Imperialism with a human face

Haiti after the quake

THE EARTHQUAKE that shook Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on January 12 is one of the worst disasters in human history. The quake flattened houses, hotels, and government buildings, including the National Palace and UN headquarters. By some estimates, 60 percent of Port-au-Prince’s buildings collapsed. Even more damage struck some of the smaller towns near the capital like Leogane and Jacmel. At least 230,000 people were left dead, 300,000 in need of medical attention, 1.5 million homeless, and over 2 million bereft of food and water.

The Obama administration reacted immediately. “I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives,” Obama told the nation in a speech he delivered the day after the quake. “The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble, and to deliver the humanitarian relief—the food, water, and medicine—that Haitians will need in the coming days. In that effort, our government, especially USAID and the Departments of State and Defense are working closely together and with our partners in Haiti, the region, and around the world.”1

This seemed a far cry from the reaction of the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina, where tens of thousands of the city’s poor, mostly Black, residents were left stranded and without help as Bush sent troops and Blackwater paramilitaries to police the city. The lack of a prompt humanitarian response prompted rap artist Kanye West to famously state, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.”

Yet while Obama said all the right things, the gap between his words and deeds has been immense. When all is said and done, the Haitian relief effort looks eerily like a replay of Katrina, only on a larger scale. A month into the disaster, the U.S. and UN were managing to feed only 1 million people, leaving more than a million people without relief aid.2 Instead of mobilizing to provide water, food, and housing for the victims, the U.S. focused on occupying the country with 20,000 U.S. troops and surrounding it with a flotilla of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships.

This military effort actually impeded the delivery of urgent aid. In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Haiti: Obama’s Katrina,” three doctors who volunteered to provide emergency services wrote, “Four years ago the initial medical response to Hurricane Katrina was ill equipped, understaffed, poorly coordinated and delayed. Criticism of the paltry federal efforts was immediate and fierce. Unfortunately, the response to the latest international disaster in Haiti has been no better, compounding the catastrophe.” After they describe the horrific conditions in Haiti’s hospitals, the doctors continue, “The U.S. response to the earthquake should be considered an embarrassment. Our operation received virtually no support from any branch of the U.S. government, including the State Department…. Later, as we were leaving Haiti, we were appalled to see warehouse-size quantities of unused medicines, food and other supplies at the airport, surrounded by hundreds of U.S. and international soldiers standing around aimlessly.”3

The U.S. government and media have covered up these realities with puff pieces about the supposed success of U.S. relief efforts. They have also wrongly portrayed this catastrophe as simply a natural disaster, ignoring the historical and social causes of Haiti’s poverty—principally the imperialist stranglehold over the nation—that exacerbated the impact of the earthquake.

If the military flotilla is not there to deliver aid, why is it there? The Obama administration has used the cover of humanitarian aid to occupy the country in pursuit of several goals. First and foremost, after disastrous wars that have discredited U.S. interventionism, Obama hopes through the operation in Haiti to win back domestic support for military intervention. What better means to do that than to present a military invasion and occupation as a humanitarian relief effort?

With a flotilla of ships surrounding the country, the U.S. also aims to repatriate desperate Haitians and prevent a wave of refugees reaching Florida. Through this assertion of power, the U.S. aims also to reassert its dominance in the Caribbean and Latin America over regional rivals like Venezuela and international ones like China. Finally, the U.S. intends to impose a traditional neoliberal economic program on Haiti itself in the interest of U.S. multinational corporations and the Haitian ruling class.

Not just a natural disaster
Most of the media reported the earthquake as a natural disaster. While this is no doubt true, that is only part of the story. Certainly, there was talk of Haiti being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with over 80 percent of its population making about $2 a day. Media acknowledged that the Haitian state was completely unprepared and unable to respond to the crisis not only in Port-au-Prince, but throughout the country. However, the reason for these conditions—the historical context—is left out. The story of Haiti’s poverty is merely an excuse to further justify why Haiti needs help from the United States, even though the “help” Haiti has received from the U.S. and other world powers is precisely the reason for Haiti’s extreme poverty.

Some conservative commentators blamed Haitians for their situation. Pat Robertson on The 700 Club claimed that the disaster was the result of a pact that Haitians made with the devil during their revolution from 1791 to 1804. The devil was merely taking his revenge on Haitians more than 200 years later.4 In a more polite, but no less racist manner, David Brooks argued that the root cause of the social problems in Haiti was their “progress-resistant” culture. He claimed,

There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10. We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.5

These are extreme versions of a dominant media story that essentially blames the victims of the earthquake. None of this answers the real questions. Why are the majority of Haitians so poor? Why according to the mayor of Port-au-Prince, were 60 percent of the buildings unsafe in normal conditions? Why is there no building regulation in a city that sits on a fault line? Why was the Haitian state so weak and disorganized before and after the earthquake? To answer these questions, we must delve into Haiti’s history.

European slavery, revolution, and U.S. domination
The answer lies in Haiti’s history of European conquest, slavery, resistance, and U.S. imperial domination. At every step, instead of aiding the Haitian majority, the U.S. has manipulated the country’s politics and exploited its poverty in pursuit of profit, and used it as a pawn in its competition with regional and international rivals. In doing so the U.S. has reduced Haiti to abject poverty and incapacitated its government to manage the society and the current crisis. This history, a second and unnatural fault line, interacted with the natural one to make the earthquake so devastating.

Columbus set off the first tremors when he landed on the island he called Hispaniola in 1492. He proceeded to enslave the Taino natives, whose population was estimated to be more than half a million. The combination of European disease, massacre, and brutal exploitation led to the genocide of the native population. Spain ceded the western section of the island in 1697 to France, which renamed it San Domingue. Spain remained in control of the eastern section of the island, Santo Domingo, which would become the Dominican Republic. French merchants and planters turned their colony into a vast slave plantation and slaves from Africa replaced Indians and white indentured servants. The colony was a killing field where slaves were literally worked to death—half the African slaves who arrived died within a few years. But it was an enormously profitable one. San Domingue was the richest colony in the new world; the slave plantations produced half of the world’s coffee, 40 percent of its sugar, as well as a host of other commodities.6

In 1791, Toussaint L’Ouverture, a literate freed slave, led the world’s first successful slave revolution. Toussaint defeated the three great empires of the age—France, Spain, and England—which all attempted to defeat the great slave army. During the struggle, the French managed to kidnap Toussaint and jail him in France, where he died. His second-in-command, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, led the final victory and established the new nation of Haiti in 1804.

