Written by Otavio Calegari
Friday, 17 January 2014 17:04
Millions of dollars entering the country are used to deepen social inequalities, ending up in the hands of big business and international NGOs.
January 12, 2014 marks the fourth anniversary of the earthquake that struck Haiti, destroying its capital and near cities and leaving a balance of more than 200,000 dead, 300,000 injured and 1.5 million homeless. In June this year, the military occupation of Haiti by United Nations troops, led by Brazil, will be ten years old.
Firstly, we would like to express our solidarity with all Haitians families who lost relatives, friends or acquaintances on January 12, 2010. We know that in the midst of the daily struggle of the survivors will remain a major pain in every corner of the country by its thousands of dead and missing.
Since the first anniversary of the earthquake we wrote texts showing the almost nonexistent reconstruction of Haiti after the major global emotion for the suffering and pain of the Haitian people. Last year we began to realize, alongside the Haitian people, how sneaky was the so called reconstruction in progress. The millions of dollars that entered the country since 2010 were being used to further deepen existing inequalities, ending up in the hands of owners of international NGOs and big entrepreneurs.
The construction of a huge mall in Petionville, district of Port au Prince, amid a city with more than 500,000 homeless, is the greatest symbol of this reconstruction. Everything for foreigners, officials of non-governmental organizations, UN officials, businessmen and Haitian politicians. Nothing for the people.
This, unfortunately, has not changed since then. What is changing, however, is the social temperature of the country, which increased with open conflicts in various social sectors against the Martelly government and UN troops.
“The reconstruction of Haiti contains the seeds of its failure”
The Haitian economist Eddy Labossière recently gave an interview to the Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste, when he said that “Haiti’s reconstruction contains the seeds of its failure.”
According to the economist, it is estimated that only 1% of the reconstruction funds were sent to the Haitian government. Most of the resources is controlled by NGOs and international institutions such as American and German funds, or the UN.
A story published on the New York Times in December 2012 shows that about US$ 7.5 billion was donated to Haiti since 2010, but how much of this amount was used in the reconstruction of the country is actually unknown, given the inability of the institutions that administer such funds to spend them. According to the story, more than half of the money has been applied in high costly emergency measures that do not bring long-term results, as buying water, food or camping tents.
Few million was invested in new homes and in food production. Another important part of the funds were applied in programs that existed before the earthquake, such as building roads or HIV prevention programs. Even the construction of an industrial park in the north, a region not affected by the earthquake, received money from “foreign aid”.
The operation of the so-called international cooperation, a set of institutions that currently controls Haiti and the international aid to this country, has a perverse logic. This is because:
1 ) The “international cooperation” is expensive. The people who manage the “international cooperation” have always had a high standard of living, compared to the situation of the Haitian people, to assist in rebuilding the country. The supply of the international cooperation people with food, water, electricity, luxury hotels or rental of large mansions in a country with such a poor infrastructure consumes significant portion of the funds sent to the country.
2 ) The managers of the “international cooperation” do not help in the reconstruction of the country by the Haitians themselves, they just replace them. This situation becomes increasingly evident. In 2012, the closing of an NGO that administered chemical toilets in Port au Prince created a crisis in one of the main camps of homeless in the city center. Another example is the current expectation of the residents of Jacmel, one of the cities most affected by the earthquake, on how life will be without the physicians from Doctors Without Borders, whose departure is planned for the coming months.
3 ) The “international cooperation” is racist. The activity of international NGOs and governments that administer the “helping” funds is based on the premise that the black Haitian people, as well as in African countries are unable to govern their own country. The foreign intervention of “developed” and “modern” countries to give a right direction for these nations is necessary.
4 ) The “international cooperation” has a social bias. The interests that determine the actions of the “international cooperation” are not the interests of workers and the poor Haitian people, but of governments and institutions that manage the “help”. They are: the U.S. government, the Government of France, Government of Canada, Government of Germany, Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank and various NGOs such as Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Viva Rio, etc. These institutions are listed in the Plan for the Reconstruction of Haiti drawn up after the earthquake and form the Temporary Committee for Reconstruction of Haiti.
