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Haiti Liberte: Hebdomadaire Haitien / Haitian weekly news

Edition Electronique

Vol. 8, No. 28
Du  Jan  21  au  Jan 27. 2015

Electronic Edition

Kòrdinasyon Desalin: Conférence de presse


Growing Misery in Haiti Leads to Growing Resistance
By Greg Dunkel

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 prices.

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. (www.ayitikaleje.org)

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 Special Envoy)

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, Jan./Feb. 2011)

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 runoff.

On Apr. 4, the Haitian government announced that Michel Martelly won the Mar. 20 runoff for president.

A version of this article was originally published in Workers World.

Vol. 4 No. 33 • Du 2 au 8 mars 2011

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