Haiti’s very existence was a threat to all the empires and their colonies. They all lived off profits from plantation slavery. So the great powers quarantined the country, attempting to prevent the spread of slave revolution. France finally recognized Haiti in 1824, but on the condition that it pay reparations to France for the loss of its property—its slaves. In today’s terms this sum amounted to $21 billion. Thus France shackled Haiti with debt at its birth that it did not finish repaying until 1947, fundamentally distorting the nation’s development.7

Under the eagle
The U.S. was one of the last powers to recognize Haiti, finally doing so in 1862. It became interested in Haiti not to help it, but instead to plunder it. In the late nineteenth century the U.S. became an imperialist power, extending its talons to snatch control of the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific from potential rivals like Spain, Britain, and Germany. The U.S. launched its imperial conquest under the guise of liberating Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines from Spain. Puerto Rico and the Philippines became U.S. colonies—U.S. marines killed hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to conquer the island—while Cuba became a colony in all but name. The U.S. then policed the Caribbean as if it were an American lake. The number of occupations and invasions over the following decades is too many to list.

A leader of this conquest was Major General Smedley Butler, who became one of the most decorated marines in history. After he turned against U.S. imperialism later in life, he summed up his experience:

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps…. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism…. I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909–1912…. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.8

The U.S. saw Haiti as one of the key sites to establish client governments to protect U.S. interests in the Caribbean.9 In 1915 the U.S. used the pretext of political turmoil in Haiti to invade the country and occupy it until 1934. The U.S. plundered the island, forced it to repay its debts to the U.S., and established involuntary corvee gang labor to build roads. United States corporations, hoping to take advantage of Haiti’s cheap labor, gained control of 266,000 acres of Haitian land, displacing thousands of Haitian peasants. Haitians rose up against this exploitation in a mass liberation movement, the Cacos Rebellion, led by Charlemagne Peralte. The U.S. slaughtered thousands of resistance fighters, crucifying Peralte in Port-au-Prince.

The U.S. also established one of the most reactionary institutions in Haitian society, the Haitian National Army. The U.S. designed that army not to fight foreign wars but to repress the country’s peasant masses.

The neoliberal “plan of death”
While the U.S. ended its occupation of Haiti—prompted in part by a renewed wave of protests and strikes by workers and students—it continued to intervene in the country’s politics and economics with devastating consequences. From 1957 to 1986, the U.S. supported the father-son dictatorship of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. The Duvaliers’ dictatorship maintained power through the army and a vast network of death squads called the Tonton Macoutes. The U.S. backed them as a counterweight to Fidel Castro who had aligned Cuba with Russia in the Cold War struggle for Latin America and the Caribbean. Most observers believe that Papa Doc Duvalier’s Macoutes killed tens of thousands.10 The Duvaliers’ economic vision for Haiti—one that has continued to motivate U.S. plans for Haiti—was to establish Haiti as low-tax, low-wage, non-union offshore assembly site for U.S. corporations.

Though half of Haitians lived in dire poverty, Haiti until the mid–1980s was self-sufficient in the production of rice, its most important staple. All this changed with the imposition of neoliberal policies, pushed by the United States, that required Haiti to slash tariffs, privatize state-owned industries, and cut the state’s agricultural budget. Haitian activists would come to call it a “plan of death.”

President Reagan pushed this plan as part of his Caribbean Basin Initiative that aimed to open up the area to U.S. corporations and U.S. agricultural products. Baby Doc opened up the Haitian market to a wave of U.S. agribusiness exports like rice and wheat, which are heavily subsidized. The Haitian peasants were simply unable to compete with these cheap, subsidized imports, and Haiti’s rural economy gradually collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of peasants abandoned the countryside for the cities to seek some kind of employment. Deprived of their livelihood, peasants turned to cutting down trees to make charcoal for cooking fuel, leading to the massive deforestation of the country, and the further destruction of Haiti’s already depleted soil.11 As a result, Port-au-Prince, which had been a small town of 50,000 in the 1950s, exploded in size to nearly 800,000 in the 1980s and well over 2 million today.12

Reagan and Baby Doc claimed that they would absorb these dislocated peasants into an enlarged sweatshop industry. But the various factories in the export processing zones only created about 60,000 jobs. As a result, the masses in Port-au-Prince gathered in slums, left to survive on remittances from relatives who had fled abroad and income scraped together in a highly unstable informal economy.

Finally, the U.S. tried to subject Haiti to the same tourist industry that swept the rest of the Caribbean. Baby Doc cut deals with Club Med and various hotel chains to offer the country’s beaches for tourism. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton first came to Haiti on their honeymoon as part of the jet set that Baby Doc welcomed into the swank resorts on the island. It would not be the last time the Clintons played around in Haiti.

Baby Doc took out $1.9 billion in loans from the U.S., other powers, and international financial institutions to bankroll this neoliberal “reform” of the country.13 Meanwhile, Haitians suffered a calamitous drop in their standard of living; during the 1980s, absolute poverty increased by 60 percent—from 50 to 80 percent of the population.14 The dictator and his family joined the American and Haitian ruling class to party and profit at the expense of Haitian peasants, workers, and the urban poor.

Killing social reform
Peasants, workers, and the urban poor rose up against Baby Doc in opposition to this social catastrophe in a tremendous social movement called Lavalas (the Creole word for a cleansing flood). A young Catholic priest and advocate of liberation theology, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, became the spokesperson of the struggle. In 1986, Lavalas succeeded in driving Baby Doc from power. The U.S. whisked him away into exile in France along with $505 million stolen from the country.15 Duvalier left behind a shattered country, shackled again with the odious debt accrued by a dictator to finance the neoliberal disaster.

Under pressure from the movement—but also to stem the tide of impoverished Haitian refugees pouring out of the country—the U.S. and Haitian governments finally agreed to hold elections in 1990. The U.S. spent $36 million to try to get their candidate, a former World Bank employee, elected. He received only 14 percent of the vote. Aristide defeated fourteen rivals, winning two-thirds of the vote, on a platform of extensive popular social reforms. The U.S. and the Haitian ruling class literally saw red. They thought that, in the words of a U.S. embassy official in Port-au-Prince, a “Marxist maniac” had been elected to the Haitian government.16 President George Bush Sr. backed a military coup against Aristide in 1991 and tacitly backed the brutal regime that ruled Haiti from 1991 to 1994.

