Socialist Worker

Imperialist intervention and capitalism lie behind Haiti's nightmare

Issue No. 2184

Tens of thousands of people in Haiti are dead and hundreds of thousands more wounded or homeless after the earthquake that tore through the country on Tuesday.

People across the world will feel deep sympathy for those who have lost so much, and a great desire to help.

Earthquakes are natural events: but the scale of the suffering depends on where they happen and how much assistance the victims receive.

The world’s great powers have been criminally slow to respond. They have dragged their feet while huge numbers of people are left without food or clean water and have to sleep in the open.

The US can always get a cruise missile to its target anywhere in the world. There is never a lack of money for a military “surge”. But there’s always delay and lack of resources when poor people suffer.

Haitians will not get even 1 percent of the trillions handed out to the bankers to shore up the financial system.

And even now while Haitians face such pain, the millionaire tourists are still enjoying luxury in the Dominican Republic that shares the same island as Haiti.

By Friday sections of the starving and thirsty population of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince were building barricade of bodies in protest at the lack of aid.

The destruction in Haiti is so serious because of its extreme poverty, and because it has suffered from two centuries of imperialist intervention.

Sixty percent of the housing in Port-au-Prince was sub-standard. Even before the earthquake prices for rice, beans, water, cooking oil and gas had skyrocketed to the point where many Haitians simply cannot afford to eat. The Associated Press recently ran an article reporting that many Haitians were now eating “mud cookies.”

Over half the population survive on less than $1 a day.

This is all the legacy of capitalism and imperialism.

In the eighteenth century thousands of slaves were transported to Haiti by the European powers. The great slave revolts under Toussaint L’Ouverture not only defeated the slave-owners and three European armies but also struck a magnificent blow against the whole slave system.

The revolt frightened and enraged the rich everywhere – and still does. While most people have reacted to the earthquake by trying to help, the racist US evangelist Pat Robertson said that Haitians had “sworn a pact to the devil” when they rose up against slavery.

Although freed from slavery, Haiti was forced by military threats to pay compensation to France of 150 million francs (the equivalent of $25 billion today) – which it did not finally finish paying until 1947.

In 1915, the US invaded Haiti to police debt repayments and to protect US firms. The troops stayed until 1934, running Haiti as a virtual colony.

The US then backed the brutal Duvalier dictatorships from 1957 on the basis that they represented a barrier against Communism.

In 1986, a massive uprising overthrew “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who fled the country. But Western interference continued.

Haitians elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide to be president after he promised land reform, better housing and improved wages but the US then backed a coup that removed him from office.

US president Bill Clinton eventually restored Aristide – but only on the condition that he implement the US neoliberal plan – which Haitians called the 'plan of death.'

When Aristide was slow to do his master’s will, the US conspired with Haiti’s rich to drive out Aristide again.

US and then UN troops have occupied the country ever since.

We say:

  • Rush food, shelter and other aid to Haiti now
  • No to the use of aid as a political weapon to impose the US’s will

  • End the neoliberal policies that squeeze Haiti’s poor
  • End the occupation of Haiti by foreign forces

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Fri 15 Jan 2010, 16:26 GMT
Issue No. 2184
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.