Americans Charged with Child Trafficking in Haiti

Detained Americans say they had good intentions in Haiti (CNN)

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) — Ten Americans charged with trafficking in Haiti defended their plan to bus 33 children into the Dominican Republic, saying their intention was to get them to a temporary shelter.

“We came into Haiti to help those that really had no other source of help,” said Laura Silsby, a member of the group. “We are trusting the truth will be revealed, and we are praying for that.”

The five men and five women are from New Life Children’s Refuge, an Idaho-based charity. They said they were trying to move the children from Port-au-Prince into the Dominican Republic.

According to the group, the children did not have any passports. Government approval is needed for any Haitian children to leave the country.

A senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of the case said there was no indication of child trafficking.

Full coverage

“It appears their orphanage was damaged and they were moving the children to their facility in the [Dominican Republic] but failed to obtain exit visas from Haiti,” said the official who was not authorized to speak on the record.

The Rev. Clint Henry, the senior pastor with the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, told CNN affiliate KIVI that the 10 are part of a group working to establish an orphanage in the Dominican Republic for the youngest victims of the January 12 earthquake that devastated much of the country.

Henry said some of the children had suffered physical injuries and need medical assistance.

“Our team was falsely arrested today, and we are doing everything we can from this end to clear up the misunderstanding that has occurred in Port-au-Prince,” a statement on the church’s Web site said Saturday night.

The statement said the children were being rescued from “one or more orphanages” that had been damaged in the quake.

Jeanne Bernard-Pierre, general director for Haiti’s Institute of Social Welfare, said the children will be interviewed in the coming days to determine whether they have any living relatives.

“When they arrived, some of the children were crying and saying, ‘I want to see my parents,'” Bernard-Pierre said.

She said the government’s ministry of social affairs will attempt to reunite the children with any family members and provide psychological assistance.

But the group said it believed the children were orphaned, and it was going to house them in a converted hotel in the Dominican Republic. Officials in the country had agreed to allow them in without the required paperwork, Silsby said.

U.S. embassy officials visited the Americans over the weekend at a jail near the airport in Port-au-Prince, where they are being detained. The group said it was being treated well, and was holding on to its faith.

“God is our provider and God gives us strength and comfort,” said group member Carla Thompson. “We are having a great time. We have our Bibles and we are OK.”

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The kidnapping of Haiti

The Kidnapping of Haiti by John Pilger (www.johnpilger.com)

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article24519.htm

The theft of Haiti has been swift and crude. On 22 January, the United States secured “formal approval” from the United Nations to take over all air and sea ports in Haiti , and to “secure” roads. No Haitian signed the agreement, which has no basis in law. Power rules in an American naval blockade and the arrival of 13,000 marines, special forces, spooks and mercenaries, none with humanitarian relief training.

The airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince , is now an American military base and relief flights have been re-routed to the Dominican Republic . All flights stopped for three hours for the arrival of Hillary Clinton. Critically injured Haitians waited unaided as 800 American residents in Haiti were fed, watered and evacuated. Six days passed before the US Air Force dropped bottled water to people suffering thirst and dehydration.

The first TV reports played a critical role, giving the impression of widespread criminal mayhem. Matt Frei, the BBC reporter dispatched from Washington , seemed on the point of hyperventilation as he brayed about the “violence” and need for “security”. In spite of the demonstrable dignity of the earthquake victims, and evidence of citizens’ groups toiling unaided to rescue people, and even an American general’s assessment that the violence in Haiti was considerably less than before the earthquake, Frei claimed that “looting is the only industry” and “the dignity of Haiti’s past is long forgotten.” Thus, a history of unerring US violence and exploitation in Haiti was consigned to the victims. “There’s no doubt,” reported Frei in the aftermath of America ’s bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003, “that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now to the Middle East … is now increasingly tied up with military power.”

In a sense, he was right. Never before in so-called peacetime have human relations been as militarised by rapacious power. Never before has an American president subordinated his government to the military establishment of his discredited predecessor, as Barack Obama has done. In pursuing George W. Bush’s policy of war and domination, Obama has sought from Congress an unprecedented military budget in excess of $700 billion. He has become, in effect, the spokesman for a military coup

For the people of Haiti the implications are clear, if grotesque. With US troops in control of their country, Obama has appointed George W. Bush to the “relief effort”: a parody surely lifted from Graham Greene’s The Comedians, set in Papa Doc’s Haiti . As president, Bush’s relief effort following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 amounted to an ethnic cleansing of many of New Orleans ’ black population. In 2004, he ordered the kidnapping of the democratically-elected prime minister of Haiti , Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and exiled him in Africa . The popular Aristide had had the temerity to legislate modest reforms, such as a minimum wage for those who toil in Haiti ’s sweatshops.

When I was last in Haiti , I watched very young girls stooped in front of whirring, hissing, binding machines at the Port-au-Prince Superior Baseball Plant. Many had swollen eyes and lacerated arms. I produced a camera and was thrown out. Haiti is where America makes the equipment for its hallowed national game, for next to nothing. Haiti is where Walt Disney contractors make Mickey Mouse pjamas, for next to nothing. The US controls Haiti ’s sugar, bauxite and sisal. Rice-growing was replaced by imported American rice, driving people into the cities and towns and jerry-built housing. Year after year, Haiti was invaded by US marines, infamous for atrocities that have been their specialty from the Philippines to Afghanistan .
 
