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Issue #1752      October 12, 2016


Devastation, cause and response

Statement, Central Committee Secretariat CPA

The Communist Party of Australia expresses its sorrow at the loss of nearly 900 lives and the mass homelessness caused by Hurricane Matthew, which smashed through the Caribbean last week. Particularly hard hit was the long-suffering nation of Haiti, which has nearly one million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the storms. Cholera threatens the population.

While Cuba and the Florida coast of the US have also been hard hit, it is Haiti’s plight that cries out for the greatest commitment of solidarity. Given the track record of developed countries best situated to provide relief, there is little cause for optimism. There needs to be a rapid change to current practices. Fortunes in “aid” pledged by wealthy donor countries never reached the people of Haiti in the years following the 2010 earthquake when some 200,000 people are estimated to have died.

As some progressive commentators have noted, Haiti’s suffering is not as noteworthy for the corporate media as that of France, the UK or the US. There isn’t a rush to add a Haitian flag to millions of Facebook profile pics. The hashtag #prayforflorida is “trending”. There is no such wave of support for prayers for Haiti.

Haiti has been the object of meddling by successive US administrations that have supported blood-curdling dictators and then deposed a progressive, popularly-elected president. There appears to be little support for the nation that liberated itself from oppression in a slave uprising that lasted from 1791 to 1804, when the country was a French colonial possession called Saint Dominique.

Unlike their North American counterparts, Cuba and Venezuela respect the history of Haiti and have expressed their solidarity with its people in impressive practical ways. They have already sent medical teams to assist with the treatment of the sick and injured. This is a major sacrifice of resources, especially for the Cubans. Hurricane Matthew pounded several municipalities in Cuba, including Baracoa, leaving a heartbreaking trail of destruction.

This isn’t the first time Cuba has provided such assistance to Haiti or other struggling communities in the region and beyond. It even offered assistance to the US after it showed itself to be poorly prepared for the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The generous offer of medical aid was contemptuously declined. Nevertheless, the world started to notice the impressive contribution of Cuban medical teams around the world.

Hurricane Matthew has been a curse on the people of the Caribbean but it has revealed another strength of Cuban society and its socialist system. It appears that, in contrast to the tragic situation in neighbouring Haiti, there were no casualties in Cuba arising from the storms. The preparations in place for this and other natural disasters are impressive. So is the Cuban government’s assistance to the people of the affected areas to help them rebuild.

Cuba’s ability to provide social infrastructure and aid to a much higher standard than its developing country status would seemingly determine is noteworthy. It would be even more impressive if the US’s crippling blockade were lifted, other sorts of sabotage against the island nation were stopped and its territory around Guantanamo Bay was returned. The Communist Party of Australia will continue to work in solidarity to these ends. It also demands of the Australian government the most generous assistance possible to the people of Haiti and a break from the niggardly, self-interested “boomerang aid” practices of the past.

Next article – Tragic farce on Manus

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