Haiti’s Long Decade

Before the flood
Before the “most successful act of imperial sabotage since the end of the cold war” occurred in the international coup d’etat of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, he had to be elected first.

Painting by Gèrard Bruny depicting Duvalier's secret police, the Tonton Macoutes

Painting by Gèrard Bruny depicting Duvalier’s secret police, the Tonton Macoutes

But before his election, Haiti faced an especially brutal reality. The histories of the Duvalier’s are well-known, and well written of. In summary, the period between 1956 and 1986 saw the dictatorships of François Duvalier (“Papa Doc”) and his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier. In 1956, “Papa Doc” was elected to the presidency with the assistance of the United States. He promised to bring stability to the otherwise dreadful black-mixed division in the country – a legacy from Haiti’s first revolution in 1804. Duvalier came from this wealthy minority and skillfully promised order. This was great news to the US, which propped up anticommunist leaders across the globe. With the secret police, Haitians lived in perpetual fear of being accused of communism. Death was almost a certainty.

He was followed in death by his son, 19 year old Jean-Claude Duvalier. It is nothing to say he was more benign than his father (the death toll from these two men stand between 20 and 60 thousand). In 1983, Pope John Paul II visited the country and condemned the regime: “Something must change here.” The US followed suit and Reagan pressured Jean-Claude to resign, which he did in 1986 (there is still a movement among the wealthy to have Jean-Claude, exiled in France, to return to Haiti).

After the Duvalier’s
Haiti, following Duvalier’s exile, was placed into a state of chaos, something it had been used to in the years leading up to Aristide’s election. In 1971, the US restored its aid program to Haiti to ease suffering, but outbreaks of disease and the epidemic of AIDS only unleashed a furthering of the decay to a fragile society. Duvalier had used the treasury as his own and left Haiti poor, a remnant that Haitians are still trying to deal with to this day.

Haiti, following the dictatorships, was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. As mentioned above, the elite from which “Papa Doc” Duvalier came from, constituted 5% of the Haitian population and controlled most of its wealth (an epidemic which still exists today – recent clashes occurring as late as April of 2008). The business deals and natural resources were secured for the elite at the expense of the civilian population, it would not be too much to call them “the poor.” This money, to the tune of $550 million in 10 years, was used to fund trips, homes, yachts, and parties (85% of the population of 7 million [in 1992] lives in poverty).

The Haiti following Duvalier included a nation trying to deal with repression on a scale most never know. Tens of thousands imprisoned, tortured, wrongfully accused – and seething. This has a snowball effect into education, literacy (only around 25%), job creation and growth and stability of the family and culture norms. This created the military-industrial-complex of sorts on Haiti following Duvalier’s collapse. The military was intimately tied with the ruling aristocracy and became, for some, a way out of the slums.

This was the Haiti that ratified its constitution in 1987, setting up a fairly predictable representative government based around a bicameral government with a president and prime minister. This was the setting for a country that waded through an equally autocratic and unstable series of interim governments in preparations for elections in 1990. This was the country that elected, with 67% of the vote, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest, who would become the country’s first democratically elected president.

aristideAristide’s Haiti: Won and Lost
Aristide won because he spoke to the people. He promised them he would lift them out of poverty and bring equality to Haiti, prospects that one hopes for in an representative democracy. He called his followers Lavalas in response to what may have felt like a flood, washing Haiti of its “old” for its “new.”

Aristide was born in 1953 in Port-Salut. He went to school but in 1983 returned to Haiti from abroad and was appointed curate of a small parish in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, before become curate of a large parish, La Saline. He taught, like many in the 1980s, liberation theology – an aspect that got him elected over thirteen others in 1990. He said:

The solution is revolution, first in the spirit of the Gospel; Jesus could not accept people going hungry. It is a conflict between classes, rich and poor. My role is to preach and organize….

This was unacceptable to the local clergy, who did not approve of the mixture of politics and religion, and in 1995, Aristide left the priesthood.

Aristide was seen right away (maybe for good reasons) as a threat by the elite of the country. Liberation theology is not their kind of thing and, despite Aristide’s beginning conciliatory tone, the upper class resented the president from the beginning.

