What U.N. Special Envoy Bill Clinton may do to help Haiti

by Marguerite “Ezili Danto” Laurent, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network

President Jean Bertrand Aristide meets with President Bill Clinton in October 1994.Bill Clinton may be useful to Haiti’s people – not only the ruling tyrannical Haiti oligarchs and U.S. elites in Haiti – if he uses his spotlight to:

1. Support granting TPS to Haitians.

Stopping indefinite detentions and/or automatic repatriation of Haitian refugees and support justice and equal application of U.S. laws towards Haitian immigrants and refugees.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and work permits to Haitian nationals ought to be granted with a specification to stop all deportations until Haiti has recovered from the ravages of hurricanes, floods and the bicentennial coup d’état instability.

2. End the U.N. military occupation.

Expose the U.N. killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests and political persecutions in Haiti. Support justice for the coup d’état and U.N. victims, not impunity for the U.N. and the economic elites in Haiti. Support the release of all political prisoners in Haiti.

The 9,000 U.N. troops in Haiti are paid over $601.58 million per year and have been in Haiti for four years. That is $50.13 million per month, $1.64 million per day. Yet, during the recent floods and hurricane season in Haiti, the Haitian president had to call for international help from the international community. Wasn’t that help already in Haiti, to the tune of 9,000 U.N. – MINUSTAH – troops already cashing in $1.64 million per day?

Why are they there, if incapable of providing emergency help? If they had not one amphibious unit, temporary bridge, caravan of trucks or equipment to reach Haitians in distress, what use are they to the people of Haiti? Are their war tanks, heavy artillery, guns and military presence in Haiti making Haitians more secure, more safe, more free, more prosperous, better nourished, educated and healthier than before they landed four years ago? No.

Special envoy Bill Clinton ought to support ending the U.N. military occupation. Haiti needs development and infrastructure assistance, poverty reduction assistance through investment in Haitian agriculture and self-sufficiency. Tractors, not tanks and guns. Community policing, not war soldiers.

Clinton could help if he uses his spotlight to demand the demilitarization of the Haitian police and U.N. peacekeepers, promoting not any army on Haitian soil, foreign or domestic, but community-based policing, community-focused U.N. and Haitian police work and training, and the banning of U.N. tanks, heavy weapons, equipment and all small arms exports to Haiti.

3. Support canceling immediately and WITHOUT CONDITIONS all Haiti debt to international financial institutions.

4. Support fair trade in Haiti, not sweatshops or “free trade,” and begin reciprocal trade.

Stop grossly unfair free trade deals and ineffective initiatives such as the Caribbean Basin Initiate Investment Support (OPIC) or the Special Export Zones (SEZ) under the Hope Act, which bans trade unions to protect workers’ rights or other such sorts of agreements – pummeling, bullying and beating Haiti into the dust of misery, debt and poverty. And, instead, support Haitian food production and domestic manufacturing, job creation, public works projects, sustainable development and a good working culture that values human rights.

5. Stop failed U.S./USAID policies of fleecing U.S. taxpayers and handing the money to USAID (U.S. Agency of International Development).

And stop effectively trading through USAID, churches and predator NGOs. A great portion of food aid from such entities does not reach the intended beneficiaries in Haiti and ends up for sale in the marketplace.

Start fair trade with Haiti and supporting grassroots, indigenous Haitian capacity building organizations. USAID denies Haitian sovereignty and progress by blocking, declining and subverting any direct assistance to empower the Haitian government. Instead, the majority of Haiti’s national budget – provided by the international community as a consequence the 2004 Bush/USAID regime change – is currently managed by non-governmental organizations approved by USAID. For instance, some 800 NGOs control part of the budget, thoroughly undermining the state’s ability to deal with the famine and food crisis.

Direct that the U.S. re-orientate its resource allocation to Haiti to trade with the Haitian government, not, in effect, with USAID, foreign NGOs, churches and charities in the name of Haitians. For this U.S. foreign policy effectively forms a shadow government enchaining Haiti and undermining Haiti’s sovereignty, and emboldening and empowering NGOs with no public responsibility or accountability to Haitians or Haiti’s long term well-being.

