Do We Let Santiago de Cuba Go Under?

November 26, 2012 | Print Print |

Alberto N Jones

The destruction from hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba was massive. Photo: Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES — The massive destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere in the United States prevented the media from reporting about another massive destruction that has crippled Santiago de Cuba and placed nearly one million people on the brink of economic collapse and created even greater uncertainty about the future of this 500-year-old city.

I’m speaking of not only the second largest city in Cuba but is also the birthplace of Mariana Grajales. Known as the mother of the Cuban nation and the most extraordinary woman of African descent in this hemisphere, she saw her whole family enlist in the wars of independence of 1868, ‘79 and ‘95, where most perished fighting against Spanish colonialism.

General Antonio Maceo, her most outstanding son, went from being a simple soldier to become the second head of the Liberation Army. In combat he defeated the bravest and most decorated Spanish generals as he led an invasive war from the east to the west of the country in the most extraordinary military action of this campaign. His story was deserving enough to be perpetuated in the military museum of Paris and in military academies around the world.

Santiago de Cuba is the most Caribbean, boisterous and cheerful city on the island. It has the largest Afro-Cuban population in the country and was the place where the Black soldiers from Tuskegee Institute were sent under General Teddy Roosevelt to shed their blood and gave their lives in the Hispano-Cuban-American War of 1898.

One of the sad scenes in the wake of hurricane Sandy in Santiago. Photo: Dariela Aquique.

Santiago de Cuba Province was at the epicenter of the horrific slaughter of more than 3,000 members of the Independent Party of Color in 1912, which stained our nation’s history with an indelible ink.

Santiago de Cuba was where in 1953 the seed was planted that blossomed into the overthrowing of the bloody tyranny of General Fulgencio Batista. It was the birthplace of underground leaders such as Frank and Jose Pais, Vilma Espin, Pepito Tey, Tony Aloma and the martyred William Soler.

Santiago de Cuba is the home of the School of Medicine of the Caribbean, with its current 2,500 students and from where hundreds of students from Africa and the Caribbean have received their diplomas from medical, nursing and health technology.

We can point especially to the students from Haiti, as more than 700 of them have graduated after having studied there for free. In addition, thousands of health care, sports, cultural and educational professionals from this city have given their expertise to millions of dispossessed people around the world.

Should 50 years of unfounded political and ideological difference between the US and Cuba allow this community that has contributed so much to humanity to perish for lack of solidarity support from our neighbors?

With the end of the cold war and that unfortunate chapter in our history, what’s needed is greater cooperation and less confrontation between peoples in our endless effort to build a better world for all.
—–

Directed by Dr. Alberto Jones, the Caribbean American Children’s Foundation (CACF, PO Box 353593 Palm Coast Fl., 32135), a US 501c3 organization, engages in a number of programs focused on the Caribbean, many of which deal with Cuba.   Dr.  Jones is also a member of the West Indian Welfare Society in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba. His e-mail is: cacf2@aol.com

 


What's your opinion?

  • Moses

    Dr. Jones , are you serious? As an African-American, I am sensitive to the plight of Afro-Cubans. However, first as an American, I am also and equally sensitive to the need to continue to foster democratic principles among those places in the world that lack even the basic human rights. Such a place is Cuba. How would you propose that we help Santiago de Cuba without empowering the totalitarian Castro regime to continue denying these verysame Santiagueros the right to free speech, freedom to assembly, and a free and independent press? Not to mention open and free democratic elections. Helping Santiagueros to rebuild homes and repair public services will surely improve the quality of life for those devastated by the ravages of Sandy. But then what? More detentions? More disinformation about the growing cholera epidemic? Do we send barges of humanitarian aid and materials while Cuban balseros risk their lives to escape tyranny?Antonio Rodiles rots in jail for having committed no crime and you suggest we turn aour attention elsewhere? Your heart is in the right place. There is a time an place for politics and a time better spent caring for our fellow man. This is not the time to let up on the Castros and allow 54 years of Cuban suffering be in vain.

