Saturday, January 23, 2010

While it is hardly a major subject of conversation on the television news, being as it can't be reduced to a ten second sound bite, the idea that the aid that is being provided to the Haitian people by the international community is chaotic and very much ineffective is beginning to become more and more obvious. The fact that the death toll has been so high and the aid efforts have been so hampered very much because of previous "aid" is also beginning to show up more and more, even in the mainstream press. Haiti hardly needs the sort of "aid" that created the preconditions for the recent tragedy.

Here are four articles, each of them exploring a different aspect of this question. First of all, from the most recent edition of the medical journal The Lancet, a source hardly noted for being salivating radicals.
Growth of aid and the decline of humanitarianism:
Original TextThe Lancet
Picture the situation in Haiti: families living on top of sewage-contaminated rubbish dumps, with no reliable sources of food and water and virtually no access to health care. This scenario depicts the situation in Haiti before the earthquake that catapulted this impoverished and conflict-ridden country into the international headlines. Now the latest target of humanitarian relief, international organisations, national governments, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are rightly mobilising, but also jostling for position, each claiming that they are doing the most for earthquake survivors. Some agencies even claim that they are “spearheading” the relief effort. In fact, as we only too clearly see, the situation in Haiti is chaotic, devastating, and anything but coordinated.

Much is being said elsewhere about the performance and progress of relief efforts in Haiti. It is crucial that the immediate needs of the Haitian people are urgently met. But it is scandalous that it took a seismic shift in tectonic plates for Haiti to earn its place in the international spotlight. Political rhetoric is familiar: domestic and international point-scoring during times of crisis and disaster is a common game played by many governments and politicians. But this dangerous and immoral play has many losers, especially since the rules include judging the needs of desperate people according to subjective perceptions of worth.

For example, just think back 5 years to the dismal international response to the catastrophic earthquake in Pakistan. Additionally, over the past 2 weeks alone, flooding has displaced 30 000 people in Kenya and 4000 people in Albania, and in Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by further fighting. All international agencies, including the World Food Programme, have recently withdrawn from Somalia—one of the most violent countries in the world with a population size similar to Haiti. It is unimaginable that international agencies and national governments might one day compete for attention in leading a Somali humanitarian relief effort. The reasons for their current inaction are most un-humanitarian.

We have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that when viewed through the distorted lens of politics, economics, religion, and history, some lives are judged more important than others—a situation not helped by the influence of news media, including ourselves. This regrettable situation has resulted in an implicit hierarchy of crisis situations further influenced by artificial criteria, such as whether disasters are natural or man-made. As this week's special issue on violent conflict and health shows,* the health needs of people affected by conflict are repeatedly neglected.

Politicians and the media make easy targets for criticism. But there is another group involved in disaster relief, which has largely escaped public scrutiny—the aid sector, now undoubtedly an industry in its own right. Aid agencies and humanitarian organisations do exceptional work in difficult circumstances. But some large charities could make their good work even better. The Lancet has been observing aid agencies and NGOs for several years and has also spoken with staff members working for major charities. Several themes have emerged from these conversations. Large aid agencies and humanitarian organisations are often highly competitive with each other. Polluted by the internal power politics and the unsavoury characteristics seen in many big corporations, large aid agencies can be obsessed with raising money through their own appeal efforts. Media coverage as an end in itself is too often an aim of their activities. Marketing and branding have too high a profile. Perhaps worst of all, relief efforts in the field are sometimes competitive with little collaboration between agencies, including smaller, grass-roots charities that may have have better networks in affected counties and so are well placed to immediately implement emergency relief.

Given the ongoing crisis in Haiti, it may seem unpalatable to scrutinise and criticise the motives and activities of humanitarian organisations. But just like any other industry, the aid industry must be examined, not just financially as is current practice, but also in how it operates from headquarter level to field level. It seems increasingly obvious that many aid agencies sometimes act according to their own best interests rather than in the interests of individuals whom they claim to help. Although many aid agencies do important work, humanitarianism is no longer the ethos for many organisations within the aid industry. For the people of Haiti and those living in parallel situations of destruction, humanitarianism remains the most crucial motivation and means for intervention.
Here is a view from Haiti itself of what has to be done in the short and medium term. Once more perception is important. One can read articles in the mainstream press about the urgent need to "rebuild the government of Haiti". Other articles will point out that "this is the last thing that Haitians need", given the fact that government in Haiti has usually, at best, been an inefficient kleptocracy and at worst positively murderous in the service of foreign interests. Aside from the brief reign of Aristide, overthrown with US connivance, there hasn't been a reform minded government in that country for over a century.

