Haiti: not just a natural disaster


"Rebuilding Haiti is important", El Salvadoran solidarity activist Rafael Pacheco told a public forum on February 23. "But liberating the country is most important in the long run.

"We have to stand for basic political change; and for us in Australia, international solidarity with Haiti is essential."

Called "Haiti: not just a natural disaster", the forum was sponsored by the Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly.

Pacheco summarised the history of colonial oppression of Haiti and the Haitian people's long struggle to win their liberation. Haiti was the first nation in Latin America to win freedom from slavery. It won formal independence in 1804.

Haiti is one of the poorest country in the world, after years of imperialist exploitation and brutal dictatorships. Chronic underdevelopment laid the groundwork for the catastrophic death toll of some 200,000 people in the earthquake on January 12.

Roshini Mohan from Oxfam Australia explained the relief work in response to the earthquake, which the United Nations has described as "the worst humanitarian disaster in decades".

Roshini said cancelling Haiti's national debt was crucial, and urged people to write to the International Monetary Fund to call for all debt to be ended.

Jim McIlroy from the Socialist Alliance emphasised the need for "aid and reparations, not occupation". The US had responded to the Haitian earthquake by a military invasion and occupation, which may continue for years to come, he said.

McIlroy said big business was preparing to move into Haiti to profit from the reconstruction process.

There was a vital need to not only support aid projects for Haiti, but to build international solidarity with its people struggling to achieve liberation and social justice, McIlroy said.