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30 Years Ago Haiti Grew All the Rice It Needed. What Happened?
The U.S. Role in Haiti's Food Riots By BILL QUIGLEY,
July 21, 2008

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Rich countries once used gunboats to seize food. Now they use trade deals by George Monbiot, The Guardian, August 26 2008
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Ezili's Response to Lionel's Questions and on the Food Crisis: Creating New Paradigms by Ezili Danto, April 14, 2008
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Ezili Danto's Note: Economic proposals that make sense for the reality of Haiti - The Western economic model doesn't fit an independent Black nation

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FOOD CRISIS: 'The greatest demonstration of the
historical failure of the capitalist model'
by Ian Angus, Global Research, April 28, 2008
*
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HLLN Links to: US Free trade Fraud promoting famine in Haiti
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US Poverty Pimps masturbating on Black pain, the Christian NGO's Veil of Blood and the mainstream media’s role in this ongoing travesty and untold crime against Haiti and humanity: Ezili Danto responds to the two common
storylines about Haiti - Kerr's 'Bringing the Love to Haiti' and Reteurs' 'Graveyard quiet of huge Haiti slum signals progress' by Ezili Danto| Haitian Perspectives | May 11, 2008

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Is Starvation Contagious? by John Maxwell
, Jamaican Observer
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Review of Peter Hallward's "Damming the Flood" (Part I) - by Stephen Lendman
, OpEdNews.com
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1804 Independence Proclamation of Haiti's Founding Father, General Jean Jacques Dessalines "....if they find asylum amongst us, they will be once more the schemers of our troubles and our divisions."
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Dessalines Is Rising!!
Ayisyen: You Are Not Alone!


 


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Hope in Humiliation: HLLN’s analysis of May 18, 2006 and the Inaugural of President Rene Preval by Marguerite Laurent

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When Haiti Was Free - Video Evidence of Media Lies (A Proposed HLLN Documentary) by Ezili Danto for Haitian Perspectives and the FreeHaitiMovement, May 14, 2008

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Veil of Blood: Ignorance is no Defense by Ezili Dantò, May 9, 2008
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Media Lies: The two common storylines about Haiti - May 14, 2008 & August 27, 2007

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Ericq Pierre et le plan néolibéral ! by Haiti Progres, May 7, 2008
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Le Plan Politique Américain pour Haiti by Haiti Progres, May 7, 2008

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Many Haitians want exiled Aristide back, April 16, 2008

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Haiti, Reaping the Whirlwind
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Price of Rice prompts renewed anger in Haiti, April 15, 2008
*
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HAITI: Food Crisis Sparks Anger and Despair, April 16, 2008
*
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Haiti no longer grows much of its own rice and families now go hungry
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Comparing crime, poverty and violence in the rest of the Hemisphere to Haiti

To subscribe, write to erzilidanto@yahoo.com
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zilibuttonCarnegie Hall
Video Clip
No other national
group in the world
sends more money
than Haitians living
in the Diaspora
Red Sea- audio

The Red Sea


Ezili Dantò's master Haitian dance class (Video clip)

zilibuttonEzili's Dantò's
Haitian & West African Dance Troop
Clip one - Clip two


So Much Like Here- Jazzoetry CD audio clip

Ezili Danto's

Witnessing
to Self

zilibutton
Update on
Site Soley

RBM Video Reel

Haitian
immigrants
Angry with
Boat sinking
A group of Haitian migrants arrive in a bus after being repatriated from the nearby Turks and Caicos Islands, in Cap-Haitien, northern Haiti, Thursday, May 10, 2007. They were part of the survivors of a sailing vessel crowded with Haitian migrants that overturned Friday, May 4 in moonlit waters a half-mile from shore in shark-infested waters. Haitian migrants claim a Turks and Caicos naval vessel rammed their crowded sailboat twice before it capsized. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Dessalines' Law
and Ideals

Breaking Sea Chains


Little Girl
in the Yellow
Sunday Dress

Anba Dlo, Nan Ginen
Ezili Danto's Art-With-The-Ancestors Workshops - See, Red, Black & Moonlight series or Haitian-West African

Clip one -Clip two
ance performance
zilibutton In a series of articles written for the October 17, 2006 bicentennial commemoration of the life and works of Dessalines, I wrote for HLLN that: "Haiti's liberator and founding father, General Jean Jacques Dessalines, said, "I Want the Assets of the Country to be Equitably Divided" and for that he was assassinated by the Mullato sons of France. That was the first coup d'etat, the Haitian holocaust - organized exclusion of the masses, misery, poverty and the impunity of the economic elite - continues (with Feb. 29, 2004 marking the 33rd coup d'etat). Haiti's peoples continue to resist the return of despots, tyrants and enslavers who wage war on the poor majority and Black, contain-them-in poverty through neocolonialism' debts, "free trade" and foreign "investments." These neocolonial tyrants refuse to allow an equitable division of wealth, excluding the majority in Haiti from sharing in the country's wealth and assets." (See also, Kanga Mundele: Our mission to live free or die trying, Another Haitian Independence Day under occupation; The Legacy of Impunity of One Sector-Who killed Dessalines?; The Legacy of Impunity:The Neoconlonialist inciting political instability is the problem. Haiti is underdeveloped in crime, corruption, violence, compared to other nations, all, by Marguerite 'Ezili Dantò' Laurent
     