Perception ! What is greatly reported are outbreaks of violence. What is greatly underreported were the great efforts of ordinary Haitians in the hours and days after the quake to self-organize and provide shelter and what few provisions that could be found to each other, a job that the international forces weren't doing. What was truly horrifying was to see and hear of the remains of the Haitian police (probably working under private contracts) protecting property from so-called "looters" ie those scavenging in the ruins for anything that might be of use to the traumatized citizenry. Food and water were not being dropped from the skies. The only source of such was the ruins that these so-called "looters" were searching in. It is horrifying enough to thing that someone might be killed by the mercenaries for a case of bottled water. It is even more horrifying to see the media glorify the murderers and slander the scavengers.

The following is originally from the Grassroots International Network. The following version comes from the Anarkismo website.
Relief and Solidarity -views from the progressive sector in Haiti:
by Camille Chalmers - PAPDA
Note- The following views expressed by Camille Chalmers of the Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif (PAPDA) in our opinion represent a good starting point to think of a comprehensive strategy of solidarity with the Haitian people, now suffering terribly by the earthquake and the completely inefficient relief thus provided, that has translated more than anything in a deeper occupation and militarization of Haiti.

Translation of correspondence from Camille Chambers of the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA) - courtesy Grassroots International.

[PAPDA is a coalition of nine Haitian popular and non-governmental organizations which work with the Haitian popular movement to develop alternatives to the neo-liberal model of economic globalization]

January 15, 2010
Communication has been very difficult.

I inform you that my partner, children, and I are alive. My house and everything we had were totally destroyed, and personally the most serious [loss] is that my wife’s mother died in the catastrophe.

The situation is dramatic. Three million homeless. An entire country crying. Over 100,000 dead. Hundreds of thousands injured and dead bodies everywhere. The entire population is sleeping in the streets and waiting for replies to their pleas and more blows…

The response from the State is very weak, almost absent. The 9,000 UN troops are not doing anything to help people. The majority of people have been without medical assistance for 48 hours because the largest hospitals in the capital were also damaged and are not functional. Firefighters are also completely powerless because their station is buried and they are overwhelmed by the scale of the catastrophe.

In such extreme cases there are three important elements:
-Coordinated emergency assistance
-Structural solidarity
1) Drinking water, food, clothing, temporary shelter, basic medical supplies. Treat the wounded in make-shift hospitals that would hopefully be established in all the neighborhoods. Get people out from underneath the remains of buildings. Fight epidemics and the risk of epidemics and disease due to the presence of piles of corpses.
2) Credible mechanisms for coordination, a crisis committee for scientific assessment and monitoring of the situation, and coordination of aid and its distribution with intelligence and transparency to ensure that victims receive help as quickly as possible. Be in permanent communication with the population about instructions as to what to do.
3) Rehabilitation: recover and repair communications and all infra-structure, especially transportation within and between cities.
4) Structural solidarity: activities and investments that will allow people to rebuild their lives in better conditions. It is time for a great wave of solidarity brigades with the people of Haiti other than the misery and characteristic aggression represented by MINUSTAH (the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti). Instead, we need a broad movement of solidarity between peoples that makes it possible to:
a) Overcome illiteracy (45% of the population)
b) Build an effective public school system that is free and that respects the history, culture, and ecosystem of our country
c) Overcome the environmental crisis and rebuild Haiti’s 30 watersheds with the massive participation of young people and international volunteers
d) Construct a new public health system which brings together modern and traditional medicine and offers quality, affordable primary services to 100% of the population to overcome child mortality, malnutrition, and maternal mortality (currently 630 women per 100,000 live births)e) Reconstruct a new city based on different logic: humane and balanced urbanization, respect for workers and the real wealth creators, privileging public transportation, parks that maximize our biodiversity, scientific research, urban agriculture, handicrafts and the popular arts.
f) Construct food sovereignty based on comprehensive agrarian reform, prioritizing agricultural investments that respect ecosystems, biodiversity, and the needs and culture of the majority.
g) Destroy the dependency ties with Washington, the European Union, and other forms of imperialism. Abandon policies issued by different versions of the Washington Consensus. Cut ties with the International Financial Institutions and their plans: structural adjustment, the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, and Post-Conflict Countries.
h) Expel MINUSTAH and build solidarity people to people brigades.
As was said above the roots of why the disaster was so overwhelming go deep into the history of Haiti. Here's an article from the Grassroots International that explores some of this question.
Haiti: Roots of Liberty -- Roots of Disaster:
By Nikhil Aziz
January 21st, 2010
Grassroots International ally Food First's executive director Eric Holt-Jimenez wrote recently -- on HuffPost -- on the long roots of the disaster in Haiti. His point about the "historic bleeding of Haiti's economy and the systematic undermining of its political institutions" being at the root of the disaster as much as the "tectonics that leveled Port-au-Prince" is right on the mark. Grassroots' partners and allies in Haiti have long struggled against that bleeding and undermining, and fought for better Haitian and international policies on agriculture, trade, and food that would sustain their people, and their land. Their current and long-term efforts for relief and rebuilding continue to be infused by that vision and those strategies.

