Haiti: two years after earthquake
Ever since Haiti was established as the first Black republic in the Western Hemisphere — by carrying out a heroic military slave uprising against the country’s slave masters in 1804 — it has suffered unimaginable superexploitation and poverty comparable to that imposed on poorer African countries. The French colonizers made billions upon billions in profits from slave labor and theft of Haitian resources. These profits helped to lay the foundation for France becoming the imperialist power it is today.
The Haitian people received little to no economic compensation for the racist oppression they suffered at the hands of the French. In fact, when the U.S. sent its marines to occupy Haiti from 1915 until 1934, a devastating crisis was imposed in which at least 40 percent of the Haitian national income went toward debt repayment to France and the U.S., rather than toward rebuilding Haiti. The French pushed an excuse of “financial losses” following its military defeat in Haiti.
The Haitian debt crisis was in reality punishment by these imperialists against Haiti for the 1804 struggle for total independence and sovereignty. Haiti is currently owned lock, stock and barrel by imperialist banks, with austerity and debt holding back much-needed development and social advancement in all areas of life.
It is important to understand this historical reality on the two-year anniversary of the terrible earthquake that decimated especially the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capitol, on Jan. 12, 2010. An estimated 100,000 to 500,000 Haitian people died during the earthquake, mainly due to the country’s poor infrastructure — including lack of adequate housing, water, medical care and access to roads.
A month following the earthquake, foreign ministers from various capitalist countries called a “Friends of Haiti” conference in Montreal, headed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, to discuss the “rebuilding” of Haiti. In reality, this conference was sponsored by corporate vultures like General Electric, Caterpillar and Deere, along with the World Bank, which saw an opportunity to make superprofits off of Haitian suffering by making promises to shore up the private sector.
Two years after the earthquake, there are still 500,000 homeless Haitians barely surviving in dilapidated tents and shacks. To add insult to injury, Minustah, a U.S.-supported occupation under the guise of the United Nations, introduced cholera into the country. Now an epidemic, cholera has killed thousands of Haitians over the past year, while Minustah has repressed any justified uprisings against inhumane living conditions.
It is important for the worldwide progressive movement to keep Haiti uppermost on its anti-imperialist agenda. The Haitian people need and welcome genuine solidarity as they continue to find ways to resist military intervention and capitalist exploitation. This includes the Haitian struggle in New York finding allies among the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Another form of solidarity with Haiti is for the movement to demand the cancellation of the country’s unjust debt. The movement should demand that reparations in the trillions of dollars be paid to the Haitian people to rebuild their nation in any way they see fit, and not for a U.N. occupation that serves imperialist interests.