The military massacred thousands of Lavalas activists and drove 38,000 more out of the country. Bush Sr. and his successor President Bill Clinton repatriated most of these refugees and jailed others in Krome Detention Center in Florida and Guantánamo in Cuba. After an international outcry, the U.S. opted for a face-saving intervention to restore Aristide to power in 1994, but on the condition that he agree to the neoliberal plan of death. Aristide signed on to the deal but resisted its full implementation during his remaining two years in office. He did abolish the Haitian military in 1995—a great victory for the movement—and implemented some reforms, but it was far from what he had promised during the struggle against Duvalier. “The author of a text entitled ‘Capitalism is a Mortal Sin,’” wrote Paul Farmer at the time,

now meets regularly with representatives of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and AID [U.S. Agency for International Development]. He was once the priest of the poor; now he’s president of a beleaguered nation, run into the ground by a vicious military and business elite and by their friends abroad. Aristide finds himself most indebted to the very people and institutions he once denounced from the pulpit.17

Aristide’s Lavalas ally and successor, René Préval, implemented much of the U.S. neoliberal agenda during his term from 1996 to 2000.18

Aristide would again run for and win the presidency in 2000, to the great irritation of Clinton and then-President George W. Bush. In his second term, Aristide implemented reforms such as raising the minimum wage and building schools. He also began to demand that France refund the $21 billion that it forced Haiti to pay from 1824 to 1947.19 At the same time, however, Aristide backed new sweatshop developments in Ounaminthe and agreed to other neoliberal measures.20 But the U.S. was not appeased and France was outraged.

Another coup and U.S. occupation
The U.S., France, and Canada used the pretext of charges that Aristide manipulated the parliamentary elections, something they usually tolerate with their own allies, to justify a destabilization campaign against Aristide and yet another coup. Bush, of course, had no ground to stand on as he himself had stolen the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Nevertheless, the U.S., Canada, and France imposed economic sanctions, mounted a vast propaganda campaign against Aristide, backed the ruling-class political opposition in the Group of 184, and aided the right-wing death squads. Finally, in 2004, as the death squads swept through the country, the U.S. kidnapped Aristide, whisked him out of the country to temporary exile in the Central African Republic and to final exile in South Africa. Thus, on the two hundredth anniversary of its declaration of independence, Haiti was occupied by the U.S., yet again.

Soon the U.S. delegated the occupation to the UN and its 9,000 mostly Brazilian troops, who continue to patrol the country to this day. This UN force, MINUSTAH, protected the U.S.-installed puppet regime headed up Gérard Latortue who they brought out of retirement from Boca Raton, Florida. The coup regime was utterly corrupt and brutal. With its death squad allies, the regime conducted a terror against the remnants of the social movements and Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas. The combination of death squad and UN repression killed an estimated 3,000 people.21 The UN troops either joined the slaughter or stood aside while repression swept the island.22

While the U.S. and UN allowed elections in 2006, they banned Aristide’s party, the most popular party in the country. Aristide’s former ally, René Préval, again won the presidency, but by this time he had become a servant for the U.S. political and economic agenda in Haiti. For example, Préval banned Fanmi Lavalas from running in elections and refused to sign a bill passed in the parliament to raise the minimum wage.23 In fact, the real power was no longer in the hands of the Haitian government. The U.S.- backed UN occupation rules the country in colonial style, dictating policy to the Haitian government.

The occupation has completely failed to develop the country. It has done nothing to improve living conditions for Haitians, to rebuild the country’s ravaged infrastructure, or to reforest the countryside. Before the earthquake, two rounds of natural disasters swept Haiti and exposed the U.S. and UN’s callous neglect of the country. Hurricanes hit in 2004 and 2008, killing thousands.24 The pattern of impoverishment, deforestation, and degradation of the country's infrastructure, which has accelerated in recent years, has rendered natural disasters in Haiti far more devastating than anywhere else. In what is perhaps the worst exposure of the result of U.S. and UN refusal to improve conditions in Haiti, the food crisis in Haiti spiraled out of control on their watch. Even before the food crisis in 2008, the urban poor were reduced to eating mud cakes flavored with salt as a regular meal. When capitalists speculated on the international food market, they drove up the prices of Haiti’s imported staples, especially rice. In response Haitians rioted, only to be repressed by the UN troops.25

Imposing a new plan of death on Haiti
During the UN occupation, the U.S. imposed the same neoliberal economic plan on Haiti in the interests of multinational capital and the Haitian ruling class. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Bill Clinton as special envoy to Haiti in 2009 and tasked him with revitalizing the country’s economy. Clinton developed a new version of the plan of death along with Oxford economics professor and former research director for the World Bank, Paul Collier. Collier outlined their program in his paper, “Haiti: From natural catastrophe to economic security.”26 It advocated investment in the tourist industry, redevelopment of the sweatshop industry in cities, export-oriented mango plantations in the countryside, and construction of infrastructure to service that development.

As Polly Pattullo documents in Last Resorts: The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean, the tourist industry is largely controlled by U.S. multinational corporations. She quotes one critic of the tourist industry who argues, “When a third world economy uses tourism as a development strategy, it becomes enmeshed in a global system over which it has little control. The international tourism industry is a product of metropolitan capitalist enterprise. The superior entrepreneurial skills, resources and commercial power of metropolitan companies enable them to dominate many third world tourist destinations.”27

Clinton has orchestrated a plan for turning the north of Haiti into a tourist playground, as far away as possible from the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince. He lured Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines into investing $55 million to build a pier along the coastline of Labadee, which it has leased until 2050. From there, Haiti’s tourist industry hopes to lead expeditions to the mountaintop fortress Citadelle and the Palace of Sans-Souci, both built by Henri Christophe, one of the leaders of Haiti’s slave revolution.28

For the cities, Collier promotes sweatshop development. Without a hint of shame, he notes, “Due to its poverty and relatively unregulated labor market, Haiti has labor costs that are fully competitive with China, which is the global benchmark. Haitian labor is not only cheap it is of good quality. Indeed, because the garments industry used to be much larger than it is currently, there is a substantial pool of experienced labor.”29 Given the abolition of tariffs on many Haitian exports to the U.S., Haiti is primed, according to Collier, for a new sweatshop boom.

But this is no sustainable development plan in the interests of Haitian workers. At best, Collier promises 150,000 or so jobs. As anthropologist Mark Shuller argues, “subcontracted, low-wage factory work does not contribute much to the economy besides jobs. Being exempt from taxes, it does not contribute to the financing of Haiti’s social services.”30 Moreover these jobs themselves do not even pay enough to support life—they pay for transport and lunch at about $1.60 a day. The U.S. will want to keep these wages low, since that is the profitable basis for the investment.

For the peasant majority in the country, Clinton and Collier advocate the construction of vast new mango plantations. According to them, such new plantations will both create an export crop and aid the reforestation of the country. While it may create jobs for poor peasants, such plantations will not rebuild the agricultural infrastructure of the country so that it can return to the self-sufficient food system it had before the 1980s. As TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson toldDemocracy Now!, “That isn’t the kind of investment that Haiti needs. It needs capital investment. It needs investment so that it can be self-sufficient. It needs investment so that it can feed itself.”31 Such self-sufficiency runs against the grain of U.S. policy to control the international food market with its subsidized crops.

