huffingtonpost.com, by Mark Weisbrot Co-Director, Center For Economic And Policy Research, Washington, D.C., July 11, 2016
Luis Almagro, the current Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) has abused his position and authority more flagrantly and outrageously than any predecessor in recent years. In his lack of judgment and disregard for political and diplomatic norms he resembles Donald Trump. And like Trump, he is increasingly seen as an embarrassment within the organization for which he is the standard bearer.
The OAS has been manipulated by Washington many times over the years in the service of regime change. Twenty-first century examples include Haiti (2000-2004, and 2011), Honduras (2009), and Paraguay (2012). It was in response to Washington’s manipulation of the OAS, in the process of consolidating the 2009 military coup in Honduras, that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was formed. It includes all countries in the hemisphere except the United States and Canada.
But in these other cases, Washington had to pretend it was doing something other than carrying out a political campaign against a sovereign government. Almagro is much more brazen. Like the communists of Karl Marx’s time, he “disdains to conceal his views.” He is a radical and seeks to win his goals by any means necessary.
His main goal at present is to get rid of the current government of Venezuela. In the run-up to the congressional elections there last December, he worked tirelessly to try and convince the media and the world that the government was going to rig the elections. When the vote count was universally acknowledged as clean, he made no apologies but simply switched tactics.
Almagro’s latest offensive involves invoking the OAS Democratic Charter, which allows the organization to intervene when there is an “unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state.” Never mind that Venezuela still has an elected president, unlike Brazil, where a cabal of corrupt politicians has manipulated the legislative and judicial branches of government to suspend the head of state in a desperate effort to protect themselves from investigations for corruption. Almagro’s offensive is about politics, not democracy. It’s about what Washington and its right-wing allies want for the region.
Exhibiting a profound lack of respect for the political norms of Latin America, Almagro posted an article by Washington Post editorialist Jackson Diehl on the OAS website. The articlepraised Almagro for “revitalizing the OAS” with his crusade against a member state. It is no more appropriate for the head of the OAS to campaign against a member country than it would be for the head of the European Commission to do so in Europe.
In Latin America there is a deep historical tradition that values national sovereignty and self-determination, however incomprehensible and arrogantly dismissed those concepts may be in Washington. Diehl is a hard core neoconservative, an American supremacist who uses the editorial pages of the Washington Post to trash almost all of the left governments of the region, and to support military intervention anywhere that it might vaguely serve “American interests.” He was one of the most prominent and vocal supporters of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with the Post running 27 editorial board pieces supporting the war in the six months prior to the invasion.
Basking in the praise of someone like Jackson Diehl, for any literate Latin American, is the equivalent of Trump’s infamoustweet quoting Mussolini.
There are immediate and risky consequences of Almagro’s malfeasance and abuse of power. Venezuela is confronting an economic and political crisis and the country is politically divided. The political opposition in Venezuela is also divided; as throughout its 21st century history, some want to advocate peaceful and electoral change, while others want to overthrow the government. A normal leader of the OAS would do what the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is doing — try to promote dialogue between the two opposing forces. Since the main opposition group (MUD) and other opposition leaders refuse to meet with the government, UNASUR has enlisted José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (former prime minister of Spain), Martín Torrijos (former president of Panama), and Leonel Fernández (former president of the Dominican Republic) to meet with both sides in order to facilitate dialogue.
But Almagro is not interested in promoting dialogue; he is more interested in using the OAS, and its reach in the media, to delegitimize the Venezuelan government, a goal that Washington has pursued for most of the past 15 years.
Impatience with Almagro within the OAS is mounting. Many governments have publicly criticized him, and several have called for his resignation. He had previously been denounced by former president Pepe Mujica of Uruguay, whom he had served as foreign minister.
Most importantly, in June, 19 countries (a majority of the OAS membership) ordered that the Permanent Council of the OAS discuss his behavior. This is long overdue, and hopefully will lead to a change of leadership.
The U.S. presidential candidates can be looked at from the perspective of Haiti. One candidate has an extensive record there. The other has some historical parallels.
The U.S. invaded and occupied Haiti 101 years ago today, and remained there for 19 years. Accomplishments of the occupation include raiding the Haitian National Bank, re-instituting slave labor, establishing the hated National Guard, and getting a 25-year contract for the U.S. corporation, United Fruit.
There was a pretext for the invasion—the assassination of Haiti’s president in 1915. But to understand the event, which has lessons to draw from a century later, it is necessary to look more closely at the invader than the invaded.
In 2016, the United States is living through a presidential campaign with a candidate willing to exploit racism and pander to anti-immigrant sentiment. Police are killing Black people in cities across the U.S.
Having drawn down troop levels in its two big wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. still runs airsrikes and drone strikes in the region and covert actions all over the world. The U.S. is still the determining voice in Haiti’s politics and economy. In other words, 101 years after its invasion of Haiti, the U.S. retains two features: violent racial inequality and empire.
The U.S. presidential candidates can be looked at from the perspective of Haiti. One candidate has an extensive record there. The other has some historical parallels.
The Clintons have treated Haiti as a family business. In 2010, after an earthquake devastated the country, the Clinton Foundation was among the horde of non-governmental organizations that stepped up their role in the, still unfinished, rebuilding phase. Haiti’s social sector had already been taken over by NGOs and its streets—since the 2004 U.S.-led coup and occupation—were patrolled by United Nations troops.
The Clinton Foundation received pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid to rebuild Haiti. The crown jewel of the Foundation’s work: the disappointing Caracol Industrial Park, opened in 2012, which promised and failed to expand Haiti’s low-wage garment-processing industry, long a source of foreign profits and little internal development.
Hillary Clinton made her own interventions into Haitian politics as secretary of state. At a key moment in Haiti post-earthquake politics, Clinton’s state department threw its weight behind presidential candidate Michel Martelly.
His electoral legitimacy was dubious and his presidency led the country to a constitutional crisis when people mobilized against another stolen election in 2015. That crisis is still ongoing, and will no doubt provide pretexts for the next U.S. intervention.
To try to imagine the impact of Trump on Haiti, one need only look back a century. As Trump continues his seemingly unstoppable march to the White House, he is compared to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and other populist buffoon-politicians. Woodrow Wilson, the invader of Haiti in 1915, may be a better example of the damage a president can.
When Woodrow Wilson became president, he set about doing what today would be called “Making America Great Again.” Decades had passed since the U.S. Civil War. The post-war Reconstruction involved efforts to desegregate cities and government workplaces and make a place for newly-freed Black people.
Wilson reversed these efforts, strengthening racial apartheid in the U.S. His administration made sure there were separate bathrooms in federal government offices.
Although Trump is unlikely to re-introduce segregation, something else happened under Woodrow Wilson’s rule that is relevant in this context: white vigilante violence and lynchings spiked.
Wilson created a permissive environment for such atrocities. First elected in 1912, Wilson only got around to making a statement against organized white violence—called “mob violence” or “race riots”—in mid-1917.
When more riots broke out in 1919, this time designed to suppress the democratic impulses of Black soldiers returning from WWI, the NAACP implored Wilson to make a a statement. But it was Wilson, himself, who had restricted Black soldiers to non-combat roles during the war.
In foreign policy, Donald Trump’s pronouncements have been predictably incoherent and uninformed. But Woodrow Wilson’s presidency suggests that domestic policies of racism will not be confined to the domestic arena.
Wilson sent U.S. troops all over Latin America—Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua and of course, Haiti—which may have gotten the worst of it all. Racist wrath has been a constant in Haiti’s history since it won its independence in a slave revolt, and Wilson unleashed that wrath on the island during the 1915-1934 occupation. Chomsky’s “Year 501” gives a flavor for what U.S. occupiers were thinking and doing:
“Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, found the Haitian elite rather amusing: ‘Dear me, think of it, Niggers speaking French,'” he remarked. The effective ruler of Haiti, Marine Colonel L.W.T. Waller, who arrived fresh from appalling atrocities in the conquest of the Philippines, was not amused: “they are real nigger and no mistake … real nigs beneath the surface,” he said, rejecting any negotiations or other “bowing and scraping to these coons,” particularly the educated Haitians for whom this bloodthirsty lout had a special hatred.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while never approaching the racist fanaticism and thuggery of his distant relative Theodore Roosevelt, shared the feelings of his colleagues. On a visit to occupied Haiti in 1917, he recorded in his diary a comment by his traveling companion, who later became the Occupation’s leading civilian official.
WATCH: Unrest in Haiti as Elections Are Delayed
Fascinated by the Haitian Minister of Agriculture, he “couldn’t help saying to myself,” he told FDR, “that man would have brought $1,500 at auction in New Orleans in 1860 for stud purposes.”
“‘Roosevelt appears to have relished the story,” (Hans) Schmidt notes, “and retold it to American Minister Norman Armour when he visited Haiti as President in 1934.”
Chomsky conclude this section of horrifically racist quotes from the U.S. elite about Haiti with a warning, “The element of racism in policy formation should not be discounted, to the present day.”
Nor should Haitian resistance.
The U.S. occupation of 1915-1934 faced a rebellion led by Charlemagne Peralte. Marines assassinated him and circulated a photograph of him crucified. Rather than intimidating Haitians, the photo enraged them and cemented Charlemagne Peralte’s place as a national hero.
If Haitians had a say in the U.S. presidential election, a case could be made for the devil-you-know of Clinton rather than the risk of a new Woodrow Wilson in Trump. But subjects of the empire can’t vote, only citizens. The U.S. tried to set the tone of master 101 years ago.
On Saturday 11 June government ministers and campaigners attended the funeral of three female street vendors, laid to rest in sturdy white coffins laden with flowers, with more than 2,000 people in attendance. Their brutal murders had shocked a country.
Jesula Gelin, a mother of six, Vanessa Previl and Monique Vincent were all deaf and worked in Haiti’s capital. That is itself was notable – they were economically independent and lived away from their families in a deaf community in Leveque, a village about an hour from the city.
On 18 March they had spent the morning in Port-au-Prince buying business supplies and visiting their families. They set off home in the early afternoon, leaving plenty of time to get back before dark on a normal day. However, a bridge had collapsed on Route Nine, one of the main thoroughfares, bringing traffic to a standstill. “It was on the radio, TV, so everybody knew to avoid those areas,” says Nicole Phillips, a lawyer who is representing the women’s families. “But if you’re deaf, you’re not going to benefit from any of that. They had no idea that the bridge had collapsed.”
The women had been travelling on a tap tap – the privately run Jeeps that are the equivalent of buses in Haiti. But at some point, in the heavily congested traffic, they got off the tap tap to continue their journey on foot. “They got exhausted,” says Phillips. “And then late at night, we don’t know what time, they stopped off in one of the victim’s relative’s house.
The house was owned by a distant relative. “She had been there before, by car it’s just 20 minutes from where she lives,” says Phillips. “She and the two other ladies went there to spend the night.”
Reports of what happened next are from two women who have been arrested in connection with the triple murder. They lived at the house and say that when the three deaf women arrived they were frightened and thought that they were lougawou. In Haitian mythology, lougawou or lougarou are evil spirits who come out at night and cause mischief such as killing your goats or eating your dog. They are something to be feared. Disabled people are sometimes labelled bad spirits. “They think that they are a different creature of god,” says Phillips. “That helps them justify the stigma of disabled people. You can tell yourself this [that they are different] and feel more justified morally.”
The sequence of events is not entirely clear, but at some point between 8pm and midnight the women were tortured and brutally murdered. Phillips has seen photographs of the bodies with burn marks and machete cuts. The two women who were in the house and a male accomplice have been arrested in connection with the murder. But the police have not captured another main suspect, a distant relative of one of the victims.
“Violence against women with disabilities is believed to be two or three times higher than against non-disabled women,” says Lisa Adams, programme director of the US-based Disability Rights Fund, which works in Haiti. “Disability, gender and sexuality compound to present a lot of cultural myths and stereotypes about women with disabilities – ranging from infantilising them to making them hyper sexual. I think that has a lot to do with the violence experienced by women with disabilities in Haiti – these three women in particular.”
The murders have brought a furious response from disability rights, women’s rights and human rights campaigners. “This has brought Haiti’s disability rights activists together,” says Phillips. “It has galvanised the community.” On 1 April hundreds of people marched in Port-au-Prince to demand justice for the three murdered women, and several other demonstrations around the country followed, including a march on 9 June in Cabaret near where they were killed.
Disabled people in Haiti are discriminated against in multiple ways. For example, only 5% of children with disabilities are in school, according to a report by the Haitian state submitted in the report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. And people with disabilities complain that the police don’t take them seriously when they report crimes and that they are taunted in public as “cocobe” (useless).
