Many will wonder what is going on in Haiti with so many consecutive tragedies. The question makes sense: after the earthquake there came the hurricanes and now the cholera has already killed over two thousand people. The answer is tough: this has nothing to do with nature but a lot to do with the social organisation of the country or – to be more precise – with the brutal imperialist exploitation imposed on Haiti.
The poorest country in America is a kind of great laboratory for the great capital. An experiment of wild exploitation is being applied there in conditions similar to those of slavery, people work for multinationals textile mills. Producing for the USA market (in a country twenty times nearer than China), with the third lowest salary on this planet while neither the State nor the bourgeoisie guarantee any of the living standards to the proletariat (nourishment, housing, health and education) that have been achieved elsewhere in the XIX and XX centuries. That is why Haiti has none of the protections against earthquakes, hurricanes or diseases such as cholera long ago eradicated from most of the other countries in the world. This is not a question of lack of foresight, nor a “divine curse” meant to make Haitian people pay for their belief in voodoo, as protestant sects in the country say.
It is an intentional option of the great Capital what drives Haiti to barbarism. If it works, it will be reproduced in other parts of the world. It will also drive workers in the entire continent towards much lower standards not only of wages but also of living standards. The multinationals involved (Levi’s, Gap, Wrangler and others) produce in the duty-free zones. Next to the industrial region there are great favelas (like Cite Soleil), the greatest in Haiti, and now the campsites of the earthquake helpless people. Plenty of cheap, desperate labour is the basic condition to accept wages of approximately $70 a month.
Textile factories demand little technological skill from their workforce so investing in education and technical skills is not necessary. Companies do not pay wages that can stand the cost of reproduction of labour: Haitians can die young, as slaves do, for there is a plentiful of cheap workforce, easily substituted. There are no such things as holidays, thirteenth salary, retirement fund or any other achievement attained by the proletariat during the last centuries. Workers live next to the factories so they can go to work on foot. These neighbourhoods have no sewers or drinking water, not to mention electricity.
All this happens under the ideological alibi of “humanitarian action”, of “help the poor Haitians”. The great leader is the former American President, Bill Clinton, who leads the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (CIRH) together with the first minister of that country. Clinton wields more power than the president or the Minustah. His slogan for Haiti, “create jobs” is materialised in the creation of forty duty-free areas that are now being implemented. Not even the earthquake shook the Clinton Plan. Hundreds of foreign NGOs are part of this plan, doing auxiliary tasks not taken over by the Haitian state. From time to time, when another tragedy overwhelms the country, media show poverty as if it were just another product of nature and not the consequence of capitalist exploitation.
Neo-colonial ideology justifies all this. The message broadcasted by the media and the governments is that military occupation is necessary and so are these plans of aid because otherwise Haitians would lead their country to a total chaos for they hare not fit to self-govern. This is just blatant lies. It is merely the reproduction of the colonial and slave driver ideology. In those days, slavery used to be embellished saying the Negroes were not fit to do anything but submit themselves to the whites.
Now they wish to erase the historic memory of late XVIII and early XIX centuries, when the Haitian people fought one of the most spectacular revolutions of all times; the only triumphant slave revolution in history and the first anti-colonial revolution in America. The Haitians defeated all the dominating armies of those days, including that of Spain, England and the French one led by Napoleon.
The names of Toussaint Louverture and Dessalines (leaders of the revolution) are to be seen in all squares and monuments in the country. Haitian Negro people, so exploited and oppressed, have a history they are very proud of even today. The constant foreign military occupations evidence that imperialism fears that one day this memory is revived.
Scars of the earthquake
The earthquake killed 250 000 people and left 1.6 million homeless. These are gigantic numbers for any country, let alone for Haiti with 10 million inhabitants. It is as if 1.8 million people had died in the Greater Sao Paulo and 5 million in the entire Brazil.
This was so because there was no anti-earthquake protection in the city and houses had been built with very low quality material. Furthermore, the rescue operations were a tremendous failure.
