Barnard-Columbia International Socialist Organization

January 25, 2010

Thursday 1/28: Aid Not Occupation: Who’s Killing Haiti?

Filed under: ISO Events, Solidarity — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 12:38 pm

For BARNARD-COLUMBIA STUDENTS: We’ll be meeting at 6pm at the 116th st/Broadway gates to take the train down to the meeting. See you there!

A Panel Discussion Featuring:

Edna Bonhomme – a Haitian-American activist and graduate student at Columbia University

A representative from Haiti Liberte (

Ray Laforest – Haitian Community Organizer and Haiti Support Network

Ashley Smith – editorial board member of the International Socialist Review ( and long-term Haitian solidarity activist

David Wilson – co-author of Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers and eyewitness to the earthquake in Port-au-Prince


7pm Thursday, January 28

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Room 301

208 West 13th Street (btw. 7th & 8th Ave.)

1/2/3/A/C/E/F/V/PATH trains to 14th St. or L train to 8th Ave.


Instead of rushing food, water and rescue teams to help the victims of Haiti’s earthquake, the Obama administration has organized an occupation.  Troops have been sent into Haiti while aid convoys are turned away from Port-au-Prince.  Meanwhile, media outlets focus on the “security” situation as a racist justification for the militarization of the crisis.

The United States has a long history of imposing imperialism and neoliberalism in Haiti at the expense of its people.  Today, the administration’s response is more of this same shock doctrine.   Join a discussion about how this unnatural disaster was created and what we can do to fight for real aid and reconstruction in Haiti.

Suggested donation: $10-20 (no one turned away for lack of funds) – all proceeds to go to grassroots relief efforts.

Sponsored by the International Socialist Organization

For more info, contact; 646-452-8662, or see

Read Socialist Worker‘s ongoing coverage of the situation in Haiti at


Haiti, Chile, Mumia: New articles at Socialist Worker

Filed under: ISO Events — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 12:19 pm

Here’s what’s new at…

Comment: Richard Seymour
With U.S. forces obstructing aid and beefing up “security” while Haitians die, no one should accept that the U.S. is motivated by “humanitarianism.”

Comment: Jesse Hagopian
Given the examples of Iraq, Afghanistan and now Haiti, it seems like the U.S. knows how to do little other than occupy.

Analysis: Marlene Martin
A Pennsylvania death row political prisoner was moved closer to the execution chamber by a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Comment: Orlando Sepúlveda
A conservative candidate won elections for Chile’s presidency, marking a return of the forces that supported the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
________’s best articles of 2009
Go back over 2009 with our favorite 25 or 27 articles (alright, make it 29) from the last year of

Don’t miss these articles from last week’s

Comment: Ashley Smith
Instead of rushing food, water and rescue teams to help the victims of Haiti’s earthquake, the Obama administration has organized an occupation.

Column: Lance Selfa
Republican Scott Brown–who vows to be the “41st vote” to defeat health care legislation–beat a panicked Democratic Party in liberal Massachusetts.

Analysis: Rachel Cohen and Alan Maass
A ring of U.S. warships on patrol off Haiti’s coast to stop desperate people from trying to flee is a stark symbol of Washington’s attitude toward refugees.

Comment: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
The earthquake that rocked Haiti has brought back hard memories of the racist atmosphere whipped up after the Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

Analysis: Orlando Sepúlveda
Rep. Luis Gutierrez has proposed an immigration bill that contains a pathway to legalization, but concedes many of the right’s demands for enforcement.

Comment: Elizabeth Schulte
The period before the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion provides lessons about how to shift the debate.

January 20, 2010

Friday at Columbia: Ali Abunimah on the Gaza Freedom March

Filed under: Articles, ISO Events, Solidarity — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 1:58 am

The Barnard-Columbia ISO is pleased to be co-sponsoring an event on campus with Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and participant in the Gaza Freedom March.