Bill Clinton is another comedian, having got himself appointed the UN’s man in Haiti . Once fawned upon by the BBC as “Mr. Nice Guy … bringing democracy back to a sad and troubled land”, Clinton is Haiti ’s most notorious privateer, demanding de-regulation of the economy for the benefit of the sweatshop barons. Lately, he has been promoting a $55m deal to turn the north of Haiti into an American-annexed “tourist playground”.

Not for tourists is the US building its fifth biggest embassy in Port-au-Prince . Oil was found in Haiti ’s waters decades ago and the US has kept it in reserve until the Middle East begins to run dry. More urgently, an occupied Haiti has a strategic importance in Washington ’s “rollback” plans for Latin America . The goal is the overthrow of the popular democracies in Venezuela , Bolivia and Ecuador , control of Venezuela ’s abundant oil reserves and sabotage of the growing regional cooperation that has given millions their first taste of an economic and social justice long denied by US-sponsored regimes.

The first rollback success came last year with the coup against President Jose Manuel Zelaya in Honduras who also dared advocate a minimum wage and that the rich pay tax. Obama’s secret support for the illegal regime carries a clear warning to vulnerable governments in central America. Last October, the regime in Colombia , long bankrolled by Washington and supported by death squads, handed the US seven military bases to, according to US air force documents, “combat anti-US governments in the region”.

Media propaganda has laid the ground for what may well be Obama’s next war. On 14 December, researchers at the University of West England published first findings of a ten-year study of the BBC’s reporting of Venezuela . Of 304 BBC reports, only three mentioned any of the historic reforms of the Chavez government, while the majority denigrated Chavez’s extraordinary democratic record, at one point comparing him to Hitler.

Such distortion and its attendant servitude to western power are rife across the Anglo-American corporate media. People who struggle for a better life, or for life itself, from Venezuela to Honduras to Haiti , deserve our support.’

Professor Eddie Glaude On historical links between Haitians and African-Americans

Eddie Glaude

Eddie Glaude, William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies, Department of Religion, and Chair, Center for African American Studies  at Princeton University, talks about  the historical links between Haitians and African-Americans. Click on the link below to listen to the dialogue:

http://www.tavissmileyradio.com/guests10/012910/EddieGlaude.html

Lolo Beaubrun on NPR: A Voice Of Hope In Haiti

Renown musicians of Boukman Eksperyans, Lolo Beaubrun , and Manze were  interviewed on Morning Edition of NPR. Click on the links below to listen and read.

http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=123065638&m=123098918

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123065638

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President Thabo Mbeki on Haiti

Thabo Mbeki on Haiti  (Time Lives)

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“The Big Read: It was difficult to hold back the tears as a deluge of news told of the catastrophe visited on the people of Haiti by the earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince on January 12. 

ON REFLECTION: Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Former president Thabo Mbeki says the people of Haiti are an inspiring example of human resilience and dedication to the cause of freedom, and the rest of the world must do whatever it takes to help them overcome this disaster.
” A bond of friendship has developed between us and the poor of Haiti ” Jacob Zuma

After the tragedies in Asia resulting from the Indonesia tsunami in 2004 and from Hurricane Katrina in the US city of New Orleans in 2005, it was possible to imagine that we could respond to future natural calamities with a certain degree of stoicism.

But when the full picture began to emerge about the destruction in Haiti, this proved to be little more than a delusion born of the wish to limit the pain all of us feel when merciless nature strikes suddenly, brutally claiming the lives of many helpless fellow human beings.

It was not necessary for us to see the human limbs protruding from under the rubble or to see lifeless bodies lying in the streets to know the terrible cost the earthquake had imposed on thousands of Haitians.

The heaps of bricks and mortar that had been houses necessarily invoked in the mind’s eye terrifying images of crushed bodies, of people still alive under the walls that had collapsed, but condemned to die slowly because help would not reach them on time, of human blood flowing into the canyons that had opened when the earth itself became an enemy of the Haitian humanity.

Those images in the mind, even without confirmation by the graphic television footage, were enough to produce the tears that are impossible to hold back.

But the tears also came because this tragedy engulfed this particular country – Haiti!

The fact of our birth into the South Africa that was, placed Haiti in a special place in our hearts and minds. This is because it has the indestructible distinction that 206 years ago, in 1804, it emerged as the very First Black Republic in the world.

More than the mere fact of this was the history of the extraordinary uprising which led to this outcome, which could not but serve as an unequalled inspiration to those engaged in struggle to achieve their own liberation.

During a sustained military and political struggle, which ended with the birth of their Republic, the African slaves of Haiti, with many free mulattos as their allies, defeated the armies of the most powerful European powers of the day – Spain, Great Britain and France.

From this titanic struggle emerged true heroes of all oppressed peoples, including Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe and Alexander Pétion, who together out-smarted some of the best Generals that Europe could produce.

When, in 1803, their armies defeated the French forces, which were first led by Napoleon’s brother-in-law, General Leclerc, they saved the United States of America from occupation by France.

Because the African slaves of Haiti annihilated the French army, this army could not proceed to occupy the US territory known as Louisiana, as ordered by Napoleon. Ultimately France had to sell this territory to the US, which is celebrated in the US as the Louisiana Purchase.

Free Haiti also provided the outstanding Latin American liberator, Simon Bolivar, with the war materials he needed to defeat the Spanish forces, secure independence for Venezuela and therefore guarantee the liberation of Latin America from Spanish occupation.

