The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science will be available via subscription on April 26. Visit About to learn more, meet the editorial board, learn about subscriber services.

Dismiss
Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, NATURAL HAZARD SCIENCE (oxfordre.com/naturalhazardscience). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 25 April 2019

Natural Hazards Governance in Cuba

Summary and Keywords

Natural hazard governance in Cuba elicits widely differing commentaries. While some experts praise it as an extension of state commitment to social welfare, others debate the ethics, necessity, and utility of forced evacuation. However, many disaster experts are unaware of the long-term development of disaster reduction in the country—how Cuban risk governance has evolved in a unique geopolitical and social environment. Mass mobilization to prepare for military invasion and prior response to hurricane disaster provided the foundation for Cuba’s contemporary focus on disaster risk reduction. A pragmatic analysis of the development of natural hazard governance in Cuba and its components reveals key factors for its success in protecting lives. Deployment of local risk management centers, nationwide multi-hazard risk assessment, and early warning systems are recognized as important factors for the effectiveness of disaster reduction in the country. The number of scientific organizations collecting data and carrying out research is also a factor in the reduction of disaster impact and increases the level of resiliency. Over time, an increasing number of organizations and population groups have become involved in risk governance. Risk communication is used as a tool for keeping popular risk perception at an effective level, and for encouraging effective self-protection during hazard events. The continuous development and improvement of a multilateral framework for natural hazards governance is also among the important components of disaster risk reduction in Cuba.

However, the economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the long-lasting U.S. government blockade have been constraints on economic development and disaster risk reduction. These geopolitical and macroeconomic realities must be recognized as the main causes of the large economic losses and slow recovery after a natural hazard impact. Nevertheless, disaster recovery is carried out at the highest level of management with the goal of reducing vulnerability as much as possible to avoid future losses. Despite economic losses due to natural disasters, Cuban governance of natural hazards is evaluated as a success by most organizations and experts worldwide.

Keywords: governance, disaster management, civil defense, hazard assessment, vulnerability assessment, risk assessment, Cuba, geopolitical constraints

Introduction

Cuba is considered a model in hurricane risk management by the United Nations (ISDR, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c; Sims & Vogelmann, 2002) as a result of the small number of casualties that occur when a hurricane affects the country compared with the many casualties caused by the same hurricane in neighboring countries with different economic, social, and political contexts, such as Haiti, Jamaica, and the United States (Wisner et al., 2006). “The Cuban way could easily be applied to other countries with similar economic conditions and even in countries with greater resources that do not manage to protect their population as well as Cuba does,” explained Salvano Briceño, then director of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) secretariat in Geneva (ISDR, 2004a). Margareta Wahlström, subsequently a Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction for the UN, described Cuba as an example of a country with “very strong social organization” building a disaster management system that most “people trust and respect” (UN News Center, 2012).

Other authors, such as Glantz (2004), have considered these successes to be due to an “authoritarian form of government” which other countries “are not in the position to use” (compare cf. Aguirre, 2004). In contrast to Glantz’s assessment, others have investigated reasons behind Cuba’s ability to protect human life, and have identified “an impressive multi-dimensional process” using as the foundation “a socio-economic model that reduces vulnerability and invests in social capital through universal access to government services and promotion of social equity” (Thompson & Gaviria, 2004).

Clearly, a balanced view of Cuba’s system of natural hazard governance requires deeper analysis. In addition, the history of the civil defense system in Cuba and its evolution as a whole have never been described and analyzed. A more comprehensive understanding of the success of disaster reduction in Cuba requires a deeper analysis of its components and the framework in which it has been developed. The way the civil defense system has evolved during the last 55 years is still mostly unknown by the foreign media, scholars, and authorities and, as observed by one of the authors in the course of his daily life in Cuba, even by many locals. Details about this continuous progress and the level of integration of civil defense with Cuba’s socioeconomic system are important aspects that have so far not been fully explained. Therefore, the objective of this chapter is to analyze the civil defense system in Cuba since its beginning with an emphasis on its growing inclusion of various stakeholders, increasing comprehensiveness, and the contemporary challenge of instituting a multi-hazard risk assessment program.

This article is based on a review of Cuban academic and government studies as well as reports, relevant Cuban legislation, the work of international scholars, and the first author’s first-hand knowledge as a participant observer in the civil defense system as broadly defined. Beginning in the 1950s, the story’s most recent installment involves the recognition of new challenges revealed by a series of destructive hurricanes, continuing stress produced by the U.S. economic blockade, and the emergence of new civil defense criteria (EMNDC, 2007b).

Natural Hazard Profile of Cuba

Geographical Setting

The Republic of Cuba is an archipelago composed of the Island of Cuba, the Isle of Youth, and more than 1,600 islands, islets, and cays, occupying the largest territory of the Antilles, in the northwest of the Caribbean Sea (ONEI, 2017a). Cuba is roughly the size of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, twice the size of Austria, and half the size of Great Britain. Its surface is mostly constituted by flat to rolling plains (Figure 1), with rugged hills and mountains, mostly in the southeast, where the highest point reaches 1,974 meters above sea level (masl). The principal island is 1,250 kilometers (km) long from east to west, 191 km at its widest point, and 31 km at its narrowest, with an average elevation of 108 masl.

Natural Hazards Governance in CubaClick to view larger

Figure 1. Cuban relief including sea floor. Notice the islands distributed north and south, as well as the extension of the marine platform (Source: Castellanos, 2005).

The principal natural hazards Cuba faces are hurricane and drought. Apart from potential injury and loss of life, as well as damage to infrastructure and the built environment, these hazards have potential impacts on agrarian land use, livelihoods, and economic production. Cuba’s surface is mostly comprised of agricultural land (56.6%) and forests (30.9%) (ONEI, 2017b). Although agriculture makes up only a small percentage of Cuba’s GDP, it employs a significant number of citizens; thus, storm and drought losses can affect rural income and national food security. Since 1988, different periods of drought have affected the country, being more severe in the central and eastern areas. This situation first affected agriculture, and more recently has been reducing the availability of water for human consumption. In February 2017, 139 out of 169 municipalities in the country were categorized as affected by hydrological drought, of which 53 were noted as being at an extreme level (Granma, 2017a; WFP, 2017).

Earthquake, tsunami, landslide, wildfire, and flood are also potential hazards, along with a range of biological hazards such as human epidemics and animal and plant disease outbreaks. Swine flu required the slaughter of 500,000 pigs in 1971, constituting a triumph by Cuban health officials in containing this plague, and a huge economic loss (Lindsay-Jones, 2003). The country’s industrial sector is a source of potential technological hazards including air and water pollution, and catastrophic explosions, fires, and toxic emissions. Sea level rise, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity are longer-term threats.

As much as 5.45% of coastal land could be lost due to sea level rise by 2100 (Granma, 2011), and south-central zones report losses of 1.3 meters of coastline per year (Granma, 2017b). As a result, saltwater intrusion, soil erosion, and the disappearance of mangroves are increasingly noted. Considering the importance of these and other climate change impacts, the Council of Ministers approved a national plan called “Tarea Vida” (Project Life), which is a comprehensive set of actions responding to climate change (Cubadebate, 2017a; Stone, 2018).

Seismic activity is significant in the southeastern part of the country due to the location of the Caribbean plate boundary (Hernández & Ramírez, 2013). Forty people died in the 1766 earthquake and eight in 1938 (Earthquake Report, 2014). Intra-plate activity is also recorded but with less frequency and magnitude. Landslides have been reported mostly due to intensive rainfall, and they are likely to happen in about 25% of the Cuban territory (Castellanos & van Westen, 2007).

Risk Profile

Between 1990 and 2014, Cuba experienced on average two destructive hazard impacts resulting in five deaths per year. The 10-year rolling average economic loss from such hazards (overwhelmingly storm-related at 97%) was USD 617,200. Storm, flood, and drought were the most common triggers for actualizing disaster risk (Figure 2).

