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Part I
National Guard

‘For the last twenty years, the most powerful political and economic interests in and around Haiti have waged a systematic campaign designed to stifle the popular movement and deprive it of its principal weapons, resources and leaders,' writes Peter Hallward. January’s earthquake ‘triggered reactions that carried and that are still carrying such measures to entirely new levels.’

Just before 5pm on Tuesday 12 January 2010, Haiti's capital city and the surrounding area were devastated by the most catastrophic earthquake in the history of the hemisphere. The scale of the destruction was overwhelming. According to the most widely cited estimates, around 220,000 people perished and more than 300,000 suffered horrific injuries, leading to many thousands of amputations.[2] Stories told by the bereaved defy summary. Perhaps as many as 200,000 buildings were destroyed, including 70 per cent of the city's schools. Today, more than half a year after the disaster in which they lost their homes and virtually all their belongings, around 1.5 million people continue to live in makeshift camps with few or no essential services, with few or no jobs, and with few or no prospects of any significant improvement in the near future.

Although the earthquake has no precedent in Haitian history, the factors that magnified its impact, and the responses it has solicited, are all too familiar. They are part and parcel of the fundamental conflict that has structured the last thirty years of Haitian history: The conflict between pèp la (the people, the poor) and members of the privileged elite, along with the armed forces and international collaborators who defend them. If the 1980s were marked by the rising flood that became Lavalas, by an unprecedented popular mobilisation that overcame dictatorship and raised the prospect of modest yet revolutionary social change, then the period that began with the military coup of September 1991 is best described as one of the most prolonged and intense periods of counter-revolution anywhere in the world. For the last twenty years, the most powerful political and economic interests in and around Haiti have waged a systematic campaign designed to stifle the popular movement and deprive it of its principal weapons, resources and leaders. The January earthquake triggered reactions that carried and that are still carrying such measures to entirely new levels.

So far, this ongoing counter-revolution has been grimly successful. Rarely have the tactics of divide and rule been deployed with such ruthless economy and efficacy as in Haiti 2000-2010. A small handful of privileged families are now wealthier and more powerful than ever before; once the post-quake reconstruction begins in earnest, in early 2011, they are set to become wealthier still. More than a million homeless and penniless people, by contrast, are likely to spend the reconstruction years in a sort of squatters' limbo, as foreign technocrats, multinational executives and NGO consultants decide how best to rebuild their city. The majority of their compatriots will remain destitute and forced to endure the most harrowing rates of exploitation in the hemisphere. The majority also know that if current tendencies prevail, their children, and their children's children, can expect nothing different. Today, with the battered remnants of the Lavalas movement more divided and disorganised than ever before, with the country firmly held in the long-term grip of a foreign 'stabilisation' force, the majority of Haiti's people have little or no political power. At the time of writing, in late summer 2010, many foreign observers of the Haitian popular movement were struck above all by a widespread sense of resignation and impotence. For the time being, suppression of Lavalas has left the people of Haiti at the mercy of some of the most rapacious political and economic forces on the planet. For the time being, at least, it looks as if the threatening prospect of meaningful democracy in Haiti has been well and truly contained.

In these intolerable circumstances, nothing short of popular remobilisation on a massive scale, more powerful, more disciplined, more united and more resolute than before – nothing, in other words, short of the renewal of genuinely revolutionary pressure – holds out any real prospect of significant change for the majority of Haiti's people. Of course, this is precisely the prospect that those who have managed the country's recent political development, and who are managing its post-earthquake reconstruction to this day, are most determined to avoid. Just a few days after the immediate trauma of 12 January, it was already clear that the US- and UN-led relief operation would conform to the three main counter-revolutionary strategies that have shaped the more general course of the island's recent history. (a) It would foreground questions of 'security' and 'stability', and try to answer them by military or quasi-military means. (b) It would sideline Haiti's own leaders and government, and ignore both the needs and the abilities of the majority of its people. (c) It would proceed in ways that directly reinforce and widen the immense gap between the privileged few and the impoverished millions they exploit. Even a cursory review of the first six months of reconstruction in 2010 should be enough to show that the ongoing application of these strategies is best described as an intensification of the measures that have undercut the power and autonomy of Haiti's people over the two preceding decades.


