Catastrophe in Haiti

By: Ashley Smith
January 14, 2010

Haiti is an EXTREME example of the kind of avarice practiced by America's corporate elites in the so-called Third World – the same elites with whom the American church has partnered in order to "bring America back to Christ and the church." The attitude expressed by Pat Robertson concerning the recent earthquake in Haiti (see below) is typical of the attitudes of increasing numbers of Christian evangelicals toward the poor of the earth – an attitude that says that the poor deserve to be poor because of their own slothfulness (or – as in the case of Robertson - because God has cursed them); a noxious and hateful attitude that has "bled into" them as a result of their alliance with their rich business allies. Well did Jesus say of these people:

"Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.

"Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep." (Luke 6:24-25)

And,

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a [sewing] needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25)

[We URGE you to see our articles, "Lee Kyang: The Rich and the Poor; God and America," Greed, Avarice and the Coming Dictatorship" and "Capitalism and Christianity."]

A DEVASTATING earthquake, the worst in 200 years, struck Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, laying waste to the city and killing untold numbers of people. The quake measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, and detonated more than 30 aftershocks, all more than 4.5 in magnitude, through the night and into Wednesday morning. The earthquake toppled poorly constructed houses, hotels, hospitals and even the capital city's main political buildings, including the presidential palace. The collapse of so many structures sent a giant cloud into the sky, which hovered over the city, raining dust down onto the wasteland below.

According to some estimates, more than 100,000 people may have died, in a metropolis of 2 million people. Those that survived are living in the streets, afraid to return inside any building that remains standing. Around the world, Haitians struggled to contact their family and friends in the devastated country. But most could not reach their loved ones since phone lines were down throughout the country. The weak Préval government [of Haiti] was unable to respond to the crisis, and the United Nations--which occupies Haiti with close to 9,000 troops--was completely unprepared to manage the situation. Many UN leaders and troops died in buildings that collapsed, including their own headquarters. International Red Cross spokesman Paul Conneally said that 3 million out of Haiti's 9 million people would need international emergency aid in the coming weeks just to survive. The UN, U.S., European Union, Canada and countless non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have promised humanitarian aid.

WHILE MOST people reacted to the crisis by trying to find a way to help or donate money, Christian Right fanatic Pat Robertson stooped to new depths of bigotry. He explained that Haitians were cursed because they made a pact with the devil to liberate themselves from their French slave masters in the Haitian revolution two centuries ago.


NOTE FROM ANTIPAS

Pat Robertson Blames Haiti
Earthquake on "Pact With the Devil"

Concerning the STUPIDITY of Robertson's comments here, one would be well advised to remember what Jesus said about those who perished in a similar incident in the Holy Land during Christ's ministry – i.e., the collapse of the Tower of Siloam: The "religious establishment" had blamed the catastrophe on the sins of the people who perished; but Jesus said: "Of those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?" (Luke 13:4) In other words, do you really think you religious leaders are better than those people? The answer Jesus gave was "NO!" You are no better than they – and unless you change your attitude concerning such calamities, you will similarly perish. The self-righteousness of Christians such as Robertson is breath-taking! Sadly, however, this kind of self-righteousness is becoming ever more prevalent in America's Christian community.


The corporate media at least reported that shifting tectonic plates along a fault line underneath Port-au-Prince caused the earthquake--and that Haiti's poverty and the incapacity of the Préval government made the disaster so much worse. But they didn't delve below the surface.

"The media coverage of the earthquake is marked by an almost complete divorce of the disaster from the social and political history of Haiti," Canadian Haiti Solidarity Activist Yves Engler said in an interview. "They repeatedly state that the government was completely unprepared to deal with the crisis. This is true. But they left out why."

Why were 60 percent of the buildings in Port-au-Prince shoddily constructed and unsafe in normal circumstances, according to the city's mayor? Why are there no building regulations in a city that sits on a fault line? Why has Port-au-Prince swelled from a small town of 50,000 in the 1950s to a population of 2 million desperately poor people today? Why was the state completely overwhelmed by the disaster?

To understand these facts, we have to look at a second fault line--U.S. imperial policy toward Haiti. The U.S. government, the UN, and other powers have aided the Haitian elite in subjecting the country to neoliberal economic plans that have impoverished the masses, deforested the land, wrecked the infrastructure and incapacitated the government.

Sugar plantations in Haiti run by rich Americans living in Miami.

The fault line of U.S. imperialism interacted with the geological one to turn the natural disaster into a social catastrophe.