It was this tension that produced the conditions for his coup. Aristide came to office as most beginning governments in the third wave, as described by Samuel Huntington, with a mixture of revolution (in terms of degree of government, from dictatorship to democracy) and compromise. This was quickly betrayed by delays inside the government as well as several assassination attempts within his first few months in office. In reality, Aristide posed little danger to the existing social order, much to the chagrin of some of the population (a similar comparison could be between US president Obama and his leftist supporters who felt his administration moved too slow or too cautiously).

Aristide, at the time of the coup, was proposing a higher minimum wage and a more aggressive system of taxation. He had warmed up to US diplomats and was obtaining lenders to help with Haiti’s incredibly backward credit situation.

Events spiraled towards a vote, highly influenced by threats and military power amassing across Haiti, in August 1991, of no-confidence (83 to 11). On September 30, Aristide resigned under pressure and left the country. The army spared Aristide’s life, but soldiers, according to Foreign Policy magazine, “gunned down several hundred pro-Aristide protesters who poured into the streets…” Power shifted back to the FAdH (Forces Armées d’Haïti), the armed forces of Haiti, in particular, Raoul Cédras. Although, according to the constitution, other men were appointed to the office of president as Aristide fled, Cédras was, through his display of violence and flashes of Duvalier prowess, the de facto ruler of Haiti.

The (First) Return
Aristide went first to Venezuela, then the United States, where he, like Latin American exiles throughout the past two hundred years, drummed up support for his power and shed light on the conditions of Haitians.

It would not be Ariside, however, that turned the tides of Haiti’s future. It would not be Latin America as the OAS blockade of Haiti looked premature and, like all blockades and embargoes, tend to affect the civilians the worst and increase violence.

aristide_returnThe position of change fell, once again, on the United States. While they were not thrilled by Aristide’s presidency (as the coup in 2004 proved), they could hardly stand the repression of post-Aristide Haiti (the “boat-people” did not help, either). A delegation of consisting of Clinton, Carter, Georgia Senator Same Nunn and General Colin Powell, urged Provisional President Émile Jonassaint, the current front for Cédras, to set down or face a possible invasion. The US also convinced Cédras to leave Haiti. He remains in Panama.

On October 15, 1994, Aristide returned to Haiti in a triumph of sorts. He was given back the presidency, which he’d hold until 1996. In an unprecedented move, Aristide in 1995 disbanded the FAdH and established an ordinary police force decentralized from the capital and beholden to none.

After deciding that Aristide’s time in exile counted toward his tenure of office, the constitution did not allow for consecutive runs at the presidency. René Préval, prime minister in 1991 of the Aristide reign, became the country’s second president on February 7, 1996, with 88% of the vote.

“Democracy” in Haiti
preval-haiti-electionsThe cruel reality of Aristide’s return and Préval’s rise, is that it was precipitated under the guise of democracy. Upon reinstatement, Aristide had to bow down to US pressure and, according to Stuart Neatby,

was forced to agree to conditions, most notably that his government adopt widely unpopular IMF-oriented economic reforms and that Haiti’s moneyed elite – many of whom had supported Aristide’s deposition – retain positions of power.

This subjugation of sorts led to further disrepair, as evidenced by many Latin American countries who followed the same austerity measures (the “gold standard” of these being Argentina at the turn of the century). In a country as fragile as Haiti, Aristide’s reluctance brought about ruin.

Préval’s tenure was just as faithful to this orthodoxy as can be expected. This led to the privatization of government assets, massive borrowing in Haiti’s name to the IMF (that still has not been repaid – in order to see its debt canceled, Haiti had to go through the World Bank’s debt relief program, which it still has not completed). However, unemployment was lowered to the lowest point since “Papa Doc’s” takeover. Agrarian reform was once again on the table. And his government did investigated and bring to trial abusers of human rights, mostly military personnel.

The Underbelly: Haitian Culture During the First Half of the ‘Long Decade’
There was tension throughout the entire presidency, from outside and inside, Haiti. It is, as always, the people who inevitably control in a free country. Haiti ceased being free in 1999, when Préval dissolved the government and ruled by decree until the election of 2000.