The basic political question in Haiti (as in a few other places), from colonial through post-colonial to neo-colonial times, has always been much the same: How can a tiny and precarious ruling class secure its property and privileges in the face of mass destitution and resentment? In Haiti (as in a few other places), the elite owes its privileges to exclusion, exploitation and violence, and only quasi-monopoly control of violent power allows it to retain them. This monopoly was amply guaranteed by the Duvalier dictatorships through to the mid 1980s, and then rather less amply by the military dictatorships that succeeded them (1986-90). But the Lavalas mobilisation threatened that monopoly, and with it those privileges.

What has happened in Haiti since Aristide was first elected in 1990 should be understood first and foremost as the progressive clarification of this basic alternative – democracy or the army. It's not hard to see that unadulterated democracy might one day allow the interests of the numerical majority to prevail, and thereby challenge the position of the elite; in such a situation, only an army, or the equivalent of an army, can be relied upon to guarantee the 'security' of the status quo. Crucially, the democratic mobilisation that took shape in the 1980s in opposition to dictatorship and neo-liberal 'adjustment' was strong enough to overcome and indeed eliminate the domestic armed forces arrayed against it. It was able first to 'uproot' Duvalier and his Macoutes (in 1986) and then, after a long army crackdown that killed another thousand people or so, to overcome direct military rule (in 1990). Much of the momentum of this mobilisation survived the murderous coup of 1991, and Aristide was finally able, at great cost, to disband the army in 1995. When Aristide then won a second overwhelming mandate in the elections of 2000, the resounding victory of his Fanmi Lavalas party at all levels of government raised the prospect, for the first time in Haitian history, of genuine significant political change in a context in which there was no obvious extra-political mechanism – no army – to prevent it.

In order to avoid this outcome, the main strategy of Haiti's little ruling class all through the past decade has been to redefine political questions in terms of 'stability' and 'security', i.e. the security of the wealthy, their property and their investments. Mere numbers may well win an election or sustain a popular movement but, as everyone knows, only an army is equipped to deal with insecurity. The abundantly armed 'friend of Haiti' that is the United States knows this better than anyone else.

In this context, the defining event of contemporary Haitian politics remains the intervention that was designed to restore long-term 'security' by killing off the Lavalas mobilisation once and for all: The coup of 2004. If the most popular thing that Aristide ever did was to disband the army that deposed his first government, perhaps the most significant achievement of the 2004 coup was to return effective political control to a military force.

In the absence of an available domestic option, the 2004 coup gave power to a foreign army: First a US-French-Canadian invasion force, and then a UN pacification force. (The next time the people of Haiti had a chance to express their opinion, in the elections of February 2006, the main military and political leaders associated with this coup scraped no more than 1 or 2 per cent of the vote). As anyone could have predicted, Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas, the party elected with a landslide in the last elections to be held in un-occupied Haiti, has been blocked from participating in all subsequent elections, in 2006, in 2009 and now again in 2010. Its leaders have been scattered or imprisoned, and its main spokesman remains in involuntary exile on the other side of the world. If Haiti's international minders succeed in preserving this pattern of exclusion, it looks as if Haitian democracy is now finally set to proceed in line with the imperial expectations that were so rudely thwarted twenty years ago, when the local voters chose the wrong man and the wrong agenda.[3]

In and after 2004, the only way to persuade these voters to accept the coup and its consequences – the systematic and explicit reassertion of foreign and elite domination of their country – has been to ram it down their throats. Ever since the coup, Haiti has been under international military occupation. Year after year, from 2004 through to 2010, at an annual cost (around US$600m) larger than the entire national budget during the pre-coup years, thousands of foreign troops have patrolled the country and obliged its people to accept the end of the Lavalas sequence. During these years, the UN authorities behind this extraordinary 'stabilisation mission' have resorted to levels of violent coercion without parallel in UN operations anywhere else in the world. They have been reinforced by thousands of re-armed and re-trained Haitian police, along with thousands more private security guards hired to protect wealthy families, their businesses, and the foreign contractors and NGOs they do business with. Dozens of anti-occupation demonstrations held on the streets of Port-au-Prince during these years have had little or no political effect.

