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The island has some important lessons to teach the United States in storm-fighting.

The cigar-chomping, no-nonsense general who lifted New Orleans from the depths of Hurricane Katrina in late 2005 thinks Cuba has some important lessons to teach the United States in storm-fighting, and he wants warmer relations with the nation's neighbor to the south for that reason.

"They're closer to the hurricane highway," says retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, talking from his Baton Rouge home. "Even though it's a poor country, challenged economically in all directions, they do a good job of hurricane (damage) prevention and preparedness. I say that tongue-in-cheek because it is a socialist, Communist-controlled country. At the same time,

people spend an extraordinary amount of time preparing to prevent damage to property and to human beings."

Honoré will take part in the Conference on U.S.-Cuban Cooperation in Defending Against Hurricanes today at the River City Complex in New Orleans' East Bank. The event is sponsored by The Center for International Policy.

With Honoré will be Jose Rubiera of the Cuban Meteorological Center; Lixion Avila of the U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami; Dr. Mesa Ridel, the director of the Latin American Center for Disaster Medicine in Havana; retired Lt. Col Jerry Sneed, director of Emergency Preparedness of Orleans Parish; Ivor van Heerden, founder of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center;

Robert Turner, director of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority; and Dr. Alex Isakov, founding director of the Emory University Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response.

Honoré, who will be in Shreveport in December to help send off the deploying National Guard unit in which his son Michael is a member, recently spent four days in Cuba and came away impressed.

He said people actually spend Hurricane Preparedness Week working on hurricane projects, and even students inspect houses to test what they've learned.

"Cubans have also opened up permissions for hurricane hunter planes to fly over Cuba, and the Cuban hurricane center now openly communicates with the U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami."


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