No other national group in the world sends more money than Haitians living in the Diaspora
 
 
 
 
 







 


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"...Go after the Respondeat Superior...Category One, the imperialist...*Besides Castrated Category Zero (the black middlemen) would not be human if they didn't resent their humiliating servility, dependency and castration; didn't resent being the public face of all the repugnancy of their white imperialist bosses but never having these bosses touched or revealed for what they are because racism, and its various levels of oppression and exploitation, assures that it is only black folk and the economic black elites not their white brethens who are "barbaric," "rapacious" and "morally repugnant"; didn't resent the role of preserving the economic power of the whites by trading their souls, identities, their own country, heritage and peoples only for personal gain that, in the larger picture, is mere menial world economic power and only symbolic political power."
(See, The Revolutionary Potential of Haiti, its creeds, values and struggle - Not primarily a class struggle: Comments inspired by Gutiérrez' post on Haiti)
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30 Years Ago Haiti Grew All the Rice It Needed. What Happened? The U.S. Role in Haiti's Food Riots By BILL QUIGLEY, HLLN's News, Views, Essays and Reflections, April 21, 2008

Riots in Haiti over explosive rises in food costs have claimed the lives of six people. There have also been food riots world-wide in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivorie, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The Economist, which calls the current crisis the silent tsunami, reports that last year wheat prices rose 77% and rice 16%, but since January rice prices have risen 141%. The reasons include rising fuel costs, weather problems, increased demand in China and India, as well as the push to create biofuels from cereal crops.

Hermite Joseph, a mother working in the markets of Port au Prince, told journalist Nick Whalen that her two kids are “like toothpicks” they’ re not getting enough nourishment. Before, if you had a dollar twenty-five cents, you could buy vegetables, some rice, 10 cents of charcoal and a little cooking oil. Right now, a little can of rice alone costs 65 cents, and is not good rice at all. Oil is 25 cents. Charcoal is 25 cents. With a dollar twenty-five, you can’t even make a plate of rice for one child.”

The St. Claire’s Church Food program, in the Tiplas Kazo neighborhood of Port au Prince, serves 1000 free meals a day, almost all to hungry children -- five times a week in partnership with the What If Foundation. Children from Cite Soleil have been known to walk the five miles to the church for a meal. The cost of rice, beans, vegetables, a little meat, spices, cooking oil, propane for the stoves, have gone up dramatically. Because of the rise in the cost of food, the portions are now smaller. But hunger is on the rise and more and more children come for the free meal. Hungry adults used to be allowed to eat the leftovers once all the children were fed, but now there are few leftovers.

The New York Times lectured Haiti on April 18 that “Haiti, its agriculture industry in shambles, needs to better feed itself.” Unfortunately, the article did not talk at all about one of the main causes of the shortages -- the fact that the U.S. and other international financial bodies destroyed Haitian rice farmers to create a major market for the heavily subsidized rice from U.S. farmers. This is not the only cause of hunger in Haiti and other poor countries, but it is a major force.

Thirty years ago, Haiti raised nearly all the rice it needed. What happened?

In 1986, after the expulsion of Haitian dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loaned Haiti $24.6 million in desperately needed funds (Baby Doc had raided the treasury on the way out). But, in order to get the IMF loan, Haiti was required to reduce tariff protections for their Haitian rice and other agricultural products and some industries to open up the country’s markets to competition from outside countries. The U.S. has by far the largest voice in decisions of the IMF.

Doctor Paul Farmer was in Haiti then and saw what happened. “Within less than two years, it became impossible for Haitian farmers to compete with what they called ‘Miami rice.’ The whole local rice market in Haiti fell apart as cheap, U.S. subsidized rice, some of it in the form of ‘food aid,’ flooded the market. There was violence, ‘rice wars,’ and lives were lost.”

“American rice invaded the country,” recalled Charles Suffrard, a leading rice grower in Haiti in an interview with the Washington Post in 2000. By 1987 and 1988, there was so much rice coming into the country that many stopped working the land.

Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest who has been the pastor at St. Claire and an outspoken human rights advocate, agrees. “In the 1980s, imported rice poured into Haiti, below the cost of what our farmers could produce it. Farmers lost their businesses. People from the countryside started losing their jobs and moving to the cities. After a few years of cheap imported rice, local production went way down.”

Still the international business community was not satisfied. In 1994, as a condition for U.S. assistance in returning to Haiti to resume his elected Presidency, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced by the U.S., the IMF, and the World Bank to open up the markets in Haiti even more.

But, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, what reason could the U.S. have in destroying the rice market of this tiny country?

Haiti is definitely poor. The U.S. Agency for International Development reports the annual per capita income is less than $400. The United Nations reports life expectancy in Haiti is 59, while in the US it is 78. Over 78% of Haitians live on less than $2 a day, more than half live on less than $1 a day.

Yet Haiti has become one of the very top importers of rice from the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2008 numbers show Haiti is the third largest importer of US rice - at over 240,000 metric tons of rice. (One metric ton is 2200 pounds).