    • Luis

      “However, first as an American, I am also and equally sensitive to the need to continue to foster democratic principles among those places in the world that lack even the basic human rights.”

      Not again. Please. Be coherent then and write to your Congressman pleading for an immediate full-scale invasion of Saudi Arabia.

      • Moses

        You seem fixated on the fact that the US maintains cordial relations with Saudi Arabia and China, whom we acknowledge as serious violators of their own citizens basic human rights while at the same time we seem to castigate Cuba for their civil rights transgressions. You may not agree with US policy but you would help calm yourself if you understood it. The petro-wealth that the Saudi regime controls, if left to the highest bidder, would seriously destabilize the world economy and threaten world peace as we know it. Chinese relations, for different reasons, are equally ciritical to world economic stability. For the greater good, Americans hold their noses, and engage these nations in a mutually beneficial way. With regards to Cuba, a tiny, poor nation just to our south, we are equally forced to maintain a different standard because of the very influential Cuban exile community. If Chinese-americans or Saudi-americans exercised the same degree of political sway in the US, policies towards those countries would change as well. Again, you may not like this explanation but it is “coherent”.

        • Luis

          Of course I know this – the US needs Saudi oil and cheap Chinese workforce, which has become the industrial park of the world. So it doesn’t push for a ‘regime-change’ in those two powerful countries, and thus prefer to bully small countries like Cuba for ‘human rights violations’… it’s Realpolitik (and ‘freedom’ hypocrisy) at its best.

  • Rene de Belgica

    Do you have any suggestions about what we can do?

  • Moses

    If the Castros were truly selfless and as genuinely interested in the welfare of Cubans, they would step down and relinquish control. They would retire and live out the rest of their days on the billions of dollars they have no doubt stuffed in mattresses around the world over the last 53 years.They would follow the path taken by the departing despots of eastern Europe and set up elections, open and democratic, to take place after they leave. The US and Venezuela could lead an international aid group in monitoring those elections and providing the economic support in the rebuilding of Cuba as a whole. The Cuban diaspora, the wealthiest latin community in the world would of course play a vital role in ensuring that a new and independent Cuba would emerge. Not one constructed in a US image but truly a reflection of what Cubans desire for themselves. Santiago would survive, as would Cuba in general.

    • Luis

      “The Cuban diaspora, the wealthiest latin community in the world would of course play a vital role in ensuring that a new and independent Cuba would emerge.”

      You know Moses? You’d make a good stand-up comedian. Because an independent Cuba is the least of the interests of the rich Miami-based Cubans. They probably share the desire of Porto Rico to become the 51st State.

      • Moses

        Your fears are outdated. The Miami Cuban community is dramatically less interested in “annexing” Cuba than you apparently believe. Yes, they want to see open and free elections in a multi-party democracy. Luis, think for yourself for a minute: Cubans were nearly split down the middle with regards to Democrat versus Republican in our last election. They are not some monolithic monster who wants to consume Cuba. Yes, they want to start businesses, own properties, and have a voice in Cuban affairs. But that is no different than the Brazilians who live in Miami and vote in elections in Brazil. If Socialism is right for Cuba, then let Cubans decide that for themselves and stop treating them like children who can’t resist being tempted by the shiny toys of capitalism. My wife, if given the choice, would likely choose socialism for her Cuba and she lives with a dyed in the wool capitalitist! Let Cubans decide for themselves. By the way, Puerto Rico is still a long way from being the 51st. state. Who says we want them?

        • Griffin

          Moses,

          The initial reports that the Cuban-American vote was evenly split turned out not to be true. Subsequent reports tell of the actual Cuban-American vote result: Romney 58% to Obama 42%. Cuban American still tend to vote Republican, although the margin is falling.

          That said, your point is absolutely true: there is zero political interest in America today for annexing Cuba. There are some octogenarian Cubans in Miami would still like to get the US military to help them overthrow the octogenarian dictators in Havana. But that is not going to happen either. The US government policy is to sit tight, wait for the Castros to pass away and then see what happens.

