Dukens Raphael, secretary-general of the Confederation of Public and Private Sector Workers of Haiti (CTSP) told the April 24 convention of the Canadian Union Public Employees (CUPE), British Columbia division of the dire situation facing Haiti’s people after the January 12 earthquake: “If you arrived in Port au Prince today, you would ask, ‘Did it happen yesterday?’”
Several million Haitians were left homeless or otherwise in desperate need of assistance. In his address to 400 delegates, Raphael said many people were yet to receive meaningful assistance.
“We need food, we need decent, durable shelter, and we need education facilities”, he said.
The first act of the US government following the earthquake, Raphael said, was to send 20,000 soldiers and seize control of the country’s national airport and shipping. It did not consult the government nor anyone else in Haiti.
“But what we needed, and continue to need”, Rachael said, “is material aid, not more soldiers and guns.”
Raphael warned that “reconstruction” in Haiti was being imposed by foreign governments and financial interests. He slammed the Haitian government and parliament for agreeing to give majority control of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission to foreign interests.
The commission was established at the March 31 United Nations-sponsored Donors Conference in New York. It will oversee the spending of pledges to Haiti by foreign governments and agencies.
However, Raphael said civil society groups in Haiti — trade unions, women’s rights organisations and peasant and student groups — are cooperating like never before in the fight for meaningful reconstruction.
“What we’re getting a glimpse of here is that if the government could work with civil society groups, we could get out of this situation. The problem is that although civil society organisations are doing this work, the government just ignores us.”
[A CUPE interview with Raphael can be read here. Sign a petition demanding more prompt action in Haiti by international relief agencies here. Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network and can be reached at email@example.com.]