Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

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Special mention

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Special mention

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The Wall Street Journal, it seems, can’t get enough of Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

Just last week, the editorial board published a statement in which they argued Egyptians would be fortunate if their newly installed military government behaved like Pinochet’s.

As it turns out, they expressed their admiration for Pinochet in an earlier opinion piece, published in 2010 [ht: mfa] arguing that Chile had survived its earthquake better than Haiti had because of the years of Pinochet dictatorship:

One reason is luck, as the quake hit offshore and away from populated areas, save for the city of Concepción. But even in that city of one million, the death toll might have been worse. That it wasn’t is due in part to Chile’s stricter building codes, which have been developed over long experience with quakes along the Eastern Pacific fault line. Chileans have prepared well for the big one.

But such preparation is also the luxury of a prosperous country, in contrast to destitute and ill-governed Haiti. Chile has benefited enormously in recent decades from the free-market reforms it passed in the 1970s under dictator Augusto Pinochet. While Chileans still disagree about Pinochet’s political actions, they have not repealed most of that era’s economic opening to the world. In the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, compiled by the Heritage Foundation and this newspaper, Chile is the world’s 10th freest economy. Haiti ranks 141st.

There is, of course, no mention of the brutality of the dictatorship itself—or, for that matter, of the fact that Chile currently has one of the most unequal distributions of income in all of Latin America, which is a legacy of the way the economy was restructured (with the help of Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys) under Pinochet. As for Haiti, the fact is the country was unprepared precisely because of the legacy of a pair of U.S.-backed dictators and of the successful implementation of “free-market” reforms.

But facts certainly won’t stand in the way of the Wall Street Journal‘s sympathy for the dictator Pinochet.

Cartoon of the day

Posted: 16 January 2011 in Uncategorized
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Haiti still shaken

Posted: 10 July 2010 in Uncategorized
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Monday it will be six months since Haiti’s devastating earthquake, and there’s been little improvement for the people most severely affected. In fact, for many, the situation has gotten even worse.

CNN reports that 1.5 million people remain homeless, living in some 1,300 tent camps.

Many are on private property and the crisis is pitting landowners against the desperate.At another tent camp pitched on private property, Aline Masselin washes clothes by hand in a plastic basin that sits on a dirt floor. She has lived in this camp since the night of the quake. Her daughter, Alexandra, was born here just weeks later.

Recently, a judge showed up at the site, warning the homeless it was time to go and that the owner was fed up. They missed the deadline to leave, and still they are waiting without a place to go. At a nearby camp, another landowner successfully evicted a group of homeless.

Canada.com, for its part, reports that, of more than $5 billion pledged by international donors to aid in the recovery, just two per cent has been delivered.

Plans by President Rene Preval to move tens of thousands of displaced Haitians into new semi-permanent communities have foundered due to myriad factors — from the government’s lack of capacity, to land disputes to resurgent corruption.

An interim reconstruction commission headed by former U.S. president Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive held its first meeting only in June.

They report the same conflict with private landowners.

Several hundred families at Automeca [a camp off the main road to the airport, so named because it sprang up on land once occupied by car dealerships] agreed to leave after the landowner offered them $200. The newly-vacant land is now being cleared for conversion into a parking lot and gas station.

The problem is many camp residents who are forced to move have nowhere better to go.

“The landlord said if they don’t move, he will come with a bulldozer,” Innocente says.

“We can’t do anything because the landlord is rich. He can buy anyone.”

Mark Schuller does describe some signs of hope, such as “uniformed schoolchildren once again walking to and from school” and there is more electricity due to the clearing of some rubble. However, he also reports that life in the camps has gotten worse.

Three days and nights in a row, it has rained very heavily. We’re in the middle of the summer rainy season, with heavy rains and winds buffeting the deforested mountains and washing away the mounds of rubble not picked up for lack of dump trucks (these large piles are also the cause of random and severe blokis — traffic jams).

At one particular camp, St. Louis de Gonzague, half of the people were forced out in April, to accommodate the school’s reopening. The school penned in a smaller area with an eight-foot chain link fence so it was still crowded. The air was thick and heavy, smelling of mud and swarming with flies. There was simply no way not to get your shoes full of mud. Large pools of water forced people to wait for people to pass by. This was on the main corridor, some two meters wide. By the tents the mud was everywhere. The heavy rain and wind have clearly taken their toll on many of the tents. Many of them were ripped from the bottom up, held together by a patchwork of tape. Others were stained halfway up or more with mud. Some had fallen so far into the mud that they were no longer usable.

Also since April, the government decreed the end of emergency food aid. So what little people received has vanished. Consequently, there were paltry signs of economic activity. A few timachann lined the central alleyway in the camp, but they were selling the cheapest items imaginable: crackers, cookies, hard candy, etc.

In other words, Haiti 6 months after the earthquake has gone back to being the Haiti of extreme inequality, ruled for the benefit of the few at the expense of the majority. Apparently, all that has changed is that hundreds of thousands of victims of the earthquake are now buried and millions of survivors are doing what they can to keep going, housed in tents without jobs or food—until they’re evicted by the landowners.

In unity there is strength

Posted: 12 February 2010 in Uncategorized
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Mark Schuller has an update [ht: lm] on the situation in Haiti (his previous analysis is here).

While aid was being blocked, Haitian people – survivors, not victims – took very good care of themselves. Already a proud, generous, and resourceful people, Haitians got over their very intense divisions in order to survive. I was in Haiti for the 2004 coup and can attest to the very real divisions over Aristide, but the biggest divisions and most dire concerns for Haiti’s poor majority have been economic. Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas – with 4 out of 5 people making 2 dollars per day or less – but it is also home to the most millionaires per capita. It is not a coincidence. For the moment at least, in my neighborhood at least, both political and economic divisions have become the ancien régime. In the new Haiti, middle class and pèp la (Haiti’s poor majority) are all sleeping on the ground, looking out for one another and sharing what resources they have. By themselves, people in my neighborhood set up a medical clinic and an information gathering apparatus. I have more hope than ever that Haitian people will survive this crisis because I have seen what Haitian people are accomplishing on their own, together.

But the survivors’ resources are indeed limited. Particularly urgent are food and water. This is where foreign aid in whatever form is urgently needed at the moment, in addition to medical needs. Partners in Health and French NGO Doctors without Borders are doing great work delivering this critical need. I went to my neighborhood in Haiti to and with Hospice St. Joseph as part of a grassroots medical team that was coordinating with Partners in Health. This team delivered aid to 1,000 people in a week. Many grassroots efforts to give aid to Haiti are underway, but the scale is still too great for the grassroots at the moment. The U.S. military is the most efficient and effective agency to deliver aid to Port-au-Prince at the moment, but especially since Haiti has been occupied following the coup in which the Bush government played an important role, survivors have no reason to trust them. I am told that big U.S. NGOs who used to deliver food aid to the countryside are poised to do the same in Port-au-Prince. The old plan – P.L. 480 – not only didn’t work, it actually hurt the peasant economy. So this “cutting-the-cake” plan has to learn the lessons of the past and not repeat the mistakes of hoarding, corruption, high overhead, and creating “big men.” And they have to be in direct contact with the grassroots, who are organizing. NGOs’ role should be one of support, not direction, decisions need to be made out in the open, and the NGOs’ points of contact must be fluent in Haitian Creole and have at least some understanding of Haiti. At bare minimum the Haitian survivors need the respect that they deserve, as a people who have survived despite very many obstacles, including those imposed by foreigners.