“Haiti is a model for exclusion,” says Michel Pean, who was secretary of state for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Haiti from 2007-11 and is blind himself. “But it’s also a good example of the fight for inclusion of people with disabilities within society.” Pean says that 1 million out of Haiti’s 10 million people have a disability. Since the earthquake in 2010, there are more people with disabilities and they have become more visible.
But strong civil society groups have driven successes for disability rights campaigners over the past 15 years, says Pean. “The idea to have a secretary of state dedicated to people with disabilities came from civil society. The same with the idea to have proper legislation came from civil society. Disability rights civil society is very active.”
And those activists are determined to seize this moment of tragedy and force the government to act. “We want to transform this very negative event into something positive,” says Pean. “Something which would ensure that people with disabilities are respected, and their rights are respected. Their right to education, their right to access to health, in other words, their right to live, with dignity.”
“For me, as a feminist activist,” says Nadine Anilus, a member of the Ministry of Women’s cabinet, “we condemn this criminal act and call the state authorities to take the necessary steps to make justice and reparation to the family of three women. Every Haitian citizen must play their part to improve the situation of people with disabilities. We are calling for a big national campaign.”
She adds that Haiti needs to ensure national accidents are communicated in a way that is accessible for people with disabilities and that more financial resources are needed for organisations working on these issues.
Pean is clear that it will take a long time before people with disabilities are treated equally in the country. “For things to actually change, mentalities as well, takes a long process,” he says. “One of the things that has to change is the economic situation in Haiti. Also, it’s essential that we have political stability. These are necessary conditions to enable us to reach true inclusion.”
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Following political turmoil due to fraudulent elections in Haiti, the U.S. government has decided to cease funding for the country’s upcoming 2016 presidential election. A blessing in disguise, this cessation of external funds could possibly fortify Haiti’s autonomy. In the past, Haiti’s autonomy has been weakened by foreign involvement in its internal matters. For example, in Haiti’s 2015 presidential elections, the United States, along with other international bodies, provided a total of $38 million USD to Haiti’s Conseil Electoral Provisoire(Provisional Electoral Council, CEP). After this presidential election was declared void and inconclusive, another election was rescheduled and ultimately also declared null. Haiti’s next presidential election will be held October 9 2016—that is, if provided the necessary funding and stable political environment. The presidential election’s proposed budget stands at $55 million USD. With the United States stepping out of the image, Haiti has the potential to conduct an autonomous election, setting the stage for greater and beneficial sovereignty in the island-nation.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby affirmed that the United States would not finance Haiti’s presidential election in October. According to Kirby, the U.S. government had notified Haitian officials on July 1 that the United States would discontinue “its assistance toward the completion of the presidential electoral process.” The U.S. government’s spokesman also stated that the United States will not fund the upcoming election because it was not planned within its appropriated budget. The new strategy deviates from the United States’ historical approach on its heavy involvement in Haiti.
In recent history, U.S. involvement in Haitian internal affairs has been significant—particularly through monetary and political influence. For example, in the early 20th century U.S. Marines occupied the Caribbean nation for 19 years. Early in 2004, the U.S. government supported a coup to overthrow Haiti’s first democratically elected president. In 2009, the U.S. government further weakened Haiti’s democratic system by funding and supporting illegitimate parliamentary elections in Haiti. The United States’ extensive history of political and monetary involvement in Haiti has undoubtedly shaped the nation’s governmental structure. Overall, U.S. influence in Haiti has not aided the nation to develop into a stable and sustainable democracy.
Historically, Haiti’s reliance on assistance from developed nations, such as the United States, has done the opposite of propelling the nation forward. Instead, this dependency has prolonged the cycle of corruption—continuing a trend, as described by The Washington Post, of monopolizing economic and political power in Haiti by foreign entities. Now, with the U.S. government affirming its termination of finances for the upcoming election, the Haitian government, for the first time in many years, must rely on fewer outside sources and internal revenue for electoral funding. Spokesman Kirby has stated, “We believe it’s the sound thing to do, the right thing to do for the people of Haiti in the long-term.” This statement, in defense of the cessation of election funds, implies that the U.S. government’s withdrawal from providing funds is two-fold. In addition to not having a budget for the October election, the U.S. government’s discontinued involvement from the election will create space for Haiti to independently rebuild its democratic institutions. Provisional Electoral Council Chief Leopold Berlanger echoed this idea when he said, “a real sovereign country […] should get the means to fund [its] own elections.”
While the possibilities for Haiti’s growth towards autonomy are made possible through the lack of U.S. government funding and involvement, the situation also poses a plausible negative outcome. If the United States will not fund the election, it may not recognize its legitimacy. University of Virginia professor Robert Fatton finds this a troubling prospect: “The fact that the U.S. is pulling $2 million [USD] from the ‘election basket’ may be a sign that it is prepared to delegitimize the forthcoming elections if the results do not coincide with its interests.” This would be the worst-case scenario for Haiti—a country desperate for a valid and transparent election along with an officially recognized leadership.
Nonetheless, with the appropriate funding, the presidential election will take place this October. It is now time for the Haitian government and people to prove their ability to unite and exercise Haiti’s long-awaited autonomy. For long, Haiti, the second nation to gain independence in the Western Hemisphere, has relied on outside aid and intervention. This year Haiti will have the opportunity to reaffirm its autonomy.
Featured Photo: Coat of Arms of Haiti. Taken from Wikimedia.
 Nienaber, Georgianne. “How Is the US Involved in Haiti’s Current Elections?” Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. September 27, 2015. Accessed July 13, 2016. http://www.ijdh.org/2015/09/topics/politics-democracy/obama-sends-merten-back-to-haiti-as-new-election-crisis-looms/.
 Charles, Jacqueline. “U. S. to Haiti: Pay for Your Own Elections.” Miamiherald. July 07, 2016. Accessed July 13, 2016. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article88338777.html
 Dupuy, Alex. “Foreign Aid Keeps the Country from Shaping Its Own Future.” Washington Post. January 09, 2011. Accessed July 13, 2016. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/07/AR2011010706511.html.
 McFadden, David. “US: No More Financial Help to Conclude Haiti Elections.” ABC News. July 07, 2016. Accessed July 13, 2016. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/us-financial-conclude-haiti-elections-40417737.
 “US Withdraws Funding for Haiti Elections.” The Center for Economic and Policy Research. July 08, 2016. Accessed July 13, 2016. http://cepr.net/blogs/haiti-relief-and-reconstruction-watch/us-withdraws-funding-for-haiti-elections.
Even as the group has publicly celebrated its work, insider accounts detail a string of failures
by Justin Elliott, ProPublica, and Laura Sullivan, NPR
THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF CAMPECHE sprawls up a steep hillside in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Goats rustle in trash that goes forever uncollected. Children kick a deflated volleyball in a dusty lot below a wall with a hand-painted logo of the American Red Cross.
In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor area, which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the project — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.
Today, not one home has been built in Campeche. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.
The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.
The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.
The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.
After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.
Aid organizations from around the world have struggled after the earthquake in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. But ProPublica and NPR’s investigation shows that many of the Red Cross’s failings in Haiti are of its own making. They are also part of a larger pattern in which the organization has botched delivery of aid after disasters such asSuperstorm Sandy. Despite its difficulties, the Red Cross remains the charityof choice for ordinary Americans and corporations alike after natural disasters.
One issue that has hindered the Red Cross’ work in Haiti is an overreliance on foreigners who could not speak French or Creole, current and former employees say.
In a blistering 2011 memo, the then-director of the Haiti program, Judith St. Fort, wrote that the group was failing in Haiti and that senior managers had made “very disturbing” remarks disparaging Haitian employees. St. Fort, who is Haitian American, wrote that the comments included, “he is the only hard working one among them” and “the ones that we have hired are not strong so we probably should not pay close attention to Haitian CVs.”
The Red Cross won’t disclose details of how it has spent the hundreds of millions of dollars donated for Haiti. But our reporting shows that less money reached those in need than the Red Cross has said.
Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget.
Where did the half billion raised for Haiti go? The Red Cross won’t say.
In statements, the Red Cross cited the challenges all groups have faced in post-quake Haiti, including the country’s dysfunctional land title system.
“Like many humanitarian organizations responding in Haiti, the American Red Cross met complications in relation to government coordination delays, disputes over land ownership, delays at Haitian customs, challenges finding qualified staff who were in short supply and high demand, and the cholera outbreak, among other challenges,” the charity said.
The group said it responded quickly to internal concerns, including hiring an expert to train staff on cultural competency after St. Fort’s memo. While the group won’t provide a breakdown of its projects, the Red Cross said it has done more than 100. The projects include repairing 4,000 homes, giving several thousand families temporary shelters, donating $44 million for food after the earthquake, and helping fund the construction of a hospital.
“Millions of Haitians are safer, healthier, more resilient, and better prepared for future disasters thanks to generous donations to the American Red Cross,” McGovern wrote in a recent report marking the fifth anniversary of the earthquake.
In other promotional materials, the Red Cross said it has helped “more than 4.5 million” individual Haitians “get back on their feet.”
It has not provided details to back up the claim. And Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister at the time of the earthquake, doubts the figure, pointing out the country’s entire population is only about 10 million.
“No, no,” Bellerive said of the Red Cross’ claim, “it’s not possible.”
When the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, the Red Cross was facing a crisis of its own. McGovern had become chief executive just 18 months earlier, inheriting a deficit and an organization that had faced scandals after 9/11 and Katrina.
Inside the Red Cross, the Haiti disaster was seen as “a spectacular fundraising opportunity,” recalled one former official who helped organize the effort. Michelle Obama, the NFL and a long list of celebrities appealed for donations to the group.
The Red Cross kept soliciting money well after it had enough for the emergency relief that is the group’s stock in trade. Doctors Without Borders, in contrast, stopped fundraising off the earthquake after it decided it had enough money. The donations to the Red Cross helped the group erase its more-than $100 million deficit.
The Red Cross ultimately raised far more than any other charity.
A year after the quake, McGovern announced that the Red Cross would use the donations to make a lasting impact in Haiti.
We asked the Red Cross to show us around its projects in Haiti so we could see the results of its work. It declined. So earlier this year we went to Campeche to see one of the group’s signature projects for ourselves.
Street vendors in the dusty neighborhood immediately pointed us to Jean Jean Flaubert, the head of a community group that the Red Cross set up as a local sounding board.
Sitting with us in their sparse one-room office, Flaubert and his colleagues grew angry talking about the Red Cross. They pointed to the lack of progress in the neighborhood and the healthy salaries paid to expatriate aid workers.
“What the Red Cross told us is that they are coming here to change Campeche. Totally change it,” said Flaubert. “Now I do not understand the change that they are talking about. I think the Red Cross is working for themselves.”
The Red Cross’ initial plan said the focus would be building homes — an internal proposalput the number at 700. Each would have finished floors, toilets, showers, even rainwater collection systems. The houses were supposed to be finished in January 2013.
None of that ever happened. Carline Noailles, who was the project’s manager in Washington, said it was endlessly delayed because the Red Cross “didn’t have the know-how.”
Another former official who worked on the Campeche project said, “Everything takes four times as long because it would be micromanaged from DC, and they had no development experience.”
Shown an English-language press release from the Red Cross website, Flaubert was stunned to learn of the project’s $24 million budget — and that it is due to end next year.
“Not only is [the Red Cross] not doing it,” Flaubert said, “now I’m learning that the Red Cross is leaving next year. I don’t understand that.” (The Red Cross says it did tell community leaders about the end date. It also accused us of “creating ill will in the community which may give rise to a security incident.”)
The project has since been reshaped and downscaled. A road is being built. Some existing homes have received earthquake reinforcement and a few schools are being repaired. Some solar street lights have been installed, though many broke and residents say others are unreliable.
The group’s most recent press release on the project cites achievements such as training school children in disaster response.
The Red Cross said it has to scale back its housing plans because it couldn’t acquire the rights to land. No homes will be built.
Other Red Cross infrastructure projects also fizzled.
A Red Cross effort to save Haitians from cholera was crippled by internal issues. “None of these people had to die,” said a Haitian official.
In January 2011, McGovern announced a $30 million partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. The agency would build roads and other infrastructure in at least two locations where the Red Cross would build new homes.
But it took more than two and a half years, until August 2013, for the Red Cross just to sign an agreement with USAID on the program, and even that was for only one site. The program was ultimately canceled because of a land dispute.
