The earthquake that flattened Haiti’s capital and brought a new calamity to millions of people in that heroic but impoverished country has awakened calls for solidarity and aid from the vast majority of the world’s people. The number one priority is to provide food, drinkable water and emergency medical care to the approximately 3 million Haitians affected by the disaster to try to limit the deaths, injuries and illnesses to the people.
All reports from Port-au-Prince, located 14 miles from the epicenter of the devastating 7.3 earthquake and whose un-reinforced buildings nearly all collapsed, are that casualties are already in the tens of thousands. Even the main hospital and the national palace have collapsed, as has the hotel housing the U.N. occupation force. One Haitian minister said he expected 100,000 deaths.
Anyone feeling solidarity with fellow humans is moved by this tragedy. One is especially moved if aware of the world’s debt to the Haitian people for their historic contribution: they carried out a successful slave rebellion and liberated their island from French colonialism.
We know that many of our readers want to offer their own personal aid to show solidarity with Haiti. There will be a myriad of private charities asking donations for aid to Haiti. Many of the most powerful charities, like the Red Cross, are closely tied to the imperialist establishment that has no desire to promote Haitian sovereignty.
We would suggest that those who wish to support the sovereignty of Haiti as well as get aid directly to the Haitian people donate to Fanmi Lavalas. This was recommended at a Jan. 13 Boston meeting hosted by the mostly Haitian-origin Steelworkers Local 8751 (School Bus Drivers), local Haitian organizations and others.
Fanmi Lavalas is the party associated with former Haitian President Bertrand Aristide, the most popular of recent Haitian leaders who was twice removed by military coups supported by the U.S. In the last instance, in February 2004, Aristide was expelled from the country by U.S. troops and agents in collaboration with French and Canadian imperialism.
Governments will provide the bulk of aid to Haiti. Some of these governments — mainly the old colonial powers and U.S. imperialism — will attempt to use the disaster as a way to increase their own dominance over the Haitians, even as others freely aid in solidarity.
It was predictable that the U.S. government, while delaying any actual delivery of aid, put its military foot forward. Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said that the U.S. would send the Aircraft Carrier Carl Vinson along with the U.S. Bataan, an amphibian ship with an expeditionary unit of 2,000 Marines to police the Haitians in Port-au-Prince, claiming that security was “a serious concern.” (New York Times blog, Jan. 13)
In addition, while much of the U.S. media reports alleged looting, few mention that many Haitians barely survive from day to day and breaking into a shop may be the only way they are able to obtain food. No one can forget how the U.S. federal and local governments handled the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. There police, National Guard, army and mercenary guards from Blackwater focused on control and repression, not on aid and rescue.
In contrast Socialist Cuba, with the experience of sending medical brigades to meet emergencies in Pakistan, Bolivia, China, Guatemala and Indonesia, sent a team of 403 people to Haiti, 344 of them health care workers. On the first day they treated 800 Haitians and performed 19 surgical interventions. (TeleSur, Jan. 14) Cuba already had hundreds of medical doctors providing care in the Haitian countryside and provincial towns.
Chile, Nicaragua, Spain, Guatemala, France, Mexico and Russia all rushed aid, mostly food and water, to Haiti on Jan. 13, while the U.S. was still discussing how the Marines would land. China sent a 60-member search-and-rescue team with sniffer dogs.
Venezuela immediately sent 19 doctors and 10 firefighters who specialize in search and rescue along with 20 other experts and material aid. The Bolivarian government of Venezuela has always recognized South America’s debt to Haiti, which in the 1820s gave the aid to Simón Bolívar he needed to help free some of the South American countries from rule by Spain.
French imperialism especially — and the U.S. too — owes a great portion of its early wealth and subsequent development to its looting of the natural resources and super-exploiting the labor of Haiti, though they both refuse to acknowledge the reparations they owe to the Haitian people for that and for their continued role in preventing Haiti’s development.
The progressive movement in the U.S., while joining in providing aid and solidarity to the Haitian people, should also demand that the U.S. government stop deporting Haitians, allow the return of Aristide and provide reparations so the new Haitian government can establish a functioning system and stop military intervention and subversion of Haiti.
The Bail Out the People Movement has the right idea with its demand to use the $18 billion Wall Street now wants to pay its undeserving executive bankers in bonuses as a down payment on reparations to Haiti. It’s hard to imagine a similar transfer of wealth that could be more effective in establishing justice.