Haiti Is Open for Business – by Stephen Lendman
In December 1984, Canada’s conservative prime minister, Brian Mulroney, told the New York Economic Club that “Canada is open for business,” meaning US companies were welcome, the two countries would work for greater economic integration, America’s sovereignty took precedence of his own, and corporate interests from both countries could operate freely at the expense of most Canadians.
That’s always been Haiti’s curse, now more than ever. Under American militarized control, Haiti is occupied for profit, its pseudo government largely invisible, and predators aim to cash in to the fullest. On January 21, in his article titled, “Securing disaster in Haiti,” Peter Hallward explained, saying:
“….the US-led relief operation has conformed to the three fundamental tendencies that have shaped the more general course of the island’s recent history. It has adopted military priorities and strategies. It has sidelined Haiti’s own leaders and government, and ignored the needs of the majority of its people. And it has proceeded in ways that reinforce the already harrowing gap between rich and poor. All three tendencies aren’t just connected, they are mutually reinforcing. (They’ll also) govern the imminent reconstruction effort as well, unless determined political action is taken to counteract them.”
Post-quake, conditions on the ground are horrific. Three million or more Haitians are affected. Most are displaced and struggling. Essential aid is obstructed and limited. Hundreds of thousands are being removed from the capital, not to help them, to “cleanse” the area for development. The official estimated death toll tops 230,000, over 300,000 are injured, and AP reported (on February 9) that the “Health crisis in Haiti enter(ed) a deadly new phase,” the result of “a half-million (or more) people jammed into germ-breeding makeshift camps” where a health emergency is already apparent in the form of malnutrition, diarrheal illnesses, acute respiratory (and other) infections, at least one reported typhoid case, and fears of possible outbreaks of tetanus, measles, TB, malaria, dengue fever, diphtheria, acute flaccid paralysis, meningococcal meningitis, rabies, and other infectious diseases, including water-borne ones, particularly threatening children.
Independent reports cite outbreaks of tetanus, TB, diarrhea, scabies, ringworm and growing depravation, misery and anger, mostly unreported in the mainstream that instead focuses on disease containment and improving conditions. Daily, conditions are worse, not better, threatening a far greater disaster ahead.
Given the widespread depravation, the obstruction of food, clean water, and temporary shelter, and lack of proper sanitation, infectious disease outbreaks may cause biblical levels of more deaths ahead, perhaps raising the toll to from 500,000 – one million Haitians, a scale definable as genocide.
The Genocide Convention defines it as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group (including) causing serious bodily or mental harm (and) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part….”
US forces control everything – Haiti’s airport, port facilities, the Presidential Palace, and other strategic locations. They patrol Port-au-Prince streets menacingly with heavy weapons. In late January, police beat people, and UN Blue Helmets fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray at hungry Haitians wanting food, a likely precursor to graver confrontations ahead as desperate people seek it to survive. One Haitian told a reporter: “They treat us like animals, they beat us, but we are hungry people.”
On February 7, the 19th anniversary of Jean-Bertrand Aristide first inauguration, his supporters commemorated the event as they do every year, calling for his return, denouncing the occupation, condemning the lack of food and other aid, and the corruption exacerbating the problem along with America’s obstruction to let desperate people suffer and expire.
A month after the quake, inadequate amounts of everything are being distributed. Residents in poor areas like Cite Soleil have gotten virtually nothing and were in desperate straits pre-disaster. On February 8, thousands marched through Petionville, a Port-au-Prince suburb, denouncing what’s occurring throughout stricken areas – mayors and other officials hoarding food and selling it at inflated black market prices, not distributing it to starving Haitians.
One protestor said: “I am hungry, I am dying of hunger. (Mayor) Lydie Parent keeps the rice and doesn’t give us anything.”
Haitian-truth.org said Haitian customs agents are charging people arriving with aid fees to deliver it. Otherwise, their supplies will be held indefinitely.
AlJazeera and other sources reported fake coupons being used for free food, to be sold on the black market at inflated prices.
On February 10, AP reported that public and private hospitals are charging patients, UN officials warning free medications won’t be sent to ones that do. Christophe Rerat of the UN’s Pan American Health Organization said they got about $1 million worth of free drugs, supplied by donations, and all medical care is to be provided without charge. Donated funds are also paying staff.
On February 11, rain and growing frustration sparked spontaneous street protests denouncing President Rene Preval’s inaction, calling for Aristide’s return, and demanding food, clean water and tents for shelter. Club wielding police met marchers. Scuffles followed. Minor injuries were reported. A sign read: “The rain has soaked us. The MINUSTAH must go. We need help. We need aid.”
