When you see how Haitians are slaving away in the streets, it reminds you of an epoch a long time ago when our ancestors were slaves. In those days, it was only human force that made the country rich.” Today, such a tradition continues, in which women make the country 'rich' - not only through their economic contributions but also through their continuation of the resistance and push for reform that has characterized Haiti since its founding. - Haitian feminist journalist Mirlene Joanis,
I was introduced to Haiti and the Haitian people ten years ago when an American friend of mine gifted me a book authored by President Jean - Bertrand Aristide. I got to know for the first time President Jean - Bertrand Aristide and his incredible work in uplifting the living condition of Haitian people. President Aristide a priest who became the Haitian president told me how globalization and colonization made Haitian the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere.
As I read the pages of the book I had seen a reflection of us breathing the same pain and courage. I felt so much connected with the stories simply because we have common history and stories as oppressed people of the world. We have both Spain and US as our historical colonizers and US as our continuing colonizer. Our difference is they had France in 1800-1900’s while we had Japan in the 1940’s.
I already forgot the title of the book and I felt sad that the it is not with me anymore. The flash flood of Typhoon Frank in 2007 in the whole island of Panay took that away from me. However, the the stories of Haitian struggle for justice and freedom from slavery remained vivid in my mind. Like the Philippines, their slavery is rooted in their colonial history and still a painful reality of our today’s history.
I was so impressed of how the book was written. It was very simple yet so powerful. In fact, it was one of the many books that tickled me to dream of writing my own. After reading that book, I never had a chance of encountering Haiti again not until last January 12.
The January 12 earthquake was evidently an earthshaking phenomenon that put Haiti in the center of the international attention. Such tragedy once more ignited the flame of solidarity that I kept inside of me. The already devastated lives of millions Haitian people were shattered and battered by the 7.3 magnitude earth quake which largely destroyed the country’s capital Port-au-Prince of 2 million population.
The first thing that struck my mind was the survival of the poor children and women, the older ones and the incapacitated. Current reports estimated 200,000 lives were loss with three million people homeless, hundreds of thousands injured who extremely need emergency help. Pregnant women and sick children are in dire need of food, medicine and water.
Haitian People and Women’s Leadership in Turbulent Times
It was so heartbreaking that the Haitian women’s movement loss some of their courageous leaders. Magalie Marcelin, Anne Marie Coriolan and Myriam Merlet as well as other progressive leaders who were supposed to be in their sides giving comfort and courage to move on through the ravages of this disaster. President Jean -Bertrand Aristide the exiled democratically elected president of the Haitian people emotionally wiped his tears delivering his statement at the hotel next to Johannesburg’s Airport. President Aristide expressed his willingness to return to Haiti to help the people rebuild their lives but not given a chance.
Inspite of their leaders’ absence, the Haitian people courageously rose above the shock and trauma of the tragedy. In the first crucial 48 hours of relief and rescue operation they moved speedily. They rescued buried fellow Haitians, their families, their neighbors and their loves ones from the rubbles with their bare hands. They built 450 tents and distributed foods and water which made 1.5 million Haitian survived.
The progressive people’s movement , including the women’s movement , non-profit organizations and the Cuban medical personnel with other nations medical volunteers including Spain , Mexico and Colombia worked very hard hand in hand with their facilities themselves had improvised. Organizations such as the Pan –American Health Organization (PAHO), friendly countries such as Venezuela, and other nations supplied medicines and other resources reported by Fidel Castro in Cuban News.
I passionately follow up the news everyday and really felt so sad of the unfathomable catastrophe inflicted to the already broken lives of the Haitian population. The images of women and children in such a devastating situation are beyond compare neither to my experience in 2007 flashflood that submerged our house nor to the Typhoon Ondoy that wreck the country’s capital Manila last year.
I was breathlessly awed and proud by the resiliency of the millions Haitian women surviving and coping up psychologically and emotionally. Mourning for the loss of their loved ones, taking care of themselves and of their children and of those survived family members starving and grueling in pain was such a power! I give my full admiration and commendation especially the Haitian women, the men and the young ones in their collective effort and self organization as people to take care of themselves in times of mourning, desperation and discrimination.
