Haiti: or when the US cares about corruption
And therein lies the problem with Haiti: massive corruption.
There are nine million Haitians on the island, so there’s enough aid to provide for all of them. The nation could be a tourist mecca. It is rich in folklore and culture, including voodoo. It has the Caribbean Sea and very nice people. But there is little tourism in Haiti.
My travels there have been illuminating. Only half the population can read and write. Unemployment’s more than 50 percent. Most Haitians live on less than $2 a day. No matter how much charity is given, no matter how many good intentions there are, Haiti will remain chaotic until discipline is imposed.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Bill O’Reilly, demonstrating why anyone watching Fox News cannot possibly understand even the most basic world history. I would recommend reading Billy’s entire Talking Points update, except I’m a bleeding heart liberal so I believe in human rights and thus opppose torture.
But I assure you there is no mention of slavery, The World Bank, IMF, or how the United States saddled Haiti with debt. Or how deforestation led to buildings sliding down hills during the quake. None of it. Why cloud a good diatribe with pesky facts?
Bill is right that the Haiti government is very corrupt. Given the history of exploitation in Haiti, corruption is to be expected. However, since when does America care about corruption? The US supports some of the most corrupt regimes in the world, including the cartoonishly fraudulent Karzai regime. That’s without going into the plethora of despotic monsters the US has supported throughout the decades.
Actually, one need look no further than Haiti to see a shining example of a US-supported — one might even dare to say “corrupt” — tyrant torturing his own people. François Duvalier, the leader installed by the US, was responsible for the deaths of around 30,000 people and the exile of thousands more. Corrupt? Sure. But he was our nightmare.
This is not to excuse corruption, of course. Corruption is a very bad thing that prevents aid from getting to the people who need it most. However, people like Billy use the “corruption” card as an excuse for why the US shouldn’t help Haiti, which is ridiculous.
Pretend the US is not so prosperous and rich (even during a recession, the US is still the wealthiest country in the world). Another hurricane of Katrina magnitude slams into the coast line. Thousands are displaced. Hundreds die. If closest ally, Britain, were to apply Billy’s standard of anti-corruption to the US, would they send aid?
Let’s see: An elite that hordes most of the wealth? Check. Government officials taking bribes, engaging in money laundering, and accepting donations from the private sector they’re supposed to be reforming/regulating? Check. Double check. Triple check.
I’m pretty sure we’d be left to die. That, of course, would be unjust. It’s not Susan from Iowa’s fault that certain members of Congress are corrupt, nor is it the fault of millions of Haitians that their country has been so systematically destroyed by the west that they’re now at the mercy of a corrupt political class.
It’s nice that Billy likes Haiti, a country he appears to think is made up of voodoo priests and priestesses. But I’m wondering what Daddy Bill thinks “discipline” means? What does master want his voodoo children to do? Please, Jesus, don’t let it involve a loofah.
Maybe we can start publicly whipping people accused of corruption. No, you know what? Those people can’t even be trusted to determine their own fates. Let’s just reinstate slavery.
The “Haitians are lazy or undisciplined” language is — at the worst — extremely racist, and at the least highly inaccurate.
The level of human activity was tremendous. People were up at 5:30 A.M. walking to their favorite market spot, setting up lines of old Salvation Army clothing to sell, picking bananas to take to market, and bringing in small catches of fish from the beautiful capes and bays. Troy charcoal fires smoked up the towns and cities, children were off on errands, and women bartered and sold their produce.
In the midst of all this were the lines of children, all dressed in identifiable private school uniforms, walking to open air one-room school houses.
It’s no sitting in an air-conditioned studio for an hour, shouting one’s thoughts at a camera, but it does seem like industrious work. If anything, Billy should probably admire Haitians more because they’re not on welfare.
In Billy’s rant, we again see the “Blame Haiti” language as though they invited themselves to be exploited post-revolution — as though they begged to be saddled with debt from the west.
I agree with David Brooks’s assessment (latent racist remarks about some cultures being “progress-resistant” aside) that the solution cannot be to throw money blindly into the night, and that revolutions start from the bottom. The US cannot impose its will (even the generous aspects of its will in the form of aid) from abroad.
First, any aid that does go to Haiti should be grants, and not loans. Adding more debt to Haiti will only worsen the situation. Neo-liberal vultures like the Heritage Foundation should not be permitted to swoop in and impose their crazy schemes on vulnerable Haitians. Second, change has to begin at a local level.
That’s only going to happen if Haiti can produce goods and feed its own people. Back in 2008, the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Jacques Diouf, blamed the global food crisis on “inappropriate” policy decisions over the past two decades.
He said Wednesday that while investment in agriculture has been sharply reduced in poor countries, wealthy countries have maintained generous farm subsidies. An official from the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Rolf Traeger, faulted the Structural Adjustment Programs prescribed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for gutting agricultural production in the developing world.
It’s seems like an axiom, but it bears repeating: people have to be able to grow their own food.
Thirty years ago, Haiti had all the rice it needed. Then in 1986, Haiti turned to the IMF for a loan. Now, after cutting tariff protections on local rice, Haiti imports most of its rice from the United States, which in turn remains heavily subsidized. US rice farmers get one billion dollars a year in government subsidies. Meanwhile in Haiti, hungry people are rioting in the streets because they cannot afford to buy rice.
If those tariff protections were reinstated and Haitians were permitted to grow their own rice, poverty and hunger would both greatly decrease. A good example of this strategy working is Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Movement. Over the last fifteen years, Cuba has developed one of the most successful examples of urban agriculture in the world.
The necessity for Cuba to turn to urban and organic agriculture in the early 1990s is both well known and understood. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the ending of trade with COMECON on rather favorable terms spelled the end of the Soviet-style, large-scale, industrial agriculture that Cuba had been practicing since at least the 1970s. Almost overnight, diesel fuel, gasoline, trucks, agricultural machinery, spare parts for trucks and machinery, as well as petrochemical-based fertilizers and pesticides, all became very scarce. In view of the severe crisis in food production, a shift to urban agriculture seemed an obvious and necessary solution: urban production minimized transportation costs and smaller-scale production minimized the need for machinery. Agro-ecological production (applying the principles of ecology to agricultural practices), in part, necessitated production sites near the living areas of large concentrations of people, and at the same time avoided the use of toxic petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, which were no longer available.
The urban agriculture movement produced 409,668 tons of fresh vegetables and herbs in the first quarter of 2009, and is now working to offer products even at the height of the northern summer season.
At least targeted aid into urban agriculture is a place to start. Or we can keep accusing Haitians of being lazy, corrupt black people unworthy of our cash. Does Karzai’s opium-dealing brother need more money?