Cuba compares favorably to surrounding countries in terms of its overall risk to disasters triggered by natural hazard events. The INFORM 2017 Risk Index produced by the European Commission takes three aspects of vulnerability into account: physical exposure and physical vulnerability (hazard and exposure to it), fragility of socioeconomic systems, and degree of resilience (European Commission, 2017). Cuba’s risk index is estimated to be 2.6, compared with Haiti’s 6.5, Mexico’s 4.8, and a risk index of 3.1 in the United States.

Special Significance of Hurricane Hazard

By far, the main hazards in Cuba are derived from intense meteorological events (tropical storms and hurricanes). From 1998 to 2017 Cuba was affected by 19 hurricanes, nine of them of high intensity, with a death toll of 66 people (Pardo Guerra, 2017). For the purposes of hazard, vulnerability, and risk assessment in the country, the impact of these events is divided by Cuban experts into floods, coastal floods, and strong winds. In other words, in Cuba experts do not produce hurricane risk assessment as such, but there are risk assessments for these three hazards which allow more precise identification of potentially impacted areas and specific reduction measures. Table 1 provides an overview of the impact of recent hurricanes. As a later section, “Evolution of Natural Hazard Governance in Cuba”, will document, hurricane impacts have been significant in the evolution of civil defense policy and capacity building in Cuba. The phrase “prevention measures” at the head of column five in Table 1 includes expenses such as evacuation costs, losses due to the shutdown of factories in order to reduce damage, and others. Total losses from Hurricane Irma in 2017 were estimated at more than 13 billion pesos (Cubadebate, 2017b)—nearly twice the amount of loss in either Hurricane Ike or Hurricane Sandy. (One peso is equivalent to one U.S. dollar.)

Table 1. Summary of Economic Losses and Houses Damaged From 2005 to 2016 Due to Hurricanes in Cuba

Years

Hurricanes

Month

Economic Losses (Thousands of Pesos)

Houses Damaged

Total

Prevention Measures

In Houses

In Facilities

Agriculture

Goods and Services

Total

Totally Collapsed

2005

3,036.0

117.2

1,074.8

213.2

893.4

658.0

180,390

28,353

Denis

7

2,124.8

18.7

1,026.1

201.0

603.4

265.3

175,615

28,082

Rita

9

207.0

25.0

3.1

8.9

117.7

52.3

492

14

Wilma

10

704.2

73.5

45.6

3.3

172.3

340.4

4,283

257

2006

95.1

15.2

24.6

40.0

181.9

130

Ernesto

9

95.1

15.2

24.6

40.0

181.9

130

2007

1,155.4

12.8

364.4

168.5

559.5

32.6

59,826

3,473

Noel

10

1,155.4

12.8

364.4

168.5

559.5

32.6

59,826

3,473

2008

9,759.3

137.7

4,983.8

372.9

3,605.8

525.4

647,111

84,737

Fay

8

37.8

1.6

16.8

4.9

7.1

4.0

3,305

179

Gustav

8

2,096.7

30.9

1,121.5

59.6

868.4

9.8

120,509

21,941

Ike

9

7,325.3

95.9

3,764.7

304.8

2,540.2

501.9

511,259

61,202

Paloma

11

299.5

9.3

80.8

3.6

190.1

9.7

12,038

1,415

2012

6,966.9

70.6

3,546.6

295.8

2,469.0

398.0

263,250

22,705

Sandy

11

6,966.9

70.6

3,546.6

295.8

2,469.0

398.0

263,250

22,705

2016

2,430.8

24.1

388.5

70.1

519.5

81.9

46,706

8,312

Matthew

10

2,430.8

24.1

388.5

70.1

519.5

81.9

46,706

8,312

Totals

23,443.5

377.4

10,382.7

1,120.3

8,047.2

1,735.9

1,199,102

147,710

Note: (*) Data provided by the National Statistics and Information Office (ONEI, 2017a). One peso is equivalent to one US dollar.

Evolution of Natural Hazard Governance in Cuba

Settlement Background and Origins of Civil Defense: The 1950s and 1960s

Havana is the capital city of Cuba. As of 2011, a new political–administrative hierarchy was established under which Cuba was organized into 15 provinces and 168 municipalities (Figure 3), including the special municipality Isla de la Juventud. In 2016 the total population was estimated to be more than 11 million (ONEI, 2017a), with a total density of 102.3 people/km2. Havana is inhabited by 2.1 million people, while the populations of Santiago de Cuba and Holguín are around one million each, and the rest of the provinces each have around 700,000 inhabitants. From the disaster management point of view, the country is vertically organized into national, provincial, municipal, and popular council levels (see Box 1). The popular council is equivalent to the “defense zone” when dealing with disaster reduction actions. The popular council or defense zone is not an administrative unit, but a small area with a representative to support the municipality. However, this form of organization did not always exist and has evolved in stages.

Natural Hazards Governance in CubaClick to view larger

Figure 3. Cuban provinces and municipalities (Source: Institute of Physical Planning).

The organization described in Box 1 is the product of evolution. In Cuba before 1959, the Red Cross, fire brigade, and police were responsible for tasks during flooding and other consequences of tropical cyclones before the formal creation of the civil defense system. The Catholic Church was also active as an extension of the work of Catholic Action in the areas of health and working-class housing (Holbrook, 2008). From the very beginning of the revolution in 1959, a large part of the population started to collaborate with the rebel army, especially in helping to maintain order and to protect public facilities and infrastructure. That was particularly relevant to the fight against internal and external actions ranging from sabotage to military aggression, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion organized by the CIA in April 1961. Thus, the National Revolutionary Militia (MNR) was created. People that could not participate in the MNR because of their work duties were grouped into another organization called the Military Organization of Industries (OMI), the main duties of which included vigilance and protection of economic and political targets in the country, especially focusing on nationalized enterprises. In February 1962, the OMI was transformed, and the Central Headquarters of Popular Defense (EMNDC), commonly known as “Popular Defense,” was created. From April 1962, Popular Defense was organized at all levels of governance (consisting at the time of provinces, regions, and municipalities) with representation in every industry. In June and August 1962, the first training course for Popular Defense instructors took place in a newly created National School of Popular Defense which later became the National School of Civil Defense. On July 31, 1962, the head of the army met with representatives of different territories (provinces and municipalities) to discuss and agree on their responsibilities for civil defense in their territories. This day is considered to be the formal beginning of the civil defense system in Cuba (EMNDC, 2007a). The new system was immediately put into effect in October 1962, when the missile crisis required this nascent national system to protect the civilian population and economy.

Another early challenge for civil defense in Cuba was Hurricane Flora in October 1963, a storm rated category 2 on the Zaffir–Simpson scale (Celeiro & Hernández, 2002; Ramos, 2009). The death toll was around 1,200 people, there were enormous material losses, and large numbers of people were affected. Popular Defense was not yet ready to cope with a disaster of such magnitude, so many activities such as evacuation and rescue were undertaken by the army and the Ministry of Interior directly commanded by the prime minister (Figure 4).1 The magnitude of lives and assets lost in this disaster catalyzed an important change in Cuba and started the shift in the focus of Popular Defense from protection against military assault and sabotage to response to disasters triggered by natural hazards. Hurricane Flora was followed by much analysis, and many actions were implemented soon after. For example, a nationwide program for building dams to retain water, Voluntad Hidraúlica, was introduced, and in 1965 the Institute of Meteorology was founded and given the responsibility for detecting and monitoring hydro-meteorological hazards.

The Cuban civil defense system was further structured by a law passed in July 1966 (Ley No. 1194, 1966). This law institutionalized what had been learned from Hurricane Flora. There were military, social, and economic arguments for creating the law that focused on natural hazards. Coordinated participation of all parties was a priority from the beginning: the state, the party (created in 1965 as the Cuban Communist Party), the army, and the population. The law established the mission of Civil Defense to include, among others, (a) to organize warning systems; (b) to plan and develop evacuation and shelter facilities to protect all the population and especially people with disabilities, children, pregnant women, and elderly people; (c) to plan how to continue production during military aggression and despite impacts of natural hazards; and (d) to organize services such as transportation, communications, water supply, etc. during military aggression and when facing natural hazard disruptions.