Shelter from the elements is needed as the rainy season approaches, and with it the greater threat of disease. Reportedly 10,000 tents have arrived, not the 200,000 the government requested and hundreds of thousands more needed.
OCHA reports that 90% of affected Haitians need emergency shelter, over 1.2 million are in “spontaneous settlements,” and nearly half a million “have left Port-au-Prince for outlying” areas. Most of them, in fact, have been forced into permanent displacement, the same fate planned for hundreds of thousands more.
Sanitation is a major concern. At most, 5% of needed latrines are available, and the lack of dumping sites for waste is also a huge problem. With the arrival of thousands of people along the Dominican Republic border, “the food security situation, which was already precarious prior to the earthquake, is getting worse….”
The Nutrition Cluster expects the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate to soar given conditions on the ground throughout the country. In addition, months of rain “will increase morbidity rates for childhood diseases while hunger is expected to be especially severe….Delays in incoming stock pipelines must be addressed to ensure a steady influx of needed items.”
The problem is relief supplies are warehoused at Haiti’s airport, ports and other facilities, not adequately distributed, so willful obstruction is exacerbating the crisis. People are starving. Diseases are becoming epidemics. Everything is in short supply, and OCHA reports only 10% of trauma injuries have been treated.
Yet the web site reliefweb.int shows $569.8 million in relief already donated (as of February 14), or 99% of the appeal’s goal and certain to way exceed it. Where has the money gone? Who’s getting it, and why hasn’t an amount this great delivered significant aid? Disturbing questions demand answers. Why aren’t they forthcoming? It’s because Haiti is being prepared for plunder, and NGOs, including charities, will get their fair share.
The web site ngo.org defines them as follows:
“A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level. Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of service and humanitarian policies and encourage political participation through provision of information. Some are organized around specific issues, such as human rights, environment or health. They provide analysis and expertise, serve as early warning mechanisms and help monitor and implement international agreements. Their relationship with offices and agencies of the United Nations system differs depending on their goals, their venue and the mandate of a particular institution.”
A paper prepared by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s L. David Brown and Mark H. Moore titled, “Accountability, Strategy, and International Non-Governmental Organizations” quotes Anna Vakil’s five NGO “functional categories: welfare, develop (in the sense of capacity-building), advocacy, development education, and networking or research.”
Various other definitions include the following characteristics:
— local, national or international in scope;
— staffed by unpaid volunteers;
— non-political; and
— advancing social, humanitarian objectives.
Some NGOs do. Most don’t as James Petras explained on The Lendman News Hour saying most skim 90% of donations for themselves. Some genuinely enhance welfare, support human and civil rights, and mitigate the ravages of disease and repression. The large majority, however, are ideologically biased think tanks or lobby groups, serving a political agenda for profit. They’re predators, not humanitarians.
In his December 1997 Monthly Review article titled, “Imperialism and NGOs in Latin America,” Petras discussed their early 1970s history under military dictatorships when they actively supported their victims and denounced human rights abuses. Even then, however, their limitations were evident as “they rarely denounced the US and European patrons who financed” them. Nor did they “link the neoliberal economic policies and human rights violations to the new turn in the imperialist system. Obviously” their funding limits their ability to criticize.
Yet as neoliberal regimes “devastat(ed) communities (through) cheap imports, extracting external debt payments, abolishing labor legislation, and creating a” reserve army of cheap labor, NGOs were well funded “to be their ‘community face’….intimately related to those at the top and complementing their destructive work with local projects.” In other words, NGOs are profiteers with a friendly face acting as predatory capitalism’s agents. When they take over, social movements decline, and that’s the whole idea for their presence.
Nearly all have entrenched bureaucracies, highly paid officials, secret operational rules, and undisclosed financing sources and amounts, mostly from domestic or foreign nations whose interests they serve, including for PR, intelligence, or population control, not providing humanitarian services.
They all claim non-profit status, yet operate unethically, collude with governments or business interests, profit handsomely, own unrelated businesses, and exploit people they claim to serve. In many countries, they’re the preferred choice for Western aid and emergency relief, providing cover for an imperial agenda and cashing in handsomely, especially after disasters like wars and their aftermath, floods, famines and earthquakes.
Haiti is called “the Republic of NGOs,” with over 10,000 operating (according to World Bank estimates) for its nine million people, the highest per capita presence worldwide in all sectors of activity and society, many with sizable budgets. Yet their numbers beg the question. With that abundant firepower, why is Haiti the poorest country in the hemisphere, one of the poorest in the world, and one of the most oppressed? Why were so many Haitians starving pre-quake? Why now are conditions catastrophic and worsening?
