World in View: Haiti one year later

From the January-February 2011 issue of News & Letters:

World in View: Haiti one year later

Oxfam, Amnesty International, the Red Cross and the UN issued sobering reports on the first anniversary of the most devastating earthquake in modern Haitian history. Only an estimated 5% of the debris which covers much of Port-au-Prince has been removed. Beyond nearly a quarter of a million people who died, several thousand more have recently fallen victim to cholera.

More than a million people still live in tents in makeshift camps. A fraudulent first round election for president was held, with a number of groups trying to ram the results down the throats of the masses. In the words of one critique, “Port-au-Prince still lies buried under the rubble of competing NGOs (non-governmental organizations).”

How could it be otherwise? It isn’t a question of good NGOs vs. bad NGOs, or of donors insisting on control, as many do. The central question has always been: Will recovery, reconstruction and rebuilding of lives be in the hands of the Haitian people themselves, or will it be under the thumb of Haitian elites and their outside collaborators and co-conspirators?

These powers are determined that Haitians will never decide their own future. They block the return of Aristide. They attach strings to the aid delivered to “fit” the Haitian masses into the gear-boxes and mechanisms of capitalism. As we wrote immediately after the earthquake: “continued ‘aid’ to Haiti, done in an external manner that denies self-determination for Haitians, will only perpetuate Haiti’s man-made tragedies.” One year on, the man-made tragedies continue.

–Eugene Walker

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