The second anniversary of the earthquake that shook the island of Haiti has come and gone. While the images of destruction dim, the unanswered questions about recovery and reconstruction must remain loud and constant. The 7.0-magnitude quake created yet another set back for a people who seem to be perpetual victims of natural and man-made disasters.
Some Haitians believe the island is cursed because of its history of slavery and repression. Others remember the battle for independence from French domination led by Toussaint L’Ouverture and believe they can be free again. The model of corruption perfected by the brutal regimes of Jean Claude Duvaliers (Papa Doc and Baby Doc). who were propped up by the U.S. government, continues to be fine-tuned by government and business officials.
Current photos of Haiti don’t seem to show much progress since the earthquake that rocked Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital. Piles of rubble, teetering buildings and sprawling tent cities are the visual images that remind us of the challenges the small island continues to face. The quake affected an estimated 3 million people and displaced about 1.5 million Haitians.
The death toll, like the billions in aid, is impossible to track or confirm. The death estimates range from 50,000 to a half million. Financial aid swings from $3 billion to $12 billion. Haiti has no system f accounting for births or deaths. And there’s definitely been no accounting of the millions that poured in so quickly in the days after the earthquake for recovery and rebuilding.
Still, only a fraction of the pledged monies by governments has been received. The international shell game in the face of such a disaster is outrageous. According to Robert Fatton, professor of government and foreign affairs at the University of Virginia, Haitians received a puny 1 percent of the U.S. dollars that were pledged.
“If you read the UN Report,” Fatton says, 99 percent of the U.S. dollars went to the “U.S. military, the State Department, NGOs and contractors…it ended up returning to the same place it came from.”
Everyone is not exploiting the situation. OXFAM is questioning why rice is being imported from the U.S. by the shiploads instead of helping Haitian farmers to grow their own. At one time, Haiti was producing its own rice. Now, it imports 60% of it from this country.
Who was mostly responsible for this particular underminement of Haitian agriculture? None other than President Bill Clinton whose home state is our country’s largest rice-producing state. The irony of this is Clinton was assigned to Haiti as the UN Special Envoy to oversee the country’s reconstruction efforts. Not surprising, he has been unresponsive to repeated requests for accountability by watchdog groups. MINUSTAH (UN Stabilization Mission) also needs to be held accountable.
When people of the world look at Haiti’s dismal situation, the tendency is to blame the victim. But a closer look reveals many blood-suckers that keep the country from standing on its own two feet and taking care of its people.
Haiti is bowed but not broken. The people continue to find dignity in their lives, and hope in their futures. Let those outside its border and particularly those of us who are in the belly of the beast continue to raise the hard questions about aid to Haiti. We must actively oppose the economic and foreign policies of those who claim to be nation-partners but who are collaborators in Haiti’s destabilization.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Jamala Rogers, is the leader of the Organization for Black Strugglein St. Louis and the Black Radical Congress National Organizer. Additionally, she is an Alston-Bannerman Fellow. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle. Click here to contact Ms. Rogers.