Venezuela steps up aid effort to Haiti, questions US military deployment

Aid from Venezuela bound for Haiti.

By Kiraz Janicke, Caracas

January 20, 2010 – – Venezuela has stepped up its aid effort to Haiti as a second earthquake rocked the Caribbean country again today. This follows a 7.3 magnitude earthquake which destroyed the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince last week leaving at least 75,000 people confirmed dead, 250,000 injured and millions homeless.

Echoing his Nicaraguan counterpart Daniel Ortega, who accused the United States of “manipulating the tragedy to install North American troops in Haiti” and French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet, who criticised the US role in Haiti, saying the priority was “helping Haiti, not occupying Haiti”, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez also questioned the US military response to the disaster.

“It seems that the United States is militarily occupying Haiti, taking advantage of the tragedy, 6000 soldiers have arrived. Thousands are disembarking in Haiti as if it were a war”, Chávez said during his weekly television program Alo Presidente on January 18.

Haiti “needs doctors, tents, rescue teams and machinery… Now, who said soldiers, rifles and machine guns are necessary?”, he asked.

As of January 20, the US has donated US$130 million (according to US AID), sent more than 11,200 military personal, 265 government medical personal, five Navy ships, as well as five Coast Guard cutters and seven cargo planes “to assist in aid delivery, support and evacuations”, Associated Press (AP) reported. The US has delivered “more than 90,000 pounds” or 40 metric tonnes of aid and supplies the AP report continued. The US has also taken control of the airport at Port-au-Prince.

Military logistics prioritsed

Aid organisation Doctors Without Borders has also criticised the US prioritisation of military logistics over food and medical aid, saying planes carrying urgently needed surgical equipment and drugs have been turned away five times, even though the agency received prior authorisation to land.

“Urgent and vital attention to the people has been delayed [for] military logistics”, Francoise Saulnier, head of the Doctors Without Borders legal department was quoted by Reuters today. “So it's just apocalyptic at the moment with people in a very, very bad and deteriorating condition,” she added.

Venezuela was the first country to send aid after the disaster struck on January 12, with an advance team of doctors, search and rescue experts, as well as food, water, medical supplies and rescue equipment arriving in Port-au-Prince on the morning of January 13. However, Venezuela's foreign minister Nicholas Maduro said since than aid shipments to Haiti were being diverted via neighbouring Dominican Republic to avoid restrictions imposed by the US at Port-au-Prince airport.

So far Venezuela has sent 616 metric tons of food aid and 116 metric tons of equipment, including water purification systems, electrical generators and heavy equipment for moving rubble.

Venezuela, the largest oil exporter in South America, is also sending free fuel to the devastated country, with Chavez pledging, “The Venezuelan people will donate all the fuel the Haitian people need.” 

The fuel will be used to operate power plants and public transportation. “We are coordinating with the president of the Dominican Republic Leonel Fernández, who put the terminal of the refinery of his country at our service”, the Venezuelan president continued.

A tanker with 225,000 barrels (worth approximately $18 million) of diesel fuel and gasoline departed from Venezuela on January 18.

The Venezuela-Cuba initiated Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our Americas (ALBA) fair trade bloc, which also includes Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbados, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, has also sent two ships carrying 4761 metric tons of food aid.

Speaking at the inauguration of the San Agustín cable car system in Caracas today, Chavez announced that another five ships loaded with food and medical supplies departed for Haiti yesterday, adding, “We have sent one or two Venezuelan soldiers to support and protect the safety of everyone there, but not to militarily occupy them as the US intends to do.”

He said the Venezuelan government is doing everything in its power to provide as much help as possible while at the same time respecting the independence and sovereignty of Haiti.

Chavez pointed out that Haiti was the first free republic in Latin America, and called for reflection on the situation of poverty in the Caribbean country, for which he said capitalism is responsible.

“We all need to help the Haitians. Long live the people of Haiti!”, he urged.

[Kiraz Janicke is a member of the Socialist Alliance of Australia resident in Venezuela.]

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Haiti needs medical relief, not military intervention — add your name to open letter

22 January 2010

The “open letter” published below has been initiated by the Canada Haiti Action Network. CHAN is calling for individuals and organisations to add their names to the statement To add your name, click HERE. (Open letter text below)

January 21, 2010 -- We, the undersigned, are outraged by the scandalous delays in distributing essential aid to victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Since the US Air Force seized unilateral control of the airport in Port-au-Prince, it has privileged military over civilian humanitarian flights. As a result, untold numbers of people have died needlessly in the rubble of Port-au-Prince, Leogane and other abandoned towns.

If aid continues to be withheld, many more preventable deaths will follow. We demand that US commanders immediately restore executive control of the relief effort to Haiti's leaders, and to help rather than replace the local officials they claim to support.

We note that obsessive foreign concerns with 'security' and 'looting' are largely refuted by actual levels of patience and solidarity on the streets of Port-au-Prince. The decision to avoid what US commanders have called "another Somalia-type situation" by prioritizing security and military control is likely to succeed only in provoking the very kinds of unrest they condemn.

In keeping with a longstanding pattern, US and UN officials continue to treat the Haitian people and their representatives with wholly misplaced fear and suspicion.

We call on the de facto rulers of Haiti to facilitate, as the reconstruction begins, the renewal of popular participation in the determination of collective priorities and decisions.

We demand that they do everything possible to strengthen the capacity of the Haitian people to respond to this crisis.

