How to Make Profit on Human Catastrophe: The Case of Haiti

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An example of how the common land can be taken away from the people in order to make profits, is the case of Haiti which shows that no matter how bad the human suffering, it is still the interests of those with money and power that come first.

Haiti, according to the World Bank Country Brief, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with poor performance in the social indicators. In the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index it ranked as 149th out of 179 countries.  In the 2001 statistics 54% of its population lived under 1 USD a day and 78% living under 2 USD a day (World Bank Country Brief, 2010).  BBC Country Report tells that Haiti experiences tropical storms and grave deforestation. According to UN Environment Programme press release Haiti is “the most environmentally degraded country in the Caribbean…and the total forest cover was approximately 2% in a country where 75% of energy demands were satisfied by wood fuel.” (UNEP 21.7.2010)

So it could be argued that Haiti is facing challenges not only regarding income povertyand human development but also when it comes to the question of land and environment. With the climate change the situation can be expected to become even worse and so the question of land usage is very important.  However, to make matters worse the country made it to the world news in January 2010 with the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 220 000 people and left 1,5 million homeless. (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, 2010)

Besides all the other misery and problmes the earthquake caused, the resettling of the huge amount of homeless became crucial.  According to UN Security Council report, the Haitian government set up an Action Plan that was presented to international donors at the UN in March 2010. The idea was to collect money from donors who promised more than USD 9 billion for Haiti’s reconstruction. The funds were to be handled through an Interim Haitian Reconstruction Commission that is chaired by the Haitian Prime Minister Bellerive and President Clinton. (UN Security Council, 2010)

However, in July 14, 2010 Democracy Now reported on what is happening in reality in Haiti and how the resettling of the Haitian people has been handled. Long time Haitian democracy activist, Patrick Elie, explains that after Haitian independence, the country’s elite took over the common land, pushing the people to the mountains. Intrestingly, according to him, this is also one of the reasons explaining the deforestation of Haiti. So today it is almost impossible to figure out, who in reality owns what part of the land.  Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté journalists, reports that the Haitian elite – still – control huge parts of the land that could be perfect for resettling the people. However, he continues, the elite keep the best part of the land for themselves and are selling the worst part of the land with high profits. According to Ives, the Interim Commission that was supposed to bring help for rebuilding Haiti, is in fact controlled by foreign bankers and governments like the USA and France together with institutions as the IMF, World Bank and several multinational corporations like Halliburton and Blackwater who are there to make sure of their own interests are seen and to be able to get their share of the billions promised for rebuilding of Haiti. The Commission also has members from the Haitian elite who want to make sure that they can keep good land for themselves where to build their luxury houses and offices. Mario Joseph, Haitian Human Rights Attorney, calls this as coup d’état as the Commission took over the power from the parliament without any transparency and is now acting without any accountability.

So, Democracy Now asks, where do all these people then go? Democracy Now reports that the bourgeoisie own large pieces of land that could be used for rebuilding but instead of doing this, land that has been used as the commons by the Haitian people is been taken away. Democracy Now uses as an example the community of Ganthier. According to Kim Ives, Ganthier is a rural community of 72 000 people who have used tracks of state land as common land to grow food for 80 years. Now that land has become so important, businessmen have started coming into the community claiming land with false papers and pushing peasants out of the land. When the peasants resisted and attacked back, they became the criminals that police is hunting down. According to Democracy Now interview, even the Mayor of Ganthier, Ralph Lapointe, was also arrested when he did not approve the eviction of the peasants.

So it could be argued, like Kim Ives puts it, the question of Haiti is not geological, it is a war between the classes over land.  According to him, Haiti is in the point where it would be crucial for the people to have access to the land and start building their houses and farming their land in order to secure food production but unfortunately they are seeing little of this as when there is a chance for profit making, the destiny of the people does not seem to be of any interest.

Land Ownership at the Crux of Haiti’s Stalled Reconstruction, Democracy Now 14.7.2010<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.democracynow.org/embed_show_v2/300/2010/7/14/story/land_ownership_at_the_crux_of”></script>

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One Response to “How to Make Profit on Human Catastrophe: The Case of Haiti”

  1. solidaarisuus Says:

    My apologies, the link does not seem to be working so I will add here the actual link:
    http://www.democracynow.org/2010/7/14/land_ownership_at_the_crux_of
    Hope you can now see it!

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