Oldspeak: “One year after the massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti, reconstruction efforts have barely begun. 9 billion in promised international aid has yet to be distributed. “There is a dramatic power imbalance between the international community—under U.S. leadership—and Haiti. The former monopolizes economic and political power and calls all the shots this unequal relationship is reflected in the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.” The IHRC is co-chaired by Bill Clinton.”
From Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:
Guest: Alex Dupuy, a professor of sociology at Wesleyan University. His latest book is The Prophet and Power: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the International Community, and Haiti.
- Novelist Edwidge Danticat: “Haitians Are Very Resilient, But It Doesn’t Mean They Can Suffer More Than Other People”
- Haitian Writer Jean Saint-Vil: One Year After Earthquake, Haitian Population Treated as a Threat, Not an Asset
- Haitian American Novelist on “The Immigrant Artist at Work”
- Peter Hallward on “Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment”
- Haitian Activist Patrick Elie: “Haiti is Controlled by Foreign Governments and Foreign Interests”
AMY GOODMAN: One year later, the words of Dr. Evan Lyon, a professor with Partners in Health, are agonizingly true: Haiti is still in pain. If anything, the situation has gotten worse. A cholera epidemic has spread throughout the country, killing more than 3,600 people, infecting more than 170,000. More than a million people remain homeless, still living in makeshift shelters in hundreds of tent camps. Port-au-Prince is a city of earthquake refugees. There is little food, clean water or sanitation.
Reconstructions efforts have barely begun a full 12 months after the disaster. By some estimates, less than five percent of the rubble has been cleared, and only 15 percent of the temporary housing that is needed has been built. Less than 10 percent of the $9 billion pledged by foreign donors has been delivered.
Meanwhile, Haitian women and girls are facing an increasing threat of sexual violence. Amnesty International says more than 250 cases of rape in several makeshift camps were reported in the first 150 days after the earthquake.
This all comes amidst continuing political uncertainty following the disputed presidential elections last November. The vote was widely denounced as flawed, with reports of fraud and intimidation at polling stations, and protests broke out when the provisional results were announced in December. On Monday, it was reported the Organization of American States will recommend that Jude Célestin, the governing party candidate, should be dropped from the runoff vote.
Today we spend the hour on Haiti. We’ll speak with four Haitians. We begin by going to Alex Dupuy. He’s a Haitian American professor at Wesleyan University. He is joining us from Middletown.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Dupuy. Your reflections on this first anniversary of this catastrophe of epic proportions?
ALEX DUPUY: Thank you for having me on your program.
Well, you summarized the situation quite well. Most of the pledged—the money that was pledged has not been delivered. Of the money that has been delivered, very little of it has been spent. Most of the rubble around the capital city and in the capital city has not been removed, other than some arteries that lead into the city. And reconstruction, as envisioned by both the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission and the Haitian government, has not begun. Most people—most of the homeless, those displaced by the earthquake, are still living in shelters, though the number has dropped to less than a million. From the latest figures that I’ve seen, it seems to be around 800,000. But it’s not clear under what conditions those who have left the camps are still living. Electricity is still in short supply. Water is not available to most citizens of the city, and especially in the camps, where they’re being delivered by aid organizations. Hospitals have not been rebuilt. Healthcare is not being delivered, and so on. So, the condition is pretty much as you’ve described it, that it’s pretty grim a year later, though, of course, given the extent of the damage, reconstruction would be slow. But at least one would have hoped that more progress would have been achieved at this point.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Dupuy, you wrote a piece in the Washington Postcalled “Foreign Aid Keeps the Country from Shaping Its Own Future.” Explain what you mean. Lay out your argument.