NGO proliferation mirrored the atrophy of Haiti’s government, providing cover for imperial interests with UN paramilitary and now US combat troop occupiers for enforcement, Haitians, of course, suffering as they have for over 500 years.
Profiteering from Misery
In his book titled, “Travesty in Haiti: A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid and drug trafficking,” Timothy Schwartz recounts an “anthropologist’s personal story of working with foreign aid agencies (the NGO network) and discovering that fraud, greed, corruption, apathy, and political agendas permeate the industry,” part of the reason behind Haiti’s institutionalized oppression, poverty and misery.
According to Haitian lawyer/activist Marguerite Laurent:
“It’s laughably idealistic to wish for accountability, honesty, grace and dignity from the folks at USAID, World Bank, the Christian missions and those ‘doing good’ in Haiti for more than a-half century now,” when, in fact, most come to exploit, seeking profits, not a desire to provide humanitarian services.
“Schwartz’s book unveils paradoxes and lots of critical data on foreign aid, mission schools, orphanages, and the world’s major multinational charities working in Haiti.” He reveals a nation “you’ll not read about in current mainstream books and papers on Haiti.” Nor through the major media that ignore over 500 years of enslavement, colonization, serfdom, severe exploitation and oppression, and brutalizing misery, the last two centuries under US domination.
The book is an “inside story,” said Schwartz, about “fraud, greed, corruption, and apathy, and political agendas (as well as a) story of failed agriculture, health and credit projects; violent struggles for control over aid money; corrupt orphanage owners, pastors, and missionaries; the nepotistic manipulation of research funds; economically counterproductive food relief programs that undermine the Haitian agricultural economy; and the disastrous effects of economic engineering by foreign governments and international aid organizations (like USAID, World Bank and others), and the multinational corporate charities….in their service (like CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, and many others) that have programs spread across the globe, moving in response not only to disasters and need, but political agendas and economic opportunity.”
He saw it for over 10 years, researching and living in Haiti. He stresses not wanting to damage charity providers, just those in it for personal gain, not people they profess to help.
“At the level of individuals and NGOS, the lack of fiscal accountability is manifest in the enrichment of the custodians of the money – pastors and directors of NGOs, schools and orphanages – and the redirection of charity toward middle and upper class Haitians,” the very ones who don’t need it. At governmental levels, “Charity is manipulated to serve political ends.”
Without accountability, corruption gets embedded, aid is distorted, and ends up doing more harm than good, precisely according to plan. For example, Haiti’s School for Jesus Christ of America “was a nest of elites (disdaining) and spurn(ing) the impoverished peasants, fishermen, and slum dwellers, (calling) them ignorant and uncivilized, as subhuman, who called them dan wouj (red teeth) and pye pete (cracked fee)….”
“The impoverished children in the Hamlet could not get medical care,” and what they got was poor quality for exorbitant fees. At the same time, elite children were treated free and their education paid for, using funds meant for the poor. Visiting missionaries called the school administrators “dedicated spreaders of biblical truth, somehow holier than ordinary Christians, closer to God, better than the rest of us.” In fact, they’re predators, profiteering from Haiti’s poor and living lavishly at their expense. Their mission, in fact, is bogus. “Helping the poor? The hell they were!”
CARE is no different, “a perversion of American charitable ideals with its false claims to be aiding the ‘poorest of the poor’ when what it was really doing was throwing exquisite banquets at plush hotels while carrying out US political policy in the interest of international venture capitalists and industrialists.”
Child Trafficking in Haiti
This section deals with abducted children for profit, not Haiti’s century-long Restavek system covered in an earlier article titled, “Child Slavery in Haiti.” Under it, impoverished families send one or more of their children to live with wealthier or less poor ones in return for food, shelter, education, and a better life in return for performing tasks as servants. They, in fact, become de facto slaves subjected to verbal and physical abuse.
Trafficking children for profit is another matter, another scam. Operatives representing orphanages or adoption agencies approach poor families, offer money, promise their children will be well cared for and educated, then disappear them. None are ever heard from again.
According to Schwartz:
“Not one of the families ever received a single letter from the agency or from any of the adoptive parents. An SOS (Enfants Without Frontiers) employee obtained the address of (one) parent organization in Paris but, when they called, the person who answered the phone said that the agency had moved and left no forwarding address.”
Schwartz visited “every single orphanage in the Province as well as Gonaives. They all look like scams to (him. He didn’t want to) write a report saying the orphanages are all scams,” but, in fact, they are, preying on impoverished families.