A Government Accountability Office report attributed the severe delays to problems “in securing land title and because of turnover in Red Cross leadership” in its Haiti program.
Other groups also ran into trouble with land titles and other issues. But they also ultimately built 9,000 homes compared to the Red Cross’ six.
Asked about the Red Cross’ housing projects in Haiti, David Meltzer, the group’s general counsel and chief international officer, said changing conditions forced changes in plans. “If we had said, ‘All we’re going to do is build new homes,’ we’d still be looking for land,” he said.
The USAID project’s collapse left the Red Cross grasping for ways to spend money earmarked for it.
“Any ideas on how to spend the rest of this?? (Besides the wonderful helicopter idea?),” McGovern wrote to Meltzer in a November 2013 email obtained by ProPublica and NPR. “Can we fund Conrad’s hospital? Or more to PiH [Partners in Health]? Any more shelter projects?”
It’s not clear what helicopter idea McGovern was referring to or if it was ever carried out. The Red Cross would say only that her comments were “grounded in the American Red Cross’ strategy and priorities, which focus on health and housing.”
Another signature project, known in Creole as “A More Resilient Great North,” is supposed to rehabilitate roads in poor, rural communities and to help them get clean water and sanitation.
But two years after it started, the $13 million effort has been faltering badly. An internal evaluation from March found residents were upset because nothing had been done to improve water access or infrastructure or to make “contributions of any sort to the well being of households,” the report said.
The Red Cross says 91% of donations went to help Haitians. That’s not true.
Instead of making concrete improvements to living conditions, the Red Cross has launched hand-washing education campaigns. The internal evaluation noted that these were “not effective when people had no access to water and no soap.” (The Red Cross declined to comment on the project.)
The group’s failures went beyond just infrastructure.
When a cholera epidemic raged through Haiti nine months after the quake, the biggest part of the Red Cross’ response — a plan to distribute soap and oral rehydration salts — was crippled by “internal issues that go unaddressed,” wrote the director of the Haiti program in her May 2011 memo.
Throughout that year, cholera was a steady killer. By September 2011, when the death toll had surpassed 6,000, the project was still listed as “very behind schedule” according to another internal document.
The Red Cross said in a statement that its cholera response, including a vaccination campaign, has continued for years and helped millions of Haitians.
But while other groups also struggled early responding to cholera, some performed well.
“None of these people had to die. That’s what upsets me,” said Paul Christian Namphy, a Haitian water and sanitation official who helped lead the effort to fight cholera. He says early failures by the Red Cross and other NGOs had a devastating impact. “These numbers should have been zero.”
So why did the Red Cross’ efforts fall so short? It wasn’t just that Haiti is a hard place to work.
“They collected nearly half a billion dollars,” said a congressional staffer who helped oversee Haiti reconstruction. “But they had a problem. And the problem was that they had absolutely no expertise.”
Lee Malany was in charge of the Red Cross’ shelter program in Haiti starting in 2010. He remembers a meeting in Washington that fall where officials did not seem to have any idea how to spend millions of dollars set aside for housing. Malany says the officials wanted to know which projects would generate good publicity, not which projects would provide the most homes.
“When I walked out of that meeting I looked at the people that I was working with and said, ‘You know this is very disconcerting, this is depressing,’” he recalled.
The Red Cross said in a statement its Haiti program has never put publicity over delivering aid.
Malany resigned the next year from his job in Haiti. “I said there’s no reason for me to stay here. I got on the plane and left.”
Sometimes it wasn’t a matter of expertise, but whether anybody was filling key jobs. An April 2012 organizational chart obtained by ProPublica and NPR lists 9 of 30 leadership positions in Haiti as vacant, including slots for experts on health and shelter.
The Red Cross said vacancies and turnover were inevitable because of “the security situation, separation from family for international staff, and the demanding nature of the work.”
The constant upheaval took a toll. Internal documents refer to repeated attempts over years to “finalize” and “complete” a strategic plan for the Haiti program, efforts that were delayed by changes in senior management. As late as March 2014, more than four years into a six-year program, an internal update cites a “revised strategy” still awaiting “final sign-off.”
The Red Cross said settling on a plan early would have been a mistake. “It would be hard to create the perfect plan from the beginning in a complicated place like Haiti,” it said. “But we also need to begin, so we create plans that are continually revised.”
The Red Cross says it provided homes to more than 130,000 Haitians. But they didn’t.
Those plans were further undermined by the Red Cross’ reliance on expats. Noailles, the Haitian development professional who worked for the Red Cross on the Campeche project, said expat staffers struggled in meetings with local officials.
“Going to meetings with the community when you don’t speak the language is not productive,” she said. Sometimes, she recalled, expat staffers would skip such meetings altogether.
The Red Cross said it has “made it a priority to hire Haitians” despite lots of competition for local professionals, and that over 90 percent of its staff is Haitian. The charity said it used a local human resources firm to help.
Yet very few Haitians have made it into the group’s top echelons in Haiti, according to five current and former Red Cross staffers as well as staff lists obtained by ProPublica and NPR.
That not only affected the group’s ability to work in Haiti, it was also expensive.
According to an internal Red Cross budgeting document for the project in Campeche, the project manager – a position reserved for an expatriate – was entitled to allowances for housing, food and other expenses, home leave trips, R&R four times a year, and relocation expenses. In all, it added up to $140,000.
Compensation for a senior Haitian engineer — the top local position — was less than one-third of that, $42,000 a year.
Shelim Dorval, a Haitian administrator who worked for the Red Cross coordinating travel and housing for expatriate staffers, recalled thinking it was a waste to spend so much to bring in people with little knowledge of Haiti when locals were available.
“For each one of those expats, they were having high salaries, staying in a fancy house, and getting vacation trips back to their countries,” Dorval said. “A lot of money was spent on those people who were not Haitian, who had nothing to do with Haiti. The money was just going back to the United States.”
Soon after the earthquake, McGovern, the Red Cross CEO, said the group would make sure donors knew exactly what happened to their money.
The Red Cross would “lead the effort in transparency,” she pledged. “We are happy to share the way we are spending our dollars.”
That hasn’t happened. The Red Cross’ public reports offer only broad categories about where $488 million in donations has gone. The biggest category is shelter, at about $170 million. The others include health, emergency relief and disaster preparedness.
It has declined repeated requests to disclose the specific projects, to explain how much money went to each or to say what the results of each project were.
There is reason to doubt the Red Cross’ claims that it helped 4.5 million Haitians. An internal evaluation found that in some areas, the Red Cross reported helping more people than even lived in the communities. In other cases, the figures were low, and in others double-counting went uncorrected.
In describing its work, the Red Cross also conflates different types of aid, making it more difficult to assess the charity’s efforts in Haiti.
For example, while the Red Cross says it provided more than 130,000 people with homes, that includes thousands of people who were not actually given homes, but rather were “trained in proper construction techniques.” (That was first reported by the Haiti blog of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.)
The figure includes people who got short-term rental assistance or were housed in several thousand “transitional shelters,” which are temporary structures that can get eaten up by termites or tip over in storms. It also includes modest improvements on 5,000 temporary shelters.
The Red Cross also won’t break down what portion of donations went to overhead.
McGovern told CBS News a few months after the quake, “Minus the 9 cents overhead, 91 cents on the dollar will be going to Haiti. And I give you my word and my commitment, I’m banking my integrity, my own personal sense of integrity on that statement.”
But the reality is that less money went to Haiti than 91 percent. That’s because in addition to the Red Cross’ 9 percent overhead, the other groups that got grants from the Red Cross also have their own overhead.
In one case, the Red Cross sent $6 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross for rental subsidies to help Haitians leave tent camps. The IFRC then took out 26 percent for overhead and what the IFRC described as program-related “administration, finance, human resources” and similar costs.
Beyond all that, the Red Cross also spends another piece of each dollar for what it describes as “program costs incurred by the American Red Cross in managing” the projects done by other groups.
The American Red Cross’ management and other costs consumed an additional 24 percent of the money on one project, according to the group’s statements and internal documents. The actual work, upgrading shelters, was done by the Swiss and Spanish Red Cross societies.
“It’s a cycle of overhead,” said Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press reporter in Haiti at the time of the earthquake who tracked post-disaster spending for his book, The Big Truck That Went By. “It was always going to be the American Red Cross taking a 9 percent cut, re-granting to another group, which would take out their cut.”
Given the results produced by the Red Cross’ projects in Haiti, Bellerive, the former prime minister, said he has a hard time fathoming what’s happened to donors’ money.
“Five hundred million dollars in Haiti is a lot of money,” he said. “I’m not a big mathematician, but I can make some additions. I know more or less the cost of things. Unless you don’t pay for the gasoline the same price I was paying, unless you pay people 20 times what I was paying them, unless the cost of the house you built was five times the cost I was paying, it doesn’t add up for me.”
This story was co-published with NPR. Mitzy-Lynn Hyacinthe contributed reporting. Design direction by David Sleight, production by Hannah Birch.
Since cholera first broke out in Haiti five years ago, Doctors Without Borders estimates that it has killed as many as 30,000 people, and another 2 million have survived the disease.
Journalists and scientists have traced the disease back to a U.N. compound that was housing peacekeepers from Nepal. The cholera outbreak was sparked after the compound began disposing of raw sewage in a nearby water way.
The U.N. has never taken responsibility for the outbreak or the deaths, but Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said the U.N. has “a moral responsibility” to help end the spread of the disease.
In a letter, the second highest ranking U.N. official promised the organization would fulfill “its human rights obligations” in Haiti, but U.N. efforts to fight the disease are less than 20 percent funded, meaning the disease is likely to continue to claim more lives.
“The U.N.’s position essentially hasn’t changed for five years now,” Katz says. “At the very beginning, they were extremely actively involved in a cover up — literally destroying evidence and putting out press releases disclaiming any possibility that they could be responsible, [all] based on evidence and assertions that just weren’t true.”
But Katz says that evidence has come to light that definitively links the U.N. to this deadly cholera outbreak.
Hillary Clinton visiting the Sae-A garment factory at Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti, in 2012. USAID / Flickr
Is Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid suffocating democracy in Haiti? A growing number of informed observers, both in Haiti and in the United States, think so. They contend that the former secretary of state’s political ambitions are having a profound effect on the Haitian electoral process.
The island’s deeply flawed elections — held last August and October, backed by over $33 million in US funding — triggered massive political unrest this past January.
Coming on the heels of Michel Martelly’s disastrous presidency, the elections spotlight how badly Clinton’s attempts as secretary of state to direct Haitian politics have backfired. The unrest caused the final round of balloting to be suspended and sent the US State Department into damage-control mode.
The department’s overriding — though unofficial — concern over the past year has been to finish Haiti’s elections before the US general election campaign begins in earnest this summer. It desperately wants to keep the results of Clinton’s involvement in Haiti out of the media glare.
Michel Martelly has been aptly described as a Haitian version of Donald Trump. Brash, uncouth, and unapologetically reactionary, Martelly used his celebrity as a popular konpa singer (known as “Sweet Mickey”) to power his rise to the presidency in 2011.
While in office Martelly earned a reputation for corruption and authoritarianism. He wooed foreign investors with the promise that post-earthquake Haiti would be “open for business,” and surrounded himself with the children of Duvalierists and shady underworld figures known to be involved in drug trafficking and kidnapping.
For four years, Martelly declined to organize elections, appointing mayors directly and allowing parliamentarians’ mandates to expire without elected representatives to take their place. He jailed and intimidated political opponents, repressed anti-government demonstrations, and, at the very end of his term, revived the disbanded and much-despised Haitian Army.
By January 2015, Haiti’s parliament was dysfunctional and Martelly was ruling by decree. Under pressure from growing street protests against the return of one-man rule, Martelly grudgingly agreed to organize elections.
Openly declaring his intention to establish a twenty-year political dynasty, he selected Jovenel Moïse, a politically unknown agricultural entrepreneur, as his successor. In August and October of last year, Haitians went to the polls to elect representatives at all levels of government.
Neither election would meet any reasonable democratic standard. Widespread violence, disorder, and stuffed ballot boxes characterized the August elections; in October, hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes, cast using party accreditation cards sold on the black market, completely skewed the results.
These perversions of the democratic process were compounded by historically low turnout rates and corruption scandals within the electoral council itself, which further undermined the elections’ credibility. In both the legislative and presidential races, Martelly and his allies predictably came out on top.
“Even by Haitian electoral standards, this was brazen robbery,” saidHenry “Chip” Carey, a political scientist who has observed numerous Haitian elections since the 1986 fall of the Duvalier dictatorship.
