Thursday, January 21, 2010


Just over a year ago, four hurricanes hit Haiti in 30 days. 800 people died. Yet, when the same storms passed over Cuba and hit just as hard, only 4 people died. Earthquakes of a similar magnitude to the one that has just devastated Haiti have hit other cities over the years, but none has been annihilated like Port-au-Prince has. How can this be? Its infrastructure may have become more fragile as a result of earlier storms and quakes, but make no mistake: this is not some unavoidable consequence of nature: the dire situation in Haiti is man-made.

Peter Hallward describes how the international community has blocked the UN from having anything other than a military role since the coup that ousted Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power in 2004. 75% of the electorate had voted for Aristide, but he was considered too much of a threat by Haiti's tiny but all-powerful elite and was forced from power. Haitians are now angry, and desperately poor - more than half the population live on less than a dollar a day. Their economy and infrastructure has been decimated by structural adjustment. As Hallward says, "the city's basic infrastructure - running water, electricity, roads etc - remains woefully inadequate, often non-existent. The government's ability to mobilise any sort of disaster relief is next to nil."

As k-punk says, the responses to Hallward's article suggest that talking about Haiti's history is Marxist, not to mention immoral. Some construct a false, straw man argument that accuses anybody who doubts the international community's intentions of refusing to give to the Disaster Relief Fund. Well, fuck 'em - these people are clearly poisonous. Even though one has no real idea whether one's contribution will ever get to Port-au-Prince (Hillary Clinton and Ban Ki-Moon can get in, but food packages apparently cannot), one should surely cross one's fingers and give anyway.

Peter Hallward interviewed Aristide in 2006, a couple of years after the coup that forced him out. It is fascinating, especially his insights on working with international partners who are racist ("There is a psychological legacy of slavery: to lie for the white man isn't really lying at all, since white men don't lie") and who still see his country as a colony ("the Americans demanded that I dismiss these senators, what was I supposed to do? What would happen if a foreign government insisted that the US President dismiss an elected senator? It's absurd. The whole situation is simply racist.")

Make your donation here.


Post a Comment

<< Home