"In overthrowing me, you have cut down in Saint-Domingue only the tree of liberty. It will spring up again by the roots for they are numerous and deep." Toussaint L'Ouverture

The leader of Haiti's historic slave rebellion probably had a good idea of just how vicious the colonial powers could be. He knew they would use all of their political and military muscle to kill the roots of the modern world's first black republic. But L'Ouverture could never have imagined the chain of human tragedies that would follow these vengeful acts of political and economic terrorism. He would never have imagined the national disaster following last week's devastating earthquake.

This is an important point: the disaster, in which hundreds of thousands of Haitians may eventually perish, was unleashed by the 7.0 earthquake. An earthquake is simply a natural hazard that in and of itself may or may not result in disaster. A disaster is a phenomenon in waiting that explodes on the scene when a hazard overwhelms people's ability to anticipate, cope, resist, and recover from a natural hazard because of their high level of vulnerability. When vulnerability is low, a hazard has little or no effect. When it is high, disasters are severe. The mounting death toll in Haiti--due to the exceptionally high level of vulnerability of its people--is a tragic testament to the historic bleeding of Haiti's economy and the systematic undermining of its political institutions, These factors--just as much as the tectonics that leveled Port-au-Prince--are the roots of the disaster.

At a time when governments and international relief organizations are desperately attempting to provide rescue, medical care, water, food and shelter to earthquake victims it would seem inappropriate to ask how the country ever became so vulnerable. However, for relief and recovery efforts to be truly effective and sustainable, they must be sure not to reproduce the same vulnerable conditions that contributed to the horrific magnitude of the disaster in the first place.

This week's media reports were interspersed with references to the devastating and interminable reparations imposed on Haiti by France for the loss of "property" following the successful rebellion that drove French slave-owners from the island in 1804. Some stories go so far as to follow Haiti's chronic debt straight through the U.S. military occupation of 1915-1934 into the 30-year Duvalier kleptocracy. A few even trace the debt trail right up to the Structural Adjustment Programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund in the mid-1980s and continuing through the 1990s, implemented by the Haitian government of Preval until the time of the earthquake.

This is where the telling tends to diffuse into the blogosphere... Because while it is safe to assume that no more economic reparations will be extorted from Haiti for having become the second republic in the hemisphere (they finally paid the French off in 1947 to the tune of $2.7 billion in current dollars), it is not safe to say that Haitian reconstruction will be free from the current machinations of the IMF, the World Bank and northern corporations that may see in the Haitian earthquake an investment opportunity.