ALEX DUPUY: Well, my argument is basically twofold. One is to distinguish between the humanitarian aid, the massive humanitarian aid that was given to Haiti immediately after the earthquake, and the long-term—the short- and long-term reconstruction of Haiti as envisioned by the international community. And by the international community, I mean the major foreign powers, such as the United States, Canada and France, and the international financial institutions—the World Bank, the IMF, the USAID and the Inter-American Development Bank. And the problem here, as I see it, is that the strategies that they have devised for Haiti’s reconstruction are no different than the strategies that they had put in place in Haiti for the past three decades or more that have proven to have failed. Those strategies were based on a twofold strategy. One was to transform Haiti into a supplier of the cheapest labor in the region for the garment industry, for export primarily to the United States, and the other was to dismantle all protective tariffs against food imports and other imports into Haiti that resulted in the devastation of Haitian agriculture, to the point where Haiti went from being able to produce up to 80 percent of its food in the mid-1980s to now importing—to producing only 42 percent, and especially rice production, which is a major staple crop in Haiti, where Haiti used to have self-sufficiency in producing rice. Now it’s the largest—the fourth largest importer of U.S. rice in the world. And former President Clinton himself admitted in testimony to the Senate Foreign Committee that the strategies that he himself had pushed on Haiti have not worked. They have benefited his farmers in Arkansas, but they were detrimental to Haitian agricultural production, especially rice. Yet, it is—these are the same policies that are now being pushed again on Haiti by the Interim Haiti Commission, which he and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive co-chair.
But I should point out that within the commission, even though there are equal numbers of Haitians and foreign members on the committee, that the foreign members of the committee call all the shots. And the Haitians have, in fact, openly complained that they are being excluded from meetings and from decision-making processes. Moreover, when the commission was being set up and the Action Plan for Reconstruction of Haiti was being developed, Haitian grassroots organizations, organizations from civil society that represented a cross-section of the Haitian population, were systematically sidelined. They were ignored. Their voices were ignored. And yet, they are the ones who have been proposing meaningful alternatives for a more progressive, more just, more equal reconstruction of Haiti. So the point that I was trying to make in the op-ed in theWashington Post was precisely that the objectives of the foreign community, so to speak, the international community, is not so much about Haiti as it is about helping their own firms, their own farmers, their own—you know, their own exporters and their own economies, rather than that of Haiti and the Haitian—and the needs, meeting the needs of the Haitian people.
The other point that I raised in the piece was that Haiti has now been transformed into what has been correctly called the “Republic of the NGOs.” And this is a strategy that was started about, oh, three decades ago whereby foreign donors would systematically bypass the Haitian state and fund instead non-governmental organizations to provide services to the Haitian population, in effect rendering the state even weaker than it was before and making it less able to respond to the needs of its citizens. Now, the Haitian state has a long history of neglecting the needs of the majority of Haitians, but rather than working with the Haitian government and compelling it to respond to the needs of its citizens, in terms of healthcare, jobs, housing, education and so on, by bypassing the state and funding NGOs directly, it sapped even further the capacity of the state to face up to its responsibilities and weakening it even further. So, the point is that—the point I was trying to make is that the foreign community has a direct role to play, in collaboration with the Haitian elites, to create a situation in Haiti where the vast majority of the population continued to live in poverty, and their basic needs and their basic rights are being ignored. That was the point of the article.
AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to ask you to stay with us. But when we come back, we’re going to go directly to Haiti to speak with Patrick Elie, who we spoke to when we were last in Haiti six months ago, a longtime Haitian democracy activist. We’re speaking with Wesleyan University professor Alex Dupuy. This isDemocracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, on this first anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Ti Rosemond, he won the equivalent of the American Idolcompetition in Haiti. We saw him when we first went to Haiti right after the earthquake. He was traveling with a large family, making his way out of Port-au-Prince, escaping, as so many Haitians were trying to do, to get away from the terror. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
It’s the first anniversary of the tè tremblé, the earth trembles. That’s Creole for the earthquake. And we go directly to Port-au-Prince, where we’re joined by Patrick Elie, a longtime Haitian democracy activist, Haiti’s former Secretary of State for Public Security. He’s speaking to us from downtown Port-au-Prince in front of the Champ de Mars, just opposite the National Palace, where thousands of Haitians continue to live in a massive tent camp.
