A natural disaster of gigantic proportions ...
On January 12, a violent earthquake struck Haiti. The quake was centered a few kilometers from the Haitian capital, Port au Prince, home to a quarter of the population,
causing a terrible catastrophe. When writing this text, it is estimated that there are already about 200 thousand people dead, or 2% of the population of Haiti, approximately 10 million inhabitants. The Red Cross estimates that nearly 3 million people are injured or homeless. It's a massive human tragedy.
... in one of the poorest countries in the world
This natural disaster of staggering dimensions, which would be destructive in any part, occurred in one of the poorest countries in the world. Even before the earthquake, 80% of Haitians lived below the poverty line. More than 70% of the population lived with less than $ 2 per day and 56%, with less than $ 1. A third of the population depended on food aid to survive. Only 30% of Haitians had access to public health.
In this context, the effects of the concussion become even more devastating. According to engineers and architects who have already worked in Haiti, cited by the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, the poor quality of buildings, due to lack of materials and incorrect construction practices, have heightened the fragility of the houses and buildings. After the earthquake there is a lack of the basic: water, electricity, food and minimal medical care. The rescue services are almost nonexistent and there is no health system to treat the wounded and provide medicines and primary care of emergency, which means that many end up dying. At the same time, the lack of any minimum infrastructure causes the accumulation of dead people on roads and streets, increasing the risk of an epidemic. The few refugee camps are mostly improvised by the people, with tents of blankets.
Haiti: a history of two centuries of intense imperialist exploitation and five years of occupation by UN troops
The extreme poverty in Haiti is the product of two centuries of intense exploitation by various imperialist powers. The country was the scene of the first and only successful revolution starring slaves in the world and the first black revolution and anti-colonial of Latin America. Between 1791 and 1804, the Haitian slaves fought several battles against the French colonial power, until, in 1804, they expelled the French, seized power and gained independence. Since then, Haiti has become a threat to France and other imperialist countries, as well as to the slave elite that dominated all Latin America, who tried by every means to isolate the country economically, to choke him. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Haitians have suffered various imperialist invasions and bloody dictatorships.
More recently, since 2004, Haiti was occupied by UN forces, after the U.S. has intervened militarily to force the removal of President Aristide of the country. Currently occupying forces of the UN (MINUSTAH) are led by Brazil, which thus helps the U.S. to maintain their interests in the region, but with a military occupation with more "friendly" troops made up of Argentina, Bolivia, Jordanian, and others.
The official discourse is that the military presence in Haiti is needed so that the country does not become a chaos. However, during the last five years, the living conditions of the Haitian people have not improved: the minimum wage of about $ 40 is the lowest in Latin America.
The MINUSTAH troops have not served to help bring peace and social improvement to Haiti, but rather to guarantee the profits of large multinational major imperialist powers, especially the U.S., who get big profits at the expense of almost slave labor.
The recent crackdown by troops against the workers who fought for an increase in the minimum wage made it very clear the role of MINUSTAH. In a recent statement, his commander, Brazilian General Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto said that the projects implemented by the engineering battalions of the Brazilian army are made primarily for military purposes, not diplomatic or civil, which means that the benefits for the population are indirect: "When you repair a road to pass a troop to ensure mobility, it is also for the community."
The recent earthquake, in contrast with the official propaganda, shows in an explicit and cruel way that five years of military occupation were not useful to provide the country with more infrastructure and better living conditions. Instead, the natural disaster showed the social catastrophe that is life in Haiti.
The catastrophe in Haiti generates emotion and solidarity between the peoples of the world
The human tragedy caused by the earthquake in Haiti touched people all over the world. People from various countries are sending money, food, medicines and clothes, mobilizing to send aid and solidarity to the Haitian people. This international human solidarity is a feeling more than fair and probably the only positive thing in this whole disaster.
In fact, all the help coming to Haiti at this time is essential to try to save the lives of thousands of Haitians. In this way, we have to require that governments around the world send human and material resources for rescue, medical, medicine, food, drinking water, because without it thousands of Haitians can not survive. In particular, the governments of the imperialist countries, who daily earn unimaginable profits at the expense of the work of Haitians, particularly the U.S., for its domination in the country and geographical proximity, they have to immediately ensure the basic resources for the Haitian people.
