Letters: False picture of foreign aid to Haiti: ”
The UN forces came to police the 92% of Haitian voters who had elected President Aristide and protested about his overthrow by a US coup. They were never ‘heroes’ – except to the elite ‘cocooned in luxury and indifference’ who backed the coup (Heroes to zeros, 17 November 2010).
Before accusations of having brought cholera to Haiti (many believe intentionally), UN troops stood accused of murdering and raping Aristide supporters. According to the Lancet (UN peacekeepers in Haiti, 2 September 2006): ‘In just 22 months – from the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the end of 2005 – 8,000 people were murdered and 35,000 women sexually assaulted.’ While ‘criminals’ were blamed, ‘police, armed forces, paramilitaries and foreign soldiers were also implicated’.
You have got some things right: Haiti is a ‘republic of NGOs’; ‘aid tourism’ does hinder reconstruction; and subsidised US imports were responsible for ‘destroying home-grown agriculture’. (Bill Clinton apologised for the starvation his policies inflicted). But your claim that US troops are ‘popular and many people want them back’, and the fact that US-financed elections on 28 November exclude Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party from the ballot, disregard the will of a people who, despite every obstacle, continue to let their will be known.
Twice before, in April and June 2009, 90% of the Haitian electorate boycotted US-funded elections which illegally excluded Fanmi Lavalas. In June 2010, Haitians brought to the US Social Forum a petition signed by over 20,000 female earthquake survivors demanding Aristide’s return from forced exile. If Aristide were home, Haitians would not be at the mercy of NGOs and others for whom they are merely a business opportunity.
Selma James and Nina Lopez
• What a shame readers were left with such a dismal impression of overseas aid to Haiti. It is true that ‘aid tourism’ has turned Haiti into a ‘republic of NGOs’, but it is not the whole story. There is also what has been called ‘one of the world’s best kept secrets’ – Cuban medical aid to Haiti. Two academics, Emily and John Kirk, who have worked on a project to monitor Cuban medical internationalism sponsored by Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council, have concluded that Cuba’s significant contribution to this impoverished nation since hurricane Georges in 1998 is the subject of media censorship.
By 2007 Cuban medical personnel were estimated to be caring for 75% of the population. Moreover, Cuba seeks to train Haitian doctors both on the island and at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. It is in all our interests to recognise that global survival will depend not just on donor handouts from the industrialised nations but also on solidarity and sharing expertise and material aid.
- United Nations