Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Can West help Haiti without taking it over?

By Jennifer Green, The Journal News

The earthquake that struck Haiti destroyed the thin web that held the country together. It is a monumental challenge to bring the country back to life and restore the pride of its people.

The United States and a host of other nations have pledged to help rebuild Haiti and heal its people. Doing so will require real commitment and care.

Considering the traumas that this country and its people have had to endure over the years, it is a minor miracle that the Haitians have the strength to keep going. For the poorest of the poor who occupy Haiti, the crawl upward will rival a rising of the dead, even with pledged international assistance.

This is not the only time in history that Haitians have suffered destruction by a force outside their country. Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat’s historical novel, “The Farming of Bones,” is based upon the 1937 massacre of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, as ordered by the Dominican president and dictator General Rafael Trujillo. Hundreds of Haitians who lived in the Dominican Republic were victims of his campaign to “purify” this country of those cultural (and sometimes racial) “outsiders.”

Internationally, despite the best efforts tilled by many international organizations, including the United Nations, Haitians have always been among the world’s most vulnerable citizens. Poverty in this country is unabating. Haitians can only pray that “this, too, shall pass.”

Will a coalition of Western countries respect as well as save Haiti?

The influence of “Western values” has often encouraged poor countries like Haiti to try to adopt American-style capitalism.

Unfortunately, over the years, those who control the country economically have not yet fashioned an end to the generational poverty that grips Haiti. The poorest of the poor in Haiti would benefit most from international coalitions that work toward long-term solutions.

Another question is whether Haiti’s leaders, who in the past have stood behind U.S. policies in the region, will once again turn their backs on their own people, as others have done. Will Haitian leaders and the Haitian people benefit from Western backing? Haitians must be wary of efforts to help that really mean taking over. I believe that Haiti is a country that can rise from this tragedy and “keep its own ways.” To paraphrase Alice Walker, resistance — that is, resistance to self-erasure — is truly the secret of joy.

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