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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 74/No. 4      February 1, 2010


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(lead article)
Haiti: U.S. gov’t fails
to provide needed aid
Working-class areas last to get attention
Residents search for survivors in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 13, a day after earthquake hit.

MIAMI, January 19—Tens of thousands of people in Haiti are estimated dead, and millions have been affected by the January 12 earthquake. Many estimates expect deaths to go over 100,000. The toll is much worse because of the refusal of the U.S. and other imperialist governments to carry out immediate emergency relief efforts in working-class areas hardest hit by the disaster. Many Haitians were pulled from collapsed buildings only because of the efforts of relatives, neighbors, and other working people who spent days digging through rubble.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Haiti January 16 but never set foot outside the airport. She held a news conference and met with Haitian officials, then flew right back to the United States four hours later, leaving gifts of cigarettes and toothpaste for U.S. diplomats stationed on the island.

Clinton told reporters she urged Haitian officials to issue a decree granting the government power to impose curfews and other measures, “which in practice they would delegate to us.”

The U.S. military took over the airport and seaports and put the arrival of troops and military equipment ahead of food and medical supplies. Doctors Without Borders reported that five planes carrying surgical equipment were turned away from the Port-au-Prince airport by U.S. military officials and forced to land in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Three days after the earthquake the Obama administration granted Temporary Protected Status for undocumented Haitians in the United States. Those convicted of a felony or more than one misdemeanor are ineligible.

At the same time, Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano made clear that any Haitian trying to enter the United States without papers since the earthquake will be deported. “At this moment of tragedy in Haiti it is tempting for people suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake to seek refuge elsewhere,” she said. “But attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation.”

Lt. Cmdr. Christopher O’Neil told the New York Times that in addition to U.S. Coast Guard boats patrolling Haiti’s coast, there are five cutters, an aircraft carrier, and other U.S. Navy ships poised to stop any Haitians heading to Florida.  
Only 23 Haitians get U.S. visas
Federal authorities announced they have transferred 400 people awaiting deportation at the Krome Detention Center in Florida to make room for Haitians expected to be detained trying to enter the United States. Of the thousands of Haitians who have applied for U.S. visas to get medical treatment, 23 have received them, according to Homeland Security. The agency has allowed some orphans to enter the country.

“Any Haitian who needs medical attention or other care should be allowed to come to the U.S.,” Hans Mardy, a leader of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition in Miami, told the Militant.

The government of the Dominican Republic has also denied entry to most Haitians and sent extra troops to the border with Haiti.

Search-and-rescue teams from various countries had pulled a mere 71 people out of the rubble as of January 19, according to the Miami Herald. Many of these teams got to Haiti days after they could have done the most good. Those teams “have been intensely focused on buildings with international aid workers, such as the crushed U.N. headquarters, and on large hotels with international clientele,” said the Washington Post.

In Carrefour, the epicenter of the earthquake, 500 to 1,000 garment workers at the Palm Apparel company died. For five days no rescue team came to dig them out of the collapsed T-shirt factory. “American rescue teams were cautioned against going into neighborhoods southwest of downtown, including Carrefour, that were perceived as too dangerous,” the New York Times reported.

The imperialists and local capitalists have used rumors of “violence” and “looting” to justify denying aid to working-class districts. U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates said food could not be dropped into areas where roads were blocked because “they could trigger riots,” according to BBC News.

But the January 16 Miami Herald reported working people were organizing their own rescue efforts in a disciplined manner. “As encampments sprung up throughout the island, Haitians grew tired of waiting for international relief and took matters into their own hands—providing security, and rationing what little they have,” it reported. “Twenty young men patrolled the rocky soccer field and surrounding community keeping vigil over the hundreds of homeless who had camped out night after frigid night in the Marie Therese neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.”

The New York Times described one neighborhood where an aid truck arrived with no advance notice and was immediately surrounded by starving Haitians. Five youth moved into the crowd and “within five minutes the people had been arranged in three neat lines,” to receive the food, the Times reported.

Cindy Jaquith in New York contributed to this article.
Related articles:
Open the border to Haitian refugees
Cuban doctors in Haiti respond rapidly to crisis

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