The good-guy role, at whose expense

When the U.S. government hypocritically offered $100,000 as aid in the face of the disaster brought about by Hurricane Gustav, subject to an on-site inspection to confirm the damage, the response was that Cuba is unable to accept any donations from the country that is blockading us; that the damage had already been calculated and that what we were calling for was that it not prevent the export of essential materials and credits associated with commercial operations.

Certain people in the North starting screaming their heads off that Cuba’s rejection was inconceivable.

A few days later, when Ike lashed the country from Punto de Maisí to Cabo de San Antonio, the neighbors of the North were a bit more subtle. They sweetened their language. They talked of aircraft ready to leave with materials worth $5 million; that it wouldn’t be necessary to assess because they had already done so by their own means, which cannot be any other than spying on our country. This time they would put the Revolution in a predicament, so they believed; if they [the Cubans] dared to reject the offer, they would find themselves in problems with the population. Perhaps they thought that nobody had seen the images broadcast by U.S. television of the UN occupation forces in Haiti dispatching food to a hungry population who fought for it across barbed wire fencing, with the result of even children being injured.

Hunger in that country is the fruit of the historic and ruthless plunder of nations. Right there, in Les Gonaïves, our doctors were risking their lives helping the population of that city as they are doing in almost 100 percent of that nation’s municipalities. That cooperation continues there, as in dozens of nations of the world, despite hurricanes. The categorical response to the new and astute Note was: “our country cannot accept a donation from the government that is blockading us, although it is disposed to buy indispensable materials that U.S. companies place on the export market, and requests authorization for supplies of the same, as well as the credits that are normal in all commercial operations.”

“If the government of the United States does not wish to do this on a permanent basis, the government of Cuba requests that it authorize this for the next six months, particularly taking into account the damage occasioned by hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and that the most dangerous months of the cyclone season are yet to come.”

It was not made arrogantly, because that is not Cuba’s style. It can be appreciated in the Note that the idea was modestly expressed of how the prohibition being suspended for a limited time period would be sufficient for us.

Carlos Gutiérrez, the U.S. secretary of commerce, discounted any temporary lifting of the blockade on Friday the 12th.

It is obvious that the government of that powerful country cannot understand that the dignity of a people has no price. The wave of solidarity with Cuba, ranging from large to small countries with resources and even without resources, would disappear on the day that Cuba ceases to be honourable. Those in our country who are upset about that are totally mistaken. If it was $1 billion instead of $ 5 million, they would meet the same response. There is no way to pay for the harm to thousands of lives and the suffering, or the more than $200 billion that the blockade and Yankee aggressions have cost.

The partial official report explains to the people that, in less than 10 days, the country was affected by damages assessed at more than $5 billion. But it was also explained that those figures were based on historical and conventional prices that have nothing to do with reality. The very clear explanation that, “calculations on the loss of housing stock are based on historical and conventional prices, not the real value in international prices, should never be forgotten. Suffice it to note that in order to have an endurable housing stock that can resist the strongest winds, one element is required, which is in very short supply: a workforce. This is needed both for temporary repairs and for lasting construction. That workforce has to be divided among all the other centers of production and services, some of which were significantly damaged, hence the real value of homes in the world and recouping the corresponding investment is many times greater.”

The blow from Nature was severe, but it is also heartening to know that there will be no truce or respite in our battle.

The economic crisis that is hitting the United States and, as a consequence, the rest of the nations of the world, has no definitive response; but here, yes, there are responses to natural disasters and to any attempts to put a price on our dignity.

Fidel Castro Ruz
September 16, 2008