Donald Trump has once again displayed his KKK-style racism in hideous characterizations of Haiti and countries in Central America and Africa during a meeting with several U.S. senators on Jan. 11 to discuss immigration reform. His appalling comments provoked a firestorm of outraged criticism from around the world.
That Trump has been a racist his entire adult life is an irrefutably documented fact. Shortly after he took over a rental housing empire from his Klan-affiliated father, Fred Trump, in 1971, the two were sued by the federal Justice Department for the flagrant exclusion of Black people from their 14,000 New York units.
In 1989, Trump spent $85,000 on newspaper ads advocating, “Bring Back the Death Penalty,” for the Central Park Five, four African American and one Latino youth framed up for the rape and beating of a woman jogger in New York City. Even after being cleared by DNA evidence after serving long years in prison, Trump insisted that the five were guilty.
Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015 calling Mexicans “rapists” and “drug dealers,” and demanding a ban on Muslims entering the United States. He re-Tweeted messages from white supremacists and neo-Nazis during his presidential campaign, and stated that many “very fine people” were among the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia torchlight marchers chanting “Jews will not replace us,” and the Hitlerian slogan, “Blood and Soil.”
While Trump rails against immigrants, his companies have never been shy about exploiting those they were deriding.
An article in the Cornell (University) Daily Sun on Aug. 22, 2017 reported that an Ithaca, New York-based recruitment firm, Petrina Group International, “works to hire foreign guest workers for the club (Mar-a-Lago).
“Last month, Mar-a-Lago asked the Labor Department for permission to hire 70 temporary workers from overseas and requested visas from the government,” the article said. “Since 2010, federal records show that nearly 300 American workers have applied to or been referred for jobs at Trump’s private club, but only 17 of those workers have been hired. Instead, the club has relied on employing foreigners largely from Romania and Haiti, pursuing more than 500 visas for foreign workers, according to the United States Department of Labor.”
In his white supremacist and xenophobic utterances, Trump is a throwback to an earlier time when most of the world was colonized. Openly racist language was the norm for U.S. leaders and those of other imperialist countries, and their international and domestic views mirrored each other in regards to oppressed peoples.
For example and not coincidentally, in 1915, KKK-backer President Woodrow Wilson sponsored a showing of the Klan-glorifying film, “Birth of a Nation” inside the White House, and the same year sent the Marines to occupy Haiti where they remained for nearly two decades. When the U.S. troops finally departed in 1934, they left behind Haitian puppets which, two decades later, spawned the brutal Duvalier dictatorship. With U.S. support, Papa and Baby Doc held power for 30 years.
From 1790 until 1965, U.S. immigration policy was explicitly based on racism and white supremacy, a policy that Trump would clearly like to return to.
Haiti, Trump and the Clintons
It was reportedly the mention of Haiti that triggered Trump’s vile outburst in the Jan. 11 meeting. Trump had recently revoked the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for 60,000 Haitian refugees living in the U.S. since a devastating earthquake struck their country in 2010, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and vast destruction. TPS was also recently revoked for hundreds of thousands of refugees from El Salvador and Nicaragua, countries that have also been victims of U.S. military intervention.
Along with the genuine anti-racist and progressive responses to Trump, were criticisms from many Democratic Party establishment figures who are seeking to channel the anti-Trump resistance into the 2018 and 2020 Democratic campaigns.
Former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted:
“The anniversary of the devastating earthquake 8 years ago is a day to remember the tragedy, honor the resilient people of Haiti, & affirm America’s commitment to helping our neighbors. Instead, we‘re subjected to Trump’s ignorant, racist views of anyone who doesn’t look like him.”
Clinton’s hypocrisy is on full display here as she attempts to portray herself as an opponent of racism and friend of the Haitian people. An examination of her actions in Haiti when she was Secretary of State from 2009-13 tells a very different story. Haiti had been under UN occupation since the U.S. coup ousted elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004
In 2009, the Haitian parliament tried to raise the minimum wage from the equivalent of 24 cents/hour to 61 cents. Two years later, secret cables provided by the WikiLeaks organization revealed that when the employers – mainly foreign garment makers — opposed the new law they were backed up by the Clinton State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
A May 2011 article in Haiti Liberté newspaper reported on the cables:
“To resolve the impasse between the factory owners and parliament, the State Department urged then Haitian President René Préval to intervene. ‘A more visible and active engagement by Préval may be critical to resolving the issue of the minimum wage and its protest ‘spin-off’ — or risk the political environment spiraling out of control,’ warned U.S. Ambassador Janet Sanderson, in a June 10, 2009 cable to Washington.
“Two months later, Préval negotiated a deal with Parliament to create a two-tiered minimum wage increase – one for the textile industry at $3.13 (125 gourdes) per day and one for all other industrial and commercial sectors at $5 (200 gourdes) per day.
“Still, the U.S. Embassy was not pleased. Deputy Chief of Mission David E. Lindwall said the $5 a day minimum ‘did not take economic reality into account’ but was a populist measure aimed at appealing to ‘the unemployed and underpaid masses.’
“Intense pressure from the employers and the U.S. forced the parliament and President René Préval to rescind the law and the minimum wage was raised to just 31 cents an hour at that time.”
At the rate, a worker receives $12.40 for a 40-hour week.
The Clintons and the “Republic of NGOs”
The Clinton Foundation has numerous projects in Haiti, along with about 10,000 other “non-governmental organizations” or NGOs, which raise billions of dollars annually by publicizing images of suffering Haitians. There are so many such organizations that Haiti has is often called the “Republic of NGOs.” Due to the 2010 earthquake, billions more were pledged or raised by NGOs. Much of it remains unaccounted for.
