Distributed by CubaNet


LILI: THE CUBAN PEOPLE FACE A NEW CHALLENGE by Ulises Cabrera, a special service of the Cuba's Independent Press Agency, (APIC).

HAVANA, October 23, 1996 (APIC).- There are times in the life of nations in which destiny seems to direct a great deal of adversity in their path, as if trying to challenge their strength of spirit and their ability to overcome hopelessness. These times seem to follow such juncture for the Cuban people, and it is during these days that we see how almost four decades of political, economic, and social misfortune are seemingly compounded by the natural disaster of hurricane Lili.

The hurricane which has just beaten up on the island, by the sheer amount of the losses which it has cost, could be considered the worst for the island over the last 33 years, following the unspeakable tragedy of (hurricane) Flora in 1963. Fortunately, in this case we did not suffer human loss of life.

The great damages caused by Lili were not due to the wind speed, but rather due to its erratic path, slow, with frequent stops, through the breath of the center of the storm, over more than 300 kilometers of the island, and also due to the torrential rains which fell on Isla de Pinos, Havana, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila, and the City of Havana. Strong winds were not felt in the capital, but the constant rains caused the collapse of many homes, which had been in poor repair for a long time, many of them being kept standing by scaffolding and inhabited by families who would undertake such risks because they had no place else to go.

Lili traveled, stopped, and kept going through a stretch of land in which more than 6 million Cubans barely inhabit.

The damage is really enormous and this is on top of the already disastrous socioeconomic conditions in the island, which has been beaten over the last decades by the nefastous and no less erratic hurricane of Castroism.

Misery was compounded by destruction. The crops, ruined by mistakes and chimeras, are also experiencing the devastation of hundreds of caballerias (land measurement) of plantains/bananas, sugar cane fields, struggling and in disarray, tons of citrus fruits on the ground, coffee fields lost and many damages done to other crops as well. The critical housing condition in Cuba is now facing thousands of buildings partially or totally destroyed.

The sugar industry, at one of the lowest levels of production and productivity, aside from the felled sugar canes and the soil being poorly drained, are now flooded and are potentially ground for heavy weeds and more severe damage. There are many more damages in other industries, communication infrastructure, electrical and telephone service...

To the hundreds of thousands of homeless Cubans now there's a fresh crop. Hunger worsens by the day. The sugar industry and the rest of the economy will have even worse results. The government has informed us that they have used up the State's reserves for emergencies, therefore we will be subjected to even greater misery amidst the misery, and even the faint hope that some fools clung to, will vanish.

Foreign aid? At the time that I'm writing this article the Cuban official press has only informed us that regional delegates of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent have promised to seek such help, and also of a request submitted by Guillermo Torroelo to the Secretary General of the United Nations. Up to now, that is officially all.

Oh! But from where the government perhaps did not expect anything, and up to now have not informed us of, we are receiving hopeful news. From the fraternal exile community in Miami, from where we have always sought help and support, we are learning of massive mobilizations to gather food, medicines and money. This would be a show of solidarity, unconditional, from people to people, from the Cuban American community, from the hispanic community and the American people at large. On Monday, radio station La Cubanisima received 100 thousand pounds of food. Father Santana, at the Ermita de la Caridad del Cobre, a fine example of priest and of Cubaness, has spearheaded this effort of solidarity towards our people. A great majority of exiles and organizations are actively supporting help to their brothers in the island. We have only received news of a few superultras which are opposed to it, but like the Bible teaches us, there's every type in God's vineyard.

President Clinton, in a speedy and welcomed decision, approved this humanitarian effort for the victims through the Catholic Church.

For the maximum warranties to the donors and the victims, said help from the United States will be channeled through the Church, directly from Caritas there to the local Caritas chapter in the island, one of the most recognized and prestigious charitable organization in the world. They will choose the people and institutions to which the aid will be forwarded, without the intervention of the government.

After the unwelcomed visit of the meteor (Lili), another scapegoat will be added to the list; of the fall of the Soviet Union and the European communist bloc, the yankee blockade, and the Helms-Burton Bill in the economic disaster of Castroism. It will be Lili. From her hurricane force winds, her meandering route and her torrential rains, nobody will be able to blame Washington, the CIA or Mas Canosa. But we will hear much about it when we get hungrier, when out homes crumble, when the blackouts increase, and as the minimal urban transportation evaporates, when the sugar harvest doesn't reach the goals....when the night turns so dark that there's a demand for a dawn.

The debacle which Lili brought us is an unjust and unexpected tragedy for all Cubans. But the worst tragedy suffered by the island is larger, and almost four decades older.

Translated for CubaNet by Lourdes Arriete