As every other idiot on the planet has been bumping their rancid gums about the situation in Haiti, I see no reason why I shouldn't join in. Honestly you should see the Guardian comments -60% were probably first drafted in crayon by someone who moves their lips while they read (I would link to them but they appear to have vanished).
Anyway I've had a bit of a bee in my bonnet about Haiti for a number of years now, an interest that deepened after attending a fascinating lecture on Haitian Voodoo a few years back. I shall confess to a slight giddiness at certain aspects of Haitian culture.
Haiti is a wee country that has been at the mercy of the vile actions of bullying nations almost from the get go. Far from being a basket case ruled by incompetents it actually had a relatively sensible fellow in charge following it's successful slave revolt. Toussaint L'Overture made great efforts to establish a stable nation including acknowledging that the exiled planters had something to offer in terms of their expertise and inviting them to return to the island, ensuring work on plantations continued and establishing trading links with the United States. Had he been allowed to get on with it Haiti today might be in better shape than it is. But he wasn't.
Instead the French preferred him where they could see him and deported him to France where he died. Not content with that the French later demanded a payment of 150 million Francs in return for recognising Haiti as independent. This was intended to compensate the former slave owners who'd lost out when the slaves had the effrontery to object to being slaves. As insults go it's hard to beat; expecting the victims of a crime to compensate the criminal but there we have it. Whilst the sum payable was later reduced it took Haiti until the late 1940's to repay the money extorted from them. Let's face it being 150 million francs in debt isn't really the best of starts for a new nation.
I remember a few years back there was a call for the descendants of former slaves the world over being given reparations. At the time I thought this was a bit foolish and felt the money would better spent ending modern day slavery. I stand by that but if ever there was a nation that was due a refund it's Haiti. I don't wish to single out the French, the British, the Spanish and the Germans won't be winning any retrospective prizes for generosity or decency either.
Moving on to nearer the present the American government have made several very destructive interventions into Haiti, incredibly on one occasion they even used pigs, more of which later.
The United States occupied Haiti between 1915 and 1934, something of a mixed blessing to say the least but they did leave it with some sort of infrastructure and in better shape than before they arrived.
Of course no mention of Haiti would be complete without a mention of the distinctly unlovely Duvalier family. In an interesting use of U.S public funds the government decided to back these monsters with generous military and economic aid. Poor old Haiti run by a thieving dictator, backed by the worlds no1 superpower. The Duvalier's are believed to have trousered about 80% of all international aid that came into the country during their rule. It may surprise you to learn that all the good work the U.S did on the infrastructure during it's occupation was squandered during this time by a regime bought and paid for by the U.S. 'Baby Doc' Duvalier is still alive and living in Paris. In a sane world he'd be captured, put on trial and jailed for what he and his family have done.
Then we have the frankly bizarre Aristide episodes, which for reasons of length I shall gloss over, pausing only to issue a tut in the direction of the United States who know full well how a democracy works and have no business sticking their oar in.
I promised you pigs would put in an appearance so here are the wrong pigs. In the late 1970's Haiti's pig population was struck down with a dose of swine flu. As is the usual practice with this type of situation all the pigs were put to sleep and the repopulation began. Unfortunately the USA sent the wrong pigs. Pigs of a breed ill suited to the Haitian environment and required special feed which the people couldn't afford. Before long the wrong pigs died out and the people who'd relied on pigs for their living lost a valuable source of food and income. On the plus side American pig farmers made a fortune.
Then some mastermind decided it would be just the ticket to dump excess subsidised cheap American rice on the Haitian market undercutting Haitaian farmers and leading to the collapse of the Haitian rice growing industry who couldn't compete. You might ask what on earth possessed the Haitians to import something that would destroy their ability to feed themselves. The answer being the IMF and the World Bank who forbade them to take measures to protect their developing economy in case it made the market angry. At this point market forces kicked in and Haitians took to buying and selling mudcakes as a foodstuff.
It would be funny if the consequences weren't so dire. A poor country tries to protect it's economy and the developed world has a fit of the vapours and calls it a commie. Meanwhile the worlds richest country imposes tarriffs to keep cheap rice out and protect it's rice growers.
Oh and before any smuggos start on about the satanic USA you may wish to reflect on the European Union's record on subsides and tarrifs. Of course having a go at the USA is quite the thing round my way, attacking the EU and it's filthy practices is xenophobia.
More hilarious still for admirers of starvation humour is the spectacle of smug fuckers born into houses with taps who've barely broken a sweat in their entire life wondering why the filthy foreigners don't just sling a few quid into some shares and stop scrounging off the rest of us. Ironically if the free market these fuckers are so fond of actually existed, countries like Haiti might be in better shape as they could sell their cash crops on the international market. The western consumer would get cheaper rice, they'd have jobs, money and a basis on which to develop their economy. Instead as we've seen with the banks it's socialism for the fat cats and capitalism for the peasants.
Having come through all that is it really any wonder Haiti was an almighty disaster even before the earthquake struck? Yes, corruption is a problem there but given that the people have barely had a chance to participate in a democracy and hold their rulers to account, can they be held responsible for their governments actions?
The point all this is drifting towards is that the the Haitians deserve whatever help we can give them both in the long and short term. Clearly at the moment the disaster relief effort is the main priority and for those with a few quid to spare donations can be made here to experienced charities well used to operating in corrupt countries and will ensure your donation stands the best chance of reaching the people it was intended for.
In the longer term whilst charitable donations can help and are to be encouraged, those with in an interest in Haiti need to get a lot better at holding our politicians to account in relation to the strings attached to government aid, cancelling Haiti's debt and giving them access to international markets if Haiti is to escape this endless round of disaster, dictatorship, coup and aid.