        • Luis

          By ‘annexation’ this may not be territorial, but a political-economic one. Like today’s Puerto Rico. Or Iraq. The rich Cubans in Miami don’t “want to see open and free elections in a multi-party democracy” in Cuba. They want their property lost in the Revolution back, regardless of the nature of the Cuban government. They were fine and dandy with Batista anyway.

          Meanwhile, the US government needs a crippled ‘enemy’ to enhance its ideological hegemony globally. Uncle Sam learned this Cold War lesson very well.

          • Griffin

            Many of the Cubans forced into exile by Castro had fought against Batista. Some wealthy Cuban families, such as the Bacardis, actually funded and helped deliver weapons to Castro. They found out too late that Castro had deceived them and had no intention of allowing the free elections he had promised.

          • just my opinion

            … I would also like to add… I don’t know one Cuban (Cuban from Cuba not US) that doesn’t want socialism. They want socialism, they do not want Castroism. These are two totally different things.

  • Alberto N Jones

    Dear Moses, when our small but caring group provide life saving donations we receive from the healthcare community in Central Florida, unwanted educational materials from local suppliers, surplus garments from charitable organizations or food from groceries for the hungry, we have never, ever asked who the recipients are, where they live or what they do or did in life.

    Usually those needing help, do not live in gated communities, golf course homes, plantations or on Brickell ave. Those we reach out to, most likely live in section 8, public housing or under a bridge in the US, in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica or elsewhere, regardless of who runs their government, its political inclination, religious affiliation or sexual orientation.

    When I visited Buchenwald nearly 50 years ago, one the most dreaded concentration camps in Germany, Jews were not the only ones subjected to such horrendous crimes as we have been made to believe. I saw lists of Gipsies, Communists, Labor Leaders, Educators, Anti Nazi fighters, Clergy, Artists.

    Others like yourself, may have sorted among the inmates to save from the ovens or from dying of deprivations, only those with similar political, religious or philosophical affinity with you.

    Our diminutive organization, never asks and do not care who the beneficiaries of our efforts are. We are only concerned that our efforts and the goods generously provided by unselfish, loving, caring individuals, do not end up anywhere else than its intended destination; the needy, weak, ignored.

    As I visited Gore Island in Senegal, the dungeon where our forefathers barely survived the most horrible place on earth and walked into slavery, segregation and racism, I learned that most of the victims were sold into captivity by one of their own. Malcolm X, Patrice Lumumba or Marcus Garvey also learned their worst enemy was one of their own.

    We can do better, clear our conscience and die in peace.

    • Griffin

      Alberto,

      Me thinks thou doth protest too much.

      I assume you visited Buchenwald after the Nazis had been defeated and Germany liberated. Your accusation that Moses would have sorted among the inmates of Buchenwald is intellectually dishonest and morally repugnant. You did not save anybody from the ovens. You only arrived after the fact, after the jailers were vanquished.

      In Cuba, you are delivering aid while the brutal dictatorship still oppresses the people. Yes, you are helping the people of Cuba, but you are also helping the regime that imprisons them.

      I sense you feel the moral conflict of your work in Cuba. That’s why you felt the need to list all the good things you do, to mention the Nazis, (and thereby violated Godwin’s Law), to tell of your visit to Senegal and to point out how the victims were sold into captivity by one of their won. By aiding the Castro regime, are you not perpetuating that crime anew?

      • Luis

        Repugnant is only but the likes of you, who distorts all what Alberto has said. Upon natural disasters, the most inhumane thing is *not* to ask for help based upon the political affiliations of the government that rules the place where the catastrophe has taken place.

        Like Alberto said, you too would probably save only the Jews and let the Communists and Anarchists die.

        • Griffin

          Again with the non-sequitor personal attacks!

          I do salute those who send aid to the people of Eastern Cuba who have suffered terribly from the devastation of the twin hurricanes, Sandy and Fidel. Moses’ comment that a sizeable portion of that aid will be syphoned off to the pockets of jefes and other crooks is sadly true. Only a fool would deny it. Or perhaps somebody who works for a quasi-charity front group who has an interest in getting cash flowing into Cuba, while spinning cliched propaganda slogans about the blockade.

          I would be happy to send aid to Cuba, but the regime has made sure no independent aid organizations have access to the people who need the help.

          • Luis

            “I would be happy to send aid to Cuba, but the regime has made sure no independent aid organizations have access to the people who need the help.”

            Well if this posture is not repugnant, I don’t know what it is, then.

            See, you write words like ‘hurricane Fidel’ and then complain about “cliched propaganda slogans about the blockade.” Who’s the propagandist here?

          • Griffin

            Hurricane Fidel is a pretty good metaphor. For 54 years Castro has brought ruin to Cuba, destroying property and lives. The people are forced to passively endure the suffering both hurricanes inflict.

    • Moses

      Dr. Jones, the Cuban community in Miami, when all is said and done, will no doubt emerge as the largest contributing community in sending aid that actually ends up helping to rebuild Santiago de Cuba. You know very well, for every three crates of humanitarian aid sent from Canada, China, Venezuela and other nations, one will end up as booty on the black market and the other will be absorbed by the “jefes” and generals in Miramar and Santa Fe. That’s just being real about what really goes on in Cuba. My comment earlier was in reference to a government-sponsored aid relief effort similar to what we did for Haiti after the earthquake, Can you imagine what the Castros would do to the containers sent from the US with the US flag prominently displayed? You seem like a reasonable person. It is not reasonable to assume that the Castros would not take full advantage of the efforts Americans would make to rescue Santiago de Cuba. I would not “sort through the inmates”. That remark is beneath you.

      • http://twitter.com/MatanzasGV LA CUBANA DE MATANZA

        You assume wrong about Fidel bros they trash the food because they do not trust amerikka

    • Cimarron

      Dr Jones,

      I express my most profound moral solidarity with you personally and with all our people and comrades in the heroic city of Santiago de Cuba in the face of the abominable, unspeakable filth and disrespect that has emanated on this forum from the miscreants known as “Moses” and “Griffin”. Whoever and whatever they are, I will not dignify them with a response.

      Thank you for the very special background history you gave about Santiago. For most of the reasons you list, I have long been advised by friends who have been there that, should I ever have another chance to go to Cuba, I should head for Santiago and not Havana.

      It would be most helpful, if you will consider a follow-up in which you list the addresses of reputable and trustworthy organizations which may have been authorized to deliver assistance from the US.

      I have no hope that the first “black” president of the US, whom I voted for again – as the lesser of 2 evils – will consider the smallest bit of official assistance to Santiago for any reason, humanitarian, moral or cultural. He certainly did not have any qualms working with Europe in installing a genocidal regime in Libya that is bent on wiping out the native black Libyan population. Nor did he have any pricks of conscience about sponsoring the military coup d’etat in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected government and led to much murder and mayhem against the populace especially the Afro-descendant Garifunas. When Haiti was afflicted with its most catastrophic natural disaster in history, our “black” president sent them marines with bullets and bayonets. The US Coast Guard also effected a blockade to prevent any escapees to the US.

      All progressive people must find ways of rallying to the aid of the courageous people of of the noble city of Santiago de Cuba.

  • JennyC

    People who are victims of a terrible natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy are in distress. They do not need a political lesson; they need assistance, without strings attached.

    Aid can be directed through the Cuban Embassy in Canada. A bank account has been set up for monetary donations. Here is the contact information.

    ECONOMIC COUNSELLOR
    Mrs. Ofelia Perera Ibañez
    ecounsellor@embacubacanada.net

    Embassy of Cuba in Ottawa
    388 Main St. Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 1E3
    T: (613) 563 0141
    F: (613) 563 0068

    • Griffin

      Dear God, Jenny! How naive are you?