Check out one of Abunimah’s excellent recent articles: “Israel resembles a failed state

Also, read Socialist Worker coverage of the Gaza Freedom March from Laura Durkay, one of the participants:”Egypt’s Shameful Ban on Freedom Marchers

Ali Abunimah Speaks on: Global Grassroots Activism & the Gaza Freedom March

1300 People, 43 countries, 1 aim: Lift the Siege on Gaza

Date: Friday, January 22nd, 2010 at 2:15pm
Location: Earl Hall Auditorium (2nd Floor), Columbia University

Address: 2980 Broadway, NY, NY 10127

RSVP recommended via Facebook.

Ali Abunimah, author of “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse” and co-founder of the Electronic Intifada (EI), which is one of the primary news media resources that offers sound analysis and refreshing perspective on the Israel-Palestine conflict, will speak on his experience on the March, grassroots activism, and the current state of the “peace process.”

ABOUT the Gaza Freedom March (GFM):

The Global grassroots initiative inspired by Gandhi/Mandela aims to break the blockade of Gaza.

The Gaza Freedom March that will take place in Gaza on December 31 is an historic initiative to break the siege that has imprisoned the 1.5 million people who live there. Conceived in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and nonviolent resistance to injustice worldwide, the march will gather people from all over the world to march—hand in hand—with the people of Gaza to demand that the Israelis open the borders.

Marking the one-year anniversary of the December 2008 Israeli invasion that left over 1,400 dead, this is a grassroots global response to the inaction on the part of world leaders and institutions. Over 1,000 international delegates from 42 countries have already signed up and more are signing on every day. Participants include Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, leading Syrian comedian Duraid Lahham, French Senator Alima Boumediene–Thiery, author and Filipino Parliament member Walden Bello, former vice president of European Parliament Luisa Morgantini from Italy, President of the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights Attorney Michael Ratner, Japanese former Ambassador to Lebanon Naoto Amaki, French hip-hop artists Ministere des Affaires Populaires, and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein.

Also marching were families of three generations; doctors; lawyers; diplomats; 70 students; an interfaith group that includes rabbis, priests and imams; a women’s delegation; a veterans group; and Palestinians born overseas who have never seen their families in Gaza.


***This event is sponsored by the Arab Student Association at SIPA, TURATH, Adalah-NY, Codepink, MSA and the Grassroots Policy Network.
Co-sponsored by the Columbia Coalition Against War, Students for a Democratic Society, ISO, and Al-Awda NY.

January 18, 2010

Haiti: Witness to a nightmare

Filed under: ISO Events — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 2:53 pm

Witness to a nightmare

January 18, 2010

Jesse Hagopian, a teacher in Seattle and contributor to, was in Port-au-Prince with his 1-year-old son to visit his wife when the earthquake hit. His wife, an aid worker, works until six or seven in the evening on most days, but by sheer luck, she came to the hotel where they were staying early on Tuesday–just minutes before the quake struck at 4:53 p.m. This spared Jesse and his family agonizing hours or days trying to find one another amid the chaos.

Within hours, the hotel where they were staying became known as a place where some medical help was available, because another hotel guest happened to be an emergency medical technician. Jesse got a crash course in treating severe injuries–broken bones, head wounds and more–as people desperate for help kept arriving.

Jesse spoke with Eric Ruder via telephone from Port-au-Prince on January 15 and 16 about the crisis unfolding around him. On Sunday, he and his family were able to fly out of Haiti to the Dominican Republic.

Homes destroyed in a poor neighborhood of Port-au-Prince

CAN YOU describe what you’re seeing in Haiti?

YESTERDAY, WE drove around downtown Port-au-Prince, and some of the adjoining cities. It’s hard to describe, because there’s just no reference for it in the rest of my life. But the first thing you notice is that everyone’s wearing a mask. People are coming from different cities and different neighborhoods to search for their relatives, and the stench is so bad because there’s so many dead bodies that everyone’s got a mask on.

There are people looking through the rubble, and the rubble is just so expansive. Huge buildings have collapsed, and everything’s made out of concrete, so it’s just concrete slabs and concrete bricks, just littered all over the ground and all over the street, and countless scenes of people digging through them, looking for loved ones.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of bodies that aren’t claimed. We saw a lot of instances of bulldozers coming and picking up bodies, and throwing them into the backs of trucks. They’re trying to clear the streets of dead bodies because it becomes a public health issue. But it’s going to be very challenging for a lot of families who don’t have closure and don’t know what happened to their family members.

