The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Haiti:
A Catastrophe Forecast in Advance

Oct 17, 2016

A pa malédisyon! Se eksplwatasyon!

This is the headline in the Creole language spoken in the French Caribbean islands and of the editorial of the paper Combat Ouvrier Workers Fight (International Communist Union), published by comrades in the Caribbean after the murderous passage of Hurricane Matthew which hit the southern departments of Haiti. It means, “It’s not a curse! It’s exploitation!”

According to the official account, there were hundreds of deaths, perhaps a thousand, and hundreds of thousands homeless, starving, with cholera threatening. The poor people of this country of 10 million have just suffered a new catastrophe. Of course, it was a fact of nature, but the effects are multiplied tenfold by the negligence of a selfish and greedy bourgeoisie.

Five and a half years after the January 2010 earthquake, the poor population had barely recovered from a catastrophe in which it lost everything. Now in October, a hurricane of class 4 on a scale of 5 swept the southern part of the country. While the situation of the poor population continued to worsen, now it has to the pay for the consequences of the passage of Matthew. Nevertheless, alerts had been given several days before in the area where the hurricane was going to strike. In Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti and Florida, the authorities passed on alerts and organized the protection of the inhabitants ... but not everywhere.

In Haiti, the civil defense pointed out places of temporary shelter in the greater south able to receive tens of thousands of people. Now, not only were more than two million people living in the four afflicted departments, but this announcement was a deception. The disaster victims owed their survival to solidarity among the residents. A woman whose hut collapsed went forward blindly in the storm until she was grabbed by residents who were protected in a concrete house.

The material damage is enormous. Obviously, the hardest hit were the people living in villages of huts built on the edge of the sea. The villages and houses were flooded, the roofs torn off, the houses and gardens destroyed, the livestock swept away.

After the collapse of bridges and roads, the region was literally cut from the world for several days, without drinkable water, food or possible communication. The State was also missing, and it failed to provide these services. While the disaster victims are in desperate condition, aid arrives slowly, when it arrives at all. The waiting lines push forward when a truck of supplies from a non-profit organization is announced. Cholera, which was still not wiped out before the hurricane, again threatens to rage following the floods and polluted water.

The elections which were supposed to take place on October 9th have been put off with no new date set.

In their editorial of October 8th, the comrades of Combat Ouvrier write; “In the population we often hear in Guadeloupe, Martinique and Haiti it being said that it’s the “curse” which struck Haiti. It isn’t true. It’s extreme poverty which makes the population of this country vulnerable to natural catastrophes. It isn’t fate.

The majority of the population lives in temporary housing, set in areas at risk for floods and mud flows. 78% of the population lives below the poverty level and 56% in extreme poverty. The unemployment rate is more than 60%. The few workers who have the possibility of selling their labor power do so at a low price. The workers of the industrial zone of Port-au-Prince are laid off by the thousands every day, under the pretext that there is no work. Now, for the workers still on the job, work hours are lengthened, production quotas are pushed to an unobtainable level even for the most hardened workers. There is misery even for those who work. No, the catastrophe which once again has struck our brother Haitians isn’t “the curse.” It’s the result of the bloody and multi-year exploitation of the Haitian people by the imperialist powers of France and the U.S. It’s the consequence of a society where a handful of rich people concentrate in their hands 63% of the national wealth. They don’t suffer the “curse” of Matthew.”

620 miles from there, in Florida, even if Matthew still represented a certain danger with winds of 110 miles per hour, three million people were evacuated and there were very few victims. Cuba was hit by the same intensity as Matthew. 1.5 million people were evacuated before the hurricane hit. The city of Baracoa, with 82,000 people, was almost totally destroyed, but they didn’t mourn any deaths. In Guantanamo, it was the same. The U.S. authorities evacuated the camp personnel and those locked up were assigned to solid buildings.

The “curse” is capitalism, which voluntarily maintains 10 million Haitians in misery, at a time when no weather forecaster knows where and when catastrophe is going to happen.