Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Problem with Mainstream Media Coverage of Haiti

Mainstream media pieces about Haiti are like Swiss cheese, full of holes. This week NPR/Frontline featured a report from Haiti, "The Problem with Giving Free Food to Hungry People," about a rice vendor and the supply chain in reverse from her to the Port-au-Prince port where the rice is delivered from the U.S. The reporter points out that rice is very important in Haiti, as it is a part of every meal. That's an interesting way to put it, but why is it that Haiti is no longer self-sufficient in producing rice? Haiti is the fourth largest importer of American rice. This question is easily answered and was addressed this year in a session of Congress by former President Bill Clinton. Clinton apologized for the "free" trade policies that allowed the dumping of Arkansas and "Miami rice" subsidized by the U.S. government on the market, resulting in the loss of livelihood for over 300,000 small farmers.
"The Haitian peasantry, which not so long ago kept the country self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs, became inconvenient after Washington forced Haiti to accept U.S. government-subsidized rice. Port-au-Prince, a town of about a quarter million in 1960, swelled to at least 2.5 million as small rice farmers were forced off the land and into the shanty-opolis, where they built what they could with the resources at hand. U.S.-imposed “structural adjustment” made Port-au-Prince a high-density death trap.

Somehow, this U.S.-mandated migration – which also contributed to the exodus abroad of many hundreds of thousands – is now numbered among the many “failures” of the Haitian people."
Bill Clinton said that he thinks about this everyday, but Haiti cannot regain food security by cashing in on his remorse.

Speaking of the loss of livelihood for the small farmers in Haiti, the U.S. Census Bureau released estimates about Haiti's population on Monday. The Bureau expects "Haiti's population will continue to grow quickly despite the tremendous loss of life in the January earthquake. According to the report:
"Haiti's current population at 9.6 million, based on an estimated quake death toll of 230,000. It projects the country will recove...r and surpass its pre-quake population level by 2012. By 2050, the bureau says, Haiti will have 13.4 million people. The Dominican Republic, with a nearly identical population, is expected to keep up the same pace."
This might be seen as good news, but the Washington Post story goes on to say that: "By contrast the populations of now-similarly sized European countries like Sweden and Belarus are expected to decline over the same period."

Then the story gets interjected with an element of the aforementioned holes, when it states that: "Overcrowding is already blamed by aid workers and experts for many of Haiti's woes, from environmental degradation and hunger to the deaths of thousands crushed by stacked concrete homes during the earthquake."

Haiti is not over-populated... the city of Port-au-Prince is crowded, no doubt, but these census takers fail to mention that there are huge tracks of land which are uninhabited in Haiti. The reason the "ti paysans" moved from the countryside to the city are two-fold, and both have to do with policies implemented by the U.S. and forced on Haiti.

1) "Free trade" policies forced on Haiti that allowed the dumping of cheap, subsidized food from the U.S. into the Haiti market, destroying Haiti's self-sufficiency at food production.

2) The eradication of the Haitian black pig. Many believe this was done to force the independent, proud farmers (who had resisted being forced off their lands up to that point) to abandon their land and come into the city to work (for slave wages) in sweatshops--something the U.S. had been unable to do prior to the killing of the pigs and loss of the livelihood of the farmers.

USAID/U.S. Embassy and their directors in the democrat and republican parties and their co-conspirators in the rich Haitian oligarchy who run the sweatshops and other slave wage enterprises only have themselves to blame for the conditions that led to so many people crowding into the cities. For most, the jobs they were promised never materialized and they ended up in the slums of Sité Soley, Bel Air, Martissant... etc.

The cheap subsidized rice replaced Haitian rice and now Haiti is the fourth largest importer of American rice, whereas in the past farmers in Haiti grew sufficient rice to feed the entire country. This loss of food security is traced by the experts directly to U.S. trade policies.

The good news is that an effort is being made to repopulate Haiti with "a new variety of pig with the same beneficial qualities as Haiti’s Creole pig.