You might have been forgiven for thinking, a year ago, that only an earthquake could loosen this armed grip on the country.


Sure enough, one of the first things to wobble on the afternoon of 12 January 2010 was the coercive power of the state.[4] The headquarters of the UN mission collapsed, along with 27 of 28 federal government buildings. Perhaps a fifth of government employees were killed. If a revolution requires paralysis of the state's capacity to suppress popular protest, then as Kim Ives points out, in a sense 'the earthquake accomplished half a revolution by literally destroying the Haitian state', leaving popular forces on the one hand and elites forces on the other 'scrambling to array their "alternatives" to fill the void.'[5] The US embassy immediately rushed to evacuate its staff, along with a few of the people its government is most determined to protect. For a moment or two, no doubt, the Haitian elite and their international minders must have contemplated the apocalypse: The prospect of mass unrest, in the absence of adequate levels of coercive force. The result was a near-instantaneous military response on a scale rarely if ever matched by a 'peacetime' operation.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, few tried to counter arguments in favour of allowing the US military, with its 'unrivalled logistical capability', to take de facto control of the relief operation. Weary of bad press in Iraq and Afghanistan, US commanders also seemed glad of this unexpected opportunity to rebrand their armed forces as angels of mercy. As usual, the Haitian government was instructed to be grateful for whatever help it could get.

That was before US commanders actively began, the day after the earthquake struck, to divert aid away from the disaster zone. As soon as the US Air Force took control of Haitian airspace, on Wednesday 13 January, they explicitly prioritised military over humanitarian flights. Although most reports from Port-au-Prince emphasised remarkable levels of patience and solidarity on the streets, US commanders made fears of popular unrest and insecurity their number one concern. Their first priority was to avoid what the US Air Force Special Command Public Affairs spokesman (Ty Foster) called another 'Somalia effort'[6] – which is to say, presumably, a situation in which a humiliated US army might once again risk losing military control of a 'humanitarian' mission.

As many observers predicted, however, the determination of US commanders to forestall this risk by privileging guns and soldiers over doctors and food mainly succeeded in helping to provoke a few occasional bursts of the very unrest they set out to contain. In order to amass a sufficiently large amount of soldiers and military equipment 'on the ground', the US Air Force diverted plane after plane packed with emergency supplies away from Port-au-Prince. The earthquake took place on Tuesday; among many others, World Food Program flights were turned away by US commanders on Thursday and Friday, the New York Times reported, 'so that the United States could land troops and equipment, and lift Americans and other foreigners to safety.'[7] Many similar flights met a similar fate, right through to the end of the week. Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) alone had to watch at least five planeloads of its medical supplies be turned away.[8] Late on Monday 18 January, MSF 'complained that one of its cargo planes carrying 12 tonnes of medical equipment had been turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport since Sunday,' despite receiving 'repeated assurances they could land.' By that stage one group of MSF doctors in Port-au-Prince had been 'forced to buy a saw in the market to continue the amputations' upon which the lives of their patients depended.[9]

