Haiti: Intervention and Imperialism

The horrific death toll from the earthquake in Haiti briefly focused the world’s attention on the plight of the Haitian people. The earthquake was a natural disaster coming on top of decades of human disasters imposed upon the people as its economy has been forced to transform to suit the needs of transnational corporations. This is the reason so many people were packed into substandard accommodation in Port-au-prince.Those who want to turn all of Haiti into one vast low wage sweatshop have used the earthquake to advance their agenda. On the day it occurred, the US Heritage Foundation issued a statement arguing that "the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy."

There is a very long history of the US ‘re-shaping’ the Haitian economy in the interests of US corporations. This has taken the usual form of the carrot of IMF loans (conditional on Haiti raising prices for electricity and refusing pay increases) and the stick of military occupation. US troops have repeatedly invaded Haiti and occupied the country; the immediate response to the earthquake was to send thousands more troops to the country, as if it had been destroyed by a civil war rather than an earthquake. These occupations have then been used to dictate policy. In 2005 exiled president Jean-Bertrand Aristide told Naomi Klein how “Washington’s negotiators [demanded] the immediate selloff of Haiti’s state-owned enterprises, including phones and electricity” when sending troops to depose the military junta in 1994.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas today, with 70% of its population living on less than 2 dollars a day. Haitian workers in the garment sector, making clothes to be exported to the US, have been fighting for a minimum wage of five dollars a day. Yet the UN considered that even this miniscule minimum was too much. In a 2008 report released ahead of a parliamentary vote, it threatened that while clothing exports to the US could create hundreds of thousands of jobs "factories' overhead costs must be kept low." Haitian president Rene Preval refused to sign the minimum wage law in 2008, saying the workers should only receive three dollars a day! When 2000 workers protested the decision, he deployed police to use tear gas to disperse them.

At the same time workers are facing rising food prices due to the deliberate destruction of the domestic peasant agriculture that once allowed Haiti to be self-sufficient in staple foodstuffs. The World Bank development strategy had the goal of forcing the economy into “deeper market interdependence with the United States." In agriculture this meant shifting 30% of the arable land from food for local consumption to export cash crops. Haiti was also forced to allow rice from heavily subsidized US agriculture to be dumped in its domestic market, driving domestic producers out of business, after which prices started to rise. In the space of only 20 years these policies meant that Haiti shifted from being self-sufficient to being the third largest importer of US rice. In a similar fashion chicken and pork production was destroyed. These policies drove hundreds of thousands of peasants off the land and into the slums in the cities.

2008 saw a global rise in food prices, which resulted in riots in many poor countries including Haiti. In April of that year, Crowds chanting "We are hungry! He must go!" tried to storm the presidential palace demanding the resignation of President Rene Preval. They were attacked by Brazilian UN troops with assault rifles, tear gas and rubber bullets, killing several people and wounding dozens*.

The people of Haiti will need ongoing support and solidarity in their attempts to reconstruct their country in the years to some and to prevent reoccurrences of events such as those outlined above.

Haiti Solidarity Ireland is a broad-based coalition to support Haitians in their struggle against foreign intervention and for an inclusive, democratic and equitable Haiti. We are organised on the principles of international solidarity and anti-imperialism and have branches in Cork and Dublin.

We call for the immediate departure of international troops from Haiti, and for aid and reconstruction efforts to be controlled by Haitians themselves through their unions and community organisations. Haiti Solidarity Ireland can be contacted a thttp://haitisolidarity.wordpress.com/

For a more detailed exposition of Haiti sufferings under imperialism see http://anarchism.pageabode.com/andrewnflood/haiti-histo...tance

 

PDF pamphlet of that article

Cover of Haiti PDF file


*this is the article as it appeared in Workers Solidarity 114, the marked line is where an editorial committee edit seems to have introduced what looks like a factual error.  The killings mentioned in the draft were generally connected with the food riots and not with the specific incidence of the attempt to storm the presidential palace

 

  


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