Feature

Helping Haiti—or occupying it?

In deploying thousands of marines and other military personnel to help the Haitians, the U.S. risks having its motives misunderstood.

The U.S. is exploiting Haiti’s tragedy for its own purposes, said former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Cuba’s Granma. “Without anyone knowing how or why, thousands of U.S. Marines, 82nd Airborne Division troops, and other military forces have occupied Haitian territory” under the guise of delivering aid. The U.S. government has given “no explanation” for this deployment. Other governments, notably that of France, have complained that the American military is clogging the airports and preventing other countries’ aircraft from landing. What a contrast with Cuba. Our country has long had doctors in Haiti, and they set to work immediately after the quake hit, selflessly tending the wounded. “We are sending doctors, not soldiers!”

Latin American leftists need to get a grip, said Elizabeth Araujo in Venezuela’s Tal Cual. It’s not just Castro: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega are also promoting the ridiculous theory that U.S. humanitarian aid is simply a cover “for a military invasion of Haiti planned long ago.” According to these two “champions of democratic freedoms,” the massive presence of “gringos bearing medical, rescue, and telecommunications equipment” must be evil. As if to convince any remaining doubters that Chávez has lost all grasp on reality, he even speculated that the U.S. caused the Haitian earthquake, by detonating a nuclear bomb underground.

That theory may be kooky, said Sebastian Schoepp in Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, but there’s good reason for Haitians to be suspicious of the U.S. military. After all, the U.S. occupied Haiti several times in the past century, “either to drive out governments or install them, depending on the whim of the prevailing Washington regime.” And the legacy of U.S. involvement has never been a happy one. Many Latin American countries managed to “emancipate themselves” over the past few decades, shedding their dictators and stabilizing their democracies. “The failures came in those places where past U.S. influence had been strongest: Nicaragua, Cuba, and, of course, Haiti.”

U.S. intervention is the reason why Haiti is so poor in the first place, said Reinaldo Spitaletta in Colombia’s El Espectador. The U.S. has had it in for Haiti ever since 1804, when Haiti became a free black country at a time when the U.S. economy depended on slavery. First the U.S. “refused to recognize” Haiti for almost 60 years, and then it launched “a long trend of interventions and domination.” If Haiti had been allowed to develop as its neighbor the Dominican Republic did, it would have had adequate infrastructure in place to weather the earthquake. “Haiti, your lament continues. You are a destroyed land. Not only by nature, but also by the real, postmodern devil—American imperialism.”

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