The four elements outlined above, as well as others, some of which we’re stressing below, make up a scenario where the country’s reconstruction becomes virtually impossible. Currently, about 150,000 Haitians still live in tents, in poor hygienic conditions and infrastructure. Hundreds of thousands of people who have already been relocated live in makeshift houses, which wouldn’t stand shaking if a new earthquake happens in the country, something not improbable in the coming decades.
A country occupied by foreign troops
The situation described above is happening in a country occupied by foreign troops. The UN military occupation of Haiti, called the UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (Minustah), is composed of numerous countries, including Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, France, Canada, USA, Brazil. MINUSTAH is commanded, from the military point of view, by the Brazilian Army and from a civil point of view, by the U.S. government, the leading country.
The Minustah is not a peace mission, as the media insist to broadcast. It’s is a Stabilization Mission. Some questions must be answered to understand the role of this mission: what is the current stabilization for? What interests are defended by countries that want to stabilize Haiti, like the United States or Brazil? Who are the most well-off by this stabilization?
Recently, a series of stories in the Brazilian media heralded the return of gangs in the outskirts of Port au Prince, after more than five years of the peace secured by UN troops. The reports, however, did not question why violence is turning.
Violence in Haiti is not the same violence as in Brazil. In Haiti, there are outbreaks of violence that come at certain times of the political life. In the current case, violence is directly linked to local and proportional elections which are happening this month, but also have its origin in the extreme poverty experienced by the people, which the occupation couldn’t resolve.
To get an idea, a UN study entitled “Global Study on Homicide”, 2011, shows that Haiti is one of the least violent country in America. The homicide rate in Haiti was, according to 2010 data, 6.9 murders per 100 thousand people. In Jamaica, a neighboring country, the rate is 52.1. In Puerto Rico, a protectorate of the United States, the rate is 26.2 and in Brazil the rate is 22.7 per 100 thousand inhabitants.
In Colombia, the main partner of the U.S. in South America, the rate is 66 murders per 100,000 inhabitants! Crime and violence affecting the Haitian population, therefore, are not the main reasons that led the UN troops to invade Haiti.
The low homicide rate in Haiti is not a blessing of the United Nations, but a rule in the history of the country, where violence is unrelated to the suppression of drug trafficking or the need for elites to eliminate the poor due to their color and social class, as in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico etc.
Haiti has lived and is returning to live moments of tension that have as background the inability of successive governments to solve the country’s problems. How the UN could explain that, after more than ten years in this country, the violence is growing again? Something went wrong.
The military occupation of Haiti is not meant to end crime in a country dominated by chaos, but to ensure the country’s stability so that the businesses and profits of foreign investors continue to be accomplished.
Haiti is located in the “backyard” of the United States, a region highly controlled by U.S. imperialism. Most of Caribbean countries are export platforms for products made from the exploitation of cheap labor. This is the case of Honduras, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Haiti. Big multinational companies settle in these countries to profit from the low cost of labor, a direct result of the poor living conditions of those people.
The political and military instability in Haiti may cause numerous consequences for the Caribbean region and for U.S. imperialism. Some of them are:
1) Increasing flow of immigrants from Haiti to the United States and neighboring countries.
2) Withdrawal of foreign investment in Haiti, which would cause serious damage to the established companies (such as GAP, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s and others) and affect exports to the United States and other countries.
3) Increased instability in neighboring countries, an area of economic control of the United States, such as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico etc. We can’t forget that Haiti is a “bad” example for the imperialist countries’ colonies since 1804, when African slaves rose up and ended the French colonial domination of the country.