Remember the global food riots of 2008? They started in Haiti when people were surviving on mud cookies while abundant (but expensive) food stocked the shelves. They angrily rebelled against an unjust food system and threw the prime minister out of office. This food rebellion was a direct result of the IMF's programs--implemented under U.S. tutelage--that slashed tariffs, closed state-owned industries, opened the agricultural market to U.S. producers and cut spending on agriculture by 30% in Haiti's fertile, rice-producing Artibonite Valley. Rice and other imports, particularly highly subsidized U.S. agricultural products, immediately flooded the Haitian market. In 1987, Haiti met 75% of its rice needs through domestic production. Today, of the 400,000 tons of rice consumed in Haiti each year, three-quarters consists of "Miami Rice"--the Haitian nickname for the cheap U.S. taxper subsidized rice sold at half the price of local grain.

In 1991 Haiti's first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was removed in a military coup. As a condition for supporting his return, the U.S., IMF and World Bank required that he further open up the Haitian economy to foreign trade. Haitian tariffs on rice were reduced from 35% to 3%, the lowest in the Caribbean region, and government funding was diverted away from agricultural development to servicing the nation's foreign debt. Without government support or protection, Haitian farmers were in no position to compete with their highly subsidized U.S. counterparts. Subsidies for rice producers in the U.S. totaled approximately $1.3 billion in 2003 alone, amounting to more than double Haiti's entire budget for that year.¹

Haiti's economy was to be predicated on a shift from agriculture to manufacturing. Since the 1980s, the economic strategy pursued by USAID and the international financial institutions has been to capitalize on Haiti's cheap labor to increase exports in manufactured goods and agricultural "dessert" products like mangoes and coffee. The idea was to generate revenue to service Haiti's unpayable debt. This strategy flopped. Instead, Haiti experienced massive rural to urban migration, blinding poverty, unemployment and an explosion of urban slums. It is precisely the people living in these slums that have borne the brunt of the disaster. This is the man-made result of massive, unplanned and reckless urbanization.

Reports are that droves of people are leaving Port-au-Prince for the countryside in search of food and shelter. Though damage was not as extensive in Haiti's rural communities, many houses have fallen and some roads are un-passable. Little or no aid is reaching people outside Port-au Prince, so Haiti's local organizations and networks, like the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA) , the National Congress of Papaye Peasant Movement (MPNKP), the Kordinasyon Rejyonal Oganysasyon Sides (KROS),Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen (TK), and the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) have stepped forward providing first aid, water, food and shelter. These are the same grassroots development organizations that came together to support reconstruction after Haiti's disastrous 2008 hurricane season.

With a shift in development strategies, Haiti's farmers could feed and provide employment to scores of displaced people. Mobilizing and organizing even in the midst of their own shock and suffering, the energy, compassion and creativity of the Haitians themselves shows us what it will take to successfully implement relief and reduce Haiti's grinding vulnerability. The history of foreign intervention in Haiti has created a dangerous dependence on the global market. The success of relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti will depend in the short and long term on rebuilding its food system as an engine for local economic development. This task requires a commitment to food sovereignty, the democratization of the food system in favor of the poor.
Aid can nourish the roots of disaster or the roots of liberty. The future of Haiti's brave but beleaguered people depends on making sure it does the latter.
Finally, here's an even more extensive exploration of the roots of Haiti's present crisis, once more from the Anarkismo website, including more on the tasks ahead of how to rebuild the country-the right way this time.
The reconstruction of Haiti:
The missionaries of the rifle and the chequebook:
The geography
In Chicago, there is nobody that is not black. In midwinter, in New York the sun fries even the stones. In Brooklyn, the people who are alive at the age of 30 deserve a statue. The best houses in Miami are made of rubbish. Pursued by rats, Mickey flees Hollywood. Chicago, New York, Brooklyn, Miami and Hollywood are the names of some of the neighbourhoods in Cité Soleil , the most miserable shantytown of Haiti’s capital.”( Eduardo Galeano )
The “Civilizing Mission” of the U.S in Haiti
“The gangs are in control now” say the sensationalist headlines of some newspapers on the desperate situation in Haiti, the country that completely collapsed last week. [1] While the mass media feeds us a diet of hysterical news about a country supposedly at the mercy of criminal gangs who are terrorising the poor citizens and threatening the humanitarian aid efforts of the West, the reality appears to be quite different. It is true that some 3,000 prisoners have escaped from prison in Port-au-Prince after its collapse, many of whom are quite dangerous, having been trained in the school of gangs in the US suburbs. It is also true that there have been some clashes with elements of the security forces and the UN due to the natural exasperation of the people who see the help blocked by a network of inefficiency and indolence [2]. These clashes, however, appear to have been rather bounded and restricted, and aside from being perfectly understandable in the context of absolute abandonment in which the population have found themselves, they have been magnified by the media: the feeling that seems to prevail in the population is Solidarity [3].