A humanitarian aid that did not reach the majority of the population affected
Despite the International commotion, the humanitarian aid that has come thus far in Haiti is almost negligible for the task. While they talk about solidarity, the same governments that gave 25 trillion dollars to banks in the economic crisis now offer 145 million dollars to Haiti. In five years of military occupation, the UN spent $ 3.5 billion and now "offers" 10 million dollars to help the earthquake. Despite the thousands of lives at stake, before this gigantic catastrophe imperialism shows its true face: everything to save the millionaire profits of banks and crumbs to save the lives of the poorest people in Latin America.
The situation is alarming, as most experts agree that people can hardly survive being submerged for more than three days in this situation. According to Spanish daily El País (15/1/2010): "The aid has not reached the majority of residents of Port au Prince that walk on the fetid streets, desperately seeking food, water and medical aid."
Even in times of emergency, the supposed humanitarian mission of UN troops in Haiti is almost useless, both as a support force to the public or as rescue or medical assistance. According to Folha de S. Paulo, "UN officials are focused on helping themselves, focusing on actions to rescue their facilities and the Hotel Montana, where the high officials lived. (...) The care of the Haitians is only occasional". Recent reports show that the UN had tons of food stored in Haiti, but so far not had distributed it and even informed about its existence. It was necessary that the people discovered the store and took the initiative to seize the food, even against the will of the UN.
Indeed, with the tragedy that affects all Haitians, regardless of class, it is clear that the "humanitarian aid" of the UN has prioritized those who always served to: the richest.
The hypocrisy of a humanitarian aid controlled by the imperialist governments
Indeed, beyond the aid that is totally inadequate, the great contradiction is that the little that has come so far in Haiti is controlled by the imperialist governments and their institutions like the UN. In this sense, the aid is clearly hypocritical.
First, the governments that now say they are very moved by the situation and ready to help are the same that have taken advantage of Haiti. The help they intend to give is minimum in front of what they could have won and the exploitation of cheap labor in Haiti. Note that Bill Clinton and George Bush (who was president at the time when the U.S. forced the deposition and exile of Aristide and promoted the occupation of UN troops) are the ones who will lead the committee of the White House to coordinate efforts of rescue and relief to Haiti.
But the worst is that the imperialist governments and those who maintain the occupation of Haiti are taking advantage of tragedy and social crisis due to her to, in the name of humanitarian aid, strengthen the occupation and repression in the country.
Due to the ongoing tragedy, life for most of the population has become a quest for survival. Looting supermarkets destroyed by earthquake in search of food is normal. With the aim of maintaining security and preventing crime, military forces are preparing to "avoid" (read suppress) such a situation before a population that, in all fairness, struggle for life.
Moreover, there has been growing dissatisfaction of the population. As reported the spokesman for the MINUSTAH (Folha de S. Paulo, 15/1/2010): "the precarious conditions of the security forces and shortcomings in service to the population are generating impatience in the population. They [the Haitians] are increasingly angry". As reported by various newspapers, some Haitians began to pile the bodies of victims on the street, which is a need not met by the 'humanitarian' forces, while that can be understood as a protest against the delay in giving succor to the affected population. If MINUSTAH was already a military force that stifled students and workers, now will be even more, taking advantage of this situation to increase their control over the country.
The U.S. has come to command the military occupation
However, since now, besides the suppression of possible social unrest, which is at stake is, especially, who will control Haiti and who will win the reconstruction going forward.
So, along with "humanitarian aid", the Obama government sent a military contingent that suddenly put the U.S. as the country's main military force of occupation, over the heads of MINUSTAH and not worrying about "commitments" of the UN. The Americans have already announced they will send 10 thousand soldiers, 2,200 of which are the famous assault team of U.S. marines.
The United States sent the aircraft carrier "Carl Vissom", loaded with 19 helicopters. The destroyer Higgins is also in the region and should soon arrive 3,500 soldiers from the 82nd. Airborne Division Infantry of the Army.