The Haitian Revolution was organically linked to the American and French Revolutions and should have taken its place alongside these in the construction of the new world order of the day. Sadly, this was not to be.

One important reason for this was explained by the US newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, in its January 2 2004 edition, in an article by José de Côrdoba headed “Impoverished Haiti pins hopes for future on a very old debt”.

The article said, “More than two decades after rebellious former slaves vanquished troops from Napoleon’s army here (in Haiti) in 1803, France’s King Charles X made the fledgling republic of Haiti an offer it couldn’t refuse.

“In 1825, as the king’s warships cruised just over the horizon from the Haitian capital, a French emissary demanded 150 million gold francs in exchange for recognising the new republic. The implicit alternative was invasion and re-enslavement.

“It was a huge sum, about five times Haiti’s annual export revenue. Haiti’s then-president reluctantly agreed, taking on a crushing debt.

“Today, as Haiti celebrates the 200th anniversary of its independence amid growing political unrest and a collapsing economy, one of its few glimmers of hope is that long-ago deal.

“Haiti wants its money back – with interest.

“Aided by US and French lawyers, the Haitian government is preparing a legal brief demanding nearly $22-billion in ‘restitution’ for what it regards as an act of gunboat diplomacy.”

After its defeat, France refused to recognise the Republic of Haiti. Frightened by the example it had set, the slave-owning US imposed economic sanctions against the young Republic.

France demanded that the Republic of Haiti must pay compensation for the losses sustained by French property-owners in what had been its wealthiest colony. The most valuable property for which the French claimed compensation was the slaves themselves!

The France of Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité sent a new expeditionary force to enforce its demand that the liberated slaves had to pay money to guarantee their freedom.

Haiti felt that it had no choice but to pay the compensation demanded by France. Remarkably, it took Haiti 122 years to settle this debt, with the final payment being made in 1947 to the US, after the latter had bought this debt from the French!

To indicate how heavy the burden of this debt was, in 1900 fully 80% of Haiti’s national budget had to be set aside to service the debt imposed on the country by France in 1825, which continued to expand because of the interest it carried.

What the poor of Haiti paid during 122 years, expressed in 2004 US dollars, was conservatively estimated to amount to $22-billion! In 2004, a French government commission established to assess Haiti’s demand for restitution said this demand was “not pertinent in both legal and historical terms”.

It is probably true that Haiti today is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It is, however, also true that as their forebears did, the people of Haiti continue to stand out today as an inspiring example of human resilience and dedication to the cause of freedom.

The urgent task all humanity faces today is to come to the aid of the Haitians, to confront and overcome the consequences of the deadly earthquake which has claimed the lives of thousands and wiped out the little wealth they had accumulated in the protracted struggle of many centuries merely to survive.

It was indeed truly inspiring to hear the international media reports about the efforts of fellow South Africans, working side by side with other foreign teams, to rescue Haitians from beneath the mounds of rubble in Port-au-Prince. It is this that makes it possible for one to say – I am proudly South African, and proudly human!

The time will come when other truths will have to be told about Haiti, to allow this country once again to set an example, this time to speak about what should be done and not done if, indeed, we are true to the humanist view that umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye – I am because you are!

When those truths are told, we will have the possibility to salute the people of South Africa that, during the year that Haiti celebrated its Liberation Bicentenary, they had the courage to welcome into their midst a distinguished Haitian family – the family of Jean Bertrand and Mildred Aristide and their two daughters.

Then we will tell of the bond of friendship that has developed between us and the poor of Haiti, including those who have resided in Cité Soleil, the biggest slum in Port-au-Prince, to which has been added the enormous destruction imposed by the January 12 earthquake.

We will also have the possibility fully to absorb the story told in Peter Hallward’s book, Damming the Flood, about what happened in 2004, as Haiti celebrated its Bicentenary and as it saw its elected president forcibly transported into exile in Africa, the ancestral home of the 1804 liberators of Haiti.

For now, we must convey our sympathy, condolences and solidarity to the Haitians who live among us, as well as the rest of the sister people of Haiti.

To give meaning to our words, we must join the rest of the world to do everything that has to be done to help ensure that tomorrow we shed tears of joy, as we see the people of Haiti realise the dreams which inspired the African slaves of Haiti to do what they did over two centuries ago, which affirmed the dignity of all Africans and all human beings, regardless of race, colour, gender or belief.”

Numbers tell stories of horror, heroism in Haiti

Numbers tell stories of horror, heroism in Haiti

 

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Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) — Two weeks after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, the numbers have mounted. The numbers tell stories of death and destruction, as well as a global outpouring of aid.

CNN has compiled the latest, most reliable figures available as the devastation continues to unfold:

THE TOLL

150,000: Latest estimate of the death toll, from the Haitian Health Ministry. The European Union and the Pan American Health Organization, which are coordinating the health-sector response, have estimated the quake killed 200,000 people.
194,000: Number of injured
134: Estimated number of people rescued by international search teams since the quake

THE EFFECT

9 million: Population of Haiti
3 million: Estimated number of people affected by the quake
1 million: Estimated number of displaced people
800,000 to 1 million: People who need temporary shelter
235,000: People who have left Port-au-Prince using free transportation provided by the government. The number who left by private means is undetermined.
At least 50: Aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or higher that have hit Haiti since the January 12 quake

Full coverage

THE CHILDREN

300,000: Children younger than 2 who need nutritional support
90: Percentage of schools in Port-au-Prince that have been destroyed
263: Haitian orphans who have been evacuated

THE RESPONSE IN DOLLARS

$1.12 billion: International aid pledges
$783 million: Funds received as of Tuesday
$317 million: U.S. assistance as of Monday

iReport: Haiti’s missing and found | Are you there?

