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Our great strength is unity

Canel mesa redondaThe President of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, began his comments on the Mesa Redonda television program, February 13, stating, “Even the worse scenarios challenge us to do better.”

These have been days of hard work and solidarity, he said, of respect for citizens affected, who are also our compatriots and family. This has been a learning process. We have experienced moving life stories, ones that amaze, about what the people can accomplish when we organize ourselves.

Over the days following the tornado, Díaz-Canel noted, “We have been able to appreciate close-up the urgent needs of the affected population. We have called on all functionaries to be understanding of those affected and we have asked families to have patience.”

With regards to assistance provided, he explained, that in the past 14 days, Processing Offices have received 9,000 visits by those seeking support in repairing tornado-damage, while 7,000 damages have been recorded. This means that for every case, more than one member of an affected family has sought help, or some have made more than one visit.

Paperwork for more than 5,700 cases has been concluded, and more than 3,600 persons have materials in hand to begin repairs, representing more than 50% of those affected. And some 900 cases have been fully resolved.

At this rate, the President said, we can say that, before the end of the year, we will have the majority of the cases resolved or in the process, “What’s most important is to recover and emerge from this stronger.”

The Cuban leader recalled the Comandante en Jefe’s ideas regarding the effort that must be made when faced with situations like this, and emphasized that work is advancing guided by these principles, and that there had been no delay in allocating the principal resources needed.

He stressed that, from the beginning, priorities were identified. Quantifiable evaluations were conducted of damage and repairs needed, and work began with simpler tasks, moving gradually to the more complex.

Photo: Estudios Revolución
He added that this was possible because of two fundamental advantages of our system. First, despite our limitations, the economy leaves no one without protection, and the second is that the Cuban people is one of the world’s most solidary. He emphasized that the population has unique, practical experience in voluntary work and solidarity efforts, and that the values of self-sacrifice and determination are something natural here.

“With the current context in the capital, the watchwords ‘The best for Havana’ is no longer a slogan, but a reality, and our media has witnessed the generosity that this people displays with every donation. We all hold this value in our memories,” he insisted.

“The most challenging moments are coming now,” he cautioned, recalling that alongside ministers, provincial functionaries, and officials are neighborhood delegates to Municipal People’s Power Assemblies, who were the first to arrive when the tornado hit. They are in charge of this whole phase of recovery that will continue over the next few months.

“Today, we want to listen to those at the grassroots level, the municipal level, the anonymous heroes.”

Before the program’s conclusion, the President stated, “We are making Cuba all together. When you see the demonstrations of dedication and effort, you feel even more proud to be Cuban. This is the life of Cuba in Revolution.”

“This tragedy has strengthened the collective leadership of our country. Our relations with those affected are closer, allowing us to interact directly with the problems.

“This phenomenon occurred at a tense moment for our country, amidst threats and the tightening of the economic blockade imposed by the United States; within a context of talk about a military intervention in a country that is our friend: Venezuela. At a time when our people are about to approve a new Constitution of the Republic.”

Nothing will detain our forward march, he insisted, we will continue the recovery, and we will continue to be a world reference in the way we care for our people, he said.

“The enemy is perturbed, because our victories generate victories. It bothers many of them that there is unity between the country’s authorities and the people. Over these days, we have interacted amidst embraces and understanding. There are complaints, of course, but also comprehension of the situation.

“Work continues on organization, on providing answers to the people. Our experiences these days have been uplifting. For these reasons and others, on February 24, I will vote Yes.”


Whoever travels along Luyanó Avenue at night, does so now thanks to LED light technology, reported Reynaldo García Zapata, president of the Havana Provincial Assembly of People’s Power.

He also highlighted that the willingness of state agencies to make underutilized buildings available to tornado victims, and offer their staff’s support, must be recognized.

Likewise, “We must give special recognition to the people for their conduct and participation in the recovery process. This shows that we can move forward,” he noted.