In order to improve planning, coordination, and implementation, a National Council of Civil Defense was set up, drawing representatives from all ministries and chaired by the president. The 1966 law also established three nationwide obligations: (a) the tasks ordered by Civil Defense were obligatory for all organizations and citizens; (b) all ministries must include in their financial and material resources whatever they needed to accomplish the tasks ordered by Civil Defense; and (c) at all territorial levels and in all organizations, there should be personnel for civil defense with specific missions, including civil defense coordinators.

From 1967 until the end of the 1980s a number of Cuban military personnel were trained in civil defense courses in the former Soviet Union. Furthermore, importantly from the educational point of view, Civil Defense started introducing material on disaster preparedness into the educational system, beginning in primary, and continuing through to secondary, pre-university, and later university levels.

Natural Hazards Governance in CubaClick to view larger

Figure 4. Rescue operation and Fidel Castro Ruz, as Prime Minister in October 1963 during Hurricane Flora (photo supplied by National Civil Defense).

Fine-Tuning and Popularizing the Civil Defense System: The 1970s and 1980s

In 1976 a new law (Ley No. 1316, 1976) fine-tuned the organizational structure of Civil Defense. This law responded to the creation of local governments throughout the island and a new political and administrative organization of the country, which included 14 provinces and one special municipality. When the revolution took power in 1959 Cuba had only six provinces and a series of regions and municipalities. There was national government, but no elected local government. This 1976 law put the president of the Council of Ministers in command of Civil Defense through the Minister of the Army and created Civil Defense headquarters throughout different levels of administration for planning, organizing, and overseeing protection, preparedness, response, and recovery. At that point, Civil Defense in Cuba was not a single organization but rather a “system of defense measures” carried out by the state during peacetime to protect the population and economy against modern means of destruction or contamination and against the impacts of natural hazards, as well as to undertake rescue work.

Among the new activities introduced during this period was an annual national exercise called “METEORO” that has been held since 1986. METEORO is a preparation exercise lasting one weekend for the whole country every year. Initially the exercise was designed to better prepare the population for hurricane season (June–November), but gradually it started to include other disaster types at all disaster management levels with heavy involvement of the local population. METEORO provides a test of the civil defense system. Also during this period, sub-national jurisdictions and local authorities started to have a broader view of the hazards they faced, and they began to consider many diverse scenarios including dam failure, chemical contamination, epidemics, and so forth. It was at this point that the authorities and Civil Defense started to pay more attention to prevention measures (including mitigation) and not merely to response.

Challenge and Transformation: The 1990s

At the beginning of the 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc, Cuba faced a deep economic crisis, while its civil defense system needed to be reorganized. A defense doctrine called “War of the Whole People” was officially implemented and approved on December 21, 1994, during the National Assembly session. Chapter 14 of this 1994 law (Ley No. 75, 1995) reaffirmed the established civil defense definitions and principles and their role in the country’s defense system as a whole. Based on these definitions, in May 1997 Decree-law No. 170 established the current “System of Measures of Civil Defense” in Cuba (Decreto-Ley No. 170, 1997). This document regulates (a) the role of the different organizations, enterprises, and civil institutions regarding civil defense measures; (b) the organization and execution of civil defense measures to protect the population and economy; (c) the establishment of different stages (normal, informative, alert, alarm) in case of tropical cyclones; and (d) the funding for civil defense plans and measures. A structural organization was set up, as shown in Figure 5. As a result of the centralized organization of the state in Cuba, most ministries and many state enterprises have provincial and even municipal representations, albeit not always fitting in administrative units (for examples, see Box 2). The hierarchical structure of the civil defense system is shown in Figure 5, which mirrors the organization of the state and government.

Natural Hazards Governance in CubaClick to view larger

Figure 5. Organization of the Civil Defense System in Cuba and risk assessment (Source: after EMNDC, 2007b). Green signifies military structures and blue non-military ones.

The role of Civil Defense was thus re-established and reaffirmed with an important new function. This was to identify and evaluate hazards, vulnerabilities, and risk factors in collaboration with organizations, enterprises, and social institutions, as well as to provide the planning needed to cope with them.

A number of other decrees soon started to regulate the whole system of civil defense. Among them was Decree 223 (Decreto No. 223, 1997), which regulates the use of all resources in the country in the interest of defense, including their use in case of response to a natural hazard event. Decree-law 262 (Decreto-Ley No. 262, 1999) stipulates that all investment, study, and research at every level has to be compatible with the national civil defense system and cross-checked by Civil Defense headquarters. Other laws also have articles related to the reduction of natural hazard risk, such as the Law of Foreign Investment 118 (Ley No. 118, 2014), which notes that (a) foreign companies have to follow all regulations related to protection against catastrophes and natural hazard events; (b) each investment’s plan should contain provisions for disaster risk reduction that are reviewed and approved by National Civil Defense headquarters; and (c) pre-investment studies should include “disaster studies.”

Hurricanes Push Cuba’s Civil Defense System Towards Its Early 21st-Century Form

In 2004, Cuba was hit by two major hurricanes, Ivan and Charley, within a relatively short period (Puig, Betancourt, & Álvarez, 2010). Soon thereafter, many meetings were held in order to critically analyze their impact. Major errors were identified related to local organization and neglect of the need not only to plan against catastrophes but also to produce more comprehensive disaster reduction plans and measures for disaster reduction that had not previously been included in the social–economic plans. The process of analysis concluded with a national meeting in November that year. Following this, three main recommendations were implemented (EMNDC, 2007a). Firstly, Councils of Defense were activated at all levels for coordinating actions in response and recovery phases, replacing the earlier management structure. Secondly, planning for every administrative jurisdiction and organization, was re-defined from the creation of a “plan for measures in cases of catastrophes” to a “plan for disaster reduction.” This measure formalized the shift from response to mitigation. Thirdly, measures for disaster reduction were integrated into the social–economic plan. Since 2007, the state budget has included an item for funding activities related to disaster reduction.

The implementation of these three measures was not without problems. Although they substantially increase the effectiveness of natural hazards governance in Cuba, intensive training was required for the Council of Defense representatives. In addition, new “plans for disaster reduction” demand much more skill and a multidisciplinary team, which was not always available, particularly at the lowest management levels. Identifying disaster reduction measures to be included in the annual plan was and remains challenging, but even more difficult is finding the financial and material resources to accomplish the task.

In June 2005, a year after these two destructive hurricanes, a new document was produced and signed by the vice-president of the National Defense Council “for the planning, organization and preparation of the country in case of disasters,” called Directive 1/2005 (CDN, 2005). The main aspects of this document includes (a) strengthening the management system; (b) improving disaster reduction plans; (c) integrating the planning of the disaster reduction cycle into the development of the socioeconomic plan; (d) repeating earlier mandates requiring risk assessment at different levels for different organizations; (e) establishing criteria to be used to activate different response phases; (f) improving the planning process; and (g) strengthening dissemination and communications.

Directive 1/2005 recognizes risk assessment as the foundation for planning measures to reduce disasters. An annex to Directive 1/2005 gives an estimation of natural, technological, and health hazards and specifies the magnitude for each hazard that would trigger an “emergency status” declaration. Depending on the hazard type and magnitude, emergency status implies a set of measures that need to be taken and a number of responsibilities. Every administrative jurisdiction and every organization was obliged to create a disaster reduction plan that followed the outline provided as a “core document.” These were to be updated at least once a year. Following every hazard event, experience and performance were to be analyzed at this decentralized scale and plans revised accordingly.

In 2007, the National Defense Council approved another directive (CDN, 2007) that established Risk Reduction Management Centers (RRMC) in every provincial and municipal government. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) projects supported the creation of these centers (UNDP, 2013). The objective of the RRMC is to implement vulnerability reduction and any other local transformation that can enhance risk reduction. For more information about these RRMC see the section entitled Regional Risk Management Centers below.

