by Marty Goodman
NEW YORK—On Nov. 20, some 50 protesters gathered in solidarity with Haiti across the street from former President Bill Clinton’s penthouse office on 125th St. in Harlem. Demonstrators chanted, “U.S. out of Haiti! Clinton out of Harlem!” Clinton was appointed United Nations envoy to Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake, which killed over 200,000 and made more than 1 ½ million homeless.
The event also included a march down 125th St. to a panel discussion on Haiti at Saint Mary’s church and an evening film showing at a neighborhood theater. The activities were sponsored by the Black is Back coalition and its member organizations, Black Agenda Report and the Harlem Tenants Council.
Rally organizer Nellie Hester Bailey, executive director of the Harlem Tenants Council, told Socialist Action, “Haiti has moved to the back burner of the news. We wanted to call attention in Harlem and beyond that Haiti is very much on the front burner of the radical Black movement of Black is Back.
“The $10 billion that was promised is not forthcoming. Once again it is a political football for the imperialist forces in Haiti, i.e., the U.S., France, and Canada primarily, with their guns trained on the Haiti population under the banner of the UN peacekeeping forces.
“We also wanted to highlight the dire emergency with respect to the cholera epidemic, which has left close to a 1000 or more dead, as well as the 1.5 million who continue to be homeless 10 months after the earthquake. We are demanding: where is the money? Haitians should decide what happens to the money, not the World Bank or the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission, co-chaired by Bill Clinton and the prime minister of Haiti [Jean-Max Bellerive].
“We also demand that the $10 billion not be filtered down through the hands of the corrupt non-governmental organizations—who are living large while Haitians die and live in death-like conditions in makeshift camps which exacerbate health conditions like the lack of treated drinking water. That includes the risk of rape and violence against women and girls.”
Critics of the so-called relief effort say that the Haitian people have received only a small proportion of the international aid pledged, some not at all. According to the Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN), UN figures reveal that of the $6.036 billion pledged to Haiti over 18 months at a March meeting of the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission, only a fraction has gone to Haiti “relief,” which includes international governmental agencies, charities, and non-governmental organizations. As of September, says CHAN, only 22% or $1.9 billion of the total had been spent or committed to Haiti in 2010.
Haiti remains under a despised U.S./UN military occupation. Earlier in the year, Doctors Without Borders and many other aid organizations and agencies, including Cuban doctors, faced obstruction of their emergency relief efforts by the U.S. military and the Obama administration.
> This article was originally published in the December 2010 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.