Rice is a heavily subsidized business in the U.S. Rice subsidies in the U.S. totaled $11 billion from 1995 to 2006. One producer alone, Riceland Foods Inc of Stuttgart Arkansas, received over $500 million dollars in rice subsidies between 1995 and 2006.

The Cato Institute recently reported that rice is one of the most heavily supported commodities in the U.S. -- with three different subsidies together averaging over $1 billion a year since 1998 and projected to average over $700 million a year through 2015. The result? “Tens of millions of rice farmers in poor countries find it hard to lift their families out of poverty because of the lower, more volatile prices caused by the interventionist policies of other countries.”

In addition to three different subsidies for rice farmers in the U.S., there are also direct tariff barriers of 3 to 24 percent, reports Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute -- the exact same type of protections, though much higher, that the U.S. and the IMF required Haiti to eliminate in the 1980s and 1990s.

U.S. protection for rice farmers goes even further. A 2006 story in the Washington Post found that the federal government has paid at least $1.3 billion in subsidies for rice and other crops since 2000 to individuals who do no farming at all; including $490,000 to a Houston surgeon who owned land near Houston that once grew rice.

And it is not only the Haitian rice farmers who have been hurt.

Paul Farmer saw it happen to the sugar growers as well. “Haiti, once the world's largest exporter of sugar and other tropical produce to Europe, began importing even sugar-- from U.S. controlled sugar production in the Dominican Republic and Florida. It was terrible to see Haitian farmers put out of work. All this sped up the downward spiral that led to this month's food riots.”

After the riots and protests, President Rene Preval of Haiti agreed to reduce the price of rice, which was selling for $51 for a 110 pound bag, to $43 dollars for the next month. No one thinks a one month fix will do anything but delay the severe hunger pains a few weeks.

Haiti is far from alone in this crisis. The Economist reports a billion people worldwide live on $1 a day. The US-backed Voice of America reports about 850 million people were suffering from hunger worldwide before the latest round of price increases.

Thirty three countries are at risk of social upheaval because of rising food prices, World Bank President Robert Zoellick told the Wall Street Journal. When countries have many people who spend half to three-quarters of their daily income on food, “there is no margin of survival.”

In the U.S., people are feeling the world-wide problems at the gas pump and in the grocery. Middle class people may cut back on extra trips or on high price cuts of meat. The number of people on food stamps in the US is at an all-time high. But in poor countries, where malnutrition and hunger were widespread before the rise in prices, there is nothing to cut back on except eating. That leads to hunger riots.

In the short term, the world community is sending bags of rice to Haiti. Venezuela sent 350 tons of food. The US just pledged $200 million extra for worldwide hunger relief. The UN is committed to distributing more food.
What can be done in the medium term? The US provides much of the world’s food aid, but does it in such a way that only half of the dollars spent actually reach hungry people. US law requires that food aid be purchased from US farmers, processed and bagged in the US and shipped on US vessels -- which cost 50% of the money allocated. A simple change in US law to allow some local purchase of commodities would feed many more people and support local farm markets.

In the long run, what is to be done? The President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who visited Haiti last week, said “Rich countries need to reduce farms subsidies and trade barriers to allow poor countries to generate income with food exports. Either the world solves the unfair trade system, or every time there's unrest like in Haiti, we adopt emergency measures and send a little bit of food to temporarily ease hunger."

Citizens of the USA know very little about the role of their government in helping create the hunger problems in Haiti or other countries. But there is much that individuals can do. People can donate to help feed individual hungry people and participate with advocacy organizations like Bread for the World or Oxfam to help change the U.S. and global rules which favor the rich countries. This advocacy can help countries have a better chance to feed themselves.

Meanwhile, Merisma Jean-Claudel, a young high school graduate in Port-au-Prince told journalist Wadner Pierre "...people can’t buy food. Gasoline prices are going up. It is very hard for us over here. The cost of living is the biggest worry for us, no peace in stomach means no peace in the mind "I wonder if others will be able to survive the days ahead because things are very, very hard."

“On the ground, people are very hungry,” reported Fr. Jean-Juste. “Our country must immediately open emergency canteens to feed the hungry until we can get them jobs. For the long run, we need to invest in irrigation, transportation, and other assistance for our farmers and workers.”

In Port au Prince, some rice arrived in the last few days. A school in Fr. Jean-Juste’s parish received several bags of rice. They had raw rice for 1000 children, but the principal still had to come to Father Jean-Juste asking for help. There was no money for charcoal, or oil.

Jervais Rodman, an unemployed carpenter with three children, stood in a long line Saturday in Port au Prince to get UN donated rice and beans. When Rodman got the small bags, he told Ben Fox of the Associated Press, “The beans might last four days. The rice will be gone as soon as I get home.”