What you can do

Donations and aid are desperately needed in Haiti. Here are some organizations with connections to the grassroots movements in the country.

The Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, organized by the solidarity organization Haiti Action, delivers resources directly to grassroots organizations. It was founded in 2004 after the coup d’etat that forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of office.

For more information, including a telephone contact, go to the Canada Haiti Action Network Web site.

The Zanmi Lasante Medical Center is located in the Central Plateau of Haiti and delivers health care through a network of clinics. The health center survived the earthquake and delivering aid to the disaster zone. You can donate to the center through the U.S. non-profit organization Partners in Health.

SOPUDEP is a pioneering school in Petionville. The resources of the school and its teachers are being mobilized to assist the neighboring population. You can support the school via the Canadian-based Sawatzky Family Foundation.


One of the things that you also notice when you go through the streets is that everyone’s out there on their own. There was very little of the government or the UN in the efforts to find these bodies or help the injured. During our drive, we only saw the UN in front of the place where their headquarters used to be. It had collapsed, and we saw lots of soldiers guarding that area. I didn’t see anybody distributing aid.

Half of the hotel that I was staying in collapsed–the half I wasn’t in, thankfully. And the half I was in, there were cracks all over the place, so it was dangerous to remain there. We have our 1-year-old son with us, so we definitely didn’t want to just sleep outside if we could avoid it.

Thankfully, my mom had a friend here, and she had gotten in contact with him right when we got to Haiti, before the earthquake. He came and found us, knowing which hotel we were staying in. That was very lucky, or else we’d be sleeping outside. And he has this phone that we’re talking on now, so without that, we’d have no contact to let our families know what was going on.

I WAS in Gaza last summer, and when I saw the news picture from Haiti, I was struck by how much it looked like Gaza. Like you’ve described–big piles of concrete and twisted rebar and broken bricks everywhere you looked.

THAT’S IT. That’s all they build with. It’s terrible construction in an earthquake because it’s so heavy. It just crushed people. Nothing is reinforced enough to withstand a very strong earthquake, so the devastation is so massive.

If the UN mission here was really about helping the people of Haiti, this would be the best place in the world to have an earthquake–not that you’d want one anywhere, but you’d have a huge peacekeeping force that could help with the injured and rebuild the country.

But instead, in the course of a day or two, so many people died needlessly because they didn’t get a bandage on their head wound. My hotel became a makeshift hospital, and so many people were coming there because we had one nurse. That was all we had–no supplies and no other help. If someone had dropped off a box of bandages, it could have saved more people.

I just read that the new estimate by local officials is 200,000 dead. I had originally read 50,000. If people who are still trapped don’t get water, this number is actually conceivable. I saw so many huge buildings downtown just collapsed, and the quake happened just before 5 p.m. on Tuesday–so many of those buildings had people in them.

If that number of 200,000 is reached, it will be one of the 10 deadliest natural disasters of all time.

Of course, it’s not simply a natural disaster. It’s a natural disaster on top of the disaster that U.S. imperialism has imposed on this country for decades, backing one dictator after another in the interest of maintaining a source of cheap labor for U.S. corporations.

WHAT DO you think of the Obama administration’s response so far?

ON SATURDAY, Hillary Clinton flew into Haiti to oversee the relief effort–supposedly. But I think her trip to Haiti tells you all you need to know: They had to shut down the airport for three hours so she could land, which meant that no actual aid flights could come in.

And this happened at a really critical time, because we’re right at that point where every extra ounce of water matters. At this point, people who have been without water are facing imminent death. But they stopped the aid shipments so Clinton could give a canned speech from Haiti about how much the U.S. is doing to help.

And in any case, the U.S. government is sending more boots on the ground and more guns to help with “law and order.” But this isn’t what the Haitian people need. They need people with shovels, and people to give them water. And of course, “law and order” is threatened by the lack of aid. Emphasizing troops over aid creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that will lead to serious bloodshed.