It is in the best interest of the United States to directly support Haitian democracy, good governance, development, self-reliance and self-sufficiency. This cannot be done if the Haitian government has to compete with foreign funded NGOs and charities that are not elected or accountable to the people of Haiti, but are predatory and promoting dependency and their own organizations’ interests for self-perpetuation in Haiti.

To effectively support grassroots, indigenous Haiti capacity building organizations, the U.S. Congress must demand greater fiscal accountability, transparency and quantifiable evidence of sustainable development achievements from reform projects designed, supervised and financed through USAID and their subcontractors, corporate consultants and charity workers using federal funds in Haiti. And in particular these new Haiti foreign assistance guidelines should ensure that food and other aid actually reaches its intended beneficiaries and does not end up for sale in the open market or stay in Washington or get used in Haiti mostly on administrative salaries, fees and expenses for USAID’s political benefactors, shipping companies and nonprofits.

6. Support the institutionalization of the rule of law.

Special U.N. Envoy Bill Clinton should support the institutionalization of Haitian laws, not “democracy enhancement” projects by USAID, IRI (International Republican Institute) or NED (National Endowment for Democracy) that promote coup d’état, instability and financial colonialism and containment-in-poverty in Haiti through neo-liberalism – “free trade,” “globalization” and other such “privatization” – schemes.

Every time the United States supports the destabilization of a duly elected government it visits enormous economic pressures and political turmoil upon Haiti. The turmoil and pressures benefit Haiti’s bloody military and economic elites and undermines Haitian justice, participatory democracy, self sufficiency, sovereignty and self-determination and promotes insecurity, debt, dependency, foreign domination, injustice, a rise in fleeing refugees and structural containment in poverty. This instability has widespread and deep and disturbing repercussions. It keeps Haiti underdeveloped, dependent and contained-in-poverty.

Clinton may begin to support the Haitian Constitution by assisting with the return of President Aristide to Haiti and thereby reinforce the rule of law and interests of the majority of Haitians, not just that of the undemocratic and morally repugnant Haitian elites.

7. Encourage maximum leveraging of Diaspora remittances.

The Haitian Diaspora invests over $2 billion dollars per year in Haiti. That investment is destroyed, diluted and undermined when it must be used to bury family members killed in political turmoil, kidnapped in the chaos of anarchy – the instability that follows coup d’états – or to move and help rebuilt the family of a relative or friend traumatized by the U.N. soldiers’ rapes, molestation, arbitrary detention and indefinite incarcerations of their children, relatives and friends in Haiti.

Funds sent from the Diaspora should instead be used to buy books for the children and relatives to go to school, supplies to carry out a viable family business or seeds to plant next year’s harvest. Remittances should be be invested in Haiti’s tourism, schools, reforestation, agriculture, road construction, flood barriers, communication, energy, sanitation or health needs.

Moreover, when the U.S. deports an income earner to a Haiti ravaged by storms and famine, this decreases remittances and further impoverishes family members who depended on the remittances from family members abroad. Diaspora remittances are the most effective and direct aid to the Haitian poor in Haiti.

Conclusion

Special U.N. Envoy Bill Clinton may assist Haitian development, democracy, self reliance and sovereignty if he supports granting equal treatment and TPS to Haitians, ending the U.N. military occupation, demanding justice for the coup d’état victims, calling for the release of thousands upon thousands of political prisoners in Haiti and assisting Haiti with poverty reduction with domestic agricultural investments not sweatshops. He should support Haiti-led capacity building grassroots organizations not foreigners and NGOs, support community policing, support canceling without conditions the unfair debts to international financial institutions and promote the return to Haiti of President Jean Bertrand Aristide. All this would support stability and participatory democracy, stop the flow of refugees and illegal immigration and meet the policy interests of the United States.

For further information, see Ezili HLLN’s

Haiti Policy Statement for the Obama Team 

What Haitians and Haitian-Americans Ask of the New U.S. Congress and President

The Free Haiti Movement Demands 

Marguerite Laurent, an award winning playwright, performance poet, dancer, actor and activist attorney born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, founded and chairs the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, supporting and working cooperatively with Haitian freedom fighters and grassroots organizations promoting the civil, human and cultural rights of Haitians at home and abroad. Visit her website at www.margueritelaurent.com.