*
Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com People interested in donating to feed children in Haiti should go to
http://www.whatiffoundation.org/


People who want to help change U.S. policy on agriculture to help combat world-wide hunger should go to:
http://www.oxfamamerica.org/ or http://www.bread.org/

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Ezili Dantò, Lawyer, Performance Poet, Founder and Chair of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (Carnegie Hall/ Breaking Sea Chains )

Recommended HLLN Links on : US "Free Trade" Fraud Promotes Famine in Haiti

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- "Miami Rice": The Business of Disaster in Haiti
by Other Worlds, December 9, 2010


- Rich countries once used gunboats to seize food. Now they use trade deals by
George Monbiot, The Guardian, August 26 2008

- "We Made a Devil’s Bargain": Fmr. President Clinton Apologizes for Trade Policies that Destroyed Haitian Rice Farming

- Bill Clinton’s Heavy Hand on Haiti’s Vulnerable Agricultural Economy: The American Rice Scandal by COHA Research Associate Leah Chavla

-Youtube-The politics of rice - 04 Jul 08 - Part 1

- 30 Years Ago Haiti Grew All the Rice It Needed. What Happened?

-Bill Clinton Apologizes To Haiti For Effects Of Free Trade By Dave Johnson

-
Ezili's Response to Lionel's Questions and on the Food Crisis: Creating New Paradigms by Ezili Dantò, April 14, 2008

- Haiti’s Food Crisis: Imposing Hunger on the People of Haiti by Pierre Labossiere

-
Bush Administration Accused of Withholding "Lifesaving" Aid to Haiti, June 25, 2008

- Is Starvation Contagious by John Maxwell

- Review (Part 1) of Peter Hallward's "Damming the Flood"
By Stephen Lendman ( Part 2 )

- Confessions of an Economic Hit Man: How the U.S. Uses Globalization to Cheat Poor Countries Out of Trillions, Democracy Now, Nov. 9, 2004

- Haiti no longer grows much of its own rice and families now go hungry


The U.S. Role in Haiti's Food Riots

- Haiti, Reaping the Whirlwind

- HAITI: Workers Protest Privatisation Layoffs
http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=38646

- Haiti: Privatisation plan starts with mass firings

- Feeding Dependency, Starving Democracy: U
SAID Policies in Haiti
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/law/haitianNGOs.html#dependency

-
The US and Haiti: How to Get Rich on 11 Cents an Hour
http://www.doublestandards.org/verhoogen1.html

-
Disney's Hell in Haiti | Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti, Vol. 13, no. 41, 3-9 January 1996
http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/43a/294.html


- IMF warns rising food prices may spark more riots like Haiti
By Andrew Gumbel | Monday, 14 April 2008, Independent.co.uk


- Food, trade and US power politics in Latin America by Toni Solo
07 April 2004 | http://www.doublestandards.org/solo16.html

-- Mysterious Prison Ailment Traced to U.S. Rice Behind http://ipsnews.net/print.asp?idnews=36204

- Free Market Left Haiti's Rice Growers Behind by Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, April 13, 2000

- Haitian rice farmers work against the Yankee dollar
http://www.speakeasy.org/~peterc/haiti/rice.htm

- Haitian pigs meet globalization

- Trade and disappearance of Haitian Rice
by Josiane Georges, June 2004

-The history of land and agriculture of the Republic of Haiti

-
Many Haitians want exiled Aristide back

- H
AITI: Food Crisis Sparks Anger and Despair ( "...Thirty years ago, Haiti produced nearly all the rice it consumed. But in the late 1980s, cheap imported U.S. rice inundated the country after a military junta began liberalising the economy with support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The first batches of imported rice were escorted by armed convoys in the Artibonite valley -- Haiti's main rice-producing region. Rice farmers regarded the imported U.S. rice as a threat to their production and livelihoods.

As it turned out, their concerns were justified. In 1994, an IMF-sponsored plan cut tariffs on imported rice from 35 percent to 3 percent, the lowest in the region. In one year, the number of rice imports doubled.

While the U.S. government subsidises its own rice farmers, its Haitian counterpart was prohibited from doing so under the terms of their agreement with the IMF. Over the last 20 years, rice production in Haiti has been cut in half, while imports now dominate the market.

In La Saline, the stench of fish and chicken permeates the air as Hernite Joseph continues to tear at the heap of frozen chicken before her.

For her and her three children, the future is up in the air and if the cost of living continues to rise, Henrite only sees one outcome: "I will die." (
HAITI: Food Crisis Sparks Anger and Despair By Nick Whalen, IPS, April 16, 2008))

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Our nasty little racist war in Haiti
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Disney's Hell in Haiti

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The US in Haiti: How to Get Rich on 11 Cents an Hour by Eric Verhoogen A Report Prepared for The National Labor Committee, January 1996

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Eyewitness account of the abduction of President and First Lady Aristide of Haiti by the United States Special Forces

Jean Jacques Dessalines, said, "I Want the Assets of the
Country to be Equitably Divided
" and for that he was assassinated.
That was the first coup d'etat, the Haitian holocaust - organized exclusion of the masses, misery, poverty and the impunity of the economic elite - continues (with Feb. 29, 2004 marking the 33rd coup d'etat). Haiti's peoples continue to resist the return of despots, tyrants and enslavers who wage war on the poor majority and Black, contain-them-in poverty through neocolonialism' debts, "free trade" and foreign "investments." These neocolonial tyrants refuse to allow an equitable division of wealth, excluding the majority in Haiti from sharing in the country's wealth and assets.
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The Western vs Real Narrative on Haiti by Ezili Dantò, March 21, 2007
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Does the Western economic model and calculation of economic wealth fit Haiti, fit Dessalines' idea of wealth? No!
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No other national group anywhere in the world sends more money home than Haitians living abroad

