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Thursday, January 14, 2010


Poverty, unlike earthquakes, is no natural disaster

An excellent summary of the history of Haiti in a statement issued by the ANSWER Coalition. The media keep reminding readers/viewers that Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. They forget to add this:
Poverty, unlike earthquakes, is no natural disaster.
And although earthquakes are a natural disaster, the consequences of them most assuredly are not.
The unstable, makeshift dwellings imposed upon Haitians by Washington’s neoliberal policies have now, for many, been turned into graves. Those same policies are to blame for the lack of hospitals, ambulances, fire trucks, rescue equipment, food and medicine.
Last night, I was listening to Anderson Cooper (who I generally think is a decent news reporter) repeatedly talk about Haiti's "long history of weak central government." Apparently he needs a refresher course, since he's forgotten this:
U.S. officials would later find an accommodation with the dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and then his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, as Haiti suffered under their brutal repressive policies.
And this:
Washington orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide—not once, but twice, in 1991 and 2004.
Incidentally, readers won't be surprised to read that Cubans from the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Disaster and Epidemic Physicians, formed in 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina (but refused entry to the U.S.), are already on the ground in Haiti and have treated hundreds of victims. There are also large American teams on the ground too...from CNN and NBC.

Update: Compare the ANSWER statement linked above with this, from the AP today:

Haiti seems especially prone to catastrophe — from natural disasters like hurricanes, storms, floods and mudslides to crushing poverty, unstable governments, poor building standards and low literacy rates.
The clear implication is that these things are somehow just "genetic predispositions." They are not, and that doesn't just include the poverty etc. but even the mudslides, which are a direct consequence of the very-much man-made deforestation.

Update: In contrast the U.S. corporate media, a report on Al Jazeera this morning reviewed Haiti's history, with the conclusion "Haiti's fate...has not been inevitable."

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