Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic Policy Research in Washington DC speaks to Real News on the off-the-cuff announcement of a freeze on new aid projects in Haiti by Canada's Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino, on January 3, 2013. The seven-minute interview is an excellent summary of the past eight years in Haiti.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, The Real News Network, in Baltimore: The Canadian cabinet minister who is in charge of the Canadian International Development Agency has said he is going to review Canada's aid to Haiti, suggesting they might suspend new money for Haiti. And here's what he said:
"Our government has a responsibility to maximize the value of Canadian taxpayers' dollars. However, we remain concerned with the slow progress of development in Haiti, in large part due to weaknesses in their governing institutions."
Fantino said this in a statement posted on CIDA's website on Tuesday. Joining us to talk about developments in Haiti and what he thinks of the Canadian minister's statement is Mark Weisbrot. Mark is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He's a regular columnist for The Guardian and a regular contributor to The Real News. Thanks for joining us, Mark.
MARK WEISBROT, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR ECONOMIC AND POLICY RESEARCH: Thank you.
JAY: So what do you make of what the minister's saying? They're saying that there hasn't been enough progress, they need more transparency, and that essentially the governing institutions of Haiti are failing.
WEISBROT: Well, the first two things: there definitely hasn't been enough progress. I mean, it's terrible. You had, you know, 1.5 million people who were made homeless by the earthquake. You still have 358,000 of them living in camps. A lot of the ones who've been moved out of the camps were just forced out, and so they don't have anyplace to live. You have 1 million people living in housing that's basically unsafe, that they shouldn't be living in, that needed repairs or are supposed to be demolished. And so, you know, they didn't even solve the most basic housing problem.
So of the money from USAID, 67 percent of that is going to inside-the-beltway contractors. Only 1 percent is going to Haitian firms.
So, again, you know, [incompr.] doing anything to build the capacity, even in the health ministry, for example, although they're starting to change that a little bit, to deal with the reconstruction. And, you know, the worst thing of all to me is that they actually-you know, the UN troops actually brought this deadly disease of cholera to Haiti. Over 7,900 Haitians have been killed and over 600,000 infected. In fact, most of the cholera infections in the whole world in the last couple of years, since they brought it there, have been in Haiti.
So this is something that they created. They made this mess. Haiti didn't have cholera for over a century, and it's something that they're going to have to live with for years. And what are they doing, what have they done to just provide clean water and sanitation, which most Haitians don't have, access to sanitation? And probably 40 percent don't have drinkable water. This is what, you know, spreads the disease. This is the cause of the disease, really. The normal way you [incompr.] the disease is to provide water and sanitation. And they haven't even done that. The UN hasn't even taken responsibility for having done this, even though everybody knows they did it. I mean, Bill Clinton acknowledged it in March, and you had, you know, any number of scientific studies from New England Journal of Medicine, the Center for Disease Control, you know, all these studies show that this disease was brought to Haiti by UN troops.
And they won't even-you know, now, finally, in December, you know, two years after they brought cholera there, they finally say, okay, we're going to come up with a plan, we're going to have a ten-year plan to get clean water and sanitation to Haiti, and, of course, also the Dominican Republic. But it's going to take years before they actually do anything. And in the meantime they've even cut back-in the last year they've cut back on cholera treatment centers and cholera treatment units. So, you know, 357 people died in the last quarter of last year from cholera. This is really an outrage. And I don't think it would be permitted in any other country.
JAY: Right. Now, when Canada talks about the failure of Haitian institutions, some people argue there's a certain kind of irony to that, because after the earthquake, wasn't it Canada, the United States, and the UN that kind of made sure that Haitian society returned to what it had been pre-earthquake, that the elites remained in power and the various institutions remained essentially serving those elites?
WEISBROT: Well, it's worse than that. I mean, yeah, why don't they have a government? Because, you know, the U.S. and Canada and France have-you know, overthrew the last democratically elected government in 2004. And that's when they brought in the UN troops. And I should say, you know, a lot of people think the UN troops that brought the cholera to Haiti actually came in after the earthquake to help, but that isn't true. They actually came in after the coup in 2004, which was the second time that the United States overthrew the democratically elected government in Haiti, the first in just the last 20 years. You know. The first time, it was the same president. It was Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He was overthrown the first time in 1991.
So why doesn't Haiti have a government? Because the so-called international community, they never let them build a government, never let them have their own government. And that's, you know, of course the fundamental problem.
And then you look at these troops who were never invited there. Then they bring this deadly disease. And they're eating up, you know, most of the-enormous amounts of money. In the last two years, the money that the UN troops have cost just to maintain-and these are people, you know, troops that the Haitians don't even want there-you know, that's almost as much as you would need for the $2.2 billion for the whole ten years, which of course the UN and the international community doesn't have.
So the money is there. They're using it to maintain this troop presence, to basically occupy this country. And they have no legitimate reason for it. I mean, this isn't-you know, sometimes they call them peacekeeping troops, but they're not peacekeeping troops. They weren't brought in at any time during, you know, a civil war or to keep the peace, and there's no peacekeeping agreement under which they are there.
So this is one of the terrible ironies of the international community running around and blaming the Haitians for the mess that they have created.
JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Mark.
WEISBROT: Thank you.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
Mark Weisbrot is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis and has written extensively about economies of developing countries in Latin America. He is also the founding president of Just Foreign Policy, an NGO dedicated to reforming US foreign policy. He is also a weekly columnist with The Guardian
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