García stated that the coordinated work of authorities at the municipal and provincial levels has had a positive impact on the recovery, emphasizing the daily functioning of the Provincial and Municipal Defense Councils, with the regular participation of key leaders.

The deployment in neighborhoods of technicians, People’s Power delegates, and activists from mass organizations has been critical, he said, in the search for solutions.



—730 total collapses

—931 partial collapses

—3,152 Type 1 damage

Some 6,239 technical reports have been filed, while 80%, that is 5,497 cases are ready. A total of 3,696 households have materials needed to complete repairs. Reports indicate that 952 cases, including 814 with Type 1 damage, have been resolved.

García reported that forces from the Water Resources Institute and Ministry of Construction have been involved in this work.

There are 2,543 households which have not yet purchased assigned materials, but that these are available at sales points

He also reported on the work of state agencies in identifying underutilized facilities that can be remodeled as housing, saying that locales to provide 240 dwellings have been found.

He likewise reported that damage has been reported at 190 institutions, including 78 schools, of which 48 have been repaired, along with 13 public health facilities. Some 31 industrial facilities suffered damage, 74% of which have been repaired.

In terms of telephone service, he said that the network has been restored, while infrastructure has been improved and services expanded. In the neighborhoods of Tamarindo, Chibás, and Armada, capacity has been increased.


Yoania Falcón, provincial director of Education in Havana, reported that across the city 78 schools, with a total enrollment of 17,938 students, were affected. These students were temporarily placed in 11 other schools within 72 hours, allowing them to continue their studies without interruption following the tornado.

Residences housing 303 teachers in the capital were also damaged, and all were rapidly repaired, she said.

Among the six tornado-related deaths, one was a teacher at Guillermón Moncada Elementary School in the municipality of Diez de Octubre. Family members have been offered extensive support, and expressed their gratitude to the country, despite the pain, she said.

Likewise, Danhiz Díaz Pereira, president of the Federation of University Students (FEU) at José Antonio Echeverría Technological University, reported that some 2,313 students from the school have participated in recovery efforts in affected areas.

Students were accompanied by professors and other university staff members, to offer help in affected neighborhoods, as determined in conjunction with municipal governments.

He emphasized that they have received thanks from fellow students in other parts of the country, and that their professors have said they were proud of students taking up pencils at school, torches during the José Martí march, and shovels in the recovery.

She added that, even as the academic years continues, they will keep working. “All the help that was provided shows that we are continuity.”


Meisi Bolaños Weiss, Minister of Finance and Prices, stressed the importance of good organization, and working with sensitivity, since not all offices have the capacity to take on such a workload.

Another lesson learned is that facilities must be set up to serve the population and address any problem that may come up.

Regarding the computer application developed by Geocuba, she stated that it has been very valuable, since technical reports are being computerized. This is very important, she said, because it allows us to verify the address where damage occurred and its magnitude, which facilitates paperwork. Betsy Díaz Velázquez, minister of Domestic Trade, reported on plans to ensure that repairs on 30 retail stores leave them in better condition than before the tornado.

“We know that there are concerns at sales points, because purchases are suspended when trucks arrive with more merchandise. So we’re trying to arrange a second door (for deliveries).”

On the other hand, she added that more than 850 water tanks are being moved from the center of the country to the city. We are taking into account the amount of water each household needs. Although there are families who want tanks of more than a thousand liters, we ask for their understanding, water must be used rationally. If there are surplus tanks after the recovery period, they will go on sale to the population.

Díaz highlighted the work of transportation providers and suppliers; and daily efforts to perfect the work, such as, for example, increasing the number of cash registers. Today materials are being supplied to more than 200 people a day at 16 sales points, she said.

Orders have been given to review files on a case by case basis, to close those that can be resolved quickly.

The goal is to have all those whose files are complete purchase materials before the end of February, she said. The minister also addressed care being provided 1,045 people staying in shelters and arrangements made to guarantee their food.


Alberto Osorio, delegate to the Luyanó People’s Council, explained that in this community, work has advanced in resolving housing damage.