Despite the election fiasco, the United States (and the other wealthy nations) were enthusiastic, declaring them “a step forward for Haitian democracy.”
The small European Union (EU) and Organization of American States (OAS) observer missions rushed to approve the vote, claiming that the “irregularities” and “isolated” acts of violence had not affected the results.
Elena Valenciano, head of the EU’s electoral observation mission, did not even wait for the polls to close before declaring that the August election day had unfolded in conditions of “near total normalcy.”
Shortly before the October vote, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Haiti to reaffirm US support for Martelly’s stewardship of the process. As former Haiti expert for the US State Department Robert Maguirelamented, the international powers’ “objective seem[ed] simply to be able to check an ‘elections done’ box.”
But most Haitian observers denounced the elections, and Haitian citizens proved unwilling to accept the low democratic standards set by donor countries. Confronted with the outright theft of their elections, hundreds of thousands of Haitians rose up against what they called an “electoral coup d’état.”
Street protests surged after the October balloting, culminating in January’s angry and disruptive demonstrations. Protesters demanded the establishment of an interim government and an independent election commission to verify the vote.
At the peak of this crisis, former Brazilian diplomat Ricardo Seitenfus made an intriguing allegation: he charged that Haiti’s electoral calendar had been subordinated to the US election cycle. Meeting popular demands for a verification process would require time, much more time than Martelly had left in his mandate.
But American diplomats Kenneth Merten (who served as ambassador to Haiti under Clinton from 2009 to 2011) and Peter Mulrean were demanding that the elections be completed without delay and pressuring opposition candidates to drop their boycott of the final round scheduled for January 24.
Merten and Mulrean insisted that the United States simply wanted constitutional deadlines respected — a laughable claim given how little respect US policy has historically accorded to Haiti’s constitution.
Seitenfus has another explanation for their hostility to an independent investigation of the elections or the establishment of any kind of transitional government: “They want to quickly elect a president in Haiti in order to not make any waves, so that Hillary Clinton’s campaign goes smoothly.”
The reason for the haste, Seitenfus argues, is that Clinton is to blame for both Michel Martelly’s disastrous presidency and the present crisis of Haitian democracy. During the 2010–11 elections, Clinton was determined to see Martelly elected.
His pro-business outlook made him the ideal candidate to lead Haiti’s post-earthquake reconstruction. But, according to official (though strongly contested) results, he did not win enough votes in the first round to advance, so Clinton threw the full weight of the State Department behind her favored candidate.
Clinton’s team exploited every pressure point: cutting off aid, denying visas to top government officials, even plotting a coup against then-president René Préval. In January 2011, Clinton, with the help of behind the scenes pressure from Haiti’s business elites, persuaded Préval to bump Martelly up to second place and into the next round, where he would win the presidential runoff.
“Since Ms. Clinton was deeply involved in the decisions of 2010–11, if things have started badly, they must finish well,” notes Seitenfus, who, as the Organization of American States (OAS) special representative in Haiti, saw these strong-arm tactics firsthand. Seitenfus’s critique of US electoral influence made him a minor celebrity among Haitians, but cost him his OAS post.
The renegade diplomat is not the only one pointing the finger at Clinton. Many other analysts agree that the United States has unduly influenced the international response to the current elections, out of concern for her campaign.
“What international community? In Haiti, it doesn’t exist,” a disgusted diplomat remarked to Swiss journalist Arnaud Robert. “It is the United States that decides, in particular the Clinton couple who simply want to save face before the elections.”
Members of Haiti’s powerful elite agree: “I do not see it going longer than the US election, for obvious reasons,” a member of the Private Sector Economic Forum, a powerful group of Haitian businessmen, said. “They can’t afford this not being solved by the full US election. If Clinton is still in the process . . . they don’t want Haiti in the news, so they want it solved by summer.”
Robert Maguire concurred. “Keeping Haiti off the front page” is a major concern for US policymakers, “even more so with US presidential elections approaching.”
The Sweatshop Model
Sweet Mickey’s presidency is only part of Clinton’s dismal history in Haiti. Jonathan Katz, who covered Haiti for the Associated Press before, during, and after the 2010 earthquake, argues that America’s rush to get past Haiti’s tumultuous elections stems from Clinton’s ongoing involvement in the failed reconstruction efforts.
“Instability in a place where she and her husband have planted a big flag would hardly help her campaign,” he notes.
Throughout her term as secretary of state, Clinton made Haiti one of her top foreign-policy priorities. She and her chief of staff Cheryl Mills closely managed the internationally financed effort to rebuild Haiti after the quake. Bill Clinton pitched in as co-chair of a commission tasked with approving reconstruction projects.
As Clinton wrote in her memoir Hard Choices, rebuilding Haiti was “an opportunity . . . to road-test new approaches to development that could be applied more broadly around the world.”
Wielding an unparalleled level of influence over massive flows of public, private, and philanthropic capital, the Clintons set out to turn their slogan — Haiti “built back better” — into reality.
As Katz told the Washington Post: “There’s nowhere Clinton had more influence or respect when she became Secretary of State than in Haiti, and it was clear that she planned to use that to make Haiti the proving ground for her vision of American power.”
In retrospect, the Clintons’ bold, new vision for Haiti looks more like a mirage. The “new” approach was the same old “sweatshop model of development,” pursued by the United States since the Duvalier days, in a slick new package, and it had the same disastrous results.
A multi-million dollar industrial park the Clintons promoted as Haiti’s economic salvation was a flop on its own capitalist terms, generating only one-tenth of the promised sixty thousand jobs.
Meanwhile, mammoth new slum areas have sprung up north of Port-au-Prince, a testament to the mind-boggling decision to prioritize building luxury hotels for foreign tourists, NGO workers and businesspeople over permanent housing for the over one million Haitians made homeless by the quake.
Six years later, there is no hiding the fact that the Clintons have not helped many ordinary Haitians. Hillary Clinton would prefer to ignore this unflattering reality as November approaches. Katz notes:
By now I’d imagine she was expecting to constantly be pointing to Haiti on the campaign trail as one of the great successes of her diplomatic career. Instead it’s one of her biggest disappointments by nearly any measure, with the wreckage of the Martelly administration she played a larger role than anyone in installing being the biggest and latest example.
Perhaps most troubling from the Clinton campaign’s perspective: the tiny handful of players who did profit from Haiti’s reconstruction includes several members of her inner circle, like Tony Rodham (Hillary’s brother) and Irish billionaire Dennis O’Brien, a fact that Peter Schweizer and other Republican critics delight in pointing out.
Today, Clinton and her political managers prefer not to talk about Haiti at all. When Katz asked how her experience in Haiti shaped her foreign policy, a campaign spokesperson declined to comment, saying Clinton would address that “when the time comes to do so.”
Judging by her campaign website — which touts many of her foreign policy endeavors but makes no mention of Haiti — that time has still not come.
In fact, the time for Clinton to account for her embarrassing entanglements in Haiti may not come at all. There was a brief uptick in national media coverage during the January election protests, but Haiti has, for the most part, stayed out of the headlines, which is exactly where Clinton wants it.
President Martelly’s departure (without an elected successor) has defused a potentially explosive situation, at least for now. And with theminor exception of Hillary’s efforts to block a 2009 minimum wage increase, Clinton’s challenger Bernie Sanders has ignored her ignominious record in Haiti to focus on inequality, health care, and other domestic issues.
But Haiti’s simmering electoral crisis is far from resolved. The interim government that took over in February faces growing hostility from Martelly and his allies — including paramilitaries who claim to represent the re-mobilized military.
A verification commission, convened against American wishes, is currently reexamining the election results for fraud: the United States and other international donors have responded by cutting off all non-humanitarian aid. The commission’s findings are due at the end of the month, and could be the spark that once again sets Haiti aflame.
Dismayed by the vehement international opposition to the verification commission, Antiguan diplomat Ronald Sanders warned that the search for an easy exit from Haiti’s election troubles could backfire.
“There can be no ‘quick fix’ in Haiti,” wrote Sanders in a recent editorial. “Indeed, it is the urge for quick fixes in the past and the desire to wash hands of the country that has kept it in constant turmoil and retarded its chances for long-term political stability and economic growth.”
Whether or not US officials heed Sanders’s warning, the underbelly of Clinton’s much-vaunted foreign policy experience is plain for all to see.
Public Health Comparisons:
U.S.: 60 percent
Hopital Albert Schweitzer: 125 percent
U.S.: 6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births
Haiti: 54 deaths per 1,000 live births
U.S.: 21 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births
Haiti: 350 deaths per 100,000 live births
Births accompanied by skilled attendants (%)
U.S.: 98.5 percent
Haiti: 37.3 percent total; 24.6 percent in rural Haiti
Sources: World Health Organization, UNICEF, HAS
Fleurilus Vilton Melyse trudges up and down miles of rugged, goat-track trails every week to deliver critical medical updates to some of Haiti’s most remote mountain communities.
Her primary directive this summer: Teach and motivate rural Haitians — most of whom lack electricity and Internet access — to thwart the spread of Zika, the mosquito-borne virus declared by the World Health Organization to be an international public health emergency.
Melyse, 45, is among 142 community health workers trained to do medical outreach for Hopital Albert Schweitzer, a 60-year-old institution in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley with Pittsburgh origins and a Strip District-based administrative staff.
Its 610-square-mile service area of about 350,000 people has combatted deadlier diseases in recent years, including HIV/AIDS and cholera, and mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue and chikungunya, which causes debilitating joint pain and is carried by the same mosquito type that transmits Zika.
Yet, to Melyse, who was born in these rural mountains and is a mother of five, Zika elicits a heightened sense of trepidation and urgency because of its link to severe brain damage in babies whose mothers carry the Zika virus during pregnancy.
“I won’t always be here. The children, the next generation, they will be here to support Haiti,” Melyse said in her native French, translated for the Tribune-Review by a hospital official. “It’s really important for us to prevent this, because if it has a negative impact on the children, it has a negative effect on all of Haiti.
“I don’t want that for my country.”
Bracing for an outbreak
Mosquito-breeding season has begun in Haiti. June is typically its wettest summer month.
“It’s upon us, and that’s not anything we can change the schedule on,” said John R. Walton, board chairman for HAS, which has scrambled since January to develop a three-year, prevention-focused strategy for addressing Zika. “We’re very nervous.”
International observers and local health care officials are bracing for a potential outbreak that could further devastate the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
Zika is transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti, a species of mosquito that thrives in tropical areas and exists in the southern United States, surfacing in warmer months.
The threat of widespread disease in Haiti is exacerbated by deficient water and sanitation systems, a severely under-resourced health care system and infrastructure that was weak or lacking even before the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions.
Haiti has had more than 2,000 suspected cases of Zika since Jan. 15, about a dozen involving pregnant women, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. As of last week, HAS facilities alone had logged 684 suspected cases of Zika.
“Women who are already pregnant are more scared,” Melyse said. “Women who aren’t pregnant, there is a sense of worry.”
‘Prevention is priority’
The CDC concluded in mid-April that Zika causes birth defects including microcephaly, an affliction in which babies are born with smaller than normal heads and often smaller, improperly developed brains.
Not all women infected by Zika have babies with microcephaly; however, there is no known cure, and experts estimate it could take 18 months to two years before a reliable vaccine becomes available.
“We can’t wait two years to deal with this,” Walton said. “The thrust of our work is to try to prevent women from being pregnant when they get bit the first time.”
Nearly 6,000 rural Haitians — about 5,000 of whom were women — attended 185 education sessions on Zika hosted by HAS community health workers in the past three months. The HAS staff members stand out in their approach because they also tap into a network of more than 300 matrones, the less formally trained but well-trusted birth attendants embedded within rural communities.
Community workers go over the symptoms of Zika — joint pain, itchy rash, red eyes — and urge anyone experiencing them to get to a health post for evaluation. They stress the importance of eliminating unnecessary standing bodies of water and protecting pregnant women from mosquito bites.
Basic protectants in the United States like screens on windows of air-conditioned homes are practically nonexistent for these Haitians, who must collect and purify their own water supply and clear their own trash.
Some standing water is merely a factor of subsistence farming.
“If you’re working in a rice paddy, it’s hard to say you’re going to eliminate the standing water; it’s not going to happen pretty much,” Walton said.
Women are being urged to participate in family planning and hold off on pregnancy if they want to minimize risks.
“The faster we can react and get people the family planning materials and information they need,” said Jayson Samuels, major gifts manager for HAS, “the more successful we can be at stemming the tide of this thing.”
