“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” — Rahm Emanuel
The world media led by the U.S. corporate media are quick to point out that the January 12, 2010 earthquake that damaged Haiti was “biblical in nature” followed by other disasters, such as, a hurricane, rains and more rains only to have near year end this island nation is visited by a raging cholera epidemic. This is the visual scenario but the words written or spoken always include the following phrase: “Haiti is so very poor, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” This is such simplistic nonsense. Poverty is no natural disaster and cholera is no natural disaster but if one takes a cursory look at the history of Haiti for past 200 years you will see where military occupation and interference of the U.S. and France are contributors to the poverty of Haiti with their exploitation of Haitian labor and the privatization of all aspects of society from education to economy to natural resources to the military and security of the people. Let’s take a brief look at the history of Haiti for the past 200 years you will see the boot of the U.S. on the necks of the Haitian People.
- 1804 – Haitian People successfully waged struggle (slave uprisings) for its freedom from French colonialism. It is interesting to note that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson supported France fearing that Haiti success would inspire similar uprisings among U.S. slave population.
- 1915-1934 – direct military occupation of Haiti by the U.S. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, displayed ultimate of arrogance and drafted a constitution for Haiti! It is this constitution that allowed foreigners to own land. This led U.S. to hand pick dictators, Francois “Papa Doc” Du Valier and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who would accommodate the colonialist/imperialist (U.S.) policies that were very brutal and repressive for the masses of Haitians.
- 1980s-2000s – The U.S. structurally reorganized the Haitian economy to better serve the interests of foreign capital. It is at this point that we see the entry of USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) to dramatically shift Haitian agriculture away from grain, rice or food production for Haiti by flooding the Haitian market with imports from U.S. heavily subsidized farmers. The U.S. government subsidies to their farmers enabled them to “dump” their rice and grains, etc. onto the Haitian market. The U.S. agricultural goods flood Haiti and are sold a much lower price than what the Haitian farmer can sell (because they are not subsidized by their government) — the masses are in a bind of having to purchase inferior products because of the price. The outcome of this neo-liberal policy is the destruction of your home market/economy and the farmers are forced off the land to migrate to the urban centers where bad matters get worse.
- Urban centers land is secured by foreigners to set up sweatshops where the masses from the rural areas become a source of cheap and exploitative labor for U.S. and other foreign corporations and manufacturers to produce their goods cheaply to sell high. In Haiti, labor is very cheap and over-head are virtually nil as these areas have been deemed as “enterprise or free-trade zones, in the U.S. if you wear it, carry it you can bet it’s made in Haiti. Businesses based in the U.S. are profiting big time in the millions and billions dollars off the backs of the Haitian People who are paid a measly $2 a day. Who could not make millions if you only had to pay your workers $2, this is slave wages.
- The U.S. orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, twice, in 1991 and 2004. Haiti has been under U.S. and United Nations military occupation for the past 7 years. It is the support of Aristide by the Haitian People and the growth of a popular mass movement of the people drew the ire of U.S. and work to towards the removal of Aristide by any means necessary. One can say it is 1804 all over again in that the U.S. still fears an independent Black nation in the Western Hemisphere!
- 1990s-2000s – The U.S. led and the UN co-signed on various embargoes and sanctions against Haiti which further entrenched the idea that Haiti could not care for self. A once self-sufficient society has been undercut (to put it politely) and engineered to be dependent on its colonizer or occupier. Therefore, Haiti has to reclaim not only its political sovereignty but its food sovereignty. Haitian society today has been totally privatized! It is the privatization of Haiti, the re-colonization of Haiti, and neo-liberal policies of the U.S. are the leading factors that contribute to poverty of Haiti – the reason why Haitians and Haiti are poor not a 7.3 earthquake!
- 2010 – Regarding relief aid to Haiti after the earthquake, President Obama stated in a speech that “the USAID and Departments of State and Defense would be working to support the rescue and relief efforts in Haiti.” OMG, these are the same entities that are responsible for the economic, military, and political policies that reduced Haiti to ruins even before the earthquake.
The above history, although brief in its presentation, clearly shows that the Haitian People does not own or manage their resources, economy, military, and political aspects of their lives or government – who benefits from this arrangement? The benefactors of colonialism and the occupation of Haiti are the foreign powers primarily the U.S. and the Haitian elite class.
How was the advice of Rahm Emanuel acted on – here’s how:
The U.S. hand-picked Haiti’s President, Rene Preval, was so traumatized by the earthquake of January 12th that he was speechless for 15 days but the U.S. led imperialist forces were not going to let this crisis pass them by without ensuring their agenda of “complete and absolute ownership” waste away. Foreign governments, NGOs, corporations, and military immediately rushed in and quickly took over all of the structures of Haitian government – took control of everything! When President Preval finally did speak it was to okay the legalization of this occupation of Haiti over the strong objection of the Haitian People.
President Preval, always the dutiful representative for the occupiers, declared a “State of Emergency” in Haiti due to devastation brought on by the earthquake. On March 8, Haiti’s house of Representatives, a large majority of which belongs to Preval’s party, voted for the State of Emergency law that calls for the formation of an Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (CIRH), led by former U.S. President William (Bill) Clinton (a United Nations special envoy to Haiti).
