On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shattered the impoverished nation of Haiti. The death toll was a staggering 200,000 people, with many buried beneath cheaply-made buildings. Three-quarters of the buildings in the capital city of Port-au-Prince were reduced to rubble. One and a half million people were left homeless, without food or water. An estimated quarter of a million survivors were treated largely without antibiotics or anesthetics, while thousands died unnecessarily from dehydration, gangrene and sepsis.
Responsibility for the immense scale of the disaster lay at the feet of the American ruling class. In “Haiti’s tragedy: A crime of US imperialism,” the WSWS wrote that “the lack of infrastructure, the poor quality of construction in Port-au-Prince and the impotence of the Haitian government to organize any response are determining factors in this tragedy.” The statement continued:
These social conditions are the product of a protracted relationship between Haiti and the United States, which, ever since US Marines occupied the island nation for nearly 20 years beginning in 1915, has treated the country as a de facto colonial protectorate.
The US-led military mobilization protected Haiti’s wealthy oligarchy and entrenched US interests, even while aid to earthquake victims was doled out with appalling slowness. Haiti was placed under effective trusteeship, with earthquake aid funneled through a commission co-chaired by former US President Bill Clinton. Security was handled first by the US Marines and Canadian troops, then by a UN peacekeeping force whose largest component came from Brazil.
In October, a cholera epidemic broke out, killing an additional 8,000 people and infecting 640,000 more. It was ultimately traced back to Nepalese troops stationed in Haiti as part of the UN force.