[As the horrifying death toll continues to fise to many thousands, amid the collapse of much of the home, business, and cultural structures in Nepal — the result of milleniums of colonial domination, oppression, and plunder — the enormous need for international rescue and reconstruction is a plaintive appeal to the good intentions of people everywhere. But the aid will come with many conditions by the powers who bear gifts. It is instructive to study the experience of the “aid” and “recovery” of Haiti from the devastating earthquake of 2010. The US turned Haitian earthquake aid into neo-colonial, militarized occupation. The struggles of people to control their own recovery has been an ongoing fight in Haiti, and now in Nepal. The following except from a chapter in the important new book Good Intentions: Norms and Practices of Humanitarian Imperialism makes this Haitian experience hauntingly present in the streets of Kathmandu today. — Frontlines ed.]
US Imperialism and Disaster Capitalism in Haiti
Keir Forgie, from Maximilian Forte’s new book:Good Intentions: Norms and Practices of Humanitarian Imperialism
At 4:53 PM, on Monday, January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shocked Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It was the most devastating earthquake the country had experienced in over 200 years, with estimated infrastructure damage between $8 and $14 billion (Donlon, 2012, p. vii; Farmer, 2011, p. 54). This is particularly astounding considering that Haiti is recognized as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 70% of individuals surviving on less than $2 US per day (Farmer, 2011, p. 60). The quake’s epicentre was located 15 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, which is the most heavily populated area in all of Haiti (Donlon, 2012, p. vii). Approximately three million Haitians, one third of the country’s population, live in Port-au-Prince and every single individual was affected by the disaster: the Haitian government reported 230,000 deaths, 300,600 injured persons, and between 1.2 to 2 million displaced people (Donlon, 2012, p. vii). The country presented a “blank slate,” with all manner of political, economic, and social services in absolute ruin—an ideal circumstance to exercise the arms of the new (US) imperialism: notably, NGOs, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the militarization of humanitarian aid, and disaster capitalism.
US hegemonic globalization is the current world order—it is the new imperialism. The breadth of US influence across the globe in terms of politics, economics, and military are unparalleled across history, affording the nation the means to orchestrate geopolitics in its favor through coercion, masked by rhetorical altruism (Moselle, 2008, pp. 1, 8). However, the US is currently challenged by a state of economic decline and shifting international relations. In an effort to maintain its dominant position, the US must implement a number of novel strategies. As such, the “new imperialism” is distinguished by certain contemporary characteristics: notably, war in the pursuit of dwindling natural resources, the militarization of the social sciences, war corporatism, the romanticization of imperialism, and as a central focus to this paper, the framing of military interventions as “humanitarian,” legitimized through rhetoric of freedom, democracy, and the right to intervene. In truth, the militarization of humanitarian aid serves to facilitate the imposition of neoliberal economic policies through the exploitation of weakened states—a
Haitians Continue Anti-Government Protest on Anniversary of Aristide Election
Revolution-news, on 02/08/2015
At least 6,000 protesters have marched through Haiti’s capital to demand lower fuel prices and the ouster of President Michel Martelly.
The protest in Port-au-Prince on Saturday remained peaceful overall although police threw tear gas and dispersed a crowd that had burned rubbish and tires in the street to block traffic. Continue reading →
Haitian police and UN peacekeepers have attacked protesters with live ammo and chemical agents as several thousand opposition supporters tried to march on the presidential palace, demanding new leadership.
Haiti has seen many anti-government protests in recent months calling for President Michael Martelly to step down, amid a growing anger over the high levels of government corruption. Elections have been delayed now for years.
People took to the streets again today. As the video above shows, the protest march approaching the Presidential Palace faced a barrage of gunfire and tear gas. While major media outlets have the audacity to falsely claim that Haitian police and UN peacekeepers fired only into the air to disperse the protest while on the same page show a photo of the man seen below taking aim at head height. It is profoundly clear that shots to kill were taken.
Six years in the making and filmed clandestinely under the Duvalier dictatorship, Bitter Cane is a timeless documentary classic about the exploitation and foreign domnation of the Haitian people. From peasant coffee farms in the rugged tropical mountains to steamy U.S. -owned sweatshops in the teeming capital, the film takes the viewer on a journey through Haitian history to a deeper understanding of that country’s political economy. We see emerging paths of flight–industries from the U.S., refugees from Haiti – which are having profound effects on both societies.
By Roger Annis, Canada Haiti Action Network, (published on Truthout, Oct. 8, 2014)
Jean-Claude Duvalier, the tyrant who ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986, has died in Haiti at the age of 63. His death is a huge moment for political reflection on the part of the Haitian people, including the fact that so much of Duvalier’s harsh political legacy remains alive and well in the island country. A foreign, military occupation force of the UN Security Council has entered its 11th year. It serves to bolster much of the authoritarian, Duvalier legacy, which has always, at its heart, been about excluding the Haitian people from governing their own country.
“President for Life”
Duvalier was appointed “president for life” in 1971 by his dying father, Francois Duvalier. Known as ‘Papa Doc’ for the medical education he received in his early years, the elder Duvalier muscled his way into power in 1957 and established one of the most ruthless dictatorships the world had ever known. He was 64 when he died.
“From the beginning of our century until now, Haiti and its inhabitants under one aspect or another, have, for various reasons, been very much in the thoughts of the American people. While slavery existed amongst us, her example was a sharp thorn in our side and a source of alarm and terror…. Her very name was pronounced with a shudder.”
– Frederick Douglass, World’s Columbian Exposition, January 2, 1893
As former Haitian President Aristide is placed on house arrest, supporters worldwide demand immediate halt to attacks on him and Lavalas Movement
We are no longer living in the 19th century with the specter of Haiti’s successful struggle for its freedom haunting the consciousness of slave masters across the Americas. Yet the military occupation of this country since 2004 by way of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is sending a clear message that the Haitians’ tentative step toward exercising control over the destiny in the 1990s and the early years of the new century is still “a source of alarm and terror” to imperial overlords such a Canada, France, and the United States.
The UN mission in Haiti influenced the creation of special urban police units in Brazil—and helped the Brazilian military make up for shortfalls in its training budget.
Two Brazilian experts in police work have confirmed longstanding claims that the Brazilian military and police used their leading role in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH ) as a way to train their forces for operations in Brazil’s own cities. According to Lt. Col. Carlos Cavalcanti, of the Brazilian Peace Operations Joint Training Center (CCOPAB ), the Brazilians were especially interested in the concept of permanent “strong points” in urban areas, which MINUSTAH forces used to “pacify” Port-au-Prince’s huge Cité Soleil section in 2005 and the Cité Militaire neighborhood in 2007. “Rio de Janeiro’s Militarized Police even sent a group to Haiti while these operations were still being carried out, with the object of taking in the Brazilian army’s experiences,” Cavalcanti said.
Brazil police in the Villa Cruzeiro favela in Rio de Janeiro in 2010
These experiences inspired the use of special police groups known as Pacifying Police Units (UPPs ) in controlling the impoverished urban areas in Brazil known as favelas, according to Claudio Silveira, a defense specialist at Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ). The UPP in Rio was the target of repeated protests in the summer of 2013 because of unit members’ alleged torture and murder of construction worker Amarildo de Souza Lima . One advantage of MINUSTAH for the Brazilian military is apparently that it helps make up for what top officers feel is an inadequate budget for training soldiers. In Haiti the soldiers get real-life training, for which the Brazilian government has paid out 2.11 billion reais (US$923 million) since the mission’s start in June 2004; the United Nations has reimbursed it with 741 million reais (US$324 million). (Adital , Brazil, Aug. 13) Continue reading →