Revolution #193, February 21, 2010
Response to Online Comment on Haiti:
The Why Behind Poverty and Corruption in Haiti
Revolution received the following comment online about the article: “Why So Many People Died in the Earthquake... And Why the U.S. Can Do No Good in Haiti.”
Your comments are typical of those who are blind because they refuse to see. The United States donated more than 600 million dollars to Haiti's relief, whereas China, the world's second largest economy donated less than seven million. France, the former colonial owner of Haiti donated less than 19 million. The United States role was heroic and any unbiased opinion would have indicated such. This death toll rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Haitian government which has squandered 4.7 billion dollars in aid over the past 18 years, money that should have gone to the development of Haiti's infrastructure, rather than to the crooked politicians who rule Haiti with an iron fist which has left 80 percent of its people in poverty, poverty, by the way, which causes them to flee—to the United States.
The following response is by the author of the article:
This comment concentrates a lot of what has been in the mainstream media explaining “why Haiti is so poor” and the arguments here are important to address.
As of February 12, the U.S. has pledged $538,343,899 in aid to Haiti (see ReliefWeb.com). And yes, this is more than what China ($9,713,535) and France ($33,912,657) have donated. But meanwhile the U.S. spends over $340 million a day on the war in Iraq. But the main issue here isn’t about amounts of aid.
The heart of the reader’s argument is that a corrupt Haitian government, not the U.S., is to blame for the poverty and lack of infrastructure that led to such a high death toll in the earthquake. And extending this logic, one could argue that even if the U.S. and other countries give Haiti more money, it will just be squandered and, tragically, the Haitian people will remain poor.
In fact, this is a coherent and persuasive argument—IF you only look perceptually at the situation in Haiti. Because in fact, corrupt and reactionary governments in Haiti have stolen money that could have been used to feed people or build infrastructure.
But to really understand why Haiti is poor... to understand where the corruption comes from... you have to go beyond perceptual reality. You have to step back and look at what defines the character of these corrupt governments. You have to look at why the economy and infrastructure remains underdeveloped. You have to recognize that the biggest and most determining factor in all this is the domination of Haiti by U.S. imperialism.
Take, for example, Baby Doc (Jean Claude) Duvalier—the brutal and corrupt dictator who ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986. He stole millions and lived in luxury while the Haitian people remained impoverished.
But there is a reason someone like Baby Doc comes to power in a country like Haiti. And it has everything to do with the role they play in serving and facilitating U.S. domination.
Here’s a question: Why have so many of the Third World countries dominated by U.S. imperialism been ruled over by corrupt and brutal governments? Is this just a coincidence? Or is there a pattern here?
Rulers like Baby Doc are thoroughly corrupt. But their corruption comes from and is possible because they are propped up by the United States. This corruption is a component part of the functioning of such pro-U.S. dictators. The U.S. supports these dictators because they serve to keep their countries subordinate and subservient to the interests of U.S. imperialism. And another pattern should be noted: when such rulers no longer serve this purpose, the U.S. lets them go, or even facilitates their demise—and then targets them for their brutality and corruption!
To understand this pattern we need a class analysis: Corrupt dictators like Baby Doc are part of a ruling elite, a class that is completely dependent on foreign capitalism. They are part of a tiny stratum of a wealthy ruling class, linked with landed property, domestic capitalism, export and import businesses, etc. They (and the governments they oversee) have a co-dependent relationship with imperialism. But this is not an equal relationship. It is based on U.S. domination—where the interests of foreign profit-making investments set the terms. Where profit and geo-strategic concerns of empire come before addressing things like poverty. Where the economy is distorted to meet the needs of imperialism. (See "Truth Amidst the Rubble in Haiti: The U.S. Is the Problem, Not the Solution," by Li Onesto, at revcom.us/a/191/Haiti-en.html.)
Rulers like Baby Doc represent the interests of the wealthy elites and they serve the interests of foreign capital. They unleash their police and armies to keep the masses down, to crush rebellions, and create favorable conditions for foreign capital. And they themselves profit and prosper off all this. They steal millions, skimming off the top, spreading the corruption around to other functionaries who serve this whole set-up of U.S. domination. A lot of their wealth comes from the fact that they control state institutions. They are in a position to loot the national treasury, profit from contracts and taxes. But they are in this position to begin with because of their relationship to, and the role they play vis-a-vis, U.S. imperialism.
In other words, yes, there is corruption. But this corruption isn’t the reason Haiti is poor and underdeveloped. This corruption is the outgrowth of U.S. domination—which IS the real reason Haiti is poor and underdeveloped.
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