I do not think, personally, that this media frenzy is so innocent or a case of mere sensationalism. Precisely at a time when these articles occupy the front pages of American and European press, hordes of U.S troops were beginning to arrive, as part of a contingent of 10,000 personnel from the U.S military Southern Command that Obama has decided to deploy to Haiti, allegedly as part of the humanitarian efforts of the “international community”. However, after stepping on Haitian soil on Saturday 16th January, they have come to realise that their role will go beyond purely humanitarian work and that, after heeding the call of Haitians, the can take charge of security. The U.S role in “security” has been openly accepted and it has assumed control of the airport in Port-au-Prince, released by the puppet government of Préval. It would not be surprising if this was the first step in the occupation of ports and other strategic centres of communication.

Obviously, all of this seems to be done as part of an international humanitarian effort and that a measure of force is necessary in order to discipline the savages who kill each other for a packet of rice. The truth is that all imperialist interventions have always shown a humanitarian garb. Never has an imperialist government occupied, looted or bombed a country arguing merely the rights of the strong. Haiti is on the threshold of Florida and the heart of Uncle Sam was moved to see so much barbarism on his own back door. This is not something new: In 1915 Haiti was also gripped in chaos and the “Northern benefactor” had to intervene to spread a bit of civilization to the enraged people. That other "humanitarian" intervention occurred because during one of the frequent rebellions, Haitian dictator Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam had to take refuge at the French consulate. But he was taken by a crazed mob that lynched and dismembered him, carrying the remains of his body in a macabre procession across the capital. Faced with the horror, the United States were called upon to fulfil its "civilizing" mission, after which they proceeded to occupy the country from the day after the lynching until ... 1934!

Digging a little at the surface of this “official” story there are many elements that do not match up with the official version of this “humanitarian” occupation. It is rarely mentioned that the lynched dictator was a close ally of the U.S, where in the context of the First World War he sought to reinforce U.S interests against Germany, since the latter had opened itself and important space in Haiti to control much of Haiti’s wealth (trade and financial transactions etc.). Neither did it mention the geo-strategic interest of the U.S to consolidate its "backyard" after achieving absolute hegemony after the Spanish - American war of 1898. Much less is mentioned of the fact that the dictator had ordered, the day before he was killed, the slaughter of 167 political prisoners. Neither did it mention that among the measures taken in this “civilising” process (ie. occupation), was the control over the Haitian banking system and customs, the imposition of the 1919 Constitution, which allowed foreigners to acquire land in Haiti and other measures favourable to the interests of big business –thus paving the way for the US agribusiness. We don’t hear either that in other to build infrastructure to favour these big businesses the US introduced a form of slavery in the form of corvée, or forced labour. We don’t hear either of the effects of this occupation: the birth of an army that since the US left formally the island until 1995, when it was dissolved, they didn’t do anything but slaughter civilians and promote dictatorial governments; an extremely atrophied economic structure, modelled upon the narrowest interests of imperialist capitalism; the creation of a centralist autocratic State that paved the way for the later Duvalier dictatorship [7].

All this, of course, was done in the name of restoring "peace and order." Now, once again, the U.S feels called upon to carry out their "civilising mission". U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, reminds us that their work is not intended to supplant the Haitian government but to support it. However, arbitrary decisions taken by the U.S. occupation forces in command of the airport, are delaying the humanitarian aid rather than speeding up distribution, which has already caused more than one protest from other international aid agencies [8]. Incidentally, while the planes carrying medical aid are delayed, no military flights have been delayed, which gives an approximation to the idea of "help" managed by the U.S.. Either way, this crisis allows the U.S. to strengthen its military presence in the Caribbean region precisely at a moment when they have reactivated the Fourth Fleet and turned Colombia into a hemispheric military platform.

