Friday, September 18, 2009

Dr. Gupta, did you give that little girl in Haiti a hug?

In 2007 CNN aired a report called:
Invisible Chains: Sex, Work and Slavery
"The world's largest employment category for children under 16 is domestic work in the homes of others."

In this 2007 CNN report, a segment by correspondent Joe Johns is from the Dominican Republic. It is about the exploitation of Haitian laborers in the DR's sugar cane fields.

"JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's very early in the Dominican Republic. There in the predawn shadows, you see men with machetes and water jugs. They're going to work at one of the hardest jobs in the world. They cut sugar cane the same way it's cut in other parts of the Caribbean.

It looks like a scene from slavery in the United States more than 140 years ago. The overseers on horseback. Some are armed. The cane piled high. Much of the sugar ultimately shipped to the United States.

What we found here was not slavery. Instead, we found people who are enslaved by their circumstances. Most are Haitians who have crossed the border into the Dominican Republic to work.

They have no rights. They live in squalor. Many earn just enough to eat if they're lucky.

Look at this. It's a called a bate[ey], a shanty settlement.

Hard to believe, but this man is only in his 50s. He worked in the cane fields for nearly 40 years. His shack is filthy. He hasn't eaten in four days. With no work in Haiti, he came here as a teenager and now he's sick and alone, on crutches and living on handouts from people who can't afford to give them.

We found this man cutting cane on a Sunday. With five children back in Haiti to feed, he works seven days a week.

We also met children. They tell us they started in the cane fields at age 7. For less than a penny an hour, they plant rows of cane shoots 100 yards long. They were happy to have the work."

The film "The Price of Sugar" was a landmark documentary which exposed the "plight of Haitians toiling on sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic." A priest who became an advocate for the laborers was the film's central protagonist. In the documentary, Father Christopher Hartley calls the worker's conditions "quasi-slavery."

sanjay gupta, cnn, child labor, haiti

On July 13, 2009 Dr. Sanjay Gupta aired his own report on "slavery" from a Port-au-Prince, Haiti slum. He called it, "A capacity for cruelty is never justified." In this report, Gupta has a different opinion of what constitutes slavery. It seems that location matters. Gupta expresses a harsher view of child labor as it is practiced in Haiti.

"I'm in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Many people know of Haiti as being the poorest, and the least developed country in the Western Hemisphere.

While there are some beautiful spots in this country. A lot of the country does looks like this.

What you are looking at here is a marketplace. It's in one of the slums surrounding Port-au-Prince. This is the way of life for so many people here. Buying and trading goods. Forced to live in conditions somewhat like this.

But there is a bleak irony here, as well, this was a country founded out of a slave revolution. This is a country that was founded out of a slave revolution [and] became the first free Black republic anywhere in the world. But despite all that there are still forms of modern slavery today. In the form of these children that are known as Restaveks. Ask someone what that means and they'll tell you it means a child laborer or a child slave.

Like the child there Deana. This is a girl who's forced to carry these 5 gallon tubs of water on her head almost half a mile every single day. Several times a day. She's on her knees mopping floors, cleaning out dishes. And that is just her side job. That is when her owners lends her out. She goes back and does those same jobs for her owner as well. Works morning to night, never gets paid and and barely gets scraps of food. All of this under the constant threat of mental and physical abuse. She told me she never received a hug or any displays of affection until the age of fourteen."

Dr. Gupta will you expose child labor (or child slavery) as practiced in your ancestral country of India? This would be a good follow up on your series from Haiti. You must do a comprehensive follow up if you are serious about tackling this insidious worldwide child labor problem. The unfortunate young children in China's factories may not understand, so you probably should not ask them if they have been hugged lately -- they might think it's weird.

child labor - the history place
It is hypocritical in my opinion, for CNN to send reporters periodically to "expose" Haiti's poverty driven deprivations in a bubble of ignorance, including child labor. For one thing, newsflash CNN, child labor is an unfortunate consequence of poverty and its attending miseries. The "bleak reality" is, child labor was commonplace in the US when it was a "developing" country (here are some pictures from 1908-1912). It was customary for American children to work on family farms and to "never get paid." Is that so scandalous? Also, children labored in US factories before labor laws against it were passed. I would bet that these working kids even got severely beaten at times. My opinion is that even spanking a child is wrong. It is disrepecting another human being. Child labor is wrong and should be outlawed in Haiti, but to call child labor as it is practiced in Haiti slavery, is also wrong.

