Haiti needs help, not judgment

Haiti needs help and should be helped — period.

MellaneoussquareSome claim the country is cursed. It has been but not by the Creator. No, Haiti has been cursed by the North American and Western European ruling classes, whose constant meddling in Haiti is designed to force Haiti into a vassal state. And the Western nations have no intention of forgiving Haiti of its original sin: liberating itself from slavery.

It is these folks, North Americans and European neighbors, who ripped Haiti off after their last disaster (the 2010 earthquake) using their NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) to pocket the lion’s share of nearly a billion dollars with the help of Bill and Hilary Clinton.

Bill controlled the Haiti Reconstruction Fund. Hillary, as Secretary of State, oversaw U.S. funds. Before Haiti can begin to dig out from the disaster wrought by Hurricane Matthew they find themselves having to explain themselves and justify their existence.

Ironically, they also find themselves the victims of a kind of “charity fatigue” as a result of the earthquake rip-off. Add to that the reluctance for people to see Haitians as they see themselves.

In reporting on the damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew on Haiti, the U.S. newspaper of record, the New York Times, thought it was appropriate to editorialize and provide a critique of Haitian society rather than simply report the damage. The Times seemed to be providing Americans with a way out, an excuse for not sympathizing with the Haitian plight and an excuse to keep one’s wallet closed.

In two “objective” news articles, “Hurricane Matthew Makes Old Problems Worse for Haitians,” and “Toll Rises by Hour in Haiti Amid Ruin Left by Hurricane Matthew,” reporter Azam Amed not so subtly implies that the damage is partly the victims fault.

He writes: “The country’s infrastructure had been in decline for decades, even before the earthquake and other storms weakened it further… Policies that ordered or permitted the stripping of trees have left barren and scorched landscapes susceptible to mudslides. Poor development has left the country defenseless to hurricanes…The nation’s politics, meanwhile, often brew their own type of disaster, leaving the country bereft of clearly elected leaders.”

As a refugee from Afghanistan, a country that has faced lots of problems, many stemming from European and U.S. interference, Amen should have known better. Unfortunately, his editorializing was only partially accurate because he conveniently left out how Haiti wound up in this position.

Deforestation of Haiti began the day Columbus got off the boat and claimed he discovered Hispaniola. His moneyed colonists built huge plantations where trees once stood. Haiti was one of the richest colonies in the New World. The slaves of Haiti revolted — a revolt led by Dessaline and Toussaint L’Overture — subsequently handing a defeat to Napoleon’s army and freeing itself.

By freeing themselves, they became an automatic enemy of both the United States and England, enforcing a blockade making it nearly impossible to trade. France forced the new nation to pay it 90 million gold francs as the price of compensation for the slaveholders’ losses, with the U.S. providing incentive with its Navy.

The new nation impoverished itself trying to repay the debt, which wasn’t paid off until 1947. The debt amounts to about $20 billion in today’s currency. Haiti in 2004 asked France to pay it back. France refused.

The United States consistently meddled in the affairs of Haiti, even occupying it from 1915 to 1934 while controlling the island nation’s economy through 1947. The U.S. has invaded Haiti at other times as well. Every time the Haitian people attempted to rule and run Haiti for everyday working-class Haitians, the U.S. would intervene and prop up the elite. More recently the U.S. helped prop up the brutal dictatorships of Francois Duvalier (Popa Doc) from 1957-1986, and later his son Jean Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc).

In the early 1980s, over a million pigs were destroyed in a U.S.-Canadian program supposedly to prevent the spread of swine fever. Haiti had produced inexpensive rice for its domestic market, but in 1995 the International Monetary Fund mandated as part of its economic plan for Haiti, that Haiti cut tariffs on rice imports to Haiti from 35 percent to three percent. As a result, Haitian rice farmers were literally priced out of business. In 2004, the U.S. was suspected in helping to overthrow the elected leader of Haiti at the time, Jean Bertrand Aristide.

The expected human response when people are in need of help is to help them. But for whatever reason, when human beings that are Haitian are in need of help, the response is tempered by finger pointing, criticism and editorializing.

“Haitians ought to take care of themselves,” folks like to say. They would if the U.S. and others would simply help them get on their feet and then get out of their affairs.

Justice then peace.


Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to mellaneous19@yahoo.com.