Thursday, October 25, 2012

Haiti is open for plunder


Both of the Clintons joined Haitian president, Michel Martelly--along with a glamorous entourage of movie stars Sean Penn, Maria Bello, & Ben Stiller, fashion designer Donna Karan, model Petra Nemcova, British flyboy Richard Branson, USAID & State Department functionaries, bankers from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) & other investors--in the opening ceremony of the $300 million Caracol Industrial Park in northern, rural Haiti. According to media flattery, the work of both Clintons in Haiti--in particular this industrial park--will shape their political legacy. Damn straight it will! It already earns them a special place in hell & merits them a special tribunal for human rights crimes against the people of Haiti. But loathsome as the Clintons are, they are not down there in some rogue capacity; they are agents of US government policy.

After the January 2010 earthquake, US & other international power brokers moved swiftly to establish a decision-making system in Haiti which took all power out of the hands of Haitians & institutions run by & accountable to them. They set up the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) headed by Bill Clinton--not because of his organizing talents but because of his treachery. Michel Martelly was the IHRC candidate of choice to run for president in 2011. Martelly is a former honky-tonk singer, committed Duvalierist, & admitted participant in the Tonton Macoutes, paramilitary death squads Duvalier used in a reign of terror against political opponents: hundreds of thousands of people were disappeared, tortured, murdered, stoned, burned alive, their corpses put on display & often hung in trees. Family members who tried to remove the bodies for burial often disappeared themselves.

When the Clintons speak they are at pains to explain how they’re "working for the Haitians,” are "Haitian-led" & “helping the Haitian people to achieve their own dreams.” If that’s true they have to explain why this project is at odds not with the dreams but the expressed demands of the Haitian people. The Clintons, et al, explain this industrial park will bring up to 65,000 Haitian jobs. But of course, just to remove the earthquake rubble, find ways to reuse it, construct & repair homes, build sanitation systems, health clinics & schools would take even more workers--in the cities where they live & not in the countryside where they don’t. The IHRC has prioritized & fast-tracked infrastructure projects like this industrial park, highways, telecom, building the tourist industry, & privatizing public services not because these are the dreams of Haitians but because they suit the needs of international capital & exploitation which wants to turn Haiti into a Caribbean sweatshop.

Even a cursory look at this park project will expose the truth since it’s what’s not explained that damns the whole project: first of all, more than 300 small farmers were forcibly displaced from their holdings to make way for the industrial park; the Haitian government simply claimed the land as state property. It is prime agricultural land & environmentally essential. Turning it into a giant sweatshop reduces the already compromised ability of Haiti to produce food for its people, & the oil-burning power plant funded by USAID will destroy the environment.

The park’s anchor tenant is Sae-A, a South Korean garment company notorious & nearly run out of Guatemala on a rail for egregious labor violations, including violence against workers. They expect to pay workers $5 a day to make clothes for stores like Walmart & the Gap. In fact, Sae-A recently shipped its first order of Haitian-made garments to Walmart. They were persuaded to set up the sweat shop by walking into a ready-made factory with tax & tariff accommodations to make it super-profitable to them. Sean Penn, the willing stooge of US colonialism in Haiti, lauds Sae-A for their “maverick nature” but sycophants like him can’t distinguish the antisocial from the maverick. The only other tenant so far is Peintures Cara├»bes, a Haitian paint manufacturer, who expects to hire 300 workers max. Their presence is a gesture to cover the colonialism of the whole project.

The reason Penn & the other movie stars are there is to help peddle this crap not just to Haitians but to the rest of us; the reason Karan is there is likely so she’ll get her ritzy clothes made there cheap; & the reason Branson is there is because building up tourism is part of the master plan for Haiti, which includes expansion of the Cap Haitien airport to accommodate international flights. Of course, this master plan was determined by international power brokers & predators, not subject to the voice of the Haitian people themselves. The good news is there are reports of massive protests in Port-au-Prince against the policies of Martelly & neoliberalism. Demand the US & its predatory allies get the hell out of Haiti; Haiti for & by the Haitians! (Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters)

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