It’s good to see you again, Patrick Elie. Can you share your reflections on this first anniversary of the earthquake, especially just where you stand, what you’re looking out over?
PATRICK ELIE: Well, I’m looking at the end of an era, the end of politics for tens of years, if not centuries. And I’m looking at the defeat of that vision. But I’m also looking at the incredible will to live that exists in this country. And to tell you the truth, even though I’m sad today, but I’m not giving up, I’m not discouraged. And I believe the Haitian people will once again surprise the world precisely by its creativity and its will to live, that is unshakable, even by such a monstrous earthquake.
AMY GOODMAN: When we last spoke, we were standing on the rubble of the Montana Hotel, where people were buried underneath. You’re standing in front of the Champ de Mars. Thousands of people remain there. I think this is very hard for people outside of Haiti to understand how still a million people are displaced in Haiti, this after the catastrophe of a quarter of a million at least killed, and now you have cholera on top of this. What has happened in this year?
PATRICK ELIE: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Why hasn’t aid come, Patrick?
PATRICK ELIE: Well, first of all, you know, you were dealing with a country that was in very bad shape to start with. And you were dealing with a state that was weak for the mission it must execute. And the earthquake—and paradoxically, the outpour of solidarity—has not made things better in terms of the ability and the will of the state to rise up to the challenge. So, of course, one year later, I believe everybody would have expected to see better result, a more pronounced improvement of the situation. But really what I’m seeing is, if you want, question me, but it’s not at all as bad as it is usually described. I don’t think, truly, that the Haitian people have to be pitied or mourned. They have to get true solidarity in their endeavor to rebuild, and not to rebuild the same.
You know, Port-au-Prince is a city, and a city is a living organism. And Port-au-Prince, as we speak, is trying to relive the same way it was, and that would be a catastrophe for the country. Port-au-Prince has been strangling the rest of this nation, the rest of this country, for decades. It’s time, after the earthquake, to question the whole vision of how Haiti was built. It is time, if you want, to—I don’t want to say to destroy Port-au-Prince, but to put it in its right place in this country. We must resist the impulse to rebuild Port-au-Prince the way it was: a city of exclusion, of hyper-concentration and of shanty towns, which, if you want, contributed very, very much to the high toll that we’ve paid after the earthquake. So, we definitely have to break away from the course we seem to have been taken, which has been to do more of the same. We must do that; otherwise, it’s going to be worse than before.
AMY GOODMAN: Who controls Haiti now? Who is in control of the reconstruction? We were just speaking with Professor Alex Dupuy, who talked about the IHRC, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, co-chaired by Bill Clinton and the Haitian prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive.
PATRICK ELIE: I believe that at the moment Haiti is controlled by a foreign government and foreign interests, the so-called international community. And I’m afraid that in the month or maybe years to come, it’s going to get even worse, because, as you know, the election did not, if you want, mobilize the Haitian people, and whoever gets elected is going to be a very weak government, very weak president, with very little popular legitimacy. So, the ability of this new leadership to actually mobilize Haitians for reconstruction and be able to engage the international community on a partner-to-partner basis is going to be very, very small.
So, it’s going to take time, but I do believe that the earthquake is also a signal for us to build Haitian democracy on sound foundations, which means the neighborhood committees, the grassroot organization, instead of trying to build a democracy from the top down. That’s how we built our houses in Port-au-Prince, and you saw what happened. So, I believe it’s time for serious soul searching for the nation and to do an assessment of what has been the latest episode in Haiti’s search for democracy, which has lasted at least a quarter of a century with very poor result, as we speak.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring in Jean Saint-Vil and then get your response, Patrick Elie. We’re turning to Canada. He’s in Ottawa, the Haitian writer and activist, his website, godisnotwhite.com.
On this first anniversary of the earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people, now more than a million—and the country is only 10 million people—and cholera ravaging through the country, Jean Saint-Vil, your thoughts?