More Hurricanes Test the Cuban Civil Defense System: 2008–2010

In 2008, hurricanes Fay (August), Gustav (August), Ike (September), and Paloma (November) were by far the largest sequential disasters to impact Cuba in recorded history. Cumulative losses amounted to 9.7 billion pesos (ONEI, 2017a), as shown in Table 1. This included the loss of 84,737 houses that were completely destroyed by the four storms. Figure 6 shows the hurricanes’ tracks. One should note that Fay and Gustav impacted the western part of the country, and Ike and Paloma affected the central-eastern part. The burden of loss was borne nationwide.

The 2008 hurricanes led to another stage in the development of the civil defense system in Cuba. Directive 1 (CDN, 2010) expressed a new and deeper appreciation of hazards in Cuba and described the main characteristics of hazards impacting the country. In addition, the directive had a number of key elements to be implemented:

  • action related to (a) risk estimation, (b) risk reduction management, (c) compatibility of socioeconomic development and civil defense interests, and (d) tree pruning and felling, as well as the maintenance of rivers beds and water channels;

  • definition of time frames governing response to disaster situations depending on event type and its characteristics;

  • mandating the creation of disaster reduction plans by provinces, municipalities, and defense zones, as well as every economic entity or social institution;

  • subordinating all other institutions and entities to the leadership of provincial and municipal defense councils in response to disasters and recovery phases;

  • designation of the National Civil Defense Headquarters as responsible for communication with other entities and levels of governance;

  • production of a dedicated information system for disaster situations as the main vehicle of information flow;

  • designation of responsibility to the Ministry of Construction for certification of anti-seismic and wind load building standards.

Natural Hazards Governance in CubaClick to view larger

Figure 6. Tracks of tropical cyclones affecting Cuba in 2008. A: Fay (August 18), B: Gustav (August 30), C: Ike (September 7) and D: Paloma (November 8).

A summary of drivers or focusing events, main focus, and outputs of Directives 2005, 2007, and 2010 is presented in Table 2. Table 2 also lists the events that appear to have focused policy-makers’ attention, leading to this new legislation (Birkland, 2017). In 2012, the National Civil Defense Headquarters published a Methodological Guide to Organize the Process of Disaster Reduction (EMNDC, 2012). This document details actions for prevention and preparedness as well as response and recovery. This guide is used at every level of management (national, provincial, municipal, and defense zone).

Table 2. Summary of National Defense Council Directives

Directive 1/2005

Directive 1/2007

Directive 1/2010

Focusing events

Hurricanes Iván and Charley in 2004

No specific disaster event

Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Ike, and Paloma in 2008

Main focus

Strengthening the disaster management system, establishing role of disaster reduction plans, increasing relevance of risk assessment

Establishing Risk Reduction Management Centers at provinces and municipalities

Leadership of provincial and municipal defense councils, information and communication flows in case of disaster, definition of time frames governing response

Outputs

Better disaster reduction system, full implementation of disaster reduction plans considering risk assessment

Progressively instituting Risk Reduction Management Centers nationwide

Improved command chain related to disaster reduction, including information to public

Impact of Recent Hurricanes: 2012–2017

Hurricane Sandy hit eastern Cuba in 2012, affecting especially the country’s second-largest city, Santiago de Cuba. Despite the large evacuation of 343,230 people (Cubadebate, 2012), Sandy killed 11 people in the country. This makes Sandy the deadliest hurricane to hit Cuba since 2005 (Washington Post, 2012). The economic loss was as much as 4.7 billion pesos (One USD is equivalent to one peso); 171,380 houses were damaged, of which 15,889 were totally destroyed (Granma, 2016). The recovery of Santiago de Cuba from Hurricane Sandy disaster took time, effort, and resources. The president of the Council of State, as the head of the government, and many ministries, such as Energy and Mines, Water Resources, Construction, Industry, Internal Market, and others, moved almost permanently to the city in order to personally coordinate the recovery efforts. By 2016, four years later, recovery was still under way. Only 26% of the houses that had been totally destroyed had been replaced; 60% of the houses that had been partially damaged had been repaired; while 82% of the affected roofs had been restored. By contrast, 90% of facilities such as schools, health centers, markets, and other infrastructure had been repaired or replaced (Granma, 2016). By February 2018, 37% of the destroyed houses had been replaced, 84% of damaged roofs, and 97% of public facilities, including 100% of schools and health facilities (Granma, 2018). As already mentioned, the economic blockade has placed severe burdens on the Cuban economy and the ability of the state to accomplish recovery in a timely way despite considerable mobilization of human and other resources.

Hurricane Matthew hit Cuba in October 2016, also in the east, but this time it affected Guantánamo Province. Although no casualties were reported, losses of infrastructure and facilities were estimated at 2.4 billion pesos (ONEI, 2017a). Since then many of the recovery actions have been focused on “building back better” not only in terms of construction materials but also by locating new and safer places for settlements, as recommended internationally by the United Nations Office for Disaster Reduction (SADR, 2016; UNISDR, 2017) (see Box 3).

Between September 7 and 10, 2017, Cuba was severely impacted by Hurricane Irma. This event broke records (Klotzbac, 2017). Irma was the only tropical cyclone known worldwide that has maintained maximum sustained winds at 295 km/h for 37 hours. It was the first hurricane to maintain category 5 intensity for three consecutive days, and it was the second-most long-lasting hurricane with high intensity in the Atlantic (eight days and 12 hours). Ten deaths were reported, of which seven were people who did not want to be evacuated (Cubadebate, 2017f). Damages, estimated at 13 billion 185 thousand pesos (one USD equivalent to one peso), covered 12 of the 15 provinces. Residential damage and loss were significant: 158,554 houses were affected, including 14,000 that collapsed totally, 16,000 that were partially destroyed, and 23,560 roofs that were lost (Cubadebate, 2017c, 2017d). A remarkable amount of help was received from many countries, international organizations, and citizens from all around the world. All the aid received was distributed using the mechanisms established for materials supply, which reached and supported the most vulnerable people. The civil defense authorities and the population mobilized resources for the recovery and in record time most vital systems such as water and electricity were restored (Havana Times, 2017; Telesur, 2017). Replacing and repairing housing remains the main problem at the time of writing.

Multi-Hazard Vulnerability and Risk Assessment

In June 2017, National Civil Defense published a comprehensive guide (EMNDC, 2017) for organizing the disaster reduction process, which included procedures to evaluate the level of vulnerability and risk reduction in organizations and territories. It also included an analysis of the implementation of disaster reduction plans. The document is a compilation of all other experiences and previous publications, representing a mature stage for disaster reduction in Cuba.

The responsibility for coordinating hazard, vulnerability and risk assessment, known as PVR studies, in every municipality (169 in all) was assigned to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA), as shown in Figure 6. Many other organizations are also involved, depending on hazard type (natural, technological, or health-related). Within the municipality, the minimum spatial unit for risk assessment is the popular council (defense zone).

The goal was to establish a methodology allowing PVR studies to be compared spatially (among municipalities) and temporally (across years) in order to identify priorities and to monitor the progress of risk reduction. Vulnerability assessments play an important role in the risk equation, since the information related to vulnerability changes quickly over time. Population and economic data are continuously changing; thus, PVR updates are vital.

Seven principles underlie the assessment methodology. Every assessment must be:

  1. 1. Objective. It has to respond to the needs of disaster reduction given the means presently available and include the use of appropriate technology, not always the most advanced (see Box 3).

  2. 2. Applicable. The requirements should be feasible in all territories and based on existing information.

  3. 3. Reproducible. The method should be clear and precise, such that others can carry it out again with no doubt about how to proceed.

  4. 4. Flexible. It should be adaptable to local needs and local conditions.

  5. 5. Comparable. Although flexible, it should be nationally comparable.

  6. 6. Monitorable. Results should be comparable over time in order to monitor progress.

  7. 7. Updateable. A clear schedule for updating should be possible across the different datasets utilized.

