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opportunism rears its ugly head in quake’s aftermath

January 15, 2010

Nothing disgusts me more than exploiting natural disasters to push your own political agenda. (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Heritage Foundation.)

On Thursday, less than 24 hours after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck approximately 15 miles from Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti, the Heritage Foundation released this statement:

Things to Remember While Helping Haiti

Besides the original title (“Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the U.S.”) and the part about using this as an opportunity “to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region” (which has since been taken out), the parts that bother me the most are the lines about using our military presence there to aid in relief efforts AND fight suspected drug trafficking while also preventing Haitians from trying to flee to the U.S.

These are the same people who, back in 2005, tried to push though their own pro-corporate, free-market policies just 13 days after hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, LA.

The island nation of Haiti and its inhabitants have suffered greatly over the last 200 years (if not longer), from gaining its independence through a successful slave rebellion to enduring endemic political instability, violence and crushing poverty, and I completely agree with Naomi Klein that:

“We have to be absolutely clear that this tragedy—which is part natural, part unnatural—must, under no circumstances, be used to, one, further indebt Haiti and, two, to push through unpopular corporatist policies in the interest of our corporations.”

To use this catastrophe as a way of advancing free-market policies while encouraging the U.S. military to enforce immigration policies and fight suspected drug trafficking — when they should really be helping the 10s of 1000s of victims — is simply unconscionable.

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