During the Cold War, the U.S. supported the dictatorships of Papa Doc Duvalier and then Baby Doc Duvalier--which ruled the country from 1957 to 1986--as an anti-communist counter-weight to Castro's Cuba nearby.

Under guidance from Washington, Baby Doc Duvalier opened the Haitian economy up to U.S. capital in the 1970s and 1980s. Floods of U.S. agricultural imports destroyed peasant agriculture. As a result, hundred of thousands of people flocked to the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince to labor for pitifully low wages in sweatshops located in U.S. export processing zones.

NOTE FROM ANTIPAS:

Quality Garments, a clothing contractor in the SONAPI Industrial Park, is typical of assembly plants in Port-au-Prince. The factory is hot, dimly lit, crowded. The air is heavy with dust and lint. There is no ventilation to speak of. Piles of material -scraps of pajamas, dresses, skirt hems - clutter every aisle and every corner. The workers have sad, tired faces. They hunch over antiquated sewing machines, some more than 20 years old, sewing "Kelly Reed" dresses to be sold in Kmart and other products destined for U.S. retailers. The workers at Quality Garments work eight to 10 hours per day, Monday through Saturday. When the company has orders to fill, they are required to work Sundays as well. Last August, several workers reported that they had worked seven Sundays in a row - in other words, more than 50 days straight without a day off, up to 70 hours per week - during the hottest season of the year. For their labor, the workers are in many cases paid as little as 15 gourdes per day, or 12 cents per hour. The workers are paid on a piece-rate system, and production quotas are raised to the point where the majority of workers have no hope of meeting them. For example, one experienced worker says she is supposed to sew seams on 204 pairs of children's pajamas in a day, for which she would be paid $2.67; in 8 hours, however, she is only able to complete 144 pairs for which she is paid $1.87. In Creole, this system is referred to as "sa ou fe, se li ou we," or, roughly translated, "what you do is what you get."

In the 1980s, masses of Haitians rose up to drive the Duvaliers from power--later, they elected reformer Jean-Bertrand Aristide to be president on a platform of land reform, aid to peasants, reforestation, investment in infrastructure for the people, and increased wages and union rights for sweatshop workers.

The U.S. in turn backed a coup that drove Aristide from power in 1991. Eventually, the elected president was restored to power in 1994 when Bill Clinton sent U.S. troops to the island--but on the condition that he implement the U.S. neoliberal plan--which Haitians called the "plan of death."

Aristide resisted parts of the U.S. program for Haiti, but implemented other provisions, undermining his hoped-for reforms. Eventually, though, the U.S. grew impatient with Aristide's failure to obey completely, especially when he demanded $21 billion in reparations during his final year in office. The U.S. imposed an economic embargo that strangled the country, driving peasants and workers even deeper into poverty.

In 2004, Washington collaborated with Haiti's ruling elite to back death squads that toppled the government, kidnapped and deported Aristide. The United Nations sent troops to occupy the country, and the puppet government of Gérard Latortue was installed to continue Washingotn's neoliberal plans.

Latortue's brief regime was utterly corrupt--he and his cronies pocketed large portions of the $4 billion poured into the country by the U.S. and other powers when they ended their embargo. The regime dismantled the mild reforms Aristide had managed to implement. Thus, the pattern of impoverishment and degradation of the country's infrastructure accelerated.

In 2006 elections, the Haitian masses voted in longtime Aristide ally René Préval as president. But Préval has been a weak figure who collaborated with U.S. plans for the country and failed to address the growing social crisis.

In fact, the U.S., UN and other imperial powers effectively bypassed the Préval government and instead poured money into NGOs. "Haiti now has the highest per capita presence of NGOs in the world," says Yves Engler. The Préval government has become a political fig leaf, behind which the real decisions are made by the imperial powers, and implemented through their chosen international NGOs.

THE REAL state power isn't the Préval government, but the U.S.-backed United Nations occupation. Under Brazilian leadership, UN forces have protected the rich and collaborated with--or turned a blind eye to--right-wing death squads who terrorize supporters of Aristide and his Lavalas Party.

The occupiers have done nothing to address the poverty, wrecked infrastructure and massive deforestation that have exacerbated the effects of a series of natural disasters--severe hurricanes in 2004 and 2008, and now the Port-au-Prince earthquake.

Instead, they merely police a social catastrophe, and in so doing, have committed the normal crimes characteristic of all police forces. As Dan Beeton wrote in NACLA Report on the Americas, "The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah), which began its mission in June 2004, has been marred by scandals of killings, rape, and other violence by its troops almost since it began."