Collier finally argues for investment in infrastructure—airports, seaports, and roads—not so much to meet people’s needs as to service these new investments in tourism, sweatshops, and plantations. As a result, Collier’s plan will actually increase infrastructural inequities; businesses will get what they need to export their products, while the Haitian masses’ infrastructural needs, like navigable roads, will be left unaddressed. Even worse, Collier advocates increased privatization of Haiti’s infrastructure, especially the port and the electrical system.

It is not incidental that Collier is also the author of The Bottom Billion,32 a book that calls for outside intervention by wealthy nations such as the United States into what he calls “post-conflict” poor nations, combining targeted aid and economic restructuring under long-term military occupation. In a modern recasting of the old colonialist “civilizing mission,” this is meant to lift these nations out of a vicious cycle of violence and poverty.

On his whirlwind tour of the country in 2009, Bill Clinton promised investors that Haiti was open for business with Aristide and Lavalas out of the way and the U.S. and UN in effective control of the country. “Your political risk in Haiti” he declared at a press conference “is lower than it has ever been in my lifetime.”33

Failing to deliver relief to victims
In the aftermath of the earthquake, the press has cooperated with the Obama administration in giving the impression that the U.S. military has been busy delivering aid to desperate Haitians. The facts don’t bear this out. To begin with, Obama’s promise of $100 million in aid to the country is a pittance—less than the winnings of a Kentucky couple in a recent Powerball lottery.34 It is a paltry amount compared to the hundreds of billions that the U.S. shelled out to American banks and the $3 trillion the U.S. will have expended on the Iraq War alone.

There were early warning signs that this humanitarian mission was not all it was cracked up to be. Obama’s decision to appoint former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to oversee the collection of donations through the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund displays incredible callousness toward the Haitian masses. Clinton imposed the plan of death on Lavalas. Bush let New Orleans get washed out to sea and backed the 2004 coup that overthrew Aristide. Appointing Bush is like putting Nero in charge of the fire department.

Aid was slow to arrive, and what did turn up was inadequate. Amid a crisis where the first forty-eight hours are decisive in saving people’s lives, the U.S. and UN failed to come anywhere near addressing the needs of the 3 million people impacted by the earthquake. Every minute that aid was delayed meant more people died from starvation, dehydration, injury, and disease. It also meant that the hospitals and doctors desperately trying to help the victims were left stranded without the basics to heal the injured.

As Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health, speaking from Port-au-Prince’s main hospital just as heavily-armed U.S. troops were arriving, told Democracy Now!,

In terms of supplies, in terms of surgeons, in terms of aid relief, the response has been incredibly slow. There are teams of surgeons that have been sent to places that were, quote, “more secure,” that have ten or twenty doctors and ten patients. We have a thousand people on this campus that are triaged and ready for surgery, but we only have four working ORs without anesthesia and without pain medications. And we’re still struggling to get ourselves up to twenty-four-hour care.35

In the week after the quake, Partners in Health estimated as many as 20,000 Haitians were dying daily from lack of surgery.36

The U.S. and UN used all sorts of technical alibis to justify the delay in meeting people’s needs. They complained that the damage done to Haiti’s airport, seaport, and roads impeded delivery of doctors, nurses, food, water, and rescue teams. Such claims are unconvincing. Clearly the means exist to deliver aid quickly to a country only 700 miles away from Miami, Florida, and only 156 miles from a fully functional international airport in the Dominican Republic. Other countries had no difficulty sending planes of aid and volunteers. China, from half way around the world, got a plane of aid to Haiti earlier than the United States. Iceland sent a rescue team within forty-eight hours of the quake. Cuba sent dozens of doctors to join the several hundred doctors already working the country.

This failure of the U.S. to respond produced a chorus of denunciations from relief experts. One official from the Italian government, Guido Bertolaso, who was acclaimed for his successful handling of the April 2009 earthquake in Italy, denounced the U.S. effort as a “pathetic failure.” He declared, “The Americans are extraordinary but when you are facing a situation in chaos they tend to confuse military intervention with emergency aid, which cannot be entrusted to armed forces. It’s truly a powerful show of force but it’s completely out of touch with reality.”37

Guns over aid
As with Katrina, Obama prioritized the deployment of the U.S. military over provision of aid. He sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Haiti right away to get President Préval to secure emergency powers. “The decree would give the government an enormous amount of authority, which in practice they would delegate to us,” she stated.38 The U.S. has taken effective control of Haiti. It has secured control of the airport and seaport and deployed 20,000 U.S. troops to bolster the enlarged UN force of 12,500 already in the country. Thus, for the fourth time since 1915, Haiti is under a U.S. occupation.

How did the U.S. justify the fact that six days into the relief effort only a trickle of aid had gotten through to those who needed it? The U.S. government claimed that aid could not be delivered properly until security was first established. When asked why the U.S. hadn’t used its C-130 transport planes to drop supplies in Port-au-Prince, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “Air drops will simply lead to riots.”39 However, precisely the opposite is the case; people will riot because they lack food and water.

In lockstep, the corporate media’s coverage shifted from its initial sympathy with victims of the disaster to churning out scare stories. “Marauding looters emptied wrecked shops and tens of thousands of survivors waited desperately for food and medical care,” Reuters claimed. “Hundreds of scavengers and looters swarmed over wrecked stores in downtown Port-au-Prince, seizing goods and fighting among themselves.”40

These scare stories in turn became an excuse for not delivering aid. Writer Nelson Valdes reported,

The United Nations and the U.S. authorities on the ground are telling those who directly want to deliver help not to do so because they might be attacked by “hungry mobs.” Two cargo planes from Doctors Without Borders have been forced to land in the Dominican Republic because the shipments have to be accompanied within Port-au-Prince by U.S. military escorts, according to the U.S. command.41
The scare stories led relief workers and military personnel to treat Haitians in a dehumanizing fashion. Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman reported an incident where an aid helicopter refused to distribute food on the ground and instead dropped it on people. An angry Haitian compared the incident to “throwing bones to dogs.”42

Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), because of their close relation with the U.S., have adopted a paranoid obsession with security to the detriment of providing relief. Ecologist and human rights activist Sasha Kramer reported on Counterpunch,

One friend showed me the map used by all of the larger NGOs where Port-au-Prince is divided into security zones, yellow, orange, red. Red zones are restricted, in the orange zones all of the car windows must be rolled up and they cannot be visited past certain times of the day. Even in the yellow zone aid workers are often not permitted to walk through the streets and spend much of their time riding through the city from one office to another in organizational vehicles. The creation of these security zones has been like the building of a wall, a wall reinforced by language barriers and fear rather than iron rods, a wall that, unlike many of the buildings in Port-au-Prince, did not crumble during the earthquake. Fear, much like violence, is self-perpetuating. When aid workers enter communities radiating fear it is offensive, the perceived disinterest in communicating with the poor majority is offensive, driving through impoverished communities with windows rolled up and armed security guards is offensive…. Despite the good intentions of the many aid workers swarming around the UN base, much of the aid coming through the larger organizations is still blocked in storage, waiting for the required UN and U.S. military escorts that are seen as essential for distribution, meanwhile people in the camps are suffering and their tolerance is waning.43

