From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 1 October
Under the tender care of US imperialism, Haiti is having a hard time recovering from the January 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of the country.
So little has been done to alleviate the conditions in which the people are having to live that a major cholera epidemic has broken out in a rural area north of Port au Prince. The cause is thought to have been contamination of the Aritbonite river by a seepage of sewage from an encampment of UN ‘peacekeepers’.
No fewer than 420,000 people have been infected, of whom at least 6,000 have died so far. Yet it is not particularly expensive to provide clean water and/or cholera inoculations. It would seem, however, that much of the ‘aid’ to Haiti goes in providing ‘peacekeepers’ to restrain the anger of the population rather than to addressing the causes of that anger!
Reflections by Comrade Fidel
In my Reflection of 14 January, two days after the catastrophe in Haiti, which destroyed that neighboring sister nation, I wrote:
“In the area of healthcare and others the Haitian people has received the cooperation of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded country. Approximately 400 doctors and healthcare workers are helping the Haitian people free of charge. Our doctors are working every day at 227 of the 237 communes of that country.
“On the other hand, no less than 400 young Haitians have been graduated as medical doctors in our country. They will now work alongside the reinforcement that traveled there yesterday to save lives in that critical situation. Thus, up to one thousand doctors and healthcare personnel can be mobilized without any special effort; and most are already there willing to cooperate with any other State that wishes to save Haitian lives and rehabilitate the injured.
“The head of our medical brigade has informed that ‘the situation is difficult but we are already saving lives’.”
Hour after hour, day and night, the Cuban health professionals have started to work nonstop in the few facilities that were able to stand, in tents, and out in the parks or open-air spaces, since the population feared new aftershocks.
The situation was far more serious than was originally thought. Tens of thousands of injured were clamoring for help in the streets of Port-au-Prince; innumerable persons laid, dead or alive, under the rubbled clay or adobe used in the construction of the houses where the overwhelming majority of the population lived.
Buildings, even the most solid, collapsed. Besides, it was necessary to look for the Haitian doctors who had graduated at the Latin American Medicine School throughout all the destroyed neighborhoods. Many of them were affected, either directly or indirectly, by the tragedy.
Some UN officials were trapped in their dormitories and tens of lives were lost, including the lives of several chiefs of MINUSTAH, a UN contingent. The fate of hundreds of other members of its staff was unknown.
Haiti’s presidential palace crumbled. Many public facilities, including several hospitals, were left in ruins.
The catastrophe shocked the whole world, which was able to see what was going on through the images aired by the main international TV networks. Governments from everywhere in the planet announced they would be sending rescue experts, food, medicines, equipment and other resources.
In conformity with the position publicly announced by Cuba, medical staff from different countries – namely Spain, Mexico, and Colombia, among others - worked very hard alongside our doctors at the facilities they had improvised. Organisations such as PAHO and other friendly countries like Venezuela and other nations supplied medicines and other resources. The impeccable behavior of Cuban professionals and their leaders was absolutely void of chauvinism and remained out of the limelight.
Cuba, just as it had done under similar circumstances, when Hurricane Katrina caused huge devastation in the city of New Orleans and the lives of thousands of American citizens were in danger, offered to send a full medical brigade to cooperate with the people of the United States, a country that, as is well known, has vast resources.
But at that moment what was needed were trained and well-equipped doctors to save lives. Given New Orleans geographical location, more than one thousand doctors of the ‘Henry Reeve’ contingent mobilised and readied to leave for that city at any time of the day or the night, carrying with them the necessary medicines and equipment. It never crossed our mind that the president of that nation would reject the offer and let a number of Americans that could have been saved to die.
The mistake made by that government was perhaps the inability to understand that the people of Cuba do not see in the American people an enemy; it does not blame it for the aggressions our homeland has suffered.
Nor was that government capable of understanding that our country does not need to beg for favors or forgiveness of those who, for half a century now, have been trying, to no avail, to bring us to our knees.
Our country, also in the case of Haiti, immediately responded to the US authorities requests to fly over the eastern part of Cuba as well as other facilities they needed to deliver assistance, as quickly as possible, to the American and Haitian citizens who had been affected by the earthquake.