Evidently, the Haitian people stood still in their continued fight for their survival. Like any oppressed and poor countries of the world such as the Philippines, the Haitian are accustomed to survival and conflict and have their own inherent and learned collective capacity to take care of each other especially in times of distress, resistance and uncertainty.
President Rene Preval , UN Foreign Troops and the Obama - US Troops Leadership:
The horrific cries for life and pain of the millions injured victims and the hundreds of thousands dead bodies lying on the streets fell into the deaf ears and blind eyes of President Rene Preval during the crucial hours of anguish and pain. Haitian President Rene Preval was invisible. Even the 9,000 United Nation’s forces were not doing anything to help the people according to correspondence of Camille Chambers of the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA) to the Haitian Support Group based in UK in January 15.
Al Jazeera reported that on January 18 as Haitians desperately await food and water, medical aid and help digging out from under the devastating destruction of the earthquake, the U.S. has put thousands of heavily armed soldiers on the ground, taken over the airport and turned back flights from other countries bringing in aid. "We don't need soldiers and guns" said a former Haitian Defense Minister.
Hundreds of Haitians watched with a mixture of resignation and anger on Tuesday as several helicopters landed U.S. troops in the grounds of the Presidential Palace, an act considered by many Haitians as a loss of sovereignty, the AFP reported on January 19.
“I haven’t seen them distributing food downtown, where the people urgently need water, food and medicine. This looks more like an occupation," said Wilson Guillaume, a 25-year-old student.
Worse there were several incidence of violence comitted both by the UN and US troops during the relief distributions from being invisible in the earlier days of the rescue operations. Partrick Martin of the Global Reseach in his January 28 column cited diffrent incidence of violence.
On Monday, Uruguayan troops, part of the UN peacekeeping force deployed here since 2004, fired rubber bullets at people who crowded around food trucks, eventually pulling out and leaving sacks of rice to be fought over. The next day, Brazilian troops proceeded more aggressively, using pepper spray and tear gas to hold off a crowd seeking food at a tent camp on the grounds of the devastated presidential palace. People ran from the spray coughing and with their eyes streaming. Two tanks were brought up to menace the crowds when they began to reform, although Fernando Soares, a Brazilian army colonel, told the press: “They’re not violent, just desperate. They just want to eat.” One soldier loaded a shotgun as the crowd watched, but did not fire. “They treat us like animals, they beat us, but we are hungry people,” one Haitian, Muller Bellegarde, told an American reporter. Force was used as well by Haitian police at a food-distribution site in Cite Soleil, the largest and most impoverished section of the capital city. Police swung sticks and clubs to drive back the crowd.
However, these incidences were sensationally misreported by other mainstream media institutions portraying Haitian seeking and scavenging foods in the rubbles as “violent, desperate and looters” thus, targets for repression and persecution by foreign troops and local Haiti police. On the other hand, the UN foreign troops , US Forces and other international NGO’s were trumpeted as peacekeepers and saviors of women and children while Cuba’s 400 medical personnel expert in earthquake’s and disaster humanitarian aid working in Haiti as one of the most effective and quick responders was hardly recognized.
And I felt so enraged of this callousness, of the war- oriented Obama administration and other international NGO’s and media outlets who took advantage of the vulnerabilities of Haitian people in their most trying times. When Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American countries immediately send their experienced doctors and rescue teams with medical supplies to save the Haitian victims survivors, the Obama administration sent his more than 10,000 US troops of Marines and 82nd Airborne Division. These troops were known as expert in commando operations in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Latin America with no experience in disaster and humanitarian aid weeks later.
Agents of Misinformation and Information
One report from IPS News in Haiti tells, "In the day following the quake, there was no widespread violence. Guns, knives and theft weren't seen on the streets, lined only with family after family carrying their belongings. They voiced their anger and frustration with sad songs that echoed throughout the night, not their fists."
“There are thousands of young Haitian men who speak English and they show up at the make-shift hospitals every single morning from 6am till late at night as volunteer translators between the people and the international medical personnel and relief workers. I have never seen anything like this!” wrote Flavia Cherry, of CAFRA to the Caribbean Political Economy, January 30, 2010.
