Haiti catastrophe avoided, crises continue
Nov 14, 2010
On the rainy night of Nov. 5, hundreds of thousands of Haitians huddled under their tarps and tents while Hurricane Tomas passed. The government, which told them to flee, put only 15,000 people on trucks to go to higher ground.
The 15,000 are only 1 percent of the 1.5 million people made homeless by the January earthquake. Many “internally displaced” Haitians were afraid that if they left, they wouldn’t be allowed to return to their camps. With no electricity, no radios and only tarps for shelter, many people feared for their safety as the rain came down in sheets.
In camps where people have tents and shovels, they organized, dug channels for the water and filled sandbags to serve as barriers against the mudslides so common in deforested Haiti.
Port-au-Prince was spared. The rain wasn’t hard enough to cause mudslides, and not many tarps were destroyed. However, Léogâne, a small city about 35 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, was covered with 10 feet of water; four people drowned. (Radio Canada International, Nov. 6)
The danger isn’t over. Water standing in Port-au-Prince’s streets and gutters increases the risk of the spread of cholera, a water-borne disease. (BBC, Nov. 7)
What has the U.S. government done? The U.S. made a big show of preparing to help Haiti as the hurricane approached and announced it was sending a helicopter-equipped Marine aircraft carrier with medical personnel and supplies. After the January earthquake, Washington sent 22,000 troops — and little concrete aid.
Not noticed in all the hoopla was what the U.S. actually did. As the Washington Post reported, seven months have gone by “since Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton promised $1.15 billion in [post-earthquake] reconstruction money for Haiti meant to build homes, create jobs and improve lives.” (Nov. 4)
The truth is that the stringent, bureaucratic procedures and conditions required by the U.S. government before it will release any of these funds have prevented even one dime from being disbursed, while 1.5 million people are living under tarps, tents and rags in mortal danger if a hurricane really hits.
Unlike U.S., Cuba offers real aid
Contrast this to what socialist Cuba — having a small fraction of the resources of the U.S. and a blockade to deal with — has done to help the Haitian people for 12 years.
A letter written by Emiliano Mariscal, an Argentine doctor and graduate of Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, explains the role of the Cuban Medical Brigade that has been working in Haiti and his pride in being part of it. Fifty-one of the medical school’s graduates are now in Haiti working with Cuban doctors and other personnel. (ALBA-TCP, Nov. 4)
He explains that the brigade, in coordination with two of Haiti’s health institutions, provided critical, early treatment in mid-October to nearly 1,200 people after detecting cholera. That intervention delayed its spread to Port-au-Prince.
“[S]ince the earthquake, the commitment is to rebuild and strengthen the health care system ... [and] Cuba will be here during the cholera epidemic and in the wake of the hurricane,” Mariscal stresses.
That’s what a socialist country does in a humanitarian crisis — acts out of internationalism, solidarity and affection for the people. An imperialist country seeks only to broaden its economic, military and political reach to protect its self-interests and profits, with little concern for human life.
The U.S. government can ship bags of cash to Afghanistan to be handed out to any warlord who promises to side with Washington. But it won’t spend a dime in Haiti, even though former President Bill Clinton is currently in charge of the spending.