Over 15 weeks post-quake, Haiti’s imperial takeover is proceeding. It began straightaway after the calamity, Haitians victimized by denied aid, appalling repression, and now dispossession of their land, homes, and communities. More on that below.
On April 16, the New York Times carried Reuters and AP reports stating Haiti’s parliament approved the participation of foreign investors to rebuild the country, meaning, of course, seize, occupy, own, control, and colonize it for profit, using Haitians as exploited serfs.
AP stated: ”Haiti’s soon-to-expire parliament has approved the creation of (an Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission – IHRC) co-chaired by former US President Bill Clinton to oversee billions in post-quake reconstruction aid, the Ministry of Communications said Friday (April 16).”
The vote also extended Haiti’s state of emergency for 18 months, leaving the Rene Preval-Jean-Max Bellerive government in charge, effectively a dictatorship like Preval instituted in 1999 by not renewing parliament and ruling by decree pending new elections.
Reuters explained that a March 31 “donors” conference established the IHRC to oversee their investment, Preval to have nominal veto power over commission decisions. In fact, he’ll rubber stamp what Washington and corporate interests dictate, supervised by the World Bank, a longstanding imperial tool.
Preval asked, “Do we lose our sovereignty because of the creation of this commission? I think the answer is no.”
Except for the Aristide years (1991, 1994-96, and 2001-2004), early in Preval’s first term (1996-2001), and its brief 1804 liberation, Haiti lacked sovereignty throughout its history. Post-quake, it has even less, its people more than ever in jeopardy with imperial plans to gravely harm them, perhaps exterminate hundreds of thousands through neglect or other means.
Laying Imperial Plans
On March 10, prior to the March 31 “donors” conference, Preval was received at the White House, held a joint press conference, ignored the plight of his people, yet Obama thanked him for “showing great courage and determination,” when, in fact, he’s been largely invisible, and to date has done nothing to engage Haitians directly, including in their makeshift camps the way Jean-Bertrand Aristide would have done straightaway, with a hands-on approach for long hours daily.
Preval prefers White House photo-ops in deference to power and privilege, increasing — not alleviating — his peoples’ suffering.
The Predators Ball: Nations Gather in New York for Their Share
The web site www.haiticonference.org announced the “International Donors’ Conference Toward a New Future for Haiti” explaining: ”The United States and the United Nations (UN), in cooperation with the Government of Haiti, and with the support Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, and Spain co-hosted” the conference and received “over US $5 billion pledged for Haiti’s recovery” — around $1 billion promised by Washington, less than the EU’s $1.7 billion and Venezuela’s $1.3 billion. In total, however, it’s a fraction of what Haitians need, and “redevelopment” won’t reach them as it’s earmarked for profit-making ventures, not poverty-stricken neighborhoods and essential infrastructure to support them.
A recovery and development roadmap outlined short and longer-term priorities, with participating countries lining up for their take, the lion’s share, of course, for America, then France and Canada, and what they have in mind is more sweatshops, gentrified elite areas, expanded tourism, free trade zones, and the grand prize — exploiting Haiti’s resources, including what’s believed to be abundant untapped oil reserves, what US oil giants made plans for decades ago. They intend deep water ports, refineries, and other facilities to fully exploit the treasure, not mentioned in major media reports, now largely silent on Haiti and its long-suffering people.
Ahead of the conference on March 27, a New York Times editorial headlined, “Making Haiti Whole,” endorsed it, saying: It marks “the beginning of the long, slow birth of a new Haiti. Representative of the Haitian government, the United States and other nations and aid organizations will be discussing large, ambitious, farsighted plans,” far different ones from what The Times suggests.
On April 28, Reuters headlined, “Lawmakers agree on trade bill to help Haiti,” saying: “Top US lawmakers said on Wednesday they have reached a bipartisan deal to help Haiti rebuild its earthquake-shattered economy by opening the US market to more Haitian clothing and textiles” — to be produced in rebuilt sweatshops, where workers are treated like slaves, not human beings. They pay starvation wages, no benefits, and no overtime for up to 70 hours a week in harsh or hazardous environments. They’re inhumane workplaces, dimly lit in stifling heat, with no way to organize for redress or avoid being fired if complain.
Yet according to Congressman Charles Rangel (representing his black Harlem constituents): ”The Haitian garment sector, Haiti’s flagship industry, was making important strides prior to the earthquake and helping the country’s economy establish a stable foothold. With this legislation, we will help to get the garment sector and Haiti’s economy back on that critical trajectory,” mindless of how it affects exploited workers.
Mindless also of haitian-truth.org‘s April 27 report headlined, “Preval Instigated Fire rips through major Haitian market,” saying: “A large incendiary fire” destroyed much of Port-au-Prince’s main public market, Marche du Port, affecting hundreds of stalls and two surrounding blocks. UN Blue Helmets (MINUSTAH) were notably absent. Firefighters had inadequate resources, and shopkeepers rushed to save what they could.
