January 2013, Week 2


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Mon, 14 Jan 2013 21:47:05 -0500
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 Seismic Imperialism: Haiti's Buried Cry for
 Help on Third Anniversary of Earthquake 
 by Jesse Hagopian
 Published on Saturday, January 12, 2013 by Common

 "When you look at things, you say, 'Hell, almost three
 years later, where is the reconstruction?' If you ask
 what went right and what went wrong, the answer is
 most everything went wrong." -Former Prime Minster of
 Haiti Michele Pierre-Louis

 On the third anniversary of the catastrophic
 earthquake in Haiti that left tens of thousands dead
 and injured, the solemn remembrances have been buried
 under the debris of deception. Barely audible from the
 bottom of this colossal heap, the cry to "build back
 better" has turned into raspy whisper--and the world
 has lost its voice, unable to even vocalize the words
 "relief for Haiti."

 As Nigel Fisher, humanitarian coordinator for United
 Nations aid in Haiti, admitted in an article in the
 New York Times, "humanitarian financing for Haiti has
 all but dried up while needs remain acute."

 Some 300,000 Haitians still live as refugees in camps,
 and more than 60,000 people who live in tents on
 private land have been evicted. Worse, a now nearly
 three-year-old cholera epidemic has sickened hundreds
 of thousands of people and killed over
 7,900.Conditions remain dire for many of those
 displaced by the devastating January 2010 Haiti
 earthquake. (Photo: Amnesty International)

 It is now widely recognized that no earnest effort was
 ever undertaken to meet the needs of millions of
 Haitians languishing in inhuman conditions. As the
 Times reported, describing the fading support for

 While at least $7.5 billion in official aid and
 private contributions have indeed been disbursed--as
 calculated by [special envoy Bill] Clinton's United
 Nations office and by the Times--disbursed does not
 necessarily mean spent. Sometimes, it simply means the
 money has been shifted from one bank account to
 another as projects have gotten bogged down. That is
 the case for nearly half the money for housing.

 The United States, for instance, long ago disbursed
 $65 million to the Haiti Reconstruction Fund for the
 largest housing project planned for this devastated
 city. The fund, which issued a January 2011 news
 release promising houses for 50,000 people, then
 transferred the money to the World Bank, which is
 executing the project. And there, almost all of it
 still sits, with contracts just signed.

 The mainstream media would lead one to think that
 Haiti's primary problem is waning international good
 will. The U.S. has contributed less than half of the
 $1 billion it pledged to Haiti. Canada's International
 "Cooperation" Minister Julian Fantino recently
 announced a freeze on aid to Haiti, fuming, "We are
 not a charity foundation."

 The major problem, however, isn't abandonment--if only
 Haiti was lucky enough to have been deserted by
 "interested" outside parties after the earthquake.

 Instead, the U.S., UN and other international
 financing organizations decided that mere inattention
 was too good for Haiti. The world's most powerful
 governments and institutions have imposed policies
 that have compounded the damage done by the
 earthquake--a man-made economic and social disaster
 that in many ways has caused more damage than the
 natural one that came before it.

 Election Puppeteers and the Disaster of Neoliberalism

 Take, for example, the 2011 Haitian presidential
 election. This might have been an opportunity for
 Haitians to strengthen democracy, electing a leader
 who shared their values and sense of urgency in the
 rebuilding effort. Yet the U.S., along with the UN,
 decided a democratic election would undermine the long
 history of colonial rule in Haiti.

 The U.S. supported Michel Martelly, a former supporter
 of the U.S.-backed dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc"
 Duvalier. Martelly was picked for the job by the U.S.
 because of his close association with army figures who
 carried out the first coup against Haiti's first
 democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand
 Aristide in 1991. Martelly was also a supporter of the
 paramilitary forces that carried out another
 coup--orchestrated by the U.S. under George W.
 Bush--against Aristide in 2004.

 With U.S. and UN support, the Provisional Election
 Commission (CEP) rigged the Haitian election by
 banning 14 political parties from running, including
 the country's most popular party, Aristide's Fanmi

 With the help of the international puppeteers and
 their manipulation of the election, Martelly was able
 to ignore the mass protests against election fraud and
 capture the presidency. As Haiti Liberte journalist
 and editor Kim Ives said in a speech:

 Martelly only won through U.S. intervention into the
 Haitian elections. The first round of the election was
 complete chaos--a total mess in November 2010. In
 fact, all but the three frontrunners--Michel Martelly,
 Mirlande Manigat and Jude Celestin--pulled out of the
 race and called for the annulment of the election.