Aristide continued to play a role in development in Haiti, despite not being president. He formed a new party, the Fanmi Lavalas, which stood opposed to the opposition OPL and Préval’s cadre. These movements were created around growing oppositions.

This is where cynicism enters the story. Aristide was elected by “67%” of the population, Préval was elected by “88%” (Aristide would be elected in 2000 by “90%” of the population). These numbers seem enormous, either from a rousing populace or similar to one-party systems like Saddam’s Iraq, for instance. But reports for the 1996 election stood at 175,000 of 3.5 million showed up to vote. (Aristide’s 2000 victory was about the same). Where did we lose the people?

Some of it has to do with repression and not wanting the populace to vote, although the results haven’t turned “theoretically” in the elite’s favor yet. But mostly, there is a disconnect. The Haitian people, according to activist Patrick Elie

If it were up to the Haitian people (and when I say Haitian people I’m talking about the vast majority of Haitians who are poor) there would be both democracy and stability. If you look at recent history, the Haitian people have chosen to vote rather than to riot. They voted four times in a row for the same political family, the same political leaning, the same agenda. They consistently have picked both democracy and stability.

Haiti is a country that wants democracy, but struggles with its consistent viability (at the worst times) by the US, Canada and Europe (more of this connection in Part 2). During the 1996-2000 years, Haitians were coping with extreme poverty illustrated above, as well as the desire for peace and equality – commodities still in rare supply in Haiti. This disconnect led us to the 2000 elections.

aristide-againThe 2000 Election
In May 2000, a voter turnout of 60% (immense in comparison with 1996), voted into office Aristide’s FL party. Irregularities abounded, opposition forces cried foul (probably for good reasons) and demanded Préval step down. The opposition announced it would boycott the November presidential elections, thus increasing the divisions in Haitian civil society as well as Aristide’s odds of his second (and first full?) presidency.

In November, in a low-turnout, Aristide was elected president again. The opposition refused to accept Aristide. Haiti’s long decade continued.

abullet
restore-democracy-in-haiti

So Go the Troops
As we left off last time, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president of Haiti for the second time, as subsequent reelections are against the terms of their constitution. Aristide, of course, was driven from Haiti as a result of his first election in 1994. He returned to Haiti in 1996 to finish his term. 2000 would be much the same.

The elites that have plagued Haiti for centuries would not stand for his election in 2000. They used the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) to petition the US and the world that Aristide is somehow illegitimate to run the country. By the first months of his presidency he already had: Convergence, an alliance of Aristide’s opposition (including leaders in Duvalier’s dictatorship), declare their own president of Haiti; NGO’s threatening funds; the EU deciding to block $49 million in aid to Haiti; the US calling Haiti’s election undemocratic, (this has changed since Barack Obama has taken office in January of 2008, even with countries we don’t support [i.e. Venezuela, Bolivia] we do not question the democratic nature any longer); and others calling for new elections to be held.

Some called for interventions. The last foreign troops in Haiti had left in 2000. Aristide tried to weather this storm by proposing new elections to be held in in 2001, but the opposition declined the offer. The next three years were a mixture of violence and scarcity – which culminated into a few weeks in 2004.

Happy Anniversary
Haiti was supposed to turn 200 years old in 2004 with pomp and celebration as the first black republic in the history of the world. Yet things turned out differently, and the 200th anniversary of Haiti holds the same overtones as Haiti in 1804, as Saint-Domigue in 1680.

It began with unrest in the cities in the Fall of 2003 – some could see it as a response to prices or food or, as the people of Haiti should be, just fed up with the system. But this unrest broke out into violence in the days leading up to January 1 – the date that Haiti became an independent nation. In accords, as if on schedule, CARICOM members (members of the Caribbean community) all abstained from the celebration – boycotting the events in response to the regime of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Former president Mbeki of South Africa, one of the major CARICOM members who attended, compared Aristide to Nelson Mandela to much criticism. Haitian artists including Franketienne, Gary Victor, Lannec Hurbon, Dany Laferriere, and Michel-Rolph Trouillot boycotted as well, stating:

In the face of this slide toward totalitarianism, we, artists, writers, intellectuals, and educators, declare: that we refuse to associate ourselves with official celebrations through which the government seeks in vain to legitimize itself. This refusal to associate ourselves with the government is not an opposition to Haitian unity, but on the contrary a defense of it.

