Photo: Bahamians struggle to clear debris in the wake of Hurricane Dorian
By Felipe Vera
As Hurricane Dorian finishes its course up the east coast of the US, survivors of the storm’s devastating blow to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas are still struggling to recover. As the second strongest hurricane ever to form in the Atlantic Ocean, with wind speeds over 185 miles per hour, it has killed at least 43 people on the islands and has made over 70,000 homeless.
Having been a colony of the United Kingdom for over 300 years, the Bahamas gained its so-called “independence” in 1973 through the Commonwealth of Nations, a sham association of countries that remain under the leadership of British imperialists. Today, the economy remains subservient to imperialist interests. Tourism comprises over half of the country’s gross domestic product with heavy investment from foreign capital, splitting society into luxurious resorts on one side and shanty towns on the other.
This lopsided economy, twisted to serve the needs of imperialism, is vulnerable to external shocks including hurricanes. Dorian has exposed the government’s inability to care for its own people as officials have begged for wealthy outsiders to keep visiting even as search and rescue teams continue to uncover the bodies of the dead.
“All of the donations are welcome, but [foreigners] can also, very much, assist us by still visiting the islands of the Bahamas in the unaffected areas. They are open for business,” said government representative Ellison Thompson.
Imperialism, chiefly US imperialism, has compounded the problems of the disaster by its oppression of the Caribbean as a whole. Haitian immigrants make up nearly 10% of the population in the Bahamas and close to 40% of them live below the poverty line, having fled from the even worse conditions in their home country where 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. The masses in Haiti have been protesting off and on for the past year against government corruption and mismanagement of education, health, and social service funds.
After hitting the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian has also caused serious damage along the east coast of the continental US in places such as Charleston, South Carolina. Over 250,000 power outages have been reported as well as widespread flooding.
Dorian’s destruction in the Bahamas and elsewhere shows how imperialism protects its own interests from hurricanes while leaving the masses defenseless against the violence of climate change, spurred by the capitalist fossil-fuel industry. The insured hotels and resorts of the Bahamas can be expected to be quickly repaired and rebuilt to meet the demands of the tourist economy, whereas the thousands of homes of the working class, immigrants, and the poor wrecked by the storm will stay in ruin, waiting on imperialist NGOs to swoop in with “humanitarian aid” that reinforces the country’s subordination to imperialism.