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Different US strokes for Haiti
Posted: Monday, January 19, 2004

By Ulric Guy
Point Fortin

TT received a direct order from President Bush that we take care of Haiti, or words to that effect. This was after the US had exhausted its financial aid to Haiti, not to mention the batches of US law officers shipped to Haiti with the expertise to assist the people of Haiti.

The US law officers primary purpose was to assist in the policing of the Haitian society; which sad to say met with very little success. Continuing efforts by the US to bring Haiti out of its anarchic confinement have so far proven futile. Why did the US choose to use logistics in addressing the Haitian crisis instead of implementing an open-door immigration policy with Haiti, the same as it did with the Russian Jews, Cubans and Chinese ("boat-people")? The latter converged on the US in boats by the thousands where there were all given legal immigration status.

The illegal immigrants from Haiti arriving in the US expecting the same favourable treatment as their predecessors did not share the same fate. They were immediately interned under conditions befitting war prisoners; in facilities unfit for animals that resembled boot camps. Fervent pleas from the Haitians for refugee status from persecution from the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti fell on deaf ears. A few of the illegal immigrants were processed and granted legal immigration status, while those who failed to find favour with the US immigration officials were returned to Haiti. Even a well orchestrated national outcry highlighting the discriminatory actions taken against the Haitians was downplayed without any form of redress.

Not too long ago Russian Jews were shipped into the US under the guise of fleeing persecution in Russia from the then communist (atheist) government. On arrival in the US, these Jews were provided with jobs, along with adequate housing facilities. The state of Israel enjoys an enviable relationship with the US. The US has been providing Israel with substantial financial aid for many years, with no restrictions whatsoever. Israel is free to run the country without any pressures from the US. Despite the US benevolence towards Israel, it has not been able to demand that Israel sit down with the Palestinians for a peaceful accord, for the resolution to an intermittent civil war was between both countries that has persisted in the Middle East for decades; resulting in mayhem and immeasurable loss of lives.

With all the politicking that is in the mix with regard to the Haitian crisis, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan put his finger on the problem when he said the Haitian situation can only be resolved by the Haitian people. It is my view that Haiti must first address illiteracy and witchcraft (voodoo) which would ultimately lead to the eradication of poverty in the country. There is a saying: If you make things too easy for people, you automatically make it too difficult for them. We should all be conversant with the acronym kiss - keep it simple and sincere. I must digress a bit and return to President Bush's remark that TT because of its wealth, is in a position to make a greater contribution to Haiti. The US annual budget is in the trillions. It is unquestionably the wealthiest country in the world. In spite of all of this, the US is saddled with its Mississippi-Yazoo Delta and Appalachia with deprivation and poverty that can easily rival that experienced in Haiti; which is far more pronounced than the situation in Haiti because of the affluence that predominates the US. What would make TT a worthwhile benefactor to address the poverty in Haiti with its annual budget hovering around $2.4 billion? When the US with an annual budget in the trillions has to live with its Mississippi-Yazoo Delta and Appalachia?

I could not help noticing that in spite of the presence of Caricom representatives who were at Haiti's 200th Anniversary ceremony as observers, and TT being burdened with the responsibility of doing more for Haiti; the importance of Caricom and TT was upstaged by the prominence of the South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was shown walking hand in hand with the President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide at the Anniversary ceremony. An indication that in spite of the pivotal role governments in the region are called upon to play in rescuing Haiti from its demise, the TT Government along with Caricom observers were treated as "second class citizens." This may be "voodoo" politics, which no matter how we cut it, should not be viewed as modern day politics. There is another saying; that a picture is worth a thousand words.

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