Yet this disastrous “beware of the Haitian people” line is simply not borne out by reports coming from Haiti. “There are no security issues,” argues Dr. Lyon:

I’ve been with my Haitian colleagues. I’m staying at a friend’s house in Port-au-Prince. We’re working for the Ministry of Public Health for the direction of this hospital as volunteers. But I’m living and moving with friends. We’ve been circulating throughout the city until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning every night, evacuating patients, moving materials. There’s no UN guards. There’s no U.S. military presence. There’s no Haitian police presence. And there’s also no violence. There is no insecurity.44

As the real nature of the U.S. operation became clear, an array of forces criticized the U.S. for imposing an occupation, not supplying relief. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez rightly declared on his weekly television show, “Marines armed as if they were going to war. There is not a shortage of guns there, my God. Doctors, medicine, fuel, field hospitals—that’s what the United States should send. They are occupying Haiti undercover.”45

Impeding relief
The U.S. occupation actually prevented relief efforts. Once the U.S. was in charge of the airport it prioritized military flights over relief flights. Jarry Emmanuel, the air logistics officer for the World Food Program, complained, “There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti. But most of those flights are for the United States military. Their priorities are to secure the country.”46

Hillary Clinton herself brought relief missions to a halt when she flew into Port-au-Prince to seize emergency powers from Préval. The U.S. military shut the airport down for three hours, preventing the desperately needed delivery of aid. Outraged, Alain Joyandet, the French Cooperation Minister, called on the UN to investigate America’s dominant role in the relief effort and protested: “This is about helping Haiti, not occupying it.”47

The chorus of complaints further escalated not only from governments but also from aid organizations. Richard Seymour reports that,

Since the arrival of the troops, however, several aid missions have been prevented from arriving at the airport in Port-au-Prince that the U.S. has commandeered. France and the Caribbean Community have both made their complaints public, as has Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF] on five separate occasions. UN World Food Program flights were also turned away on two consecutive days. Benoit Leduc, MSF’s operations manager in Port-au-Prince, complained that U.S. military flights were being prioritized over aid flights.48

The U.S. military has even turned back masses of health care workers who wanted to volunteer to provide needed medical care in Haiti. The National Nurses Union organized an emergency conference call to mobilize thousands of nurses to go to Haiti. More than 1,800 nurses called in and they proceeded to recruit 11,000 others to the project. Initially the U.S. military said that it would accept them, but then, inexplicably, they reversed themselves and told them that the U.S. had plenty of military personnel to address the health care disaster in Haiti. Nothing could be further from the truth.49

The U.S. military, Florida’s state government, and the Obama administration also colluded in one of the worst examples of the callous treatment of Haitian victims. They refused to allow landing of planes loaded with injured people in desperate need of medical treatment. The Obama administration and Florida’s governor were locked in a battle over who would pay for the cost of the medical care. So for five days, the U.S. let injured people suffer in Haiti because budget battles mattered more than people’s lives.50

Al Jazeera captured the nature of the U.S. and UN military occupation in a January 17 report:

Most Haitians here have seen little humanitarian aid so far. What they have seen is guns, and lots of them. Armored personnel carriers cruise the streets. UN soldiers aren’t here to help pull people out of the rubble. They’re here, they say, to enforce the law. This is what much of the UN presence actually looks like on the streets of Port-au-Prince: men in uniform, racing around in vehicles, carrying guns. At the entrance to the city’s airport where most of the aid is coming in, there is anger and frustration. Much-needed supplies of water and food are inside, and Haitians are locked out. “These weapons they bring,” [an unidentified Haitian says], “they are instruments of death. We don’t want them; we don’t need them. We are a traumatized people. What we want from the international community is technical help. Action, not words.”51

Problems with the NGOs
Haiti has approximately 10,000 NGOs operating within its borders, one of the highest numbers per capita in the world. The international NGOs are unaccountable to either the Haitian state or Haitian population. So the aid funneled through them further weakens what little hold Haitians have on their own society. These NGOs have taken deep hold in Haiti at the very same time that the conditions in the country have gone from bad to apocalyptic.

Amid this crisis, some of the NGOs and their employees have tried valiantly to fill the vacuum left by the U.S. and UN. But most of them did not have real forces inside the country to respond to the disaster. The Red Cross, for example, only had 15 employees on the ground, but has received the bulk of donated money—more than $200 million—from people around the world. Add to this the reluctance of the big NGOs to act without “security,” as mentioned above.

Moreover, as the British medical journal The Lancet argues, many of the international NGOs are engaged in a fierce battle for funds and have allowed that competition to distort their provision of food, water, medical aid, and services amidst the crisis. After calling aid an “industry in its own right,” the Lancet noted that NGOs are

jostling for position, each claiming that they are doing the most for earthquake survivors. Some agencies even claim that they are “spearheading” the relief effort. In fact, as we only too clearly see, the situation in Haiti is chaotic, devastating, and anything but coordinated. Polluted by the internal power politics and the unsavory characteristics seen in many big corporations, large aid agencies can be obsessed with raising money through their own appeal efforts. Media coverage as an end in itself is too often an aim of their activities. Marketing and branding have too high a profile. Perhaps worst of all, relief efforts in the field are sometimes competitive with little collaboration between agencies, including smaller, grass-roots charities that may have better networks in affected countries and so are well placed to immediately implement emergency relief.52

Repatriating and jailing refugees
As Haitians’ needs continued unmet, the U.S. occupation devolved into policing the disaster, including preventing the flight of refugees from Haiti. It is true that activists finally compelled Obama to grant Haitians Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Obama’s decision delayed the deportation of 30,000 Haitians and will make TPS available to 100,000 to 200,000 more. These provisions, however, have strict limitations. 

First of all, the U.S. plans to exclude victims of the earthquake, offering TPS only to those who arrived in the U.S. without legal documents before January 12. Those who quality must prove they are indigent and at the very same time pay $470 in application fees.53 Those Haitians who are granted TPS will only be allowed to stay in the U.S. for eighteen months before they must return to Haiti. If they do qualify for the program they will become known to the authorities and thus make themselves more vulnerable to repatriation. Moreover, given the scale of destruction in Port-au-Prince, there is no way that the city or country will be in better condition in a year and a half. So if the U.S. enforces this eighteen-month limitation, it will return Haitians to an ongoing disaster area.

