“Political Storms in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005: Cuban and Mexican Leaders’ Critiques of the Disaster Response to Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma”
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Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma caused massive destruction in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005 but circum-Caribbean countries responded differently to the storms in terms of hurricane preparedness and disaster management. What accounts for these dissimilarities, and are the roles expected of governments and societies to mitigate loss of life and physical devastation different across political systems and countries? This article examines etiologies of hurricane destruction advanced by political rulers and public opinion leaders in Mexico and Cuba. Reports in the Spanish-language printed media provide evidence of the types of critiques made by Mexican and Cuban leaders of U.S. mismanagement of disaster response to hurricane Katrina. How they assessed their own country’s management of hurricane Wilma’s destruction is also analyzed. A key theoretical question which the article addresses is whether the effectiveness of hurricane responses depends on the state’s capacity, including social capital, public policy priorities, social values, and quality of leadership. Explanations are offered and factors identified as to why a state with massive resources and broad legitimacy like the U.S. responded ineffectively to Katrina while the Cuban government with limited resources and much less legitimacy performed effectively in managing Wilma. In turn, how did the first post-PRI government in 70 years with limited experience and neoliberal values manage its hurricane Wilma crisis?
KeywordsDisaster management Hurricanes Katrina Wilma Cuba Mexico Public policy Social values Ideology New Orleans Emergency response Political institutions State capacity
I acknowledge funding from the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University, which made this research possible. I express my thanks to Beth Seymour for her valuable assistance with the Mexican and Cuban press. I am also grateful to two anonymous readers and the journal editor for constructive critiques of an earlier draft of this article.