While US commanders set about restoring security by assembling a force of some 14,000 Marines, residents in some less secure parts of Port-au-Prince soon started to run out of food and water. On 20 January people sleeping in one of the largest and most easily accessed of the many hundreds of impromptu IDP (internally displaced people) camps in Port-au-Prince, in the Champs Mars area of Port-au-Prince, told writer Tim Schwartz that 'no relief has arrived; it is all being delivered on other side of town, by the US embassy.'[10] The same day, a full eight days after the quake, Telesur reporter Reed Lindsay confirmed that the impoverished south-western Port-au-Prince suburb closest to the earthquake's epicentre, Carrefour, still hadn't received any food, aid or medical help.[11] The BBC's Mark Doyle found the same thing in an eastern and less badly affected suburb. 'Their houses are destroyed, they have no running water, food prices have doubled, and they haven't seen a single government official or foreign aid worker since the earthquake struck.'[12] As a Reuters report confirmed six weeks after the quake, 'the 9,000 uniformed U.N. peacekeepers stationed in Haiti when the quake struck on Jan. 12 were the logical "first responders" to the disaster', but 'none of the peacekeepers appeared to be involved in hands-on humanitarian relief in what emergency medical experts describe as the critical first 72 hours after a devastating earthquake strikes. Their response to the appalling suffering was limited to handling security and looking for looters after the magnitude 7.0 quake levelled much of the capital.'[13] This too was business as usual: The countries controlling the UN stabilisation mission had always voted against any extension of its mandate to include economic development, and from 2004 through to January 2010 it spent its annual US$600m budget almost exclusively on military and security priorities.

On Sunday 17 January, Al-Jazeera's correspondent Sebastian Walker summarised what many other journalists had been saying all week. 'Most Haitians have seen little humanitarian aid so far. What they have seen is guns, and lots of them. Armoured personnel carriers cruise the streets' and 'inside the well-guarded perimeter [of the airport], the US has taken control. It looks more like the Green Zone in Baghdad than a centre for aid distribution.'[14] Late on the same day, the World Food Programme's air logistics officer Jarry Emmanuel confirmed that most of the 200 flights going in and out of the airport each day were still being reserved for the US military: 'their priorities are to secure the country. Ours are to feed.'[15] By Monday 18 January, no matter how many US embassy or military spokesman insisted that 'we are here to help' rather than invade, governments as different as those of France and Venezuela had begun to accuse the US of effectively 'occupying' the country.[16] 'Together with geopolitical control', observed Camille Chalmers a few weeks later, 'we believe that the militarization of Haiti responds to what Bush called a "preventive war" logic. The U.S. fears a popular uprising, because the living standards in Haiti have for so long been intolerable, and this is even more so the case now; they are inhumane. So the troops are getting ready for when the time comes to suppress the people.'[17]

The US decision to privilege military over humanitarian traffic at the airport sealed the fate of thousands of people abandoned in the rubble of lower Port-au-Prince and Léogane. In countries all over the world, search and rescue teams were ready to leave for Haiti within 12 hours of the disaster. Only a few were able to arrive without fatal delays – mainly teams, like those from Venezuela, Iceland and China, who managed to land while Haitian staff still retained control of their airport. Some subsequent arrivals, including a team from the UK, were prevented from landing with their heavy moving equipment. Others, such as Canada's several Heavy Urban Search Rescue Teams, were immediately readied but never sent; the teams were told to stand down, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon eventually explained, because 'the government had opted to send Canadian Armed Forces instead', forces that subsequently played no significant role in the relief operation.[18]

USAID announced on 19 January that international search and rescue teams, over the course of the first week after the disaster, had managed to save a grand total of 70 people.[19] The majority of these people were rescued in quite specific locations and circumstances. 'Search-and-rescue operations', observed the Washington Post on 18 January, 'have been intensely focused on buildings with international aid workers, such as the crushed U.N. headquarters, and on large hotels with international clientele.'[20] Tim Schwartz spent much of the first post-quake week as a translator with rescue workers, and was struck by the fact that most of their work was confined to places – the UN's Hotel Christophe, the Montana Hotel, the Caribe supermarket – that were not only frequented by foreigners and the elite but that could be snugly enclosed within 'secure perimeters.' Elsewhere, he observed, UN troops did their best to make sure that rescue workers treated onlooking crowds as a source of potential danger rather than assistance.[21] No foreign rescue workers, for instance, were dispatched to the site with perhaps the single highest number of casualties, the Carrefour Palm Apparel factory contracted to the Canadian company Gildan Activewear, which collapsed with hundreds of workers still inside.[22] (Gildan responded to the disaster, within hours, with a reassuring announcement that it would be shifting production to alternative sewing facilities in neighbouring countries.[23]).