The Coup
HAITI-UNREST-VIOLENCEOn February 5, 2004, the city of Gonaives was taken over by a gang known as the “Cannibal Army” (now National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti) in retaliation for its believed involvement of Aristide in the death of their leader Amiot Metayer. From this takeover came support, as Dominican Republic convoys rode into Gonaives and other cities to offer assistance, something it is believed the rebels did not predict. On February 22, the rebels took over Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second largest city. They were closing in on Port-au-Prince.

A crisis was declared. CARICOM tried to mediate this conflict with the US, Britain, France, and Canada (it looked like 1804 all over again!). There was no deal made, but the opposition (Convergence and the Group of 184 made up with “students, teachers, and even former Aristide supporters who have become disillusioned with his government’s performance.”) made it clear that any deal was Aristide in power was no deal.

On February 29, Aristide resigned the presidency, flew to the Central African Republic, and has been in Africa since. He told viewers in Haiti that his leaving was “a modern way to have a modern kidnapping.” He told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!: “No, I didn’t resign. What some people call ‘resignation’ is a ‘new coup d’état,’ or ‘modern kidnapping.” According to Peter Hallward, who immensely cites evidence in his book Damning the Flood, the events in Haiti were indeed a modern coup backed by the US government (see below)

In a sense, despite the leftist intentions and solidarity with the poor and the international sanctions – these past 5 years have only risen Aristide’s stock. He paraphrases Toussaint L’Ouverture:

I declare in overthrowing me they have uprooted the trunk of the tree of peace, but it will grow back because the roots are Louverturian. (the original: “In overthrowing me, they have uprooted in Saint-Domingue only the trunk of the tree of the liberty of the blacks; it will grow back because its roots are deep and numerous.”)

The poor in the slums of Port-au-Prince follow Aristide with vigor, as they are the root, they say. Billboards after his resignation drew parallels between June 1802 when L’Ouverture was captured by Napoleon’s forces and himself, captured by American forces. In a letter to the people, which the US manipulated by taking out the “if” in following:

Tonight, February 28, 2004, I am still decided
To respect the Constitution and to make it respected.
The Constitution is the guarantor of life and peace.
The Constitution must not drown in the blood of the Haitian People.
That is why, if tonight it is my resignation that can avoid
A bloodbath,
I accept to go with the hope that there will be life and not death.

us-solider-in-haiti-2004Boniface Alexandre, Supreme Court justice, took over the country as interim president. He called on the UN for a peace-keeping army, which was granted. 1,000 US Marines arrived in Haiti within one day followed by Canadian, French and even Chilean soldiers. By June, the UN sent a 7,000 strength force to Haiti with involvement across Latin America and the world.

The US Role

CARICOM denounced the “removal” of Aristide: it sets “a dangerous precedent for democratically elected governments anywhere and everywhere, as it promotes the removal of duly elected persons from office by the power of rebel forces.” It attempted to seek a UN inquiry into the removal of Aristide, but never did. Most assume that the US played a role in suppressing the request. It did not recognize the interim government until in 2006, as René Préval was elected president again.

The juiciest detail for me, who was leaving high school at the time, was the lack of outrage and attention in the media. The reports by Maxine Waters among others that Aristide was kidnapped never made it to my ears. I remember seeing Marines in Haiti but I heard nothing from Aristide – for me, it all appeared to take place in a vacuum. It seemed odd then, and now there is massive evidence that it seems odd now.

For those who read part one, the second deposing of Aristide from Haiti looks familiar. According to Deborah Jenson:

The sense of a sequel to the Haiti interventions of the administration of George Bush the elder during Aristide’s first regime led Haiti expert Robert Maguire to borrow from Yogi Berra in describing to a congressional committee the parallelism between the current difficulties and “the kind of murder and mayhem that characterized the country between 1991 and 1994” as “deja vu all over again.”

