By Frances Davis
As the extent of the immense devastation and human catastrophe in Haiti continues to unfold, what is clear is that the correct response must be one which both, firstly, deals with the immediate crisis, i.e. to ensure medical assistance, food, shelter and other basic human necessities; and that, secondly, this happens in the context of Haitian self-determination.
What is becoming increasingly alarming in the current situation is that the US response appears to be primarily geared at securing the state, rather than delivering aid. As one aid worker stated among a myriad of news reports depicting this same picture: ‘there are 200 flights going in and out everyday. But most of those are for the US military. The priorities are to secure the country. Ours are to feed.’
The governments of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia have all expressed concern over a US military take-over.
Given the US record in Haiti, which occupied the country for two decades in the first half of the last century and continued its intervention until the present day, most recently backing the coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, it is not surprising that many fear its current intervention could mean a new US occupation. Indeed, as more facts emerge on this, the US operation is not being led by humanitarian organisations but by the military, who are already admitting that as many as 10,000 troops will be dispatched and a huge range of military ships and hardware including an amphibious assault ship, two amphibious landing ships, a 2,000-member Marine Amphibious Unit, an aircraft carrier and supporting ships, a hospital ship, several coast guard vessels and helicopters. Three amphibious ships and a guided missile cruiser are also included. The US Southern Command is the main agency organising the intervention.
Of course, international help and assistance is clearly necessary and should be called for and supported, but not as primarily ‘security’ issue. Notably, Cuba already had over 400 doctors in Haiti, and with the same number of Haitian doctors studying in Cuba, was able to mobilise almost 1,000 immediately in response.
Haiti’s position as the poorest country in the hemisphere is, as Fidel Castro writes in a current article, below, down to centuries of imperialist plunder, occupation and under-development. Haiti also has the distinction of being a nation with an incredible history of revolutionary struggle, defeating slavery, resisting invasion, occupation and violent subjugation of the highest degree and, in the last period, continuing to struggle in the face of a crushing economic offensive in the shape of imposed IMF ‘structural adjustment’. Dating back centuries, the level of economic injustice against Haiti is staggering. For example, it is indeed incredible that France as recently as 1947, was still being ‘repaid’ by Haiti for its ‘losses’ from the plantations and slavery, following what was the first victory against slavery by the Black Jacobins. In the last century, following decades of US intervention, the Haitian people removed the Duvalier dictatorship and elected the left-progressive Aristide – most recently in 2000 with a huge majority. His forcible removal and exile represented the latest chapter in denial of the Haitian self-determination.
The response to the current situation should be one in which Haitians themselves have control over their own destiny. All assistance and international support must be in this context. This means, first the immediate delivery of essential assistance over all other considerations. Most importantly any military takeover of Haiti by the US must be opposed. There must be economic justice for Haiti – including the cancellation of debt, at the absolute minimum. And, there must be the immediate return of the elected President Aristide. Meanwhile, explaining the truth about Haiti’s situation is important and underpins all of this.
We reproduce Fidel Castro’s ‘reflections’ piece on Haiti here.