Haitians state that soldiers were not busy trying to save Haitians buried in the debris and only took care of military bases, hotels and key points of the city. A great media operation transformed the very few salvage operations into world-wide advertisements meant to justify the importance of the “international aid”. Only 150 people were rescued alive from under the debris: a tremendous failure.
Actually, the operation help was a cover-up for the military occupation, this time by American troops. In 2004, the country was occupied by UN troops commanded by the Brazilian armed forces. After the earthquake the government of the USA resumed their military hegemony even if formally Brazilian command were still in charge.
The priority has never been to help Haitian people but only to ensure the military occupation and the economic exploitation of the country. The week after the earthquake, textile factories were the first to start working again in Haiti while the walls were badly damaged and there was constant danger of collapse. Business is business.
The earthquake left deep scars in the country. The most evident ones are in the campsites of Port-au-Prince, covering all the squares of the city, now permanent favelas. It is there, in those barracks, with no water o sewers, where most of the population of the capital of the country lives.
Cholera was brought by the Minustah
It has now been proved that the Minustah brought the cholera to the country. Even the Haitian Health ministry recommended an enquiry into the origin of the epidemic by a French specialist, Renaud Piarroux. The report confirmed that it was the Nepalese soldiers on the UN mission (the Mirabelais Base in the centre of the country) who introduced the cholera bacteria into Haiti. Their attitude was typical for occupation troops, for whom the lives of occupied nations are worth nothing. Sick soldiers evacuated their lees into the Artibonite River that crosses the entire north of the country. For a nation that has no water supply network, a river is the only source of life. That is where you drink from, you fish, you bathe, and you wash your clothes. Polluting the Artibonite was a crime Haitians will not forget.
Cholera is a typical disease of poverty. It is transmitted by the ingestion of water or food pouted by the lees of the sick people. It was eradicated from European countries in the early XX century. As epidemic it only exists in countries and regions lacking proper sewers. Haiti, especially after the earthquake, is a “paradise” for this disease. Millions of people piled up in camps, without water and drainage. The result so far is over a hundred thousand sick people and over 2 thousand dead.
Once again there was no response from either the Haitian government or the occupation troops. Stefano Zanini, coordinator of the NGO Doctors Without Borders commented, “We take care of 60% of the cases. Another 30% were treated by Cuban cooperation. Now, here goes my question, how come that only two institutions are in charge of 90% of the epidemic?” The answer to this question is the same as in the case of the earthquake: there has been no serious plan to fight against the cholera because the death of tens of thousands Haitians does not modify the Clinton plan. There will always be a surplus of other tens of thousands willing to work for seventy dollars a month. It is not necessary to save workforce in Haiti as it was not necessary to do so in the days of slavery. Others are available without so much spending.
Epidemics spread fast or slowly according to natural factors. Reports have been received that the epidemic in Haiti is now relenting. If that is so, this has nothing to do with the response from Haitian government or from assistance from the occupation forces; that never existed.
A spark or rebellion
The Minustah played no life saving role either after the earthquake or now during the epidemic of cholera. There have been no reports of any school, hospital or sewer built by the “humanitarian” occupation forces. These undeniable facts can be explained: The role of the troops is not helping people. This is merely an ideology spread to conceal the real role of the Minustah, which is to ensure the order for the implementation of the economic plan by the multinationals. That is why they repressed the “hunger revolt” in March 2008, the strike of the textile workers, in 2009, and students’ demonstrations in that same year. That is also why they arrested hungry people who invaded supermarkets seeking food after the earthquake.
A spark of revolt spread throughout the country when news leaked out that it was the Nepalese soldiers who brought cholera to Haiti. Strong demonstrations in Le Cap (second city in Haiti) were severely repressed by the troops; two people were killed.
Two days later, on November 18th, a demonstration against the cholera was also repressed in Port-au-Prince. Demonstrators challenged the police and made them recoil. The Minustah soldiers came, they dissolved the rally and chased the activists, who sought haven at a university building but it was also invaded by the soldiers. Then the demonstrators sought refuge in a campsite in front of the president’s palace (one of the largest in the country). The troops invaded the camp. Then a symbolic feat took place: part of the campsite arose and challenged the Minustah soldiers. The Haitians wielded branches of trees picked from the streets. According to the voodoo cult, this means that the struggle is to the bitter end. The soldiers fled.
There was something symbolic in all this. The Haitians, armed with branches, drove back soldiers armed to the teeth. A spark of the 1804 revolution revived in the streets of Port-au- Prince. The soldiers were not seen out in the street till the end of the day. These riots had no continuity but they made it evident that there is generalised repudiation of the Minustah and of the government. Haiti may explode at any moment.
Electoral fraud guaranteed by the Minustah
The military occupation has turned the elections into a farce. The real power is not with the presidency of the republic but in the foreign headquarters and embassies; to make it more precise, in the embassy of the USA and Brazil. The current president, René Preval is nothing but a puppet, a dummy who does what he is told to do.
The elections are meant to channel the enormous dissatisfaction of the population and to replace Preval by a less worn out government. There are nineteen candidates, but none of them is explicitly against the presence of the troops. The enrolment of the candidates responds to the same electoral logic as in a dictatorship: only for those who are ready to act within the limits defined by those who wield power. Even accepting the occupation, the candidature of Wycleff Jean (a hip hop singer and one of the most famous artists in the country) was rejected; Preval feared he might win the elections.
The government is managing the elections in such a way as to ensure that their favourite, Jude Celestin, current director of a state managed institution for the reconstruction of the country should win. Celestin is overtly corrupt and is accused of swindling 60 million dollars donated by France.
The first turn, held on 28ty November, was a gigantic fraud. In the first place, only 23% of the electorate voted, which proves that the population have not faith at all in these elections. According to the official result, Mirlande Mangat (wife of a formerly overthrown president, Leslie Manigat) and Jude Celestin pass to the second turn. It is said that Michel Merely, another hip hop singer, would have obtained more votes than the government’s candidate. Demonstrations and barricades occurred immediately. The Minustah troops repressed Martley’s defenders and imposed the fraud.
The second turn has been scheduled for the 16th January. The logic imposed so far shows that there will be a new fraud to impose the government’s candidate once more. The country may burst out once more. But if Manigat, the candidate of the opposition is finally elected and takes over, nothing will change in Haiti. As it is all about choosing a puppet, with real power established somewhere else, the country will go on as usual.
It is enough to remember that Preval himself was a victim of a fraud when he won the elections. As he was the candidate of Aristides (former President toppled by the USA), the American Embassy and the Minustah let the racket run to impose a second turn and try to defeat him there. A gigantic mobilisation impeded the deception.
But the election of Preval as part of all the limitations imposed by the military occupation proved to be very inadequate: once elected, the president negotiated with the USA embassy and became another symbol of the occupation. Manigat is likely to repeat the history if the government does not manage to impose Celestin by means of fraud.
The truth has come out to light
The gigantic campaign in the media to justify the occupation of Haiti has convinced most of the workers and young people of the world that this “humanitarian action” is necessary. However, as soon as the mobilisations of Haitians against the troops appear on the screen of the TV sets across the world, all this begins to crumble down. This is what may start happening from now on.
The truth about Minustah has been concealed so far. The troops did not have any humanitarian role before, during of after the earthquake. During the cholera epidemic it was much worse. Their role was outstanding… they took the cholera to Haiti. Now the parade of horrors was completed. “Humanitarian” troops impose electoral fraud and repress the Haitians who protest against that.
It is time to transform the solidarity for Haiti into a great campaign for the immediate withdrawal of the Minustah troops from the country. Haiti does not need foreign soldiers. Haiti needs doctors, nurses, paramedic and medicines.