Such have been the principles characterising the ethical behavior of our people. Together with its equanimity and firmness, these have been the ever-present features of our foreign policy. And this is known only too well by whoever have been our adversaries in the international arena.
Cuba will firmly stand by the opinion that the tragedy that has taken place in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, is a challenge to the richest and more powerful countries of the world.
Haiti is a net product of the colonial, capitalist and imperialist system imposed on the world. Haiti’s slavery and subsequent poverty were imposed from abroad. That terrible earthquake occurred after the Copenhagen Summit, where the most elemental rights of 192 UN member States were trampled upon.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, a competition has unleashed in Haiti to hastily and illegally adopt boys and girls. Unicef has been forced to adopt preventive measures against the uprooting of many children, which will deprive their close relatives from their rights.
There are more than one hundred thousand deadly victims. A high number of citizens have lost their arms or legs, or have suffered fractures requiring rehabilitation that would enable them to work or manage their own.
Eighty percent of the country needs to be rebuilt. Haiti requires an economy that is developed enough to meet its needs according to its productive capacity. The reconstruction of Europe or Japan, which was based on the productive capacity and the technical level of the population, was a relatively simple task as compared to the effort that needs to be made in Haiti.
There, as well as in most of Africa and elsewhere in the Third World, it is indispensable to create the conditions for a sustainable development. In only 40 years’ time, humanity will be made of more than nine billion inhabitants, and right now is faced with the challenge of a climate change that scientists accept as an inescapable reality.
In the midst of the Haitian tragedy, without anybody knowing how and why, thousands of US marines, 82nd Airborne Division troops and other military forces have occupied Haiti. Worse still is the fact that neither the United Nations Organisation nor the US government have offered an explanation to the world’s public opinion about this relocation of troops.
Several governments have complained that their aircraft have not been allowed to land in order to deliver the human and technical resources that have been sent to Haiti.
Some countries, for their part, have announced they would be sending an additional number of troops and military equipment. In my view, such events will complicate and create chaos in international cooperation, which is already in itself complex. It is necessary to seriously discuss this issue. The UN should be entrusted with the leading role it deserves in these so delicate matters.
Our country is accomplishing a strictly humanitarian mission. To the extent of its possibilities, it will contribute the human and material resources at its disposal. The will of our people, which takes pride in its medical doctors and cooperation workers who provide vital services, is huge, and will rise to the occasion.
Any significant cooperation that is offered to our country will not be rejected, but its acceptance will fully depend on the importance and transcendence of the assistance that is requested from the human resources of our homeland.
It is only fair to state that, up until this moment, our modest aircrafts and the important human resources that Cuba has made available to the Haitian people have arrived at their destination without any difficulty whatsoever.
We send doctors, not soldiers!
Fidel Castro Ruz
23 January 2010, 5.30pm
Two days ago, close to 6 in the evening Cuba time, already dark in Haiti due to its geographical location, the TV channels started carrying news that a violent earthquake, –of 7.3 intensity in the Richter scale—had severely shaken Port au Prince. The seismic phenomenon had originated at a tectonic fault in the sea only 9.4 miles from the Haitian capital, a city where 80% of the population lives in fragile houses built with clay and adobe.
The news continued almost uninterrupted for hours. There were no images but it was said that many stouter constructions like public buildings, hospitals, schools and other facilities had also collapsed. I have read that a 7.3 earthquake equals the energy released by the explosion of 400,000 tons of TNT.
The descriptions were dramatic. In the streets, the wounded cried for medical help surrounded by ruins and their families buried under the debris. But, for many hours no one could broadcast any image.
The news took us all by surprise. Rather often we had heard news of hurricanes and large floods in Haiti but we did not know that our neighbor was threatened by a major earthquake. It surfaced now that 200 years ago a major earthquake had hit that city, which at the time was certainly inhabited by a few thousand people.
