Disaster relief in Haiti is turning into a debacle. While the earthquake was a natural event, the chaos and violence in the streets are compounded by a high-handed arrogance by the United States towards one of the poorest countries in the world.
The rapid and generous flow of donations from the public in the UK and US in response to appeals from the Red Cross has raised many millions. Haitian musician Wyclef Jean raised $1m through Twitter alone. But the way in which the relief operation is being conducted reminds many of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
After the US seized control last Friday of all inbound and outbound flights at Port-au-Prince airport, priority was given to VIPs like Hillary Clinton and Ban Ki-moon and flying in thousands of troops over landing medical and food aid. According to the campaigning Haitian lawyer Ezili Danto, “When the Haitians at the airport refused to give up their post to the US military, the US Southern Command went to President Preval and put a paper in front of him to sign giving them authority.”
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres has complained that five days after the earthquake ripped through Haiti, its cargo planes were blocked from landing at Port-au-Prince. One of its aircraft carrying a surgical hospital was re-routed to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic on Saturday. The Caribbean Community’s emergency aid mission to Haiti, was prevented from landing on Friday and had to return to Jamaica.
Danto believes the Obama administration is unlikely to welcome the return of ex-president Aristide whose party Fanmi Lavalas has been barred from participating in scheduled Haitian elections. Meanwhile, the election council under Haitian president Preval has approved Guy Phillipe’s Front for National Reconstruction. Phillipe was trained by US Special Forces in Ecuador and led the “rebels” who ousted Aristide back in 2004.
“Preval is NOT the Haitian government,” Danto insists. “The Prime Minister is alive and in the coming week we shall know how many of the legislators have survived. The authority given does not have the people's consent - a good indication of this is that the Haitians at the airport had to be forcibly removed. The Haitian Diaspora cannot reach their own. That's why I'm writing this to the world. Talking to the world.”
US critics like Danny Schechter have noted that, as in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, disaster planners “have an agenda that goes beyond just saving lives. They want to use the crisis to rebuild Haiti along lines they support (i.e. support of property rights etc). So far they have not spoken about how policies backed by the United States through the Caribbean Basin Initiative were responsible for uprooting peasants from the countryside to move them to the city to be a cheap labour reserve.”
Schechter points to the involvement of the Rand Corporation, which is, he says “a military contractor primarily, a centre for spooks and covert strategies. The fact that they are quoted as saviours is scary in itself. In other words, Haiti’s future is being planned outside of Haiti and will be imposed step by step”.
As foreign troops, including 1,000 from Canada, pour into the tiny island, Danto of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, has demanded that all foreign troops to leave the country:
“The issue is not emergency rescue anymore. Emergency is immediate, it's within 48 hours. That's over. The people who could have been saved under the rubble and metal have mostly died. Now it's about medical relief, healing and rebuilding. Haitians can do that by themselves with the help of the world that wants to send monies to Haiti for the earthquake victims.
“International assistance has never helped Haiti's poor and it's not helping the bulk of the earthquake survivors right now. Mostly the more privileged classes, as per usual. Go home US military. Please. And take the UN occupation forces and the false aid NGOs with you.”
A World to Win