      By sending money directly to the Cuban embassy one can be 100% certain the money will be 100% “strings attached”.

  • http://www.GRDPublishing.com Grady Ross Daugherty

    Thanks for an excellent article, Alberto. You brought to life the body and soul of that great and suffering city, by presenting it in historical context. When you speak, we learn a great deal.

    It is of course primarily the responsibility of the Cuban government to plan, coordinate, and carry out the repair of Santiago de Cuba, as well as of the many other localities devastated by Sandy. I presume that it will be able to mobilize the people to attack these monumental problems fairly well. If this is the case, then what is needed is a clear method by which people in other countries might lend a helping hand.

    I don’t believe the US government will do anything to assist in the repair of Santiago de Cuba. Given it’s record to Katrina, I’m not even sure that it will give meaningfully assistance in the repair of New York and New Jersey!

    • Griffin

      The UN has sent aid to Cuba to help repair the damage and feed the people. As the largest single contributor to the UN budget, the USA is indirectly sending help. However, the Cuban government has in the past refused offers of direct help from the US government. I could find no mention of any offers of help to Cuba from the US government following Hurricane Sandy.

      There are many American based charities which are sending aid to Cuba, along with private contributions from the Cuban-American community.

  • Griffin

    A report from Cuba on how the reconstruction aid is being distributed.. and how in certain cases it is not:

    “Regime refuses to assist family reconstruct their home, destroyed after hurricane Sandy”

    “More than a month after hurricane Sandy swept through Cuba, leaving countless material and human losses in its trail, the Cuban government continues to deny assistance to citizens to repair their homes, whether they be dissidents or everyday people. In one specific case, the Lady in White from Banes, Holguin, Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez and her husband, human rights activist Naoki Ricardo Mir, continue living practically out in the open air, considering that parts of their roof and some walls were completely destroyed, and all this with their 3 underage children, 2 of which suffer from asthma.

    Recently, it was brought to light that the donations which have arrived from abroad to the island are being sold- at elevated prices- by Housing Department functionaries to those citizens in need who are already impoverished to begin with. ”

    http://pedazosdelaislaen.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/regime-refuses-to-assist-family-reconstruct-their-home-destroyed-after-hurricane-sandy/

    How interesting and so ironic!

    In the comments above, both Moses & myself were accused by defenders of the Castro regime of sorting among the victims of misfortune (whether natural and man-made) and deciding who should and should not receive help based upon political criteria. We said nothing of the kind, but no matter: we served as the necessary targets of their projection. For now we see that it is the regime itself that is picking and choosing who gets help and who does not. We also see that Moses was correct in pointing out how charitable aid is intercepted by officials who turn around and sell it for profit.

  • Griffin

    In fact, the US government is the largest single donor of food aid to Cuba:

    Contributions to WFP 2011 (total contributions: $ 3,683,844,617)

    Top 10 Donors:

    1 USA 1,239,459,518
    2 Canada 302,300,130
    3 Japan 281,944,848
    4 European Commission 258,586,793
    5 Germany 194,703,682
    6 United Kingdom 143,876,892
    7 Australia 143,236,580
    8 UN CERF 126,152,447
    9 Sweden 97,831,789
    10 Private Donors 86,224,678

    http://www.wfp.org/about/donors/year/2011

    • Luis

      One more demonstration of the misleading references of yours, linking material that doesn’t corroborate to your arguments. It says “Contributions to WFP 2011 (total contributions: $ 3,683,844,617)” not “Contributions to Cuba 2011 (total contributions: $ 3,683,844,617)”

      • Griffin

        I did not mislead anybody. You misunderstand the data. The figures show that the US government provides 33% of the total contributions to WFP. I did not specify how much aid the WPF sent to Cuba
        However, given the fact that WFP has sent aid to Cuba, 33% of that aid was paid for by the US government.

        .

    • http://twitter.com/MatanzasGV LA CUBANA DE MATANZA

      That is a lie China is Your facts are only what wiki and the US want you to believe I live here and work here and trust me i know more that you