Posted January 18, 2010
Russia Today: Now joining us now live from New York to talk about the relief response is Glen Ford. He’s a writer and radio commentator as well as executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. Now, Mr. Ford thank you for joining me.
Glen Ford: Thank you for the invitation.
RT: Now President Obama has pledged $100 million to help Haiti recover. He’s sending troops and aid and all the reports we’re hearing about is how it’s a logistical nightmare, and aid can’t get in. But, looking at what the Black Agenda Report is writing about, it looks like your paper has slightly different concerns about the US relief effort in Haiti. What are your concerns?
GF: The strength of a society is in its civil society, and one of the many ways that the United States basically set Haiti up for a disaster with which it could not cope was by suppressing Haitian civil society. A government that is not based on the will of the people is a hollow force. And so it is no surprise, then, that under the blows of nature, the Haitian government would collapse. We must look at the political aspect as well as the dire necessities of the moment, and that means empowering civil society.
RT: Tell us why you think the US is responsible for that.
GF: Well, the United States did not even recognize Haiti’s independence until Abraham Lincoln was in office. Haiti was, of course, the first Black republic on the face of the earth, winning a bloody war of independence with France in 1804. It was immediately saddled with a debt of 150 million gold francs by France. Otherwise, the alternative would have been to be re-invaded by France. The United States stood by France in that obligation on the part of the Haitians to make whole the French plantation owners. It took Haiti 100 years to pay back that debt.
The United States constantly interfered with Haiti after recognizing its independence, seizing control of its ports, collecting the duties as if it were sovereign. It invaded Haiti in 1915 and didn’t leave until 1934, and then backed a succession of oligarchs and klepto-crats who bled the country dry with United States support. And finally, when the Haitians…
RT: Mr Ford, going from that history that history you were talking about, which is important to discuss, let’s talk about the current day, after this huge disaster. Now US and international relief efforts are beginning. What do you think about the efforts that are underway and the troubles they are encountering?
GF: Well the troubles they are encountering are caused by the bottlenecks that are due to the collapse of the Haitian government, the collapse of the infrastructure. We have to understand that there will always be earthquakes, there will always be hurricanes and floods. But the damage to people is predicated on the state of the infrastructure. For example, in 2008 a series of hurricanes in quick succession hit Haiti and resulted in, officially, 800 deaths.
In Cuba, which is only a few miles away across a narrow strait of water, only 12 people died from the same hurricanes. That’s because of the state of the infrastructure of Haiti. To involve the people, to recover from these hammer blows from nature, we must set loose civil society. And that means bringing back by far the most popular politician, from the most popular political party. That politician is [Jean Bertrand] Aristide, who was sent into exile by the United States in 2004. So, empower the Haitian people to rebuild their own country. That and $100 million can go a long way.
RT: Mr Ford, former presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton are spearheading efforts to help with the recovery process in Haiti. What do you think about that, based on their administrations’ policies on Haiti when they were in office?
GF: Bill Clinton brought to Haiti devastating structural adjustments that basically put the coup de grâce on the Haitian peasant class, moving Haiti from bare sufficiency in agriculture, from feeding itself to dependency on the United States. That, of course, swelled the population of Port-au-Prince, the capital, to ridiculous proportions, and made the country totally dependent before the earthquake on US corporations and US largess.
So, certainly, if there is going to be a recovery it must be based on moving the Haitian people to self-sufficiency at least in agriculture. That’s something the United States can do, but it should be part of that recovery effort. The United States can also stop deporting Haitians in such large numbers, as they do today.
RT: Well Mr Ford, certainly some really interesting ideas and very different from just the current crisis that we are talking about. You’re talking about what has endured for some time. We thank you for sharing your views and we will continue to follow this story.