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Posted September 08, 2008 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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BBC

The Cuban capital Havana is nervously awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Ike as it moves destructively along the island’s east coast. The BBC’s Michael Voss, in Havana, told BBC radio that people there are preparing for the worst.

Havana is still waiting for Ike to come, and it could be at least another 24 hours before it gets here.

Cuba is about 1,000km [620 miles] long and Ike has struck at the eastern end of the island, the other end from the capital.

It hit the province of Holguin which has a tourist resort called Guardalavaca. All the tourists there have been evacuated.

State television has shown pictures of giant waves breaking over sea walls, waves as high as apartment blocks, and it is reporting that homes have been damaged.

Even at Category Three, Ike is still considered to be a major hurricane, which means it can be incredibly destructive.

The path that Ike is taking, coming along the coast, makes it one of the most dangerous for the capital Havana.

It is not only the high winds that could destroy some really flimsy 19th-Century housing apart from the historic old town.

With the circular winds, you are going to get the storm surges coming over the wall and flooding Havana as well.

It was very badly flooded by Hurricane Denis in 2005 and they are fearing it could be as bad, if not worse, this time.

People here have been queuing up to buy bread.

They are boarding up windows, making sure that everything is ready, clearing the streets, getting cars moved away from the most vulnerable areas.

We are predicting that come daybreak on Monday evacuations will begin in the capital.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on September 08, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Recently Secretary Rice said that now is not the time to suspend the Embargo. Let’s see if Ike has any effect on the Embargo.

    AP

    The Bush administration said Sunday it sees no wisdom now in ending an economic embargo against Cuba, a longtime demand the Havana government renewed as a way to speed aid after Hurricane Gustav swamped the island.

    A U.S. offer to send a disaster assessment team was declined Saturday by the Cuban Foreign Ministry, which did not mention the $100,000 in humanitarian assistance that Washington also offered through nonprofit groups.

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, wrapping up a trip to North Africa, told reporters that President Bush consistently has said the U.S. would be responsive “to a Cuban regime that is prepared to release political prisoners (and) has a process to get to free and fair elections.” But, she added, “we can see nothing that suggests that has come about.”

    Cuba said Saturday it would rather Washington suspend restrictions on travel and the sale of food and other materials it needs to recover.

    With another powerful storm, Hurricane Ike, bearing down, the Cuban ministry contended that “the only correct, ethical (action) ... would be the total and definitive elimination of the harsh and cruel economic, commercial and financial blockade applied over nearly a half century against our nation.”

    Rice said that did not seem possible under current conditions, with Raul Castro in charge after replacing his brother, Fidel, who stepped down in February.

    “What we can’t do is to have the transfer of power from one dictatorial regime to another,” Rice said. “That is not acceptable in a Western Hemisphere that is democratic and it is not acceptable for the Cuban people. So I don’t think in the context that we see now that the lifting of the embargo would be wise.”

    As Ike struck eastern Cuba on Sunday night, the State Department issued a travel warning, authorizing the departure of non-emergency personnel and eligible family members of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. “U.S. citizens in Cuba who do not have access to adequate and safe shelter should consider departing while commercial flights are still available,” the department said.

    Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama issued a statement expressing sympathy for Cubans who had been hit hard by Gustav. He asked Bush “to immediately suspend restrictions on family remittances, visits and humanitarian care packages from Cuban Americans for a minimum of 90 days.”

    Also last week, five Cuban-American members of Congress urged the Bush administration to provide direct assistance to Gustav’s victims in Cuba. They said, however, that aid could be provided without changing U.S. law to lift the restrictions.

    Currently, people of Cuban origin living in the U.S. can visit the island only once every three years and can send money only to members of their immediate families, excluding cousins, aunts and uncles.

    Fidel Castro wrote this past week that recovery from Gustav could cost billions of dollars on an island where the average state salary is only about $20 per month. Gustav damaged 100,000 homes on Cuba.



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  2. Follow up post #2 added on September 08, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    i find Rice’s statement ironic because over the years the US has supported so many dictators - the latest one that comes to mind is Musharraf, in Pakistan.
    Think the florida vote in the upcoming election is more likely the reason.