Moreover it is not only the U.S who feels called upon to civilise Haiti. For some time now, many nations have seen it as their right to carry out this task. Some people tell military occupations in a somewhat Manichaean way, between “good” occupations like that of the U.N and “bad” occupations like that of the U.S. We can not forget that Haiti is a country that is under military occupation since 2004, under a mission of blue helmets known as MINUSTAH, whose supposed goal was to stabilize Haiti after the coup against President Jean Bertrand Aristide [9]. The UN mission has failed to "stabilize" Haiti, but has been quite successful in consolidating the absolute predominance of a tiny neo-Duvalierist oligarchy [10], established itself as the de facto army of the dictatorship post-coup, to murder opponents of the regime, terrorise any form of protest and engage in all sorts of abuses against the local population, including many cases of sexual abuse [11]. Also this mission has proven to be quite inefficient when carrying out humanitarian tasks, as demonstrated by the last hurricane season [12]. It is unknown to us then how it could be of any “help” to Haitian people when Ban Ki Moon announces that he is sending a further 3,500 new troops (2000 soldiers and 1500 police officers) of MINUSTAH to Haiti [13]. With a hunger for bread, it seems a diet of lead would be good. The “international community” keeps treating the Haitian people like a rabid dog to be kept at bay.
The "humanitarian mission" of international financial organizations in Haiti
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it would supply U.S. $ 100,000,000 to Haiti [14], with words we are led to believe that they also feel to be in sort of “mission” to Haiti. But (and with these things there's always a but) these funds would be added to the debt that has already accumulated in Haiti and the IMF are not yet clear on the conditions to be imposed on Haiti in exchange for this loan, which in the past have included freezing public sector wages, austerity programs as a means of controlling inflation and price increases of services like electricity, among others [15]. It is absolutely unacceptable to use this tragedy in one of the poorest countries in the world to force anti-popular policies or to further increase its foreign debt, which is a lucrative business which for centuries has extorted the Haitian people: Remember that between 1825-1947 Haiti was forced through the imposing of an embargo and diplomatic blockade lead by France , Britain and the U.S , to pay indemnities of 90 million francs to France, which at the end of the 19th century was a slice of no less than 80% of Haiti’s national budget. This indemnity would cover the cost of the French military campaign and the losses of the slave owners who were deprived not only of their property ( ie. their slaves), but also the possibility of profit at their expense [16]. When in April 2003 Aristide demanded that France return the money stolen shamelessly, he faced hostility and ridicule by the French government then led by Chirac. It is time to take this claim seriously.

These world powers do have a huge debt with Haiti, after three centuries of colonialism and post-colonialism the have left the country bankrupt. Considering this history, France's call to cancel Haiti's debt with the Paris Club, is clearly insufficient [17]. Not only is it not enough to simply cancel this extortionists’ debt, it is also important to make an act of historical justice and demand that France return the money fraudulently obtained by this indemnification. We must, for our part, demand absolute and unconditional cancellation of Haiti's external debt in all its forms, be it from the IMF, the Inter-American Development bank (IDB) or any other international financial institution (totalling about $ 1,000,000,000). This cancellation must be done without imposing any kind of economic or political conditions on Haiti: remember that this country has already qualified for the HIPC Initiative to reduce external debt of highly indebted developing countries, but this has not been effective because it calls for a series of neo-liberal measures which they already have not been able to meet [18]. A minimal sense of justice also demands that the powers and organisations that have caused the ruin of Haiti should be committed to effective assistance, without ulterior motives, transparent and based on grants, not new loans. We are not so deluded as to think that this will be achieved simply by appeals to the goodwill of the powerful. Therefore it is of paramount importance that we mobilise effective solidarity with Haiti, which lend a hand to Haitian grassroots organisations in the field, fighting for a new order as they remain vigilant so that this tragedy does not become a new mechanism to further deepen dependency and neo-colonialism.
What kind of Haiti do we build?
For an Ayiti built from below and suitable for living with dignity
Haiti is in ruins. But it has been in ruins long before the earthquake. Already the "international community" had advanced this process of impoverishment through a deadly combination of economic sanctions, political blackmail in the form of loans and open looting, coupled with the MINUSTAH occupation. Haiti is nothing but the most dramatic result of a criminal model which has been implemented globally.