The hospital’s Zika response plan — developed in January and revised this month — focuses on strengthening the health care system’s outreach capacity, increasing data collection and building partnerships with organizations that work with children with disabilities. It calls for increased training to ensure any pregnant woman who has contracted Zika receives an ultrasound 18 to 20 weeks into pregnancy.
The nonprofit health care group is heeding close attention to the budding development of low-cost tests, vaccines and so-called Zika kits — packs advocated by the CDC that include the likes of a bed net, insect repellent, standing water treatment tabs and condoms.
The hope of HAS officials is that if the region can hold off a major outbreak for two years, a majority of the population will develop antibodies making them immune to the disease.
HAS, whose roots date to 1956 as the brainchild of public health pioneer and Pittsburgher Larry Mellon, has a $6 million annual budget, with 550 Haitian employees and five based in the Strip District.
It has succeeded in stemming deadlier problems than Zika, namely the cholera epidemic that infected 8 percent of Haitians through contaminated water and killed more than 9,000 between 2010 and 2014. HAS, which treated nearly 5,000 people at the height of the problem in 2011, had less than 30 cases last year.
“We’re hoping to see the same kind of impact here with Zika,” said Walton, “so that if women have already been exposed and then become pregnant, it won’t be an issue.”
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514 or .
“This is the latest in a long history of U.S.-sponsored programs which have destabilized Haiti’s agricultural sector,” deplored the campaigners. | Photo: Reuters
Ostensibly a donation, flooding Haiti with peanuts could wipe out the country’s struggling domestic producers.
As part of its “Stocks for Food” program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to ship 500 metric tons of peanuts to Haitian schools, which could destroy Haiti’s peanut market and the livelihood and income of 150,000 peanut farmers and their families, warned the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a non-profit based in Boston, Massachusetts.
“This is the latest in a long history of U.S.-sponsored programs which have destabilized Haiti’s agricultural sector, further impoverishing the nation and increasing its dependence on foreign aid,” the group said in a statement, noting that “President Clinton had to apologize for one such misguided program in the 1990s.”
Echoing a message from the “Haitian diaspora,” the human rights group urged U.S. citizens to call their representatives and demand them to pressure the Department of Agriculture to immediately call off the program.
Meanwhile, other voices are speaking out against renewed U.S. interference in Haiti’s political crisis after U.S. proconsul Kenneth Merten visited the country last week.
Merten, U.S. State Department’s special coordinator for Haiti, discussed with various political leaders and members of the civil society the situation in the country, as an ad hoc independent commission was recently set up in order to evaluate serious allegations of massive fraud in the results of October first round elections.
“We hope it is very, very quick and does not change the results of the election,” Merten said.
Washington will have to “look very carefully at what we do moving forward” if there appears to be any manipulation, he said.
The election was postponed in January after sometimes-violent protests over allegations of fraud in the first round.
The results of the first round in October put Jovenel Moise in first place and Jude Celestin in second for a runoff, but Celestin and other candidates rejected the outcome as fraudulent. An interim government has been running the country since the last president’s term ended in February.
On Thursday, a top election official said Haiti willnot meet a deadline to complete its presidential election by April 24, without giving a new date to hold the already delayed vote in the impoverished Caribbean country.
Various political parties and organizations called for mobilizations on Wednesday in order to pressure an investigation into election fraud and to denounce U.S. interference in the political process.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, April 14 (Reuters) – Haiti will not meet a deadline to complete its presidential election by April 24, the top election official said on Thursday, without giving a new date to hold the already delayed vote in the impoverished Caribbean country.
The election was postponed in January after sometimes violent protests over allegations of fraud in the first round. An interim government has been running the country since the last president’s term ended in February.
“It is clear that the elections won’t take place on April 24, but we are still assessing the election machinery as we make decisions about the way forward,” the head of a newly appointed electoral council, Leopold Berlanger, told Reuters.
He said the delay, which comes after political battles over the formation of the interim government, meant that temporary President Jocelerme Privert would not hand over to an elected successor by May 14, as agreed in a cross-party deal to overcome the crisis.
“It is also clear that the fact that the elections won’t take place this month means it is impossible to have a new elected president by May 14,” Berlanger said.
The results of the first round in October put Jovenel Moise in first place and Jude Celestin in second for a runoff, but Celestin and several more of the 52 losing candidates rejected the outcome.
Before completing the process, the election council is overseeing a second evaluation of the results to test the claims of fraud and decide which candidates should take part.
Supporters of former president Michel Martelly and his favoured candidate, Moise, have protested in recent days, claiming Privert is dragging his feet so his allies can cling on to power. The protesters demand the election be held as soon as possible. (Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)
11 Apr 2016 – The Clintons’ high-profile interest in Haiti dates back almost all the way to their wedding in 1975. Shortly after their honeymoon in Acapulco, Bill and Hillary Clinton received an invitation from David Edwards — a friend and Citibank executive — to accompany him to Haiti.
Edwards’s motivation in getting the Clintons closer to Haiti was neither cultural nor humanitarian. The reason was Citibank’s long-standing financial interests in the country, which now go back over a century.
In 1909, the National City Bank of New York — Citibank — acquired a majority stake in the National Bank of Haiti, an institution that had been under French control and which, since 1880, held the power to issue paper money and to serve as central bank for the Haitian treasury. In 1914, Roger Leslie Farnham — in charge of the Caribbean region at Citibank — pressed Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan for Washington to militarily intervene in Haiti in order to protect U.S. interests. One year later, 19 years of occupation would begin for the country.
It was only the beginning of U.S. meddling in the affairs of its poorer neighbor.
In April 2009, the State Department, under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, decided to completely change the nature of U.S. cooperation with Haiti.
Apparently tired with the lack of concrete results of U.S. aid, Hillary decided to align the policies of the State Department with the “smart power” doctrine proposed by the Clinton Foundation. From that moment on, following trends in philanthropy, the solutions of US assistance would be based solely on “evidence.” The idea, according to Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, “was that if we’re putting in the assistance, we need to know what the outcomes are going to be.”
The January 2010 earthquake was the long awaited opportunity to test this new policy.
Mills was no development expert, but her connection to the Clintons ran deep. A graduate of Stanford Law School, Mills had been the unofficial manager of Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign and Bill’s defense lawyer during his impeachment. Despite having no training or experience in development economics, Rolling Stone reported a few years back, Mills “was determined to figure out a new way of doing things that would be more effective, both for the U.S. and for Haiti.”
The idea was to transform Haiti into a Taiwan of the Caribbean, with maquiladoras, an apparel industry, tourism, and call centers. These would be the niche sectors that would guide the new cooperation framework.
In this plan, the particularities of Haiti itself didn’t matter much.
Yet more than hope, there was certainty that the country would eventually conform to the plans being imposed by the Harvard Business School technocrats. Haiti was to fit within the parameters of capitalist efficiency: “Is this going to be hard? Yes,” Hillary Clinton tearfully told The Miami Herald. “Do I think we can do it? Absolutely, I do.”
The volunteering amateurism of the Clintons was so far gone that Bill publicly declared in a speech in Port-au-Prince that he would make Haiti the first fully Wi-Fi-connected country on the planet.
For the desired policy changes to work within a diplomatic framework, the veneer of “democracy” needed to be maintained. Ergo, Clinton and Mills played a heavy role in Haiti’s contested 2010 elections.
BOID–the new Tonton Macoute
I was present at a December 2010 meeting where the so-called “Core Group” of (initially the U.S., Canada, and France, but Brazil got a spot because of its role in the UN mission) plotted a coup against Haitian President René Préval, until then-Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive unexpectedly showed up. I intervened, citing the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter.
Legality and common sense had prevailed. But until when? My hopes were still alive and I did not notice that a common international front had formed; one that would decide Haiti’s electoral path.
After this failed attempt, the Core Group quickly came to realize the absurdity of attempting to depose Préval. Rewriting history, in the following days, several ambassadors, when asked about the topic, would shamelessly lie, denying its existence.
Finally, on Sunday, January 30, 2011, the unavoidable foreign actor in the recurring Haitian political crisis decided to put an end to the dispute. Hillary Clinton had arrived in Port-au-Prince.
The secretary of state had taken care to invite her colleagues, the foreign ministers from the other member-states of the Core Group, to accompany her in a delicate mission to Port-au-Prince. They all declined the gesture, alleging it would be impossible for them to fit the event in their agendas. However, this was not the reason for their refusal. Since the Haitian crisis had been detonated by the United States, even on the night of the election, it was Washington’s responsibility to resolve it.
After talking to several public figures, both Haitian and foreign, the head of the State Department knew that the last meeting before returning to Washington would be decisive. Préval awaited her in his simple office next to the ruins of the National Palace.
Former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide campaigns alongside Dr. Maryse Narcisse. (Daniel Morel)
Bellerive and Cheryl Mills were also present during the meeting in question – images of which are presented in Raoul Peck’s documentary Fatal Assistance.
Hillary Clinton began the meeting saying she was not interested in who would, or would not go on to the second round. What brought her to Haiti and to Préval was to try to offer him her advice and hear the allegations of his old friend of many battles. What mattered to her was to see that Préval emerged exalted from the crisis. Nothing else. She claimed she had made no commitments to the other actors involved in the crisis or even with the three presidential candidates, only to Préval and his future. He had been a constant and loyal ally. Now he was in a delicate situation, for they were accusing him of acting as a petty dictator, imposing an unknown candidate who had no representation and was manipulable.
For the woman in charge of US diplomacy, it must have been during those moments of uncertainty and difficulties that true friends were found. It was for this reason that Hillary was there, as a friend of Préval and of Haiti, as she always had been.
Towards the end of the meeting, she asked Préval to make a last gesture in favor of harmony and understanding. It was to be a gesture that would lead him, once and for all, to a special place in the pantheon of Haiti’s history and the struggle for democracy in the continent. Préval replied with an emotive, albeit enigmatic smile. It was only him who knew that the crisis had reached its epilogue at that moment.
As she was leaving the house, Hillary invited Bellerive to accompany her. The prime minister asked Préval for authorization to do so and placed himself between the two women inside the armored truck that left in a convoy to the airport. Confident that she had obtained what she wanted, Hillary was concerned now with the result of the second round. Bellerive removed all traces of apprehension when he informed her that Michel Martelly was going to win easily. And so he did.
As she was heading toward the plane, Hillary made a comment to Bellerive about his family relationship with Martelly. He confirmed that they were distant cousins. Since they were both educated individuals and the game was already over, the secretary of state allowed herself to make a joke and asked: “You are relatives, but you don’t sing?” Bellerive replied, humorously: “Neither does he.”
Hillary confessed having heard Martelly sing some songs and could not agree more with Bellerive. Then, smiling, she left Haiti.
Missing from the discussion of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s record has been her work in Haiti, where she blatantly manipulated and threatened Haitian government officials to control electoral outcomes. In that country, too, she and her husband have led the way in promoting a sweatshop-led development model.
Other Worlds has compiled a list of articles that take a closer look into Clinton’s work in Haiti and what her Presidency could portend for other nations. Take a closer look:
Clinton Emails Reveal “Behind the Doors Actions” of Private Sector and US Embassy in Haiti Elections
Recently released e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s private server reveal new details of how U.S. officials worked closely with the Haitian private sector as they forced Haitian authorities to change the results of the first round presidential elections in late 2010. The e-mails documenting these “behind the doors actions” were made public as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.
What Are We Missing About Haiti in the Hillary Emails?
The Fourth Estate is in foreclosure. The “who, what, where, when, and why” of traditional coverage is missing. A thorough analysis of what is redacted or completely missing in the Clinton emails is not forthcoming, and the real scandal resides in politically motivated reporting. It is time that the press wipe themselves clean of political bias and stop shouting about the paper tiger of wiped servers. To steal a quote from Hillary at the initial Benghazi hearing, “What difference does it make?”
A Look at Hillary (and Bill) Clinton’s Past in Haiti
Hillary Clinton might have some explaining to do before she can claim the top spot in the Democratic primary. Any pro-Hillary voters who prioritize moral plans for American foreign policy should probably look into the candidate’s past in Haiti.
Sunday, January 30, 2011. Two hundred thousand people occupied Egypt’s Tahrir Square, defying a military curfew to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Tunisia’s authoritarian leader had just been overthrown, unleashing a wave of anti-government protests from Yemen to Syria to Morocco. South Sudan’s provisional president announced his people had voted overwhelmingly for independence, clearing the way for the breakup of Africa’s largest country. Yet as Hillary Clinton rushed to Andrews Air Force Base to catch her battered government-issue 727, the secretary of state was not headed to Cairo, Tunis or Juba. She was going to Haiti READ MORE
Role of Hillary Clinton’s brother in Haiti gold mine raises eyebrows
Drive down the rutted dirt road a couple of miles to the guardhouse, then hike 15 minutes up to the overgrown hilltop, and there it is: a piece of 3 1/2 -inch-wide PVC pipe sticking out of the ground.
