Haitian empowerment must be the prime goal

The following letter was published in the January 22, 2010 edition of the UK daily The Guardian.

We the undersigned are outraged by the scandalous delays in getting essential aid to victims of the earthquake in Haiti ('Chaotic and confusing' relief effort is costing lives, aid agencies warn, 19 January). As a result of the US decision to prioritise the accumulation of foreign soldiers over the distribution of emergency supplies, untold numbers of people have died needlessly. We demand that US commanders immediately restore executive control of the relief effort to Haiti's leaders, and to help rather than replace the local officials they claim to support.

Obsessive foreign concerns with "security" and "violence" are refuted by actual levels of patience and solidarity on the streets of Port-au-Prince. In keeping with a long-standing pattern, US and UN officials continue to treat the Haitian people and their representatives with wholly misplaced fear and suspicion. We call on the de facto rulers of Haiti to do everything possible to strengthen the capacity of the Haitian people to respond to this crisis. We demand, consequently, that they allow Haiti's most popular and most inspiring political leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide (whose party won 90% of the parliamentary seats in the country's last round of democratic elections), to return immediately from the unconstitutional exile to which he has been confined since the US, Canada and France helped depose him in 2004.

If reconstruction proceeds under the supervision of foreign troops and international development agencies it will not serve the interests of the vast majority of Haitians. We call on the leaders of the international community to respect Haitian sovereignty and to initiate an immediate reorientation of international aid, away from neoliberal adjustment, sweatshop exploitation and non-governmental charity, and towards systematic investment in Haiti's own government and public institutions. We demand that France pays the colossal amount of money it owes Haiti in full and at once.

Above all, we demand that the reconstruction of Haiti be pursued under the guidance of one overarching objective: the political and economic empowerment of the Haitian people.


Roger Annis, Canada Haiti Action Network; Noam Chomsky, MIT; Brian Concannon Jr, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti; Berthony Dupont, Editor, Haiti Liberté; Yves Engler, Haiti Action Montreal; Peter Hallward, Middlesex University; Pierre Labossiere, Haiti Action Committee, USA; Kevin Pina, Journalist/film-maker; Jean Saint Vil, Canada Haiti Action Network