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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

January 14, 2010

WHAT YOU'RE NOT HEARING ABOUT HAITI

Carl Lindskoog, Common Dreams -In the hours following Haiti's devastating earthquake, CNN, the New York Times and other major news sources adopted a common interpretation for the severe destruction: the 7.0 earthquake was so devastating because it struck an urban area that was extremely over-populated and extremely poor.  Houses "built on top of each other" and constructed by the poor people themselves made for a fragile city.  And the country's many years of underdevelopment and political turmoil made the Haitian government ill-prepared to respond to such a disaster. 
 
True enough.  But that's not the whole story.  What's missing is any explanation of why there are so many Haitians living in and around Port-au-Prince and why so many of them are forced to survive on so little.  Indeed, even when an explanation is ventured, it is often outrageously false such as a former U.S. diplomat's testimony on CNN that Port-au-Prince's overpopulation was due to the fact that Haitians, like most Third World people, know nothing of birth control. 


It may startle news-hungry Americans to learn that these conditions the American media correctly attributes to magnifying the impact of this tremendous disaster were largely the product of American policies and an American-led development model. . .
 

After the coronation of Baby Doc, American planners inside and outside the U.S. government initiated their plan to transform Haiti into the "Taiwan of the Caribbean."  This small, poor country situated conveniently close to the United States was instructed to abandon its agricultural past and develop a robust, export-oriented manufacturing sector.  This, Duvalier and his allies were told, was the way toward modernization and economic development.   

From the standpoint of the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development Haiti was the perfect candidate for this neoliberal facelift.  The entrenched poverty of the Haitian masses could be used to force them into low-paying jobs sewing baseballs and assembling other products.   


But USAID had plans for the countryside too.  Not only were Haiti's cities to become exporting bases but so was the countryside, with Haitian agriculture also reshaped along the lines of export-oriented, market-based production.  To accomplish this USAID, along with urban industrialists and large landholders, worked to create agro-processing facilities, even while they increased their practice of dumping surplus agricultural products from the U.S. on the Haitian people.   

This "aid" from the Americans, along with the structural changes in the countryside predictably forced Haitian peasants who could no longer survive to migrate to the cities, especially Port-au-Prince where the new manufacturing jobs were supposed to be.  However, when they got there they found there weren't nearly enough manufacturing jobs go around.  The city became more and more crowded.  Slum areas expanded.  And to meet the housing needs of the displaced peasants, quickly and cheaply constructed housing was put up, sometimes placing houses right "on top of each other."   
Before too long, however, American planners and Haitian elites decided that perhaps their development model didn't work so well in Haiti and they abandoned it.  The consequences of these American-led changes remain, however.  
    

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2 Comments:

Blogger b.f. said...

Coincidentally,a law school classmate of Secretary of State Clinton named Gregory Craig, apparently was the chief Washington contact for a powerful Haitian business family, the Mevs clan, for which the law firm of Williams & Connolly lobbies.

And according to the WSJ (9/16/94), in Haiti, the Mevs family owns "shoe and soap factories" anc controls most of Haiti's sugar imports," "are worth between $15 million and $50 million," owns much of Downtown Port-au-Prince and may have "profited from their cozy ties to the Duvaliers," historically.

January 14, 2010 1:26 PM  
Anonymous fuck the world bank said...

It was to preserve this AMF/World Bank dictatorial relationship that US thugs by proxy kidnapped democratically elected progressive president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Recently we saw a replay of this outrage in Honduras and we will continue to see and pay for this crap until David Rockefeller and his devildoers are tried band hanged.

January 14, 2010 3:44 PM  

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