  3. Follow up post #3 added on September 08, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Just received from Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation

    This organization has been around for a number of years and I have no reason to doubt they are a legitimate organization. Posting of this email text below should not be seen as an endorsement of this organization. Please do your own research and donate if you wish.

    With that said, Havana Journal Inc will be making a donation to this relief effort.


    Dear “Friend of Enhancing U.S-Cuba Relations,”

    Because of your interest in U.S.-Cuba Relations it is important you know the status of the recent hurricanes striking Cuba.

    While Hurricane Gustav decimated parts of western Cuba and the Island of Youth resulting in 500,000 Cubans homeless and over 100,000 homes and building destroyed, Hurricane Ike may cause greater damage.  Speaking this morning to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C. and with officials in Havana, Hurricane Ike is projecting to be worst than any Hurricane in Cuba’s History!

    There is no question America is the greatest Democracy and country mankind has ever known.  I take a back seat to no one believing this and every day realize Americas greatness not withstanding some of our faults.  However,  I was greatly disappointed at our country’s insulting offer of humanitarian aid to Cuba.  Our government offered $100,000 with several strings attached including the Cuban government allow American state department officials to “assess the damage properly.”  Then our government would release the $100,000 if the Cuban government would guarantee none of the money would go to the Cuban Government.  One can understand the Cuban government and its people where insulted by this paltry offer.  This past Saturday morning the Cuban Foreign Minister responded Cuba does not need anyone to assess Hurricane Gustav’s damage “because it (Cuba) has sufficient specialist, who have completed that assessment already.”  The Cuban Foreign Minister went on to say if United Sates has a “real willingness” to help the people of Cuba then allow essential materials to be sold to Cuba. Cuba was not seeking a gift or foreign aid, but rather would pay for food and other essentials needed.

    Accordingly, the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation would like to make a contribution to assist the people of Cuba during this national disaster.  We do this for humanitarian reasons only and with no strings attached.  Of course, we are hopeful this action and dialogue will be a step forward for reproachment with Cuba.

    Your contributions will be tax deductible and none of your contribution will go to salary or fees.  One hundred percent of your contribution will go to the relief effort in Cuba.  The Alliance will fund all administrative costs.

    Please send your check today and no later than September 15, 2008.  Make your check payable to the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation and mail to 8675 Hidden River Parkway, Tampa, FL 33637.

    Best regards,
    Al

    Albert A. Fox Jr.
    President
    Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation
    8675 Hidden River Parkway
    Tampa, FL 33637
    813-632-3319
    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    http://www.responsiblecubapolicy.org



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  4. Follow up post #4 added on September 08, 2008 by Mako with 172 total posts

    The Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation is a fine organization. Mr. Fox, has worked , with great courage, and for many years toward getting a sane US policy toward cuba .


  5. Follow up post #5 added on September 09, 2008 by glenn may

    It hit the province of Holguin which has a tourist resort called Guardalavaca. All the tourists there have been evacuated.

    this is a statement from our web site and its bull shit my sister, brother in law 2 nephews (aged 7 and 8), niece (aged 3) and my sisters mother and father in law where left in there hotel. there was no attempt what so ever to evacuate them so please check the facts before informing people of this bull.


  6. Follow up post #6 added on September 09, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    The stories are from the BBC and the AP but I suppose they are probably just reporting what they have been told.

    If tourists were stranded, I’m sure it will get around the blogs. Please keep us posted if you hear anything from your relatives or read any first hand reports on the Internet.

    Thanks for posting.



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  7. Follow up post #7 added on September 10, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    On one of the popular travel forums, there are numerous posts be people who were or were in touch with those who were evacuated from the resorts near Holguin.  Some were repatriated by emergency evacuation flights by their carriers; others were moved inland by Cuban authorities.  When you look at the arial footage posted on youtube and see how totally demolished some resorts were, no wonder.
    In other areas where the danger was not so great, tourists were moved into prepared, boarded up rooms within the resorts where they sat it out.
    Did everything go smoothly - of course not.  There are some complaints posted too.  But most are by tourists scheduled to fly to this area in teh upcoming days and not getting good answers from their tour organizers on whats happening.
    For every post by someone complaining that the Cubans didn’t handle things very well, there would be 50x that many praising the hotel staff and Cuban authorities.
    Mind you, not having been there at the time, I can’t speak from personal knowledge (fortunately), but thats what the posts are showing.