A major initiative of Clinton’s State Department and Clinton Foundation was the Caracol industrial park, a $300 million, publicly funded, joint venture which opened in 2012. Ever the capitalist free-marketeer, Hillary wrote in her memoir, Hard Choices: “We were shifting our focus from aid to investment . . . so we can better harness market forces and make smart public-sector investments that could catalyze sustainable economic growth.”
Private corporations were brought in, mostly making t-shirts, underwear and other low-cost items for Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl’s. Contractors ran the factories, which produced clothing for brand names like Hanes, Nautica, Fruit of the Loom, Dockers and Levi Strauss, thus allowing the brands to disclaim responsibility for what was going in the plants.
The attraction for them was of course the 31 cents/hour minimum wage. Unemployment was very high, partly due to the destruction of much of Haiti’s agriculture at the hands of Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s, for which he later “confessed.” In her book, Hillary Clinton stated that the situation was so desperate that, “fifty applications came in for every job.”
Hillary Clinton’s ludicrous claim that the Caracol workers “have one of the best workers’ rights and worker safety regimes in the world,” was completely demolished by a report the same year from the Workers Rights Consortium, which read in part:
“Factories in the Caracol industrial park – a showcase project of post-quake reconstruction and ‘U.S. State Department and Clinton Foundation pet project’ that has been highly controversial — are among those engaging in wage theft, according to the WRC:
“At Caracol, the WRC found that ‘On average, workers were paid 34% less than the law requires…’ Caracol’s anchor tenant, SAE-A, according to the WRC, ‘produces apparel for Walmart, as well as for other major U.S. retailers, such as Target, Old Navy and Kohl’s.’
“In a separate report focused on the Caracol park, based on interviews with community residents and factory workers (and also released last week), Gender Action concludes that the estimated 2,000 workers (as of July 2013) barely make ends meet, with unstable jobs in mediocre conditions, let alone invest in surrounding communities. Apparel assembly workers face tremendous pressure to produce more and more for minimal wages, with instances of verbal and, in one documented case, physical abuse. Donors predict that women would be empowered through [Caracol Industrial Park] PIC jobs; based on women workers’ testimony, PIC jobs are not empowering.“ (Center for Economic and Policy Research)
Manipulating Haiti’s 2010 election and Clinton’s liberal racism
In a blatant exercise in colonial domination, Clinton intervened to change the outcome of the November 2010 Haitian presidential election. In the opening round of the balloting, Mirlande Manigat of the Rally National Democratic Party finished first with 31.37 percent , Jude Célestin came second with 22.48 percent, and Michel Martelly was third with 21.84 percent. Martelly, a well-known entertainer, supporter of the paramilitary Tonton Macoutes forces from the old Duvalier regime, and infamous misogynist, who Clinton simply refers to as “a celebrated musician,” was the U.S. choice.
The “problem,” from Clinton’s perspective, was that the election law called for the first and second place finishers to meet in a run-off.
To “solve” this problem, Clinton both directly and through the Organization of American States (OAS) launched a campaign to get Célestin, the candidate of the Unity party headed by outgoing President René Préval, to withdraw before the date of the run-off. The OAS sent a mission to Haiti, which, without conducting any investigation whatsoever, concluded that the vote had been compromised, that Célestin had actually finished third and should quit the race. Under intense pressure, Célestin withdrew and Martelly was “elected” president.
Clinton’s account of what happened next is from her memoir:
“Many Haitians, who had already endured so much, were outraged that after all they had endured their votes might not be counted. The streets were soon full of loud and unruly protests.
“I decided to go to Haiti to meet with Préval and the candidates to see if there could be a peaceful resolution that would avoid a crisis when there was so much work till to be done in the aftermath of the earthquake. Préval’s preferred candidate [Célestin], who the OAS said had actually finished third, complained that the international community was pushing him out the race. I insisted that just wasn’t the case. After all, I explained, people tried to push me out of the race when I ran for President in 2008. Just as President Obama and I did, he and the other two candidates had to respect the voters’ preference. ‘Look, I’ve run in elections,’ I said. ‘I’ve won two and lost a big one. So I know how it feels. But what’s more important is that democracy be protected.’”
Clinton’s non-sequitur aside, Célestin had precisely been “pushed out of the race,” by the intervention of Washington. But she advises him to accept it in the name of protecting “democracy”!
Clinton then met alone with Préval, counseling him:
“I started talking about what it means to think not just for tomorrow but for the long term. I told him that this was his defining moment. He was either going to be remembered as a President no different from all the Haitian leaders in history who refused to listen to their people, or he was going to be remembered as the President who allowed democracy to take root. He had to choose. ‘I’m talking to you not only as your friend but as someone who loves my country and had to do a lot of hard things, too,’ I said. ‘Do the hard thing, because the hard thing is going to ultimately be in the best interests of your country and in your best interests, even though you won’t feel that way until you’re able to step back and look back.’ He ended the meeting saying, ‘Well, you’ve given me a lot think about. I’ll see what I can do.’ Shortly afterward, Préval and all three candidates accepted the OAS results.”
Of course, as Préval well knew, behind such a condescending appeal couched in diplomatic language was an iron fist.
Donald Trump is a danger to the people of Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Korea and the entire world, including the majority of people inside the U.S. His despicable racist, misogynist, homophobic and xenophobic words and action must be resisted and defeated. At the same, we can put no faith in the other elements of the ruling class who may speak with a different rhetoric but are equally guilt of the crimes of capitalism and imperialism.
This article was originally published on Jan. 13, 2018 in Liberation, the newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL).