Haiti: independence not dependence

Haiti has gone from the headlines but its people are still in great need. The Haitian government estimates the death toll of the 12 January earthquake at 230,000 people. Three million Haitians, a third of the population, have been severely affected by the earthquake and over 1.1 million Haitians are homeless, living in refugee camps. Two million people need food aid. Diarrhoea and urinary infections are rife, as is malnutrition. Heavy rains came in mid-March, threatening dengue fever and malaria.


US forces invaded Haiti in 1914, 1915-34, 1994, 2004 and 2010. By February there were 22,000 US military personnel stationed in or just off Haiti. Port-au-Prince airport flight logs show that when the US military took over military arrivals were given priority over medical ones. On 24 February the US closed its last field hospital in Haiti and in early March the US Navy’s hospital ship The Comfort sailed back to Baltimore. US troops were reduced to 8,000 by mid-March although the airport remained under US control.

While the US wound down its medical commitment to Haiti, Cuba increased its support. By 26 February, 1,429 Cuban-trained medical personnel were in Haiti. Among them were 637 graduates of Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, including 400 Haitians. Within six weeks they had treated 95,000 Haitians and performed 4,500 operations. Cuban doctors had been in Haiti for ten years before the earthquake and will stay for as long as they are needed. Cuban President Raul Castro said that Haiti does not need a ‘fleeting and sudden gesture of “charity” ... [it] requires and deserves a major international effort for its reconstruction’. This internationalism is so far from the capitalists’ mentality and they see it as such a threat that they censor news of it from reaching the world. US CNN television described a Cuban doctor working in a hospital, where all the doctors are Cuban, as a Spaniard.

The role of aid

The US government’s USAID has been prohibited from donating to the Haitian state; instead it goes to US government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This is part of a deliberate strategy to ensure Haiti’s dependence on US imperialism – the US ruling class does not want another Cuba as a neighbour. Of $379 million in USHaiti after the earthquake, 42% goes on disaster assistance, 33% to the US military, 9% on food, 9% on food transport, less than 1% to the Haitian government and 0.5% to the Dominican Republic. aid offered to

Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela and ALBA deal with the Haitian government directly. Ecuador’s President Correa said it was essential to strengthen the Haitian government as the only constitutional and recognised authority through which aid can be channelled, ‘There cannot be any mini-republics or interventionism within Haiti.’

US President Obama appointed former presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush as co-chairs of the US government fundraising campaign. Clinton and Bush visited Haiti on 21 March. Accompanied by Haiti’s President Rene Preval, they toured a refugee camp surrounded by security agents, UN soldiers and Haitian police. 100 supporters of former President Aristide protested outside the national palace, burning tyres and a US flag, chanting ‘Return Aristide! Down with Preval! Down with Bush!’ Aristide was deposed by the Bush government in 2004 flying him into exile, where he remains. His Lavalas party is banned from standing in elections.

Clinton offered the prospect of investment in the garment industry, saying ‘we can create 100,000 jobs in short order’ and duty free access to the US. China dominates US clothing imports. The intention is to undercut Chinese wages with cheap Haitian labour. On 31 March New York hosts a donors’ conference to set up a Recovery Commission. Haiti’s government says it needs $11.5 billion for reconstruction. The Commission will allocate votes deciding the use of aid on the basis of contributions: $100 million buys a voting seat and creditors who give $200 million get voting rights. US and European imperialists expect to decide what to do with the aid. However, VenezuelaHaiti’s debt so it will also have a say. has cancelled $200 million of

One day the Haitian people will decide on their own future and they will do so with the help of Cuba, Venezuela and the ALBA countries. Haitians continue to demonstrate at the failure of aid to reach them. They marched on the US-held airport only to be confronted by club-wielding police. We urge you to donate to the Cuban medical relief effort at  http://www.medicc.org

Trevor Rayne

FRFI 214 April / May 2010


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