 Martelly's pledge to make Haiti "business friendly"
 made him the clear choice for U.S. interests. Not
 content with simply leaving Haiti to suffer, the U.S.
 has used Martelly as a pliable figurehead, behind whom
 it can control Haiti's economy.

 The U.S. government and Inter-American Development
 Bank set aside $220 million to finance the new Caracol
 Industrial Park, which was designed to provide
 sweatshop labor for the South Korean-based clothing
 manufacturer SNH Global. Former President Bill Clinton
 joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the
 Caracol inaugural ceremony in the fall of 2012.

 Whenever the Clintons choose to visit sweatshop
 workers in the shiny new Caracol factories, they can
 stay at the Royal Oasis Hotel, with 128 luxurious
 rooms ranging in price from $190 a night for standard
 accommodations to $342 for a full suite. The hotel was
 built with a $2 million equity investment from the
 Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund.

 Of course, the Clintons won't have to worry about
 rubbing elbows with sweaty workers in the lobby, as
 the U.S. has used its diplomatic authority in Haiti to
 keep the minimum wage low. It would take more than a
 month of Caracol wages to spend a single night in the
 cheapest room at the Royal Oasis.

 Isabel Macdonald and Isabeau Doucet's published an
 investigative report for The Nation magazine on the
 Clinton Foundation's first project in Haiti, a
 reconstruction effort in the town of Leogane. The
 reporters discovered that the foundation provided the
 town with trailers from Clayton Homes, the very
 company being sued in the U.S. for providing the
 Federal Emergency Management Agency with
 formaldehyde-tainted trailers following Hurricane
 Katrina in New Orleans.

 As Macdonald and Doucet reported, the trailers were to
 be used as classrooms--but they incubated mold rather
 than scholarship and were plagued with high levels of

 As Judith Seide, a student in Lubert's sixth-grade
 class, explained to the Nation, she and her classmates
 regularly suffer from painful headaches in their new
 Clinton Foundation classroom. Every day, she said, her
 "head hurts, and I feel it spinning and have to stop
 moving, otherwise I'd fall." Her vision goes dark, as
 is the case with her classmate Judel, who sometimes
 can't open his eyes because, said Seide, "he's
 allergic to the heat." Their teacher regularly
 relocates the class outside into the shade of the
 trailer because the swelter inside is insufferable.

 Two out of four of these classrooms provided by the
 Clinton Foundation couldn't be used because
 temperatures frequently exceeded 100 degrees inside
 the trailers. As student Mondialie Cineas said, "The
 class gets so hot. The kids get headaches. And we go
 to the teacher for him to give us painkillers."

 As the New York Times reported of Bill Clinton's
 development initiatives

 Many Haitians never shook the feeling that they were
 an afterthought and that their institutions and
 businesses were being bypassed and undermined ...."We
 called it the second earthquake," said Jean-Yves
 Jason, mayor of Port-au-Prince at the time.

 The UN in the Time of Cholera

 There is perhaps no better example of the cruelty of
 international organizations toward Haiti than the
 cholera epidemic that broke out in the fall of 2010.
 Prior to October 2010, there had not been a reported
 incident of cholera in Haiti in nearly a century,
 according to the UN World Health Organization. Today,
 Partners in Health (PIH) reports, "Cholera remains a
 leading cause of death among young adults in Haiti,
 and cases continue to spike during rainy periods."

 An expert panel of epidemiologists and microbiologists
 appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
 concluded UN peacekeeping troops from Nepal imported
 cholera to Haiti and contaminated the river tributary
 next to their base through a faulty sanitation system.
 "It was like throwing a lighted match into a
 gasoline-filled room," said Dr. Paul S. Keim, a
 microbial geneticist who worked on the study.

 The UN did not intentionally infect Haiti's water
 supply. But it is also true the UN has refused to
 apologize for unleashing cholera [9] on the Haitian
 population, saying the outbreak was due to a
 "confluence" of factors "and was not the fault of, or
 deliberate action of, a group or individual."

 Besides introducing cholera, UN MINUSTAH forces have
 perpetrated mass rape of underage girls, used
 indiscriminate force in densely populated urban areas
 that killed dozens of innocent civilians in raids and
 prioritized security and policing over humanitarian
 aid in the aftermath of the earthquake, a decision
 that cost the lives of countless Haitians who were
 trapped beneath rubble and needed to get water within
 a few days of the quake.

