. Like prison, you get basic medical care of sorts and you have a roof over your head but all your major decisions are decided for you. Yes, you can get a nice tour of Cuba where you see all the niceities just like you can tour most US prisons (if you have some pull) and you get EXACTLY the same tour - look how humane we are, etc, etc ... I'm not claiming the US is perfect (we knew that before Katrina) but the only comparison to Cuba is being in prison - as many other point out, otherwise, people would not be escaping in droves using whatever means. If you dislike the US, you can leave via many methods on your own free free will and power and we even give you a tax break. Not so with Cubans. Again, the difference between a normal country and prison.
posted by jbelkin at 10:40 PM on September 7, 2005

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