"Rebuilding Haiti" for its poverty wages

Bill Van Auken, WSWS

"Because it is a poor country and the labor market is relatively unregulated there, labor costs in Haiti are competitive with those in China, the country with which you have to compare yourself worldwide "

Government ministers, International Bankers and Humanitarian Organizations Gathered in Montreal Monday to Discuss Haiti's Reconstruction Plans, ravaged by an earthquake. At the heart of their proposals is the exploitation of Haitian workers at poverty wages.

The conference offered nothing concrete about the new aid plan and was rather used to plan a meeting of donors at the United Nations in March. Most of the speech from the conference appeared to have little connection to the situation on the ground in Haiti, or 150 000 people were confirmed dead, hundreds of thousands more were injured and more than 1,5 million made homeless.

Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, representing what remains of the Haitian government and accompanied by foreign ministers from Europe and the Americas stressed that the sovereignty of Haiti must be respected, that foreign military forces be subordinated to humanitarian efforts and that Haitians can determine and lead their own reconstruction efforts.

Leading leaders, including the director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, went so far as to speak of a "Marshall plan" for Haiti.

In reality, Haiti is now being led by the U.S. military, who deployed 13 000 soldiers and unilaterally took control of the country's airports and ports. The Pentagon dominated aid supply and made it the priority task of deploying U.S. soldiers and Marines equipped to fight. This was done mainly at the expense of injured and hungry Haitians who are waiting for food and medical equipment to save their lives..

The American weekly Times reflected the real situation. He made reference to the highest US military commander in the country, American Lieutenant General Ken Keen, describing him as a "de facto king in Haiti". At the same time, the Haitian people have not seen or heard anything from Haitian President René Préval.

Behind the discussions on the Haitians determining their future and the government of the country which directs, a plan staged in the months before the earthquake is discussed, a plan dictated by the profit interests of American banks and businesses, accompanied by those of the rich Haitian elite.

Speaking to journalists traveling between Washington and Montreal, the american secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, referred to this plan when praising her husband's work, former president bill clinton, who tried to implant it since his function as United Nations delegate in Haiti.

"He just had a conference with 500 individuals from the business world ", did she say. "They signed contracts, they were making investments. »

She continued : " So, we have a plan. It was a legitimate plan, carried out jointly with other international donors, with the United Nations. And I don't want to start from scratch, but we have to recognize the new challenges we face. »

The plan, established last year at the request of the United Nations, is intended to develop the Haitian economy by the development of free trade zones based on sweatshops of clothing in which Haitian workers would receive miserable wages.

This initiative is based on a UN report written by the professor of economics at the University of Oxford., Paul Collier. Poverty in Haiti, the worst in the Americas, is presented there, perversely, as its main asset in a global capitalist economy.

"Because it is a poor country and the labor market is relatively unregulated there, labor costs in Haiti are competitive with those in China, the country with which you have to compare yourself worldwide ", written necklace.

This "asset" is the object of a jealous guard both by Washington and by the parasitic ruling elite of Haiti. Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has been knocked down twice, the first in 1991 and the second in 2004, by bloody blows orchestrated by the CIA in alliance with the owners of Haitian factories, largely because he suggested raising the Haitian minimum wage.

After being elected for a second time in 2000, Aristide doubled minimum wage and prohibits piecework in clothing factories, which met with strong opposition within the owners of these companies. Andy Apaid, the American-Haitian owner of the largest sweatshops in Haiti and one of Clinton's main allies with his latest "development" plan, was a key player in the coup 2004. During this coup, Aristide was kidnapped and expelled from the country by American soldiers and thousands of Haitians were massacred by right-wing death squads.

Then, after mass demonstrations by students and workers in which many people were killed or injured, President Préval was forced to accept an increase in the minimum wage that had been voted in the chamber. However, he imposed a lower special minimum wage for the textile industry in 2,98 $ per day, about twenty times less than the minimum wage in the United States.

While such a system will allow textile manufacturers to pocket extra profits and the Haitian oligarchy to enrich themselves even more, it will not improve the abject poverty of the country and will only worsen social inequality, already the worst in the country. The making of clothing in Haiti in free trade areas with imported fabrics and for the external market will have only minimal impact on the local economy.

While Secretary of State Clinton said this slave work plan is still the one Washington wants to implement even after the earthquake 12 January, she admits that the disaster means that she will have to make changes.

Clinton welcomed Bellerive's comments on the "decentralization" of the Haitian economy. "As part of multilateral aid efforts to Haiti, we should consider how we are going to decentralize the economic opportunity and work with the government and people of Haiti to help relocation. Already, they do it on their own by leaving Port-au-Prince to return to the countryside, most of which they all come from. ”, did she say.

Haitian authorities, supported by Washington and the UN, began to implement their plan to displace hundreds of thousands of people, especially the poor, from Port-au-Prince to relocation camps. Land has been prepared for one of these camps in Croix-des-Bouquets, twelve kilometers from the capital, to accommodate ten thousand people. Other sites have also been designated with the idea that people evacuated from the capital will settle there permanently.

In a society with such acute divisions, Haiti's so-called reconstruction plan is inevitably developed according to class interests. Perhaps we will see that the new relocation camps will serve to provide a source of captive work for the free trade areas that will be established next door..

At the same time, Port-au-Prince will be rebuilt smaller, in a size that would better suit the interests of the country's wealthy. This is what the Ambassador of Haiti suggested to Washington, Raymond Joseph, in a recent statement. In a program dealing with the tragedy inflicted on the Haitian people broadcast on C-SPAN, the American television network devoted to the retransmission of the work of the Congress, he stated : "This is a golden opportunity. What was not politically possible was accomplished by the earthquake. We will rebuild differently. »

Such social reengineering carried out in the name of the interests of the country's ruling class and foreign capital, at the expense of the broad masses of working people and the poor Haitians, will inevitably result from social uprisings and resistance. That's why Washington put “boots on the ground” at the top of its priority list., before saving the lives of earthquake victims.

Original article in English, WSWS, published on 26 January 2010.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *