Haiti: The Aid Masquerade

By Kerry Trueman
January 14, 2010 – Green Fork

HaitiThe horror in Haiti is beyond anything we can imagine in the U.S., but this apocalyptic catastrophe has something in common with Hurricane Katrina; in both cases, a terrible natural disaster was made infinitely worse by human negligence and incompetence. How many thousands of Haitians could have survived the earthquake if the country weren’t crippled by chronic poverty, shoddy infrastructure, environmental degradation and a host of other ills that have plagued Haiti for centuries?

Many Americans are rushing to send relief and expressing compassion for the devastated nation. But some influential public figures have done just the opposite. Pat Robertson has stated that Haiti brought this tragedy on itself through “a pact with the devil,” while Rush Limbaugh derides the notion that we should provide any further aid to Haiti because, he says, “We’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.”

Limbaugh apparently thinks that we’ve already done more than our share for Haiti. It’s a shame to see him use his massive platform to perpetuate this idea, because the reality is that much of what we have done in the name of “aiding” Haiti has in fact been far from helpful.

As Tracy Kidder notes in a New York Times op-ed, many of the projects undertaken ostensibly on behalf of the Haitian people “seem designed to serve not impoverished Haitians but the interests of the people administering the projects.”

Consider, for example, the food aid we send to Haiti. Aljazeera’s Inside USA program ran a report last July called The Politics of Rice that explains how seemingly good intentions can have disastrous implications:

Twenty years ago, Haiti produced enough rice to feed its population. Importing rice from other countries like the US was unheard of.

Today, this country of less than 10 million people is the third largest importer of US rice in the world – 75 per cent of the rice eaten in Haiti is shipped in from the US.

Great for farmers in places like Arkansas and Missouri but devastating for farmers in the Artibonite valley, which used to be Haiti’s rice bowl.

In short, it has been our government’s policy to encourage Haitians to give up farming in rural areas and move to crowded cities like Port-Au-Prince to work in sweatshops manufacturing cheap garments for the US and other markets.

The logic behind this policy is that it’s more “efficient” for US agribiz to produce rice than the small Haitian farmers, and that working in a sweatshop gives Haitians a way to participate in the global economy.

Unfortunately, this approach to “aid” has compelled thousands of Haitians to migrate to overcrowded slums and work in miserable conditions. It also left them vulnerable to fluctuations in the global food supply recently, when rising fuel costs and droughts drove up the price of rice.

Annie Leonard, the environmental activist who created the Story of Stuff video and has a superb book by the same name coming out March 9th, documents the terrible consequences of this misguided philosophy in her book:

…global rice prices tripled over a few months in early 2008, leaving thousands of Haitians simply unable to afford this staple food. The newspaper ran haunting images of Haitians who had resorted to eating dirt pies, held together with bits of lard or butter, in order to have some substance in their stomachs.

Had we devoted our resources to “supporting farmers in developing sustainable farming practices, rather than investing in infrastructure and policies favoring garment factories and export processing,” Leonard concluded, “a drought in Australia would not have made people starve in Haiti, half a planet away.”

Haiti lies in ruins and we have played a role in fostering the conditions that helped reduce this troubled nation to rubble. Now’s the time to make amends for decades–if not centuries–of neglect and exploitation. Find out here how you can help.

Source: Green Fork

9 thoughts on “Haiti: The Aid Masquerade”

  1. I hear all about the centuries of exploitation etc, but in modern times it would be impossible to “exploit” any country without the direct assistance of that country’s govn’t. Castro’s Cuba is not being exploited, Chavez’s Venesuela is not being exploited. We must stop blaming others for our problems. It’s like here in T&T, people say that the UNC is responsible for the failure of the corrupt PNM regime. I agree, that outsiders have exploited the peope of Haiti, and I understand, somewhat how US foreign policies can affect the progress of developing nations, but I am not going to blame anyone for problems without accepting that some of that blame must be placed with the govn’ts of these countries.

    1. Castro’s Cuba is surviving on “old Money” and remittances from a very strong Cuban in America population. It shows that you need to read a little more into the histories of these countries. You cannot seriously compare Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti. The French, The United States, and the English all boycotted Haiti. Spain lacked the resources and the need to trade with Haiti. Even if they wanted to, the other world powers would have frowned upon it to say the least. The U.S. has had its hands in Haiti since it built the presidential mansion that collapsed.
      At any rate and history aside, France and other nations were beginning to invest heavily in Haiti. Haiti was five to ten years away from joining the modern world as long as they didn’t have serious civil unrest. The UN was there and foreign investors were knocking b the dozens. I only hope that everything works out.
      TNT is a much different case.

  2. Who kidnapped the President of your country and dumped him in Africa? If the Americans came for MAnning in the middle of the night, would you grb a machete are try to defend him, or would you cheer. Does the American CIA have or had an office inside the President’s residence? or in the new Prime Minister’s residence. Please do not talk nonsense.

    1. I would not grab anything to defend him, I would cheer, just kidding. Seriously now, I maintain that all that is outlined COULD NOT happen without the assistance of leaders within those countries. I can tell you that opposing forces would readily accept “US occupation” for their own selfish gain (to gain power for example). I am maintaining that we cannot simple put the blame solely on “US/CIA” whatever.

      1. Do you know what a puppet government is? The U.S. tried this in Vietnam and was defeated after a long violent conflict now called the Vietnam War.

        1. What is a puppet govn’t?? is it one formed from leaders of the country in question? If it is, then my assertion stands, no outside occupation can take place without the direct assistance of a country’s leaders, who would facilitate this for their own political gain, and people would have voted for these leaders albeit opposition or ruling.

  3. It is not too much of a stretch to say that the UNC has lost it’s Mojo along the way due in part to gross infighting , and sometimes clueless ,antiquated leadership . As a result , it has therefore failed miserably in performing mandated constitutional responsibilities as expected of a viable Opposition, and by extension ,the government in waiting.
    Some would even dare to say that the party is in desperate need for a drastic makeover ,as opposed to the periodic cosmetic maneuvers that are frequently trotted out for the benefit of rabid fans.
    Care to show me a quote mramps, where someone blamed the UNC for alleged failures, and corruptions of past PNM regimes ?
    No clear thinking person can make this assertion , for the same reasons that PNM hierarchical , power brokers could not be held responsible for the political hijacks ,gluttony, and underhand banditry that occurred when the UNC was in power.
    Stick to T&T ‘mouvelang’ social comedic politics my friend, and leave wider historical international affairs alone , as you perhaps is yet to get a full grasp of that which you speak. Israel , Pakistan and India never signed the Non Proliferation Treaty, yet all three have nuclear arsenal , while still being cuddled the watchful eye of the big 5 Nuclear powers , and Libya, North Korea , Iran , and Iraq are told to toe the line. Cuba was heavyly subsidized by USSR for over 4 decades , Chavez can afford to appeal to his global friends due to his be the bombastic , attention grabbing buffoon , due to the abundance of natural resources , and Europe thrived for 60 years and excels in every aspects due to peace and tranquility brought on by Yankee taxpayers that are not even aware that they are subsidizing Europe’s military, defense, health and education . The Yankees played out it’s Monroe Doctrine, and pushed proxy wars in every continent but Europe , and here mramp is making his outlandish comments about Haiti.
    Perhaps folks are now convinced that the people of the African Diaspora ,are really the Jews that is refereed to at great length in the Black SunGod King James Bible. They have become useful footstool for all and sundry , and some have inculcated this negativity, and failures as the norm. How terrible, indeed!

    1. You are abosolutely right, I should definitely leave the “wider historical international affairs” to you “laureates” and I would stick to the “mouvelang social comedic politics” in T&T. I am confident, now that I have been rightly “out in my place”, that with you guys articulating all that others have done would in fact solve the problems of countries like Haiti.

  4. Come on mramps ,that’s hardly the case, and contributions are valid and equally important at this critical stage of the global village. That’s just yours truly trying to impress one of ‘dem local Trini power brokers,’ as to my superior expertise and intelligence ,to see if I could wrestle away a high end government or corporate job that the privileged kids of elites, and big time donors to the two major neo colonial competing political parties , always seem to control.
    Solving the problems of Haiti, mramps? When you have some time watch the Jonathan Demme’s 1987 documentary movie entitled, ‘The Agronomist,’ staring Jonathan Demme, about the life of Jean Dominique, and his loving wife and recent former UN Spokesperson Michele Montas. In it you’ll see a 40 odyssey by a true patriot, and media giant , as he tried to open the eyes of sleeping Haitians as to what the stupid bourgeois leadership have done to their country since the Black Jacobins, in the words of Pat Robinson, made a voodoo pact with the devil , so as to beat Napoleon ,as described so masterfully by a true intellectual , Cyril Lionel Robert James.
    The problems of Haiti my friend , cannot be solved even if you were to take the top leaders of the richest and most powerful nations on earth, and put them in an office in Puerto Prince for the next 50 years, or run pipe lines from the vast gas and oil fields of every OPEC nation , along with that of Trinidad and Tobago , and those that the upstart Bajans hope to find in 2090 as they continue to demonize every Trini politician as greedy and selfish , because we have a different interpretation of international laws as they relate to sea beds / continental shelves ,and boundaries.
    What do you know , Venezuelan coast guards catch our fishermen and is jail for them , we catch these Bajan oil speculating flying fish fishermen thieves , and our conniving leaders give them a parade through the streets of Scarborough, and lap dances in POS.
    Ah yes, but I digress. Haiti and their insurmountable problem that someone only yesterday got us all concerned! I have a solution mramps.
    How about amnesty to Trinidad and Tobago for all Haitians who wish to start life afresh in a new progressive resource laden country.
    That’s the Christian thing to do ,is it not? Let the Yankee fast talking Commander in Chief, and Change agent , continue his predecessor’s policies of turning them back on their Florida overcrowded rafts, as mere escaping economic refugees, while millionaire Mestizo Cubans in contrast, only have to dream of America ,and are allowed to become a citizen, and Republican party supporters before they wake up and could say ,caramba.

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