Thursday morning will never be forgotten by thousands of people in Eastern Cuba. The wind, flying roofs, heavy rains and trees falling on streets and houses, will remain as permanent memories of Hurricane Sandy. Nor will they be able to get out of their heads that first night after the disaster in which, from their battered beds or rickety sofas, they found nothing separating their faces from the starry night sky.
Some people lost everything, which was not much. People from whom the gale took the modest possessions they’d accumulated over their whole lives. A human drama extended over this area already affected beforehand by material shortages, constant migration westward, and the outbreaks of diseases like dengue fever and cholera. For the victims it rains and it pours, literally and metaphorically. Nature intensifies the economic collapse and social problems of this region of the country. So these are the times to redouble our solidarity, to roll up our sleeves and help them rebuild their homes, to divide the piece of bread, and to go all out to contribute to those unlucky Cubans that Sandy left behind.
I think we all know what we can give and do, but I still dare to venture some proposals directed at the Cuban authorities. The decisions they make in the coming days will be crucial to shortening and mitigating the tragedy. I hope they put aside ideological differences and open their ears to the public that wants to contribute to the recovery of our country. Solidarity should not be an institutional monopoly, it never has been, and from this conviction arise proposals to make it more effective, such as the following:
- Eliminate the custom duties for entry into the country of food, medicines, appliances and building materials.
- Ensure that the public is organized to collect, transport and deliver clothes, medicines and other resources to the affected areas.
- Encourage and authorize the collection of funds and resources from Cuban immigrants to bring to the island, both on a personal level as well as a group or institutional level.
- Ask for an assessment by and cooperation from international organizations that provide aid, loans and advice to overcome this disaster.
- In the worst hit provinces make the procedures more flexible for obtaining construction permits, and also for the delivery of land in usufruct.
- Enact a moratorium on the collection of taxes from the self-employed in the regions where Sandy destroyed important parts of the economic and agricultural infrastructure.
- Renounce the institutional monopoly on the distribution of support, encouraging and respecting the existence of citizen channels to distribute aid.
26 October 2012