This is what, at least for the time being, a gold mine looks like.
It also has become a potentially problematic issue for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she considers a second presidential run, after it was revealed this month that in 2013, one of her brothers was added to the advisory board of the company that owns the mine.
Across the country from Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, miles of decrepit pot-holed streets give way to a smooth roadway leading up to the gates of the Caracol Industrial Park, but no further. The fishing hamlet of Caracol, from which the park gets its name, lies around the bend down a bumpy dirt road. Four years after the earthquake that destroyed the country on January 12, 2010, the Caracol Industrial Park is the flagship reconstruction project of the international community in Haiti. Signs adorn nearby roads, mostly in English, declaring the region “Open for Business.” In a dusty field, hundreds of empty, brightly colored houses are under construction in neat rows. If all goes as hoped for by the enthusiastic backers of the industrial park, this area could be home to as many as 300,000 additional residents over the next decade.
Contractors for Fruit of the Loom, Hanes and Levi’s worked in close concert with the US Embassy when they aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest-paid in the hemisphere, according to secret State Department cables.
The factory owners told the Haitian Parliament that they were willing to give workers a 9-cents-per-hour pay increase to 31 cents per hour to make T-shirts, bras and underwear for US clothing giants like Dockers and Nautica.
But the factory owners refused to pay 62 cents per hour, or $5 per day, as a measure unanimously passed by the Haitian Parliament in June 2009 would have mandated. And they had the vigorous backing of the US Agency for International Development and the US Embassy when they took that stand.
Haiti Artists Forge Int’l Reputation With Art Made of Junk
By DAVID MCFADDEN, ASSOCIATED PRESS, PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Apr 11, 2016
Amid a maze of car repair shops in Haiti’s gritty capital, Andre Eugene pitches a shredded tire he found atop a towering sculpture he built out of rusty engine parts, bed springs and other cast-off junk.
“This is what I do: I work with the garbage of the world,” says Eugene, assessing the largest sculpture displayed at the entrance of his studio and open-air museum off a crumbling street cutting through some of Port-au-Prince’s poorest neighborhoods.
The Haitian sculptor is a founding member of Atis Rezistans, a shifting collective of artists who recycle whatever useful scraps they can find to give a raw, physical shape to the spiritual world of Voodoo, or Vodou as the religion is known by Haitians, and weigh in on the country’s chronic political and economic troubles.
While Haiti’s established galleries were slow to warm to the scrap sculptors of the capital’s impoverished Grand Rue neighborhood, bustling with furniture-makers and other craftsmen, the artisans working with recycled materials have been embraced by a number of international art connoisseurs and academics.
Over the last decade, the work of Atis Rezistans has been exhibited in cities such as Paris, London, and Los Angeles. There are sculptures included in the permanent collections of museums, including the Frost Art Museum in Miami.
Haitian art has long had a reputation for imaginative richness, and wealthy international collectors including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and filmmaker Jonathan Demme sought out self-taught painters colorfully evoking the everyday lives of Haitians or depicting dreamlike scenes. And even though found-object creations have been part of the poor country’s art for decades, experts say there has been nothing like the in-your-face works of Atis Rezistans.
“Atis Rezistans takes an old practice in new directions, expanding the range of materials used and offering stunning new meanings for objects found in everyday life,” said Marcus Rediker, a collector of Haitian art and a distinguished professor of Atlantic history at the University of Pittsburgh.
The materials that form the sharp-edged sculptures include automotive fragments, carved wood pieces, broken TVs, discarded toys and even real human skulls collected at a cemetery of mausoleums where bones were scattered by grave robbers.
Many of their artworks are a nod to Baron Samedi, the Vodou god of the dead, and his rambunctious offspring, Gede. Others offer a kaleidoscope of jarring images out of a Mad Max movie: sculptures of faces with spikes; masked figures resembling shrouded corpses; broken baby dolls fused with computer motherboards.
But it’s not all darkness. There’s plenty of evidence of playfulness and irreverent theatricality, such as a skull-topped figure with a stethoscope, snake sculptures with scales of inlaid bottle caps and much frank sexual imagery.
Perhaps their most acclaimed collaborative creation has been a mashup of high art-meets-developing world called the “Ghetto Biennale.” Every two years, international artists come to the Grand Rue neighborhood in a kind of cross-cultural festival that leaves the door open for just about anything.
The Ghetto Biennale takes a form developed for European art fairs and radically subverts it, according to Anthony Bogues, a Brown University professor who co-curated a 2011 exhibition of Haitian art at the Providence, Rhode Island school.
“Art for them is not about the elite but rather recognizing that art is a language in which Haitispeaks to itself and the world,” Bogues said of Atis Rezistans.
Collaborations with overseas artists who come to Haiti have given younger members of the collective chances to tap into art networks across the globe, while international artists are stimulated by the Haitian group’s creative process.
“Their philosophy to turn trash into art, thus something seemingly worthless into something valuable, has inspired me,” said Alice Smeets, a Belgian artist who collaborated with members of Atis Rezistans to create staged photographs in Haitian slums that depict figures from tarot cards.
Eugene hopes that the praise gathered for the group he founded with Celeur Jean-Herard, who has since departed the collective, can now translate into enough earnings to upgrade his yard’s musty museum and improve the lives of members. and local youngsters dubbed “children of the resistance” who sculpt and paint.
Though he has traveled the world with his art, Eugene still lives in a small concrete shack next to his Grand Rue workshop and “Musee d’Art,” where many sculptures are caked with dust and swathed in cobwebs. Two turkeys and several cats were the only visitors one recent afternoon.
He calls Atis Rezistans a social “movement” that should expand opportunities for its artists.
“I don’t want to be famous,” Eugene said in his rain-slicked concrete yard in the poor neighborhood, shortly after returning to Haiti from an exhibit of a major piece in Milan. “Step by step, I am looking to make money so we can improve our situation here.”
by David Mcfadden The Associated Press, 2 min read, original
This Feb. 20, 2016 photo shows the dry, cracked lakebed of Trou Caiman, in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. A drought worsened by the El Nino weather phenomenon has driven Haitians who were already barely getting by on marginal farmland deeper into misery. An estimated 1.5 million people are going hungry as crop yields fall to lowest levels in 35 years in a country where two-thirds of people eke out a living from agriculture. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
“We get a little bit to eat and drink each day, but it’s never enough to get our strength back. I don’t know what to do anymore,” she said, her voice hoarse as she cradled her toddler twins, their hair brittle and taking on a yellowish tinge, a sign of malnutrition.
For the last three years, a punishing drought has driven Haitians who were already barely getting by on marginal farmland even deeper into misery. Last year’s crop yields were the worst in 35 years in a country where more than two-thirds of people eke out a living from agriculture, many using archaic hand tools.
Many Haitians routinely go to bed hungry, and are heartbreakingly accustomed to privation and natural disasters. But the cumulative impact of this drought is so severe that Haiti is facing “unprecedented food insecurity,” according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Over the last year, it’s worsened significantly with a strong El Nino weather phenomenon that’s been disrupting weather patterns across the globe, leaving many places in Latin America and the Caribbean stricken by drought. Cuba suffered its worst drought in over a century in 2015 and water rationing was ordered in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.
But few places are more vulnerable than Haiti, where 3.6 million of its 10.4 million people can’t afford the minimum daily calories, according to the U.N. World Food Program. Of those, 1.5 million are in urgent need of assistance, meaning they’re getting significantly less nutrition than what they need and are so underfed they become weak. That category of “severely food insecure” people has doubled in Haiti over the last six months, the agency said.
“This drought is a very dangerous situation. The pressures on people keep increasing,” said Haitian economist Kesner Pharel, noting that buying food makes up more than half of an average Haitian family’s budget.
Pharel said local agricultural production has contracted so severely over the last two years that 70 percent of the crops consumed in Haiti are now imported, up from roughly 50 percent in the past. With the local currency losing value, the cost of imports is rising, making everything pricier.
Officials say more rural families are being forced to join the decades-long exodus to cities. And diminishing calories means more children are vulnerable to infections like measles and any number of other diseases.
Wendy Bigham, country director of the U.N. World Food Program, said a growing number of farming families have been eating seed stock, seeking loans and selling items such as livestock and tools to get cash for food.
But “coping mechanisms such as reducing food consumption, selling assets and borrowing money are more and more difficult to sustain as the drought continues year after year,” she said.
In the wind-swept mountain town of Oriani in southeast Haiti, Joseph knows this all too well. About a year ago, her husband left to seek work in the neighboring Dominican Republic and he hasn’t returned since. She was forced to sell off her chickens and then her other meager possessions to buy food.
On a recent afternoon, Associated Press reporters met her at a town health clinic crowded with other women cradling children and waiting their turn to be seen. Her 2-year-old twins, Angelo and Angela, have missed developmental milestones such as taking their first steps or uttering their first words. On this day, she left with only deworming tablets because the facility was again out of nutrient-dense peanut butter.
At her family’s stone-and-timber shack, Joseph’s two older children, 10-year-old daughter Junel and 12-year-old son Stevenson, sprawled listlessly on a straw mat as her hungry twins tried to breastfeed. Joseph is so underfed and dehydrated that she can’t produce milk. “I only nurse them to comfort them,” she said.
To get emergency aid to people like Joseph and her children, the World Food Program is seeking $84 million in donations to distribute cash and food to roughly 1 million drought-affected Haitians. The U.S. has boosted its emergency aid to Haiti, awarding $11.6 million to nonprofits to address nutritional deficiencies for over 135,000 people.
The challenges of getting emergency food aid to struggling communities, even those accessible only by foot or donkey, is easier than finding elusive solutions to Haiti’s chronic hunger problems.
22 February 2016, Nia Imara and Robert Roth – Haiti Action Committee
“Reflecting on struggles everywhere, we came to the conclusion that a people can’t be sovereign if they don’t have the right to vote. No people can retain their dignity if their vote does not count.”From a Statement Issued by 68 Haitian Grassroots Organizations, Jan 22, 2016
The voice of Haiti’s popular movement at this critical period in the country’s history has never been clearer. For the past several months, since the discredited legislative and presidential elections of last August and October, mass, vibrant protests for the right to a free and fair vote and against foreign intervention have been a relentless force, in the face of heavily-armed and well-financed adversaries and mounting repression. The influx of articles and editorials in recent weeks by leading U.S. media outlets depicts the situation in Haiti as a confused, incomprehensible, morass of violence and dysfunction, with all sides being equally unreasonable in their demands. This misleading portrayal of Haitian politics and culture—indeed, of Haitian people—by American mainstream media is not new. Rather, it is a continuation of a historical pattern of obfuscating the underlying reasons for the grievances of Haiti’s mass movement, which has consistently denounced foreign intervention and the suppression of Haiti’s sovereignty.
The popular revolt in Haiti has forced the postponement of the January 24 presidential run-off election, to the dismay of the U.S. State Department and the current Haitian government of Michel Martelly, whose handpicked candidate had been declared the frontrunner. And now, on February 7, it has forced the end of the rule of Martelly himself, who has had to step down rather than oversee the next stage of the electoral process.
These are major victories for the people’s movement in Haiti. But already there are signs that the next round will be just as difficult as the fight has been already. The popular movement has made it clear that they have no interest in a top-down solution that excludes the participation and voices of the tens of thousands of Haitians who have risked their lives nearly every day in the fight for democracy. They have raised the fundamental question: How can elections proceed to a second round if the first round was hopelessly illegitimate? How can elections move forward without a thorough investigation and repair of the fraud that already took place? These are the critical issues being fought over today as Haitians celebrate the end of the Martelly dictatorship.
Background to the Revolt: Twelve Years Since the Coup, Twelve Years of Occupation
The revolt in Haiti has not emerged overnight. It is now almost twelve years since the U.S.-orchestrated coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and removed over 8,000 elected officials, and exiled, jailed, raped and murdered thousands of supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas Party. The coup was enforced by a United Nations military occupation that still exists today. It has been five years since Michel Martelly, a supporter of the brutal Duvalier dictatorships and their death squads, was selected as president; only 17% of eligible Haitian voters turned out in an election that excluded the most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas. Hillary Clinton, then the U.S. Secretary of State, flew to Haiti to dictate to Haitian officials that Martelly be placed in the election runoff after initial results had left him only in third place. His U.S.-backed reign has featured one corruption scandal after another, intimidation of the judicial system, the return of death squads, torture of political prisoners, selling off of oil and mineral rights to foreign corporations, and rule by decree.
