Thus it has not been reported that the first country to provide real assistance to Haitians was Cuba. There were already more than 400 Cuban medical professionals in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, this being part of Cuba’s ongoing solidarity with Haiti. It should be noted that over the last few years some 400 Haitians have been trained as health care professionals in Cuba on full scholarships so that over time, Haiti can reduce its dependence on foreign doctors.
On January 13, the day after the earthquake, more than 60 Cuban health care workers arrived in Haiti, equipped and trained for emergency situations. This group brought with them medicines, provisioning, food, serum and plasma bags. As of 8 pm on Thursday 14 some 1,987 patients had been treated and 111 surgical interventions had been performed at five assistance locations in and around Port-au-Prince — the Tent Hospital of the annexed, La Renaissence Hospital, the Ofatma Hospital, the Comprehensive Diagnosis Centres from Grand Goave and the Comprehensive Diagnosis Centre of Mirebalais. Furthermore, Cuban personnel who were located in other regions of Haiti went to Delmas and thus started to work out of a sixth facility.
The second issue is that of the danger that the assistance now being offered to Haiti could turn out to be a two edged sword. There is no doubt that Haitians need a tremendous amount of solidarity — financial, immediate relief and support for maintaining order. But this must not become the thin edge of the wedge for any continued process of systemic underdevelopment of Haiti.
The following are excerpts of an Open Letter being sent to governments and international institutions who will be meeting in Montreal next week. FITUN is a signatory to this international letter.
“The recent tragedy in Haiti shocked the people of the world for its destructive impact, the environmental and social consequences, and especially for the loss of human lives. Unfortunately, natural disasters are not new in that Caribbean country, which was impacted in 2008 by hurricanes Hanna and Ike. Nor is it the first time we have watched the international community make pledges of cooperation and assistance to Haiti. We are concerned, as organisations and social movements, that the international response be coordinated on the basis of respect for their sovereignty and in full accordance with the needs and demands of the Haitian people.
“Now is the moment for the governments that form part of the United Nations Mission for the Stabilisation of Haiti (MINUSTAH), the United Nations, and especially the US, Canada, and France, to reassess the many mistaken policies they have implemented in Haiti. The country’s condition of vulnerability to natural disasters — in large part caused by the devastation of the environment, the lack of basic infrastructure and the weak capacity of state social action — is not unrelated to these policies, which have historically undermined the sovereignty of the people and their country, thus generating a historical, social, environmental, and cultural debt in which these same countries and institutions have a major share of responsibility. Reparations must be made to the Haitian people for these debts, and all the more so in the face of the present situation affecting the country.
“In this regard, we reject the militarisation of the country as a false response to the recent disaster, including in particular US unilateral action to send an additional 10,000 troops to safeguard its economic and geopolitical interests.
“We call on governments and international organisations to immediately and unconditionally cancel the external debt claimed of Haiti, the servicing of which affects millions of lives. We also demand that the resources allocated for relief and reconstruction do not create new debt, or conditionalities that are imposed or any other form of external imposition which vitiates this goal, as is the practice of international financial institutions like the World Bank, the Inter American Development Bank, the IMF, and the so-called donor countries. We also reject the intervention of private multinational companies who seek to take advantage of this tragedy to reap multibillion dollar profits in the reconstruction of Haiti or to exploit cheap labour and continue to plunder the country’s natural resources.
“Haitian society, its organisations, social movements and state representatives should be the protagonists of the international effort to rebuild their country: the first to be heard and the final and sovereign decision over their destiny. The Haitian people have lifted themselves up many times on the basis of their own will, with the strength and conviction of their historical example of having been the first people to free themselves in the Americas. For a free and sovereign Haiti!”