Since the tornado, the work has not stopped, he said. National authorities have not left any families on their own, he said, adding that the mood is very positive.

In our People’s Council, it has become normal to see authorities on the streets, as if they were neighbors, he said.

At present, 69 new construction projects are being undertaken, in order to provide solutions to the damage to seven complexes and 16 private houses in the area.

People are very happy with this.

Others are advancing in the solution of their problems, through their own efforts.

We still have deficiencies, because we have focused our efforts on the most severe damage left by the tornado. I think we should continue working to reach all victims, although the damage they experienced may be minor, he commented.

“We are a very united People’s Council. We never felt alone.”

Regarding the municipality of Guanabacoa, Annia Lemus Prieto, president of the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power, reported that in the area the 1,130 damages which occurred in four neighborhoods have been quantified.

She stressed that, thus far, 950 households have been assigned and purchased material resources and that solutions have been found to deal with dwellings totally destroyed. In the case of homes that are being built by families themselves, owners are provided help from various officials and entities.

First Party Secretary in La Lisa, José Felipe Interián Rodríguez, added that this municipality’s government and residents have joined the clean-up since dawn on the 28th.

There has been extraordinary participation in the recovery by all workers, many very young, he said, including FEU members who filled trucks with rubble with incredible speed.


Norberto Pérez Morales, vice president of the Ministry of Construction’s Construction Enterprise Group, highlighted the mobilization of all forces, and workers’ willingness to contribute, so that those affected have a dignified, beautiful home.

He added that housing was considered the fundamental challenge to be addressed. Thus, from the first moment, they reported to affected areas, where assessments were made to determine if re-construction could take place at the same site; the family’s commitment was confirmed; and builders were identified. At the same time, areas were selected for new housing complex sites.

“Today we are concluding 534 homes, more than 75% of the total losses are under construction and work will begin in the next few hours on the rest,” he said.

In February more than a hundred homes will be delivered and the first will be this week. The execution timeline projects concluding the majority in the first half of the year, he said.


Rodrigo Malmierca, minister of Foreign Trade and Investment (Mincex), explained the procedure being followed for the reception and distribution of donations. He recalled that the Cuban government has a clear policy regarding international aid, which is to accept it and channel its distribution.

He highlighted, in particular, the help of Venezuela, which despite suffering an economic war waged by the United States, was among the first to offer support.

Help comes in two forms he said: material and monetary. For the monetary, two accounts were created, both administered by the Havana provincial government.

Embassies abroad have also contributed to this task.

The fundamental issue with the donations, he said, is to facilitate their arrival to the country. Hence, the goods are not subject to tariffs, entering without customs charges, and are distributed free of charge to the population, by the relevant agency.

He emphasized that all donations are distributed free of charge, rejecting comments made in bad faith, early on, that obstacles were being created to the arrival of aid. In reality, the government, like the people, was intent upon advancing the recovery rapidly, with a spirit of solidarity. Whoever tries to distort this, is lying, he concluded.


Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, first secretary of the Provincial Party Committee in Havana, said that the common denominator evident in the recovery is unity.

He added that the Revolution is humanistic and participatory – made with, for, and by the humble – and this has been reflected over these days.

Torres added that this fusion of people, leaders, and students, is what has made it possible to see the full scope of the recovery process, saying, “It is important to reaffirm that we have identified solutions for 100% of the houses that were totally destroyed.”

The Party first secretary highlighted the role of finance specialists, who have guaranteed that the funds are available and that victims are purchasing the resources they need. He also recognized the work of the press, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, and the Ministry of the Interior.

He spoke about an experience in Regla, where someone commented, “The tornado surprised me, but not the Revolution, because the Revolution has shown the people that no one is ever left abandoned.”

He said that the 500th anniversary celebration will go on in Havana, and thanked Army General Raúl Castro, the Party, the President, and the Council of Ministers, for their support and vigilance, at this time of commitment, pride and victory.


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