The U.S. government has used the coup and social and natural crises to expand the U.S.'s neoliberal economic plans … In close collaboration with the new UN Special Envoy to Haiti, former President Bill Clinton, Obama has pushed for an economic program familiar to much of the rest of the Caribbean--tourism, textile sweatshops, and weakening of state control of the economy through privatization and deregulation.

In particular, Clinton has orchestrated a plan for turning the north of Haiti into a tourist playground, as far away as possible from the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince. Clinton lured Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines into investing $55 million to build a pier along the coastline of Labadee, which it has leased until 2050. From there, Haiti's tourist industry hopes to lead expeditions to the mountaintop fortress Citadelle and the Palace of Sans Souci, both built by Henri Cristophe, one of the leaders of Haiti's slave revolution. According to the Miami Herald:

"The $40 million plan involved transforming the now quaint town of Milot, home to the Citadelle and Palace of Sans Souci ruin, into a vibrant tourist village, with arts and crafts markets, restaurants and stoned streets. Guests would be ferried past a congested Cap-Haïtien to a bay, then transported by bus past peasant plantations. Once in Milot, they would either hike or horseback to the Citadelle...named a world heritage site in 1982 ..."

Eco-tourism, archaeological exploration and voyeuristic visits to Voodoo rituals are all being touted by Haiti's struggling boutique tourism industry, as Royal Caribbean plans to bring the world largest cruise ship here, sparking the need for excursions.

So while Pat Robertson denounces Haiti's great slave revolution as a pact with the devil, Clinton is helping to reduce it to a tourist trap.

At the same time, Clinton's plans for Haiti include an expansion of the sweatshop industry to take advantage of cheap labor available from the urban masses. The U.S. granted duty-free treatment for Haitian apparel exports to make it easy for sweatshops to return to Haiti. Clinton celebrated the possibilities of sweatshop development during a whirlwind tour of a textile plant owned and operated by the infamous Cintas Corp. He announced that George Soros had offered $50 million for a new industrial park of sweatshops that could create 25,000 jobs in the garment industry. Clinton explained at a press conference that Haiti's government could create "more jobs by lowering the cost of doing business, including the cost of rent."

As TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson told Democracy Now! "That isn't the kind of investment that Haiti needs. It needs capital investment. It needs investment so that it can be self-sufficient. It needs investment so that it can feed itself."

One of the reasons why Clinton could be so unabashed in celebrating sweatshops is that the U.S.-backed coup repressed any and all resistance. It got rid of Aristide and his troublesome habit of raising the minimum wage. It banished him from the country, terrorized his remaining allies and barred his political party, Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular in the country, from running for office. The coup regime also attacked union organizers within the sweatshops themselves.

As a result, Clinton could state to business leaders: "Your political risk in Haiti is lower than it has ever been in my lifetime."

THESE POLICIES led directly to the incapacitated Haitian state, dilapidated infrastructure, poorly constructed buildings and desperate poverty that combined with the hurricanes and now the earthquake to turn natural disasters into social catastrophes.

While everyone should support the current outpouring of aid to help Haiti, no one should do so with political blinders on. As Engler said:

"Aid in Haiti has always been used to further imperial interests. This is obvious when you look at how the U.S. and Canada treated the Aristide government in contrast to the coup regime. The U.S. and Canada starved Aristide of almost all aid. But then after the coup, they opened a floodgate of money to back some of the most reactionary forces in Haitian society."

We need your help to spread the word concerning Antipas Ministries and the eschatological viewpoint it represents; WE NEED YOUR HELP BECAUSE WE DO NOT "LINK" WITH OTHER SO-CALLED "CHRISTIAN" WEBSITES which are, for the most part, "in the tank" insofar as their loyalty to the United States is concerned - a loyalty that has made them partners in the BLOODY trail the American military has left in its TERROR-RIDDEN rampage throughout the world, as well as making them partners in the abject poverty that American corporations have imposed on the peoples and nations the American military machine has ravaged - A BLOODY, TERROR-RIDDEN RAMPAGE THAT HAS TO A LARGE DEGREE BEEN CARRIED OUT IN THE NAME OF THE "PRINCE OF PEACE." [Please see our articles, "The Third World as a Model for the New World Order," Inside the American New World Order System" and "The American Empire: The Corporate / Pentagon / CIA / Missionary Archipelago."]

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