New Orleans' Democrat Mayor Ray Nagin can see the advantages of a country like Cuba, when it comes to hurricane preparedness and evacuation. Cuba, you see, was hit by Hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma last year and suffered only seven fatalities. Nagin is in Cuba with a trade delegation from the Crescent City for a five-day visit.
"I think they do a much better job than we do on knowing their citizens at a very, very detailed level, block by block, " Nagin said.
In Cuba, Revolutionary Defense Committees on nearly every corner watch their neighbors. They help with evacuations and provide social services such as vaccinations, but also are supposed to report any behavior considered subversive.
Right, Ray. Just think of those Revolutionary Defense Committee persons as nosy Community Organizers, who are just there in the community, close to the people, to help out with hygeine. Politcal hygiene, in particular.
Recalling the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, the mayor told the AP's Havana correspondent that "one of the biggest weaknesses we had (was that) it wasn't clear who was the top authority."
There's no such problem in Cuba, where Raul Castro and his brother, Fidel, have been the unquestioned commanders since 1959.
George Fowler, a local maritime lawyer who is vice president of the Cuban-American National Foundation, an anti-Castro organization, said he could have saved Nagin the trouble of international travel by explaining why the regime he escaped at age 9 is so effective at evacuation.
"I could have said, 'Ray, they do move people very fast in hurricane because if you don't get on the bus real quickly, they kill you, ' " Fowler said. "He didn't need to go to Cuba for six days to learn that."
Added Fowler: "Ray Nagin has said a lot of strange things in the past, but this one is really right there are the top."