Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Haiti's Elections Won't Relieve Misery

By G. Dunkel
Published Sep 6, 2010 10:28 PM

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians have been living in misery for more than seven months — without houses, jobs, sanitation, potable water or electricity. The lucky ones have tents for shelter, others only tarps or sheets.

There are 1,370 officially recognized camps where more than 1.7 million people live, according to the Camp Management Coordinating Cluster. Fewer than 10,000 have been moved out to a new camp, but it is isolated and on barren ground without trees, grass, stores or shops. Its single hurricane shelter, according to a July Al-Jazeera Fault Line program, is flimsy and far too small.

The Autonomous Federation of Haitian Unions on Aug. 23 denounced the increased exploitation of the small number of workers who still have jobs. Employers are ignoring labor laws that regulate overtime, hours and minimum rates of pay and are supposed to protect the rights of laid-off workers. (Haïti-Liberté, Aug. 25-31)

The major new problem for the people in camps, according to a number of Haitian community groups, is that private landlords, claiming they own the land on which the camps are built, are forcibly evicting them. About one-fifth of camp residents have been evicted. The landlord’s thugs often give no notice and demand people leave in a few hours.

Deeds to land in Haiti were problematic even before the earthquake, which destroyed most records. The Haitian government is reluctant to use eminent domain to block the evictions.

The government is also having a great deal of difficulty obtaining land to dump debris; private landlords don’t want to give up vacant land. They are betting on a tourist boom in Port-au-Prince, based on what Finance Minister Ronald Beaudin said in a July press conference: “Port-au-Prince will have electricity 24 hours a day, will have many big hotels, with luxurious houses facing the sea.”

In the midst of all this suffering and chaos, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission has decided to spend $30 million on an election in November. The IHRC, which makes all major financial decisions for the Haitian government, is co-chaired by former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister. Half its members are foreign donors.

How the government will register and identify the nearly 2 million Haitians who have lost their homes and documents hasn’t been addressed.

The IHRC is calling for hurricane shelters for 400,000 people — about one-quarter of the people in the camps — to be built by November. That’s when the hurricane season will be over.

The power that the U.S. has over the IHRC and Haiti’s finances has led many Haitian progressives and radicals to say that the U.S. has established a neocolony in Haiti.

With the country occupied by U.N. forces and the people facing chaos, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has disqualified 15 of the 34 candidates running for president. The CEP still won’t even accept an application from Fanmi Lavalas, the party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the most popular in Haiti.

Wyclef Jean, the rap star, was one of the candidates disqualified, supposedly because he didn’t meet a residency requirement. Jean had told the Haitian press, “Don’t worry, I’m not a populist, I’m a capitalist.” (Ezili Danto’s blog, Aug. 29) Jean’s candidacy has been the major story in the imperialist media.

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