Haiti is by and large the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and lacks even a remotely basic infrastructure. There are countless man-made elements to the tragedy that has engulfed Haiti and driven it from poverty to death. Many will ask: why didn’t Haiti build itself a decent infrastructure? Why was the government so weak?
With more than 150,000 civilians killed and quarter of a million more injured from a deadly 7.0 earthquake, much of Haiti has been reduced to rubble, and the situation continues to deteriorate drastically as rescue efforts have yet to yield substantial results. As the world continues to come up with tactic after tactic to “help” Haiti with artists pledging songs and millions of dollars, thousands of desperate earthquake survivors are running hysterically among the rubble, literally maddened by the piles of death and devastation surrounding them.
Of course, the world has been told that the United States will save Haiti with our aircraft carriers and billions of dollars. The Americans are coming to Haiti. That’s assuming we ever left the country – we haven’t. Haiti doesn’t just happen to be poor; it has been made poor and kept poor by decades of United States economic and political policies. The only thing we can’t blame the US on is the earthquake itself; almost all the rest of Haiti’s problems are directly linked to US and Western neocolonialism. Haiti happens to be located in an area notorious for earthquakes and hurricanes; natural disasters are a vernacular event most of the times. Haiti’s neighbor Cuba is victim to the same natural disasters, but in recent storms and earthquakes, only a handful of people have died. This is quite unlike Haiti, which sees large casualties from even small scale storms and flooding. The contrast is stark, and in Haiti’s case, deadly; the key difference between Cuba and Haiti is that Haiti is a hapless victim of capitalism.
Haiti is by and large the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and lacks even a remotely basic infrastructure. There are countless man-made elements to the tragedy that has engulfed Haiti and driven it from poverty to death. Many will ask: why didn’t Haiti build itself a decent infrastructure? Why was the government so weak? The fact of the matter is that Haiti was never given a chance to survive and flourish. It has been exploited by the West for hundreds of years and is being taken advantage of even during this heart breaking tragedy.
Prior to the French Revolution, Haiti was a slave state to Europe and produced 60 percent of the coffee and 40 percent of the sugar Europeans consumed. Under the leadership of Toussaint-l’Ouverture, Haitians led the only successful slave rebellion in the world and gained independence in 1804. Similarly to Cuba 150 years later, Haitians paid a large price for their freedom and were placed under an embargo. They were forced to pay France reparations for the unspeakable crime of freeing their own citizens. The payments to France overwhelmed the Haitian economy, and by the year 1900, 80 percent of government revenue was merely interest payments to Europe. Haiti didn’t possess the money to ever build an infrastructure to start with. From 1915 to 1934, the country was occupied by the United States as a means of controlling the country if a complacent Haitian president was not present to do its bidding. The country has witnessed instabilities one after another and has been continuously cornered by big corporations and imperial powers. In 2004, the United States and France backed a coup to remove populist president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (During his tenure, he doubled the minimum wage in Haiti.) Since then, the United Nations has been in control, and the Haitian army has ceased to exist. Why hasn’t the Haitian government helped its citizens after the earthquake? There is no Haitian government to speak of, only the United Nations.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the United States feverishly promoted free-market policies and encouraged the removal of any safeguards that would have protected the Haitian people, thus resulting in widespread poverty, the increasing migration of destitute peasants to Port-au-Prince, and the elimination of the country’s government and infrastructure. Many questions are being asked in the aftermath of Haiti earthquake: why was there no organized emergency response? Why were the buildings so susceptible to earthquake damage when Haiti is in a known earthquake zone and nothing was done to prevent mass death among the impoverished? These questions must be directed to the United Nations, who, after all, is the representative of imperialism gone haywire in Haiti.
The United States has placed a virtual monopoly on rescue efforts in Haiti, and its “rescue missions” are nothing short of criminal negligence. Survivors are still being pulled from the rubble but for days now, the United States and UN have called for an end to rescue efforts. The United States has claimed that the logistics of getting aid to Haiti are near impossible, empty rhetoric for a country that was able to send 250,000 troops to Baghdad in a mere two weeks. The true nature of US aid to Haiti is portrayed in who is leading it: former US Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Both of these figures are familiar with Haiti: in 1994 Clinton ordered the invasion of Haiti, and in 2004, the Bush administration organized a deadly coup in the country to remove a president who was willing to stand up to Western hegemony over his country.
Media outlets have broadcast images of violence against the quake survivors, with UN troops firing tear gas at Haitians approaching the US run airport for food and basic supplies. The US media has neglected to point out that rather than saving the Haitians, the US military presence is serving as an obstacle to rescue efforts. American efforts have focused on getting US citizens out of Haiti rather than on the distribution of vital medical supplies to hospitals packed with severely injured survivors. CNN reported last Thursday, “Large quantities of medications, baby formula and other relief supplies are sitting on the tarmac and in warehouses at the Port-au-Prince airport, but no one is moving it out.” Foreign reporters have highlighted the painful inefficiency of US efforts in Haiti, and the US was none too pleased; they were expelled from the airport in order for the world to not be aware of the thousands of pounds of medical supplies and food piling up in the airport.
What Haiti needs right now is for the countries that have destroyed it to stay away from trying to rescue it. Saving Haiti has become nothing short of a fraud led by the West in an effort to convince the world of its concern for “humanitarian philanthropy”, or whatever they call it these days.