THE RESPONSE IN MANPOWER

17,000: U.S. military personnel in and around Haiti
8 million: Meals the World Food Programme has delivered to nearly 400,000 people
300: Aid distribution sites that are up and running
130 to 150: Flights arriving every day at the single-runway Port-au-Prince airport with aid

EFFECT ON FOREIGNERS

12,000: U.N. workers in the country at the time of the quake
53: U.N. workers still missing
At least 82: U.N. workers dead
27: U.N. workers injured or hospitalized
11,500: Americans and family members who have been evacuated
4,800: Americans unaccounted for

Find aid locations

Sources: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Red Cross, the United Nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. State Department and the World Food Programme

Securing Disaster in Haiti

Securing Disaster in Haiti (Americas Program)

Peter Hallward | January 22, 2010

Nine days after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, it’s now clear that the initial phase of the U.S.-led relief operation has conformed to the three fundamental tendencies that have shaped the more general course of the island’s recent history. It has adopted military priorities and strategies. It has sidelined Haiti’s own leaders and government, and ignored the needs of the majority of its people. And it has proceeded in ways that reinforce the already harrowing gap between rich and poor.

All three tendencies aren’t just connected, they are mutually reinforcing. These same tendencies will continue to govern the imminent reconstruction effort as well, unless determined political action is taken to counteract them.

I

Haiti is not only one of the poorest countries in the world, it is also one of the most polarized and unequal in its disparities in wealth and access to political power.1 A small clique of rich and well-connected families continues to dominate the country and its economy while more than half the population, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), survives on a household income of around 44 U.S. pennies per day.2

Mass destitution has grown far more severe in recent decades. Starting in the 1970s, internationally imposed neo-liberal “adjustments” and austerity measures finally succeeded in doing what no Haitian government had managed to do since winning independence in 1804: in order to set the country on the road toward “economic development,” they have driven large numbers of small farmers off their land and into densely crowded urban slums. A small minority of these internal refugees may be lucky enough to find sweatshop jobs that pay the lowest wages in the region. These wages currently average $2 or $3 a day; in real terms they are worth less than a quarter of their 1980 value.

Haiti’s tiny elite owes its privileges to exclusion, exploitation, and violence, and it is only violence that allows it to retain them. For much of the last century, Haiti’s military and paramilitary forces (with substantial amounts of U.S. support) were able to preserve these privileges on their own. Over the course of the 1980s, however, it started to look as if local military repression might no longer be up to the job. A massive and courageous popular mobilization (known as Lavalas) culminated in 1990 with the landslide election of the liberation theologian Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president. Large numbers of ordinary people began to participate in the political system for the first time, and as political scientist Robert Fatton remembers, “Panic seized the dominant class. It dreaded living in close proximity to la populace and barricaded itself against Lavalas.”3

Nine months later, the army dealt with this popular threat in the time-honored way—with a coup d’etat. Over the next three years, around 4,000 Aristide supporters were killed.

However, when the U.S. government eventually allowed Aristide to return in October 1994, he took a surprising and unprecedented step: he abolished the army that had deposed him. As human rights lawyer Brian Concannon (director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti) observed a few years later, “It is impossible to overestimate the impact of this accomplishment. It has been called the greatest human rights development in Haiti since emancipation, and is wildly popular.”4 In 2000, the Haitian electorate gave Aristide a second overwhelming mandate when his party (Fanmi Lavalas) won more than 90% of the seats in parliament.

II

More than anything else, what has happened in Haiti since 1990 should be understood as the progressive clarification of this basic dichotomy—democracy or the army. Unadulterated democracy might one day allow the interests of the numerical majority to prevail, and thereby challenge the privileges of the elite. In 2000, such a challenge became a genuine possibility: the overwhelming victory of Fanmi Lavalas, at all levels of government, raised the prospect of genuine political change in a context in which there was no obvious extra-political mechanism―no army―to prevent it.

In order to avoid this outcome, the main strategy of Haiti’s little ruling class has been to redefine political questions in terms of “stability” and “security,” and in particular the security of property and investments. Mere numbers may well win an election or sustain a popular movement but as everyone knows, only an army is equipped to deal with insecurity. The well-armed “friend of Haiti” that is the United States knows this better than anyone.

As soon as Aristide was re-elected, a systematic international campaign to bankrupt and destabilize his second government set the stage for a paramilitary insurrection and another coup d’etat. In 2004, thousands of U.S. troops again invaded Haiti (as they first did back in 1915) to “restore stability and security” to their “troubled island neighbor.” An expensive and long-term UN stabilization mission, staffed by 9,000 heavily armed troops, soon took over the job of helping to pacify the population and criminalize the resistance. By the end of 2006, thousands more Aristide supporters had been killed.

Over the course of 2009, a suitably stabilized Haitian government agreed to persevere with the privatization of the country’s remaining public assets,5 veto a proposal to increase minimum wages to $5 a day, and bar Fanmi Lavalas (and several other political parties) from participating in the next round of legislative elections.

