Why are we not talking more about Haiti?
August 10, 2005 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Why are we not talking about Haiti? "No one has asked questions about the wildly partisan officials in U.S. State Department now running U.S. policy in the Caribbean and Latin America. These include such Blast-from-the-Past supporters of Reagan era highjinks in Central America as Otto Reich, John Negroponte, Elliot Abrams, and (before his ignominious departure last summer) John Poindexter."
posted by j-urb (13 comments total)
That is a hell of a good question! Here is an attempt to explain why nobody seems to care.

A couple of other recent developments from the Canadian perspective are quite strange as well: The new Canadian Governor General is Haitian born; Canada has accepted the appointment of a new Haitian ambassador, even though the provisional Haitian government doesn't have the constitutional authority to appoint one - the US will not accept a similar appointment.
posted by Chuckles at 10:06 AM on August 10, 2005

1) poor people
2) poor black people
3) no oil

Is this somewhere in the country of Africa? [reference to gwb comment]
posted by nofundy at 10:32 AM on August 10, 2005

We have enough problems with the US gov't in the US.
posted by smackfu at 10:39 AM on August 10, 2005

One of the few times I've gotten off my duff to Write A Letter was to then-secstate Powell and some others about Aristide's removal. Not that it did any good.

Perhaps some of the problem is that many Americans, while they might realize the new regime is a problem, don't realize that Aristide was actually a Good Guy who was fairly elected. If I didn't have friends and family who worked or work in the country I wouldn't have any idea.

There is some mobilization regarding the humanitarian, if not political, problems in the country -- my mother's way conservative Catholic church in Indiana has a mission in Haiti. Kidder's book on Paul Farmer helped out here. But, it's been a six months since I heard anything about that, so maybe the attention is dying away.

One think I think should be very clear is that the NY Times is completely bankrupt when it comes to Haiti. Their correspondants often write from Florida (or New York) and rarely provide what I consider to be balanced coverage.

A good, if partisan, history of the country can be found in Farmer's Uses of Haiti.

If anyone wants to Help Out, I would recommend a donation to Farmer's organization Partners In Health -- they are honest, hardworking, and your money will go directly to people in need.
posted by sohcahtoa at 10:49 AM on August 10, 2005

Their correspondants often write from Florida (or New York) and rarely provide what I consider to be balanced coverage.

I think this may have to do with the street riots and widespread mob killings.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:22 AM on August 10, 2005

Were kind of involved in a small regional corprate reconstruction AKA the war in IRaq right now so Haiti is off the radar.
posted by Rubbstone at 11:35 AM on August 10, 2005

Poor Haiti. For a country protected by the Lwas, they've had more than their share of grief.
posted by maxsparber at 1:03 PM on August 10, 2005

Haiti will get covered when some white, suburban, US teen goes missing there.
posted by caddis at 1:36 PM on August 10, 2005

Didn't they overthrow a Voodoo priest president and install a catholic there?

Let the pope deal with it, then. Sounds like it's his problem.
posted by nyxxxx at 2:34 PM on August 10, 2005

Sohcahtoa: Like to second your call to donate to PiH. They both do excellent work, and have written more than a few papers that have been handy to cite (about structuralized violence) in my PoliSci classes.
What I will say though is that Aristede was not a "Good Guy." Aristede was a "less bad guy." It's just that the people who were ousting him were the ones who had massacred people in the streets and were still being sought for all sorts of human rights violations. Evil with a capital E. Only in comparison to them was violent, corrupt Aristede a good guy.
posted by klangklangston at 3:19 PM on August 10, 2005

It's a shame when Counterpunch puts on the robe of informing us, then pulls fast ones like the claim that Aristide won 92% of the vote in a legitimate election. That election was condemned by the Organization of American States, and opposition parties boycotted it. It wasn't just the US that was tsk-tsking; it was the EU as well. Aristide is credibly alleged to have had a role in the assassination of a key rebel leader.

Haiti is a nation riven into three, perhaps four classes: the poor, the middle-class and wealthy, and the army. The army was sacked ten years ago and went private. The Aristide government survived only as long as it was able to politically manage the middle class. The wealthy and the army never trusted him, and took their shot when he showed signs of weakness, and the middle class took their side.

This is not to say that the US hasn't tried to meddle -- clearly, the US decided when Aristide could and couldn't be prime minister, a pocket veto of sorts. The fly-out was handled gracelessly, and the current PM is an easily controlled hack.

But Haiti is an ongoing disaster whether Counterpunch or the New York Times agree or not. It's massively overpopulated for its resources, and only drastic measures will change that. To some extent the human waves of immigration may have helped, but those that remain still have a frightening birth rate, and Haiti is nearly completely deforested. I don't know what, if anything, we really can do to solve the real problems. Clearly the US is acting in direct self-interest in trying to put a cap on the worst problems from its point of view, which isn't, by far, the kind of solution that Counterpunch is interested in seeing. If there's a credible, civil society opposition to the present status quo, it would have to come from the middle class -- and Counterpunch doesn't trust them, either.

There's one thing we can agree on, though. Haiti needs more attention.
posted by dhartung at 10:39 PM on August 10, 2005

Nice sum up, Dhartung. To elaborate on the Army: the Army comes almost entirely from the lower class, even the officers. But instead of acting like Venezuela's socialist officer corps, they tend to view enlistment as essentially an opportunity for organized thuggery. If you're an aid worker, you're more likely to be robbed by the Army than by anyone else, and more likely to be robbed than protected.
This is in part because the Army, unlike many in the Carribean, is well armed but amazingly underpaid. So, you have a bunch of guys with machine guns making barely enough money per month to feed themselves, and they're expected to be loyal to the sitting government? Not likely.
Haiti's the country most in need of international intervention in the Western hemisphere. Too bad that's unlikely, especially with our current sojourn in the sands of Babylon...
posted by klangklangston at 12:25 AM on August 11, 2005

Clean Water for Haiti. One of the more practical means of improving their quality of life.

Almost all their water supplies are contanimated with fecal coliform, parasites, and other diseases. CWfH's sand filters are simple and work superlatively. It is a marked improvement of life quality.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:26 AM on August 11, 2005

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