To organize PVR studies, CITMA created a National Advisory Council, which includes participants from many organizations such as main research centers in the country. The National Advisory Council approves PVR guidelines, PVR provincial studies once finished, and any other document related to PVR studies. For every hazard type, a National Expert Group was also formalized, including professionals from different organizations with knowledge of specific hazards (flood, landslide, earthquake, epidemics, etc.). The National Expert Group designs the guidelines or methodology for each particular PVR study, holds seminars in every province before the start of the study, and supports all provinces during the time the study is being carried out. It is important to note that every PVR study includes a “perception survey” designed by psychologists and sociologists, which assists in understanding how each hazard is subjectively perceived in each municipality.

Some of these PVR guidelines were published by the UNDP as an example that could be implemented in other countries (UNDP, 2014). The general procedure of PVR studies has four phases (AMA, 2007) as indicated in Figure 7.

Natural Hazards Governance in CubaClick to view larger

Figure 7. Phases for multi-hazard, vulnerability, and risk assessment in Cuba (Source: after AMA, 2007) and main tasks for landslide risk assessment. Terminology used as in the reference.

Originally, PVR studies were concentrated on tropical cyclone-related hazards: flooding, storm surge, and strong winds. Later, other hazard types were incorporated, as shown in Table 3, for each province. In total, there should be 171 PVR studies for 11 types of hazards and 16 provinces (previously Cuba had 15 provinces). Landslide studies are not required in five provinces because they are mostly flat. At the end of 2017, 95 PVR studies had been concluded, 31 were in progress, and 45 were still pending. For 2018, 15 studies are planned. Additionally, 13 studies in different provinces are scheduled for updating.

The final report of each PVR study includes recommendations for risk reduction actions organized by disaster phase (prevention, response, and recovery). Experience so far suggests that an additional benefit of PVR studies is that local specialists and authorities become more aware of hazards in a comprehensive way and that such awareness assists implementation of disaster reduction plans by provincial and municipal governments.

Table 3. PVR Studies Carried Out in Cuban Provinces With Year of Culmination Provinces (See key below)

HA

IJ

PR

AR

MY

MT

SS

VC

CF

CA

CM

LT

GR

HO

SC

GT

Fluvial flood

2007

2010

2010

2012

2012

2010

2011

2011

2011

2011

2011

2012

2011

2011

2016

2011

Strong wind

2007

2010

2010

2012

2012

2010

2011

2011

2011

2011

2011

2012

2011

2011

2016

2011

Coastal flood

2007

2010

2010

2012

2012

2010

2011

2011

2011

2011

2011

2012

2011

2011

2016

2011

Rural fire

2013

2010

2016

2011

2011

2014

2013

2015

X

2013

X

Drought

2015

2016

2016

2016

2015

2013

2013

2015

2011

2012

2011

2013

2012

X

2013

Earthquake

2015

X

2015

X

2014

2012

2015

X

Landslide

NA

2015

NA

X

2012

2012

2013

NA

NA

NA

2012

2011

2012

2011

Technological

2014

X

X

X

X

X

X

2014

X

2014

X

X

X

X

X

Epizootic

2017

X

2013

2013

2013

2017

2014

X

2013

2014

2017

X

X

Plant disease

X

X

X

2017

2016

Epidemic

X

X

Note: HA—Havana, IJ—Island of Youth, PR—Pinar del Río, AR—Artemisa, MY—Mayabeque, MT—Matanzas, SS—Sancti Spíritus, VC—Villa Clara, CF—Cienfuegos, CA—Ciego de Ávila, CM—Camagüey, LT—Las Tunas, GR—Granma, HG—Holguín, SC—Santiago de Cuba, GT—Guantánamo. X = PVR studies in progress. — = PVR studies not started. NA = PVR studies not applicable for this province. Years underlined are scheduled for updating in 2018.

Source: Information adapted from Fonseca (2017).

After final approval by the National Advisory Council, the report of each PVR study goes directly to a vice-president in every province and its municipalities responsible for disaster reduction. In practice, the technical part of the report is used by the Management Center for Risk Reduction in every territory (municipal and province), along with other basic documents required in these centers (UNDP, 2011).

Risk Reduction Management Centers

Risk Reduction Management Centers (RRMCs) are located in every municipality and province in Cuba, as shown in Figure 5. These centers were initially developed in some territories with financial support from the UNDP, and the Cuban government later extended coverage to the rest of the country (UNDP, 2010).

These centers report directly to the president of the government at provincial or municipal level, depending on if it is a provincial or municipal RRMC. The centers monitor the progress of disaster reduction based on the results of the PVR studies. The main functions of RRMCs are (a) periodic assessment, evaluation, and monitoring of risk in the territory; (b) support with equipment and information to the responsible municipal and provincial authorities during the response and recovery phase; (c) recording actions taken in disaster reduction; and (d) contributing to training local people as well as dissemination of measures for disaster reduction (EMNDC, 2006). RRMCs also compile historic data about previous disasters, besides receiving periodic information from the different early warning systems. Professionals working in RRMCs have been systematically trained in order to improve their capabilities to cope with disaster reduction (UNDP, 2013).

Research Organizations Supporting Hazard Governance

Since the 1960s many research centers have been created that cover sciences, such as the National Center for Scientific Research (CENIC), the Institute of Oceanology (IDO), and the Center of Coastal Research (CEIC) located in the northern center of the country. In 2016 the country had 131 research centers (Cubadebate, 2017e) responding to government priorities for scientific research grouped in national research programs. Research centers belong to different ministries, large enterprise organizations, and universities, and all respond methodologically to CITMA. The number of universities has increased from 3 in 1956–1957 to 50 in 2016–2017 (MES, 2017), and most of them carry out disaster reduction research by means of research projects, master of science, or doctorate research programs. Table 4 gives examples of research centers and their work relevant to disaster reduction.

Table 4. Example of Research Centers and Their Missions Related to Disaster Reduction

Center

Research

Institute of Meteorology

Supplies weather and climate information about status and future behavior of the atmosphere. Operates surveillance systems for meteorology, climate and atmospheric contamination

National Center of Seismological Research

Assists mitigation of seismic risk through seismological and geodynamic investigations and monitoring of seismic activity

Institute of Geology and Paleontology

Generates and provides geological knowledge, including landslide research

Institute of Geophysics and Astronomy of Cuba

Conducts research on geophysical, astronomical, and geological–environmental issues

Institute of Tropical Geography

Produces geographic and geodetic knowledge and analysis concerning adaptation to climate change, disaster mitigation, food security, and coastal management based on the principles of sustainable development

Center for Radiation Safety and Health (Centro para la Proteccion e Higiene de las Radiaciones)

Conducts research in the field of radiological safety and the application of technologies that contribute to the protection of people and the environment and to assist sustainable development

Center for Psychological and Sociological Research

Produces social analysis (national, local, community, organizational, institutional), evaluations, projections, and proposals for social transformation. Conducts research on risk perception

Plant Health Research Institute

Contributes to the prevention and reduction of risks and losses from pests on a sustainable basis (without affecting the environment)

National Agricultural Health Center

Contributes to the sustainable development of animal, plant, and human health

National Institute of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology

Applies epidemiology, microbiology, and nutrition sciences to sanitary regulation and hygiene

Note. Information collected from centers’ websites.

During the PVR studies, these research centers may be called upon to participate individually or as a group coordinated by CITMA, and they are responsible for conducting specific PVR studies nationwide. Some centers provide basic background data and information to each territory (province and municipality) before the start of a PVR study, while others provide the methodology to carry out a PVR study, and others are involved in data processing and interpretation. This research framework for disaster reduction provides a large and indispensable input to grounded and effective decisions about natural hazard governance.