JEAN SAINT-VIL: Well, I was listening attentively to Alex Dupuy and Patrick, and they’ve really covered a lot of my thoughts. And I think one of the things that is common in what they’ve said is that there is not evidence that we’ve made that shift. Patrick mentioned that Port-au-Prince is trying to rebuild itself on the same principle that it had built itself before and is—has collapsed. The same thing with the way Alex Dupuy described the international community.
I think that another Haitian author described it pretty well: Edwidge Danticat, who published in the Miami Herald earlier this week an article titled “Haitians Are Tired, But We Are Not Defeated.” I would add that we are sick and tired, but not defeated. As you mentioned, we have lost more than 3,700 Haitians through the cholera brought to Haiti by U.N. troops.
And what we are seeing is, instead of resources being mobilized to deal with protecting human lives, building infrastructures for a new Haiti, instead we’re seeing the international community, which includes the United Nations, mobilizing resources to maintain the status quo. So, my perspective on this is that one year after the earthquake, we are seeing the Haitian population being treated and seen as a threat, rather than as an asset. And to me, that’s the major paradigm shift that must occur if we have to get out of this mess.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Alex Dupuy, before we go back to Port-au-Prince with Patrick Elie, about the U.S. official who was in charge of relief efforts following Haiti’s devastating earthquake who has accused a major contractor of shortchanging him for his assistance in securing more than $20 million in reconstruction deals. It was the Haiti Recovery Group he’s suing, and it was Lewis Lucke that the Associated Press was reporting on.
ALEX DUPUY: Well, I don’t know all the specifics of that suit, but what is known is that, of the contracts that have been given out by the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, most of those contracts have gone to U.S. firms. Only two of them went to Haitian firms. And a significant percentage of the contracts that went to U.S. firms went to two firms, according to news reports, with no-bid contracts. So, I am not sure if this is what the suit is targeting, but—
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask—let me ask Jean Saint-Vil. Are you familiar with this case?
JEAN SAINT-VIL: Yes, I have read the report on the web about this. And if I am not mistaken, Mr. Lewis Lucke is actually a former U.S. ambassador to Swaziland, and he was working with the USAID in Haiti. And he’s suing the Haitian company led by Bigio, the Bigio Group [GB Group], which—actually, Bigio is described as the richest man in Haiti, part of the small Haitian elite that controls basically the economic life of Haiti. What’s interesting in this article is that it’s describing that the work that Lewis Lucke has done is really lobbying former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush for contracts that he was securing for American companies. To me, this is an example of exactly what is wrong with the current model, where non-Haitians have more power than Haitian leaders in Haiti, and the corruption that has been treated in Haiti as if it was, you know, a genetic disease that only affects the Haitian players.
We are seeing that the IHRC, led by Bill Clinton and Jean-Max Bellerive, is actually only led by the international players. People have actually been asking, “Where is the Haitian prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive?” At the last meeting that took place in Dominican Republic, he wasn’t even there. And that’s where the 12 members of the Haitian participants in this commission were saying that contracts are being signed, major decisions are being made, without them being involved. So, basically, the Clinton Global Initiative and Bill Clinton himself, not to talk about all the conflict of interest being the husband of the U.S. Secretary of State—I mean, Haiti is not being led by Haitians, and that’s basically what’s been wrong with the situation since 2004.
AMY GOODMAN: Patrick Elie, I want to come back to you, as you stand there in front of the Champ de Mars, where so many people remain in these refugee camps. And I was wondering if you could give us a history lesson, for those not familiar with Haiti, in its birth out of a slave rebellion, and then what you think needs to happen right now concretely on the ground, as you say your country is being controlled by foreign interests, by foreign governments.