Exactly the same logic condemned yet more people to death in and around Port-au-Prince's hospitals. In one of the most illuminating reports filed from the city, on 20 January Democracy Now's Amy Goodman spoke with Dr Evan Lyon of Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante from the General Hospital, the most important medical centre in the whole country. Lyon insisted that 'there's no insecurity [...]. I don't know if you guys were out late last night, but you can hear a pin drop in this city. It's a peaceful place. There is no war. There is no crisis except the suffering that's ongoing [...]. The first thing that [your] listeners need to understand is that there is no insecurity here. There has not been, and I expect there will not be.' On the contrary, Lyon explained:

‘…this question of security and the rumours of security and the racism behind the idea of security has been our major block to getting aid in [...]. In terms of aid relief the response has been incredibly slow. There are teams of surgeons that have been sent to places that were, quote, “more secure”, that have ten or twenty doctors and ten patients. We have a thousand people on this campus who are triaged and ready for surgery, but we only have four working operating rooms, without anaesthesia and without pain medications.’[24]

Almost by definition, in post-quake Haiti it seemed that anyone or anything that could not be enclosed in a 'secure perimeter' wasn't worth saving. In their occasional forays outside such perimeters, meanwhile, many Western journalists seemed able to find plenty of reasons for retreating behind them. Lurid stories of looting and gangs soon began to lend 'security experts' like the London-based Stuart Page[25] an aura of apparent authority, when he explained to the BBC's gullible 'security correspondent' Frank Gardner that 'all the security gains made in Haiti in the last few years could now be reversed [...]. The criminal gangs, totalling some 3,000, are going to exploit the current humanitarian crisis, to the maximum degree.'[26] Another seasoned BBC correspondent, Matt Frei, had a similar story to tell on 18 January, when he found a few scavengers sifting through the remains of a central shopping district. 'Looting is now the only industry here', he said. 'Anything will do as a weapon. Everything is now run by rival armed groups of thugs.' If Haiti is to avoid anarchy, Frei concluded, 'what may be needed is a full scale military occupation.'[27]

Scores of Haitian and Haiti-based correspondents boiled over with indignation in the face of such grotesque misrepresentation. On 17 January, for instance, Ciné Institute director David Belle tried to counter international distortion. 'I have been told that much US media coverage paints Haiti as a tinderbox ready to explode. I'm told that lead stories in major media are of looting, violence and chaos. There could be nothing further from the truth. I have travelled the entire city daily since my arrival. The extent of the damage is absolutely staggering [but...] NOT ONCE have we witnessed a single act of aggression or violence [...]. A crippled city of two million awaits help, medicine, food and water. Most haven't received any. Haiti can be proud of its survivors. Their dignity and decency in the face of this tragedy is itself staggering.'[28] As anyone can see, however, dignity and decency are no substitute for security. No amount of weapons will ever suffice to reassure those 'fortunate few' whose fortunes isolate them from the people they exploit.