When it comes to providing stability, today’s UN troops are clearly a big improvement over the old national forces. If things get so unstable that even the ground begins to shake, however, there’s still nothing that can beat the world’s leading provider of security—the U.S. Armed Forces.

III

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that struck on Jan. 12, 2010, it might have seemed hard to counter arguments in favor of allowing the U.S. military, with its “unrivalled logistical capability,” to take de facto control of such a massive relief operation. Weary of bad press in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. commanders also seemed glad of this unexpected opportunity to rebrand their armed forces as angels of mercy.

That was before U.S. commanders actively began—the day after the earthquake struck—to divert aid away from the disaster zone.

As soon as the U.S. Air Force took control of Haitian airspace, on Wednesday, Jan. 13, it explicitly prioritized military over humanitarian flights. Although most reports from Port-au-Prince emphasized remarkable levels of patience and solidarity on the streets, U.S. commanders made fears of popular unrest and insecurity their number-one concern. Their first priority was to avoid what the U.S. Air Force Special Command Public Affairs spokesman (Ty Foster) called another “Somalia effort”6—presumably, a situation in which a humiliated U.S. Army might once again risk losing military control of a “humanitarian” mission.

As many observers predicted, the determination of U.S. commanders to forestall this risk by privileging guns and soldiers over doctors and food has actually provoked some outbreaks of the very unrest they set out to contain. To amass a large number of soldiers and military equipment “on the ground,” the U.S. Air Force diverted plane after plane packed with emergency supplies away from Port-au-Prince. Among many others, World Food Program flights were turned away by U.S. commanders on Thursday and Friday, the New York Times reported, “so that the United States could land troops and equipment, and lift Americans and other foreigners to safety.”7

Many other aid flights met a similar fate, right through to the end of the week. Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) alone has so far had to watch at least five planeloads of its medical supplies be turned away.8 On Saturday, Jan. 16, for instance, “Despite guarantees given by the United Nations and the U.S. Defense Department, an MSF cargo plane carrying an inflatable surgical hospital was blocked from landing in Port-au-Prince and re-routed to Samana, in Dominican Republic,” delaying its arrival by an additional 24 hours.9 Late on Monday, Jan. 18, MSF complained that “One of its cargo planes carrying 12 tons of medical equipment had been turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport since Sunday,” despite receiving repeated assurances they could land. By that stage, one group of MSF doctors in Port-au-Prince had been “forced to buy a saw in the market to continue the amputations” upon which the lives of their patients depended.10

While U.S. commanders set about restoring security by assembling a force of some 14,000 Marines and soldiers, residents in some less secure parts of Port-au-Prince soon started to run out of food and water. On Jan. 20, people sleeping in one of the largest and most easily accessed of the many temporary refugee camps in central Port-au-Prince (in Champs Mars) told writer Tim Schwartz, author of the 2008 book Travesty in Haiti, that “no relief has arrived; it is all being delivered on other side of town, by the U.S. Embassy.”11

Telesur reporter Reed Lindsay confirmed on Jan. 20—a full eight days after the quake—that the impoverished southwestern Port-au-Prince suburb closest to the earthquake’s epicenter, Carrefour, still hadn’t received any food, aid, or medical help.12

The BBC’s Mark Doyle found the same thing in an eastern (and less badly affected) suburb. “Their houses are destroyed, they have no running water, food prices have doubled, and they haven’t seen a single government official or foreign aid worker since the earthquake struck.” Overall, Doyle observed, “The international response has been quite pathetic. Some of the aid agencies are working very hard, but there are two ways of reporting this kind of thing. One is to hang around with the aid agencies and hang around with the American spokespeople at the airport, and you’ll hear all sorts of stories about what’s happening. Another way is to drive almost at random with ordinary people and go and see what’s happening in ordinary places. In virtually every area I’ve driven to, ordinary people say that I was the first foreigner that they’d met.”13

It was only a full week after the earthquake that emergency food supplies began the slow journey from the heavily guarded airport to 14 “secure distribution points” in various parts of the city.14 By that stage, tens of thousands of Port-au-Prince residents had finally come to the conclusion that no aid would be forthcoming, and began to abandon the capital for villages in the countryside.

On Sunday Jan. 17, Al-Jazeera’s correspondent summarized what many other journalists had been saying all week. “Most Haitians have seen little humanitarian aid so far. What they have seen is guns, and lots of them. Armored personnel carriers cruise the streets and inside the well-guarded perimeter [of the airport], the United States has taken control. It looks more like the Green Zone in Baghdad than a center for aid distribution.”15

Later on the same day, the World Food Program’s air logistics officer Jarry Emmanuel confirmed that most of the 200 flights going in and out of the airport each day were still being reserved for the U.S. military: “… their priorities are to secure the country. Ours are to feed.”16 By Monday, Jan. 18, no matter how many U.S. Embassy or military spokesman insisted that “we are here to help” rather than invade, governments as diverse as those of France and Venezuela had begun to accuse the U.S. government of effectively “occupying” the country.17

IV

The U.S. decision to privilege military over humanitarian traffic at the airport sealed the fate of many thousands of people abandoned in the rubble of lower Port-au-Prince and Léogane. In countries all over the world, search and rescue teams were ready to leave for Haiti within 12 hours of the disaster. Only a few were able to arrive without fatal delays, mainly teams—like those from Venezuela, Iceland, and China—that managed to land while Haitian staff still retained control of their airport. Some subsequent arrivals, including a team from the UK, were prevented from landing with their heavy lending equipment. Others, like Canada’s several Heavy Urban Search Rescue Teams, were immediately readied but never sent; the teams were told to stand down, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon eventually explained, because “the government had opted to send Canadian Armed Forces instead.”18