(The deja vuex- tended to the fact that at the time of the 1991 coup against Aristide, not only was George Bush in the White House, but Noriega was in the State Department in charge of Haiti policy, Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense, and Colin Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)

Kofi Annan editorialized in the Wall St. Journal that the U.N., for its part, had “been there, and done that,”20 in Haiti in 1994 but was nevertheless in it again for “the long haul” (leaving readers to wonder whether “been there, done that” signaled the irony of returning no matter how many times foreign interventions might destabilize conditions in Haiti).

HAITI-COUP ANNIVERSARY-DEMONSTRATIONThere have been reports that Aristide was taken to the plane headed out the country at the gunpoint of American soldiers. Of course, the US denies this.

The Bush administration:

That’s nonsense…I’ve seen some of the reports [and they] do nothing to help the Haitians move forward to a better, more prosperous future.

Colin Powell, former Secretary of State:

He was not kidnapped…We did not force him onto the airplane. He went on the airplane willingly and that’s the truth.

Parfait Mbaye, communications minister of Central African Republic:

absolutely false

Obviously, Haiti is still a contentious place to be. Half the people expect Aristide to come back and there are periodic calls for his return among the people.It is clear, that Aristide was a man with his back against the wall. He was effectively alienated from the world community and thus, was unable to accomplish much (except disbanding the military in 1994). A leader that may have been forgotten will now always be remembered in the same breath with Allende, Arbenz and other leaders who were, or even had any inkling of being, deposed by the United States.

Haiti did not throw Aristide off its back into prosperity, Haiti today looks like Haiti of 2004, of 1991. The events of 2004 serve as a reminder that things haven’t changed too much in Haiti.
abullet

What Hath We Wrought?

What Hath We Wrought?

So Goes Democracy
Aristide was a contentious leader, for Haiti and for the west. Yet more that his own personal shortcomings further imperiled Haiti, the people were obviously in favor of Aristide’s rhetoric and what he made himself stand for, and still stands for in exile. For better or worse, the collapse of Aristide’s government in 2004 – his coup – has weakened Haitian democracy for the worse.

As mentioned in Part 2, Haiti was under the thumb of western powers following the coup. Peacekeepers from across the world – Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Jordan, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Spain, Sri Lanka, Uruguay – patrolled and controlled Haiti following the coup until an interim government could be created and new elections could be held. The brutality of the UN peacekeepers has been detailed and the rise of NGO’s supported by President Bush and other western leaders has been injurious to democratic growth. In fact, following the coup, the National Endowment for Democracy’s goal was to divide Aristide’s popular support to “even the playing field.” To divide the support to conquer the whole. It may have worked.

haiti-cite-soleil-2005Haiti thus became a country full of terror and repression. Reports came in of raids in pro-Aristide neighborhoods and kidnapping and torture of civilians. Overseeing the terror was Minister of Justice and Public Security Bernard Gousse, who would not step down until June of 2005. He was accused for executing Aristide supporters as well as supporting Haiti’s versions of the death squads that roamed the country. Cité Soleil became the epicenter for political violence as police and Fanmi Lavalas supporters fired at one another in the streets.

Repression also came in the way of economic repression. In 2005, the EU was the main artery of loans to Haiti, “with $368 million pledged over a three-year period. This includes $91 million for post-crisis rehabilitation and economic stimulation, $35 million for basic services and $13 million to support elections. The Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Union (ECHO) also allocated $20 million in 2004 for other human development programs.” Yet in 2003, they canceled the loans. Canceled it all. The west had no appetite for Aristide and as Haiti dipped into crisis in 2005, the world couldn’t stomach trying to help Haiti succeed as a democracy.

A Same Old, Same Old

haiti-election-2005A U.S. ambassador called the elections in Haiti a “triumph for the Haitian people.” In reality, the elections in 2006 were marred with fighting, arguments, and fraud. René Préval, president following Aristide’s first coup in 1991, was re-elected with 51% of the votes. In a scathing critique of Haiti’s 2006 campaign, see “Closing Haiti’s Open Veins: Preval’s Impossible Mission” by Stephen Lendman.