ON SATURDAY, an article about the Haiti crisis in the New York Times said that the historic “neglect” of the Haitian people has at least made them “resilient.” To quote the Times, “Although protesting is a national custom, so is surviving on little. That national ethos, the Haitians’ ability to scrounge to find enough to fight their hunger pangs, is being tested in full by the current crisis.”

RIGHT. IN other words, we’ve been screwing them for so long, they should be used to it by now.

It’s such racist garbage. It’s a little softer than the Rush Limbaugh statement that we’ve already helped the Haitian people with our taxpayer dollars, or Pat Robertson’s idea that this is retribution for a pact made with the devil. But it’s coming from the same racist attitude that these people are used to these kinds of conditions, so they’ll be fine. But nobody can deal with the horror that I’ve seen here.

When I heard that statement from Pat Robertson, after all the stress I’d been under, that just kind of broke me. I had to yell. That this earthquake was payback for kicking out the French during the Haitian Revolution? I hope that Pat Robertson can be dropped in one of the neighborhoods here, and let the people have at him.

It’s hard to even respond to that kind of idiocy, but I just got finished reading CLR James’ The Black Jacobins, and it’s one of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever read about ordinary people taking up arms, liberating themselves and taking control of their own affairs.

And then there’s people like Pat Robertson, who wish Haiti was still a colony, where they could just directly enslave people and make money off them.

In any case, the U.S. needs to tell its soldiers to drop their machine guns and pick up shovels and start digging people out. I’ve seen a lot of stories predicting that violence and looting could break out, and that’s a real possibility, if they don’t get people food. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The way you impose order isn’t with machine guns, but by giving people food.

On Friday, they gave out only 8,000 packets of daily food rations, and the UN says that some 8 million are needed this week. People are drinking water contaminated by the rotting bodies, so there’s a public health disaster looming that could create another wave of deaths among those who survived the quake.


Where is the aid in Haiti?

Filed under: ISO Events — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 7:35 am

Where is the aid in Haiti?

Roger Annis, a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network, reports on the desperate conditions in Haiti and the failure of governments like the U.S. to respond.

January 15, 2010

Victims of the earthquake in Port-au-PrinceVictims of the earthquake in Port-au-Prince

EVIDENCE OF monstrous neglect of the Haitian people is mounting following the catastrophic earthquake on January 12. As life-saving medical supplies, food, water purification chemicals and vehicles pile up at the airport in Port-au-Prince, and as news networks report a massive international effort to deliver emergency aid, people in the shattered city are wondering when they will see help.

As of January 15, the BBC World Service reported that Haitian officials now fear the death toll could rise to 140,000. Three million people are homeless.

BBC reporter Andy Gallagher said that he had traveled “extensively” in Port-au-Prince during the day and saw little sign of aid delivery. He said he was shown nothing but courtesy by the Haitians he encountered. Everywhere he went, he was taken by residents to see what had happened to their neighborhood, their homes and their lives. Then they asked, “Where is the help?”

“When the rescue teams arrive,” Gallagher said, “they will be welcomed with open arms.”

What you can do

Donations and aid are desperately needed in Haiti. Here are some organizations with connections to the grassroots movements in the country.

The Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, organized by the solidarity organization Haiti Action, delivers resources directly to grassroots organizations. It was founded in 2004 after the coup d’etat that forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of office.

For more information, including a telephone contact, go to the Canada Haiti Action Network Web site.

The Zanmi Lasante Medical Center is located in the Central Plateau of Haiti and delivers health care through a network of clinics. The health center survived the earthquake and delivering aid to the disaster zone. You can donate to the center through the U.S. non-profit organization Partners in Health.

SOPUDEP is a pioneering school in Petionville. The resources of the school and its teachers are being mobilized to assist the neighboring population. You can support the school via the Canadian-based Sawatzky Family Foundation.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio One’s As It Happens broadcast an interview on January 15 with a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross. He said he spent the morning touring one of the hardest hit areas of the city (the district was not named), in the hills that rise from the flat plain on which sits historic Port-au-Prince. “In three hours, I didn’t see a single rescue team,” the spokesperson said.