To enforce the bar on Haitians coming to the U.S., a flotilla of military vessels has surrounded the country. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tried to spin this in humanitarian terms. “At this moment of tragedy in Haiti,” she lectured, “it is tempting for people suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake to seek refuge elsewhere, but attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation.”54 In a far more blunt statement of the actual policy, Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Chris O’Neil, in charge of Operation Vigilant Sentry declared, “The goal is to interdict them at sea and repatriate them.”55

The U.S. made sure to broadcast this threat to Haitians. A U.S. Air Force transport plane spends hours in the air above Haiti every day, not ferrying food and water, but broadcasting a radio statement in Creole from Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S., Raymond Joseph. “I’ll be honest with you,” Joseph says, according to a transcript on the State Department’s Web site. “If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that’s not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water, and send you back home where you came from.”56

To prepare for the eventuality that some Haitians may get through the military cordon around Haiti, Obama, like Bush and Clinton before him, has prepared jail space to incarcerate refugees at Krome Detention Center in Florida and at the U.S. military base in Guantánamo, Cuba.57

Asserting who’s boss in Latin America
Days after the quake, the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation posted an article detailing what it considered should be Washington’s aims in occupying Haiti. The U.S. military presence, they argued, in addition to preventing “any large scale movements by Haitians to take to the sea…to try to enter the U.S. illegally,” also “offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region.” At the same time, it argues, the U.S. military presence could “interrupt the nightly flights of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and counter the ongoing efforts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to destabilize the island of Hispaniola.” There is no evidence of Venezuelan cocaine flights or efforts to “destabilize” Haiti, but the point is clear: The U.S. sees Haiti as part of an effort to assert more control over the region and contain “unfriendly” regimes.58

The military response to Haiti’s crisis cannot be separated from Washington’s regional interests. As Greg Gandin writes in the Nation,

In recent years, Washington has experienced a fast erosion of its influence in South America, driven by the rise of Brazil, the region’s left turn, the growing influence of China and Venezuela’s use of oil revenue to promote a multipolar diplomacy. Broad social movements have challenged efforts by US- and Canadian-based companies to expand extractive industries like mining, biofuels, petroleum and logging.59

Faced with such regional and international competition, the U.S. under Bush and now Obama is angling to launch a counteroffensive. The U.S. tried to topple Chávez in 2002, it succeeded in overthrowing Aristide in 2004, and last year backed the coup against President Zelaya in Honduras. As Grandin reports, the U.S. is actively promoting the right-wing opposition to the various reform socialist governments in the region. It is backing up this political initiative with an expansion of its military bases in the region, particularly in Colombia. “In late October,” Grandin writes, “the United States and Colombia signed an agreement granting the Pentagon use of seven military bases, along with an unlimited number of as yet unspecified ‘facilities and locations.’ They add to Washington’s already considerable military presence in Colombia, as well as Central America and the Caribbean.”60 Haiti is thus a stepping-stone for further U.S. interventions in the region.

“Shock doctrine” for Haiti
For Haiti itself, the U.S. is preparing to impose its old neoliberal plan at gunpoint. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein documents how the U.S. and other imperial powers take advantage of natural and economic disasters to impose free-market plans for the benefit of the American and native capitalists. The U.S., other powers, the IMF, and World Bank had their shock doctrine for Haiti immediately on hand. Hillary Clinton declared, “We have a plan. It was a legitimate plan, it was done in conjunction with other international donors, with the United Nations.”61 This is the Collier Plan, the same old plan of sweatshops, plantations, and tourism.

The U.S., a few other imperial powers, a few lesser countries, and the UN convened a meeting on January 26 in Montreal to profess their concern and promises to aid Haiti. The fourteen so-called “Friends of Haiti” made sure to include the Haitian prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, to at least give the illusion of respect for the country’s sovereignty. But outside a protest organized by Haiti Action Montreal opposed the meeting with signs demanding “medical relief not guns,” “grants not loans,” and “reconstruction for people not profit.”

In the Guardian, Gary Younge criticized the summit for failing to produce any solutions to the crisis in Haiti. “Even as corpses remained under the earthquake’s rubble,” he wrote, “and the government operated out of a police station, the assembled ‘friends’ would not commit to canceling Haiti’s $1 billion debt. Instead they agreed to a 10-year plan with no details, and a commitment to meet again—when the bodies have been buried along with coverage of the country—sometime in the future.”62

By contrast, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and his Latin American and Caribbean allies assembled in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) announced their opposition to America’s shock doctrine. They denounced Washington’s neoliberal plans, called for relief not troops and for the cancellation of Haiti’s debt. Venezuela itself immediately cancelled Haiti’s debt and began sending shiploads of relief offering over $100 million in humanitarian aid with no strings attached.63

No such humanitarian motives animate the U.S., its capitalist corporations, and the international financial institutions. These vultures began circling above Haiti almost immediately. The Street, an investment Web site, published an article misleadingly entitled, “An opportunity to heal Haiti,” that lays out how U.S. corporations can cash in on the catastrophe. “Here are some companies,” they write, “that could potentially benefit: General Electric (GE), Caterpillar (CAT), Deere (DE), Fluor (FLR), Jacobs Engineering (JEC).”64 The Rand Corporation’s James Dobbins wrote in the New York Times, “This disaster is an opportunity to accelerate oft-delayed reforms.”65

Over the last few years, the U.S. has been trying to give a facelift to the international financial institution that it uses to impose its plans in Haiti. As Jim Lobe reports,

Last June, 1.2 billion dollars in Haiti’s external debt, including that owed to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), was cancelled after the Préval government completed a three-year Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. Over half of that debt had been incurred by Haiti’s dictatorships, notably the Duvalier dynasty that ruled the country from 1957 to 1986. But the cancellation covered debt incurred by Haiti only through 2004. In the last five years, the country has received new loans—some of them to help it recover from the floods and other hurricane damage—totaling another 1.05 billion dollars.66

In other words, the U.S. and the financial institutions exchanged the old debts for new so-called “legitimate loans,” trapping Haiti yet again in debt. Eric Toussaint and Sophie Perchellet call this “a typical odious debt-laundering maneuver.”67

In the wake of the crisis, the bankers were at Haiti’s door yet again, ready, incredibly, to loan Haiti money with the usual conditions. The IMF offered Haiti a new loan of $100 million with the usual strings attached. As the Nation’s Richard Kim writes,

The new loan was made through the IMF’s extended credit facility, to which Haiti already has $165 million in debt. Debt relief activists tell me that these loans came with conditions, including raising prices for electricity, refusing pay increases to all public employees except those making minimum wage, and keeping inflation low. They say that the new loans would impose these same conditions. In other words, in the face of this latest tragedy, the IMF is still using crisis and debt as leverage to compel neoliberal reforms.68