As for the Haitian farmers, they are in a new battle for their survival with Monsanto "generous" donation of its pesticide covered hybrid seeds, which Monsanto says are not the Genetically Modified (GMO) seeds banned in Europe and other parts of the world, but are just as insidious in that they require sterile land that require specific expensive pesticides and fertilizer. And by the way, they are not good for replanting, so the farmers will have to go back to Monsanto to repurchase seeds.


thezenhaitian said...

At one point during the NPR/Frontline piece, Adam Davidson says something like (paraphrase): "America has been in Haiti many times to restore order."

This remark is typical of the American media and really needs to be put in context. Americans have not gone to Haiti with anything resembling the largess of "restoring order." This implies that Haiti needed to be rescued from itself and that the U.S. was performing a humanitarian function.

Let's take for example the U.S. occupation of Haiti (1915-1934). The real reasons for the invasion and occupation are contained in the words of General Smeldly Butler, the U.S.' most decorated soldier: "I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half-a-dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long."

If "order" was the motive for the Haiti invasion, it sure isn't reflected in the racist words of Gen. Littleton Waller of the U.S. occupation of Haiti who said: "These people are niggers in spite of the thin varnish of education and refinement. Down in their hearts they are just the same happy, idle, irresponsible people we know of."

Are we to believe that "order" was brought about in the first seven years of the U.S. occupation? During that time an insurgency raged called the Cacos Rebellion, lead by Haitian national hero/martyr Charlemagne Peralte.

Or maybe order was restored when after a brutally racist occupation the U.S. came to the slow realization that the occupation had already accomplished its main goal of covering the debts of City Bank.

A question for NPR/Frontline's Adam Davidson: Would you say that "restoring order" would entail a more powerful country (U.S.) invading the Western Hemisphere's poorest country (Haiti) and carting off all the gold from the Haitian National bank to deposit in the states? Is it not highway robbery -- an international crime? Or does might make it right?

From Envio Magazine's website:
"They liquidated the National Bank, imposed forced labor on much of the population and prohibited Blacks from entering hotels and restaurants. With the pretext of protecting the Haitian gold reserves, they carried the gold off to strong boxes in New York."

The following excerpt is from a piece by Jean-Claude Martineau -- printed in CovertAction Quarterly/2005

In July 1915, the American admiral William Capperton landed his marines in Haiti. […] almost a year before, an American war ship, the Mathias landed a marine regiment in Port-au-Prince. They marched to the national bank, broke it open, took the republic's gold reserve and left. This gold, estimated at half a million dollars has never been returned. Still, Haiti was forced to accept a loan of forty million dollars to pay her debts. These included the one thousand or so claims presented by the foreign businessmen established in Haiti."

[Cont' next comment]

thezenhaitian said...

Haiti was invaded and robbed, yet most reporters and historians call it 'restoring order."

The pillaging of Haiti is not anything new -- France was the first, demanding an onerous indemnity to cover it's losses from the slave trade. The independence debt was an unprecedented first which bankrupted Haiti and resulted in black Haitians being burdened with the debt, mortgaging their future to pay it. The mulatto landed class was exempted of course.

Aristide's government estimated that the amount paid to France during a 200 year span would be worth about 22 billion today. He demanded reparations from France -- which explains why France was a part of the international cabal that planned regime change in Haiti.

In between the extortion paid to France and American thievery and occupation, there was gunboat diplomacy. Gunboat diplomacy was not diplomatic at all, the Western powers employed it against Haiti many times as a method of intimidation. "1872: German gun-boat aggression against Haiti. Commodore Basch collects 3000 Sterling Pounds from the Haitian government and defames Haitian flag with German excrement."

In fact, the Germans were another motivation for the U.S. to invade Haiti and this had nothing to do with "restoring order" either. The Americans wanted to stem the rising German influence in Haiti.

One last excerpt from Martineau is illustrative of the USes for Haiti:
"A specific role has been assigned to Haiti by the West. It is to prove that Black people cannot govern themselves and to tell the weak and small nation that if they want to be independent, the West will make their life miserable."

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