The BBC report contrasts starkly with warnings of looting and violence that fill the airwaves of news channels such as CNN and that were voiced by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He was asked by the media in Washington why relief supplies were not being delivered by air and answered, “It seems to me that air drops will simply lead to riots.”

Gates says that “security” concerns are impeding the delivery of aid. But Gallagher responded directly to that in his report, saying, “I’m not experiencing that.” Describing the airport, Gallagher reported, “There are plenty of materials on the ground and plenty of people there. I don’t know what the problem is with delivery.”

Nan Buzard, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross, was interviewed on the same BBC broadcast about the problem with aid delivery. She implied that there were not, in fact, many supplies at the airport to be moved–that many of the planes that have been landing were filled with people, not supplies.

When pressed by the BBC host about why aid was not being moved into the city, Buzard conceded she was “surprised” that it was not being airlifted in.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE BBC’s is not the only report to contradict exaggerated security concerns. The daily report on the Web site of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) one day after the earthquake said, “Some parts of the city are without electricity, and people have gathered outside, lighting fires in the street, and trying to help and comfort each other. When they saw that I was from MSF, they were asking for help, particularly to treat their wounded. There was strong solidarity among people in the streets.”

An e-mailed report received by the Canada Haiti Action Network describes a city largely bereft of international aid:

Thus far, the rescue teams cluster at the high-profile and safer walled sites and were literally afraid to enter the barrios. They gravitated to the sites where they had secure compounds and big buildings.

Meanwhile, the neighborhoods where the damage appears to be much wider, and anywhere there were loose crowds, they avoided. In the large sites, and in the nice neighborhoods, and where the press can be found, there would be teams from every country imaginable. Dogs and extraction units with more arriving, yet with 90 percent or more of them just sitting around.”

Meanwhile, in the poor neighborhoods, awash in rubble, there was not a foreigner in sight.

News crews are looking for the story of desperate Haitians who are in hysterics. When in reality, it is more often the Haitians who are acting calmly while the international community, the elite and politicians have melted down over the issue, and none seem to have the remotest idea what is going on.

The report says that most of the staff of the U.S. embassy and U.S. Agency for International Development complex (located a stone’s throw from the oceanfront) have fled, and buildings are largely empty, even though the streets in the area are clear.

Yesterday, BBC broadcast an interview with Mark Stuart, a director of an orphanage in Jacmel, a city of 50,000 on Haiti’s south coast, 50 kilometers south of Port-au-Prince. Aerial footage showed catastrophic damage. Stuart appealed for international relief, saying that food and water supplies would soon run out, and no aid whatsoever had arrived.

An article on the Web site of a Chicago publication says a trickle of aid arrived today, but the road between Port and Prince and Jacmel is impassable.

Aid authorities must be urged to speed up their efforts to flood the earthquake zone with food, water, supplies and medical personnel. A network of relief centers fanning out from the port and airport, including airlifts and parachute drops, would seem an obvious step. Donations to relief efforts, especially to those already delivering services such as Partners in Health and Doctors Without Borders, are crucially important.

Past coverage of Haiti in Socialist Worker

Filed under: ISO Events — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 7:32 am

Past coverage of Haiti in

Analysis: Roger Annis
Five years after a paramilitary coup in Haiti that toppled Jean-Bertrand Aristide, international intervention has meant more poverty and instability.

Comment: Jeremy Scahill
The new special UN envoy to Haiti is Bill Clinton–whose policies as president in the 1990s systematically destabilized the country.

Report: Nicole Colson
A growing number of Haiti’s poor have been pushed beyond endurance by price increases in staple foods.

Analysis: Ashley Smith
When hurricanes swept across Haiti, they struck an already impoverished population–and the storms were transformed into mass killers.

Column: Sharon Smith
For the 3 billion people who survive on less than $2 a day, the upward spiral in food prices has meant a struggle for the most basic of human rights.