In the next two weeks should arrive the cruiser "Normandy" and the frigate "Underwood", both equipped with guided missiles. Also will get the amphibious assault ship "Bataan", accompanied by two other ships of the amphibious assault group, the "Fort MacHenry" and "Carter Hall". In other words, the real leaders of the military occupation came and the fragile MINUSTAH was put in the background.
The fact that the main personnel sent by the U.S. to Haiti is composed of specialized soldiers for military combat and not experts in rescue, medical and civil defense, makes it clear that his goal is the military control and not the humanitarian aid to the Haitian people.
Imperialism wants to use the disaster to definitely recolonize Haiti
The U.S. government takes advantage of this crisis to take direct control of Haiti. It's enough to say that they took control of the airport in Port au Prince and directs all operations without consulting Brazil, which so far commanded UN forces in the country.
Given the unilateral U.S. initiative, France, former colonial power which ruled Haiti, also sought to come into play. The suggestion of Sarkozy to hold an international conference on Haiti is the expression of the contention between the various imperialist countries over who will control the country going forward. And this is explicit because neither the Haitian president nor any member of his government has even been invited to this conference.
That is, under the pretext of rebuilding lies a project of transforming the country into a new colony of U.S. imperialism, while the French imperialism also seeks to ensure its part. Even Brazil, which in the past five years has served to drive the imperialist military occupation, is currently trying to get its share in the allocation of business reconstruction and future control of the country.
Préval, president of Haiti, has demonstrated its role as a puppet of the U.S.. His public thanks to the U.S. government for sending troops, cruisers, etc, coming to Haiti to occupy the country is the ultimate expression of a president completely subservient to imperialism, which is still used by Obama to pose himself as a great humanitarian, while he proposes to permanently colonize Haiti.
It is necessary that humanitarian aid is controlled by the popular organizations and workers in Haiti!
In this play of forces and interests, who is in the background are again the Haitian people. MINUSTAH is a military security force and failed completely when it took a true humanitarian aid. The imperialist governments are more concerned with economic and military control in Haiti to turn it into a colony than with the survival of the Haitian people. The government and the Haitian institutions are absent and are more concerned with themselves than with their people. The President of Haiti, Préval, made this clear when he said that the highest priority is to restore communications, especially among government officials, the second is the removal of debris to open the roads and the third is the supply of fuel for government cars (Folha de S. Paulo, 15/1/2010).
Moreover, whether in the hands of imperialist governments or rulers of Haiti, as happened in previous disasters, the more likely is that much of the aidwill be lost amid the corruption and is used to ensure the welfare of the most rich and not the lives of the poor.
To finally get of this situation of this human and social tragedy, workers can only count on themselves, taking their destiny into their own hands. Some reports coming out through the international press show that there is already evidence of this awareness, such as refugee camps self-organized or a rescue operation at the University GCO (Group Collaborateur Olivier) made by the students and their families.
That's because of that we think the only solution is the Haitian people themselves control the humanitarian aid that arrives in the country. Otherwise, all the commotion of people around the world and their efforts to help Haitians will largely be lost or misused.
The Haitian people need water, medicine and food, not guns, marines and repression!
For an international campaign of solidarity promoted by the workers and popular organizations!
If all humanitarian aid is welcome, we believe it is essential that unions, student and popular organizations, human rights organizations independent of governments, raise funds to be delivered directly to Haitian popular organizations. The National Coordination of Struggles (Conlutas) in Brazil, along with other labor organizations, has taken the initiative to have a campaign to collect funds and help to the workers and the Haitian people. It is essential that this initiative is also held by trade unions and popular of all countries, independently of their governments.
The IWL-FI calls all the workers organizations to carry out a campaign of solidarity of the working class around the world for the working class and poor people of Haiti. This campaign should serve primarily to help the Haitian people but also to bring back the tradition of labor internationalism and the fundamental solidarity among the working class around the world.
Finally, the IWL-FI proposes that such assistance should be delivered to the workers and popular organizations in Haiti, for example, Batay Ouvriye (BO), a leading labor organization in Haiti that, since the beginning, stood against the military occupation made by MINUSTAH and who led the recent struggle by raising the minimum wage. It is aiming to deliver this assistance in solidarity with the working class and poor people that we want to organize an international delegation to Haiti.