ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Entretien avec Camille Chalmers
by Cathy Ceibe
Translated Friday 29 January 2010, by Henry Crapoand reviewed by
Military offensive in the region.
Sociologist and economist, Camille Chalmers is the director of the Haitian Platform advocating alternative development. He discusses the present geopolitical context in the Caribbean.
Huma: What is your analysis of the dispute between France and the US over leadership in Haiti?
Camille Chalmers We’re used to being the victims of this sort of imperialist rivalry. It’s been going on since the 19th century. But taking advantage of this tragic situation in order to establish military supremacy is inconceivable. It’s necessary to replace this scandal in the context of relations between Haiti and these two countries as well as in the geopolitical context of the Caribbean. The region is witnessing a military offensive in the creation of new military bases in Columbia in response to the independence of people there. We must be aware of the nature of this military occupation.
Huma How do you respond to the argument that this intervention is making up for the weaknesses of the Haitian state?
Camille Chalmers First we need to understand why there is weakness of the Haitian state. In the nineteenth century it underwent construction as a neocolonial state defined according to the interests of the "coastal businessmen", which is to say a concentrated oligarchy disassociated from the people as a whole. This minority copied the administrative structure of other countries. Since 1915 this situation has been aggravated by American occupation, intense centralization around Port-au-Prince and the creation of a government controlled by the armed forces of Haiti, who are themselves controlled from outside the country. For the last twenty years new offensives involving neoliberal politics have further weakened the state. These have reduced the country’s financial possibilities, its stature and its domain of activity, which have been transferred to the NGO’s, the private sector and, in quotation marks, "the international community."
We have witnessed a drama linked to a natural phenomenon but its scope and the number of victims are linked to the fact that the state has never instituted social housing. It does not respond to migratory fluxes tied to impoverishment of the provinces and to commercial liberalization, the source of unemployment. The state has allowed the unbridled progress of real estate and speculators not respecting any of the norms of safety beginning with ecological balance and the nature of soils. The state is looking squarely at the actual crisis, but it is important, in this sort of situation, for the people to be in control because they are the ones who are mobilized. We are going to end up with further weakening and may even see the disappearance of the Haitian state. It will be incapable of responding to the demands of the catastrophe and also to needs linked to the structural weaknesses of Haitian society.
HumaWhy is so much at stake with this nation, an impoverished country?
Camille Chalmers First there is the historic role of Haiti. This rebel country abolished slavery, in contradiction to the dominant logic of the market of the time. This fact has never been accepted by the other powers. The bitter taste of Napoleon’s defeat is still too vivid. So the position of Haiti is very strategic. We are at the centre of the Caribbean and the ideological stakes are high. It’s very important for the US to control the Caribbean basin now that Cuba is no longer isolated, with the Bolivian revolution in Venezuela, and with the activities of Alba . Finally Haiti is an impoverished country but it possesses important mineral resources, especially iridium. There’s also talk of petroleum reserves.
Huma Don’t the protest movements that existed before the earthquake and the current destitution constitute explosive social factors?
Camille Chalmers Yes. The strategies of the state department have always presented Haiti as an unpredictable country. Hence the rapid character of their military response in the context of the preemptive wars of the former president George Bush. The explosive situation is structural because of the levels of extreme poverty that the earthquake is going to aggravate. The Haitian nation must size up this occupation, disguised as humanitarian. It must construct resources of solidarity to respond to the urgent circumstances, and equally to begin real construction.
Interview conducted by Cathy Ceibe
 Bolivarian Alliance for the American People