Saturday, August 30, 2008

US Accused of Human Rights Violations in Haiti

The US denies that it meddles in Haitian politics. I have heard a US Embassy official state emphatically that holding the purse strings gives the US no influence in Haitian affairs. The article below from the Daily News Egypt points out what a bold-faced lie this line of propaganda is. It is a fact that this was the tactic used to undermine and oust Haiti's first democratically elected government. The US pursued its imperialistic goals in total disregard of the toll in human misery and suffering.

The human rights of Haitians are violated daily by the international community. In particular, the US has contributed to the underdevelopment of Haiti and the suffering of its people. To date Haiti's infrastructure is in shambles, no running water, electricity, no garbage collection, impassable roads and toxic water.
    "The IDB [Inter-American Development Bank], the world's largest regional development bank, works in Latin America and the Caribbean purportedly to “contribute to the acceleration of economic and social development.” Its actions in Haiti, however, have severely undermined those goals.

    Roughly $54 million in IDB loans for water infrastructure in Haiti, home to literally the world’s worst water, offered a proven path to preventing deadly water-borne diseases. Designed to assist in fulfilling the right to water in the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere, these loans and the lives they could have saved instead have become pawns in a deliberate political power play.

    In 2001, US officials threatened to use their influence to stop previously approved IDB funding unless Haiti’s majority political party submitted to political demands to accept a particular apportionment of seats in a Haitian electoral oversight body. Soon after, at the behest of the US, instead of disbursing the loans as planned, the IDB and its members took the unprecedented step of implicitly adding conditions to require political action by Haiti before the funds would be released. These actions violated the IDB’s own charter, which strictly prohibits the Bank and its members from interfering in the internal political affairs of member states.

    Internal emails reveal that a US legal counselor inside the IDB proposed to the US Treasury Department that, though the loans faced no legitimate technical obstacles, the US could effectively block them by “slowing” the process. Indeed, by requesting further review of the loans, Haiti would have to make scheduled payments before the funds were even disbursed. “While this is not a ‘bullet-proof’ way to stop IDB disbursements,” the counsellor wrote, “it certainly will put a few more large rocks in the road.”

    In 2001, then-US Ambassador to Haiti Dean Curran publicly and explicitly linked the withholding of IDB loans to the demand that Haiti’s political parties reach a compromise that America wanted.

    These tactics worked. Deprived of funds that had already been committed and expected, Haiti fell into arrears on money owed for loan repayment, triggering IDB policies that prevented the Bank from releasing loans. In subsequent years, the US employed additional delaying tactics, working with the IDB to move the goal posts whenever Haiti appeared to be meeting their demands."


About the authors: Loune Viaudis Operations Director at Zanmi Lasante in Haiti and recipient of the 2002 RFK Human Rights Award. Monika Kalra Varmais Director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights.

Update 08.31.08:
I understand the outrage over the use of "voodoo" in the article title (America's Voodoo Human Rights Policy in Haiti). I have taken the term out of my post. I apologize to anyone offended by its use. I understand how insulting the connotation may be. I saw that it jibed with a term that Bush Sr. used to describe Reagan's economic policies. However, we cannot lose sight of the painful and shameful fact that this article was published by an Egyptian news outlet half a world away. No major US news outlet has told the truth about the US involvement in Haiti and it remains to be seen if they ever will.

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