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28066: Simidor: Letter to NY Newsday on Haiti (fwd)
From: Daniel Simidor <email@example.com>
The U.S. holds far greater responsibility in the
destruction of Haiti than your Feb. 27 editorial would
acknowledge. Forty years ago, a dictator named
François ?Papa Doc? Duvalier made himself, and then
his 19 year-old son Jean-Claude ?Baby Doc,?
presidents- for-life, with the support of three
consecutive U.S. administrations. That was during the
Cold War, and the Duvaliers and their police state
were seen as bulwarks against communism. The brain
drain from Haiti began in those early years, followed
by the desperate exodus of ?Boat People? in the late
1970s and 1980s.
As recently as the 1960s when I was growing up, Haiti
was able to feed itself. Haiti had a relatively
backward but self-sustaining economy, based on
agriculture, crafts, and basic industries like sugar,
essential oils, cement, flour mills, domestic
utensils, etc. But by the mid-1970s, the U.S. Agency
for International Development ruled that it was
counter-productive for Haiti to grow its own
foodstuffs when it could buy them from the U.S.
Haiti?s comparative advantage, it was decided, was in
tourism, the production of cash crops for the U.S.
market, and its cheap labor force.
The U.S. had begun outsourcing some of its assembly
jobs in the textile industry to the periphery. A
program of eradication funded by USAID in 1981 wiped
out the entire native pig population, the backbone of
the economy in the countryside. Likewise, the rice
industry was destroyed by cheap Miami rice dumped in
Haiti. Hundreds of thousand of dispossessed peasants
migrated to Port-au-Prince and other cities, looking
for work in the textile free-trade zones. But by then
Haiti was no longer competitive in that market, due to
Some Haitians would argue, as I do, that the U.S. has
already done enough harm interfering with Haiti. A
massive influx of economic investment or aid is
unlikely as you say, and another military occupation
ill-advised. So why not un-shoulder the ?white man?s
burden,? and for a change let Haitians decide their
own destiny. Not in isolation, but with the help and
good will of many nations, including the U.S., Haiti
can regain the self-government and the
self-sufficiency it lost in the last few decades.
Haitian community activist
+ + + + + + + + + + + + +
Newsday editorial follows:
Haiti: no easy answers
Caribbean nation has a president, but the country
remains in shambles
February 27, 2006
In a chaotic and flawed election that resulted in a
brokered deal, Haiti now has a president. René Préval
is a populist whose appeal and support among Haitians
was beyond dispute. But what is in serious doubt is
whether Préval has a viable country to govern, let
alone even the skeletal outlines of a democracy.
It would take a massive and well-coordinated
international effort to return Haiti to a minimal
level of functionality - a process that could take
years. But the hopes for such an effort coming soon
are chimerical. Haiti has no natural resources, no
strategic significance and poses no real threat.
It's simple to articulate what Haiti needs: security
and order, foreign investment, massive aid, and a
ruling class willing to make political compromises
with its opposition. But achieving those aims is far
from simple, or certain.
Haiti is a failed state, the poorest nation in the
hemisphere. Its economy is virtually dead, save for
the illegal transshipments of narcotics, which account
for 14 percent of all U.S.-bound cocaine. Despite the
presence of 7,200 United Nations peacekeepers, gangs
of armed thugs make the streets of its capital,
Port-au-Prince, almost as dangerous as those of
Baghdad. It's the scene of a dozen kidnappings a day.
AIDS has ravaged its population. Deforestation,
unchecked pollution and lethal mudslides have
devastated its environment.
There is a natural and human desire to help Haiti out
of its miserable predicament. But there also needs to
be a realistic assessment of what it will take to make
a difference. That might well include, for instance, a
U.S.-led invasion and long occupation. Clearly,
there's no stomach for that now. Some problems don't
have clear solutions.hN
An election does not make a democracy, as has become
obvious in the Middle East. Without a functional civil
society, the institutions necessary to make it work
and an economy robust enough to support it, a
democracy has no future.
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