September 26, 1998
 Castro says Cuba will resist 'ideological winds'

                  HAVANA, Sept 26 (Reuters) -- Cuban authorities said Saturday Hurricane
                  Georges had caused five deaths and widespread damage, but President
                  Fidel Castro vowed the communist-ruled island would be strong in the face
                  of both future hurricanes and "ideological winds."

                  He and other Cuban officials were clearly pleased that Cuba had escaped
                  more serious loss of life during Georges' two-day trek across the island,
                  especially in comparison with other parts of the Caribbean, where it killed
                  more than 280 people.

                  Opening a national meeting of Cuba's neighbourhood block committees on
                  Friday night, Castro said Cuba's organized and unified response to the
                  hurricane showed the strength of its one-party political system.

                  Cuba was ready to resist both hurricanes and what he called "ideological
                  winds, the winds of corruption with which imperialism seeks to damage the
                  Revolution," the 72-year-old leader told delegates to a Congress of Cuba's
                  Committees for the Defense of the Revolution in Havana.

                  "Ideas cannot be carried away, cannot be blown down by winds," Castro
                  said, drawing a parallel between the hurricane and foreign pressure,
                  especially from the United States, for political change on the island.

                  Officials said the evacuation of more than half a million people, including
                  several thousand foreign tourists, helped prevent serious loss of life in Cuba
                  during the hurricane.

                  "With the same speed with which we can evacuate thousands of people, we
                  can also arm thousands of combatants," Castro said, referring to his
                  country's state of military readiness in case of attack.

                  Civil Defense officials reported a total of five deaths as a result of Georges,
                  three through electrocution by exposed or downed power lines and two
                  caused by drowning in floodwaters.

                  The most serious impact of the hurricane was likely to be economic.
                  Preliminary reports from eastern and central provinces hit by the hurricane
                  pointed to extensive damage to homes, power lines, infrastructure, transport
                  routes and food and export crops, especially bananas, coffee and sugar

                  The island can ill afford such losses at a time when it is still struggling to
                  achieve economic recovery after several years of deep recession triggered
                  by the collapse of the former Soviet bloc and worsened by a continuing U.S.
                  economic embargo.

                  Plantations of bananas, an important food staple in Cuba, were the worst hit
                  by the hurricane. The country's biggest fruit banana plantation, La Cuba in
                  central Ciego de Avila province, reported potential losses of up to 70

                  The island's hard currency coffee crop, though small by world standards,
                  was also badly affected. In the main growing area in eastern Cuba, coffee
                  bushes were broken by winds and falling trees and their ripening berries
                  blown to the ground.

                  Many provinces reported areas of sugar cane either flooded or badly blown
                  about by the hurricane. Efforts were under way to drain the floodwaters to
                  prevent damage to the growing sugar crop, traditionally Cuba's most
                  important export.

                  The effects of the hurricane threatened to further hamper Cuba's already
                  struggling sugar industry, which this year recorded its lowest harvest in some
                  50 years, of around 3.2 million tons, or even less, according to some

                  Wind damage to the roofs of sugar mills was also reported.

                  But the hurricane did bring one benefit in the form of much-needed rainfall
                  for Cuba's eastern provinces, which had been suffering one of the worst
                  droughts in recent history.

                  The United Nations World Food Program had appealed to the international
                  community on September 1 for contributions for a $27 million emergency
                  food aid operation for the drought-hit areas.

                  Cuban authorities said the heavy rain dumped by Georges had filled
                  reservoirs, watered parched fields and also improved grazing conditions for

                  Hotels and tourist installations on the island generally appeared to have
                  escaped with only minor damage.

                   Copyright 1998 Reuters.