Home » Latin America » Chileans loot but do not maraud or swarm

Chileans loot but do not maraud or swarm

Might swarm at any moment.

Let us compare the introductory paragraphs of Reuters news articles concerning the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes of January and February 2010, respectively.

First, a Jan. 18 article on Haiti:

U.S. troops protected aid handouts and the United Nations sought extra peacekeepers in earthquake-shattered Haiti on Monday as marauding looters emptied wrecked shops and desperate survivors began to receive medical care and air-dropped food.”

Now, a Feb. 28 article on Chile:

Chilean rescuers used shovels and sledgehammers on Sunday to find survivors of a huge earthquake in Chile that unleashed a Pacific tsunami and triggered looting by desperate and hungry residents.”

Despite covering the same general topics, the introductions differ in the provenance of their protagonists—which in the case of Chile are Chilean and in the case of Haiti are U.S. troops and the U.N.—and in the fact that desperate Haitian survivors are an afterthought to marauding looters while Chilean looters themselves are merely desperate, hungry, residential and above all a product of the earthquake rather than of any sort of anthropological flaw.

In addition to marauding, Haitian “scavengers and looters” are described in a Jan. 16 Reuters article as having “preyed on shattered buildings” and, three paragraphs later, “swarmed over the wrecks of shops, carrying off anything they could find and occasionally fighting among themselves for a prized item.” Chileans, on the other hand, are confined to more human-like movements such as “carrying off food and electrical appliances from a supermarket.”

The lack of order in Haiti is confirmed by Reuters’ admission that aid distribution in Port-au-Prince “appeared random, chaotic and minimal”—a reality that is presumably justified via juxtaposition with the sentence: “Downtown, young men could be seen carrying pistols.” As for the news that “[a] reporter also saw foreign aid workers tossing packets of food to desperate Haitians,” it is not established whether this reporter is one of the 14 people credited with collaborating on the Jan. 16 article.

Also not established is how many collaborators would be required in order to come up with an explanation for centuries of foreign economic exploitation of Haiti aside from: “Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country and has for decades struggled with devastating storms, floods and political unrest.” To the credit of the 14 collaborators, however, they have at least refrained from suggesting that Haitians reported to be trapped in a collapsed supermarket might take advantage of their position to loot the establishment.

Regarding looting opportunities for other groups, these are hinted at in the Jan. 18 article which cites Haitian policeman Dorsainvil Robenson as declaring that “the Americans are welcome here. But where are they? We need them on the streets with us.” U.S. military invisibility is of course called into question two paragraphs later with the information that “[s]ome 2,200 Marines with heavy earth-moving equipment, medical aid and helicopters were arriving on Monday, and the White House said more than 11,000 U.S. military personnel are on the ground, on ships offshore or en route”—numbers that nonetheless fail to prompt a “swarming” designation by Reuters, which has preferred to characterize U.S. helicopters as swooping.


  1. Saffi Ullah Ahmad says:

    Great piece.

    Similar observations were made by Prof’ Peter Hallward and Aljazeera reporter Sebastian Walker at a talk on Haiti yesterday at King’s College London.

    I will send PULSE the video once it’s transfered on to computer and edited!

  2. […] Chileans loot but do not maraud or swarm « P U L S E […]

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