USAID announced on Jan. 19 that international search and rescue teams, over the course of the first week after the disaster, had managed to save a grand total of 70 people.19 The majority of these people were rescued in specific locations and circumstances. “Search-and-rescue operations,” observed the Washington Post on Jan. 18, “have been intensely focused on buildings with international aid workers, such as the crushed UN headquarters, and on large hotels with international clientele.”20

Tim Schwartz spent much of the first post-quake week as a translator with rescue workers, and was struck by the fact that most of their work was confined to certain places—the UN’s Hotel Christophe, the Montana Hotel, the Caribe supermarket—that were not only frequented by foreigners but that could be snugly enclosed within “secure perimeters.” Elsewhere, he observed, UN “peacekeepers” seemed intent on convincing rescue workers to treat onlooking crowds as a source of potential danger, rather than assistance.21

Until the residents of devastated places like Léogane and Carrefour are somehow able to reassure foreign troops that they can feel “secure” when visiting their neighborhoods, UN and U.S. commanders clearly prefer to let them die on their own.

Exactly the same logic has condemned yet more people to death in and around Port-au-Prince’s hospitals. In one of the most illuminating reports yet filed from the city, on Jan. 20 Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman spoke with Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health/Zamni Lasante from the General Hospital—the most important medical center in the country.

Lyon acknowledged there was a need for “crowd control, so that the patients are not kept from having access,” but insisted that “there’s no insecurity […]. I don’t know if you guys were out late last night, but you can hear a pin drop in this city. It’s a peaceful place. There is no war. There is no crisis except the suffering that’s ongoing […]. The first thing that [your] listeners need to understand is that there is no insecurity here. There has not been, and I expect there will not be.”

On the contrary, Lyon explained, “This question of security and the rumors of security and the racism behind the idea of security has been our major block to getting aid in. The U.S. military has promised us for several days to bring in machinery, but they’ve been listening to this idea that things are insecure, and so we don’t have supplies.”

As of Jan. 20, the hospital still hadn’t received the supplies and medicines needed to treat many hundreds of dying patients.

“In terms of aid relief the response has been incredibly slow. There are teams of surgeons that have been sent to places that were, quote, ‘more secure,’ that have 10 or 20 doctors and 10 patients. We have a thousand people on this campus who are triaged and ready for surgery, but we only have four working operating rooms, without anesthesia and without pain medications.”22

In post-quake Haiti it seems that anyone or anything that cannot be enclosed in a “secure perimeter” isn’t worth saving.

In their occasional forays outside such perimeters, meanwhile, some Western journalists seemed able to find plenty of reasons for retreating behind them. Lurid stories of looting and gangs soon began to lend “security experts” like the London-based Stuart Page23 an aura of apparent authority, when he explained to the BBC’s gullible “security correspondent” Frank Gardner that “all the security gains made in Haiti in the last few years could now be reversed […]. The criminal gangs, totaling some 3,000, are going to exploit the current humanitarian crisis, to the maximum degree.”24

Another seasoned BBC correspondent, Matt Frei, had a similar story to tell on Jan. 18, when he found a few scavengers sifting through the remains of a central shopping district. “Looting is now the only industry here. Anything will do as a weapon. Everything is now run by rival armed groups of thugs.” If Haiti is to avoid anarchy, Frei concluded, “What may be needed is a full scale military occupation.”25

Not even former U.S. President (and former Haiti occupier) Bill Clinton was prepared to go that far. “Actually,” Clinton told Frei, “when you think about people who have lost everything except what they’re carrying on their backs, who not only haven’t eaten but probably haven’t slept in four days, and when the sun goes down it’s totally dark and they spend all night long tripping over bodies living and dead, well, I think they’ve behaved quite well […]. They are astonishing people. How can they be so calm in the face of such enormous loss of life and loved ones, and all the physical damage?”26

Reporters able to tell the difference between occasional and highly localized incidents of foraging, and a full-scale “descent into anarchy” made much the same point all week, as did dozens of indignant Haitian correspondents. On Jan. 17, for instance, Ciné Institute Director David Belle tried to counter international misrepresentation. “I have been told that much U.S. media coverage paints Haiti as a tinderbox ready to explode. I’m told that lead stories in major media are of looting, violence, and chaos. There could be nothing further from the truth. I have travelled the entire city daily since my arrival. The extent of the damage is absolutely staggering [but…] NOT ONCE have we witnessed a single act of aggression or violence […]. A crippled city of two million awaits help, medicine, food, and water. Most haven’t received any. Haiti can be proud of its survivors. Their dignity and decency in the face of this tragedy is itself staggering.”27

But it seems that to some, dignity and decency are no substitute for security. No amount of weapons will ever suffice to reassure those “fortunate few,” whose fortunes isolate them from the people they exploit. As far as the vast majority of people are concerned, “security is not the issue,” explains Haiti Liberté‘s Kim Ives.

“We see throughout Haiti the population organizing themselves into popular committees to clean up, to pull out the bodies from the rubble, to build refugee camps, to set up their security for the refugee camps. This is a population that is self-sufficient, and it has been self-sufficient for many years.”28

While the people who have lost what little they had have done their best to cope and regroup, the soldiers sent to “restore order” treat them as potential combatants. “It’s just the same way they reacted after Katrina,” concludes Ives. “The victims are what’s scary. They’re black people who, you know, had the only successful slave revolution in history. What could be more threatening?”