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Transnational Companies supporting poverty and death in Haiti
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Ericq Pierre et le plan néolibéral ! by Haiti Progres, May 7, 2008
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Le Plan Politique Américain pour Haiti by Haiti Progres, May 7, 2008
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When Haiti Was Free - Video Evidence of Media Lies (A Proposed HLLN Documentary) by Ezili Danto for Haitian Perspectives and the FreeHaitiMovement, May 14, 2008

Media Lies: The two common storylines about Haiti - May 14, 2008 &
August 27, 2007

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Comparing crime, poverty and violence in the rest of the Hemisphere to Haiti by Ezili Danto, May 27, 2008
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Economic proposals that make sense for the reality of Haiti - The Western economic model doesn't fit an independent Black nation by Ezili Danto , May 23, 2008

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Ezili Danto's counter-narrative to the Associated Press's current Neocolonial Narrative in "Haiti's tourism dreams deferred by riots"

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Hope in Humiliation: HLLN’s analysis of May 18, 2006 and the Inaugural of President Rene Preval by Marguerite Laurent

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Charity: Aid workers raping, abusing children , By Stephanie Busari For CNN, May 27, 2008
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Video Report: Child Abuse by Humanitarian Workers
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Child abuse by aid agency staff
May 9, 2008

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UN peacekeepers 'abusing children'
Aljazeera, May 27, 2008

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Video: United Nations and Aid workers raping and abusing children
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Category Zero: The Subcontracted Haitians
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La Bourgeoisie Haitienne: Une Bourgeoisie Mediocre (Photos)

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The Seven Mercenaries - The Families: Lekòl Lage
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Une bourgeoisie deracinee!
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U.S. Patterns in Haiti
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FOOD CRISIS: 'The greatest demonstration of the
historical failure of the capitalist model
'
by Ian Angus, Global Research, April 28, 2008
|Socialist Voice
http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8836



"If the government cannot lower the cost of living it simply has to leave. If the police and UN troops want to shoot at us, that's OK, because in the end, if we are not killed by bullets, we'll die of hunger." — A demonstrator in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

In Haiti, where most people get 22% fewer calories than the minimum needed for good health, some are staving off their hunger pangs by eating "mud biscuits" made by mixing clay and water with a bit of vegetable oil and salt.[1]

Meanwhile, in Canada, the federal government is currently paying $225 for each pig killed in a mass cull of breeding swine, as part of a plan to reduce hog production. Hog farmers, squeezed by low hog prices and high feed costs, have responded so enthusiastically that the kill will likely use up all the allocated funds before the program ends in September.

Some of the slaughtered hogs may be given to local Food Banks, but most will be destroyed or made into pet food. None will go to Haiti.

This is the brutal world of capitalist agriculture — a world where some people destroy food because prices are too low, and others literally eat dirt because food prices are too high.

Record prices for staple foods
We are in the midst of an unprecedented worldwide food price inflation that has driven prices to their highest levels in decades. The increases affect most kinds of food, but in particular the most important staples — wheat, corn, and rice.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that between March 2007 and March 2008 prices of cereals increased 88%, oils and fats 106%, and dairy 48%. The FAO food price index as a whole rose 57% in one year — and most of the increase occurred in the past few months.

Another source, the World Bank, says that that in the 36 months ending February 2008, global wheat prices rose 181% and overall global food prices increased by 83%. The Bank expects most food prices to remain well above 2004 levels until at least 2015.

The most popular grade of Thailand rice sold for $198 a tonne five years ago and $323 a tonne a year ago. On April 24, the price hit $1,000.

Increases are even greater on local markets — in Haiti, the market price of a 50 kilo bag of rice doubled in one week at the end of March.

These increases are catastrophic for the 2.6 billion people around the world who live on less than US$2 a day and spend 60% to 80% of their incomes on food. Hundreds of millions cannot afford to eat.

This month, the hungry fought back.

Taking to the streets

In Haiti, on April 3, demonstrators in the southern city of Les Cayes built barricades, stopped trucks carrying rice and distributed the food, and tried to burn a United Nations compound. The protests quickly spread to the capital, Port-au-Prince, where thousands marched on the presidential palace, chanting "We are hungry!" Many called for the withdrawal of UN troops and the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the exiled president whose government was overthrown by foreign powers in 2004.

President René Préval, who initially said nothing could be done, has announced a 16% cut in the wholesale price of rice. This is at best a stop-gap measure, since the reduction is for one month only, and retailers are not obligated to cut their prices.

The actions in Haiti paralleled similar protests by hungry people in more than twenty other countries.

* In Burkino Faso, a two-day general strike by unions and shopkeepers demanded "significant and effective" reductions in the price of rice and other staple foods.

