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Haiti January 2010

Haiti January 2010

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Published by Nagesh Rao
A clipping book of articles from Socialist Worker about the history and politics of U.S. imperialism in Haiti, put together in the aftermath of the disaster earlier this year.
A clipping book of articles from Socialist Worker about the history and politics of U.S. imperialism in Haiti, put together in the aftermath of the disaster earlier this year.

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Published by: Nagesh Rao on Aug 24, 2010
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How U.S. policy has impoverished and devastated Haiti
A collection of articles from SocialistWorker.org and the International Socialist Review
“The fault line of U.S. imperialisminteracted with the geological oneto turn the natural disaster into asocial catastrophe.”
 – Ashley Smith
Catastrophe in Haiti
 by Ashley Smith, January '10 |
2The Uses and Abuses of Haiti
Helen Scott interviews Paul Farmer, March '03 |
 Jean-Bertrand Aristide
200 Years of U.S. Imperialism: Haiti Under Siege
 by Helen Scott, May '04 |
8The New Occupation of Haiti: Aristide's Rise and Fall
by Ashley Smith, May '04 |
18Haiti's Food Riots
by Mark Schuller, May '08 |
24Natural and Unnatural Disasters
 by Ashley Smith, September '08 |
27C. L. R. James's
The Black Jacobins
by Ashley Smith, January '09 |
29More empty promises for Haiti
 by Wadner Pierre, August '09 |
Catastrophe in HaitiAshley Smith
describes the natural and not-so-naturalfactors that contributed to the devastation when Haiti wasstruck by a strong earthquake.
January 14, 2010A DEVASTATING earthquake, the worst in 200 years,struck Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, laying waste to the cityand killing untold numbers of people. The quake measured7.0 on the Richter scale, and detonated more than 30aftershocks, all more than 4.5 in magnitude, through thenight and into Wednesday morning.The earthquake toppled poorly constructed houses, hotels,hospitals and even the capital city's main political buildings, including the presidential palace. The collapseof so many structures sent a giant cloud into the sky,which hovered over the city, raining dust down onto thewasteland below.According to some estimates, more than 100,000 peoplemay have died, in a metropolis of 2 million people. Thosethat survived are living in the streets, afraid to returninside any building that remains standing.Around the world, Haitians struggled to contact their family and friends in the devastated country. But mostcould not reach their loved ones since phone lines weredown throughout the country.One person who did reach relatives, Garry Pierre-Pierre,editor and publisher of the Brooklyn-based
 Haitian Time
s,stated, "People are in shock. They're afraid to go out in thestreets for obvious reasons, and most of them can't getinside their homes. A lot of people are sitting or sleepingin front of the rubble that used to be their homes."President René Préval issued an emergency appeal for humanitarian aid. He described the scene in Port-au-Princeas "unimaginable. Parliament has collapsed. The tax officehas collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals havecollapsed. There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead people in them. All the hospitals are packed with people.It's a catastrophe."The weak Préval government was unable to respond to thecrisis, and the United Nations--which occupies Haiti withclose to 9,000 troops--was completely unprepared tomanage the situation. Many UN leaders and troops died in buildings that collapsed, including their own headquarters.International Red Cross spokesman Paul Conneally saidthat 3 million out of Haiti's 9 million people would needinternational emergency aid in the coming weeks just tosurvive. The UN, U.S., European Union, Canada andcountless non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have promised humanitarian aid.- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -WHILE MOST people reacted to the crisis by trying tofind a way to help or donate money, Christian Rightfanatic Pat Robertson stooped to new depths of racism. Heexplained that Haitians were cursed because they made a pact with the devil to liberate themselves from their French slave masters in the Haitian revolution twocenturies ago.The corporate media at least reported that shifting tectonic plates along a fault line underneath Port-au-Prince causedthe earthquake--and that Haiti's poverty and the incapacityof the Préval government made the disaster so muchworse. But they didn't delve below the surface."The media coverage of the earthquake is marked by analmost complete divorce of the disaster from the socialand political history of Haiti," Canadian Haiti solidarityactivist Yves Engler said in an interview. "They repeatedlystate that the government was completely unprepared todeal with the crisis. This is true. But they left out why."Why were 60 percent of the buildings in Port-au-Princeshoddily constructed and unsafe in normal circumstances,according to the city's mayor? Why are there no buildingregulations in a city that sits on a fault line? Why has Port-au-Prince swelled from a small town of 50,000 in the1950s to a population of 2 million desperately poor peopletoday? Why was the state completely overwhelmed by thedisaster?To understand these facts, we have to look at a secondfault line--U.S. imperial policy toward Haiti. The U.S.government, the UN, and other powers have aided theHaitian elite in subjecting the country to neoliberaleconomic plans that have impoverished the masses,deforested the land, wrecked the infrastructure andincapacitated the government.The fault line of U.S. imperialism interacted with thegeological one to turn the natural disaster into a socialcatastrophe.During the Cold War, the U.S. supported the dictatorshipsof Papa Doc Duvalier and then Baby Doc Duvalier--whichruled the country from 1957 to 1986--as an anti-communist counterweight to Castro's Cuba nearby.Under guidance from Washington, Baby Doc Duvalier opened the Haitian economy up to U.S. capital in the1970s and 1980s. Floods of U.S. agricultural importsdestroyed peasant agriculture. As a result, hundred of thousands of people flocked to the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince to labor for pitifully low wages in sweatshopslocated in U.S. export processing zones.In the 1980s, masses of Haitians rose up to drive theDuvaliers from power--later, they elected reformer Jean-Bertrand Aristide to be president on a platform of landreform, aid to peasants, reforestation, investment in