Haitians have had enough of this. As they watched this latest election being stolen and a Martelly minion emerge as the leading vote getter, they took to the streets by the tens of thousands. As they saw ballot boxes burned and “observers” with 900,000 government-issued credentials vote over and over again, they declared the election an “electoral coup.” As they were turned away from one polling place after another, and told that they were not eligible to vote, they declared fraud.
While they joined the demonstrators in the streets, Fanmi Lavalas and its presidential candidate, Dr. Maryse Narcisse also filed a petition with the National Office of Electoral Litigation to challenge the results. All major opposition condemned the fraudulent elections and announced a boycott of the scheduled presidential run-off on January 24. As the demonstrations grew in size and scope, the Haitian government responded with increasing violence. Police fired into peaceful protests, and beat and tear-gassed those in the streets. Much of this has been met with silence by the international media.
When it comes to Haiti, the United States’ homegrown illness—racism—is cast outward. Just as the voting rights of Black people have been abused throughout American history, the US Government, through financial and diplomatic coercion, abuses the voting rights of Haitians. Just as the basic human rights of Black people—decent education, housing, healthcare, physical safety—are regularly undermined here, the US Government has directly and indirectly made efforts to extinguish fundamental civil and human rights in Haiti. Just as the State of Michigan forced the majority Black population of Flint to drink contaminated water while the EPA did nothing, so did United Nations troops dump their excrement into Haiti’s water supply with impunity, bringing cholera to the country with no reparations. The U.S. Government—from the Bush Administrations, to the Clinton and Obama Administrations—have routinely demonstrated, as a matter of policy, that Black lives matter in Haiti as little as they do in America.
The State Department: Talking Democracy, Promoting Fraud
The U.S. role throughout the electoral crisis is as predictable as it was after the 2010 earthquake, when the State Department sent then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to handpick a well-known misogynist and supporter of the Duvalier dictatorship, Michel Martelly, for president. With one hand, the U.S. State Department denounces the “violence” surrounding the elections, while the other hand has never ceased stoking the fires of electoral fraud and corruption. With one face, the US State Department encourages fair, free elections and discourages voter intimidation; with the other, it upholds electoral fraud and threatens the leadership of Haiti’s most popular movement.
The U.S. State Department has been the chief promoter of both the Martelly government and the fraudulent elections that Haitians have called an “electoral coup.” It has maintained its pro-Martelly stance despite the reports of independent human rights investigators that Martelly’s PHTK Party intimidated voters, stole ballots, burned ballot boxes and attempted to terrorize voters and suppress voter turnout in both the August 9 and October 25 legislative and presidential elections.
Now that the popular movement has finally brought these fraudulent elections to a temporary halt, the State Department has made its displeasure even more clear. On January 24, it issued a warning to demonstrators in Haiti against “electoral intimidation, destruction of property, and violence,” saying this runs “counter to Haiti’s democratic principles.” This is the same racist and paternalistic tone it has always used in Haiti—from the time of Haiti’s Revolution, to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, to the two coups that overthrew the democratically elected Aristide administrations in 1991 and 2004. This from the same State Department that was silent when peaceful protesters were killed, tear-gassed, beaten or arrested, or when Martelly’s agents terrorized voters and burned down polling places.
Hidden From The Headlines: Fanmi Lavalas and Dr. Maryse Narcisse
In addition, there has been near-silence about the remarkable campaign run by Fanmi Lavalas and its presidential candidate, Dr. Maryse Narcisse. A medical doctor and long-time Lavalas militant, Dr. Narcisse helped establish health clinics in rural communities. At the time of the 1991 coup, like many Aristide supporters, she went into the streets to protest the military and was briefly forced into hiding. When President Aristide was reelected in 2000, she joined his administration. Exiled after the 2004 coup, she returned in 2006 to help rebuild Lavalas and continues to serve as Aristide’s spokesperson. Day after day throughout this campaign, she has been in the streets with the people. Her campaign has emphasized “dignity”—that the Haitian people cannot be bought or sold, that, as President Aristide has said, “If we don’t protect our dignity, our dignity will escape us.”
The progressive achievements and agenda of Lavalas—setting up health clinics in poor urban and rural communities, advancing the fight against HIV/AIDS, promoting equality for women, literacy education for all Haitians, living wage employment, taxing the rich, and abolishing the Haitian Army—have made it the party of the poor majority in Haiti. The organized collective of dozens of grassroots organizations that compose Fanmi Lavalas make it much different from the elite political parties we are familiar with in the U.S. Fanmi Lavalas grew out of a nationwide mass movement to force out the American-backed dictator, Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, and to instill truly participatory democracy after years of rule by the elite and foreign intervention. In 1986, after decades of sacrifice and struggle against repressive regimes, Haitians succeeded in forcing out Duvalier and bringing about the nation’s first democratic elections. It was a hard-fought, hard-won victory when the great majority voted into presidential office Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1990.
Since then, the US organized two coup d’états against the Aristide administration, which again received an overwhelming mandate in 2000. Following each coup—in 1991 and 2004—the US Government helped to install a military occupation to suppress resistance, namely, Lavalas. In 1991, the US lent its support to paramilitary groups, many of whom were part of the Duvalier military—since disbanded by Lavalas—and the Haitian police. In 2004, the US, with the support of France and Canada, threw its full weight behind the United Nations, which, in Haiti, is an occupying force, not a peacekeeping mission. Over the last 12 years, that occupation, known as MINUSTAH, has overseen the attempt to destroy Haiti’s popular movement.
Lavalas still has a target on its back. In an article published by Reuters on January 26, 2016 an unnamed Congressional source told the news agency that, “The Obama Administration would be worried if he [Aristide] were playing an important role. They’re not thrilled with Aristide’s forces coming back.” This should be no surprise, given the leading role Lavalas has played in the democratic movement. After all, in 2011, it was President Obama who made a phone call to South African President Jacob Zuma, warning him not to allow President Aristide and his family to board a South African plane and come back to Haiti. When Aristide returned, he was greeted by thousands of people at the airport and then at his home. Once again, Haitians—and in this case the people of South Africa—did not obey.
What Next? A Time For Solidarity
During this campaign, Dr. Narcisse emerged as a formidable candidate. If there is a full investigation of the last bogus election, as Lavalas and grassroots organizations are demanding, the abundance of popular support for Dr. Narcisse is certain to manifest in the ballot box. If she ends up winning, she would be the first elected woman president in Haiti’s history.
That will only be possible if a transparent and credible process takes place over these next months. The “electoral coup,” after all, stole votes from candidates who represented popular organizations and parties. Any new election that repeats this process will be a new form of theft. With U.S. officials already decrying the “violence” of demonstrators and warning against new protests, and reports circulating of “solutions” that leave out the representatives of the very grassroots organizations and parties that have been at the forefront of the fight for free and fair elections, this is a moment for vigilance in Haiti. In their recent statement, 68 grassroots organizations in Haiti state their position very clearly:
“We say NO, WE WILL NOT OBEY ILLEGITIMATE OFFICIALS. Self-defense is a legitimate universal law. Civil-Disobedience is an accepted universal right when a people confronts an illegal regime. The right to elect a government is universally accepted as a way for people to protect its existence. Today, confronted by the danger presented by local and international colonialists, the Haitian people have started a RESISTANCE FOR EXISTENCE movement. They ask for people to people solidarity from everywhere on the planet.”
We should heed their call.
Nia Imara is a member of Haiti Action Committee, a San Francisco Bay Area based organization.
Robert Roth is a co-founder of the Haiti Action Committee, and teaches high school in San Francisco. The website of HAC is www.haitisolidarity.net
BOGOTA, Feb 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Around 3.6 million people in Haiti are struggling to feed themselves as three consecutive years of drought have ruined harvests and raised food prices, worsening hunger among the poor, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) has said.
The poorest country in the Americas, Haiti cannot produce enough food for its 10.4 million people in normal times, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians rely on international food aid to survive.
Acute water shortages caused by prolonged drought, made worse by the El Nino weather phenomenon, have cut food supplies and hit subsistence farmers hard. Three out of four Haitians live on less than $2 a day.
“Without rain for the 2016 spring season, farmers will lose their fourth consecutive harvest on which they normally depend to feed their families,” Wendy Bigham, WFP’s deputy country director in Haiti, said in a statement late on Tuesday.
The main 2015 harvest fell below average, with losses of up to 70 percent in some places, the WFP said. “In some areas of Haiti, up to 70 percent of the population is facing hunger.”
A recent study by the Haitian government and the U.N. Children’s agency (UNICEF) found that “malnutrition rates are above emergency levels in several communes,” the WFP said.
The food crisis comes at a time of political uncertainty and social unrest after Michel Martelly stepped down as president last week without an elected successor, leaving a deeply divided country in the hands of a disputed interim government.
Nearly 500,000 schoolchildren across Haiti rely on school meals provided by the WFP for their daily meal, and school meals make up the largest food safety net in the country.
The WFP has distributed food aid, including rice, sugar, oil and salt, to 120,000 people in drought-hit areas since November.
It says it will expand its programe by providing food and cash to one million Haitians facing hunger to help them cope with rising food prices.
The agency provides 200,000 Haitians with cash in exchange for work on watershed management and soil conservation projects to improve agriculture.
The drought has gripped other parts of the Caribbean and Central America, particularly parts of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The current El Nino, which began in early 2015, is one of the strongest on record and has also caused widespread crop losses in countries ranging from Ethiopia to Papua New Guinea.
(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
What is going on in Haiti? Anyone hoping to follow its political twists and turns from abroad may be forgiven for feeling confused: the politics of the Caribbean republic of more than ten million—the western hemisphere’s poorest nation, and the only one in the Americas patrolled by U.N. peacekeepers—are both fiendishly complex and almost wholly dysfunctional.
After an entire week in which Haiti had no President, the country’s lawmakers held a special session that dragged on for twelve hours and ended, early Sunday morning, with sixty-two-year-old Jocelerme Privert, a former Senate leader and opponent of former President Michel Martelly, being chosen to fill the role on an interim basis. Privert will govern until April 24th, when new Presidential elections are to be held. If all goes according to plan—which is not at all certain—the winner will assume office three weeks later.
Haiti’s latest crisis came to a head on February 7th, when President Michel Martelly left office after serving five rocky years at its helm. In his leave-taking ceremony, he said: “I now declare Haiti officially to have a power vacuum.” It was a characteristically blunt quip from a man who, throughout his Presidency, spoke his mind, and invariably caused offense. Before his own turn in politics, Martelly was best known asSweet Micky, a ribald performer of a lively brand of dance music known as compas. He won office in disputed elections held after the devastating January, 2010, earthquake, which killed over two hundred thousand Haitians and destroyed thousands of buildings in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
Coming out of a long history of dictatorships, Haiti’s current constitution prohibits its Presidents from serving more than one consecutive term, and so, although he certainly did not wish to, Martelly was obliged to step down. In the first electoral runoff, last October, his anointed successor, Jovenal Moïse, a banana exporter who campaigned as the Banana Man, came out ahead. A second round of voting was postponed twice, and finally scheduled for January 24th, but Moïse’s chief rival, a veteran Martelly opponent named Jude Célestin, vociferously denounced the October polls as having been rigged and demanded that new elections be held.
Célestin gained the support of several other parties’ candidates, and their followers began holding angry street demonstrations to voice his demands. Thanks to the mounting threats of violence on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Célestin’s gambit to thwart the second round was, in the end, successful. Two days before polls were to open, Haiti’s electoral commission called it off indefinitely. (Somewhat ironically, Célestin lost his place in the second round of the 2011 election to Martelly, after inspectors from the Organization of American States determined that many of Célestin’s first-round votes had been fraudulently obtained.)
A few days before the second round was due to take place, Martelly, whom I profiled recently for the magazine, called to talk about his hopes and fears. He was clearly worried about the political confrontation brewing with Célestin. He denied the accusations of fraud and vote rigging, and said that the opposition politicians were trying to force the cancellation of the second round so that an interim government, one that they could control, would be installed. He said that their plan would “bring chaos to Haiti,” and that was an outcome that had to be avoided at all costs. He saw it as his job, he said, to “reassure everyone and keep the country safe.”
Things didn’t go as Martelly wished. On February 7th, there was no new President to succeed him, and he was forced to strike a last-minute deal with Haiti’s parlimentary leaders to form an interim government pending new elections—precisely the scenario he said he feared.