As far as the people themselves were concerned, however, 'security is not the issue', Kim Ives explained soon after the earthquake. 'We see throughout Haiti the population themselves organizing themselves into popular committees to clean up, to pull out the bodies from the rubble, to build refugee camps, to set up their security for the refugee camps. This is a population which is self-sufficient, and it has been self-sufficient for many years.' While the people who have lost what little they had have done their best to cope and regroup, it's the soldiers sent to 'restore order' who provoke confrontation, by treating them as potential combatants. 'It's just the same way they reacted after Katrina. The victims are what's scary.'[29] 'According to everyone I spoke with in the centre of the city', confirmed Schwarz around the same time, 'the violence and gang stuff is pure BS.' The relentless obsession with security, agreed Andy Kershaw, is clear proof of the fact that most foreign soldiers and NGO workers 'haven't a clue about the country and its people.'[30]

In order to help keep these people where they belong, meanwhile, the US Department of Homeland Security took 'unprecedented' emergency measures to secure the homeland during the first post-quake weeks. Operation 'Vigilant Sentry' made full use of the large naval flotilla the US quickly assembled around Port-au-Prince. 'As well as providing emergency supplies and medical aid', noted the Daily Telegraph, 'the USS Carl Vinson, along with a ring of other navy and coast guard vessels, is acting as a deterrent to Haitians who might be driven to make the 681 mile sea crossing to Miami.' While Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade offered 'voluntary repatriation to any Haitian that wants to return to [the land of] their origin', American officials confirmed that they would continue to apply their long-standing (and thoroughly illegal) policy with respect to all Haitian refugees and asylum seekers – to intercept and repatriate them automatically, regardless of the circumstances.[31] Over these same weeks, to be on the safe side, the US Air Force took the additional precaution of flying a radio-transmitting cargo plane for five hours a day over large parts of the country, so as to broadcast a recorded message from Haiti's ambassador in Washington. 'Don't rush on boats to leave the country', the message said. 'If you think you will reach the U. S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that's not at all the case. They will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.' Not even life-threatening injuries were enough to entitle Haitians to a different sort of American reception. When the dean of medicine at the University of Miami arrived to help set up a field hospital by the airport in Port-au-Prince, he was outraged to find that most seriously injured people in the city were being denied the visas they would need to be transferred to Florida for surgery and treatment.[32] As of 19 January the State Department had authorised a total of 23 exceptions to its golden rule of immigration. Six months later, moreover, no less than 55,000 Haitians (with family members living in the US) who had already been approved to come to the US before the earthquake struck would still be languishing in a legal limbo, because of rigid US adherence to immigration quotas.[33]

With breath-taking cynicism, US President Obama appointed his predecessor George Bush (whose administration was responsible for the 2004 coup in Haiti and whose 'relief effort following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 amounted to an ethnic cleansing of many of New Orleans's black population'[34]) to help Bill Clinton front US fund-raising for the relief effort. When US ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten paid a visit to Washington in mid February he declared himself satisfied with the work in progress. 'I believe that this will be something that people will be able to look back on in the future as a model for how we've been able to sort ourselves out as donors on the ground and responding to an earthquake.'[35]


* This article is continued in Pambazuka News (Issue 505).
* Peter Hallward is professor of Modern European Philosophy at [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