* In Bangladesh, over 20,000 workers from textile factories in Fatullah went on strike to demand lower prices and higher wages. They hurled bricks and stones at police, who fired tear gas into the crowd.

* The Egyptian government sent thousands of troops into the Mahalla textile complex in the Nile Delta, to prevent a general strike demanding higher wages, an independent union, and lower prices. Two people were killed and over 600 have been jailed.

* In Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, police used tear gas against women who had set up barricades, burned tires and closed major roads. Thousands marched to the President's home, chanting "We are hungry," and "Life is too expensive, you are killing us."

* In Pakistan and Thailand, armed soldiers have been deployed to prevent the poor from seizing food from fields and warehouses.

Similar protests have taken place in Cambodia, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Zambia. On April 2, the president of the World Bank told a meeting in Washington that there are 33 countries where price hikes could cause social unrest.

A Senior Editor of Time magazine warned:

"The idea of the starving masses driven by their desperation to take to the streets and overthrow the ancien regime has seemed impossibly quaint since capitalism triumphed so decisively in the Cold War.... And yet, the headlines of the past month suggest that skyrocketing food prices are threatening the stability of a growing number of governments around the world. …. when circumstances render it impossible to feed their hungry children, normally passive citizens can very quickly become militants with nothing to lose."[2]
What's Driving Food Inflation?

Since the 1970s, food production has become increasingly globalized and concentrated. A handful of countries dominate the global trade in staple foods.
80% of wheat exports come from six exporters, as does 85% of rice. Three countries produce 70% of exported corn. This leaves the world's poorest countries, the ones that must import food to survive, at the mercy of economic trends and policies in those few exporting companies. When the global food trade system stops delivering, it's the poor who pay the price.

For several years, the global trade in staple foods has been heading towards a crisis. Four related trends have slowed production growth and pushed prices up.

The End of the Green Revolution: In the 1960s and 1970s, in an effort to counter peasant discontent in south and southeast Asia, the U.S. poured money and technical support into agricultural development in India and other countries.

The "green revolution" — new seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, agricultural techniques and infrastructure — led to spectacular increases in food production, particularly rice. Yield per hectare continued expanding until the 1990s.

Today, it's not fashionable for governments to help poor people grow food for other poor people, because "the market" is supposed to take care of all problems. The Economist reports that "spending on farming as a share of total public spending in developing countries fell by half between 1980 and 2004."[3] Subsidies and R&D money have dried up, and production growth has stalled.
As a result, in seven of the past eight years the world consumed more grain than it produced, which means that rice was being removed from the inventories that governments and dealers normally hold as insurance against bad harvests.

World grain stocks are now at their lowest point ever, leaving very little cushion for bad times.

Climate Change: Scientists say that climate change could cut food production in parts of the world by 50% in the next 12 years. But that isn't just a matter for the future:

* Australia is normally the world's second-largest exporter of grain, but a savage multi-year drought has reduced the wheat crop by 60% and rice production has been completely wiped out.

* In Bangladesh in November, one of the strongest cyclones in decades wiped out a million tonnes of rice and severely damaged the wheat crop, making the huge country even more dependent on imported food.

Other examples abound. It's clear that the global climate crisis is already here, and it is affecting food.

Agrofuels: It is now official policy in the U.S., Canada and Europe to convert food into fuel. U.S. vehicles burn enough corn to cover the entire import needs of the poorest 82 countries.[4]

Ethanol and biodiesel are very heavily subsidized, which means, inevitably, that crops like corn (maize) are being diverted out of the food chain and into gas tanks, and that new agricultural investment worldwide is being directed towards palm, soy, canola and other oil-producing plants. This increases the prices of agrofuel crops directly, and indirectly boosts the price of other grains by encouraging growers to switch to agrofuel.

As Canadian hog producers have found, it also drives up the cost of producing meat, since corn is the main ingredient in North American animal feed.

Oil Prices: The price of food is linked to the price of oil because food can be made into a substitute for oil. But rising oil prices also affect the cost of producing food. Fertilizer and pesticides are made from petroleum and natural gas. Gas and diesel fuel are used in planting, harvesting and shipping.[5]
It's been estimated that 80% of the costs of growing corn are fossil fuel costs — so it is no accident that food prices rise when oil prices rise.

* * *
By the end of 2007, reduced investment in the third world, rising oil prices, and climate change meant that production growth was slowing and prices were rising. Good harvests and strong export growth might have staved off a crisis — but that isn't what happened. The trigger was rice, the staple food of three billion people.

Early this year, India announced that it was suspending most rice exports in order to rebuild its reserves. A few weeks later, Vietnam, whose rice crop was hit by a major insect infestation during the harvest, announced a four-month suspension of exports to ensure that enough would be available for its domestic market.

India and Vietnam together normally account for 30% of all rice exports, so their announcements were enough to push the already tight global rice market over the edge. Rice buyers immediately started buying up available stocks, hoarding whatever rice they could get in the expectation of future price increases, and bidding up the price for future crops. Prices soared. By mid-April, news reports described "panic buying" of rice futures on the Chicago Board of Trade, and there were rice shortages even on supermarket shelves in Canada and the U.S.
Why the rebellion?