In Haiti, Restavek means "to stay with." It is a long tradition that is practiced for the most part in families. A family in the countryside will send their child to family members in the city. By the way, in Haiti, children are expected to be totally obedient to adults, be they close relatives or not. This is a Haitian tradition. Also, in the countryside, children at a very tender age are given chores to perform -- drawing and bringing water home is considered a child's chore. As in any system, there are abuses of Restavek children. The Restavek system, although it is a voluntary and familial social system, should be closely monitored for abuses. This is a responsibility of the Haitian government and law enforcement. The government must protect children from abusers and punish those criminals who abuse children.

That said, if CNN is getting into the social justice arena, the following are stories about Haiti that need some exposure from the US media:

Where is the exposé on CNN on the "slave" wages paid to Haitian factory workers (22¢ per hour). Perhaps CNN could propose that the US, a trade "partner" and powerful "friend" of Haiti insist on some labor laws to discourage the gross abuses by the sweatshop owners in Haiti -- maybe urge that they provide food, regular breaks, overtime pay or decent hours? After all, US companies buy the goods produced by men, women and children paid slave wages and working under unfair labor conditions.

How about the children crowded in unsanitary jails suffering from disease and malnutrition? Since the overthrow of Haiti's democracy and this current brutal UN occupation, the number of prisoners literally on a death watch in Haiti's jails have more than doubled "rising from 3,500 shortly before the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to 8,000 today. Has CNN sent a reporter to interview them and asked when was the last time they ate, bathed, saw a lawyer, had a hearing, do they even have charges filed against them?

CNN will you expose the fueling role that US foreign policy has on the worldwide food crisis which is currently affecting "developing" countries like Haiti?

"The current global food system, which was designed by US-based agribusiness conglomerates like Cargill, Monsanto and ADM and forced into place by the US government and its allies at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, has planted the seeds of disaster by pressuring farmers here and abroad to produce cash crops for export and alternative fuels rather than grow healthy food for local consumption and regional stability."

What about some meaty stories on privatization, sweatshops, kidnappings in the service of a coup (Haiti, Venezuela), political prisoners, disappearances... où sont-ils?

Perhaps you could also do a series on the negative repercussions of neoliberalism or globalization as these concepts are practiced by institutions run by US banking entities like the IMF and World Bank? When will your viewing audience see this title on a story: "How has "structural adjustment programs" negatively affected developing countries?"

Have you heard this really interesting story? The one about the report put out by the Kennedy Center and Paul Farmer's "Zanmi Lasante" about how the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has committed human rights abuses in Haiti? Non? That reminds me of the title of your report - "A capacity for cruelty is never justified."

CNN, what is the purpose of reporting that the poor of Haiti have a hard life that requires extreme sacrifices? Haitians already know that. In 2007, Haiti collected $1.83 billion in remittances from the Haitian diaspora, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. Charity and loans from NGOs, governments and others is the new slavery that comes with the shackles of debt and dependency. The new slavery model:

A genocide is going on in Haiti right now. When only a handful of Haitians are working, when theres 70% unemployment and those actually formally working are only making 22 cents (70 gourdes) an hour and forced to pay the Haitian Oligarchs for food to eat at high U.S. import prices, starvation is a given. It's economic slavery. The slavery in Haiti the media won't expose.

Where is the coverage on CNN of Haiti's most recent political crisis? Why doesn't CNN tell the truth about the fact that two US coups in 1990 and again in 2004 removed the first democratically elected president of Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide? CNN, please report on these US sponsored coups and the right-wing Republican agencies and personalities providing the funding and support!

As a result of the 2004 intervention, 8,000+ have died, 35,000+ have been raped. It's in a Lancet report -- that's a highly respected British medical journal. Since the coup, political activist have been disappeared and many still remain in filthy, disease ridden jails without a hearing or charges. Where is your report from Haiti on that?

