- Created: Tuesday, 16 February 2010 17:53
- Written by Trevor Rayne
The earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January measured 7 on the Richter scale, releasing energy equivalent to a half-megaton nuclear bomb, 500,000 tons of TNT. By 28 January estimates of deaths reached up to 200,000 people. In Port-au-Prince there are 500,000 homeless people in 447 improvised camps. People around the world, seeing the devastation, have donated generously to help them. But on 23 January Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said that 90% of the people in camps had received no aid. US imperialism has moved quickly to recolonise the country. Trevor Rayne reports.
US President Obama responded to the earthquake: ‘This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership.’ The US ruling class’s credibility and power is tested in Haiti; it must ensure that it and not Europe commands Haiti’s fate and Cuba’s selfless contribution of medical assistance must be censored. For domestic political reasons the US government has to be seen to be responding to the catastrophe following the complete racist failure in New Orleans in 2005. US priorities were quickly demonstrated. By 14 January the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was moored off Port-au-Prince and troops from the US 82nd Airborne Division had secured the airport. The 82nd Airborne Division is a combat force whose recent record includes suppression of the 1967 Detroit uprising, the invasions of Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989), service in former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. On 22 January the US secured ‘formal approval’ from the United Nations to take over all Haitian air and sea ports and to ‘secure’ roads. No Haitian signed this agreement. (John Pilger New Statesman, 28 January 2010). This is the fourth US invasion of Haiti.
Fidel Castro said Cuba was sending doctors not soldiers. By 26 January the US had 15,400 soldiers in Haiti and Cuba had 766 doctors who had treated 26,000 people. There were 374 Cuban medical workers in Haiti when the earthquake struck, assisted by approximately 400 Haitians who were medically trained in Cuba. Two Cuban field hospitals were operational in Port-au-Prince within 24 hours of the earthquake (Hugh O’Shaughnessy, The Guardian 29 January 2010). On 17 January the French government complained to the US about its management of the airport when a French medical flight was turned away. The following day Medicines sans Frontieres complained that several of its cargo planes had been ‘blocked’ from landing, ‘Priority must be given immediately to aircraft carrying life-saving equipment and medical personnel’ and not to military equipment and personnel.
While the corporate media ran stories of looting and gangs, UN tanks were dispatched into Port-au-Prince’s poorer communities such as Cite Soleil, a stronghold of support for the evicted former President Aristide. The Wall Street Journal reported, ‘US officials have blamed security concerns for holding up relief. Yet a team of Cuban doctors were seen on Monday [18 January] treating hundreds of patients without a gun in sight.’ All flights into Haiti were halted for three hours for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit. Italian official Guido Bertolaso described the US intervention as ‘pathetic…it’s truly a show of force, but it’s completely out of touch with reality’ and referring probably to Bill Clinton’s visit said, ‘Some individuals were putting on a vanity show for the television cameras instead of rolling up their sleeves.’
French doctors accused the US military of causing unnecessary deaths by delaying relief groups from reaching the injured. It was six days before the US Air Force dropped bottled water on people suffering from thirst and dehydration. The Wall Street Journal reported that an estimated 20,000 people were dying each day due to lack of access to medical treatment and on 26 January it carried a letter from three New York doctors who were among the first to reach Haiti after the earthquake: ‘Our operation received virtually no support from any branch of US government, including the State Department.’ They said that they had quickly run out of supplies and ‘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 US and international soldiers.’
UN troops fired rubber bullets at people milling around food trucks on 25 January. The following day they fired tear gas and pepper spray at crowds in a tent camp and tanks were brought up to threaten the crowd. Elections scheduled for 28 February have been postponed indefinitely and Aristide’s Lavalas party has been prohibited from competing, whenever they take place. This is the recolonisation of Haiti. All socialists must demand the removal of US and UN troops from Haiti, the cancellation of Haiti’s foreign debt and the right of Haiti’s people to self-determination.
FRFI 213 February / March 2010