Despite the election of Préval, “the return” is still an occasion of much speculation. “The return,” of course, means the return of now former president Aristide. Préval got asked over and over the question, but he responded that “it’s not my decision to make.” As mentioned elsewhere, the Haitian constitution prohibits the state from forcing citizens from the country. Aristide is “free” to return any time (the main obstacle is US-western pressures). According to Brian Concannon,

Former Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega declared that for Preval, Aristide’s return “would be the end of his ability to run the country.” Lawrence Pezzullo, President Clinton’s special envoy to Haiti warned “if [Preval] brings Aristide back, that thing will blow up.” The International Crisis Group added that Aristide’s return “would be a very polarizing and divisive event that could fatally damage the effort to move Haiti forward.” None of these experts even mentioned that it was Aristide’s removal in 2004 that led to unprecedented violence—thousands of deaths—not to mention the reversal of ten years’ hard won democratic progress.

Many still wait. And it may take some time.

Food “Protests”

Haiti never disappeared from the world stage, but it’s purely negative connotations emerged in February of 2008. While the world was arguing, then, that we were not in a recession, the future conflicts of this century played out in Haiti before our eyes.

According to Reed Lindsay of Al-Jazeera English:

For years, Hernite Joseph scraped a living by selling imported chicken parts in the muddy markets of Port-Au-Prince’s seaside slums.

The three dollars or so she made each day used to be enough to take care of her unemployed husband and three children.

Now, she is struggling to stave off starvation.

“Everything has changed,” says Joseph, stabbing at a half-frozen chunk of poultry with a screwdriver.

“My kids are like toothpicks. Before, if you had $1.25, you could buy vegetables, some rice, 10 cents of charcoal and a little cooking oil.”

“Right now, a little can of rice alone costs 65 cents, and it’s not good rice at all. Oil is 25 cents. Charcoal is 25 cents. With $1.25, you can’t even make a plate of rice for one child.”

This struggle played out daily as food prices became out of reach for most Haitians following the 2007 storm cycle which dampened their (already small) local supply. For years, neoliberalism has increased Haitian exports to the world (bio-fuel being a major culprit in this crisis, which has claimed a lot of Haitian land) and encouraged imports of food and material goods that could be produced inside the country. Thus, when food was not able to be grown in Haiti, importing began overburdened for various reasons and it collapsed. For most of Haitians, who like on $2.00 a day, food became a luxury.

haiti-food-riots

It was April 2, 2008, 1 year ago, that the city of Les Cayes exploded. Large crowds marched down main streets, some vandalizing and looting food stores as they passed, demanding the government for help. They likened their hunger as “Klorox” and “Battery Acid” for the way it was eating their stomachs.

The world attempted to look away. Haiti is just a ground-swell of black violence. The marching of black people has always scared the US and the rest of the west, this was no different. Haitian media attempted to explain this as gang activity or criminal in nature, but they knew better.

They made their way to the National Palace on April 7. Many agreed, they’d rather die in the streets than of hunger. Yet, as mentioned above, it was not the police guarding the palace but the UN (MINUTAH). Donations of food arrived in Haiti (from Venezuela) and the government subsidized the price of food to quell the violence. Many point to debt relief as an undercurrent to the violence – an issue plaguing Latin America since the 1970s – and believe that unsolved, this “protest” is only round one.

What’s Next

The end of 2008, the year of the food protests, culminated in the destruction of the US financial market and an overall prolonging of the world-wide recession already underway for years. For Haiti, this means many things.

For one, unequal coverage. As Dan Beeton points out, Haiti will continue to be seen as a backwater republic because of factors outside US or western control. This has many factors, but mainly, it boils down to prejudices based on economics, race and culture – and the belief that Haiti and the US/West have nothing to do with one another. Lack of context and coverage will only help this situation continue.

Another, which stems from this problem, is the belief that Haiti is a failed country and must be placed under US (or someones) protection. As Anthony Fenton points out, this “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine has a long history of racism and imperialism and will only push Haiti further and further away from true democratic goals that have been routinely crushed over the years.