  8. Follow up post #8 added on September 10, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Great insight, thanks. It’s okay to post links here.



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  9. Follow up post #9 added on September 10, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    Here’s one.  Will post teh others when i can find again:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dD0hI0QC1M


  10. Follow up post #10 added on September 10, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    here’s another one:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR1-wQ9M97E


  11. Follow up post #11 added on September 11, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    What one person there had to say (the last sentence says a lot):

    Many roads and access roads are blocked as well as main highways and
    city arteries. The road between Sancti Spiritus and Trinidad is cut
    off by a bridge. The town of Casilda south of Trinidad and Trinidad
    itself with severe damages by the way. Many roads blocked lots of
    towns and villages isolated by road, mainly towns in the eastern
    mountains are experiencing these floods. Destruction is big in
    Manati, Puerto Manati and Puerto Padre as well as Chaparra and all
    northern Las Tunas.

    Most damages in Cuba are in the housing infraestructure, near half
    millon homes are damaged and without roofs in the country. Also there
    is a considerable number of houses with total lost or destruction. In
    Havana, I assume old Havana, around 65 buildings collapsed. Many
    coastal villages are fully devastated.

    Many educational institutions and General Hospitals are destroyed
    completely, the hospital at Gibara look like a fire or an explosion
    took place. The sugar industry suffer a lot both on the cane fields
    and on the industries. The bigges and most efficient sugar mill in
    Cuba Antonio Guiteras in Delicias town in northern Las Tunas is 100%
    without roof, and with get and damaged machinery inside.

    Almost the whole country without power with severe transmission
    system damages on the high voltage lines.

    Due to power outages many water treatment plants across the island
    are not pumping so many people without water either.

    Communication systems, telephone, radio and TV signals, cell phones,
    internet,etc are seriously affected nationwide.

    This is endless guys and this is the last report from me on the
    Storm. I will limit myself to just follow up with the group on
    Transportation related issues (Railroad related mostly) and updates.
    Cuba is devastated and still raining in Pinar del Rio. For sure my
    country is a lot poorer than it was Sunday night, people are a lot
    more sad and mad due to general scarcity of resources and food and to
    see thier homes affected.


  12. Follow up post #12 added on September 11, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    manfredz,

    Did they tell you this or did you pick it up online.

    Also, read the latest story here but Raul not being seen in public for 3 weeks.

    Sad days for everyone in Cuba and they are not going to come out of this with the same old Cuban government running things.

    People will die.



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  13. Follow up post #13 added on September 11, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    some i’m putting up from TA posts; other from a Cuban railroad group.
    The only person with whom I have regular contact with (in Havana) hasnt been online since Ike hit - in his last post he expected to be without electricity and/or internet for a bit.


  14. Follow up post #14 added on September 11, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    Although I’m reading horror stories, especially from conditions in the Holguin area, the Cuban tourist ministry’s website seems to indicate life is returning to normal fast at the resorts:

    http://www.cubatravel.cu/client/news/details.php?id=2492

    Dont know if they’re printing a too-rosy picture to try to get tourists in there fast cause they need the $$$ (can backfire on them if resorts are a mess), or they’ve been making it a top priority to get the resorts back up and normal both to get the $$$ and also I’m sure many if not most of the tourists coming now will be bringing larger than usual care packages for the folks they know, which will end up helping all Cubans.  We’ll know soon enough.


  15. Follow up post #15 added on September 11, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Manfredz,

    I couldn’t help taking that story and giving it it’s own place HERE.

    I left some comments about how the Cuban government will try to convince arriving tourists that they would be happier in a campground or private home for right.

    I wonder if the hotels even still exist in Cayo Largo del Sur.

    As far as backfiring, I understand the return rate is pretty low anyway. So long as new people keep coming, no need to tell the truth.

    Wait till the real word gets out that most of Cuba is without power, water, food, transportation etc.

    Bye bye tourism.



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