Haiti Aid and Strategic Priorities
[this note was written in Spanish on January 17/10 and translated by Dan Whitesell]
The more I analyze and observe the situation, the more aware I become of the need to get people whose skills are needed into Haiti soon, but under certain minimal conditions so that one does not become a hindrance but rather of service, and to avoid contributing to the mistreatment of the Haitian people, despite the best of intentions. I have contacted Partners in Health (PIH) run by Paul Farmer, whose political and technical orientation has been clear and one which is guiding efforts on the ground. I am also in touch with journalists and members of different organizations on the ground in order to understand the situation and establish contacts. To get to where resources human and material are needed while weaving contacts with organizations outside who are working on mobilizing and transferring such resources is crucial now. Cuban physicians and health workers have been on the ground in Haiti for a long time. Supporting and joining these efforts, which are experienced, disciplined and well coordinated could achieve greater impact. The Via Campesina has launched a solidarity assistance campaign, based on their experience in Asia with the tsunami. The fact is - with respect to emergency help - that human resources are of little use without equipment, supplies and necessary logistical support, just as these are not effective if qualified personnel are not available and information is difficult to obtain.
I offer the following analysis and proposal for consideration:
1. The United States has launched, in alliance with Canada and possibly other countries, a massive military, media and political operation, using the crisis as a pretext. In every aspect, it has the characteristics of “disaster capitalism”, in which the shock caused by the earthquake, is used by transnational and imperial interests to achieve strategic goals. Naomi Klein warned us about this on January 14 in an interview with Amy Goodman. The sending of 10,000 troops, the occupation of the airport, the control of aid delivery (preventing it from arriving), the emphasis on preventing disorder and controlling the population and the coordination between Clinton-Bush and Obama for a project "similar to the one for the Asian Tsunami", provides support for this argument.
2. The result of these steps is obvious: Haiti has been occupied. The earthquake has allowed the United States and Canada to station large numbers of troops closer to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. U.S. bases have been recently established in Colombia, are being established in Panama and have already been established in the rest of the Caribbean and South America.
3. Everything indicates that, far from providing humanitarian aid, the intention is to use this aid as an instrument of propaganda, as well as to foment what has already begun to happen: a social explosion due to the desperation of people without housing, without water, without food, without services and who come from conditions of absolute poverty. The social explosion would then justify the presence of more troops, the complete subjugation of Haiti, the destruction of any resistance in the country and the advance of hemispheric occupation towards the goal of "Free Trade" and to overcome the serious economic crisis. All this while the U.S. government presents itself as generous, to gain public support, when in reality, President Obama has promised only 100 hundred million dollars (a miserable amount), while at the same the military operation costs much more than this.
4. Calculated Reaction: The action of the United States is a provocation, with a strategically calculated reaction. Nicaragua, through President Ortega, has already denounced the U.S. military presence and its intentions and has demanded the withdrawal of troops. Venezuela and Cuba may not stand idly by and they have started to provide aid directly to the Haitian population with health personnel, logistics and equipment. With the airport of Port au Prince occupied by U.S. troops it will not only be difficult to get aid to the people, but also the restricting and monopolizing of aid will complicate matters because Haiti has become a beach head of the United States militarily and we can expect Washington to denounce the presence of Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and other progressive countries as political actions intended to take advantage of Haitian suffering. What these countries do in Haiti becomes a pretext for the U.S. to attack them. What will happen in this situation is unpredictable, but a possible scenario is that the joint humanitarian and political actions of the progressive countries will generate a crisis, which could also lead to an armed confrontation. In other words, all of this could lead to a war for the oil and mineral resources of Venezuela and the region, with the support of and from Colombia. Brazil is a key factor whose reaction and response are still undetermined. This is an act of aggression by the U.S. in their fight for control of Haiti, exploiting in an unprecedented act of cowardice the misery and suffering of the people to achieve geo-strategic, military and ultimately economic objectives.
