OUR CARIBBEAN: US senator out of touch with Haiti
AS HAITIANS reflect on the thousands dead or injured and the horrific destruction and human degradation resulting from the devastating earthquake of a year ago last Wednesday, it is simply outrageous to learn what a highly-placed American lawmaker said about future funding.
Newly-elected House of Representatives chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, well known for her strident rightwing statements about governance and political culture in countries in the greater Caribbean, lost no time in declaring that future United States and international support for Haiti would “depend on concrete efforts to curb corruption”.
Conscious of the influence of the now Republican-controlled House, she was quoted by BBC Caribbean as saying that “real recovery and development” in Haiti “depends on accountability and strong leadership by the Haitian government”. Further, that she plans to re-introduce legislation to “increase oversight of US funding” to that Caribbean nation.
Ros-Lehtinen is evidently out of touch with the Haitian reality of the January earthquake followed nine months later by a cholera epidemic.
The US and its international allies have failed to deliver on pledges for economic recovery and national reconstruction.
It seems politically absurd as well as culturally slanderous of the Haitian people and what currently passes for a “government” in Port-au-Prince, for the Congresswoman to wave the charge of “corruption” and warn of resorting to the weapon of “control”.
Did she bother, for a start, to speak with former President Bill Clinton, who co-chairs the 26-member Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC), which has equal representation from the international donors and Haiti but which is dominated by non-Haitian policymakers and management to the point of provoking complaints over “sovereignty” from the Haitian cabinet?
Clinton would have told the Congresswoman of some of his own deep disappointments over the US failure to match delivery of aid with pledges. By last year end, an official assessment had pointed to a mere ten per cent delivery, at best, of the original US$9 billion identified as “recovery” aid.
Alex Dupuy, a Haitian, who is Professor of Sociology at Wesleyan University and author of The Prophet and Power – Jean Bertrand Aristide, the International Community and Haiti said in a recent article in the Washington Post that of the estimated US$267 million doled out so far in more than 1 500 contracts, only 20 of those, worth US$4.03 million, or $1.60 out of every $100 have gone to Haitian firms. The rest went to US firms with 23 per cent awarded to two large American firms in “no-bid contracts”.
Ros-Lehtinen should inform herself of the magnitude of human suffering in Haiti today and the daunting challenges for survival and recovery being faced before she moves to introduce legislation to “increase oversight” of US funding for that crisis-plagued Caribbean nation.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.