Monday, November 12, 2007

Same Storm, Different Systems

By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Nov 11, 2007 9:02 PM

Heart-breaking stories are coming out of the Dominican Republic and Haiti about people washed away in floods caused by Hurricane Noel.

More than 100 people are estimated to have died in the Dominican Republic. A man in Piedra Blanca saw his 70-year-old mother swept away in a rush of water. Another man tried to get away from his car when it stalled but was swallowed by the flood.

The Associated Press described how the civil defense force of the Dominican Republic, combined with countless volunteers, tried to evacuate people from the path of the deadly hurricane but did not have enough boats. Civilians desperately volunteered their boats to the heroic effort to save people from the natural disaster.

The estimated deaths are even higher for Haiti: 140. People were simply not evacuated in time and were consumed by floods and mudslides.

In Cuba, however, the story was different. Although the island was struck harshly, not a single Cuban lost their life to the hurricane.

ABC News described how the Revolutionary Armed Forces went door to door, to every home in the path of the hurricane, and evacuated those within. All were accounted for.
Some 30,000 people were evacuated with speed and efficiency.

What makes Cuba different? Its socialist government, which has been able to allocate resources and carry out a plan to protect the people in the event of a natural disaster.

In the Dominican Republic, however, attempts at social change were squashed. When the people in 1962 elected a popular reformer named Juan Bosch, he was overthrown in a bloody U.S.-backed coup. In 1965, when the coup regime appeared in danger of being toppled, the U.S. sent 42,000 Marines to occupy the country. The forces of U.S. capitalism have kept their grip on the Dominican Republic ever since.

In Haiti, it has been similar. The U.S. has backed dictators there to keep the rule of Wall Street in effect. Francois Duvalier, and later his son Jean-Claude Duvalier, ruled by terror, suppressing all who challenged capitalism and injustice. In 2004, the popularly elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was physically kidnapped by U.S. personnel and sent into exile. (See

But in Cuba a revolution against the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista succeeded in 1959. Now the factories, farms and banks are publicly owned, rather than in the hands of foreign corporations and their henchmen. This enables the government to prioritize people, not profits.
In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez is attempting to build a socialist economy. He has already volunteered to assist the people of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. According to El Universal, a Latin American news agency, Simon Bolivar Taskforces are already being sent to the Dominican Republic from Venezuela to help rebuild.

Chavez has said his goal is a society “based in solidarity, fraternity, love, justice, liberty and equality.” As the people rebuild after the hurricane in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the system of socialism has proven it can save lives in a crisis.

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