Haiti was a nation of farmers, but thanks to the strings attached to U.S. aid, government policies made profitable farming impossible. So the farmers were pushed to the cities to provide a cheap manufacturing labor force. All those people you see on the TV in their shattered shantytowns? We helped put them there. With exploitative loans and yes, even a classic CIA-backed coup, we helped create this mess.
Here's Naomi Klein, the author of "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," speaking Wednesday night at the Ethical Culture Society to warn us against it happening again:
But as I write about in The Shock Doctrine, crises are often used now as the pretext for pushing through policies that you cannot push through under times of stability. Countries in periods of extreme crisis are desperate for any kind of aid, any kind of money, and are not in a position to negotiate fairly the terms of that exchange.
And I just want to pause for a second and read you something, which is pretty extraordinary. I just put this up on my website. The headline is “Haiti: Stop Them Before They Shock Again.” This went up a few hours ago, three hours ago, I believe, on the Heritage Foundation website.
“Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the U.S. In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the image of the United States in the region.” And then goes on.
Now, I don’t know whether things are improving or not, because it took the Heritage Foundation thirteen days before they issued thirty-two free market solutions for Hurricane Katrina. We put that document up on our website, as well. It was close down the housing projects, turn the Gulf Coast into a tax-free free enterprise zone, get rid of the labor laws that forces contractors to pay a living wage. Yeah, so it took them thirteen days before they did that in the case of Katrina. In the case of Haiti, they didn’t even wait twenty-four hours.
Now, why I say I don’t know whether it’s improving or not is that two hours ago they took this down. So somebody told them that it wasn’t couth. And then they put up something that was much more delicate. Fortunately, the investigative reporters at Democracy Now! managed to find that earlier document in a Google cache. But what you’ll find now is a much gentler “Things to Remember While Helping Haiti.” And buried down there, it says, “Long-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy are also badly overdue.”
But the point is, we need to make sure that the aid that goes to Haiti is, one, grants, not loans. This is absolutely crucial. This is an already heavily indebted country. This is a disaster that, as Amy said, on the one hand is nature, is, you know, an earthquake; on the other hand is the creation, is worsened by the poverty that our governments have been so complicit in deepening. 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. And this is not a conspiracy theory. They have done it again and again.