“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.” See the full article from the shreveporttimes.com here.
Last week retired U.S. Army Lt. General Russel Honoré spoke at the conference “U.S.-Cuban Cooperation in Defending Against Hurricanes” at the River City Complex in New Orleans' East Bank. Speakers at the conference included hurricane monitoring and response experts from the United States and Cuba. For a complete conference click here.
I went to this conference in New Orleans hosted by the Center for International Policy and Randy Poindexter. The conference was a huge success on lots of levels but what most impressed me was what I heard from about the actual meteorologists from both sides of the Florida Straights about U.S.-Cuban cooperation in monitoring hurricanes. Apparently, the two countries cooperate extensively and share data openly. Meteorologists based in Miami and Havana were on a first name basis and shared stories about each other more likely to come from life-long buddies than government employees of estranged countries without diplomatic relations. We need more of this kind of cooperation!
My biggest takeaway from this conference is that the politics that frames the debate about U.S.-Cuba relations means nothing when it comes to disaster preparedness. Information about storms and hurricanes is shared openly between the United States and Cuba and more specifically between Miami and Havana. Hearing Jose Rubiera, Director of the Cuban National Forecasting Center, speak with Lixion Avila of the U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami on the same panel demonstrated to me that when lives are at stake the politics with Cuba are pushed aside. Isn’t that the way it should be?
HINT: President Obama and U.S. policymakers, what can you learn from this?
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