Catastrophe in Haiti: The crisis that capitalism created

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Thus, when the limits on import quotas are met, or if demand decreases, the industry cannot expand its production. In sum, the assembly industry drained more foreign exchange than it brought in. It did this in two ways. It went from being self-sufficient in the production of rice, sugar, poultry, and pork to becoming the fourth-largest importer of subsidized U. Eighty percent of all the rice consumed in Haiti is now imported.


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Trade liberalization, then, essentially meant transferring wealth from Haitian to U. Not surprisingly, rice imports were more profitable than other food imports. Trade liberalization not only exacerbated the decline of agriculture and the dispossession of farmers, but when combined with an industrial strategy that located assembly industries primarily in Port-au-Prince, it also propelled migrants from the rural areas to the capital city and its spreading squalor. Those who could not find employment in the assembly industries swelled the ranks of the unemployed or the informal sector, which became the largest source of employment for the urban population.

Along with Bolivia, Haiti has the largest income inequality in the hemisphere. Yet despite these lamentable outcomes, the economic development strategy now under way in Haiti is nearly identical to that of the past. The only difference is that it calls for expanding the export zones for garment production beyond the two that already exist in Port-au-Prince and Ouanaminthe, near the border with the Dominican Republic, to create clusters of such industries.

It also calls for similar zones to be created for selected agricultural crops, like mangoes, which can be mass-produced for export.

Congress in , which grants Haiti and the Dominican Republic duty-free access to the U. Only by creating sufficiently large clusters of these industries, which could potentially employ several hundred thousand workers, could Haiti become globally competitive, according to this plan. Moreover, the argument goes, creating new zones of garment production and the jobs they would presumably create would also reduce the percentage of the population that lives off the land. This in turn would facilitate a switch from labor-intensive to land-intensive farming, requiring greater inputs and hence yielding greater output.

After the U. The bill waives tariffs on knit and woven fabrics imported from Haiti and raises the production quotas to million SMEs each until , 50 million SMEs fewer than what Clinton had hoped for. The million SME limit imposed by the new bill was to protect U. We should have continued to. Yet neither Clinton, the Collier report, nor the Action Plan explains how Haiti is to regain self-sufficiency in rice or food production generally when none of them, nor the Obama administration, nor the U.

Congress, is calling for repealing the trade liberalization policies Clinton decried. In a talk recorded by Democracy Now! Crises-natural disasters are so much worse in countries like Haiti, because you have soil erosion because the poverty means people are building in very, very precarious ways, so houses just slide down because they are built in places where they shouldn't be built.

All of this is interconnected. But we have to be absolutely clear that this tragedy, which is part natural, part unnatural, must, under no circumstances, be used to, one, further indebt Haiti, and, two, to push through unpopular corporatist policies in the interests of our corporations. Following the disaster in Haiti, Klein pointed out that the Heritage Foundation, "one of the leading advocates of exploiting disasters to push through their unpopular pro-corporate policies ," issued a statement on its website after the earthquake hit: "In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.

Within hours of the earthquake, Scahill wrote, the IPOA website announced, "In the wake of the tragic events in Haiti, a number of IPOA's member companies are available and prepared to provide a wide variety of critical relief services to the earthquake's victims. Kathy Robison, a Fortune executive, formerly with Goldman Sachs Companies, wrote of the earthquake disaster in Haiti. There is much we are planning as far as creating new and innovative ways of using international aid and government support to promote private investment.

Kim writes, "in the face of this latest tragedy, the IMF is still using crisis and debt as leverage to compel neoliberal reforms. The last thing Haiti needs at this point is more debt; what it needs is grants. In the midst of the suffering and anguish following the earthquake, many Haitians came together to console and help each other. Journalist David Wilson, in Haiti during the time of the earthquake, wrote of the singing that followed the disaster. It's a sense of community. If these elements of the "relief" efforts continue in this exploitative vein, it is this community that will likely be crushed even further by disaster capitalism and imperialism.

While international leaders and institutions are speaking about how many soldiers and dollars they are committing to Haiti, it is important to note that what Haiti needs is doctors not soldiers, grants not loans, a stronger public sector rather than a wholesale privatization, and critical solidarity with grassroots organizations and people to support the self-determination of the country.

Otherwise, it's a takeover and what might happen is that the needs of Haitians are not taken into account, but only either the way a foreign country defines the need of Haiti, or try to push its own agenda. For more information and suggestions on acting in solidarity with the Haitian people, read this article. This is the world we live in.


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  • This is the world we cover. Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. The international tourism industry is a product of metropolitan capitalist enterprise. The superior entrepreneurial skills, resources and commercial power of metropolitan companies enable them to dominate many third world tourist destinations. The Clinton and Collier plan for sweatshops is even less appealing.

    Collier practically celebrates the poverty wages that corporations can get away with in Haiti.

    Haitian labor is not only cheap, it is of good quality. Indeed, because the garments industry used to be much larger than it is currently, there is a substantial pool of experienced labor. Given the abolition of tariffs on many Haitian exports to the U. But this is no sustainable development plan for Haitian workers. At best, Collier promises , or so jobs. As anthropologist Mark Schulman argues, "Subcontracted, low-wage factory work does not contribute much to the economy besides jobs.

    Being exempt from taxes, it does not contribute to the financing of Haiti's social services.

    Haiti: disaster relief or disaster capitalism?

    Already last year, the U. For the peasant majority in Haiti, Clinton and Collier advocate construction of vast new mango plantations. According to them, such new plantations will both create an export crop and aid the reforestation of the country.

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    While it may create jobs for poor peasants, such plantations won't rebuild the agricultural infrastructure of the country so that it can return to the self-sufficient food system it had before the s. Such self-sufficiency goes against the grain of U. Finally, Collier argues for investment in infrastructure--airports, seaports and roads--not so much to meet people's needs as to service the new investments in tourism, sweatshops and plantations.

    As a result, Collier's plan will actually increase infrastructural inequities. Businesses will get what they need to export their products, while the needs of the Haitian masses--for navigable roads, for example--will be left unaddressed. Even worse, Collier advocates increased privatization of Haiti's infrastructure, especially the port and the electrical system. Nevertheless, in the wake of the disaster, Bill Clinton is pressing ahead.

    First, continuing to provide the humanitarian assistance with effective mechanisms to deliver all these relief items to the people who need it. Second, provide security and stability for people. Thirdly, the reconstruction of the Haitian economy. Beyond this, the Economist magazine argues for the U.

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    Given the local vacuum of power, this is the best idea around. The authority should be set up under the auspices of the UN or of an ad hoc group the United States, Canada, the European Union and Brazil, for example. It should be led by a suitable outsider Bill Clinton who is the UN's special envoy for Haiti, would be ideal, perhaps followed by Brazil's Lula after steps down as president in a year's time and a prominent Haitian, such as the prime minister.

    With its intervention in Haiti, the U.

    Disaster Capitalism to the Rescue: The International Community and Haiti After the Earthquake

    Washington has expanded its network of military bases in Latin America--especially in Colombia, where it has opened seven new bases. The plight of some , Haitians still living in tents since the earthquake has surged into the streets and the headlines. Haiti's broken school system is still buried under tons of rubble.


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    • But for some, the earthquake was a big opportunity. A new president has been installed in Haiti with the backing of the U.

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      Jean-Bertrand Aristide's return to the country from which he was kidnapped seven years ago will transform Haitian politics. The return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti, in the context of a shifting balance of power, has Washington on high alert. Members of the International Socialist Organization write to report that the process of disbanding the group has been finalized.