Two Haitian public transportation
unions — the Owners and
Drivers Association and the Federation
of Public Carriers — called
a one-day general strike Mar. 28
to protest the government signifi -
cantly raising fuel prices. Gasoline
will increase by nearly 12%, diesel
by 26% and kerosene by 30%.
The rise in the cost of kerosene,
used for cooking and light,
will promote use of charcoal, increasing
an already severe deforestation
problem in Haiti.
What incensed many Haitians,
according to the Mar. 30
Haïti-Liberté, is that since 2006
the Haitian government has been
able to buy petroleum products
from Venezuela at subsidized
The strike was very effective,
with some observers reporting
participation by 80% of
the drivers and popular support
from customers who had to walk.
Calling a strike is a bold move
in Haiti where unemployment is
so high the government doesn’t
even measure it.
The Offi ce of the U.N.’s Special
Envoy, none other than former
U.S. President Bill Clinton,
estimates that unemployment,
including underemployment, before
the January 2010 earthquake
was 80%. It has increased since
most of Port-au-Prince was destroyed.
Before the earthquake,
there were no public sanitation
systems in all of Haiti. Since the
earthquake, private systems also
collapsed, meaning over 1 million
homeless people in 1,150
encampments scattered in and
around Port-au-Prince have to
use 15,000 latrines. Most of the
excreta from these latrines and
still-functioning private systems
is collected and dumped
into large, open-air, unlined pits.
The biggest pit in Trutier, a
small community north of Port-au-Prince, is very likely contaminated
with cholera. It lies over
the Plaine Cul-de-Sac aquifer that
supplies most of the water used
by private companies that bottle
and sell water in Port-au-Prince.
Before the earthquake, only
24% of the houses in Port-au-
Prince were connected to a water
supply; the unconnected bought
water by the bottle or pail-full
from vendors. Water prices in
Haiti’s capital have been among
the highest in the world, according
to Simon Fass in “Political
Economy in Haiti.”
On Jan. 29, Haiti’s Ministry
of Public Health and Population
reported that the number of new
cholera cases, either hospitalized
or treated in a clinic, has fallen
dramatically. Doctors Without
Borders is closing some of its clinics.
But sanitation is still woeful
in Haiti; the excreta pit in Trutier
is just the worst example.
A Mar. 16 article in the medical
journal The Lancet claims
U.S./U.N. projections are far too
low, at about 400,000. It asserts
there will be “779,000 cases and
about 11,100 fatalities in the
next eight months.” Expensive
antibiotics will be necessary to
avoid such a staggering death
toll, the article noted.
Given that over a million
are still homeless, just improving
the Haitian people’s access
to clean water and sanitation will
take a major struggle and big investments.
While 50 countries
announced big donations, the
amount of aid they’ve actually delivered
to Haiti ranges from 25 to
100 percent. (Office of the U.N.’s
The U.S. promised to give
Haiti $1.15 billion for reconstruction
but only $120 million has arrived.
Promised aid from France,
Haiti’s former colonial power, is
also in arrears. (Mother Jones,
More important than the
U.S.’s undelivered aid is its direct
interference in Haiti’s internal affairs.
In November 2010, under
the supervision of an illegal U.N.
military occupation which has
been in place for eight years, the
Haitian government held an election
widely considered fraudulent.
Then the big boss stepped in. On
Jan. 30, Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton went to Haiti to
tell the government which first
round candidates qualified for the
On Apr. 4, the Haitian government
announced that Michel
Martelly won the Mar. 20 runoff
A version of this article was
originally published in Workers