5. Strategic reaction and goals of Solidarity and Resistance: Coordinating a massive relief effort, in an efficient, effective way and in defense of the Haitian people, despite the U.S. military presence, so that the people receive the aid and the world knows it, not only accomplishes humanitarian goals and undermines the pretext for stationing troops - by meeting the needs of people desperate to survive at any cost - but it also exposes imperial interests and ultimately, becomes a way to defend Haiti from occupation by encouraging a viable resistance of solidarity in the face of tragedy. It also prevents a hemispheric war and the advance of military occupation for economic ends. To put it another way, we should oppose the strategic project of concentrated capital by developing a coordinated strategic project of resistance to the reigning economic model and for the dignity of Haiti. Following the coup in Honduras, this is another step toward hemispheric occupation for transnational corporations and global financial interests. As we move forward in providing humanitarian assistance, a vital and pressing component of solidarity, it's essential and urgent that we consolidate and coordinate comprehensive strategic goals.
6. Key tactical goals that come to mind immediately are:
a. To mobilize material and human resources: Health (particularly surgical support), in coordination with people on the ground and from organizations with experience and credibility in this area, that are not serving the interests of Washington. Via Campesina, PIH in Haiti, Cuba, ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas), HSA (the Hemispheric Social Alliance) and others. What's important is to know what's needed and where, send it there and create the conditions, along with the people to make it work. We already know there's humanitarian solidarity; what's missing is organization and direction and it should be better coordinated and aligned to achieving strategic goals.
b. To develop logistics (this is what is most needed at this time and what the United States controls), such that we can identify what's needed, mobilize and deliver it. People are needed on the ground in Haiti and in coordination outside of Haiti. Via Campesina has considerable experience in this area (tsunami).
c. Political-communications-solidarity work. Analysis and news that serve as a counterweight to what the system is generating in terms of propaganda and actions. The magnitude of what they are attempting to do in Haiti is just as bad as what they did in Iraq under the pretext of concern for weapons of mass destruction. The world turned out to protest massively against that war. People must be informed of what's really going on if they are to take action. This requires committed people with political clarity to be in Haiti to help communicate for the resistance and to build resistance. Without this work, the two previous goals cannot succeed.
7. What's needed immediately is humanitarian aid, within this contextual framework. President Evo Morales, revealing his human decency and his political ability, will go directly to Haiti on Monday (January 18th) in a Bolivian plane to deliver aid. His presence in Haiti is an extraordinary act of solidarity, but it's also a way to encourage others to provide help, to put logistics in motion and to serve as a counterweight through his immediate presence on the ground. It will be his word and his actions that communicate much more than any speech. With this gesture, he is providing resistance to the provocation, setting the example, working to prevent war and going directly to the people. His visit deserves great attention and strategic support, but it also shows us the way. We must respond by reaching people inside and outside of Haiti to provide aid first of all and also to expose the aggressor at the same time. At the same time, governments of countries such as Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba have quietly and immediately mobilized resources and aid and are working on the ground.
Under these circumstances, those of us who feel a commitment to go to Haiti, with specific and most needed skills (health care, electricians, reconstruction, logistic support, disaster planning, etc.) but also as communicators and strategic activists, would do best to be involved as part of a coordinated and strategic effort, so as not to become a hindrance while there and to avoid serving the interests of the occupation and transnational capital. Also, if one is not familiar with Haiti, one would be lost there.
As many of us continue to look for contacts and counterparts, and many have already gone to Haiti as part of solidarity and assistance teams, I share this analysis and interpretation of the context, while I feel, as many others do, the anxiety to contribute and be of service to an exemplary people who have been abused and humiliated in the most un-exemplary way and whose suffering causes in us a wrath and pain that become desperation if we fail to act. In solidarity, we need to act in accordance with our inner sense of commitment, serving as part of a conscious and coordinated effort. I'm not saying that these conditions have to be met before anything is done, but rather that there should be at least coordination and strategic understanding of the context and goals of the assistance for the people of Haiti, to continue to work toward effective and decent assistance and solidarity, if the analysis proposed here based on my observations is essentially correct. I hope our exchanges and the course we set for ourselves can become our common task. With this in mind, I write to you.
January 17th, 2010.
General Surgeon with sub-specialization in colorectal surgery
I've been a physician for 29 years and practice in Colombia and Canada
Activist in the Americas and Communicator
Member of the Secretariat of the Hemispheric Social Alliance
Tejido de Comunicaciones ACIN (The Northern Cauca Indigenous Communications Network)