Written by Paul Hales
US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show how US politicians and corporations were greedily slobbering over the potential pickings they could extract from the country in the wake of the devastating earthquake of January 2010.
In an application of what Naomi Klein detailed as the Shock Doctrine, US officials were lining up to fleece the stricken country under the guise of helping to rebuild it. One wrote: “The Gold Rush is On!”
WikiLeaks is giving Haitian paper Haiti Liberté, a first look at the 1,918 cables which cover the period from April 17, 2003 – some ten months before the coup d’état which ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on February 29, 2004 – to just after the January 12th 2010 quake. These are being translated and published by The Nation.
Along with details of how the US worked to help oust Aristide, the latest cables give a damning indictment of what is also known as ‘disaster capitalism’.
On February 1, 2010, a cable obtained by WikiLeaks and written by US Ambassador Kenneth Merten under the heading “THE GOLD RUSH IS ON!” reads: “As Haiti digs out from the earthquake, different [US] companies are moving in to sell their concepts, products and services,” he wrote. “President Preval met with Gen Wesley Clark Saturday [January 29] and received a sales presentation on a hurricane/earthquake resistant foam core house designed for low income residents.”
The cables show how a US ‘disaster-recovery’ firm AshBritt, Inc. proposed a national plan to rebuild all government buildings, according to the February 1 cable. Ashbritt was accused of double-billing for one contract by more than $700,000 following the 1999 Hurricane Wilma and was similarly accused of profiteering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Lewis Lucke, who was the US coordinator for relief and reconstruction in Haiti left his post after just three months to subsequently land a $30,000-per-month deal with AshBritt to help it land some $20 million in reconstruction deals on the island.
Lucke told Haïti Liberté: “It’s kind of the American way. Just because you’re trying to do business doesn’t mean you’re trying to be rapacious. There’s nothing insidious about that… It wasn’t worse than Iraq.”
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