We demand, consequently, that they allow Haiti's most popular and most inspiring political leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide (whose party won 90% of the parliamentary seats in the country's last round of democratic elections), to return immediately and safely from the unconstitutional exile to which he has been confined since the US, Canada and France helped depose him in 2004.

If reconstruction proceeds under the supervision of foreign troops and international development agencies it will not serve the interests of the vast majority of Haiti's population.

Neoliberal forms of international "aid" have already directly contributed to the systematic impoverishment of Haiti's people and the undermining of their government, and in both 1991 and 2004 the US intervened to overthrow the elected government and attack its supporters, with devastating effects.

This is why we urgently call on the countries that dominate Haiti and the region to respect Haitian sovereignty and to initiate an immediate reorientation of international aid, away from neo-liberal adjustment, sweatshop exploitation and non-governmental charity, and towards systematic investment in Haiti's own people and government.

We demand a much greater international role for Haiti's genuine allies and supporters, including Cuba, South Africa, Venezuela, the Bahamas and other members of CARICOM.

We demand that all reconstruction aid take the form of grants not loans.

We demand that Haiti's remaining foreign debt be immediately forgiven, and that the money that foreign governments still owe to Haiti — notably the massive sums extorted by the French government from 1825 through to 1947 as compensation for the slaves and property France lost when Haiti won its independence — be paid in full and at once.

Above all, we demand that the reconstruction of Haiti be pursued under the guidance of one overarching objective: the political and economic empowerment of the Haitian people.

Initial signatories:

Jean Saint-Vil, Canada Haiti Action Network

Pierre Labossiere, Haiti Action Committee, USA

Noam Chomsky, MIT

Niraj Joshi, Toronto Haiti Action Committee

Roger Annis, Canada Haiti Action Network

Brian Concannon Jr., Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

BC Holmes, Toronto Haiti Action Committee

Yves Engler, Canada Haiti Action Network

Peter Hallward, Middlesex University

Kevin Pina, journalist and film-maker

Kevin Skerrett, Canada Haiti Action Network

we are a surgical charity (Mobile Int Surgical Teams, MiST) that is experiencing difficulty in deploying teams to Haiti due to the current US beurocracy imposed on all NGO's. The airport is under the US control, so we cannot fly in without permission from the US.
We would rather have this conversation of access to the disaster zone, with the Haitian government.
Director of MiST


Butter not guns


The way the US exploited the natural disaster to invade Haiti is totally unacceptable and the way the American occupation forces have behaved since then is a barbaric crime against humanity!


Soldiers with guns, what a response, but they (the US) do not understand the word humanitarianism.They live in a fantasy world which has no connection to a real world of real people, real problems. Just a looney ideology based on self delusion.Can we educate them? Probably not, but we must try.

Mike Crook
Socialist Alliance
Sandgate Queensland.


January 27, 2010 -- CARACAS – President Hugo Chavez announced Monday that he would write off the undisclosed sum Haiti owes Venezuela for oil as part of the ALBA bloc’s plans to help the impoverished Caribbean nation after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

“Haiti has no debt with Venezuela, just the opposite: Venezuela has a historical debt with that nation, with that people for whom we feel not pity but rather admiration, and we share their faith, their hope,” Chavez said after the extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, or ALBA.

He also announced that ALBA has decided on a comprehensive plan that includes an immediate donation of $20 million to Haiti’s health sector, and a fund that, Chavez said, will be at least $100 million “for starters.”

Oil-rich Venezuela is the economic heart of ALBA, which also includes Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Haiti is among several countries that send observers to ALBA meetings.

Chavez said one part of ALBA assistance to Haiti would consist of fuel distribution via “mobile service stations” set to be up and running within a few weeks.

The ALBA plan of aid for Haiti includes support for such sectors as agriculture, production, food imports and distribution, and immigration amnesty for Haitians living illegally in the bloc’s member-states.

Cuba and Venezuela sent assistance and aid workers to Haiti within days of the magnitude-7.0 temblor that left an estimated 200,000 dead and 1.5 million people homeless.

The leftist Venezuelan leader also noted that there are some celebrities who want to work with ALBA, among whom he named actor Sean Penn, who, he said, called him because the members of a team of U.S. doctors now in Haiti want to “coordinate” their activities. EFE


26.01.2010, 03.40

CARACAS, January 26 (Itar-Tass) - The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of
Our America (ALBA) politico-economic bloc, at a special meeting in the
Venezuelan capital on Monday, adopted a plan aimed at giving aid to Haiti in
the elimination of the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and in the
restoration of that Caribbean country.

In urgent aid to the medical sector, the ALBA member-countries -- Bolivia,
Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and the Caribbean island countries of
Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Commonwealth of
Dominica -- assigned $20 million.

A decision was taken to set up an ALBA special fund for Haiti with an
initial capital of $100 million. ALBA medium- and long-term plans envision
participation in the reconstruction of that Caribbean country, the
development of agrarian, industrial and other sectors of the economy, as
well as the systems of health care and education.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also announced the elimination of Haiti's
debt for the supply of oil and oil products. "Haiti has no debt to Venezuela
(any longer). On the contrary, it is Venezuela that is historically indebted
to that nation," Chavez told a meeting of the ALBA Political Council.

Chavez said Venezuela would fully meet Haiti’s requirements for fuel that
would be distributed free of charge among the population that needs it. Fuel
will be also supplied to thermal power stations and medical motor transport,
the Venezuelan President pointed out.