The Key Role of Early Warning in Cuba

Early warning systems (EWS) deserve detailed explanation as they have been essential for reducing disasters and are the fruit of the comprehensive system discussed so far. Rubiera (2005) has described the technicalities of the EWS for hurricanes and how it is implemented in Cuba. A short explanation of Cuba’s EWS for meteorological events and comparison with neighboring countries can be found in Wisner, Ruiz, Lavell, and Meyreles (2006) and in Kirk (2017). In Cuba, EWSs are adapted to the nation’s socioeconomic characteristics, institutional capacities, organization, level of education, and preparation of the authorities and population (EMNDC, 2007c). The main elements of the EWS in Cuba are: (a) scientific organizations capable of detecting and monitoring threats; (b) decision-making authorities at each level who receive the information about a potential threat; (c) mass media and social organizations that disseminate information about the threat, official decisions, and instructions; and (d) a population that receives the information and responds appropriately. In 2018 there were 10 main disaster surveillance systems: meteorological, hydrological, meteorological and agricultural drought, rural fires, seismological, human health (epidemic), animal health (epizootic), plant health, radiation accidents, and oil spills. The EWSs in Cuba are part of the civil defense system and are organized into two levels: centralized for those hazards of national magnitude such as tropical cyclones, and decentralized for those hazards that can start in specific areas such as epidemics or those of local relevance such as local rainfall or rural fire.

Using an EWS, Civil Defense can activate four response stages by producing an official declaration (informational, alert, alarm, and recovery). Figure 8 shows how response stages in the whole country were changing as Hurricane Iván approached in 2004.

Natural Hazards Governance in CubaClick to view larger

Figure 8. Response stages in Cuba during Hurricane Iván (2004) declared by civil defense notes (Source: Castellanos, 2008).

In this case, the response stages were activated by provinces, but it is also possible to activate a warning at the municipal scale or even more local areas such as specific coastal zones. Every stage has particular implications for provincial and municipal authorities. Measures to be taken are indicated in disaster reduction plans for every territory in case of tropical cyclones. During Hurricane Iván, the forecasting changed as the predicted path proceeded and generated a number of “notes” (or declarations) beginning with Note 1 (Figure 8). The hurricane traveled along the south and later affected western provinces. Eventually, more than 2.25 million people were evacuated over a period of days and no casualties were recorded (EMNDC, 2004). Therefore, in this case the four states of the EWS worked properly.

The EWS is less difficult to implement during tropical cyclones since nowadays the event can be detected and monitored three to five days in advance. Table 5 shows selected cyclones affecting Cuba and disaster management statistics including deaths. Large numbers of evacuations and low numbers of deaths is only possible with an effective early warning system. A long-term aim for landslide research in Cuba is to include in the EWS areas where landslides are expected to be triggered by a certain rainfall threshold when a storm approaches the archipelago. Naranjo Diaz (2004) concludes the achievement of effective early warning requires all national authorities (political, public and private) to make a sustained commitment in educating and protecting the people: a very difficult task (p. 63).

Table 5. Statistics on Disaster Management in Cuba for 11 Selected Storms

Cyclone

Year

Evacuated

In shelter

Transport

Mobilized

Deaths

mobilized

for response

Kate

1985

473,400

143,200

14,600

41,800

2

Lili

1996

421,200

276,700

5,600

74,500

0

Georges

1998

818,800

215,200

10,300

118,100

6

Mitch

1998

50,600

1,900

1,800

22,400

0

Irene

1999

33,600

11,200

1,500

12,600

4

Michelle

2001

783,400

166,300

6,100

102,400

5

Isidore

2002

307,000

34,500

2,700

48,800

0

Lili

2002

385,300

56,300

5,000

81,700

1

DT no. 14

2002

70,000

3,300

1,500

20,900

0

Charley

2004

224,449

35,749

2,444

45,082

4

Iván

2004

2,226,066

416,123

13,016

215,122

0

Totals

5,793,815

1,360,472

64,560

783,404

22

Note: DT = tropical depression.

Source: Data provided by National Civil Defense.

Discussion

Key Factors for Success of Civil Defense in Cuba

The success of the civil defense system in Cuba has been recognized internationally (See ISDR, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c; Kirk, 2017; Sandoval, 2014). Civil Defense itself has identified factors that go some way to explain their achievements (After EMNDC, 2007a).

  1. 1. Management at the highest level. Due to the missions to be accomplished and the potential destructiveness of disasters, the civil defense system can only be managed by the head of each organization or territory. They are responsible for disaster reduction across the full range of their normal functions.

  2. 2. Multipurpose character of protection. The civil defense system must provide protection to all populations and the economy against any type of military aggression and any type of natural, technological, or health-related disaster.

  3. 3. National and institutional scope. The civil defense system covers all territories in the country, all levels of management, and all organizations and institutions. It is everywhere, and attention is given to resolving the inevitable unevenness of implementation in more isolated parts of the country.

  4. 4. A differentiated way of planning protection. Despite full coverage, every territory and facility must be protected from particular hazards and reduce their own vulnerabilities and risk, taking into account their own characteristics and capacity to cope at every phase of the disaster cycle.

  5. 5. Effective cooperation of the army and the Ministry of the Interior. Active participation of both forces that are subordinated to local governments during disasters has been crucial for accomplishing regular missions when protecting the population and the economy.

  6. 6. Organization adapted to and synchronized with the socioeconomic development of the country. The civil defense organization is highly dynamic and has been adapted periodically in response to administrative, economic, and social changes, thus avoiding the creation of a rigid system. In effect, the evolution of the civil defense system is a mirror of the increasing sophistication of local government and the increasing educational level of the population. In planning hazard governance measures, actual human, material, and financial resources are always taken into account.

Besides these factors, other elements contributing to successful civil defense have been advanced. Thompson and Gaviria (2004) note long-term strategic factors such as poverty reduction, universal literacy, investment in infrastructure (roads, electricity), and the universal health care system. They also point to Cuba’s “impressive work” on five intangible assets that could be replicated by other countries: (a) strong local leadership; (b) community mobilization; (c) popular participation in planning; (d) community implementation of lifeline structure; and (e) creation and building of social capital. Undoubtedly the social framework, particularly health and education systems in Cuba, is part of the foundation for disaster risk reduction in the country. Social organization is strong and in general there is trust in leaders as well as political will which allows effective coordination among all parts involved in disaster reduction. That includes the important role of the mass media. Another factor is the use of science and technology, developing research in diverse aspects related to disaster reduction, including risk assessment methods and their applications for specific territories. Given Cuba’s revolutionary history and the educational level of the leadership, scientists are taken seriously and have access to decision-makers, which is not necessarily the case elsewhere.

Key Factors Limiting the Success of Civil Defense in Cuba

Although the Cuban disaster management system has reduced the number of casualties to a small number, the amount of physical damage from natural hazard impacts is still high and recovery is time consuming. The national economy suffers the cumulative costs of facing one or two devastating hurricanes every year. Economic losses are still increasing and recovery phases overlap with the next disaster event, as shown by Pielke, Rubiera, Landsea, Fernández, and Klein (2003), who analyzed normalized hurricane losses in Cuba. The research indicates that recovery capacity is a declining proportion of damage. This is a long-term threat to the stability of the economy.

The economic, financial, and commercial blockade imposed by eleven US administrations for more than 50 years is a serious constraint on disaster reduction in Cuba. As the sanctions cover almost all imports and exports, it is difficult to quantify the impact specifically for disaster reduction. One source suggests that the cumulative damage of the blockade by the United States has been on the order of USD one billion per year (USD 822,280 million) (Rodriguez, 2017). This is not just a bilateral situation involving Cuba and the United States. The blockade also includes third-party countries that are required to also employ sanctions against Cuba in order to maintain preferential trade agreements with the United States. For example, after the Friendship Society FRG-CUBA (Freundschaftsgesellschaft BRD-Kuba) collected funds to help the Cuban people impacted by Hurricane Irma, the Netherlands ING bank refused to deliver the money to Cuba, stating that they do not conduct transactions which have “direct or indirect connection with certain countries” including Cuba (Freundschaftsgesellschaft BRD-Cuba, 2017). Similarly, as a result of the restrictions imposed by the US government, Cuba is not eligible for disaster recovery funds from financial organizations such as the World Bank or the Inter-American Development Bank.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, as a result of the collapse of the communist bloc as well as the escalation and intensification of the US blockade, the challenges facing the Cuban economy have increased. Compared with 1989, foreign exchange reserves in Cuba had dropped by 70% by 1992, and GDP had fallen by 34.8% by 1993 (Cantón & Silva, 2011). The decision of the government to maintain social welfare budgets and protect basic economic and social rights such as health care and education in the face of these geopolitical and macroeconomic challenges has had implications for the country’s economic development. Access to resources in some sectors has decreased dramatically. Stopping or reducing investment and maintenance in infrastructure, in addition to the magnitude of the latest meteorological events, have generated significant economic damage.