Martelly, a clever man who appeared to have learned how to game the Haitian system, seems to have been outfoxed by his opponents. His critics accused him of all manner of nefariousness—from protecting traffickers to enriching himself with bribes and kickbacks—and even his staunchest defenders, which included American officials, conceded privately that some of the charges might be true. In fact, very few Haitians involved in politics are free of allegations of criminal behavior. Widespread public suspicion of malfeasance on the part of Haiti’s public servants has become the norm. With Martelly’s exit from power, on the thirtieth anniversary of the end of the Duvalier family dictatorship, Haiti remains a deeply corrupt and unequal place.
As for Martelly himself, not only was he denied the chance to exit gracefully, with a successor in place (“If there is continuity, I can come back,” he told me before the election), but Haiti’s annual Carnival was postponed because of the crisis, and he was unable to end his Presidency by joining in the festivities, and to “boom it out,” as he said he wished to do.
Even before leaving office, however, Martelly signalled his return to his old persona of Sweet Micky by releasing a new song, with salacious lyrics that taunted some of his media critics, including a prominent Haitian radio journalist and human-rights activist, Liliane Pierre-Paul. The song is called “Give them the Banana.”
At Jocelerme Privert’s swearing-in ceremony on Sunday, few of Martelly’s allies were on hand. Instead, the celebrating crowd was dominated by his rivals in Fanmi Lavalas (“The Flood”), a left-wing party that was founded by Haiti’s two-time former President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Privert’s political mentor. Whatever else he is, Privert is certainly a change in style from Martelly, who so despised Aristide that he once famously offered to “kill [him] and stick a dick up his ass.” At his inauguration, Privert struck a dutifully conciliatory tone: “We should welcome the peaceful and inclusive nature of this new step in resolving the crisis. Our patience has been severely tested this past few days, but our tolerance has been reinforced,” he said. My Presidency should be part of the logic of the need to return to constitutional normality.”
If only the Presidential election were the end of Haiti’s problems. Last week, the U.N. World Food Program (W.F.P.) warned that 1.5 million Haitians are at risk from severe malnutrition; the number has doubled since September, due to a combination of prolonged drought, the climate phenomenon known as El Niño—and, of course, the conditions of extreme poverty in which the vast majority of the population lives. It is Haiti’s worst food crisis in fifteen years. In some parts of the countryside, farmers have experienced crop failures of as much as seventy per cent, and in one of the worst affected areas scores of children have starved to death. The W.F.P. has launched an appeal for eighty-four million dollars to help stave off the crisis.
If the past is anything to go on, the U.N. will only manage to raise part of that money. After the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, foreign governments and international donor agencies made pledges of over thirteen billion dollars, of which less than six hundred and fifty millionreached the Haitian government. Even before the earthquake and the inadequate aid allocations, however, Haiti was in a state of chaos, and in so many ways that it had become difficult, even for relief experts, to see how to fix it. Whoever becomes the nation’s next President will become, in effect, the caretaker of a large slum.
During our several encounters in Port-au-Prince, Martelly was rueful about his own lack of achievements. He had decided, however, that the ultimate solution to Haiti was an ambitious program to educate its people. Nearly half of all Haitians are illiterate, and that, he said, had to change. “We need to have another Haiti in twenty years. Look at Cuba, it’s got all those qualified people. We’re living the opposite experience.”
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Journalists are taught in school to avoid euphemisms. When someone dies, they write that she “died” instead of “passed away.” But one euphemism that has become a fixture in U.S. news reporting is “the international community.” This is generally a substitute for the U.S. government, with or without some input from some of its allies.
Perhaps this is nowhere more true than in Haiti, where Washington has long exercised a veto over the country’s most important decisions. But last week the “international community” suffered a rare defeat when Haitians rejected Washington’s plans for a deeply flawed presidential runoff election to take place on Sunday, Jan. 24.
How did this happen? Basically, Haitians managed to put Washington in the situation of having to maintain that a runoff election with only one candidate, businessman Jovenel Moïse, would be legitimate, or postpone the election. As late as last Thursday, just three days before the election, U.S. officials were insisting that they would go forward even if the second candidate, engineer Jude Célestin, refused to participate. But he stuck to his boycott, and they backed down.
Célestin was also the candidate who finished second in the first round of Haiti’s 2010 presidential elections. But the “international community” had a different choice, and brought in an “expert” mission under the auspices of the Organization of American States to examine the results. Without a recount or even a statistical test of a ballot sample, it reversed the first-round results, eliminating Célestin and putting musician and businessman Michel Martelly into the runoff. Martelly went on to win the election and become president. Approaching the end of his five-year term, he is supporting Moïse as his replacement.
In last week’s events, it was not just the work of one person that forced Washington to back down. There were serious street demonstrations, condemnations from human rights organizations, religious leaders, business groups and the refusal of seven other presidential candidates from the first round to accept another episode of illegitimate elections. They had plenty of arguments and evidence on their side. In the first round of the presidential election, held on Oct. 25, local observers found massive irregularities and evidence of fraud. More than 900,000 observer credentials were distributed to political party representatives — effectively allowing them to vote multiple times. International reporters witnessed these passes being sold on the black market. In an election where only about 1.6 million people (26 percent of the electorate) voted, the legitimacy of the vote became doubtful.
Today’s electoral turmoil shows how much continuity there is with Haiti’s awful history.
It was even tougher to accept the election results after a commission appointed by Martelly found that only 8 percent of tally sheets that they examined were free from irregularities. The opposition did not all have the same demands but they wanted a new electoral council to lead the process and some reforms to make sure that the second round would be credible. Many observers have also demanded a serious examination of the first-round ballots to see if there was any basis for accepting the results.
No date for new elections has yet been set, and it remainsto be seen what will happen when Martelly’s term expires on Feb. 7.
The current fight for legitimate elections in Haiti is another episode of a long struggle for democracy that goes back to the U.S.-backed dictatorships of François and Jean-Claude Duvalier (1957-1986) and the overthrow of the country’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1991 and again in 2004 (with decisive support from Washington). And even further back, it is rooted in Haiti’s many conflicts with “the international community” since the country’s founding in 1804 from a slave rebellion, including its occupation by U.S. Marines from 1915 to 1934.
Today’s electoral turmoil shows how much continuity there is with this awful history. In a sense, the country remains occupied today by United Nations troops who were brought in not to help with reconstruction after the 2010 earthquake — as many people mistakenly believe — but six years earlier, to “keep order” after the constitutional government was overthrown, its officials jailed or forced into exile, and thousands of supporters killed.
It would be remiss not to mention the institutional racism that allows for such continuity. This is most painfully obvious in the response of “the international community” to a problem that they themselves created just five years ago: the cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 10,000 Haitians and infected hundreds of thousands more. Cholera had not been present in Haiti until some UN troops — not “aid workers” as some peoplealleged —dumped their human feces into the country’s water supply in 2010. Yet they refuse to come up with the money that would be necessary to provide clean water and resolve the problem, even though they have spent much more than this on maintaining their military presence in the country.
It is hard to see such twisted priorities as other than a statement that “Black lives don’t matter.” As with the elections, and USAID reconstruction funds of which only 1.6 percent went to Haitian organizations and companies, it seems that even in dealing with a deadly disease caused by these foreign governments’ own gross negligence, power and control over the country are the first priorities.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.
Is the struggling country’s flamboyant President a savior or a rogue?
A few months ago, a crowd of curious onlookers gathered on a newly built highway overpass in downtown Port-au-Prince. It was a humid afternoon, too hot to linger outside, but Haiti’s President, Michel Martelly, was scheduled to appear, and any appearance by Martelly was bound to be entertaining. Before being elected President, in 2011, Martelly was Sweet Micky, an extroverted singer of the ebullient dance music called konpa. A popular and bawdy showman, he appears in one typical video clip in a night club, dancing for the camera in a red bra and a yellow sarong. At one point, he feigns masturbating a giant phallus, then hoists an imaginary breast and licks it.
At the overpass, jeeploads of riot police fanned out, and workmen set up a red carpet and a lectern with the Presidential seal on it. Martelly was coming to inaugurate the Delmas Viaduct, a four-lane bridge over a deep gully at the base of Delmas, a densely populated hillside neighborhood. As the crowd grew, a rara band, a squad of dreadlocked teen-agers, showed up to blow horns and beat drums. Martelly, who is fifty-four, arrived in a pink-and-white checked shirt worn untucked over black jeans. His shaved head gleaming, he cut a casually hip figure amid an entourage of plainclothes bodyguards and officials in suits. At the microphone, he spoke in guttural Creole, a French patois that is Haiti’s primary language. “This viaduct proves once again that together we can achieve great and beautiful things,” he said. “More than a dream, more than a project, this viaduct is now one of the symbols of Port-au-Prince.”
Martelly’s Presidency has been predicated on rebuilding. He took office a year after the January, 2010, earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, killing perhaps two hundred thousand people and leaving millions homeless. The disaster drew the world’s attention to Haiti’s long struggle—and, to some extent, offered a chance for a fresh start. In a survey of American voters, more than half reported donating to help repair the country; Bill Clinton, whose family foundation is deeply involved in Haiti, announced the hope that it could “build back better.” But Delmas, like much of Port-au-Prince, has been at best partly repaired. Even as the new overpass was unveiled, tens of thousands of residents were still displaced. As Martelly finishes his term in office, Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Some sixty per cent of its ten million citizens live in poverty. Nearly half are illiterate, and only one in four has access to a toilet.
In Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, the wheels of economic progress grind forward slowly. In the case of a newly-rehabilitated flour mill in Port-au-Prince, however, those grinding gears can actually be seen and heard.For a nation struggling with hungry citizens thereopening of the Moulins d’Haiti (LMH) flour mill isn’t small potatoes. The mill was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake, and rebuilt at a cost exceeding $75 million by a consortium that includes U.S. companies, Seaboard Corp., and Continental Grain Co.
Now, in the years since the reopening of the mill, the price of flour has stabilized and supply has increased, meaning more, cheaper flour available to Haitians.
Meanwhile, Haiti struggles with the insidious and negative effects of what could fairly be labelled as “over-aid” from its developed friends, especially the United States. Since 2010, hundreds of millions of dollars and dozens of metric tons of food have poured into Haiti from the U.S. in an effort stave off life-threatening hunger in the disaster-weary nation.
However, as early as 2010 the Haitian government called for an end to current food aid. Despite the unpopularity of this in Haiti, this appeal has been echoed by outside organizations. Haitian farmers growing staple foods already face disadvantages in cost versus imports ofsubsidized rice from the U.S., and the massive quantities of food distributed by aid organizations have not made it any easier for Haiti to learn to support itself again.
So what are the bright spots in a situation that seems rife with complications?
First, the new LMH mill, which is nearly 25 percent more efficient than its predecessor. Despite difficult and possibly unfair competition from the Dominican Republic, the LMH mill is a true step towards solving the Haitian hunger problem.
A second bright spot can be found in an unassuming little Haitian fruit—the Francique mango—which is a Haitian delicacy as suitable for export as it is for helping to bridge the gap between the caloric deficits that many Haitians face daily.
Non-profits, in a refreshing move away from the “over-aid” model, are working with farmers to increasedomestic production and to expand overseas markets for the product. Some farmers have tripled production and last year it was found that, for the first time, Whole Foods was able to import over 50 percent more mangoes to U.S. supermarkets than it had originally planned.
Lastly, a shift can be observed in the aid model through which Haiti has been simultaneously supported but also stifled during the previous years.
Institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have instituted projects to develop the infrastructure and the capacity for Haitians to achieve sustainable long term, private-sector-led economic growth through the production of value-added and marketable products.
Nobel laureate, Harvard economist, and philosopher Amartya Sen once wrote: “the challenge is to respond to the plight of the hopelessly impoverished without neglecting to insist that help come in useful and productive forms.”
For our Haitian friends, that help must be multi-dimensional and not create the dependency that accompanies traditional foreign aid models.
To paraphrase the old Chinese axiom, Haitians must learn how to fish and not just be given cans of tuna.
The deeper truth is that most Haitians do know how to fish (in fact, many who escape that country’s deeply corrupt business environment become successful entrepreneurs). But back at home they need access to a boat – which for Haitians means securing greater property rights and rule of law at home while gaining greater access to world markets.
James M. Roberts is the Research Fellow in Freedom and Growth at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for International Trade and Economics. Roberts’ primary responsibility is to produce the Index of Economic Freedom, an influential annual analysis of the economic climate of countries throughout the world.