Debt cancellation activists like Jubilee pushed back against the IMF and scored a victory over it. “On Jan. 21,” Lobe reports,

the World Bank announced a waiver of Haiti’s pending debt payment for five years and said it would explore ways that the remaining debt could be cancelled. The IDB [Inter-American Development Bank] has said it is engaged in a similar effort and will present alternatives for reducing or canceling the debt to its board of governors. On Jan. 27, the IMF, which lacks the authority to provide outright grants, announced that it would give Haiti a 102 million-dollar loan at zero-percent interest and that would not be subject to any of the Fund’s usual performance conditions.69

The pressure even forced the U.S. to call for all new monies extended to Haiti to be in the form of grants, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called for debt relief in the run up to the G-7 conference in February.70

While activists can claim these concessions by the U.S. and the international financial institutions as victories that open up the possibility for even more progress in demanding full cancellation of Haiti’s debt and all third world debt, no one should look at this situation through rose-colored glasses. The U.S. is using this promise—and it is just a promise at this point—to cover up its determination to implement the Collier Plan for tourism, sweatshops, and mango plantations to exploit Haiti’s desperately poor workers and peasants. In fact, the U.S. does not need to use the leverage of debt to force Haiti to agree to the plan; it has secured colonial rule over the country and can impose its plans directly at gunpoint.

Resistance and solidarity
The left has a responsibility to cut through the propaganda of the Obama administration and the mainstream media. The U.S. is not engaged in humanitarian relief, but old-fashioned imperialism in Haiti. Humanitarianism has long been one of the means the U.S. uses to provide a cover story for its military actions abroad. But whether it was saving the Cuban people from Spanish brutality, sending the marines into Mogadishu in 1993 to feed starving Somalis, or overthrowing the Taliban to “liberate women,” the real aims and practical results of these interventions diverged radically from their alleged noble intentions.

Humanitarian military intervention was heavily promoted in the 1990s during the latter part of the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration—in particular during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Its purpose was to reestablish the legitimacy of U.S. military intervention in the wake of the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, as part of a policy intended to erase what was known as the “Vietnam syndrome.” It is being revived again in the wake of the unpopularity of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and weariness toward the “war on terror,” for similar reasons. The U.S. hopes that it can re-legitimize its military as a force for good so that it can lay the groundwork for more U.S. interventions in the region and around the world.

Even if the U.S. gets away with its new plans for Haiti, it will inevitably breed resistance in the population and throughout the region where through bitter experience workers and peasants have learned to oppose U.S. designs on their countries. In Haiti, workers and peasants will find their way to organize in the countryside on the plantations, in the sweatshops, and in the shantytowns.

Already Haitian organizations have come out against the U.S. agenda. A statement issued on January 27 from the Coordinating Committee of Progressive Organizations announced:

We must…declare our anger and indignation at the exploitation of the situation in Haiti to justify a new invasion by 20,000 U.S. Marines. We condemn what threatens to become a new military occupation by U.S. troops, the third in our history. It is clearly part of a strategy to remilitarize the Caribbean Basin in the context of the imperialist response to the growing rebellion of the peoples of our continent against neo-liberal globalization. And it exists also within a framework of pre-emptive warfare designed to confront the eventual social explosion of a people crushed by poverty and facing despair. We condemn the model imposed by the U.S. government and the military response to a tragic humanitarian crisis. The occupation of the Toussaint L’Ouverture international airport and other elements of the national infrastructure have deprived the Haitian people of part of the contribution made by Caricom, by Venezuela, and by some European countries. We condemn this conduct, and refuse absolutely to allow our country to become another military base.71

The Haitian left has thus already started building opposition to the U.S. occupation and the Collier Plan. Every year since the U.S. coup in 2004, activists have marched on February 28 in Port-au-Prince against the UN occupation and to demand the end of Aristide’s exile. Workers’ organizations just last year protested in the thousands for an increase in the minimum wage that Préval opposed. Lavalas activists had protested before the earthquake against their exclusion from the scheduled parliamentary elections. Now amid crisis and occupation, Préval, who has proved to be a puppet for the U.S. agenda, thus losing what little political support he had, has cancelled those elections. No doubt Préval’s behavior will provoke political opposition from below against his government’s collaboration with the United States.
Outside Haiti, the left must build solidarity with that struggle and make several demands on the Obama administration. First, Obama must immediately end the military occupation of Haiti, and instead flood the country with doctors, nurses, food, water, and construction machinery. Second, the U.S. must also stop its enforcement of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s exile and the ban on his party, Fanmi Lavalas, from participating in elections. Haitians, not the U.S., should have the right to determine their government.

Third, the left must demand that the U.S., other countries, and international financial institutions cancel Haiti’s debt, so that the aid money headed to Haiti will go to food and reconstruction, not debt repayment. More than that—France, the U.S., and Canada, the three countries that have most interfered with Haiti’s sovereignty—should pay reparations for the damage they have done. France can start by repaying the $21 billion dollars that it extracted from Haiti from 1824 to 1947. Fourth, leftists must agitate for Obama to indefinitely extend Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the U.S.—and open the borders to any Haitians who flee the country. Finally, the left must direct all its funds to Haitian grass-roots organizations to provide relief and help rebuild resistance to the U.S. plan for Haiti.

Only through agitating for these demands can we stop the U.S. from imposing at gunpoint its shock doctrine for Haiti. In this struggle, the left must educate wider and wider layers of people, already suspicious of U.S. motives after Hurricane Katrina, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, that the U.S. state never engages in military actions for humanitarian motives. As the great American revolutionary journalist John Reed declared, “Uncle Sam never gives anybody something for nothing. He comes along with a sack stuffed with hay in one hand and a whip in the other. Anyone who accepts Uncle Sam’s promises at their face value will find that they must be paid for in sweat and blood.”72