Another limiting factor concerns information. Multi-hazard vulnerability and risk assessment nationwide is still limited by lack of detailed data. For example, engineering geological data for seismic risk assessment does not always include soil properties in many cities. Other geological information is not at the appropriate scale and requires more detailed mapping. In addition, vulnerability data, particularly data related to population, are well registered but not always geo-referenced, which makes it difficult to produce vulnerability maps.

A main infrastructural problem as a result of natural hazard impact is housing. The national investment in housing tends to focus on areas affected by the latest disaster instead of following a development plan. Investments are skewed to areas that have been storm-affected. The advantage of such ad hoc sectoral planning (or non-planning) is that all citizens can expect full recovery to be supported by the state through a system of credits, sale of construction materials at reduced prices, and direct state funding, which increases trust in the government. Civil Defense uses these hurricane events for relocating houses in safer zones and improving housing infrastructure, making it possible to “build back better.” However, the number of families who need houses is increasing because the rebuilding process is not keeping up with the frequency of hurricanes. There is a program to promote the production of construction materials at the local level by the population in order to speed up the rebuilding process, but its completion will take some time.

Conclusions

The civil defense system in Cuba is the result of a long-term improvement process influenced by unusual (although not unique) historical, geopolitical, and sociopolitical conditions. Despite foreign aggression, political stability in the last nearly 60 years has allowed authorities the opportunity for continuous evaluation, self-criticism, and enhancement of the civil defense system. The system is characterized by its adaptability to new conditions nationally and worldwide. When economic crises began in the 1990s, the whole system adapted to the new reality. Locally, disaster reduction plans are updated annually based on new insights into hazards provided by an increasing number of PVR studies and any new challenges, such as a shortage of resources, to cope with disasters. The updating and improvement of the system is supported and prioritized at the highest level in the country. Therefore, all lower administrative levels inherit this prioritization, and a generally high awareness of natural hazard risk is common among the leaders and the population.

The relatively small number of casualties from hazard impacts in recent years is mostly due to the effectiveness reached in the preparedness and response phases for meteorological events. The subdivision of the response phase into stages (normal, informative, alert, alarm, and recovery) and the specific tasks pre-established for each stage have meant far fewer casualties than those suffered by residents of other countries in the region or Cuba itself in the 1960s. The chain “hazard forecasting”—“communication of warning”—“reaction by the population” works effectively because each link has been consolidated over decades. Among the issues tackled as the system evolved were continuous and increasing investment in the meteorological system and well-trained and experienced decisions-makers, as well as well-established media procedures for communicating warnings to the population. Obviously, this achievement would not be possible without a high level of awareness and education among the population as a whole, who at the end of the day are the ones who must decide to take action for themselves and for social protection.

The blockade by the United States remains a constraint on Cuban disaster reduction as it diminishes enormously the amount of resources the government can deploy within the annual economic plan to reduce vulnerabilities and, at the same time, directly affects government capacity for recovery. Nonetheless, the country ranks 68th in the world on the UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) (UNDP, 2016) and is thus grouped within “high human development index” countries. However, given the excess of cumulative natural hazard cost over capacity to recover year after year, and given the likelihood that climate change will produce more severe hurricanes, whether policy and economic planning that so far has supported both maintenance of a high HDI and successful disaster risk reduction is certainly in question.

References

Aguirre, B. E. (2004). Disaster in Cuba. Preliminary report no. 340.

AMA. (2007). Lineamientos metodológicos para la realización de estudios de peligro, vulnerabilidad y riesgo de desastres de inundaciones por penetraciones del mar, inundación por intensas lluvias y afectaciones por fuertes vientos. Agencia de Medio Ambiente (AMA), Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente (CITMA), La Habana.Find this resource:

Birkland, T. (2017). Policy process theory and natural hazards. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Governance.Find this resource:

Cantón, J., & Silva, A. (2011). La Historia de Cuba 1959–1999: Liberación nacional y socialismo. La Habana: Ed. Pueblo y Educación.Find this resource:

Castellanos Abella, E. A. (2008). Multi-scale landslide risk assessment in Cuba. ITC Dissertation 154. Utrecht, Utrecht University.

Castellanos Abella, E. A., & van Westen, C. J. (2007). Generation of a landslide risk index map for Cuba using spatial multi-criteria evaluation. Landslides, 4, 311–325.Find this resource:

Castellanos, E. A. (2005). Processing SRTM DEM data for national landslide hazard assessment. In C. Centro Nacional de Información Geológica (Ed.), VI Congreso de Geología, Geología’ (p. 12). Havana, Cuba: Sociedad Cubana de Geología.Find this resource:

CDN. (2005). Directiva no. 1 para la planificación, organización y preparación del país para las situaciones de desastres. Consejo de Defensa Nacional (CDN).Find this resource:

CDN. (2007). Directiva no. 1 para organizar la dirección del país en situaciones de desastres. Consejo de Defensa Nacional (CDN).Find this resource:

CDN. (2010). Directiva no. 1 para la reducción de desastres. Consejo de Defensa Nacional (CDN).Find this resource:

Celeiro, M., & Hernández, J. R. (2002). Las huellas del huracán Flora de 1963 en la memoria de Cuba. In J. Lugo & M. Inbar (Eds.), Desastres Naturales en América Latina (pp. 243–265). Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica.Find this resource:

Cubadebate. (2012, October 26). Datos preliminares del impacto del huracán Sandy a su paso por Cuba.

Cubadebate. (2017a, May 16). Tarea Vida: ¿Cómo enfrentará Cuba el cambio climático.

Cubadebate. (2017b, December 21). Economía cubana crece 1,6 por ciento durante el 2017.

Cubadebate. (2017c, September 29). Información del Consejo de Defensa Nacional.

Cubadebate. (2017d, December 22). Raúl en la Asamblea Nacional.

Cubadebate. (2017e, October, 12). Cuba y los huracanes: ¿Por qué necesitamos ciencia, tecnología e innovación?.

Cubadebate. (2017f). Diez fallecidos en Cuba por impacto del huracán Irma.

Decreto Ley No. 170. (1997). Decreto Ley No. 170 del Sistema de Medidas de Defensa Civil. Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba.Find this resource:

Decreto Ley No. 262. (1999). Decreto Ley No. 262. Reglamento para la compatibilización del desarrollo económico-social del país con los intereses de la defensa. Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba.Find this resource:

Decreto No. 223. (1997). Decreto No. 223 De la reserva militar de medios y equipos de la economia nacional. Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba. Edición Ordinaria.Find this resource:

Earthquake Report. (2014). Important historic earthquakes in Cuba.

EMNDC (Estado Mayor Nacional de la Defensa Civil). (2004). Fundamentos del sistema de medidas de defensa civil. Estado Mayor Nacional de la Defensa Civil (EMNDC), La Habana.Find this resource:

EMNDC. (2006). Principios para el funcionamiento de los centros de gestión para reducción del riesgo. Estado Mayor Nacional de la Defensa Civil (EMNDC), La Habana.Find this resource:

EMNDC. (2007a). Historia de un desafío. Estado Mayor Nacional de la Defensa Civil (EMNDC). La Habana: Casa Editorial Verde Olivo—Segunda edición corregida y ampliada, 2012, p. 126.Find this resource:

EMNDC. (2007b). Manual general de defensa civil. Estado Mayor Nacional de la Defensa Civil (EMNDC), La Habana.Find this resource:

EMNDC. (2007c). Sistemas de alerta temprana en Cuba. Estado Mayor Nacional de la Defensa Civil (EMNDC), La Habana.Find this resource:

EMNDC. (2012). Methodological guide to organize the process of disaster reduction. Estado Mayor Nacional de la Defensa Civil (EMNDC).Find this resource:

EMNDC. (2017). Guía metodológica para la organización del proceso de reducción de desastres. Estado Mayor Nacional de la Defensa Civil (EMNDC).Find this resource:

European Commission. (2017). INFORM Country Risk Profile–CUBA. Inter-Agency Standing Committee.

