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Haiti: the earthquake affects a country that has been socially and ecologically destroyed for decades

Haiti: the earthquake affects a country that has been socially and ecologically destroyed for decades

By Claude-Marie Vadrot

Others will take care of announcing the figures of the new misfortune that has just befallen Haiti. I just want to recall now to what extent this island on which I have been making numerous journalistic reports has been socially and ecologically destroyed in recent decades with the complicity of the United States and the UN.


Others will take care of announcing the figures of the new misfortune that has just befallen Haiti. I just want to recall now to what extent this island on which I have been making numerous journalistic reports has been socially and ecologically destroyed in recent decades with the complicity of the United States and the UN.

Traveling aboard one of the planes that connect Santo Domingo with Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, it is idle for the pilot to announce the border: to understand that you are beginning to fly over the Haitian landscape, you just need to notice the moment when the trees disappear abruptly. In a matter of minutes, Haiti offers little more than a succession of bare mountains: this part of the island that is barely the size of Belgium and has 8 million inhabitants and that was once known as "the pearl of the Antilles" can be seen from the air like a lunar world crossed by channels devoid of water when it does not rain.

The painful state of half of ancient Spanish is added to the countless misfortunes, to the thousands of deaths, to the thousands of exiles generated by the Duvaliers, dictator father and dictator son. They were succeeded by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the secularized priest who, before being deposed, accumulated with his lawyer and wife nearly 850 million dollars in personal fortune, undoubtedly for "his poor" in the City of the Sun, those who led him to power in the 1980s. Haiti suffers from one of the most degraded environments in the Americas: one of the few states on the planet in which the country's history is totally and continuously confused with the degradation of nature and of the environment, because the successors of the nuts and the dictators have not done better.

In the far eastern region of Bombardópolis, farmers have been reduced over the years to digging up tree roots to turn them into charcoal. Because the trees have been cut down long ago. They sell this coal, this and another that they produce from logs that they are still finding, to earn a few gourdes, the local currency with little value. The bulk of Haitians, notably in the Gonaïves region and in the north, cook with this fuel the little food that separates them from death by starvation. Two-thirds of Haitians, especially in the north and east, have nothing other than that charcoal, sold in bags at the foot of the road. Haiti's forest cover is already reduced to less than 1% of the area.


The trees were first victims of the cultivation of sugar cane and coffee; then from an uncontrolled export that enriched the ruling class and the Americans. The little that remains, serves as "firewood", as they say in Africa, or as a base for charcoal. The fierce competition that pits poor peasants against landless peasants - a million - overlaps with clashes between armed gangs. The United Nations forces have not managed to put more order in these problems than a political class that, reproducing itself in an identical way five years after five years, has lost all ties with a population in a situation of abandonment: 1% of the population monopolizes at least 60% of the wealth of a country doomed to self-destruction.

Every year, more and more devastating rains due to climatic changes that multiply the violence of hurricanes and cyclones fall on an area no longer able to retain arable land. The transported land no longer even stops on the plains, and gains the coast: every year, between 37 and 40 million tons of land go into the sea, and only 10% of the rainwater penetrates the ground. The rest runs rapidly over calloused soils, unable to be retained by any vegetation. Multiple consequences: the irremediable alteration of the microclimates of the island, the depletion of vital water tables, 400 rivers or disappeared or with flows that flow only a few weeks a year. As in the case of firewood, pseudo-political hostilities pit peasants and peasants against each other for control of the remaining water: gangs are formed that kill for control of a simple irrigation canal. This progressive drought reached a disturbing level in the second half of the 90s, bringing with it the disappearance of the abundant freshwater fish that were the staple food of many inhabitants. In the Arbonita plain to the north, the risicultores themselves no longer have enough water for their rice crops.

A paradox for a country in which it rains a lot during most of the year. And year after year risicultores disappear, because the US exports 250,000 tons of publicly subsidized North American rice to Haiti, and therefore less expensive than the local rice that is bought in the markets.

Every year, thousands of people are killed by floods that turn the smallest slope into a raging torrent. Dozens of times a year, a small hurricane wind lasting half an hour is enough for Port-au-Prince, surrounded by hills, to be invaded from the heights of the capital by tons of detritus that accumulate in the streets of the lower city, where the poorest live. In the City of the Sun, the most miserable coastal suburb, the bastion from which Aristide launched his career as a priest and later as a politician, the population density is 10 people per square meter: some families even take turns sleeping in the shacks that one in two hurricanes either destroys or floods.

In this ecologically catastrophic universe that, since 1940, has lost two-thirds of its arable land, life expectancy has fallen to 52 years, which is partly explained by one of the highest infant mortality rates - unhealthy through - in the world. world: 77 per thousand. AIDS, of course, but also all possible and imaginable contagious diseases, including those that have long since disappeared from the rest of the American continent. The state of the water reflects, at the same time, the state of the environment and the state of a country, one of whose writers recently wondered "if, despite appearances, it really exists."

To all these misfortunes we must add the atmospheric pollution generated by the urban circulation of Port-au-Prince and by the factories installed in the country, notably around the capital. There is not the least legislation regulating waste released into the atmosphere by industrial facilities. And because of that, and also with the aim of taking advantage of a labor even cheaper than the Asian one and of a defiscated legislation, many North American and international companies have installed production plants in Haiti. They pollute, except, of course, in the upper areas of the capital, where they live, above the fetid cloud, the owners of about 4 X 4 with opaque armored glass that, under the protection of private guards, leave some Mansions that more than villas often seem like real castles. Castles well provided with surveillance cameras ...

Two Haitian proverbs, one in French and the other in Creole, summarize the situation in a country that the United Nations Environment Program said in 2003: “The world has no idea of ​​the horror of the situation. lives in Haiti. " The first: "A rich Negro is a Creole, a poor Creole is a Negro"; the second, in Creole: "In Haiti it is the white who decides." "White", in Haiti, means "foreigner." Nothing allows us to think that, from the point of view of nature and the environment, as well as from the political point of view, the situation could change in the short term. Well, as a French diplomat explained during one of the numerous crises: "To get out of the hole you have to at least start to stop digging." The earthquake is but one more misfortune for this exciting town that is torn between disappearance and death.

Claude-Marie Vadrot is a journalist who has worked for Canard Enchainé and Matin for many years. He has published about thirty books on the USSR and on Russia. He has been a professor of geography and ecology at the University of Paris 8-Vincennes.Translation for www.sinpermiso.info: Minima Estrella - http://www.politis.fr/, 13 January 2010


Video: Deadliest Earthquakes - NOVA Documentary (June 2021).