But what you do not see on TV, is the extent to which aid efforts are being mishandled by those international people who think they know everything. What you do not see on TV is the thousands of military officers heavily armed, standing roaming around doing nothing when there is absolutely no need for this kind of military presence. Just think of what it must take to house, feed, pay and care for each of those heavily armed military officers. Compare this to the women and children living under tents made of bed sheets, who are yet to see any aid efforts reaching them.”
“Port-au-Prince is a city filled with people searching for survival, organizing the few resources they have to provide much-needed services for their communities. I have not seen any evidence that people are hijacking cars on the roads and stealing provisions, as we had been warned by friends and the media. This trip has provided me with insight into many ways that the mass media misrepresents the current situation in Haiti”, journalist blogger Tanya Bolas –Goza wrote in her blog site.
“Despite this perception, which is fueled by mass media portrayals of Haitians as looters and desperate, I have seen plenty of evidence that Haitians are capable of organizing themselves and distributing resources. Unfortunately, the calm streets and civic organization of Haitians does not seem to be newsworthy for mainstream media”, Tanya continued.
These efforts should be newsworthy, as it takes a tremendous amount of fortitude to maintain dignity in unimaginably difficult circumstances. The perseverance of Haitians should serve as an inspiration to rebuild the country as well as a beacon of hope, she ended.
More State Violence and Looting Expected:
The almost 10,000 US Forces dispatched in Haiti may aggravate the harrowing situation instigated both by disaster response inadequacy of both corrupt US - backed government and the violent UN foreign troops under the US Global War on Terror . Behind of this so-call humanitarian aid lies the montrous US agenda of occupation of Haiti and remilitarization of the Carribean Basin.
‘The entry of ten thousand heavily armed US troops, coupled with the activities of local militia could potentially precipitate the country into social chaos. These foreign forces have entered the country to reinforce MINUSTAH "peacekeepers" and Haitian police forces (integrated by former Tonton Macoute), which since 2004, have been responsible for war crimes directed against the Haitian people, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians” according to Michel Chossudovsky, author of the international best –seller The Globalization Of Poverty and the New World Order.
Women may get raped and sexually abused knowing the human rights violation records of US troops in the Philippines , Vietnam, Japan, Iraq among others. Domestic violence will be on the rise due to hopelessness and desperation for limited humanitairan aid. Child abuses and family breakdown will rise up due to undealt psychological trauma. More children will be victimized of child traficking as done by the American Baptist Missionaries to the Haitian 33 children disguised for adoption cases.
US witll continue to heavily burdened Haitian people with his neo liberal policies looting the country’s remaining resources. More Haitian women will leave their surviving families behind scavenging for food in foreign and hostile lands. More women and children may die of diseases, malnutrition and pregnancy due to very limited social services. Job losses will create more dependency to unsustainable foreign relief assistance.
Radical Change is the Only Hope:
Like any oppressed and poor countries of the world, the Haitian women together with their husbands and children did not wait and expect much from the very government that oppresses them. They hoped their chances of survival through their own little hands together with the solidarity of the people of the world.
The scourge may last for a lifetime but I believe the Haitian women will continue to rise and raise their hands from the rubbles braver than before. The sounds of their marching steps and their thundering voices for radical change will echo in every corner of the world. Humanitarian aids is very much needed of every Haitian woman, man and child at this juncture in Haitian history. But the change they needed is beyond humanitarin aid. The radical change the Haitian women want is the freedom from foreign occupation of UN forces and US forces and the US own installed Preval government.
I therefore, join the call of Haitian women to immediately pull out US forces and UN forces in Haiti; immediate cancellation of all Haitian foreign debt and provide more aids directly through people’s and women organizations. Let us support Haitian women , men and children rise from the rubbles and be free from slavering forces. Only then, Haitian people can truly shape their own destiny with dignity towards prosperity###
I also wanted to share with you additional resources from the web. Please take a look.
Haitian Women Situation and Resistance http://www.potomitan.net/trailer.html
Merian Merlet Women Leader Killed in Haiti Earthquake http://myayiti.com/2010/01/videoanother-casualty-of-the-haiti-earthquake...