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Vol. 74/No. 43      November 15, 2010

Florida forum discusses
crisis in Haiti since quake
MIAMI—Ten months after a devastating earthquake left 300,000 people in Haiti dead, 1.5 million people are still living in makeshift camps; a few under tents, but most sleeping under tarps or even bed sheets.

The deplorable living conditions there are worsened by the recent outbreak of cholera. Haiti and the rest of the Caribbean have not seen cholera, which can dehydrate and kill rapidly, for at least 50 years. Though deadly, cholera can easily be treated if those who have contracted the bacteria are quickly rehydrated with water containing salts and sugars. As of October 31 the waterborne bacterial infection has killed 330 Haitians and infected more than 4,700.

The conditions in Haiti were the subject of a lively discussion at the Militant Labor Forum held here October 23 titled, “After the Earthquake, What Road Forward for the Haitian People?” The forum was held in English and Creole.

One of the speakers was Jean Louis Fadinier, a worker who recently returned from a trip to Haiti. He is a longtime fighter for peasant and democratic rights there, and now lives in Florida. “Even though the Haitian people won independence in 1804, they are not really independent,” he said. At that time the majority Black population overthrew French colonizers and abolished slavery, but Washington and Paris have continued to dominate and exploit the island.

For 29 years the U.S.-backed Duvalier family, which killed tens of thousands of political opponents, ruled Haiti. A popular uprising ousted the Duvaliers in 1986, but the country has remained wracked by poverty and political instability. In 2004 Washington helped force elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile, replacing him with a government more to Washington’s and Paris’s liking. When the earthquake struck, there were 9,000 United Nations troops in Haiti.

“I came not just to talk about what is going on in Haiti,” said Fadinier, “but about what is needed so the Haitian people can finally achieve their liberation. A lot of international aid was promised to get people out of tents and rebuild, but the government has no plan to improve the situation.

“Many doctors went to Haiti soon after the earthquake,” continued Fadinier, “but didn’t stay long. The United States, which is the country that exploits us, hasn’t sent doctors to do the work the Cuban doctors have. Cuban doctors not only give health care, but train other doctors who can continue their work when they go. These doctors work anytime. If they finish their shift and you knock on their door they will help you.”

“The U.S. government is responsible for the situation in Haiti today,” said Bernie Senter, speaking for the Socialist Workers Party. “The plunder continues to this day. Everything Washington does is to reinforce exploitation and class divisions. After the earthquake the U.S. government granted TPS [Temporary Protected Status] to Haitians who could prove they lived in the United States before the quake struck. At the same time, Washington has stepped up efforts to prevent Haitians from emigrating here when the need has been the greatest.”

One forum participant, also from Haiti, said, “On January 12, the day the earthquake struck, President René Préval didn’t say one word. When the U.S. deployed 8,000 troops, they primarily stayed in the airport. The Haitian people organized themselves to dig each other out.”

“The biggest challenge for the working class, like in other countries around the world is to build a party to lead the workers to take power,” stated Senter. “That party was built in Cuba through the mobilization of millions of working people to take control of their country. The revolutionary capacity of the Haitian workers and peasants has been demonstrated many times throughout its history. It will play a decisive role in the future of Haiti, like in Cuba.”  
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