PATRICK ELIE: It is indeed a huge challenge that we’re facing as a people, maybe as big as the one we did face successfully in 1804. And as for, if you want, the vultures descending on Haiti, I believe we evoked that the last time we met on the Montana. And the only people that can prevent that are the Haitians themselves, with the help of foreign friends that keep their vigilance high, because, you know, things are going on that are beyond the back of the people of the world that were so generous toward Haiti and beyond the back of the Haitian people. And really what needs to be done is not easy to map out. To tell you the truth, there is no magic wand.
A lot of the people you see out in the Champ de Mars, they were not living any better before in Cité Soleil and in the different shanty towns. The difference is that now they’re making their presence known, they’re in your face, so to speak. And I hope that they will be able to show both the world outside and the Haitian elite that things have to change. And in a way—and I measure my words—to see these people in the Champ de Mars right smack in front of the National Palace is a positive message. It has to remind anyone who find itself in this ruin of a building, anyone who is living in a five million U.S.-dollar mansion, that these are Haitians, and they have to be, if you want, enfranchised and that their needs and their demands have to be met. So, you know, as they say in Haiti, “C’est un bien pour un mal,” we’ve exchanged an evil for a message that had to be heard for years and years.
AMY GOODMAN: What, at this point, do you feel needs to be done? Do you feel that the IHRC, that is run by President Clinton, former President Clinton, and Bellerive, should it continue? Should it be dismantled? You talk about a community organizations that could rise up, a changing of Port-au-Prince, but how will this actually happen?
PATRICK ELIE: I do believe that we need something different from the Haitian state as it is, and as it will emerge from this election, to lead the effort in reconstruction. Obviously, there has to be parliamentary representative of the donors, but mostly the Haitian representation should reflect more the Haitian community as it is. It’s not enough to have big-shot lawyers and technicians. The voice of the communities, both of Port-au-Prince but also in the other parts of the country, which represent our way out of this mess, their voices have to be heard also. And to be frank, I have not heard those voices spoken in the reconstruction. So, for me, personally, one of the very encouraging things that emerged from the earthquake was the birth, or the rebirth, of the neighborhood committees. And many of them, I must admit, you know, just organized so that they could profit for the charity. But some of them have remained, and they are, if you want, sketching their way ahead. And the movement has spread away from Port-au-Prince and away from the cities to what we call the lakou, which are the small peasant communities. In my opinion, there lies the future of Haiti and of its democracy, not up in the fancy hotel or the convention centers.
Million-Plus Remain Homeless and Displaced in Haiti One Year After Earthquake
From Bill Quigley and Jeena Shah:
One year after the January 12, 2010 earthquake, more than 1 million people remain homeless in Haiti. Homemade shelters and tents are everywhere in Port-au-Prince. People are living under plastic tarps or sheets in concrete parks, in encampments that sprawl up to the edges of major streets, in the side streets, behind buildings, in between buildings, on the sides of hills – literally everywhere.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that more than 1 million people – 380,000 of them children – still live in displacement camps.
“The recovery process,” as UNICEF says, “is just beginning.”
One of the critical questions remaining is how many people are still without adequate housing. While there are fewer big camps of homeless and displaced people, there has been extremely little rebuilding. The United Nations (UN) reported that 97,000 tents have been provided since the quake. Tents are an improvement over living under a sheet, but they are not homes. Many families have moved multiple times in the last year, circulating among rough shelters, tents, one or more camps and situations living alongside other families.
It is important to understand that a family may leave the huge, unsupervised camps and still be homeless someplace else, such as a tent in another part of the city or country. Families’ moves from one type of homelessness to another cannot be declared progress against homelessness and displacement.
The key human rights goal is for people displaced by the earthquake to obtain housing, not for them to simply move out of the displacement camps.
One illustration of the housing challenge facing the Haitian people can be found in a recent report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The IOM December report announced a reduction in the number of persons remaining in displacement camps. The IOM then wrongly concluded that the number of people displaced and homeless was reduced accordingly. Why is this conclusion wrong? Because the IOM report does not even try to track where displaced persons go after they leave a particular camp. They equate homeless families moving out of displacement camps with families finding housing.