“According to everyone I spoke with in the center of the city,” wrote Schwarz on Jan. 21, “the violence and gang stuff is pure BS.”

The relentless obsession with security, agrees Andy Kershaw, is clear proof of the fact that most foreign soldiers and NGO workers “haven’t a clue about the country and its people.”29 True to form, within hours of the earthquake most of the panicked staff in the U.S. Embassy had already been evacuated, and at least one prominent foreign contractor in the garment sector (the Canadian firm Gildan Activewear) announced that it would be shifting production to alternative sewing facilities in neighboring countries.30

The price to be paid for such priorities will not be evenly distributed. Up in the higher, wealthier, and mostly undamaged parts of Pétionville everyone already knows that it’s the local residents “who through their government connections, trading companies, and interconnected family businesses” will once again pocket the lion’s share of international aid and reconstruction money.31

To help keep less well-connected families where they belong, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has taken “unprecedented” emergency measures to secure the homeland this past week. Operation “Vigilant Sentry” will make use of the large naval flotilla the U.S. government has assembled around Port-au-Prince.

“As well as providing emergency supplies and medical aid,” notes The Daily Telegraph, “the USS Carl Vinson, along with a ring of other Navy and Coast Guard vessels, is acting as a deterrent to Haitians who might be driven to make the 681-mile sea crossing to Miami.”

While Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade offered “voluntary repatriation to any Haitian that wants to return to [the land of] their origin,” American officials confirmed that they would continue to apply their long-standing (and illegal) policy with respect to all Haitian refugees and asylum seekers—to intercept and repatriate them automatically, regardless of the circumstances.32

Ever since the quake struck, the U.S. Air Force has taken the additional precaution of flying a radio-transmitting cargo plane for five hours a day over large parts of the country, so as to broadcast a recorded message from Haiti’s ambassador in Washington. “Don’t rush on boats to leave the country,” the message says. “If you think you will reach the United States and all the doors will be wide open to you, that’s not at all the case. They will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.”

Not even life-threatening injuries are enough to entitle Haitians to a welcome in the United States. When the dean of medicine at the University of Miami arrived to help set up a field hospital by the airport in Port-au-Prince, he was outraged to find that most seriously injured people in the city were being denied visas to be transferred to Florida for surgery and treatment. As of Jan. 19, the State Department had authorized a total of 23 exceptions to its restrictive immigrant and refugee policies.

“It’s beyond insane,” O’Neill complained. “It’s bureaucracy at its worst.”33

V

This is the fourth time the United States has invaded Haiti since 1915. Although each invasion has taken a different form and responded to a different pretext, all four have been expressly designed to restore “stability” and “security” to the island. In the wake of the earthquake, thousands more foreign security personnel are already on their way, to guard the teams of foreign reconstruction and privatization consultants who in the coming months are likely to usurp what remains of Haitian sovereignty.

Perhaps some of these guards and consultants will help their elite clients achieve another long-cherished dream: the restoration of the Haitian Army. And perhaps then, for a short while at least, the inexhaustible source of “instability” in Haiti—the ever-nagging threat of popular political participation and empowerment—may be securely buried in the rubble of its history.