Since Haiti’s House of Representatives had played their role and caved in to the will of the occupiers there was one more legislative hurdle to overcome and that was Haiti’s Senate and they would prove to be harder to crack. In an April 8th meeting, the Senators voted ‘no” to the State of Emergency Law and the CIRH. Another vote on Tuesday April 13th was held. The April 13th vote was successfully blocked by the lack of a quorum. The Haitian Senate now numbers 25 because of two deaths from the earthquake. It needed a quorum of 16, but only 15 Senators participated. President Preval conducted a late-night parliamentary session on April 15th this finally did the trick! With barely a quorum of 16 senators, 13 voted for the State of Emergency law, 1senator voted against the law, and 2 abstained. Let’s look at the CIRH now that it’s a “legal component of Haitian law.”
After this Law was passed a structure must be put in placed to carryout the reconstruction of Haiti after such a Biblical earthquake has taken down “poor Haiti.” This Law introduced a vile structure called the Interim Recovery (Reconstruction) Commission for Haiti (CIRH). It is the ICRH that is running and controlling all facets of alleged reconstruction of Haiti today. President Preval has issued a couple of articles to further grant powers to the CIRH, to “reclaim any land in the country, no matter where and for whatever reason.” In the 1987 Constitution the Haitian People took great care to guarantee that no foreigners could own land in Haiti, but Preval under the amended State of Emergency Law violated the sovereignty of Haiti. The primary job of any president is to protect the sovereignty of their country — Preval and his cohorts will not be forgiven for this act of treason.
The CIRH meets once a month, the Commission is a 26 member Board – half are Haitian none popularly elected (all are from the judicial, legislative, and executive branch of government) and other half are foreigners and in an attempt to appear transparent the Commission has a website and publish their meeting minutes.
Basically this Commission oversees the “reconstruction” of Haiti and doles out the millions of dollars for various projects that they decide to finance. With both eyes shut one may think this division on the Commission seem fair and equitable. Nothing could be further from the truth. The organization of the Commission Board comprised of two co-chairs and an Executive Director who is under the Board Chair. The Co-Chairs and Executive Director is the seat of all decision-making and control of the funding project. It now gets slimy – the two co-chairs are Haiti Prime Minister, Jean Max Bellerive, who in October 2009 was hand-picked by the U.S. to be President Preval’s running mate. Foreign co-chair is none other than former U.S. president Bill Clinton, hold on it gets better, and CIRH Executive Director is Gabriel Vetter comes from USAID and the World Bank.
One final word on the CIRH – the CIRH term is about 18 months at which time it dissolves from a temporary formation morphs into an “Agency for the Development of Haiti” now isn’t that sweet for the colonial masters!
The Haitian People must continue to organize themselves but on a massive scale – a people united, resolute and discipline will restore the sovereignty of Haiti. Though the corporate news media does not write about it or broadcast it on your nightly news channel the Haitian People are in mobilization mode. It is an error to present the facts as if the Haitian People have passively accepted their country being taken from them. The following are some acts of mass action and mobilization that were taken by the People to change the direction being taken against them and Haiti:
- It is a known fact that the Haitian People are vehemently opposed to the occupation of the UN military force manifest as “UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti” (MINUSTAH) been in Haiti since 2004. The masses have justifiable distrust of the UN.
- Distrust of former president Bill Clinton, who as U.S. president is responsible for the severe sanctions, embargoes, as well as, economic and agricultural policies that furthered the underdevelopment of Haiti. On March 22, 2010 hundreds came out to protest the “visit” of former president Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
- May 10, 2010 thousands were pushed back by police tear gas and rubber bullets after the masses converged on the Presidential Palace demanding the resignation of Rene Preval.
- May 17, 2010 thousands demonstrated against the State of Emergency Law that was passed.
- May 24, 2010 a very militant student sector demonstrated against the de facto control of Haiti to the foreign controlled CIRH – again students were arrested and UN tear gas and rubber bullets were used to quell their militancy.
- August 12, 2010 thousands of Haitians protested against abuse of their human rights and illegitimate land claims of foreigners
The Haitian People are not cowering in the face of U.S. occupation of their country. We of the African nation and African Diaspora must stand with/beside our sisters and brothers of Haiti. We who hold residency in those foreign governments that are attempting to re-colonize Haiti must hit the streets and loudly protest the government illegal occupation of Haiti. We must conduct forums, teach-ins to get out the truth of what is happening in Haiti as the story is not being told in the corporate media. Just as the People of Haiti are taking to the streets are engaging in mass action we must do so in concert. We, stand with the Haitian People in solidarity, we demand an immediate end of foreign occupation of Haiti, Now!
- Newspaper by Haitians for Haitians specifically in the diaspora, http://www.haiti-liberte.com
- Blog for Haiti, http://www.margueritelaurent.com
- Online News, http://www.pambazuka.org/en/
- Checkout Monthly Review magazine as there are many excellent essays regarding Haiti from a socialist perspective, http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org
- A good source of information either via broadcast television/radio or access their website, http://www.democracynow.org
- Note: A must read in Monthly Review online, an excellent analysis of Haiti conducted by Fidel Castro titled “The Battle Against Cholera,” http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/castro3112110.html
- Photos for this article supplied by Mpinduzi Khuthaza, photographer,
Los Angeles, California, © 2010