These types of erroneous conclusions are not only misleading – they also threaten to hinder badly needed relief efforts one year after Haiti’s devastating earthquake.
Careful consideration of the IOM report provides an opportunity to examine some of the many important housing challenges still facing Haitians:
IOM assertion: “We finally start to see light at the end of the tunnel for the earthquake-affected population. … [T]hese are hopeful signs that many victims of the quake are getting on with their lives.” IOM reported that there has been a 31 percent decrease in the number of internally displaced people (IDP) living on IDP sites in Haiti since July.
Fact: Getting on with their lives? Of Haiti’s estimated 1,268 displacement camps, at least 29 percent have been forcibly closed – meaning tens of thousands of people have been evicted, often by violent means. Many who are forcibly evicted from one site move on to set up camp for their families in another, often more dangerous, location. This is not getting on with life; this is searching for less dangerous places for the family tent.
IOM assertion: People with houses labeled red (uninhabitable or extremely dangerous) or yellow (in need of repair) have “chosen to return to the place of origin or nearby to establish a shelter.”
Fact: As of December 16, 2010, only 2,074 of the estimated 180,000 destroyed houses had been repaired and only a small percentage of the rubble had been cleared. Decisions by desperate homeowners to move back into still-destroyed homes is hardly progress.
It is not even possible for large numbers of people who were renters to return to their destroyed homes. The destruction of more than 180,000 private residences, coupled with the influx of international aid workers, has caused Haiti’s rental market to soar. An estimated 80 percent of Haitians rendered homeless by the earthquake were either renters or occupiers of homes without any formal land title. Current rents are unreachable for the majority of displaced Haitians, many of whom lost their means of livelihood during the earthquake. The IOM admits that, “The lack of land tenure and the destruction of many houses in already congested slums left many of those displaced with few options but to remain in shelters.”
IOM assertion: “Some households rendered homeless after the earthquake left congested Port-au-Prince all-together, going home to the regions. Others sent their children to the countryside for a better life.”
Fact: Rural Haiti before the earthquake was home to 52 percent of the population, 88 percent of which was classified as poor; 67 percent was considered extremely poor. The per capita income for rural residents was one-third of that for people living in urban areas, and rural Haitians’ access to basic services was extremely limited. Disaster response following the earthquake has not tackled the extreme structural violence that exists in rural areas, and Hurricane Tomas further destroyed the livelihoods of rural communities. People moving from displacement camps in the city to tents in the countryside have not really moved out of homelessness – they have just moved.
IOM Assertion: “Surviving in poor living conditions during the long hurricane season has persuaded many to seek alternative housing solutions.”
Fact: Homeless people are always seeking “alternative housing solutions.” Camp conditions even before Hurricane Tomas and the cholera outbreak revealed that displaced Haitians were in camps because they had no “alternative housing solutions.” According to a study conducted by City University of New York (CUNY) professor Mark Schuller, before both Hurricane Tomas and the cholera outbreak, 40 percent of displacement camps did not have access to water and 30 percent did not have toilets of any kind. Only 10 percent of families even had tents, many of which were ripped beyond repair during the hurricane season; the rest were sleeping under tarps, or even bedsheets. A study conducted even earlier by the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti found that 78 percent of families lived without enclosed shelter; 44 percent of families primarily drank untreated water; 27 percent of families defecated in a container, a plastic bag, or on open ground in the camps; 75 percent of families had someone go an entire day without eating during one week; and over 50 percent of families had children who had gone without eating for an entire day.
Human rights principles require housing for displaced people, not the forcing away of earthquake victims from displacement camps. Haiti needs practical and sustainable solutions for re-housing, along with services and protections for the people who are still homeless.
One year after the quake, it is critically important for the international community to assist Haitians in securing real housing. The one million homeless Haitians – and the hundreds of thousands who have moved out of the large homeless camps into other areas – are our sisters and brothers, and they still need our solidarity and help.