To prevent further instability in Haiti, which could lead to a civil war with complex consequences, troops from the United States and France occupied the Haitian territory and ousted the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, sending him to South Africa. A few months later the Minustah was created. The Lula government, then, seeking closer ties with the United States government and a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, accepted to lead the mission.
Today the Minustah has more than 6,200 troops and 2,400 police officers. Brazil has already spent US$ 1 billion and the UN spends US$ 500 million annually with the Mission. The bulk of these enormous sums were spent on military structure and not invested in health, education, housing or agriculture. The UN mission in Haiti is not meant to improve the people’s conditions, but to disarm the poor and black in the suburbs of large Haitian cities.
The Brazilian army carries the burden, since 2004, of reports of rapes and massacres committed against the Haitian people. Instead of what the generals and the Brazilian media say, the Haitian people have no sympathy for weapons and tanks that are driven on the streets of their country, because they know they will only bring oppression, not the resolution of their problems.
Racism and xenophobia to further exploitation
Aside from armed gangs who returned to take some neighborhoods of the suburbs of Port -au-Prince, two major conflicts are going on today in Haiti.
The first one is between the Dominican and Haitian governments. On September 25, 2013, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic signed a scandalous verdict against the descendants of Haitian immigrants in the country. The Sentence 168 says that every person born in the Dominican Republic whose parents were in transit through the country without legal documentation, since 1929, are not entitled to Dominican citizenship.
This verdict had enormous repercussions. Governments of various countries and international organizations have expressed their opposition. The Haitian government almost withdrew its ambassador to Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic.
The sentence should affect about 650,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent, who will lose their nationality by becoming stateless, since they also are not Haitians. This resolution is not an isolated incident. In recent years, a number of measures are being taken against Haitian or of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic.
Today, more than 500,000 Haitians work in Dominican territory, serving as cheap labor on sugar plantations, corn, forestry, construction and other occupations. Almost half of these Haitians have temporary jobs. They often spend months working illegally in crops of the Dominican Republic before being shooed back to Haiti without receiving their wages. The conflict got to the point of about 2000 Haitian agricultural laborers who work in the Dominican Republic being barred at the border after they had returned to Haiti to spend the festive season with their families.
The Dominican government’s measures aimed at discriminating the Haitians, removing the few rights granted to them to make their situation even worse. With fewer rights and running more risks, plantation owners have more power to blackmail them. The complete expulsion of Haitians and their descendants in the Dominican Republic is unthinkable, since they are the basis for today’s economy, occupying the more precarious and low paid jobs.
Fight against this racist and xenophobic legislation is a goal of all democratic organizations and the left in all American countries.
Since December last year, thousands of workers in the textile mills of Port au Prince have been fighting for raising the minimum wage, which is 300 gourdes per day today, about 7 dollars. The demonstrations began on December 10 in front of the Haitian Parliament and happened again at the end of the month, when the workers stopped the factories for three days.
The last demonstration on December 18, which reached the Parliament, the National Palace and ended in front of the hotel where Levi’s, Hanes and Gildan executives were lodged, finished after a wild repression. Hooded police officers injured and arrested dozens of workers.
After the conflict, the factories closed their doors in anticipation of the holiday year, so that the closure was not characterized as a lock-out. On December 19, more than 60 workers linked to the Batay Ouvriye unionists were dismissed by the companies. The fight continues, and the workers promise new mobilizations.
Articulate a major campaign for the withdrawal of troops
This year will be very important to Brazilian workers and youth, because of the Fifa World Cup that will happen one year after the demonstrations against the increase of bus fares which opened a new period of struggles in the history of that country.
Beside the fight against FIFA, against the criminalization of social movements and the black youth, the struggle for more rights for workers, to end violence against women, we must raise the banner of internationalism and say to all the world: stop the military occupation in Haiti, end the oppression of Haitian people!
– Out the Brazilian and UN troops from Haiti!
– For the sovereignty of the Haitian people!
– All support to workers strikes!