Also as a result of these interventions, the US can boast that it runs Haiti by way of the US selected president, Rene Preval. After all, Haiti is a failed state. Elements in the US government have always asserted that Black people cannot rule themselves and have intervened regularly in Haitian politics. From their point-of-view, it was the humanitarian duty of civilized nations (US, France and Canada) to intervene and protect its interests from barbarians like these slaveholding Haitians.

In his article about the 2004 coup Peter Hallward writes about "Option Zezo in Haiti," describing the prevailing attitude (and racism) of the international media and Western nations in supporting and carrying out the intervention:

Libération gloated at the dissolution of ‘the pathetic carnival over which Aristide had proclaimed himself king’. For the New York Times the invasion was a fine example of how allies can ‘find common ground and play to their strengths’. All that remained was for Bush to call and thank Chirac, expressing his delight at ‘the excellent French–American cooperation’. [5]

The Western media had prepared the way for another ‘humanitarian intervention’ according to the now familiar formula. Confronted by repeated allegations of corruption, patronage, drugs, human rights abuses, autocracy, etc., the casual consumer of mainstream commentary was encouraged to believe that what was at stake had nothing to do with a protracted battle between the poor majority and a tiny elite but was instead just a convoluted free-for-all in which each side was equally at fault.

Unfortunately, one thing we can glean from Dr. Gupta's report, five years out from the US financed coup in 2004 (backed by the UN, France and Canada), things have not substantively improved for Haitians and their children. Looks like the US government is pretty hands-on in this failing state business. Helping Haitians to better their lives is not a part of the equation. The goal is to protect US interests.

As it stands, this propaganda piece by CNN's Sanjay Gupta is merely serving the purpose of reinforcing the perception that Haitians are uncivilized and unworthy to carry on the legacy of freedom carved out by their ancestors who succeeded in breaking the shackles of slavery to wage the first and only successful slave rebellion the world has ever witnessed. Indeed, Haitians simply have no rights that Western civilization must respect. Look at how they enslave their own children!

CNN, if you really want to tackle improving the lives of the poor in Haiti it will first require that the US change its policies and show some respect for the sovereignty of Haiti. Haiti is a country that has paid a heavy price to be free. Show some respect.

It is cowardly, hypocritical and shameful that CNN bypassed other stories with long-term consequence for the Haitian poor, as well as stories that affect the immediate welfare of Haiti's poor children, in order to "expose" that Haiti (in CNN's opinion) is a country which practices "slavery" in the form of child labor, a practice that was prevalent in the US just a few short decades ago.

CNN, if you have an interest in exposing slavery, may I respectfully suggest that you investigate "modern day" slavery in America?

By the way, Dr. Gupta did you give that poor little Haitian girl a hug?

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good points. I sell on a home shopping channel and everytime we have something dirt cheap, I wonder about the child labor used to make that ruby ring from India or how this shirt with beading can be $20 and yet we're all making money. The US should definitely start showing some social responsibility and stop importing from countries that continue to abuse their workers and do not provide food and fair wages. Believe me, it wouldnt hurt any of us to have fewer cheap options at Target and Walmart. How much crap do we all need? Maybe the US citizens would start saving some $ by not being able to afford to buy so much junk.

Mall said...

On parle de déblocage de beaucoup d’argent en faveur des sinistrés, mais en réalité sur le terrain y’a rien.. C’est vraiment triste.. !

Pierre said...

CNN use the microphone and the video instead of gun but it is a branch of the U.S. armed Forces by extension.
Its Function is to uses propaganda,omitting or misrepresenting facts that are not in the U.S. political or economical interests and to sway other countries to accept U.S. agenda at the expense of their country best interest.
Most of their interviewing and reporting are not done randomly as they leads you to believe but they must fit their objectives and the ideas they want to conveys. Certain less worthy people were relevant during their interviews other were conveniently omitted or ignored such as the Cuban MD. By doing so they undermined their own credibility in the eyes of the world. A semblance of objectivity is questionable at best.
Their reporting during the post earthquake period in Haiti reflect this.

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