US Corporations, Private Mercenaries and the IMF Rush in to Profit from Haiti's Crisis
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On January 14, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced a $100 million loan to Haiti to help with relief efforts. However, Richard Kim at The Nation wrote that this loan was added onto $165 million in debt made up of loans with conditions "including raising prices for electricity, refusing pay increases to all public employees except those making minimum wage and keeping inflation low." This new $100 million loan has the same conditions. 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. As Kim wrote, according to a report from the The Center for International Policy, in 2003 "Haiti spent $57.4 million to service its debt, while total foreign assistance for education, health care and other services was a mere $39.21 million."
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. "Several hundred people had gathered to sing, clap, and pray in an intersection here by 9 o'clock last night, a little more than four hours after an earthquake had devastated much of the Haitian capital." A young Haitian American commented to Wilson on the singing, "Haitians are different," he said. "People in other countries wouldn't do this. 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.
"We don't need soldiers," Patrick Elie, the former Defense Minister under the Aristide government told Al Jazeera. "There is no war here." In addition to critiquing the presence of the soldiers, he commented on the US-control of the main airport. "The choice of what lands and what doesn't land, the priorities of the flight[s], should be determined by the Haitians. 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.
Benjamin Dangl is the author of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press) and Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America
(AK Press). He is the editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive
perspective on world events and UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on
activism and politics in Latin America. Email: Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com