Three years after the earthquake that killed 300,000 people on Jan. 12, 2010, reconstruction has barely begun in Haiti. Debris has been removed from the streets in Port-au-Prince, Léogane and Pétionville, but at least 500,000 people are still living in tents — ripped, torn and tattered by the storms and hurricanes that have hit this country in the last three years.
An editorial in the New York Times claims, “Ambitious projects are stuck on drawing boards or have been held up, [according to a Times reporter], ‘by land and ideological disputes, logistical and contracting problems, staffing shortages and even weather.’” (Jan. 1)
The Canadian government has frozen its aid to Haiti, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Julian Fantino, Canada’s minister of international development, explained that Canada wants an approach that “would permit Haitians to control their own destiny.” (Agence haïtienne de presse, Jan. 4)
The United States, along with Canada and France, had a big hand in overthrowing President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. After U.S. commandos forced Aristide onto a U.S. plane and flew him to the Central African Republic, it was a council of “eminent” persons, picked by the U.S., Canada and France, that appointed the new prime minister and then the president.
Their soldiers poured into Port-au-Prince. One objective was to keep the paramilitaries who had deposed Aristide — with significant help from U.S. commandos — under control. Another was to keep the masses, who firmly supported Aristide and the reforms he had made, from sweeping the paramilitaries out of the picture.
After some maneuvering in New York, a U.N. “peacekeeping” operation called the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti — “Minustah” from its French initials — took over from the troika of the U.S., France and Canada in June of 2004.
Minustah is called a peacekeeping operation, but Haiti hasn’t been at war with any neighbor for decades. Haiti is not a particularly violent society. But the level of political violence in Haiti is high and Minustah in the nearly nine years it has functioned has focused on the class war in Haiti, keeping the poor from winning.
The coup and occupation broke up the Aristide administration, forcing thousands of poor but politically active, engaged Haitians to flee. They destroyed the programs Aristide instituted, deliberately opening up Haiti to the free flow of global capital. These steps could not create a state with an administration that could coordinate and manage the thousands of nongovernmental organizations — a common estimate is 10,000 — that popped up in Haiti after the earthquake.
And losing 20,000 to 30,000 civil servants in the government buildings that were collapsed by the earthquake was another blow that weakened the Haitian government.
The interference into Haiti’s internal affairs didn’t end in 2004. In the 2011 vote, the Lavalas candidate was kept off the ballot. That was the simplest way to ensure Lavalas couldn’t win. Instead, Michel Martelly, a popular nightclub singer and a supporter of the Duvalier family dictatorship that ended in 1986, was declared the winner with less than 17 percent of the votes.
The Martelly administration just issued a diplomatic passport to former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, while it called Jean Bertrand Aristide before an investigating judge. (AP, Jan 4.)
Directly intervening in Haiti with armed force is not the way to encourage Haitians to “take their destiny into their own hands.”
Cholera and the UN
The Jan. 1 editorial in the New York Times raises and hides the issue of cholera in one long sentence: “A recently announced 10-year and $2.2 billion effort to rid Haiti and the Dominican Republic of cholera by improving water and sanitation will require close coordination among the Haitian government, the United Nations, United States and other partners.”
Cholera, and the political violence that the repressive presence of Minustah engenders, are the reasons why the U.S. and Canada are currently urging their citizens not to go to Haiti.
As for the cost of this campaign, look at what happened to the billions of donations promised to Haiti or collected for the Haitian people in countries like the U.S., Canada and France.
Many of the donations never arrived; over half the money promised by the U.S. is still in the U.S. Treasury. Much of the money disbursed to Haiti hasn’t been spent; a lot of what has been spent has gone to support the staff of the NGOs that control the money in the style and conditions they are accustomed to at home in the imperialist countries.
As for the “close coordination,” all of the meetings the commission chaired by Bill Clinton held in Haiti to decide on how the donations should be spent were conducted in English, without translation. English is not the language that Haitians use — every Haitian speaks Creole and educated Haitians can also use French.
But the real issue with cholera, which has killed more than 7,000 Haitians and sickened over 500,000, is that it was introduced into Haiti by Minustah. The evidence is incontrovertible, but the U.N. has refused to admit that it brought cholera to Haiti.
It is easy for the Times to say “close coordination” is required, but it is going to be hard for Haitians to achieve such coordination with an organization which has done them great harm.
Haiti will truly recover when it manages to get the yoke of foreign domination off its back.