Nearly two years after a disastrous earthquake hit Haiti, reconstruction of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country is far from completion.
With a devastating history of foreign intervention, donors must come under close scrutiny. Their offers to help Haiti are motivated by greed, not altruism.
Perhaps the scrutiny should begin with the CIA-supported overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide – Haiti’s first democratically elected president – in 1991 and again in 2004, according to CNN.
According to an address given by Noam Chomsky in 2010, Aristide worked toward Haiti’s economic development and was praised by the International Monetary Fund for his efforts. Yet after Aristide won the presidency in 2001, the U.S. turned against the government, he said.
It would be more relevant to speak about then-U.S. President Bill Clinton’s “humanitarian intervention” that allowed Aristide to return to the presidency when he was re-elected in 1994. According to Chomsky, the conditions surrounding Aristide’s return proved devastating for Haiti’s future, as Clinton demanded Haiti open its markets to foreign corporations. The move was an economic disaster for native businesses in Haiti, as multinational corporations began competing with a population that barely had clean water. U.S. corporations profited from the privatization and quickly outmaneuvered local businesses.
Indeed, the 2010 disaster has had devastating effects on all dimensions of Haiti’s future: social, economic, structural and more. With an estimated 200,000 deaths resulting from the earthquake, according to the Telegraph, and millions left homeless throughout the country, why talk about anything else when it comes to the country’s development?
For example, the public cement company Ciment d’Haiti could have been used to literally rebuild Haiti. Yet, according to Freedom Press, the company was privatized in the mid-1990s under pressure from Clinton. As a result, the company could no longer compete and was closed down. Now, Haitians must purchase cement from foreign corporations. Foreign corporations started taking over various divisions of the economy – including agriculture, construction, banking – and subsequently took advantage of the impoverished population by providing low wages when they could have paid more.
The topic of wages was discussed well before the earthquake. According to The Nation, former Haitian President Renee Preval imposed a minimum wage of $3 USD a day in 2009, despite pressure from Haitian workers to increase it. Diplomatic cables reveal outside influences, such as the U.S. and multinational corporations, prevented the minimum wage for assembly line workers from increasing to $5 a day, according to The Nation.
We must not be so nave to associate all of the effects of the earthquake to nature. It may be more justifiable to attribute the major effects to aspects of human nature, namely greed.
Nader Hasan is a senior majoring in international affairs and religious studies.