Analysis: Ashley Smith
George W. Bush promised that the U.S. would bring democracy, stability and respect for human rights. Instead, one year of a U.S. and United Nations occupation of Haiti has brought a new reign of terror.

January 14, 2010

Ashley Smith: Catastrophe in Haiti

Filed under: Articles — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 5:34 am

Catastrophe in Haiti

Ashley Smith describes the natural and not-so-natural factors that contributed to the devastation when Haiti was struck by a strong earthquake.

January 14, 2010

A man carries an injured woman from the rubble after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince (Clarens Renois | AFP)A man carries an injured woman from the rubble after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince (Clarens Renois | AFP)

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.


What you can do

The American solidarity organization Haiti Action is committed to raising money for Haiti’s grassroots movement–including labor unions, women’s groups, educators and human rights activists, support committees for prisoners, and agricultural cooperatives–to distribute to those in need.

You can make a donation to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund online.


One person who did reach relatives, Garry Pierre-Pierre, editor and publisher of the Brooklyn-based Haitian Times, stated, “People are in shock. They’re afraid to go out in the streets for obvious reasons, and most of them can’t get inside their homes. A lot of people are sitting or sleeping in front of the rubble that used to be their homes.”

President René Préval issued an emergency appeal for humanitarian aid. He described the scene in Port-au-Prince as “unimaginable. Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed. There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead people in them. All the hospitals are packed with people. It’s a catastrophe.”

The weak Préval government 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 racism. 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.

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.

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.

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.”

First the Bush administration and now the Obama administration have used the coup and social and natural crises to expand the U.S.’s neoliberal economic plans.

Under Obama, the U.S. has granted Haiti $1.2 billion in debt relief, but it hasn’t canceled all of Haiti’s debt–the country still pays huge sums to the Inter-American Development Bank. The debt relief is classic window-dressing for Obama’s real Haiti policy, which is the same old Haiti policy.

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 Vodou 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.”

Thus, as previous U.S. presidencies have done before, the Obama administration has worked to aid Haiti’s elite, sponsor international corporations taking advantage of cheap labor, weaken the ability of the Haitian state to regulate the society, and repress any political resistance to that agenda.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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 should therefore agitate against any attempt by the U.S. and other powers to use this crisis to further impose their program on a prostrate country.

We should also be wary of the role of international NGOs. While many NGOs are trying to address the crisis, the U.S. and other governments are funneling aid to them in order to undermine Haitians’ democratic right to self-determination. The international NGOs are unaccountable to either the Haitian state or Haitian population. So the aid funneled through them further weakens what little hold Haitians have on their own society.

The Obama administration should also immediately lift the ban against Aristide’s return to Haiti, as well as the political ban on his party, Fanmi Lavalas, from participating in the electoral process. After all, a known drug criminal and coup leader, Guy Philippe, and his party Front for National Reconstruction (FRN) has been allowed to participate in the electoral process. Aristide and his party, by contrast, are still the most popular political force in the country and should have the right to participate in an open and fair vote.

The U.S. should also stop deportations of Haitians who have fled their crisis-torn country and grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitian refugees. That would allow any Haitians who have fled the political and social crisis since the coup, the hurricanes and now the earthquake to remain legally in the U.S.

On top of that, we must demand that the U.S. stop imposing its neoliberal plans. The U.S. has plundered Haitian society for decades. Instead of Haiti owing any debt to the U.S., other countries or international financial institutions, the reverse is the case. The U.S., France, Canada and the UN owe the people of Haiti reparations to redress the imperial plunder of the country.

With these funds and political space, Haitians would be finally able to begin shaping their own political and economic future–the dream of the great slave revolution 200 years ago.

New Socialist Worker articles & New issue of the International Socialist Review!

Filed under: Articles — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 5:30 am

Here’s what’s new at

State and local governments are ramming through massive budget cuts that are wrecking lives–and the federal government is doing nothing.

Analysis: David Whitehouse
The failed attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner has provided Barack Obama with an excuse for a war in Yemen that has been fought quietly until now.