End Notes

  1. See Pål Sletten and Willy Egset, Poverty in Haiti (FAFO, 2004), 9.
  2. IMF, Haiti: Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (November 2006), 7.
  3. Robert Fatton, Haiti’s Predatory Republic (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002), 86-87, 83.
  4. Brian Concannon, “Lave Men, Siye Atè: Taking Human Rights Seriously,” in Melinda Miles and Eugenia Charles, eds., Let Haiti LIVE: Unjust U.S. Policies Toward its Oldest Neighbor (Coconut Creek FL: Educa Vision, 2004), 92.
  5. See for instance Jeb Sprague, “Haiti’s Classquake,” HaitiAnalysis, January 19, 2010, http://www.haitianalysis.com/2010/1/19/haiti-s-classquake.
  6. BBC Radio 4 News, January 16, 2010, 22:00GMT.
  7. Ginger Thompson and Damien Cave, “Officials Strain to Distribute Aid to Haiti as Violence Rises,” New York Times, January 17, 2010.
  8. “Médecins Sans Frontières says its Plane Turned Away from U.S.-run Airport,” Daily Telegraph, January 19, 2010, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/haiti/
    7031203/Haiti-earthquake-Medecins-Sans-Frontieres-says-its-plane-turned-away-
    from-US-run-airport.html
    .
  9. “Doctors Without Borders Cargo Plane with Full Hospital and Staff Blocked from Landing in Port-au-Prince,” January 18, 2010, http://doctorswithoutborders.org/press/release.cfm?id=4165&cat=press-release.
  10. “America Sends Paratroopers to Haiti to Help Secure Aid Lines,” The Times, January 20, 2010, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6994523.ece.
  11. Email from Tim Schwartz, January 20, 2010.
  12. “No aid [in Carrefour]. In the morning at UN base they said they would distribute there, but it didn’t happen” (Reed Lindsay, Honor and Respect Foundation Newsletter), January 20, 2010, http://www.hrfhaiti.org/earthquake/). Cf. Luis Felipe Lopez, “Town at Epicenter of Quake Stays in Isolation,” The Miami Herald, January 17, 2010.
  13. BBC Radio 4, News at Ten, January 18, 2010.
  14. Ed Pilkington, “We’re Not Here to Fight, U.S. Troops Insist,” The Guardian, January 18, 2010.
  15. “Disputes Emerge over Haiti Aid Control,” Al Jazeera, January 17, 2010.
  16. Ginger Thompson and Damien Cave, “Officials Strain to Distribute Aid to Haiti as Violence Rises,” New York Times, January 17, 2010.
  17. “Haiti Aid Agencies Warn: Chaotic and Confusing Relief Effort is Costing Lives,” The Guardian, January 18, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/18/haiti-aid-distribution-confusion-warning.
  18. Don Peat, “HUSAR Not up to Task, Feds Say: Search and Rescue Team Told to Stand Down,” Toronto Sun, January 17, 2010, http://www.torontosun.com/news/haiti/2010/01/17/12504981.html.
  19. USAID, http://www.usaid.gov/helphaiti/index.html, accessed on January 20, 2010.
  20. William Booth, “Haiti’s Elite Spared from Much of the Devastation,” Washington Post, January 18, 2010.
  21. Tim Schwarz, phone call with the author, January 18, 2010; cf. Tim Schwartz, “Is this Anarchy? Outsiders Believe this Island Nation is a Land of Bandits. Blame the NGOs for the ‘Looting,'” NOW Toronto, January 21, 2010, http://www.nowtoronto.com/news/story.cfm?content=173333.
  22. “With Foreign Aid Still at a Trickle, Devastated Port-au-Prince General Hospital Struggles to Meet Overwhelming Need,” Democracy Now! January 20, 2010, http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/20/devastated_port_au_prince_hospital_struggles.
  23. Stuart Page is chairman of Page Group, http://www.pagegroupltd.com/aboutus.html.
  24. Gardner then explained that, with the police weakened by the quake, “Thousands of escaped criminals have returned to areas they once terrorized, like the slum district of Cité Soleil […]. Unless the armed criminals are re-arrested, Haiti’s security problems risk being every bit as bad as they were in 2004” (BBC Radio 4, Six O’clock News, January 18, 2010). In fact, when some of these ex-prisoners tried to re-establish themselves in Cité Soleil in the week after the quake, local residents promptly chased them out of the district on their own (see Ed Pilkington and Tom Phillips, “Haiti Escaped Prisoners Chased out of Notorious Slum,” The Guardian, January 20, 2010; Tom Leonard, “Scenes of Devastation Outside Port-au-Prince ‘Even Worse,'” Daily Telegraph, January 21, 2010).
  25. BBC television, Ten O’clock News, January 18, 2010.
  26. BBC Radio 4, News at Ten, January 18, 2010. It sounds as if Clinton, in his role as UN special envoy to Haiti, may be learning a few things from his deputy—Zanmi Lasante’s Dr. Paul Farmer.
  27. David Belle, January 17, 2010.
  28. “Journalist Kim Ives on How Western Domination Has Undermined Haiti’s Ability to Recover from Natural Devastation,” Democracy Now! January 21, 2010, http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/20/journalist_kim_ives_on_how_decades. Ives illustrates the way such community organizations work with an example from the Delmas 33 neighborhood where he’s staying. “A truckload of food came in in the middle of the night unannounced. It could have been a melee. The local popular organization was contacted. They immediately mobilized their members […]. They lined up about 600 people who were staying on the soccer field behind the [Matthew 25] house, which is also a hospital, and they distributed the food in an orderly, equitable fashion. They were totally sufficient. They didn’t need Marines. They didn’t need the UN. […] These are things that people can do for themselves and are doing for themselves.” Kershaw makes the same point: “This self-imposed blockade by bureaucracy is a scandal but could be easily overcome. The NGOs and the military should recognize the hysteria over ‘security’ for what it is and make use of Haiti’s best resource and its most efficient distribution network: the Haitians themselves. Stop treating them as children. Or worse. Hand over to them immediately what they need at the airport. They will find the means to collect it. Fill up their trucks and cars with free fuel. Any further restriction on, and control of, the supply of aid is not only patronizing but it is in that control and restriction where any ‘security issues’ will really lurk. And it is the Haitians who best know where the aid is needed” (Andy Kershaw, “Stop Treating these People Like Savages,” The Independent, January 21, 2010).
  29. Andy Kershaw, “Stop Treating these People Like Savages,” The Independent, January 21, 2010.
  30. Ross Marowits, “Gildan Shifting T-shirt Production Outside Haiti to Ensure Adequate Supply,” The Canadian Press, January 13, 2010, http://www.canadianbusiness.com/markets/headline_news/article.jsp?content=b131693719.
  31. William Booth, “Haiti’s Elite Spared from Much of the Devastation,” Washington Post, January 18, 2010.
  32. Bruno Waterfield, “U.S. Ships Blockade Coast to Thwart Exodus to America,” Daily Telegraph, January 19, 2010; “Senegal Offers Land to Haitians,” BBC News January 17, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8463921.stm.
  33. James C. Mckinley Jr., “Homeless Haitians Told not to Flee to United States,” New York Times, January 19, 2010.

Peter Hallward is a Canadian political philosopher. He is currently a professor of Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University (http://www.web.mdx.ac.uk/crmep/STAFF/PeterHallward.htm). He is the author of

Damning the Flood.