 The UN came to Haiti after Aristide was removed by the
 U.S. Marines in 2004--a clear attempt to give a
 humanitarian gloss to U.S. imperial interests. The UN
 mission is primarily aimed at preventing Aristide's
 Lavalas Fanmi party from returning to power and has
 nothing to do with charitable considerations.

 Had the popular Lavalas agenda of improving national
 infrastructure been allowed to proceed, Haiti would
 have been in a much better position to cope with the
 cholera outbreak. Investing resources in a national
 sewage system could have saved thousands of lives. In
 this way, too, the UN is culpable for the spread of

 The Earthquake and its Aftermath

 Two days before the earthquake, my one-year-old son
 and I accompanied my wife to Haiti where she was
 conducting an HIV training course for her university.
 We thankfully survived the earthquake unharmed and
 soon began helping to care for others who were badly

 We had one emergency medical technician (EMT) at our
 hotel, and when word got out that there was a trained
 medical professional present, people began flocking to
 what became a makeshift medical clinic for hundreds of
 badly injured Haitians. The EMT quickly deputized my
 wife and I as orderlies in his driveway "emergency
 room," where we assisted in whatever way we
 could--ripping sheets to use as bandages, setting
 splints, tying tourniquets--despite our lack of

 On the third day after the earthquake, we drove
 through the streets of downtown Port-au-Prince and
 witnessed hundreds of dead bodies lining the streets
 and people still desperately trying to dig loved ones
 out of the rubble, while the UN and U.S. soldiers were
 deployed to security details to protect against the
 thing that worried them more than rescuing
 people--possible civil strife, which could threaten
 U.S. interests.

 On the fifth day after the quake, we made it to the
 airport. To our horror, we saw planes flying in with
 materiel that that was stacking up on the tarmac. We
 didn't see a single truck carry the supplies out of
 the airport in all the hours we spent waiting for our
 evacuation flight. With thousands of people buried
 under rubble on that critical fifth day after the
 quake, the water on that tarmac could have saved
 thousands of lives.

 Now, there is documentary evidence to back up our
 conclusions about the cynical and self-serving role of
 the U.S. government and the UN and other international
 institutions it dominates.

 In September of 2011, a massive collection of cables
 from the U.S. embassy in Haiti was released by
 WikiLeaks, revealing the U.S. government's role in
 keeping former President Aristide from returning to
 Haiti, how the U.S. tried to suppress the minimum wage
 in Haiti and Washington's attempt to keep Haiti
 purchasing oil from U.S. corporations rather than the
 much cheaper supply from Venezuela, among other

 I was particularly interested in the documents from
 aftermath of the earthquake. While the inclination of
 ordinary people was to do anything they could to
 help--remarkably, half of Americans donated to Haitian
 relief, according to one opinion survey--WikiLeaks
 documents reveal that the U.S. government and its
 disaster capitalist counterparts could think only of

 For example, U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Merten wrote in a
 secret February 1, 2010 "situation report" cable sent
 to Washington: "THE GOLD RUSH IS ON!...As Haiti digs
 out from the earthquake, different [U.S.] companies
 are moving in to sell their concepts, products and

 Innovative concepts like sweat shops. Products such as
 $342 per night hotel rooms. Services such free
 delivery of formaldehyde-laced classrooms.

 In 1852, Fredrick Douglass, the escaped slave and
 famous abolitionist, delivered a speech titled "What
 to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" His words are
 appropriate today to describe our nation's appalling
 treatment of Haiti at its most desperate hour:

 At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing
 argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I
 reach the nation's ear, I would, today, pour out a
 fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach,
 withering sarcasm and stern rebuke. For it is not
 light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle
 shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind,
 and the earthquake....

 Go where you may, search where you will, roam through
 all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world,
 travel through South America, search out every abuse,
 and when you have found the last, lay your facts by
 the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and
 you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity
 and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a

 Jesse Hagopian

 Jesse Hagopian is a public high school teacher in
 Seattle and a founding member of Social Equality
 Educators (SEE). He is a contributing author to
 Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and
 Liberation and 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals
 Who Changed US History (Haymarket Books). Hagopian
 serves on the Board of Directors of Maha-Lilo--"Many
 Hands, Light Load"--a Haiti solidarity organization. He
 can be reached at: [log in to unmask] or you can
 follow him on Twitter.


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