Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Haitian Earthquake and Corrupt Corporate Profiteering

Unfortunately, the Haitian earthquake, the natural disaster that occurred January 12, was not the only disaster that afflicted Haiti that dreadful day. Haiti, from its origins, has endured a never-ending barrage of man-made disasters, inflicted mainly at the hands of the U.S. and France. The long history of French and U.S. intervention, of using markets as a means to subjugate and punish the population for their own desire for autonomy started the moment Haiti declared its independence.

Born out of a slave uprising in 1804, Haiti was the first nation to try to emulate the United States democratic form of government. However, the huge obstacles deliberately put in Haiti's way would ensure the tiny republic's failure. The U.S congress did not formally recognize Haiti until 1862, afraid that if it did, it would inspire a slave revolt amongst U.S. slaves. Therefore, because they were former slaves, their "freedom" came with a very high price, the price of impoverishing debt. France insisted Haiti pay reparations for the loss of slavery, which Haiti continued to pay through World War II.

The U.S. and Europe continued to oppress Haiti, and in 1915, the U.S. Marines occupied the small nation until 1934. Then, in 1956, with the support of the U.S., Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier declared himself President of Haiti for life starting the corrupt and violent dictatorial control that continued until 1986.

In the beginning of the 1980s, Haiti was able to grow its own rice, meaning it could sustain the majority of its population. Nevertheless, because Haiti wanted a left-winged government, Presidents Reagan and Clinton imposed economic structural adjustment policies. This meant Haiti had to open up its food markets to the so-called “free markets”. Haiti’s farmers, the poorest people in the western hemisphere, had to compete against the US rice industry, which receives almost a billion dollars per year in subsidies. In other words, the U.S. intentionally made Haiti dependent on US rice imports.

In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest and Haiti's first democratically elected president, took office, but not for long. Aristide was twice ousted by CIA backed military coups, in 1991, and again in 2004 against the will of the majority of the Haitian people.

The Haitians have a fiercely independent spirit that can't be easily extinguished. In 2008, in response to the price of rice rising, sometimes as much as 30% in a single day (on the international market) political protests, called "food riots" began. In addition to the Haitian's demand for rice, these "food riots" carried politically articulate demands, for example, calling for the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide who President Bush sent into exile, ordering that he should not to return to the Western Hemisphere. These political protests have been systematically stamped out. The media, rather than portraying the truth of the “food rebellions’ characterizes them as the random acts of an hysterical people, leaving out the most important part, the context of the situation

The following was posted to the Heritage Foundation's website just hours after the Haitian earthquake, and was subsequently removed and replaced with something a little less opportunistic sounding:

"Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the U.S."
In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to
re-shape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to
improve the image of the United States in the region..."
The bottom line is we owe Haiti a fresh start. This tragedy should not be used to further in-debt Haiti and push through policies in the interest of further lining the pockets of our corporations.
But the point is, we need to make sure that the aid that goes to Haiti is,one, grants, not loans. This is absolutely crucial. This is an already heavily indebted country. This is a disaster that, as Amy said, on the one
hand is nature, is, you know, an earthquake; on the other hand is the creation, is worsened by the poverty that our governments have been so complicit in deepening.

Crises-natural disasters are so much worse in countries like Haiti, because
you have soil erosion because the poverty means people are building in very,
very precarious ways, so houses just slide down because they are built in
places where they shouldn't be built. All of this is interconnected. But we
have to be absolutely clear that this tragedy, which is part natural, part
unnatural, must, under no circumstances, be used to, one, further indebt
Haiti, and, two, to push through unpopular corporatist policies in the
interests of our corporations. And this is not a conspiracy theory. They
have done it again and again. -- Naomi Klein
Source: Naomi Klein, author of Shock Doctrine, Disaster Capitalism, and Raj Patel author of The Value of Nothing.


'New Haiti' Same Corporate Interests



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