The earthquake that devastated Haiti has caused a real catastrophe in the poorest country of the continent. According to the UN, 3 million people, almost a third of the 10 million inhabitants, have been directly affected, while the Haitian government itself states that there could be between 30,000 and 100,000 deaths. The UN also warned that the number of victims could double, because of epidemics and infections, that could break out as a result of the lack of water and the state of decomposition of corpses.
A country occupied and looted
Haiti has been occupied since the year 2004 by order of the US, with the consent of the UN, under a military mission commanded by Brazil and composed of several Latin American countries. Under the pretext of an alleged humanitarian mission, known as Minustah (Mission of the United Nations for the Stabilization of Haiti), troops from Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador, among others, and police personnel from more than thirty countries, are maintaining an occupation of the country to guarantee capitalists’ businesses, while the Haitian people are sunk in the most absolute poverty.
Popular organizations of Haiti have repeatedly charged human rights violations perpetrated by the occupation forces, that run from persecutions and arrests, up to political murders, massacres in the poorest neighborhoods of the capital, and rapes of women and girls.
The extreme poverty of this small country is the result of imperialist looting and economic plans supervised by the World Bank and the IMF, that, since the 1990’s have made the decimated Haitian economy even more dependent, with the demand for an “economic opening” and restructuring to put an end to commercial barriers. An example of this is that now Haiti imports more than 80% of rice, one of the basic foods of the population.
On the border with the Dominican Republic, multinational enterprises, with government backing and under the protection of Haitian police and Minustah, has turned the industrial region of the tax-free area into a real center of slavery, where the workers have no rights, and troops of the “progressive” Latin American governments guarantee profits by intimidating the workers, so that they do not get organized.
In recent years, the situation of the Haitian people has only worsened. Under the UN occupation, while the multinationals were stuffing their pockets, the workers and impoverished people of Haiti watched as healthcare, education and the infrastructure of the country fell to pieces, while 80% of the population has been living below the poverty line. This is not a result of natural disasters, but of a policy orchestrated by the transnationals and the bourgeoisie, whose plan is to turn the country into a giant “assembly plant for export” (“maquila”) and to hoard land, by expelling, as happened in recent years, hundreds of thousands of campesinos to wretched urban slums, converted into a reservoir for cheap, semi-slave labor, where hunger reaches the extremes of eating mud “biscuits” to survive.
A catastrophe foretold
In the years since the occupation, different NGO’s had already warned about and condemned the infrastructure’s crisis situation, that left millions of Haitians at the mercy of climate disasters. According to Camille Chalmers, Director of PAPDA, the Alternative Development Platform of Haiti, “the fraternal people of Haiti are sunk in a deep crisis, lacking means and basic services for the development of human life, … hurricane flooding and storms have left a toll of more than 3,000 people dead, some 300,000 have lost their homes, and entire towns are isolated, cut off, without food, water, or medicine.”
Haiti’s government is now talking about the earthquake’s unpredictability and the “unimaginable” catastrophe, to avoid responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people that, living under completely precarious conditions, were a sure target for a catastrophe like the one that shook the country. The “solidarity” of Obama, who said he was carefully following the situation, is only a gesture of imperialist cynicism, and to prove that, he explained that he was going to “suspend temporarily” the deportation of “illegal” immigrants from Haiti. Since the 2004 occupation, Haiti’s foreign debt has continued to grow, and the World Bank and the IMF have continued punctually collecting interest. In recent years, the imperialist countries have hypocritically announced some type of partial debt cancellation, but this cannot hide the fact that the debt of the poorest country of the Americas increased more than 40 times in the last 34 years, going from 40 million dollars in 1970 to 1.6 billion in the year 2008. While the governments of the imperialist countries are devoting billions of dollars to bailing out the banks, they have no plans to rescue the poorest country of this hemisphere from poverty! At the same time, the UN annually spends more than 600 million dollars to guarantee the occupation, a sum greater than Haiti’s total exports.
All this shows the responsibility, not only of Haiti’s government, but of the Latin American governments that are behind the occupation forces and of the imperialist countries, that continue looting the country, in view of the terrible situation that the Haitian people are experiencing. Meanwhile, amidst this catastrophic situation, the armed forces of all the countries that comprise the Minustah – both of “progressive” and “nationalist” governments like Lula, Kirchner or Bachelet, up to Evo Morales and Mujica – are announcing that the UN troops are carrying out rescues and a “humanitarian” mission, to absolve themselves and put a lid of the accusations of abuses that their own troops have committed as part of the UN’s mission.
The real mission of the occupation armies is repressing the Haitian people, as the statements of several Presidents from the region have already shown, expressing their concern to “prevent” looting and chaos. The problem is that these governments, even in emergency situations, show their true character as defenders of the interests of the bourgeoisie. The troops’ role is controlling the population and militarizing the country, as is already happening, with control of the airport and first-aid stations, by the US Army.
Haiti is not only poverty: The shouts of its liberators inspired the Americas and the world
As always, in order to justify their plans of intervention, the imperialists and bourgeois governments of the world go on about the statistics of poverty, that they have contributed to creating with their plans for hyper-exploitation, defining Haiti as one of the poorest countries on earth. However, Haiti is not just that. It was an example for the world, in becoming the first independent state of Latin America, establishing a black republic, where one of the few slave rebellions that ended successfully, took place. The black rebellion in which the great Toussaint-Louverture played a brilliant role, was a dagger in the back for the colonialist powers that abandoned the colonial adventure of Napoleon’s famous army in the Americas, in the then French colony of Santo Domingo. It is this example they have wanted to make us forget since then, starting with US President Thomas Jefferson’s refusal to recognize Haiti’s independence, that begins a long period of Haiti’s international isolation, promoted, fundamentally, by the European powers and the United States, that did not accept the existence of a nation governed by former slaves, which at the same time implied a threat for their own systems of slavery.
Imperialist troops and Minustah, get out of Haiti! For a big internationalist solidarity campaign with the people of Haiti!
The earthquake in Haiti was a natural phenomenon that could not be avoided, but its consequences and how to confront them, are not from nature. The UN’s response in view of the catastrophe is “militarized distribution,” which demands the maintenance of order and patience in waiting for donations. This shows the role of the occupation forces: repression against those who have found themselves forced to loot businesses in search of food. As if the catastrophe that occurred were not enough, the people of Haiti must suffer Minustah’s surveillance at the barrel of a shotgun.
In the same sense, Health Minister Aramick Louis stated that “armed bands have begun to take control of the streets,” and added that “the government’s greatest concern now is a possible outbreak of violence,” preparing the ground for repression. Therefore, neither foreign troops nor Haiti’s servile government, completely submissive to imperialism and the multinationals, will be the ones to provide a solution to the Haitian people’s needs. Only the workers and people of Haiti can administer the aid, under their own control.
In view of the catastrophe the Haitian people are now experiencing, from the FT and its sections in Latin America, we call for organizing a big, united campaign of workers’ organizations and the political organizations that defend the interests of the people, in order to get mobilized, and to demand from the multinationals the immediate handing over and distribution without charge, of all the supplies necessary to confront the the catastrophe, like fuel, medicines, food, etc.
– Minustah troops, get out of Haiti now!
– US, get out of Haiti and all of Latin America!
– The profits of the capitalists must be used to confront the catastrophe!
– Workers’ organizations must control the resources received!
– Cancel Haiti’s foreign debt!