[A-List] POLITICS OF THE EARTHQUAKE
james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Tue Jan 19 07:35:29 MST 2010
This from the Haiti Action Committee in California.
POLITICS OF THE EARTHQUAKE
RESPECT THE PEOPLE OF HAITI
By Robert Roth
Haiti Action Committee
In June of 2004, I went to Haiti with two other members of the Haiti Action
Committee. We were there to investigate the effects of the political
earthquake in which the democratically elected government of President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide had been overthrown by a coup orchestrated by the
United States, France and Canada.
What we saw still resonates. Hundreds of families who had had to flee their
homes in the face of repression, thousands of grass roots activists in
prison because of their association with Aristide’s Lavalas movement,
literacy projects and schools destroyed, community-based activists forced
into exile, Haiti returned to elite control in the name of “stability” and
We also saw the beginnings of the United Nations occupation, labeled
“peacekeeping” by UN (Minustah) authorities, but clearly seen by the popular
movement as the beginning of an international take-over of Haiti.
The coup devastated Haiti. It shattered the promises of a truly democratic
period in Haitian history. It interrupted a process of building schools
(more schools were built under Lavalas governments than had been built in
all of Haitian history), establishing health clinics and parks in the
poorest communities, support for literacy efforts among women, , respect for
the indigenous religion of Vodou, and a commitment to the development of
Haitian agriculture in the face of the flooding of Haitian markets by U.S.
Six years later, here we are. Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular political
party in Haiti, has been banned from participating in elections, with the
full support of the United States. The Preval government has tailored its
policies to what the United States demands, rather than to what the people
need. There is a deep fissure between the people and the official
government, a deep gap between the occupied and the occupiers.
Yes, the earthquake was a violent natural disaster, presenting overwhelming
challenges to any government or any aid responders. Yet, it is clear that
this natural disaster—just like that of Hurricane Katrina -- is compounded
by a political failure, the continuation of generations of assaults against
Haiti, and – in particular – a brutal UN/US occupation that has brought to a
grinding halt the promise of the Aristide years.
Now we watch the U.S. gear up for a massive military operation in Haiti,
while people die due to lack of medicine, or starve while food supplies sit
on the airport tarmac. We see the pictures of families digging their
relatives out of the rubble, with no aid in sight despite the presence of
9000 UN troops. We read the usual racist slurs against Haitians, called
“scavengers” or “looters” when, after days of no assistance, they look for
food and water in abandoned homes. We read that the problems of Haiti are
rooted in “their culture and religious beliefs,” rather than in the harsh
realities of colonialism and occupation. We hear CNN reports of a field
hospital being ordered out of a community for “security reasons” by the
United Nations, even in the face of wounded and dying people. And we read
that Doctors Without Borders cargo planes were denied landing space in
Port-au-Prince by U.S. military authorities.
This is a time to respect the resiliency and courage of the Haitian people.
It is a time for aid, not charity, for solidarity not a U.S. military
take-over. And it is a time to return President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to
Please support community-based organizers in Haiti who are working day and
night to get aid to the people. Please contribute to Haiti Emergency Relief
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