ANSWER LA: Stand with Haitian People! What the US Gov’t. Isn’t Telling You
Haitians Marched Last Year to Demand the Return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
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STAND WITH THE PEOPLE OF HAITI!
WHAT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT ISN’T TELLING YOU
We at the ANSWER Coalition extend our heartfelt solidarity to all of
our Haitian sisters and brothers, as well as to all those who have
friends and family there, as Haiti copes with the destruction and
grief of the massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck yesterday.
All of us are joining in the outpouring of solidarity from people all
over the hemisphere and world who are sending humanitarian aid and
assistance to the people of Haiti.
At such a moment, it is also important to put this catastrophe into a
political and social context. Without this context, it is impossible
to understand both the monumental problems facing Haiti and, most
importantly, the solutions that can allow Haiti to survive and thrive.
Hillary Clinton said today, “It is biblical, the tragedy that
continues to daunt Haiti and the Haitian people.” This hypocritical
statement that blames Haiti’s suffering exclusively on
an “act of God” masks the role of U.S. and French imperialism in the
In this email message, we have included some background information
about Haiti that helps establish the real context:
Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive stated today that as many as
100,000 Haitians may be dead. International media is reporting bodies
being piled along streets surrounded by the rubble from thousands of
collapsed buildings. Estimates of the economic damage are in the
hundreds of millions of dollars. Haiti’s large shantytown
population was particularly hard hit by the tragedy.
As CNN, ABC and every other major corporate media outlet will be quick
to point out, Haiti is the poorest country in the entire Western
hemisphere. But not a single word is uttered as to why Haiti is poor.
Poverty, unlike earthquakes, is no natural disaster.
The answer lies in more than two centuries of U.S. hostility to the
island nation, whose hard-won independence from the French was only
the beginning of its struggle for liberation.
In 1804, what had begun as a slave uprising more than a decade earlier
culminated in freedom from the grips of French colonialism, making
Haiti the first Latin American colony to win its independence and the
world’s first Black republic. Prior to the victory of the Haitian
people, George Washington and then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson
had supported France out of fear that Haiti would inspire uprisings
among the U.S. slave population. The U.S. slave-owning aristocracy was
horrified at Haiti’s newly earned freedom.
U.S. interference became an integral part of Haitian history,
culminating in a direct military occupation from 1915 to 1934. Through
economic and military intervention, Haiti was subjugated as U.S.
capital developed a railroad and acquired plantations. In a gesture of
colonial arrogance, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the assistant
secretary of the Navy at the time, drafted a constitution for Haiti
which, among other things, allowed foreigners to own land. U.S.
officials would later find an accommodation with the dictator
François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and then his son
Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, as Haiti suffered under
their brutal repressive policies.
In the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. policy toward Haiti sought the
reorganization of the Haitian economy to better serve the interests of
foreign capital. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
was instrumental in shifting Haitian agriculture away from grain
production, paving the way for dependence on food imports. Ruined
Haitian farmers flocked to the cities in search of a livelihood,
resulting in the swelling of the precarious shantytowns found in
Port-au-Prince and other urban centers.
Who has benefited from these policies? U.S. food producers profited
from increased exports to Haitian markets. Foreign corporations that
had set up shop in Haitian cities benefitted from the
super-exploitation of cheap labor flowing from the countryside. But
for the people of Haiti, there was only greater misery and
Washington orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically elected
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide–not once, but twice, in
1991 and 2004. Haiti has been under a U.S.-backed U.N. occupation for
nearly six years. Aristide did not earn the animosity of U.S. leaders
for his moderate reforms; he earned it when he garnered support among
Haiti’s poor, which crystallized into a mass popular movement. Two
hundred years on, U.S. officials are still horrified by the prospect
of a truly independent Haiti.
The unstable, makeshift dwellings imposed upon Haitians by
Washington’s neoliberal policies have now, for many, been turned
into graves. Those same policies are to blame for the lack of
hospitals, ambulances, fire trucks, rescue equipment, food and
medicine. The blow dealt by such a natural disaster to an economy made
so fragile from decades of plundering will greatly magnify the
suffering of the Haitian people.
Natural disasters are inevitable, but resource allocation and planning
can play a decisive role in mitigating their impact and dealing with
the aftermath. Haiti and neighboring Cuba, who are no strangers
to violent tropical storms, were both hit hard in 2008 by a series of
hurricanes–which, unlike earthquakes, are predictable. While
more than 800 lives were lost in Haiti, less than 10
people died in Cuba. Unlike Haiti, Cuba had a coordinated
evacuation plan and post-hurricane rescue efforts that were
centrally planned by the Cuban government. This was only possible
because Cuban society is not organized according to the needs of
foreign capital, but rather according to the needs of the Cuban
In a televised speech earlier today, President Obama has announced
that USAID and the Departments of State and Defense will be working to
support the rescue and relief efforts in Haiti in the coming days.
Ironically, these are the same government entities responsible for the
implementation of the economic and military policies that reduced
Haiti to ruins even before the earthquake hit.
On March 20, thousands of people will march in Los Angeles to to
oppose the wars and occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.
Tens of thousands more will march in Washington, D.C. and San
Francisco at the same time. We will also demand an end the foreign
occupation of Haiti and reparations to Haiti for the vast wealth that
has been looted from the country by foreign imperialist countries.
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