Fonseca, E. L. (2017). Estado actual de los estudios de PVR en Cuba. In Caricom (Ed.), Approach and Tools for Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation to Sustainable Development. Training course material. Georgetown, Guyana: Caribbean Community.Find this resource:

Freundschaftsgesellschaft BRD-Cuba e.V. (2017). ING bank hampers hurricane aid.

Glantz, M. H. (2004). Usable science 8: Early warning systems, do’s and don’ts. Report from the workshop held October 20–23, 2003, Shanghai, China.Find this resource:

Granma. (2011). Previsores frente al cambio climático.

Granma. (2016). A cuatro años de Sandy la recuperación sigue indetenible.

Granma. (2017a). Sequía golpea tierras cubanas.

Granma. (2017b). Experts warn of the impact of climate change on central Cuba

Granma. (2018). Santiago, cinco años después de Sandy.

Havana Times. (2017). Cuba issues detailed report on damage from hurricane Irma. Havana Times, September 30.Find this resource:

Hernández, P. L., & Ramírez, J. F. (2013). Terremotos en Cuba. La Habana: Editorial Científico-Técnica.Find this resource:

Holbrook, J. (2008). The church in Cuba: Ambivalence between regime and revolution. Latin America Network Information Center (LANIC). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.Find this resource:

ISDR (United Nations Office for Disaster Reduction). (2004a). Cornwall, Florida, France and Cuba disaster risk reduction: On the rise on political agendas. In B. Leoni (Ed.), International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). Press release by ISDR, Geneva: ISDR.Find this resource:

ISDR. (2004b). Cuba: A model in hurricane risk management. In B. Leoni (Ed.), International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). Press release by ISDR, Geneva.Find this resource:

ISDR. (2004c). When a hurricane threatens, Cuba mobilizes. In B. Leoni (Ed.), International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). Press release by ISDR, Geneva.Find this resource:

Kirk, E. (2017). Alternatives—Dealing with the perfect storm: Cuban disaster management. Studies in Political Economy, 98(1), 93–103.Find this resource:

Klotzbach, P. (2017). Hurricane Irma meteorological records/Notable facts recap. Colorado State University.

Ley No. 118. (2014). Ley de la Inversión Extranjera.Find this resource:

Ley No. 1194. (1966). Ley No. 1194 Sobre la organización de la Defensa Civil de la República de Cuba. Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba. Edición Ordinaria.Find this resource:

Ley No. 1316. (1976). Ley No. 1316 Sobre el perfeccionamiento de la estructura organizativa de defensa civil. Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba. Edición Ordinaria.Find this resource:

Ley No. 75. (1995). Ley No. 75. Ley de defensa nacional. Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba. Edición Ordinaria.Find this resource:

Lindsay-Jones, J. (2003). Emperors in the jungle. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Find this resource:

MES (Ministerio de Educación Superior). (2017). Prontuario Estadístico Educación Superior. Curso 2016–2017. Ministerio de Educación Superior (MES).Find this resource:

Naranjo Diaz, L. (2004). Appendix I. Hurricane early warning in Cuba: An uncommon experience. In M. H. Glanz (Ed.), Usable Science 8: Early warning systems, do’s and don’ts. Report from the workshop held October 20–23, 2003. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA & Shanghai, China.Find this resource:

ONEI (Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas e Información). (2017a). Anuario Estadístico de Cuba 2016. Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas e Información (ONEI).Find this resource:

ONEI. (2017b). Panorama. Uso de la tierra Cuba 2016. Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas e Información (ONEI).Find this resource:

Pardo Guerra. (2017). Declaración Oficial de la Delegación de la República de Cuba. Quinta Plataforma Global para la reducción del riesgo de desastres. Geneva: UNISDR.Find this resource:

Pielke, R. A., Rubiera, J., Landsea, C., Fernández, M. L., & Klein, R. (2003). Hurricane vulnerability in Latin America and the Caribbean: Normalized damage and loss potentials. Natural Hazards Review, 4(3), 101–114.Find this resource:

Puig, M. A., Betancourt, J. E., & Álvarez, R. (2010). Fortalezas frente a Huracanes (1959–2008). Estado Mayor Nacional de la Defensa Civil de Cuba.Find this resource:

Ramos, L. E. (2009). Huracanes: Desastres Naturales en Cuba. Havana: Editorial Academia.Find this resource:

Rodriguez, B. (2017). Discurso del ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, bajo el tema “Necesidad de poner fin al bloqueo económico, comercial y financiero impuesto por los Estados Unidos de América contra Cuba,” en la sede de las Naciones Unidas, Nueva York, Noviembre.

Rubiera, J. (2005). Early warnings for hurricanes. World Conference on Disaster Reduction, January 18–22, 2005, Kobe, Japan.Find this resource:

SADR (South Asian Disaster Report). (2016). Are we building back better? Lessons from South Asia. South Asia Disaster Report. Duryog Nivaran Secretariat. Sri Lanka.Find this resource:

Sandoval, J. (2014). Popular power and environmental governance: The Cuban approach to natural hazards and disaster risk reduction. Master’s Thesis at Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Norway.Find this resource:

Sims, H., & Vogelmann, K. (2002). Popular mobilization and disaster management in Cuba. Public Administration and Development, 22, 389–400.Find this resource:

Stone, R. (2018). Cuba embarks on a 100-year plan to protect itself from climate change. Science, 10, 423 (January 10).Find this resource:

Telesur. (2017). Cuba: Over 70% of island’s power restored after hurricane. Telesur television broadcast. September 14.

Thompson, M., & Gaviria, I. (2004). Cuba: Weathering the storm; Lessons in risk reduction from Cuba. An Oxfam America Report. Boston, MA: Oxfam America.Find this resource:

UNDP. (United Nations Development Program). (2010). Sistematización de los centros de gestión para la reducción de riesgo. Mejores prácticas en reducción de riesgo. New York: United Nations Development Program (UNDP).Find this resource:

UNDP. (2011). Documentos básicos para el trabajo de los centros de gestion para la reducción de riesgo. United Nations Development Program (UNDP).Find this resource:

UNDP. (2013). Capacitación sobre los centros de gestion para la reducción de riesgo: un modelo cubano. United Nations Development Program (UNDP). La Habana, 8–18 abril, 2013.Find this resource:

UNDP. (2014). Cuba: Metodologías para la determinación de riesgos de desastres a nivel territorial (Parte I). United Nations Development Program (UNDP).Find this resource:

UNDP. (2016). Human Development Reports. New York: UNDP.Find this resource:

UNISDR. (2017). Build back better in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. 2017 Consultative Version. Geneva: United Nations for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).Find this resource:

UN News Center. (2012). Interview with Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Washington Post. (2012). Hurricane Sandy rages through Bahamas, after killing 29 in the Caribbean, en route to US coast. The Washington Post.Find this resource:

WFP (World Food Programme). (2017). Women and resilience to drought in Cuba: “As long as our bodies endure”. WFP Americas, March 8. New York: WFP.Find this resource:

Wisner, B., Ruiz, V., Lavell, A., & Meyreles, L. (2006). Run, tell your neighbour: Hurricane warning in the Caribbean. In IFRC (Ed.), World Disaster Report 2005 (pp. 38–59). Geneva: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) This was Fidel Castro. After the revolution in 1959, Manuel Urrutia was named as provisional president, but he had political differences with Fidel Castro and resigned. In July 1959, the Council of Ministries elected Osvaldo Dorticós as President and Fidel Castro as Prime Minister. In 1976, a National Assembly was elected, and this body elected Fidel Castro as President of the Council of State, a position he held until 2008. His personal leadership and engagement in the evolution of the civil defense system in Cuba was important.