Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Haiti: Stuffed and Starved

Behind the food crisis

RAJ PATEL, author of the just-released book Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, Patel said today: "What's happening in Haiti is an augury to the rest of the developing world.

Haiti is the poster child of an economy that liberalized its agricultural economy and removed the social safety nets for the poor, despite the protests of the majority of its people. Food riots throughout history have happened when two conditions have been
fulfilled. First, there has always been a sudden and rapid discrepancy between what people expect to be able to eat, and what they can actually feed their families. The price shocks around the world have introduced this discrepancy, and the politics that might have dampened them -- grain reserves, tariffs, support for sustainable farmers -- have been eroded by modern development policies.

"But the second feature of food riots in history is that riots happen when there are no other ways of making powerful people listen. Like many other countries in the developing world, Haiti has been forced to liberalize its economy despite popular opposition -- in other words, modern development policy has been forced to be anti-democratic. And since there has been no effective way for the people to hold their leaders accountable, we're seeing riots not just in Haiti, but in places as diverse as Mexico, India, Egypt, Senegal and even Italy. It's something to expect to see with increasing frequency, until governments realize that food isn't a mere commodity, it's a human right" (Hat-tip to The Institute for Public Accuracy)

Haiti and The King Canute of Food | Stuffed and Starved
Part of the more recent intervention came under Reagan and Clinton. When a group of US-funded guerillas deposed Jean Bertrand Aristide, Clinton imposed some harsh trade liberalization conditions as the price Aristide would have to pay to get back into power. It’s this gunboat diplomacy that, Aristide says, tied his hands behind his back in terms of fiscal policy.

Aristide was subsequently deposed when he tried to untie his hands – the current Bush administration bankrolled a coup against him, and only guaranteed his life if he left immediately.

That history is one that is erased. The fact that Haiti produced more rice in 1984 than it does now isn’t an accident. The fact that the bags of rice to be found in Haiti have US flags stamped on them is no accident.

See also __the state of gareth__: Hunger. Strikes. Riots. The food crisis bites!

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