infrastructure for the people, and increased wages andunion rights for sweatshop workers.The U.S. in turn backed a coup that drove Aristide from power in 1991. Eventually, the elected president wasrestored to power in 1994 when Bill Clinton sent U.S.troops to the island--but on the condition that heimplement the U.S. neoliberal plan--which Haitians calledthe "plan of death."Aristide resisted parts of the U.S. program for Haiti, butimplemented other provisions, undermining his hoped-for reforms. Eventually, though, the U.S. grew impatient withAristide's failure to obey completely, especially when hedemanded $21 billion in reparations during his final year in office. The U.S. imposed an economic embargo thatstrangled the country, driving peasants and workers evendeeper into poverty.In 2004, Washington collaborated with Haiti's ruling eliteto back death squads that toppled the government,kidnapped and deported Aristide. The United Nations senttroops to occupy the country, and the puppet governmentof Gérard Latortue was installed to continue Washington'sneoliberal plans.Latortue's brief regime was utterly corrupt--he and hiscronies pocketed large portions of the $4 billion pouredinto the country by the U.S. and other powers when theyended their embargo. The regime dismantled the mildreforms Aristide had managed to implement. Thus, the pattern of impoverishment and degradation of thecountry's infrastructure accelerated.In 2006 elections, the Haitian masses voted in longtimeAristide ally René Préval as president. But Préval has beena weak figure who collaborated with U.S. plans for thecountry and failed to address the growing social crisis.In fact, the U.S., UN and other imperial powers effectively bypassed the Préval government and instead pouredmoney into NGOs. "Haiti now has the highest per capita presence of NGOs in the world," says Yves Engler. ThePréval government has become a political fig leaf, behindwhich the real decisions are made by the imperial powers,and implemented through their chosen international NGOs.- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -THE REAL state power isn't the Préval government, butthe U.S.-backed United Nations occupation. UndeBrazilian leadership, UN forces have protected the richand collaborated with--or turned a blind eye to--right-wingdeath squads who terrorize supporters of Aristide and hisLavalas Party.The occupiers have done nothing to address the poverty,wrecked infrastructure and massive deforestation that haveexacerbated the effects of a series of natural disasters--severe hurricanes in 2004 and 2008, and now the Port-au-Prince earthquake.Instead, they merely police a social catastrophe, and in sodoing, have committed the normal crimes characteristic of all police forces. As Dan Beeton wrote in
 NACLA Report on the Americas
, "The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti(MINUSTAH), which began its mission in June 2004, has been marred by scandals of killings, rape and otheviolence by its troops almost since it began."First the Bush administration and now the Obamaadministration have used the coup and social and naturalcrises to expand the U.S.'s neoliberal economic plans.Under Obama, the U.S. has granted Haiti $1.2 billion indebt relief, but it hasn't canceled all of Haiti's debt--thecountry still pays huge sums to the Inter-AmericanDevelopment Bank. The debt relief is classic window-dressing for Obama's real Haiti policy, which is the sameold Haiti policy.In close collaboration with the new UN Special Envoy toHaiti, former President Bill Clinton, Obama has pushedfor an economic program familiar to much of the rest of the Caribbean--tourism, textile sweatshops and weakeningof state control of the economy through privatization andderegulation.In particular, Clinton has orchestrated a plan for turningthe north of Haiti into a tourist playground, as far away as possible from the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince.Clinton lured Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines into investing$55 million to build a pier along the coastline of Labadee,which it has leased until 2050.From there, Haiti's tourist industry hopes to leadexpeditions to the mountaintop fortress Citadelle and thePalace of Sans Souci, both built by Henri Christophe, oneof the leaders of Haiti's slave revolution. According to the
Miami Herald 
:The $40 million plan involved transforming the nowquaint town of Milot, home to the Citadelle and Palace of Sans Souci ruin, into a vibrant tourist village, with arts andcrafts markets, restaurants and stoned streets. Guestswould be ferried past a congested Cap-Haïtien to a bay,then transported by bus past peasant plantations. Once inMilot, they would either hike or horseback to theCitadelle...named a world heritage site in 1982...Eco-tourism, archaeological exploration and voyeuristicvisits to Vodou rituals are all being touted by Haiti'sstruggling boutique tourism industry, as Royal Caribbean plans to bring the world largest cruise ship here, sparkingthe need for excursions.So while Pat Robertson denounces Haiti's great slaverevolution as a pact with the devil, Clinton is helping toreduce it to a tourist trap.

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