What Hurricanes Reveal About Humane and Inhumane Politics
Events must be considered from different perspectives. On the one hand, there is the reactions of nature itself to what has been consistently denounced as "climate change", the result of pernicious actions of the system within the framework of the industrial capitalist model against the planet. Then there is the action of governments in affected countries, as well as those which, without having been affected, have assumed either a passive or active role in response to the crisis.
With the hurricane season in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, and the seismic activity in Mexico, we witnessed the vulnerability of the countries to these events and the ravages that fall upon the socioeconomically sensitive population.
Hurricanes arrived first in the Caribbean. Hurricane Harvey, followed by Hurricane Irma, Tropical Storm Joseph, Tropical Storm Karl and Hurricane Maria, displaced whole countries along the Caribbean axis, destroying or ferociously affecting populated centers from the Lesser Antilles to the Gulf of Mexico, to the state of Florida in the USA.
In each case, the consequences and responses are diverse and prominent. Hurricane Irma, after destroying 95% of the infrastructure of San Martin Island, significantly affected 90% of the buildings on the Island of Barbuda, and to a lesser extent, Antigua, and left 17 dead. The storm continued its course towards the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico, among other islands, which although affected by the rains and high winds, did not experience the extent of devastation seen in Cuba, where Irma struck hardest.
As previously stated in Misión Verdad:
"Venezuela has been among the first to provide support to these affected countries. Contrary to the humanitarian assistance rhetoric of the UN and other multilateral institutions influenced by the United States and Europe, Venezuela was the first country to provide the necessary assistance for rescue work on the most affected islands. The ALBA-Petrocaribe axis has been a key pillar of support for the entire Caribbean region affected by Irma."
Following Hurricane Maria's devastating passage through Puerto Rico, Venezuela again offered its support.
The humanitarian paraphernalia of the USA and Europe
Reduced to advertising in social networks and crowdfundings, American and European messages never go beyond hollow expressions of solidarity and provide no concrete assistance.
With the passage of Irma, José and María, the political inability of certain governments in understanding the Caribbean region is exposed. The case of the island of San Martin is illustrative. Devastated by Irma, 10 tons of humanitarian aid were sent from Venezuela, as reported by Venezuelan Interior Minister Néstor Reverol. Venezuela is the first country, in all cases, to provide real aid. Located in the Lesser Antilles archipelago, San Martin is divided in two; the north belongs to the Republic of France; the south is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Although France decreed a "state of emergency" in its part of the island, actual assistance to its inhabitants has not materialized. Apparently France understands the result of Irma's passage as the destruction of a resort spa, not the devastation of an area under its colonial jurisdiction.
Another emblematic lesson was left by Irma in Florida
The American policy on disaster prevention is literally "whoever can be saved after the fact". Disorganized evacuations from private vehicles left hundreds of thousands stranded in traffic with the hurricane rushing in behind them, urban centers were unprotected, subjected to vandalism and looting. Tampa residents who for various reasons did not evacuate or were unable to do so, were completely forgotten in the midst of the disaster, evidence that the US government was not interested in protecting them. The stories are countless.
Hurricane Maria has hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, both under US jurisdiction. Rescue efforts are carried out by the Coast Guard, and sources in the field say they are grossly insufficient. This is a far cry from the US military’s capacity for deployment in invasions elsewhere in the world. Trump said he will work with the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello and visit the "completely devastated island" at some unspecified point in the future.
Can a country with a "humanitarian crisis" assist others in a disaster situation?
Mexico, hit by two seismic events, is a country where the government of Enrique Peña Nieto supports US military intervention against Venezuela under humanitarian pretext.
Nieto not only received the support of his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolás Maduro, he worked with him to coordinate the shipment of supplies and humanitarian aid to the areas ravaged by the earthquake.
Perhaps the most paradoxical and outstanding case in this respect is the utter hypocrisy of the United States, which maintains a military and economic siege against Venezuela in the name of "democracy" and "human rights."
In spite of this, the Venezuelan government expressed its solidarity with the victims of Louisiana and Texas, following the passage of Harvey. The People's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jorge Arreaza, read the communiqué with President Nicolas Maduro, that approved a special aid program to help the victims, especially those in the states of Louisiana and Texas.
The plan called for the donation of $5 million to help the cities of Corpus Christi and Houston in Texas, a decision that was also approved by US authorities and mayors. Likewise, Arreaza indicated that a percentage of the sales of gasoline will be donated to the construction of houses for the people affected.
At the same time, Minister Arreaza sent a letter to the charge d’affaires at the US embassy to deliver free fuel to humanitarian relief workers, rescuers, doctors and other specialized personnel. Nelson Martínez, said that through the oil subsidiary Citgo, Venezuela will provide financial support to Americans affected by hurricane Harvey and added that "we contribute to support the improvement of the quality of life of those affected with a plan for reconstruction."
The political derivations of disasters
It is important to note that Petrocaribe’s solidity has been tested in this context. In the face of natural disasters in the region, this agreement is its strongest support, together with ALBA. Beyond the management indexes, widely supported by the UN, the humanitarian character of the agreement is clearly visible in times of difficulties.
RT en Español reported from areas affected by the earthquake in Mexico City, "Mexico was raised thanks to its people, not the government." It shows how, in the face of the obvious shortcomings of the Mexican state, the population has had to assume the tasks of rescue, containment and support to victims of the tragedy, in the city and also in the periphery of Mexico City, where socio-economically vulnerable social sectors reside and are perennially facing oblivion in the absence of state support and protection.
It is necessary to recognize that the political is inseparable from the reality of events and must be part of all considerations while we focus on the capacities and incapacities, conjunctural or structural, of countries and related political actors.
Venezuela, while not a victim of these events, was exemplary in its exercise of solidarity and its coherent foreign policy, oriented to sound relations between governments and peoples, despite differences and political circumstances.