The Spark

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

Bahamas:
A Humanitarian and Social Catastrophe

Sep 16, 2019

The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Hurricane Dorian devastated the northwest of the archipelago of the Bahamas between September 1 and 3, particularly the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco.

A week after the catastrophe, the official death count was 44, but thousands remain missing. The World Food Program is feeding 76,000 people, out of a total population of 390,000.

The Bahamas are composed of 700 islands, some of which have been purchased by billionaires. The country was a colony of Britain before gaining independence in 1973, and more than 80% of the archipelago’s imports and exports are with the United States. A U.S. businessman, Wallace Groves, built Freeport, the main city on Grand Bahama and the second city of the country. The Bahamas replaced Cuba as a financial paradise and paradise for rich tourists after the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

Hurricane Dorian did not spare the deluxe tourist sites, but it threw the working class and poorest parts of the population into dismay and utter destitution. The authorities announced that the biggest slum in the Bahamas in the neighborhood nicknamed The Mudd on Grand Abaco has been reduced to a vast field of debris covered in the pestilential stench of death. A week after the hurricane, the area had still not been visited by aid workers. The approximately 80,000 Haitian immigrants – about 50,000 of whom lack regular papers – are at particular risk of paying a heavy tribute to this natural catastrophe. For them, every flood is complicated by their lack of papers.

The Bahamas are portrayed as a country where the income per person is among the highest in the Caribbean, not comparable with Cuba or Haiti. That pretended wealth has given no advantage to the population that has been left to fend for itself. Neither has this country’s proximity to the United States, which has done nothing to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

In campaigning for his re-election, Trump has tried to exploit this drama with his usual anti-immigrant demagogy.

On September 8, he declared that there was no possibility of welcoming survivors without papers, without visas, without certificates that they had lived a good life ... and death.

After having survived the violence of Hurricane Dorian, the population of the Bahamas is victim to the violence of Trump and a social and economic system that lets the poorest die.