  1. “President Obama on U.S. rescue efforts in Haiti,
  2. Bill Quigley, “Haiti: still starving 23 days later,” Huffington Post, posted February 4, 2010.
  3. Soumitra Eachempati, Dean Lorich, and David Helfet, “Haiti: Obama’s Katrina,”Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2010.
  4. Rich Schapiro, “Rev. Pat Robertson says ancient Haitians’ ‘pact with the devil’ caused earthquake,” New York Daily News, January 13, 2010.
  5. David Brooks, “The underlying tragedy,” New York Times, January 14, 2010.
  6. For an overview of the French colony and the slave revolution see Ashley Smith, “The Black Jacobins,” International Socialist Review (ISR) 63, January–February 2009.
  7. Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politicsw of Containment (New York: Verso Books, 2007), 12.
  8. Quoted in Sidney Lens, The Forging of the American Empire (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2003), 270.
  9. For an overview of the history of U.S. imperialism in Haiti see Helen Scott, “Haiti under siege,” ISR 35, May-June 2004.
  10. Paul Farmer, The Uses of Haiti (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1994), 108.
  11. Alex Dupuy, Haiti in the New World Order (New York: Westview Press, 1996), 37.
  12. For an analysis of Baby Doc’s neoliberal plans see chapter 2 of Alex Dupuy, The Prophet and the Power (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007).
  13. Eric Toussaint and Sophie Perchellet, “Debt is Haiti’s real curse,” Socialist Worker, January 20, 2010.
  14. Regan Boychuck, “The vultures circle Haiti at every opportunity, natural or man-made,” Znet, February 3, 2010.
  15. Dupuy, Haiti in the New World Order, 31.
  16. Quoted in Amy Wilentz, The Rainy Season (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), 137.
  17. Quoted in Ashley Smith, “The new occupation of Haiti: Aristide’s rise and fall,” ISR35, May–June, 2004.
  18. For an analysis of Lavalas after Aristide’s restoration see chapter 5 of Robert Fatton,Haiti’s Predatory Republic (Boulder: Lynne Reiner Publishers, 2002).
  19. For a perhaps overly generous portrait of Aristide in his second term see chapters 6 and 7 of Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood.
  20. Clara James, “Haiti free trade zone,” Dollars and Sense, November/December 2002.
  21. Hallward, Damming the Flood, 155.
  22. See Bill Quigley, “Haiti human rights report,”
  23. Mo Woong, “Haiti’s minimum wage battle,” Caribbean News Net, August 25, 2009.
  24. See Ashley Smith “Natural and unnatural disasters,” Socialist Worker, September 23, 2008.
  25. Mark Shuller, “Haiti’s food riots,” ISR 59, May–June 2008.
  26. Paul Collier, “Haiti: From natural catastrophe to economic security,” FOCALPoint,Volume 8, Issue 2, March 2009.
  27. Quoted in Polly Pattullo, Last Resorts: The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2005), 20.
  28. Jacqueline Charles, “Royal Caribbean boosts Haiti tourism push,” Miami Herald, September 26, 2009.
  29. Collier, “Haiti from natural catastrophe to economic security.”
  30. Mark Shuller, “Haiti needs new development approaches, not more of the same,”Haiti Analysis, June 18, 2009.
  31. Quoted in Ashley Smith “Catastrophe in Haiti,” Socialist Worker, January 14, 2010.
  32. Jacqueline Charles, “Bill Clinton on trade mission on Haiti,” Miami Herald, October 1, 2009.
  33. Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
  34. Bill Quigley, “Too little too late for Haiti? Six sobering points,” Huffington Post, January 15, 2010.
  35. “With foreign aid still at a trickle,” Democracy Now!, January 20, 2010.
  36. Marc Lacey “The nightmare in Haiti: untreated illness and injury,” New York Times, January 21, 2010.
  37. Quoted in Nick Allen “West urged to write off Haiti’s $1 billion debt,”, January 25, 2010.
  38. Mark Lander, “In show of support, Clinton goes to Haiti,” New York Times, January 17, 2010.
  39. “U.S. military begins aid drops in Haiti,” CBS News, January 18, 2010.
  40. Andrew Cawthorne and Catherine Bremer, “U.S., U.N. boost Haiti aid security as looters swarm,” Reuters, January 19, 2010.
  41. Nelson P. Valdés, “Class and race fear: The rescue operation’s priorities in Haiti,” Counterpunch, January 18, 2010.
  42. Quoted in Lenora Daniels, “We are Haitians. We are like people like anybody else,” Common Dreams, January 31, 2010.
  43. Sasha Kramer, “Fear slows aid efforts in Haiti: Letter from Port-au-Prince,” Counterpunch, January 27, 2010.
  44. “Doctor: Misinformation and racism have slowed the recovery effort,” Democracy Now!, January 19, 2010.
  45. “Chávez says U.S. occupying Haiti in name of aid,” Reuters, January 17, 2010.
  46. Rory Carroll, “U.S. accused of annexing airport,” Guardian (UK), January 17, 2010.
  47. Quoted in Giles Whittell, Martin Fletcher, and Jacqui Goddard, “Haiti has a leader in charge, but not in control,” The Times (UK), January 19, 2010.
  48. Richard Seymour, “The humanitarian myth,” Socialist Worker, January 25, 2010.
  49. “Union nurses respond to Haiti,” Socialist Worker, January 27, 2010.
  50. Shaila Dewan, “U.S. suspends Haitian airlift in cost dispute,” New York Times, January 30, 2010.
  51. The Al Jazeera report is available at
  52. “The growth of aid and the decline of humanitarianism,” Lancet, Volume 375, Issue 9711, January 23, 2010; 253.
  53. James C. McKinley Jr., “Vows to move fast for Haitian immigrants in the U.S.,”New York Times, January 21, 2010.
  54. Richard Fausset, “U.S. to change illegal immigrants status,” Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2010.
  55. “U.S. to repatriate most Haitian refugees, Washington Times, January 19, 2010.
  56. Curt Anderson, “U.S. prepares for Haitian refugees,” Washington Examiner, January 19, 2010.
  57. Tom Eley, “Washington shuts door to Haitian refugees” Global Research, February 8, 2010.
  58. Jim Roberts, “Things to remember while helping Haiti,” The Foundry.
  59. Greg Grandin, “Muscling Latin America,” Nation, January 21, 2010.
  60. Ibid.
  61. Nicholas Kralev, “Clinton says plan exists for Haiti,” Washington Times, January 26, 2010.
  62. Gary Younge, “The West owes Haiti a big bailout,” Guardian (UK), January 31, 2010.
  63. Magbana, “Venezuela cancels Haiti’s debt,” January 26, 2010.
  64. Quoted in Isabel McDonald, “New Haiti: Same old corporate interests,” Nation, January 29, 2010.
  65. James Dobbins, “Skip the graft,” New York Times, January 17, 2010.
  66. Jim Lobe, “Haiti: U.S. lawmakers call for debt cancellation,” IPS, February 4, 2010.
  67. Eric Toussaint and Sophie Perchellet, “Debt is Haiti’s real curse.”
  68. Richard Kim, “IMF to Haiti: freeze public wages,” Nation, January 15, 2010.
  69. Lobe, “Haiti: U.S. lawmakers call for debt cancellation.”
  70. Ibid.
  71. Haiti After the Catastrophe, “What Are the Perspectives? Statement by the Coordinating Committee of the Progressive Organizations.”
  72. Quoted in John Riddell ed., To See the Dawn (New York: Pathfinder, 1993), 136.


Issue #103

Winter 2016-17

"A sense of hope and the possibility for solidarity"

Interview with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
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