There have been food price spikes before. Indeed, if we take inflation into account, global prices for staple foods were higher in the 1970s than they are today. So why has this inflationary explosion provoked mass protests around the world?

The answer is that since the 1970s the richest countries in the world, aided by the international agencies they control, have systematically undermined the poorest countries' ability to feed their populations and protect themselves in a crisis like this.

Haiti is a powerful and appalling example.

Rice has been grown in Haiti for centuries, and until twenty years ago Haitian farmers produced about 170,000 tonnes of rice a year, enough to cover 95% of domestic consumption. Rice farmers received no government subsidies, but, as in every other rice-producing country at the time, their access to local markets was protected by import tariffs.

In 1995, as a condition of providing a desperately needed loan, the International Monetary Fund required Haiti to cut its tariff on imported rice from 35% to 3%, the lowest in the Caribbean. The result was a massive influx of U.S. rice that sold for half the price of Haitian-grown rice. Thousands of rice farmers lost their lands and livelihoods, and today three-quarters of the rice eaten in Haiti comes from the U.S.[6]

U.S. rice didn't take over the Haitian market because it tastes better, or because U.S. rice growers are more efficient. It won out because rice exports are heavily subsidized by the U.S. government. In 2003, U.S. rice growers received $1.7 billion in government subsidies, an average of $232 per hectare of rice grown.[7] That money, most of which went to a handful of very large landowners and agribusiness corporations, allowed U.S. exporters to sell rice at 30% to 50% below their real production costs.

In short, Haiti was forced to abandon government protection of domestic agriculture — and the U.S. then used its government protection schemes to take over the market.

There have been many variations on this theme, with rich countries of the north imposing "liberalization" policies on poor and debt-ridden southern countries and then taking advantage of that liberalization to capture the market. Government subsidies account for 30% of farm revenue in the world's 30 richest countries, a total of US$280 billion a year,[8] an unbeatable advantage in a "free" market where the rich write the rules.

The global food trade game is rigged, and the poor have been left with reduced crops and no protections.

In addition, for several decades the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have refused to advance loans to poor countries unless they agree to "Structural Adjustment Programs" (SAP) that require the loan recipients to devalue their currencies, cut taxes, privatize utilities, and reduce or eliminate support programs for farmers.

All this was done with the promise that the market would produce economic growth and prosperity — instead, poverty increased and support for agriculture was eliminated.

"The investment in improved agricultural input packages and extension support tapered and eventually disappeared in most rural areas of Africa under SAP. Concern for boosting smallholders' productivity was abandoned. Not only were governments rolled back, foreign aid to agriculture dwindled. World Bank funding for agriculture itself declined markedly from 32% of total lending in 1976-8 to 11.7% in 1997-9."[9]

During previous waves of food price inflation, the poor often had at least some access to food they grew themselves, or to food that was grown locally and available at locally set prices. Today, in many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, that's just not possible. Global markets now determine local prices — and often the only food available must be imported from far away.
* * *
Food is not just another commodity — it is absolutely essential for human survival. The very least that humanity should expect from any government or social system is that it try to prevent starvation — and above all that it not promote policies that deny food to hungry people.

That's why Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was absolutely correct on April 24, to describe the food crisis as "the greatest demonstration of the historical failure of the capitalist model."

What needs to be done to end this crisis, and to ensure that doesn't happen again? Part Two of this article will examine those questions.

Footnotes
[1] Kevin Pina. "Mud Cookie Economics in Haiti." Haiti Action Network, Feb. 10, 2008. http://www.haitiaction.net/News/HIP/2_10_8/2_10_8.html

[2] Tony Karon. "How Hunger Could Topple Regimes." Time, April 11, 2008. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1730107,00.html

[3] "The New Face of Hunger." The Economist, April 19, 2008.

[4] Mark Lynas. "How the Rich Starved the World." New Statesman, April 17, 2008. http://www.newstatesman.com/200804170025

[5] Dale Allen Pfeiffer. Eating Fossil Fuels. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island BC, 2006. p. 1

[6] Oxfam International Briefing Paper, April 2005. "Kicking Down the Door." http://www.oxfam.org/en/files/bp72_rice.pdf

[7] Ibid.

[8] OECD Background Note: Agricultural Policy and Trade Reform. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/52/23/36896656.pdf

[9] Kjell Havnevik, Deborah Bryceson, Lars-Erik Birgegård, Prosper Matondi & Atakilte Beyene. "African Agriculture and the World Bank: Development or Impoverishment?" Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, http://www.links.org.au/node/328


Global Research Articles by Ian Angus

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Rich countries once used gunboats to seize food. Now they use trade deals: The world's hungriest are the losers as an old colonialism returns to govern relations between wealthy and poor nations by George Monbiot, The Guardian, August 26 2008


In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, Mike Davis tells the story of the famines that sucked the guts out of India in the 1870s. The hunger began when a drought, caused by El Niño, killed the crops on the Deccan plateau. As starvation bit, the viceroy, Lord Lytton, oversaw the export to England of a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. While Lytton lived in imperial splendour and commissioned, among other extravagances, "the most colossal and expensive meal in world history", between 12 million and 29 million people died. Only Stalin manufactured a comparable hunger.

