Washington and International Donors Have Failed Haiti

The "international community" is in charge of rebuilding Haiti,
and one thing has become clear: they are not interested in any kind of
democracy there, not even the low level of "democracy" that they have
committed to in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Haiti's provisional electoral commission
(CEP) has now decided once again that the country's largest political
party, Fanmi Lavalas, will not be allowed to participate in
parliamentary elections scheduled for November.

This is the equivalent of excluding the
Democratic Party (actually something quite a bit larger) from U.S.
Congressional elections in November.

So far there are no indications that the
Obama administration, which has - to put it mildly - enormous influence
over the government of Haiti, has any objections. They had supported
the last elections in April 2009 which also excluded Fanmi Lavalas, even
though the exclusion led to a boycott of some 90 percent of voters.

To follow the historical thread, Fanmi
Lavalas is headed by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who became Haiti's first
democratically elected president in 1990. He was overthrown by the
military seven months later, in a violent coup that had a lot of
Washington's fingerprints on it. President Clinton restored Aristide
three years later, but Aristide offended Washington by, among other
things, getting rid of Haiti's brutal army - which was not so much a
military force as an instrument of political violence on behalf of
Haiti's ruling elite.

Paul Farmer of Harvard Medical School is
Bill Clinton's Deputy Special Envoy at the UN. His "Partners in Health"
has nearly 5,000 people in Haiti. Testifying recently
at a Congressional briefing, he described what happened after Aristide
and his party were elected for a second time, in 2000:

"Beginning in 2000, the U.S.
administration sought . . . to block bilateral and multilateral aid to
Haiti, having an objection to the policies and views of the
administration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, elected by over 90% of the
vote . . . Choking off assistance for development and for the provision
of basic services also choked off oxygen to the government, which was
the intention all along: to dislodge the Aristide administration."

It was the second Bush administration that finally overthrew Aristide
for the second time - in the coup of March 2004. But as Farmer notes,
the process was initiated under the Clinton administration in 2000. And
the Obama administration is currently silent on Aristide's forced exile
from Haiti, a violation of Haiti's constitution.

If only Washington were a tenth as good
at rebuilding Haiti as it was at destroying the country before the
earthquake. But six months after the catastrophe, less than 2 percent of
the 1.6 million homeless have homes. Hundreds of thousands have nothing
at all; and 80 percent of the homeless that do have shelter are living
under tarps where the ground under them turns to mud when it rains. And less than 2.9 percent of all aid money has gone to the Haitian government,
which makes reconstruction nearly impossible. With a hundred thousand
children wounded from the earthquake, public hospitals are closing.

The land that is needed for shelter is
owned by rich Haitians, who have other plans. The Haitian government has
the authority to take this land, with compensation. The international
community can make this happen.

It's time for members of the U.S.
Congress to step up to the plate and change our foreign policy toward
Haiti, as they did after the 1991 military coup. Congress can make sure
that the aid flows to where it is needed, that land and shelter are
available, and that Haitians are allowed to elect their own government.
After all that Washington has done to punish Haiti, this is the least
they can do.

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