By Bill Quigley
Part of the suffering of Haiti is indeed “Made in the USA.” While the earthquake would harm any country, actions by the United States have absolutely magnified the harm from the earthquake in Haiti.
How? In the last decade alone, the U.S. slashed humanitarian assistance to Haiti, blocked international loans, forced the government of Haiti to downsize, ruined tens of thousands of small farmers, and replaced the government with private non-governmental organizations.
The result? Small farmers are starved out of the countryside and migrate by the tens of thousands to the cities where they built cheap shelters on hills. International funds for roads and education and healthcare are halted by the U.S. The money that does come into the country goes not to the government but to private corporations. Thus the government of Haiti is nearly powerless to provide assistance to its own people on regular days – much less in the face of a real disaster like this one.
Some specifics from recent years.
In 2004, the U.S. assisted in a coup against the democratically elected President of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide. This continues a long tradition of the U.S. deciding who will rule the poorest country in the hemisphere. No government lasts in Haiti without U.S. approval.
In 2001, when the U.S. was mad at the President of Haiti, the U.S. successfully led an effort to freeze $148 million in already-approved loans and many hundreds of millions more of potential loans from the Inter-American Development Bank to Haiti. Funds which were dedicated to improve education, public health and roads.
For much of 2001-2004, the U.S. insisted that any international funds sent to Haiti had to go through non-governmental organizations. Funds that would have provided government services were re-routed thus shrinking the ability of the government to provide aid.
For years the U.S. has helped ruin small farmers in Haiti by dumping heavily subsidized U.S. rice on their market making it extremely difficult for small farmers to survive. This was done to help U.S. farmers. Haitian farmers? They don’t vote in the U.S.
Those who visit Haiti will confirm that the biggest SUVs in Port au Prince are plastered with decals of non-governmental organizations. The biggest offices are for private groups doing the basic work of government – healthcare, education, disaster response. And all are guarded not by police but by private heavily-militarized security.
The government was systematically starved of funds. The public sector shrank away. Poor people streamed to the cities.
Thus there are no rescue units. Little public healthcare is available.
So when disaster struck, the people of Haiti were on their own. We can see them pitching in. We can see them trying. They are courageous and generous and innovative, but volunteers cannot replace government. So people suffer and die in greater numbers than necessary.
The results are on display for all to see. Tragically, much of the suffering after the earthquake is “Made in the USA.”
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