Now a new Lord Lytton is seeking to engineer another brutal food grab. As Tony Blair's favoured courtier, Peter Mandelson often created the impression that he would do anything to please his master. Today he is the European trade commissioner. From his sumptuous offices in Brussels and Strasbourg, he hopes to impose a treaty that will permit Europe to snatch food from the mouths of some of the world's poorest people.

Seventy per cent of the protein eaten by the people of Senegal comes from fish. Traditionally cheaper than other animal products, it sustains a population that ranks close to the bottom of the human development index. One in six of the working population is employed in the fishing industry; about two-thirds of these workers are women. Over the past three decades, their means of subsistence has started to collapse as other nations have plundered Senegal's stocks.

The EU has two big fish problems. One is that, partly as a result of its failure to manage them properly, its own fisheries can no longer meet European demand. The other is that its governments won't confront their fishing lobbies and decommission all the surplus boats. The EU has tried to solve both problems by sending its fishermen to west Africa. Since 1979 it has struck agreements with the government of Senegal, granting our fleets access to its waters. As a result, Senegal's marine ecosystem has started to go the same way as ours. Between 1994 and 2005, the weight of fish taken from the country's waters fell from 95,000 tonnes to 45,000 tonnes. Muscled out by European trawlers, the indigenous fishery is crumpling: the number of boats run by local people has fallen by 48% since 1997.

In a recent report on this pillage, ActionAid shows that fishing families that once ate three times a day are now eating only once or twice. As the price of fish rises, their customers also go hungry. The same thing has happened in all the west African countries with which the EU has maintained fisheries agreements. In return for wretched amounts of foreign exchange, their primary source of protein has been looted.

The government of Senegal knows this, and in 2006 it refused to renew its fishing agreement with the EU. But European fishermen - mostly from Spain and France - have found ways round the ban. They have been registering their boats as Senegalese, buying up quotas from local fishermen and transferring catches at sea from local boats. These practices mean that they can continue to take the country's fish, and have no obligation to land them in Senegal. Their profits are kept on ice until the catch arrives in Europe.

Mandelson's office is trying to negotiate economic partnership agreements with African countries. They were supposed to have been concluded by the end of last year, but many countries, including Senegal, have refused to sign. The agreements insist that European companies have the right both to establish themselves freely on African soil, and to receive national treatment. This means that the host country is not allowed to discriminate between its own businesses and European companies. Senegal would be forbidden to ensure that its fish are used to sustain its own industry and to feed its own people. The dodges used by European trawlers would be legalised.

The UN's Economic Commission for Africa has described the EU's negotiations as "not sufficiently inclusive". They suffer from a "lack of transparency" and from the African countries' lack of capacity to handle the legal complexities. ActionAid shows that Mandelson's office has ignored these problems, raised the pressure on reluctant countries and "moved ahead in the negotiations at a pace much faster than the [African nations] could handle". If these agreements are forced on west Africa, Lord Mandelson will be responsible for another imperial famine.

This is one instance of the food colonialism that is again coming to govern the relations between rich and poor counties. As global food supplies tighten, rich consumers are pushed into competition with the hungry. Last week the environmental group WWF published a report on the UK's indirect consumption of water, purchased in the form of food. We buy much of our rice and cotton, for example, from the Indus valley, which contains most of Pakistan's best farmland. To meet the demand for exports, the valley's aquifers are being pumped out faster than they can be recharged. At the same time, rain and snow in the Himalayan headwaters have decreased, probably as a result of climate change.

In some places, salt and other crop poisons are being drawn through the diminishing water table, knocking out farmland for good. The crops we buy are, for the most part, freely traded, but the unaccounted costs all accrue to Pakistan.

Now we learn that Middle Eastern countries, led by Saudi Arabia, are securing their future food supplies by trying to buy land in poorer nations. The Financial Times reports that Saudi Arabia wants to set up a series of farms abroad, each of which could exceed 100,000 hectares. Their produce would not be traded: it would be shipped directly to the owners. The FT, which usually agitates for the sale of everything, frets over "the nightmare scenario of crops being transported out of fortified farms as hungry locals look on". Through "secretive bilateral agreements", the paper reports, "the investors hope to be able to bypass any potential trade restriction that the host country might impose during a crisis".

Both Ethiopia and Sudan have offered the oil states hundreds of thousands of hectares. This is easy for the corrupt governments of these countries: in Ethiopia the state claims to own most of the land; in Sudan an envelope passed across the right desk magically transforms other people's property into foreign exchange. But 5.6 million Sudanese and 10 million Ethiopians are currently in need of food aid. The deals their governments propose can only exacerbate such famines.

None of this is to suggest that the poor nations should not sell food to the rich. To escape from famine, countries must enhance their purchasing power. This often means selling farm products, and increasing their value by processing them locally. But there is nothing fair about the deals I have described. Where once they used gunboats and sepoys, the rich nations now use chequebooks and lawyers to seize food from the hungry. The scramble for resources has begun, but - in the short term, at any rate - we will hardly notice. The rich world's governments will protect themselves from the political cost of shortages, even if it means that other people must starve.

monbiot.com

* guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

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