[1] A slightly earlier and shorter version of this text will appear next month as an Afterword to the 2010 reprinting of Damming the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment (Verso, 2010). I'm grateful to Roger Annis, Isabeau Doucet, Kim Ives and Tim Schwartz for their comments on an earlier draft. Two of the most usefully consolidated sources of information about post-earthquake Haiti are the CEPR's invaluable 'Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch',, and the Canada Haiti Action Network website (
[2] See for instance Peter Beaumont, 'Haiti Earthquake: Six Months On', The Guardian, 10 July 2010. 'The number of the dead most often cited is 250,000', wrote Beverly Bell six weeks after the earthquake, 'but that is utterly meaningless. No tally was taken of the corpses buried in people’s yards or dumped in mass graves. Countless people are still missing. And multi-storied buildings everywhere contain flattened bodies – tens, hundreds each, who knows? You drive down the street and someone points. “You see that building? There are still 200 people inside there; they never got them out.” City blocks are cemeteries' (Beverly Bell, 'Grasses of Ginen', Huffington Post, 25 February 2010). Six months after the quake, most press, government and NGO reports continue to cite casualty figures ranging from 200,000 to 250,000. Writer Tim Schwartz, however, is sceptical of the official numbers, and his own research suggests that the actual number of people killed may have been closer to 60,000 (email from Tim Schwartz, 14 October 2010).
[3] Cf. Hallward, Damming the Flood, 29-33.
[4] This second section is an abbreviated version of an earlier article, ‘Securing Disaster’, which appeared in MRZine on 24 January 2010,
[5] Kim Ives, 'How the Earthquake has Affected Haiti's National Democratic Revolution and International Geopolitics', talk delivered at the University of Aberdeen, 12 March 2010.
[6] Quoted on BBC Radio 4, Ten O'clock News, 16 January 2010.
[7] Ginger Thompson and Damien Cave, 'Officials Strain to Distribute Aid to Haiti as Violence Rises,' New York Times, 17 January 2010.
[8] 'Médecins Sans Frontières says its Plane Turned Away from U.S.-run Airport', Daily Telegraph, 19 January 2010.
[9] Giles Whittell and Jacqui Goddard, 'America Sends Paratroopers to Haiti to Help Secure Aid Lines,' The Times, 20 January 2010.
[10] Email from Tim Schwartz, 20 January 2010.
[11] Reed Lindsay, Honor and Respect Foundation Newsletter, 20 January 2010; cf. Luis Felipe Lopez, 'Town at Epicenter of Quake Stays in Isolation,' The Miami Herald, 17 January 2010.
[12] BBC Radio 4, Ten O'clock News, 18 January 2010.
[13] Tom Brown, 'Haiti Aid Effort Marred by Slow U.N. Response', Reuters, 26 February 2010.
[14] 'Disputes Emerge over Haiti Aid Control,' Al Jazeera, 17 January 2010. Roger Annis notes the resemblance of the Canadian relief effort to its more prominent US counterpart. 'The principal Canadian government response to the earthquake was to dispatch two Canadian warships loaded with nearly 2,000 soldiers and sailors. They arrived offshore from Léogâne and Jacmel on Jan. 19 and 20. At the time, this was touted by the government as a major earthquake relief operation. But as the Mar. 12 Halifax Chronicle Herald later reported, the ships carried relatively few earthquake relief supplies and equipment. They were instead loaded with military personnel and supplies. The military operations performed only peripheral aid and supply tasks. The medical teams the ships brought did not perform a single surgery, according to a study by John Kirk and Emily Kirk in April ( When the ships departed six weeks after arriving, they took with them their vital air traffic control and heavy lift equipment' (Annis, 'Canada's Failed Aid', Haïti Liberté, 4 August 2010).
[15] Ginger Thompson and Damien Cave, 'Officials Strain to Distribute Aid to Haiti as Violence Rises,' New York Times, 17 January 2010.
[16] Chris McGreal and Esther Addley, 'Haiti Aid Agencies Warn: Chaotic and Confusing Relief Effort is Costing Lives,' The Guardian, 18 January 2010.
[17] Camille Chalmers, cited in Beverly Bell, 'Haiti: "Post Disaster Needs Assessment" - Whose Needs? Whose Assessment?', Other Worlds, 26 February 2010.
[18] Don Peat, 'HUSAR Not up to Task, Feds Say: Search and Rescue Team Told to Stand Down,' Toronto Sun, 17 January 2010.
