Thursday, January 14, 2010

Our role in Haiti's plight, How to Help

Again I urge you to turn on Pacifica for, by far, the most complete
reports from the ground, the analyses and history which have
resulted in this human catastrophe, the aid being provided, and
more. For example, China, Cuba and Venezuela yesterday
sent critical professional personnel and supplies while Obama
touted 'fly overs' by military aircraft to assess the damage.
This live broadcast will be repeated at either 8 or 9 AM on all
pacifica stations and are, as always, saved and available via Now, here's the best of the rest I've gotten: -Ed

From: "Anthony Fenton" <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 1:14 PM

Our role in Haiti's plight

If we are serious about assisting this devastated land we must stop
trying to control and exploit it

Peter Hallward 13 January 2010 20.30 GMT

Any large city in the world would have suffered extensive damage from
an earthquake on the scale of the one that ravaged Haiti's capital
city on Tuesday afternoon, but it's no accident that so much of Port-
au-Prince now looks like a war zone. Much of the devastation wreaked
by this latest and most calamitous disaster to befall Haiti is best
understood as another thoroughly manmade outcome of a long and ugly
historical sequence.

The country has faced more than its fair share of catastrophes.
Hundreds died in Port-au-Prince in an earthquake back in June 1770,
and the huge earthquake of 7 May 1842 may have killed 10,000 in the
northern city of Cap Haitien alone. Hurricanes batter the island on a
regular basis, mostly recently in 2004 and again in 2008; the storms
of September 2008 flooded the town of Gonaïves and swept away much of
its flimsy infrastructure, killing more than a thousand people and
destroying many thousands of homes. The full scale of the destruction
resulting from this earthquake may not become clear for several weeks.
Even minimal repairs will take years to complete, and the long-term
impact is incalculable.

What is already all too clear, however, is the fact that this impact
will be the result of an even longer-term history of deliberate
impoverishment and disempowerment. Haiti is routinely described as the
"poorest country in the western hemisphere". This poverty is the
direct legacy of perhaps the most brutal system of colonial
exploitation in world history, compounded by decades of systematic
postcolonial oppression.

The noble "international community" which is currently scrambling to
send its "humanitarian aid" to Haiti is largely responsible for the
extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce. Ever since the US
invaded and occupied the country in 1915, every serious political
attempt to allow Haiti's people to move (in former president Jean-
Bertrand Aristide's phrase) "from absolute misery to a dignified
poverty" has been violently and deliberately blocked by the US
government and some of its allies.

Aristide's own government (elected by some 75% of the electorate) was
the latest victim of such interference, when it was overthrown by an
internationally sponsored coup in 2004 that killed several thousand
people and left much of the population smouldering in resentment. The
UN has subsequently maintained a large and enormously expensive
stabilisation and pacification force in the country.

Haiti is now a country where, according to the best available study,
around 75% of the population "lives on less than $2 per day, and 56% –
four and a half million people – live on less than $1 per day".
Decades of neoliberal "adjustment" and neo-imperial intervention have
robbed its government of any significant capacity to invest in its
people or to regulate its economy. Punitive international trade and
financial arrangements ensure that such destitution and impotence will
remain a structural fact of Haitian life for the foreseeable future.

It is this poverty and powerlessness that account for the full scale
of the horror in Port-au-Prince today. Since the late 1970s,
relentless neoliberal assault on Haiti's agrarian economy has forced
tens of thousands of small farmers into overcrowded urban slums.
Although there are no reliable statistics, hundreds of thousands of
Port-au-Prince residents now live in desperately sub-standard informal
housing, often perched precariously on the side of deforested ravines.
The selection of the people living in such places and conditions is
itself no more "natural" or accidental than the extent of the injuries
they have suffered.

As Brian Concannon, the director of the Institute for Justice and
Democracy in Haiti, points out: "Those people got there because they
or their parents were intentionally pushed out of the countryside by
aid and trade policies specifically designed to create a large captive
and therefore exploitable labour force in the cities; by definition
they are people who would not be able to afford to build earthquake
resistant houses." Meanwhile the city's basic infrastructure – running
water, electricity, roads, etc – remains woefully inadequate, often
non-existent. The government's ability to mobilise any sort of
disaster relief is next to nil.

The international community has been effectively ruling Haiti since
the 2004 coup. The same countries scrambling to send emergency help to
Haiti now, however, have during the last five years consistently voted
against any extension of the UN mission's mandate beyond its immediate
military purpose. Proposals to divert some of this "investment"
towards poverty reduction or agrarian development have been blocked,
in keeping with the long-term patterns that continue to shape the ­
distribution of international "aid".

The same storms that killed so many in 2008 hit Cuba just as hard but
killed only four people. Cuba has escaped the worst effects of
neoliberal "reform", and its government retains a capacity to defend
its people from disaster. If we are serious about helping Haiti
through this latest crisis then we should take this comparative point
on board. Along with sending emergency relief, we should ask what we
can do to facilitate the self-empowerment of Haiti's people and public
institutions. If we are serious about helping we need to stop trying
to control Haiti's government, to pacify its citizens, and to exploit
its economy. And then we need to start paying for at least some of the
damage we've already done.
Rad-Green mailing list


From: "Don Hazen, AlterNet" <>

Dear Ed,

"This is the Western Hemisphere's tsunami."

More than 2 million people have been affected by yesterday's earthquake in

Your help is urgently needed to help save lives.

Donate now to Oxfam's Haiti Earthquake Emergency Response. [ ]

Last night's earthquake in Haiti has left the capital city of Port-au-Prince
in ruins.

The damage is catastrophic; more than 2 million people have been affected,
but the human toll is still unknown. Haiti's president has said the impact
on the country is "unimaginable" and estimates that thousands have died.

Donations are urgently needed to rush aid to the area - please give now >>
[ ]

The initial earthquake struck just before sundown and as many as 28 powerful
aftershocks continued throughout the night - the darkness made initial
recovery efforts nearly impossible.

Oxfam has four offices in Haiti and over 200 highly-experienced aid workers
on the ground. They are already responding to the situation where our
assistance is most needed, but we need your help immediately - these first
hours are critical for saving lives.

Donate now and help us respond to this emergency. [ ]

Today, our emergency response teams are working with partners to assess the
damage - we already know that water systems in the capital have been
severely damaged. Emergency supplies, like clean water, temporary shelters,
and sanitation equipment are already en route from our base in Panama.

Your donation will go immediately to the most critical needs in Haiti, and
we will ensure that every penny is used wisely.

Please make a generous tax-deductible gift right now to help us save lives
in Haiti. [ ]

Haiti is already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere - a place
where 85% of people live in poverty. This disaster has already had an
extreme impact, and conditions are expected to worsen, especially in the
next 24 hours, even as aid is rushed in. Please be as generous as you are

Donate now to Oxfam's Haiti Earthquake Response Fund. [ ]

Thank you for your part in this global response to this tragedy. Our
thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti today.


Raymond C. Offenheiser
Oxfam America

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