One seller, Pierre Elian, said: “The front of the market place is already burned down. We don’t know if the area where we kept our merchandise is also burning, because they won’t let us go near it.”
Merchants blamed Preval-controlled instigators, saying “recognized gang members were seen pouring gasoline over material to” ignite the blaze — as “political pressure against the poor” who need the food and merchandise to survive.
Patrick Servius, who lost his clothing business, said: “Preval is angry with us for our refusal to sell relief supplies in our places. These are (donated goods) for the earthquake victims, not for Preval’s profits. Now we pay for our patriotism.”
They’ll soon know what else Preval has in mind. More on that below.
The Next Shoe to Drop: Forced Relocations
On April 7, the Haiti Response Coalition (HRC, a network of urban and rural civil society groups) issued an alert saying: An encampment of 11,000 Haitians on Saint Louis de Gonzague school land face forced displacement. They’ve “been offered a plot of land that will hold 500 in a different location. No regard has been given to the fact that the majority of the 11,000 will end up in the street,” or that mass forced relocations are coming next.
On April 12, AFP headlined, “Haiti evacuates quake victims camp, faces critics,” saying: “… authorities ramped up moves to forcibly evacuate dozens of tent cities across the capital…. After evicting some 7,000 people at the weekend (from the national stadium), the government began the forced removal of a further 10,000″ from camps around the city, early steps preceding mass numbers to follow, ahead of preparing the area for redevelopment.
One camp member said he was given a week to leave for Tabarre Issa, a UN camp where there are “No toilets, no showers… there’s nothing there.”
On April 11, Reuters reported that “Haiti starts moving quake victims to safer refuge,” saying: “Haiti’s government and foreign aid agencies started an operation… to move thousands of earthquake survivors,” on the pretext of sending them to safer areas ahead of seasonal rains that cause flooding.
On April 29, Los Angeles Times writer Ken Ellingwood headlined, “Tensions rise over Haiti tent camps,” saying: Tensions are “playing out at stadiums, in churchyards and factory lots, almost anywhere there is enough land to pitch a tent. (Authorities face) the tricky task of balancing the needs of more than a million homeless with the urge of many others to resume a more normal life,” ignoring the real “urge” for imperial plunder.
Haiti’s constitution recognizes the rights of all citizens to “decent housing, education, food and social security.”
The “United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement… reflect and are consistent with international human rights law and international humanitarian law.” They:
– assure “full equality, the same rights and freedoms under international and domestic law as do other persons in their country. They shall not be discriminated against in the enjoyment of any rights and freedoms on the ground that they are internally displaced;
– shall be observed by all authorities….;
– (assure) protection and humanitarian assistance from these authorities….without discrimination of any kind….;
– (guarantee) “the right to be protected against forcible return to or resettlement in any place where their life, safety, liberty, and/or health would be at risk,” among other provisions, 30 in all recognizing the needs of displaced people when they’re most vulnerable.
TransArica Forum Alert
On April 12, Transafricaforum.org issued a memorandum headlined “Forced IDP Relocations,” saying: “Throughout our network of contacts (on the ground in Haiti), we received a report of a forceful removal of an IDP camp in Caradeux Delas 75, Port-au-Prince. The exact number affected isn’t yet known….all reported a complete lack of latrines… no water sources… and no food distributions.
The Refugee Camp community members reported that they did not receive warning before the large Conseil Nationale Equipements (CNE) bulldozers and graters came to their community with Haitian National Police escorts late on Sunday evening (April 4)… threaten(ing) the families with violence if they did not leave their home immediately.”
Batons were used, firearms discharged in the air, and their homes were destroyed, by officers, then bulldozers. The process continued for three days and nights. Where those displaced were sent isn’t known. The only answer given was they’re “now living on the streets.”
Around 1.2 million Haitians remain in makeshift tent cities throughout Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas with little aid or concern for their welfare or safety. Now in preparation for redevelopment, hundreds of thousands, perhaps all, will be ordered to move or be forcibly displaced to even grimmer locations, on their own, with little beyond their own ingenuity to survive.
This is Washington’s imperial plan, being implemented for exploitation and plunder. This writer’s previous article explained Haiti is no stranger to adversity and anguish, having endured over 500 years of oppression, slavery, despotism, colonization, reparations, embargoes, sanctions, extreme poverty, starvation, unrepayable debt, and calamities like the January 12 quake killing around 300,000, destroying their homes and belongings, and leaving them vulnerable to imperial plunder of their land, resources and lives — again, on their own, out of luck, and out of major media focus that ignores the greater disaster awaiting them, and the trashing of their human rights and freedoms.