[19] USAID,, accessed on 20 January 2010.
[20] William Booth, 'Haiti's Elite Spared from Much of the Devastation,' Washington Post, 18 January 2010.
[21] Tim Schwarz, phone call with the author, 18 January 2010; cf. Tim Schwartz, 'Is this Anarchy? Outsiders Believe this Island Nation is a Land of Bandits. Blame the NGOs for the "Looting"', NOW Toronto, 21 January 2010.
[22] Meg Laughlin, 'At Stricken Haitian Factory: Prayers for the Dead and New Jobs', St. Petersburg Times, 13 February 2010, .
[23] Ross Marowits, 'Gildan Shifting T-shirt Production Outside Haiti to Ensure Adequate Supply,' The Canadian Press, 13 January 2010.
[24] 'With Foreign Aid Still at a Trickle, Devastated Port-au-Prince General Hospital Struggles to Meet Overwhelming Need,' Democracy Now!, 20 January 2010.
[25] Stuart Page is chairman of Page Group,
[26] Gardner then explained that, with the police weakened by the quake, 'Thousands of escaped criminals have returned to areas they once terrorized, like the slum district of Cité Soleil [...]. Unless the armed criminals are re-arrested, Haiti's security problems risk being every bit as bad as they were in 2004' (BBC Radio 4, Six O'clock News, 18 January 2010). In fact, when some of these ex-prisoners tried to re-establish themselves in Cité Soleil in the week after the quake, local residents promptly chased them out of the district on their own (see Ed Pilkington and Tom Phillips, 'Haiti Escaped Prisoners Chased Out of Notorious Slum,' The Guardian, 20 January 2010; Tom Leonard, 'Scenes of Devastation Outside Port-au-Prince "Even Worse",' Daily Telegraph, 21 January 2010).
[27] BBC television, Ten O'clock News, 18 January 2010. An extreme instance of the quasi-military emphasis on security led to an armed police response to a failed prison breakout in Les Cayes on 19 January, killing between 12 and 19 inmates and wounding another 40 (Deborah Sontag and Walt Bogdanich, 'Escape Attempt Led to Killings of Unarmed Inmates', New York Times, 22 May 2010).
[28] David Belle, Ciné Institute, 17 January 2010,
[29] 'Journalist Kim Ives on How Western Domination Has Undermined Haiti's Ability to Recover from Natural Devastation,' Democracy Now! January 21, 2010. Ives illustrated the way such community organizations work with an example from the Delmas 33 neighbourhood. 'A truckload of food came in the middle of the night unannounced. It could have been a melee. The local popular organization was contacted. They immediately mobilized their members [...]. They lined up about 600 people who were staying on the soccer field behind the [Matthew 25] house, which is also a hospital, and they distributed the food in an orderly, equitable fashion. They were totally sufficient. They didn't need Marines. They didn't need the UN. [...] These are things that people can do for themselves and are doing for themselves.' Andy Kershaw makes the same point: 'This self-imposed blockade by bureaucracy is a scandal but could be easily overcome. The NGOs and the military should recognize the hysteria over "security" for what it is and make use of Haiti's best resource and its most efficient distribution network: the Haitians themselves. Stop treating them as children. Or worse. [...] Any further restriction on, and control of, the supply of aid is not only patronizing but it is in that control and restriction where any "security issues" will really lurk. And it is the Haitians who best know where the aid is needed' (Andy Kershaw, 'Stop Treating these People Like Savages,' The Independent, January 21, 2010; cf. Ansel Herz, 'As Aid Efforts Flounder, Haitians Rely on Each Other', IPS 15 January 2010).
[30] Andy Kershaw, 'Stop Treating these People Like Savages,' The Independent, 21 January 2010.
[31] Bruno Waterfield, 'U.S. Ships Blockade Coast to Thwart Exodus to America,' Daily Telegraph, 19 January 2010; 'Senegal Offers Land to Haitians,' BBC News, 17 January 2010.
[32] James C. McKinley Jr., 'Homeless Haitians Told Not to Flee to United States,' New York Times, 19 January 2010.
[33] Cf. 'The U.S. Should Welcome Haitians In', Washington Post, 29 January 2010; 'President Obama Could Rapidly Aid Haitian Immigration Seekers', Washington Post, 26 June 2010.
[34] John Pilger, 'The Kidnapping of Haiti', New Statesman, 28 February 2010.
[35] Cited in Reed Lindsay, 'Haiti's Excluded', The Nation, 11 March 2010,