At midnight there was still no estimate of the number of victims. Senior UN officials and various Heads of Government spoke of the impressive event and announced that they would be sending rescue brigades. Since MINUSTAH –UN international forces– are deployed there some Defense ministers spoke of the possibility of casualties among their personnel.
Actually, it was yesterday morning that sad news started flowing in on the high number of human casualties in the population and even such institutions as the United Nations reported that some of their buildings in that country had collapsed; a word that usually does not say much but that could mean a lot under the circumstances.
For hours increasingly dramatic news of the situation in that country continued to flow uninterrupted with reports of different numbers of deadly victims that depending on which version fluctuated between 30 thousand and 100 thousand. The images are appalling. Obviously, the catastrophic event has been widely reported all over the world and many governments, sincerely moved, are making efforts to cooperate to the extent of their capabilities.
A lot of people are sincerely touched by the tragedy, especially natural unassuming people but perhaps few stop to think on why Haiti is such a poor country and why almost 50 percent of its population depends of family remittances. And in this context, would it not be proper to also analyze the reality leading to the current situation of Haiti and its huge suffering?
It is amazing that no one says a word on the fact that Haiti was the first country where 400 thousand Africans, enslaved and brought to this land by Europeans, rebelled against 30 thousand white owners of sugarcane and coffee plantations and succeeded in making the first great social revolution in our hemisphere. Pages of insurmountable glory were then written there where Napoleon’s most outstanding general tasted defeat. Haiti is a complete product of colonialism and imperialism, of more than a century of using its human resources in the hardest labors, of military interventions and the extraction of its wealth.
Such a historic oblivion would not be so grave if it were not because Haiti is an embarrassment in our times, in a world where the exploitation and plundering of the overwhelming majority of people on the planet prevail.
Billions of people in Latin America, Africa and Asia endure similar privation although probably not all of them in such high proportion as Haiti.
No place on earth should be affected by such situations, even though there are tens of thousands of towns and villages in similar and sometimes worse conditions resulting from an unfair economic and political international order imposed worldwide. The world population is not only threatened by natural catastrophes like that of Haiti that is but a pale example of what can happen to the planet with climate change; an issue that was the target of mockery, scorn and deception in Copenhagen.
It is fair to say to every country and institution that have sustained the loss of citizens or members to the natural catastrophe in Haiti that we do not doubt that at this point they will make the greatest effort to save human lives and to alleviate the pain of that long-suffering people. They cannot be blamed for the natural phenomenon that has taken place there even though we disagree with the policy pursued towards Haiti.
But, I must say that I feel it’s high time to seek true and real solutions for that fraternal people.
In the area of health care and others the Haitian people has received the cooperation of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded country. Approximately 400 doctors and healthcare workers are helping the Haitian people free of charge. Our doctors are working every day at 227 of the 337 communes of that country. On the other hand, no less than 400 young Haitians have been graduated as medical doctors in our country.
They will now work alongside the reinforcement that traveled there yesterday to save lives in that critical situation. Thus, up to one thousand doctors and healthcare personnel can be mobilized without any special effort; and most are already there willing to cooperate with any other State that wishes to save Haitian lives and rehabilitate the injured.
Another high number of Haitian youths are studying medicine in Cuba.
We also cooperate with the Haitian people in other areas within our capabilities. However, there is no other form of cooperation worthy of the definition but that of struggling in the field of ideas and political action to put an end to the endless tragedy endured by a great number of nations like Haiti.
The head of our medical brigade has informed that “the situation is difficult but we are already saving lives”. He said this in a brief message sent a few hours after arriving in Port au Prince yesterday with an additional group of doctors.
Late at night he said that the Cuban doctors and the Haitian doctors graduated at the ELAM (Latin American Medical School) were being deployed in the country. At Port au Prince they had cared for over one thousand patients while urgently commissioning a hospital that had not collapsed and using tents where necessary. They were also preparing to rapidly set up other first-aid centers.
We take wholesome pride in the cooperation that at this tragic hour the Cuban doctors and the young Haitian doctors trained in Cuba are giving their brothers and sisters in Haiti!
Fidel Castro Ruz
14 January 2010, 8.25pm