The meaning of real international aid

Haiti’s not Tibet: The Miseries of a Two-Faced Discourse

Raúl Zibechi – Alai-amlatina – Translation: Machetera

In recent weeks we’ve been able to see how the mainstream media and the world’s conservative governments have launched a campaign against the Olympic Games on the basis of Chinese government repression in Tibet. At the same time we’ve seen how Latin American leftists and progressive media have energetically criticized Alvaro Uribe’s government for Colombia’s military action against a FARC camp on Ecuadoran soil.

In recent days, Haiti’s population has taken to the streets to protest against the scandalous increase in food prices, which have tripled since November, as well as against the presence of U.N. troops (MINUSTAH – U.N. Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti). The repression ordered by the Mission’s leaders has killed five and wounded dozens so far. However, those who are rending their clothing over repression in Tibet and a good part of those who criticize the Uribe government with complete justification, remain silent before the crimes taking place in Haiti.

The double standards of the world’s right-wing are nothing new, nor surprising. Moreover, double standards are part of right-wing culture. It hurts, however, that the left lacks the courage to be consistent when repression is carried out by troops from countries governed by leftist parties. Indeed, the bulk of MINUSTAH’s troops come from countries such as Brazil (1,211 troops) which also leads the mission, Uruguay (1,147), Argentina (562) and Chile (502). All these countries are governed by people who call themselves left-wing or progressive.

This “progressive” military presence contrasts with the health brigades which Cuba maintains on the island. Compared with the four Southern Cone countries that keep soldiers in Haiti, Cuba is a poor country that in spite of that fact has demonstrated that humanitarian aid can help people without resorting to violence. According to President René Preval, the 400 Cuban doctors who have been in Cuba over more than five years “have attended to 8 million cases, more than 100 thousand surgical operations, 50,000 of which were high risk.” Moreover, he emphasized the cooperation given in agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, and the support of Cuban engineers in the only Haitian sugar-producing plant. Cuba took in 600 Haitian scholarship students who are studying the university in Santiago de Cuba.

The Cuban doctors are dispersed all over the country, including in the most remote regions. In contrast, Haiti has only 2,000 doctors, of which 90% live in the capital, Port au Prince. In the zones attended by Cuban doctors, infant mortality fell from 80 to 28 out of every thousand live births and it’s estimated that more than 100,000 lives were saved by Cuban aid. According to Preval, “the type of aid we need is the kind Cuba offers,” to the point of stating that “the Cuban doctors are second only to God.”

Why does Cuba send aid that saves lives and Brazil and Uruguay, whose presidents claim to be of the left, send bullets and death? The answer is plain: Cuba is a country of solidarity which fights capitalism, while the Southern Cone countries encourage the same policies that are bringing hunger to the Haitians, among them, the expansion of crops grown for fuel, at the cost of food sovereignty. As Serpaj America Latina said in a communique, “For 20 years, Haiti produced 95% of the rice it consumed; now it imports 80% of its rice from the United States.”

Even the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, admitted the relationship between the increase in the price of food and the production of ethanol crops. Fidel Castro had already warned of it in 2007, following George W. Bush’s visit to Brazil where an agreement was reached with President Lula to expand ethanol production from sugarcane and corn.

Didier Dominique, leader of the union association Batay Ouvriye, indicated: “Haiti is being intentionally destroyed by those who would gradually build a cheap labor force for their capitalistic purposes. The state of severe social destruction enables the argument for international aid sourcing from hegemonic parameters to overlap an exploitive project such as the free trade zones and their associated sweatshops.” The leftists who govern South America form part of this hegemony of capital.

It’s doubly painful to see the complicity of silence. It lifts the spirit to see the initiative of the Peruvian sociologist Aníbal Quijano [1] and the Mexican economist Ana Esther Ceceña putting forth a manifesto demanding the departure of the ill-named peace mission in Haiti and an independent investigation into the murders committed by MINUSTAH, to ensure punishment for those responsible. But the political punishment that our leaders deserve can only come from the pressure of social movements, to force them away from their neoliberal course and break once and for all with the empire’s functional policies.

Raúl Zibechi, a Uruguayan journalist, is a teacher and researcher at the Franciscan Multiversity of Latin America, and adviser to various social groups.


[1] See: Emergency in Haiti:

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