Half-Hour for Haiti: Keep One Million Dollars Per Week In Haiti
Update: Thanks to everyone who wrote in support of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine last month. Unfortunately there is still no news of him, but we need to keep fighting, as hard as Lovinsky would fight if it were another human rights activist missing.
There have been many headlines lately about Haitians eating cookies made of salt, butter and dirt. The dirt cookies may be news, but they certainly are not new. Desperately hungry Haitians have been eating them throughout the 13 years I’ve worked on Haiti issues, and the cookies will be eaten long after the recent headlines, and any charity generated by them, fade away. The root causes of Haiti’s hunger are not recent events (although high gas prices are certainly an aggravating factor). Haiti’s hunger is the result of structural injustices that for centuries have forced Haiti’s poor to struggle on a tilted playing field. The solution to Haiti’s hunger is not charity, but justice. The ability to obtain this justice lies as much with those of us who benefit from the tilted playing field (people with access to email, telephones, and the voter rolls of powerful countries) as it does in Haiti.
One of the most obvious structural injustices is the diversion, by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, of nearly $1 million per week from Haiti. The Banks were set up (and funded by our tax dollars) to fight poverty, not generate it. Almost half the loans in question went to dictators like the Duvaliers, who spent the money on fur coats and death squads. This needs to stop, and you can join a bi-partisan effort in Congress to keep a million dollars per week in Haiti with the action alert below. For more information relating to Haiti’s debt, see our new website section, Cancel Haiti’s Odious and Onerous Debt.
Coming Attractions: Sustainable change in Haiti requires sustained international solidarity. A good place to start is the 3rd Annual International Day of Solidarity with the Haitian People on February 29. Last year the event brought together over 60 events on 5 continents. If there is not an event in your area, consider organizing one: everything from large protests to getting a few friends assembled to think about Haiti or view a movie is welcome.
Damming the Flood: We’ve mailed all our orders of Damming the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment, so if yours hasn’t arrived by early next week, let us know. We’ve had nothing but good reviews from people who read it. We’ll take one more round of orders before the book gets to stores in April. Click here for prices and ordering information, or call us at 541-432-0597.
This week’s alert: Comes from the Jubilee USA Network, a network of groups working on debt cancellation for Haiti and other poor countries, and IJDH.
Haiti’s Supporters in Congress Need Your Help!
February 12, 2008
Representatives Maxine Waters (D- CA) and Spencer Bachus (R- AL) are calling on their colleagues to sign their bi-partisan letter to the Secretary of the Treasury (below) urging him to 1) expedite the cancellation of Haiti’s debts to the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and other multilateral financial institutions, and 2) urge an immediate suspension of debt service payments from Haiti.
Both Representatives have gone out on a limb for the poor of Haiti, and now they need you to tell your Representative to stand up with them. Haitians need you too: recent headlines remind us of Haitians eating cookies made of salt, butter and dirt, because they cannot afford food. While Haitians are forced to eat dirt, their government is forced to send almost $1 million each week in debt service to wealthy banks that were established to fight poverty. Over half of Haiti’s outstanding loans went to dictators like Francois “Papa Doc” and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who spent the money on fur coats, fast cars and death squads. Haiti’s poor are now repaying the loans, by eating dirt and by foregoing elementary education and basic healthcare.
The International Financial Institutions (IFIs) recognized that Haiti’s debt is unjust when they accepted Haiti into their debt cancellation programs last year. But these programs would only cancel about half of Haiti’s debt, after more waiting (a year or more) and only if Haiti makes changes to its economy that could exacerbate hunger (see Debt Cancellation for Haiti: No Reason for Further Delays, by the Center for Economic Policy Research).
Representatives Waters and Bachus have also introduced H. Res. 241, the Haiti Debt Cancellation Resolution, but they felt that issuing a quicker letter right now is warranted by the extreme suffering in Haiti. Their letter also seeks to broaden its appeal to Republican House Members who understand that debt relief is the just, the decent and the right thing to do, but disagree with H.Res. 241’s stance against IFI conditions placed on debt relief. The letter seeks to immediately alleviate poverty in Haiti by immediately stopping Haiti’s payments to the international financial institutions, which would allow the government to immediately invest the money in public services that can save lives.
$1 million per week would go a long way in Haiti, where half the population struggles to survive on $1 US per day or less. Please do what you can to keep that money in Haiti.
A call-in script is below. If you need more information, including fact sheets, analyses and an activist toolkit, see the Haiti Debt Cancellation section of www.HaitiJustice.org, or http://www.JubileeUSA.org.
Phone Script to call your Member to cancel Haiti’s debt!
(If you are pressed for time, just saying the first paragraph will help. If you can, go through the whole script). If your Representative has not co-sponsored H.Res. 241, ask her or him to do that too!
My name is XXX and I live in YYYY. I support debt cancellation to release resources to fight poverty in Haiti. I am calling to encourage Representative XXX to sign on to the bi-partisan letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, urging the immediate cancellation of Haiti’s debt.
Haiti is the most impoverished country in the Western hemisphere. Close to one in four children are chronically malnourished. People are forced to eat cakes made of dirt, because they have nothing else. At the same time, the government is forced to send almost $1 million per week to the World Bank and other banks that were set up to fight poverty.
The bi-partisan letter was issued by Representatives Spencer Bachus and Maxine Waters. To sign on or for more information, please contact Kathleen Sengstock in Representative Maxine Waters’ office at (202) 225-2201.
Thank you for your time!