Workers World, January 21, 2010
By Sara Flounders
How much is $100 million in U.S. aid to Haiti really worth? $100 million is less than what the U.S. spends in five hours on the wars and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The $100 million President Barack Obama promised in emergency aid to Haiti for earthquake relief sounds like a lot of money. But it is a tiny amount when compared to what the rulers of France and the United States stole from Haiti and its people over centuries.
The U.S. imposed 60 years of sanctions and blockade on Haiti after the victory of the first successful slave revolution in history. This blockade impoverished Haiti. France demanded in 1825, with warships in the harbor, that Haiti repay French slave owners $21 billion for the value of the enslaved Africans who were liberated. Haiti was forced to pay interest on this debt for more than 100 years.
U.S.-supported dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier diverted $500 million in U.S. loans into his personal bank accounts in just the last six years before he fled the country. But the Haitian people still had to repay all the Duvalier loans.
Billions of dollars in debt, Haiti was forced to accept an International Monetary Fund structural adjustment program that promised “debt forgiveness.” This IMF program destroyed Haiti’s sustainable agriculture, bankrupted its cash crops of rice and sugar, raised the price of electricity, and froze pay on public transit, infrastructure and vital social service providers such as doctors, nurses and teachers.
Haiti’s debt to the Inter-American Development Bank was not “forgiven.” It is more than $500 million — five times the amount of U.S. aid pledged for earthquake relief.
It is always important to remember that whatever U.S. imperialism gives with one hand, it takes away with the other. The IMF announced on Jan. 14, the same day that President Obama promised $100 million in aid, that it would be adding a $100 million loan to its current program in Haiti. This only leaves Haiti further in debt.
$100 million is just 7 percent of the $1.4 billion that Haitian workers in the Diaspora send home to their families every year. Half of the population of Haiti lives on less than $1 a day. Yet this U.S. aid and U.S. loan will force even more Haitians to immigrate to find work for their families’ survival.
The people of Haiti are owed reparations from the U.S. and French banks, which have extracted billions of dollars in profits from Haiti for hundreds of years. $100 million is far less than 1 percent of the $18 billion that Goldman Sachs executives will receive in bonuses this year, after a $700 billion U.S. government bailout of the banks.
And $100 million in U.S. aid to Haiti comes with a high price tag: U.S. military occupation.
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