In February 2004, WORKERS exclusively told the story of the Cuban Medical Brigade in Haiti, “Cuba’s Haitian heroes”, and the story of Haiti itself. Today, we are expecting more than 200,000 Haitian dead following the severe earthquake that struck that land with the force of 400,000 tons of TNT.
What does this human tragedy tell us? Well, miraculously, as the residents of Port-au-Prince know, part of the Cuban compound in the city survived the earthquake as did the Cuban doctors. They immediately started saving lives in a makeshift hospital based on their “Anexo”, or annexe, of the University Hospital of Port-au-Prince.
So nothing changes there, then, because when President Aristide was overthrown by a US backed coup in 2004 (nothing changes there either), all civil infrastructure collapsed and the Cubans, along with the Red Cross, provided the only medical care in the country.
There are connections between Cuba and Haiti. Both had historic revolutions, both were severely punished for those revolutions with blockades and military interventions. But there the similarity ends.
Cuba eventually took the socialist path while Haiti was ruled by a series of leaders who were either killed in office if they tried to do good things, or ran off to the USA with the contents of the national treasury.
The hand of the US, as well as the defeated colonial power France, could always be seen interfering in Haiti. The most recent example was the ousting of elected President Aristide by a coup orchestrated by the US and France who then sent in their troops and installed a Haitian émigré who lived in Miami.
France has never forgiven the 400,000 African slaves who defeated Napoleon’s best general and established a black republic, the second republic in the hemisphere after the USA. It demanded and forced through massive reparations that were only paid off in 1949!
Despite the overthrow of Aristide, Haitians eventually elected Rene Preval, an ally of Aristide, as their President. Preval took Haiti into partnerships with ALBA, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia as well as Brazil. Programmes to eradicate illiteracy, disease, and to educate the people, provide low-cost energy, develop agriculture, roads and infrastructure, were the result. The Haitian doctors you see interviewed on TV were trained in Cuba.
But, having been implicated in the coup in Venezuela, Honduras and the attempted coup in Ecuador, the US may see an opportunity in the tragedy that has struck Haiti.
The pouring of troops into Haiti and the subsequent chaos is an insult to Haitians. They are a proud people who have acted with great dignity during the devastation and chaos inflicted upon them. Our solidarity with the workers of Haiti must ensure that they are able to rebuild their country as a sovereign people and nation.