The betrayal of Haiti

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One year on from the devastating earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people, ordinary Haitians are still suffering homelessness, cholera and an occupying army. Emmanuel Broadus reports on the situation from Haiti, with photos by Ryan Ffrench.

People queue to receive voter ID cards.

It was supposed to be the day that Haitians voted in what has been called one of the most important elections in Haiti's history. On the ballot on 28 November 2010 were 19 contenders for the five-year post of the presidency, all but one of the 99 seats in the House of Deputies and a third of the Senate.

Haiti - repression and resistance

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The staggering poverty in which the vast majority of Port-au-Prince's population live is a shock to anyone. Yet it is not because of some peculiar Haitian backwardness but the result of centuries of exploitation.

At the end of the 18th century Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was then known) was the wealthiest colony in the Caribbean, and its then capital, Cap-Français, was one of the world's richest cities.

When the French Revolution began in 1789 the island had nearly 800 sugar plantations and 3,000 coffee, cotton and indigo plantations, all destined for France under a colonial trade monopoly. Its population of 35,000 whites and 27,000 mulattoes (people of mixed race) controlled the island economy, while 1 million slaves were brought from Africa to work the land.

Haiti - who are the real looters?

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After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the sinister private security company (PSC) Blackwater was hired to provide armed mercenaries with a licence to kill in order to protect stores and private residences.

Meanwhile the sick and elderly were dying in the streets. Now PSCs are queuing for contracts to "safeguard" incoming aid and what's left of Haiti's valuable stock.

Haiti - aid of recovery

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Haiti requires emergency aid, but not at gunpoint. It needs food and water, doctors, nurses and medical supplies, construction, machinery and technical help, all without conditions.

Real humanitarian aid would include:

•An end to occupation

•Aid without conditions

•Borders open to refugees

•Cancellation of all debt

•Funding of public and community associations

•Free elections

•Repayment of colonial "reparations", interest and penalty payments

Haiti coverage in this month's Socialist Review:

Haiti - the making of a catastrophe, by Mike Gonzalez

Haiti's burden of debt

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Haiti's debt by numbers

•$35 billion Approximate equivalent in today's currency of Haiti's bill to France for its "lost" colony

•$750 million Haiti's debt in 1986, when the US-backed Duvaliers fell

•$900 million The Duvalier fortune that remains frozen in a Swiss bank

•$321 million The cost of servicing Haiti's debt between 1995 and 2001

•$11 million The amount by which interest on debt exceeded foreign aid to Haiti in a single year (2003)

•$1.9 billion Haiti's debt when the US gave $1.2 billion in relief (June 2009)

Toussaint L'Ouverture: The Gilded African

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Locked in an Alpine castle, Toussaint L'Ouverture died in April 1803 having led the slave insurrection of Saint-Domingue and challenged French domination of the Caribbean.

It was a cruel irony to take this great leader from his Caribbean island and incarcerate him through a freezing winter.

Born a slave around 1743, Toussaint enjoyed a degree of privilege as a house slave and coachman and was taught to read and write. At 33 he was given his freedom and adopted the name L'Ouverture ("opening"). Like others he must have anticipated that the French Revolution of 1789 would liberate the slaves. Instead wealthy planters remained in control of an island vital to the French economy.

The taking of Haiti

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The theft of Haiti has been swift and crude.

On 22 January the US secured "formal approval" from the United Nations to take over all air and sea ports in Haiti, and to "secure" roads. No Haitian signed the agreement, which has no basis in law. Power rules in a US naval blockade and the arrival of 13,000 marines, special forces, spooks and mercenaries, none with humanitarian relief training.

Haiti - hell on earth

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Communication is incredibly difficult. Cell phones may work for an hour a day but people are finding it difficult to charge batteries. They can buy credit online but most don't have money.

People are trying to organise the best they can. Most are staying in their neighbourhoods unless these are completely flattened. Those with the closest links to the countryside have taken to the road.

Haiti - the making of a catastrophe

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After the earthquake struck, the people of Haiti needed food, water and shelter - instead they got US troops and predatory corporations. Haiti's problems are not just a result of a natural disaster, Mike Gonzalez argues, but are rooted in the country's history of slavery and exploitation

The numbers are almost incomprehensible, the devastation and loss impossible to imagine. At least 100,000 people lie dead under the rubble, and 2 million are homeless and abandoned. The news footage of whirring helicopters and aircraft carriers outside the ruined ports created a mirage of action - but as the days passed nothing changed in the devastated slums of Port-au-Prince.


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