Haitians resort to eating dirt

February 7, 2008

"With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't
afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies", according to a January 29 Associated Press article by Jonathan Katz.

"Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt …"

Katz reports that "in places like Cite Soleil, the
oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal".

"Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation", according to Katz. "Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well."

In a move opposed by the left-wing governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, on the grounds it will condemn large amounts of the planet to hunger, the US government is seeking agreements with a number of Latin American countries, with Brazil in the lead, whereby land will be used to grow cashcrops such as corn, not for human consumption, but for biofuels to help feed the US's mammoth energy consumption.

In contrast, the Venezuelan government has formed Petrocaribe, which held its fourth summit in December, which provides 16 poor Caribbean and Central American nations, including Haiti, with heavily discounted oil to guarantee energy supplies in the face of rising prices, as well as significant investments to help countries develop their own industries.

Katz reports that about "80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day and a tiny elite controls the economy".

However, the AP article fails to mention some of the significant factors behind this horrendous situation — such as the ravaging of Haiti by First World, especially US, interests, and the brutal repression of ordinary Haitians when they have sought to reverse this situation.

Haitian resistance goes right back to end of the 18th century when slaves imported from Africa launched a successful revolution against the French colonialists and declared independence, abolishing slavery — the world's first successful slave revolt.

However, in the 20th Century, Haiti was first invaded and occupied by the US military, and later ruled by US-backed brutal dictatorships, such as that of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, who was overthrown in a popular uprising in 1986.

When the Haitian people elected a radical priest, Jean Betrand Aristide, as president in 1991, his government was overthrown in a military coup. The US refused to accept as refugees the thousands who fled the repression of the military regime — many of whose officers had been trained at the US-run School of the Americas.

The US subsequently came to an agreement with Aristide and invaded in 1994 to restore him to office on the basis of support for pro-corporate neoliberal policies. However, after being reelected in 2000, Aristide was again forced from power in 2004 — with Aristide angrily blaming the governments of the US and France for his ouster.

Haiti remains under US-led foreign military occupation.

Such neocolonialism, which aims at ensuring Third World countries are open for pillaging by First World corporations, helps explain why the poor of Haiti are resorting to eating dirt.

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