From: Democracy Now, The US Role in Haiti’s Food Riots
BILL QUIGLEY: … The problem really is, is that the United States and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, all of which we, the United States, dominate, have for the last twenty-five, thirty years have insisted that in order to get the loans, which Haiti and these other countries, agricultural countries, need, in order to get those loans, Haiti had to change their economic system so that their country was open to competition from other countries on agriculture, trade, a number of other things.
It’s so clear in the case of rice. As you said, thirty years ago, Haiti imported almost no rice, was an exporter of sugar and other things. Today, Haiti imports nearly all of its rice. It even imports sugar, even though it was the sugar-growing capital of the Caribbean. And the reason is, is that the powers that be said, in order to get these loans, which they need desperately to be able to survive, that they had to open up their markets to competition.
Well, it turns out that the competition doesn’t do the same thing. And the main competition is the United States. So at this point, the United States exports over 200 million metric tons of rice every year to Haiti. And they’re actually like our third biggest customer. And the reason is that our rice is cheaper than the rice that they could grow there themselves, because our rice is so heavily subsidized. A billion dollars a year of taxpayer money goes to rice farmers in the United States, plus we have a tariff. We have three different subsidies, three different programs that do that, plus we have a tariff that adds between three and 24 percent protection for our rice farmers. And as a result, the rich and powerful country of the United States, along with other rich and powerful countries in the world, have just really bullied these small countries into accepting our rice. And as the rice from the United States came in—they even called it “Miami rice” and some call it the invasion of Miami rice—that the rice flooded in at low or below cost—free or below cost and destroyed the ability of farmers in Haiti to be able to grow rice. And as a consequence, the country now depends totally on imported rice. Cost of import—cost of rice around the world has gone up over 100 percent since January. …
I think in my experience, the people of the United States have no idea that they are paying taxes, and our government has destroyed not just Haiti, but the agricultural bases of lots and lots of very poor countries. And so, our money is going to these huge farmers, mostly in Arkansas. They’re in about five different states, some of them getting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. There’s one that has gotten over half-a-billion dollars over the last ten years. And so, we are directly subsidizing these huge agribusinesses which are putting the small farmers and even the regional farmers out of business and really creating this hunger problem that the world is seeing right now, because the people in Haiti, it takes awhile to irrigate, farm and all this other stuff, and the industry has been broken down. A lot of the workers moved from the country into the city, not just in Haiti, but in every place else. So it’s a great little lens for those of us in the United States who care about hunger and care about justice to look and see it’s not just mismanagement in Haiti, it’s not just the fact that they have problems, which they certainly do, but also our country plays a huge role in creating the hunger that has led to the riots.
As you said, somebody said in your earlier broadcast, you know, in the United States, we’re having trouble at the gas pump, the price of food is going up, so we cut back a little bit of that. Over half the people in Haiti live on a dollar a day. And when they get up in the morning, they don’t know where they are going to find the money to be able to eat. So it’s not as if they can turn off the air conditioning. They don’t have electricity. They can’t cut back on running water. They don’t have running water. That dollar a day is for food. And so, if food which used to cost ninety cents now costs a buck-eighty or two-something, they don’t have enough food to feed their family today and tomorrow and the day after and the day after that.
And that is the thing—I don’t know how many people who are listening have actually ever not had water or not had food when you really need it, but a certain panic takes over in you, and that’s the thing that has caused these food riots in Haiti, but not just in Haiti, maybe in a dozen other countries. …
There are groups out there, Bread for the World, Oxfam, a number of other groups, that are trying to change the farm policy of the United States so that there is some justice for these little countries. And it’s very hard to take care of yourself when there’s a giant who’s got a foot on your neck. And we, unfortunately, are the giant who has the foot on the neck of the people of Haiti.