Few countries show the depravity & barbarism of neoliberal capitalism more starkly than the US & UN in Haiti. The scale of depredation, the racist hatred, the callous indifference to massive human suffering render words inadequate.
Five years since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti: 50 regimes pledged nearly $9 billion for reconstruction. The Red Cross alone collected $486 million in donations for earthquake relief. There are reportedly 10,000 NGOs operating there. Only a tiny percent of the pledged aid was ever delivered ($686 million) but there is still nothing to show for the $1,172 billion that was except a $300 million industrial park housing sweatshops in rural Haiti, where most people don’t live. Under political pressure, the Red Cross finally released an accounting, saying all of the dough had been dispersed & used to provide clean water & sanitation services for over 545,000 people, but they can’t point to a single port-au-potty as proof.
An estimated 400,000 people still live in 123 camps without clean water, garbage removal, without shower or toilet facilities. Only 5,700 permanent houses have been built, mostly by aid groups such as Habitat for Humanity. Only 15,000 homes have been repaired with reconstruction assistance. Only 125,000 transitional one-room plywood houses were built–not earthquake or hurricane-resistant in an area where hurricane season is annual. The Haitian government does not have a housing reconstruction plan or program. Not a dime of US aid went to housing.
During his election campaign in 2010, President Michel Martelly (who stinks from corruption & collaboration with the US) pledged to close all camps within six months but his pledge did not mean relocation to new homes; it meant forcible eviction, often without prior notice. Rather than building & reconstructing public housing, the Haitian government along with private landowners, police & UN peacekeepers are on a rampage to clear the camps at gunpoint, using tear gas grenades & live ammo. Paramilitary groups armed with machetes & clubs have attacked camps, assaulting people & setting camps on fire. With no homes to go to, 60,000 have simply been made homeless.
This is a photo of Cité-Soleil, a section of Port-au-Prince with about half a million people. It’s been there since the late 1950s but when Haiti began implementing US free trade policies & neoliberal agribusiness in the 1980s, over 830,000 rural Haitians were dispossessed, displaced & ended up in urban slums. Like the temporary camps, Cité Soleil has no sewer or sanitation system, no access to potable water, & few health clinics.
The colonial overlords, orchestrated by the two Clintons, considered it more important to set up industrial parks & sweatshops than provide sanitation. What takes your breath away is that Haiti is going through a cholera epidemic brought on by UN troops in 2010. An estimated 700,000 people have contracted cholera & over 8,000 people have died. In 2012, Ban Ki-moon pledged $2.27 billion in UN funds to fight the epidemic but once again there are still not enough clinics to serve the afflicted so what the hell are they doing with the money?
Last Friday, a US federal judge dismissed a class action lawsuit against the UN to hold them accountable for the epidemic. The judge claimed UN immunity against such charges. The suit was brought by the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti to provide compensation to the victims of the epidemic. The decision will be appealed but may not see more justice than Bhopal victims against Dow Chemical.
Impunity pretty much sizes up UN operations in Haiti. They’ve occupied the country since 2004 & are frequently used by the regime against democracy protesters & against “armed gangs” in Cité Soleil. Allegedly these gangs are completely lawless, engaging in murder, rape, kidnapping, looting, shootings which terrorize the area. Since 2007, UN forces regularly flood the area & engage in shootouts with the gangs–not unlike the LAPD in the Black neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Which makes the story worth questioning. In neoliberal parlance, outlaw gangs is code for Blacks or very poor.
Of course not all of the NGOs working in Haiti are washouts like the Red Cross. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) runs a hospital in Cité Soleil & Samaritan’s Purse built a large free cholera treatment center there. What little has been done is mostly by these NGOs, many of them religious groups.
Haiti’s in a hell of a spot & like so many other peoples, has stood alone a long time. It’s long since time for the big battalions of international solidarity to enter the fray & begin to educate about what the US & UN are doing there. It’s just a matter of time before they start doing it here. And if we stand silent, that will be a matter of chickens coming home to roost.
(Photo by Susan Schulman)