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President Raul Castro We Are Going to Recover
Also participating were Vice President Carlos Lage Dávila, General Leopoldo Cintra Frías, Minister of Transportation Jorge Luis Sierra Cruz, Minister of Basic Industry Yadira García Vera, and Minister of Construction Fidel Figueroa de la Paz.

Upon arriving on the Isla de la Juventud, an island south of Pinar del Rio and the province of Havana, Raúl Castro presided over a meeting of the municipal defense council that evaluated the damage. He asked each of the leaders accompanying him to assess the damage in their areas and the strategy to deal with them.

Carlos Lage gave a general assessment on the economic impact of both hurricanes and government proposals to confront them, especially in food production. Yadira García said that the electric distribution system in the municipality needs to be practically entirely rebuilt. She said that service to 81 percent of the population had been reestablished, but mostly with independent trailer-mounted generators.

Jorge Luis Sierra informed on the gradual recuperation of transportation and Fidel Figueroa on the progress on home repairs. On the Isla de la Juventud there were 21,351 damaged homes including 1,622 totally destroyed. He noted that many residents are living in temporary shelters, evacuation centers or with relatives, neighbors or friends.

Raúl Castro inquired about the measures taken when the hurricanes struck and in the recovery period. He insisted on a profound evaluation of each and to take into account the best experiences applied in the country. He said the country needs to reach greater effectiveness and efficiency amid the world economic crisis which is increasingly worsened by climate change. He noted that several years ago Fidel Castro had warned of those consequences.

Raúl Castro said that the preliminary evaluation showed some US $5 billion in damages nationwide, adding that the figure could still rise. He said the top initial priorities are food production, housing and restoring electricity.We knew you were going to come!” said a woman amid the multitude that gathered spontaneously near the Heroes del Baire Hospital of Nueva Gerona when they learned of Raul’s presence. On an improvised platform the president passed on a greeting from Fidel Castro, whom he said has been continuously informed about the damage.

In a lively conversation with the crowd, Raul Castro noted the great effort of the entire country to recover, with hard work and collective effort. He was accompanied by Ana Isa Delgado Jardines, secretary of the Communist Party for the municipality.

Raúl recalled that initially, after Gustav, efforts were concentrated on the Isla de la Juventud and Pinar del Rio and other affected municipalities in the west of the country. However after Ike struck the damage extended in greater or lesser degree, to all of Cuba. He said the priority is for the most affected areas, but acknowledged that all areas need attention. He praised the exemplary work of the Civil Defense, local governments and different organizations to preserve life.

When members of the public shouted, “We trust in the leaders of the Revolution,” Raúl responded: “We believe in the people and the only thing we ask is for you not to lose hope; don’t lose faith, don’t let your spirit fall, because we are going to recover all that we had.” He recalled that in the war of liberation, conviction and unity were essential weapons for victory. He also urged people to make rational use of each available resource.

The tour ended in the port of Nueva Gerona, where workers from the Isla de la Juventud and the city of Havana are working long days unloading of foodstuffs, building materials, equipment and other resources, destined for the recovery effort.

Shortly before leaving Raúl said, “I’m leaving pleased because I saw a content population.I spoke with several people and no one had a sullen face. I ask you to maintain the spirit of finding solutions to the problems. The island will recover its past beauty and prosperity.

In the afternoon, President Raúl Castro and the other leaders accompanying him toured Pinar del Río. Shortly after his arrival in the provincial capital he headed up a meeting of the Defense Council along with Olga Lidia Tapia, first secretary of the Communist Party in the province. Ample information was presented on the damage caused to the country’s westernmost province by Gustav and Ike and the measures adopted to recover in the least possible time.

It was noted that the country is working to acquire equipment for 15 earth moving brigades, one for each province and the Isla de la Juventud. Pinar del Rio, Camagüey, Las Tunas and Holguín will also receive extra dump trunks.Besides, another 70 construction brigades will be created, 2 for each of the 35 most affected municipalities with a capacity of building 100 homes each per year.

Raúl Castro said that these brigades were designed by Fidel Castro before his illness, and that the composition of them was consulted with him and adjustments were made based on his recommendations to guarantee vitality in case essential equipment is broken. He also warned that a certain amount of time will be needed to organizer these brigades, as the people will have to be contracted and certain equipment imported.

Raúl inquired about the reconstruction of partially and totally destroyed homes and the gradual restoration of the severely damaged electrical network. He said that recovery efforts are being undertaken in the entire nation with practically all of the 169 municipalities having some type of damage. He also noted the quick and effective international aid received, but noted that the main effort has to come from the Cuban people.

The Pinar del Rio Defense Council, as in the Isla de la Juventud, recognized the important role of the Armed Forces and Ministry of Interior in the rescue and recovery tasks. Raúl praised the work of Gen. Leopoldo Cintra Frías.

A spontaneous congregation of people steadily grew when it was learned that the governmental delegation would be arriving to La Palma. Raúl Castro held a lively conversation with the population for around an hour, in which economic, political and social topics were discussed. Raúl referred to the huge economic losses caused by Gustav and Ike, making it necessary to use part of the country’s reserves.

The extensive tour included places in the province that suffered from the two hurricanes. The ministers in the delegation informed the population on the advance of the delivery of materials and resources to resolve their most pressing needs.In all the places visited a common denominator was the desolate landscape of destroyed homes, public facilities and industries, and flattened crops and trees, from the typical Royal Palms to the Marabu scrub brush.

In contrast, shouts of Long Live Fidel, Long Live Raul, Long Live the Revolution, rose up during the tour, along with many showings of confidence and certainty that the difficulties will be overcome.

A similar scene was repeated in Manuel Sanguily, where the faces of women, men and children of all ages listened to the message of Raul Castro. The president spoke using a bench as a podium in a small park with the old Sanguily Sugar Mill as a backdrop. The mill facilities were severely damaged by the two storms. Raúl summed up what needs to be done: around the clock work with responsibility, diligence, order and discipline, and awareness that this is the only way to meet the challenges ahead.

(Juventud Rebelde)

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