Already there are voices warning that Haiti should openly become a protectorate [19]. We refuse to believe that this should necessarily be the fate of Haiti. We refuse to believe that the fate of a brave, intelligent and fully able people should be that of charity, neo-colonialism or subhuman misery.

Haiti must be reconstructed from the rubble-and that requires not only mechanical shovels or financial assistance but political vision. It is on the latter that a dispute is being waged between two ideological projects in Haiti, two which have been living in a situation of declared combat for almost 50 years now: it is between those who want a Haiti built for the people, and those who want a Haiti built for rapacious capitalism, represented by their national and trans-national agents.The Haitian people and those who stand in solidarity with them, have to confront those who want who use this tragedy to rebuild the Haiti of the military occupation, the Haiti of the sweatshops and desolate fields, a Haiti where people starve and eat mud-cookies or a Haiti where makoutes[20] are still masters of the streets in the major cities. We do not want to rebuild the Haiti of the sex tourism industry, or the Haiti of the neo-Duvalierist oligarchy, or a Haiti of chronic illiteracy. Nor are we interested in re-building a Haiti where children die before they are men or women from all sorts of preventable diseases. That is the Haiti which the missionaries of the rifle and the chequebook want to build. That Haiti, the Haiti described by Eduardo Galeano through his insane “geography” will hopefully remain buried forever. The Haiti that we want to build with the people of Haiti should meet the conditions laid out by comrade Camille Chalmers of the Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif ( The Haitian Platform for the Defence of an Alternative Development , PAPDA):
"a) Overcome illiteracy (45% of the population)
b) Build an effective public school system that is free and that respects the history, culture, and ecosystem of our country
c) Overcome the environmental crisis and rebuild Haiti’s 30 watersheds with the massive participation of young people and international volunteers
d) Construct a new public health system which brings together modern and traditional medicine and offers quality, affordable primary services to 100% of the population to overcome child mortality, malnutrition, and maternal mortality (currently 630 women per 100,000 live births)e) Reconstruct a new city based on different logic: humane and balanced urbanization, respect for workers and the real wealth creators, privileging public transportation, parks that maximize our biodiversity, scientific research, urban agriculture, handicrafts and the popular arts.
f) Construct food sovereignty based on comprehensive agrarian reform, prioritizing agricultural investments that respect ecosystems, biodiversity, and the needs and culture of the majority.
g) Destroy the dependency ties with Washington, the European Union, and other forms of imperialism. Abandon policies issued by different versions of the Washington Consensus. Cut ties with the International Financial Institutions and their plans: structural adjustment, the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, and Post-Conflict Countries.
h) Expel MINUSTAH and build solidarity people to people brigades." [21]

This is not too much to ask, and Haitians deserve this and much more. In order to obtain this, the Haitian popular movement must decide openly and without sectarianism on a platform for a common and inclusive struggle. The liberation of the Haitian people will be conquered by the Haitian people themselves, thus building a better future, a new Ayiti* from below and for the people, not for capitalists. And we in the international solidarity movement, we are always willing to support them with our own solidarity.
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
18th January 2010
Translation C. Fitzpatrick
* Ayiti is the name of Haiti in the language of the Haitians, kreyole.
[1] See for instance, There are thousands of articles as this.
[5] “US Troops to Help Haiti’s Security, Aid Flows in” Andrew Cawthorne & Catherine Bremen, Reuters, 18 de Enero, 2010.
[7] See Renda, Mary, "Taking Haiti", University of North Carolina Press, 2001, p.10; See also Trouillot, Michel-Rolph, "Haiti: State Against Nation", MR Press, 1990, pp.100-101 y Dupuy, Alex "Haiti in the World Economics", Westview Press, 1989, pp.131-133.
[9] For further information pleace check and
[10] The Duvaliers where a dynasty of dictators that ruled Haiti from 1957-1986.
[13] “Haiti Aid Security Boosted as Looters Swarm”, Andrew Cawthorne & Catherine Bremer, Reuters, 18 de Enero, 2010.
[16] Ver Dupuy, op.cit., p.94
[20] Makoutes were the secret agents of the Duvaliers.

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