Finally, among many others, is economically. Haiti will bear the brunt of the Western financial collapse and the general recession. Haiti has been in the mainstream news twice recently – one in a profile of the economic woes for Haiti. The other, an editorial from UN head Ban Ki-Moon, in which he openly supports “a break out moment” for Haiti in the form of making t-shirts for US and western consumers during the recession. Both wildly miss the point and suggest nothing new for the world’s free true democracy. So what should the G-20, the group of 20 of the world’s richest nations, do? According to Dying in Haiti

While President Obama and the other most powerful leaders in the world meet at the Group of 20 summit this week in part to decide the roles of new players such as China and Brazil, they should remember that Haiti, which is the poorest and least developed country in the Western Hemisphere and lies just 500 miles from the United States, remains teetering between failure and the possibility of development and progress.

I hope this opportunity at the G-20 summit to make a real difference to Haiti is not lost. Cancellation of Haiti’s roughly $1.5 billion in foreign debt would strengthen the elected government, allowing it to improve health care, education and other essential services, thereby allowing for greater economic development, which would bring jobs and reduce poverty. Further, the United States would benefit through a reduction in illegal immigration, greater regional stability and homeland security, and reduced importation of illegal drugs.

U.S. taxpayers have given $180 billion to bail out American International Group (AIG), but AIG will give $1.2 billion in bonuses companywide this year. The money spent by AIG to pay bonuses would nearly wipe out Haiti’s debt. Similarly, U.S. taxpayers have spent $45 billion on the bailout of Citigroup, with a further debt guarantee up to $306 billion.

In light of the relatively small amount of money needed to relieve Haiti’s debt, and with the benefits that Americans, Haitians and the world would receive, Mr. Obama should make cancellation of Haiti’s debt a top priority at the G-20 summit.

Hait's unclear future

Haiti’s unclear future

Conclusion

No, Haiti needn’t bear the brunt of our materialism nor our desire for expanding or version of democracy. We must look after Haiti, as a neighbor, not as an overseer. Not ignored in my analysis, the environment is going to place a huge role in Haiti in the coming decade – and possibly for the rest our human existence. Haiti was wracked with hurricanes and storms last summer and is posed for a return. The damage of those storms have still not been dealt. Yet, how bright is Haiti? It cannot be seen as a light in a dark. It has major problems – some it’s own, some ours. We hold countries to standards we ourselves would never participate in. Only fairness will prevent economic, political and environmental woes from capturing Haiti indefinitely as we should be prepared to help, nor hurt, our friend.

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~ by Daniel on April 5, 2009.

2 Responses to “Haiti’s Long Decade”

  1. Great work and stay safe!!

    Here’s a background piece on the upcoming election I found insightful:

    Poll projects low voter turnout in Haiti: Protests banned

    http://haitiaction.net/News/KP/4_16_9/4_16_9.html

  2. More you probably don’t know about Haiti today:

    Popular Initiative calls for removal of Bush appointee in Haiti

    by Kevin Pina

    HIP – A spokesperson for grassroots organizations aligned with Haiti’s Fanmi Lavalas party demanded the Obama administration remove current US Ambassador Janet Sanderson. Reached by telephone in the capital of Port-au-Prince a leader of a group calling itself the Popular Initiative stated, “She is lying about last Sunday’s elections by not acknowledging it was our boycott that kept voters away.” He continued, “She claims it was because this was not a regular election year and that people may be tired of the political process. The only voter fatigue we have in Haiti is with undemocratic elections. Allow Fanmi Lavalas to participate and we’ll show you the voters have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for an authentic democratic process. She is out of touch with reality in Haiti.”

    Haiti held controversial Senate elections last week that were boycotted by Fanmi Lavalas after all of their candidates were excluded on procedural grounds. Voters mostly stayed at home on election day after Lavalas launched a campaign called Operation Closed Door. The Obama administration is widely seen as having green lighted the contested elections after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Haiti three days prior to the ballot.

    FULL ARTICLE: http://haitiaction.net/News/HIP/4_24_9/4_24_9.html

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