Let there be no mistake -- the earthquake which struck Haiti this week is only partially responsible for Port-au-Prince’s massive devastation and the sickening loss of life.
The over-crowded, dangerously-constructed capital, lacking in infrastructure even before the quake, and illustrated poorly by sterile poverty statistics, meant that this natural disaster, like countless hurricanes before it, killed far more than it would have elsewhere.
Haiti has suffered under colonialism and continued to suffer under American occupation early last century. As recently as 2004, it witnessed a US-backed coup which killed thousands and disposed of a democratically-elected and popular president. Since then, the de facto UN-run administration which has governed the country has promoted a murderous neoliberal agenda that has simultaneously ruined the Haitian economy while ensuring, effectively at gunpoint, cheap sweatshop labour for Canadian and American multinationals.
And even more of those guns are on the way. Although the US, Canada, and other world powers have been quick to promise aid and have mobilized their military forces in front of the world’s cameras, the ugly truth is that our politicians, and by extension, all of us, are also responsible for a majority of the deaths in Haiti. It has been our bullets and our policies that have driven poor farmers into cities without infrastructure, building code regulations, security, or jobs. We have made Haitians some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, and they have paid a dramatic price.
The only thing Haiti needs more than disaster relief and more foreign soldiers is the autonomy, democracy, and self-determination long denied to it, and massive reparations for the grievous wrongs inflicted upon it in order to truly begin to rebuild.