Obituary: Daniel Bensaïd
One of the key figures of the French student revolt of 1968 and a revolutionary through all the years since has died after 15 years of living with AIDS.

Comment: Dennis Kosuth
An ER nurse explains why the formation of a “super union” is an important step toward organizing the nation’s 2 million nurses.

Comment: Jessica Hansen-Weaver
It’s come to the point where we hear more about the “rights” of unborn fetuses than the rights of living women to control whether they have children.

Analysis: Dahr Jamail
Iraq war vet and Army Spc. Marc Hall has been incarcerated for recording a song about the military’s stop-loss policy.

New International Socialist Review is out now
ISR Issue 69, January–February 2010

Features include:
The new war plan for Afghanistan

Lance Selfa

Sherry Wolf

And much more, including Arundhati Roy on Mr. Chidambaram’s war, John Riddell on Clara Zetkin’s strugggle for the united front, Jeff Bale on The fight for bilingual education, Chris Harman on Classic of Marxism: How the Russian Revolution was lost, and David Whitehouse on Afghanistan: Sinking Deeper

January 8, 2010

“A Victory for Viva Palestina” and more Winter Break reading from Socialist Worker

Filed under: Articles — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 1:29 pm

Here’s what’s new at…

Comment: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
The economic crisis in Black communities constitutes an outright depression that has gone largely unnoticed because of the government’s racist indifference.

Analysis: Nicole Colson
Three lives lost over a $181 utility bill–that’s the ugly truth in Detroit, where a house fire killed three people on January 5.

Report: Eric Ruder
Egyptian police viciously attacked the Viva Palestina convoy, but participants stood their ground and were allowed into Gaza the following day.

Review: Nagesh Rao
Many reviewers applauded Avatar’s amazing special effects. But what about its fierce message against imperial occupation and for the right to resist?

Analysis: Jeremy Scahill
A federal judge dismissed charges against five Blackwater operatives accused of the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad.

Analysis: Carl Finamore
Over 1,000 UNITE HERE Local 2 members and 400 supporters staged a rally and civil disobedience action outside San Francisco’s biggest hotel.

January 6, 2010

New Articles & Protest today at Egyptian Consulate for the Viva Palestina Convoy

Filed under: Articles, Solidarity — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 12:40 pm

The Viva Palestina Aid convoy to Gaza has been attacked by Egyptian police forces. There will be a protest in NYC today (Wednesday 1/6) from 4:30-6:30pm at the Egyptian Consulate, 44th st & 2nd Ave.

See the article below for more information!

Here’s what’s new at…

Analysis: Lee Sustar
New mass protests and bloody repression are deepening the divides in Iran’s ruling class as the stakes for the struggle grow higher.

Report: Brian Lenzo, Ralph Bean and Tom Middleton
Egyptian authorities have attacked a convoy carrying humanitarian relief supplies destined for the people of Gaza.

Comment: Alan Maass
A Nigerian man’s attempt to explode a bomb on a Detroit-bound airplane has become the excuse for a return to the post-September 11 terrorism hysteria.

Comment: Marco Murillo
The fallout is continuing from D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s latest attack on public education.

Report: Eric Ruder
Participants in a convoy carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza are calling on solidarity activists everywhere for their help.

Obituary: Lester Rodney
Former Daily Worker sportswriter Lester “Red” Rodney died in December after a long life of demonstrating the links between sports and the struggle.

Solidarity with the people of Palestine

Mission to Gaza
For updates on the convoy carrying humanitarian relief supplies for the people of Gaza, visit the Viva Palestina Web site:

Viva Palestina is asking activists to mobilize protests where possible at Egyptian embassies and consulates, and to contact Egyptian officials to demand that the violence against the convoy end and Viva Palestina be allowed safe and speedy passage. To reach the Egyptian embassy in Washington, D.C., e-mail, call 202-895-5400 and fax 202-244-4319.

Labor for Palestine has issued a call for trade union members and activists to add their voices in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Read more about it here:

Read’s past coverage of Gaza

Analysis: Eric Ruder

Interview: Haidar Eid

Read’s journal from a convoy to Gaza in July 2009

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