The problem, however, is far greater. World Vision and Compassion International sponsor 58,500 Haitian children. Christian Aid Missions (CAM) 10,000, the Haiti Baptist Mission 57,800, and many other NGOs run similar operations, trafficking children for profit or diverting funds for the poor to elite ones or their pockets. “….think about all the money that must be collected and never even gets there….So many people at these orphanages are outright lying. Most of the children are not orphans.”
Schwartz’s “dismay with charity and development was growing. (His) job wasn’t over.” He investigated further and found other alarming surprises, “shatter(ing) any remaining faith (he) had in foreign aid to Haiti.” Under militarized control, perhaps much worse is underway, with hundreds of millions of donor aid likely stolen and thousands of predatory NGOs and other profiteers grabbing it.
The recent report about 10 Americans detained (likely to be released pending further investigation and perhaps absolved altogether) for illegally trying to spirit 33 children from Haiti is just the tip of a global problem, one very much affecting Haiti. This longstanding practice is now way accelerated with thousands of children separated from parents, enabling abductors to pass them off as orphans and sell them for profit.
Overall, UNICEF calls human trafficking “one of the most lucrative and fastest growing transnational crimes, generat(ing) approximately up to $10 billion per year,” affecting many millions of victims, mostly women and children. In 2005, the International Labour Organization estimated from 980,000 – 1.25 million children trafficked annually, mostly for:
“domestic labour, commercial sexual exploitation, agricultural work, drug couriering, organized begging, child soldiering and exploitative or slavery-like practices in the informal economy.”
The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (called the Palermo Protocol or Trafficking Protocol) defines the practice as follows in Article 3:
“Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs….”
Under this definition, abductions for sale or transfer to prospective parents are criminal acts – “illicit adoptions” according to UNICEF stating:
“An increase in demand for adoption has helped to propel the unlawful trafficking of babies and young children. Sometimes (parents) from developing countries sell their baby or young child, at other times” infants are stolen.
UNICEF conservatively estimates at least 2,000 Haitian children are trafficked annually to the Dominican Republic alone, and, post-quake, confirmed that 15 or more disappeared from area hospitals, likely victims of abductors. In addition, adoption applications soared, from 10 a month earlier to dozens daily, one agency saying it’s gotten over 1,000 requests to adopt Haitian children.
With many thousands alone and vulnerable, they’re easy pickings for traffickers – for non-Haitian prospective parents, forced labor, commercial sex, or other illicit purposes.
On January 27, Time.com writers Tim Padgett and Bobby Ghosh highlighted the problem in their article titled, “Human Predators Stalk Haiit’s Vulnerable Kids.”
They cited one instance of a “Toyota pickup truck cruising the debris-cluttered streets of Leogane,” offering children food, getting them in the pickup and disappearing, all of them abduction victims. According to UNICEF, “Traffickers fish in pools of vulnerability, and we’ve rarely if ever seen one like this.”
Haiti is now occupied. Under Fourth Geneva, its children, including orphans, are protected persons and can’t be moved for any reason. According to international law expert Francis Boyle, doing so “is a serious war crime,” yet America may be aiding and abetting the guilty, even though it’s (nominally) committed to combatting the practice, and the US 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act calls “trafficking in persons….a transnational crime with national implications.”
The law enhanced earlier penalties, added new protections, and provided victims various benefits and services. It also established a cabinet-level federal interagency task force and federal program to provide them. Under US and international law, Washington recognizes the grievousness of this crime. In practice perhaps it’s another matter given America’s global lawlessness, including illegally occupying Haiti and stealing its sovereignty.
Private Military Contractors (PMCs) See a Bonanza in Haiti
They’re mercenaries, paramilitaries, hired guns, unprincipled, in it for the money, and go anywhere to find it. They’re unregulated, unchecked, free from criminal or civil accountability, and are licensed to kill and get away with it. Wherever they’re deployed, they’re feared for good reason, and they’re heading to Haiti. Xe Services (formerly Blackwater USA) is already there. Jeremy Scahil, author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army calls them a:
“shadowy mercenary company (employing) some of the most feared professional killers in the world (accustomed) to operating with worry or legal consequences (with) remarkable power and protection within the US war apparatus….”
Many PMCs belong to the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA). Immediately after the quake, its web site (ipoaworld.org) announced:
“In the wake of the tragic events in Haiti, a number of IPOA’s member companies are available and prepared to provide a wide variety of critical relief services to the earthquake’s victims. If you would like more information about IPOA and its member companies, you can read more here.”
A list of services and member companies followed. Unexplained was their dark side.
In his January 19 Nation magazine article titled, “US Mercenaries Set Sights on Haiti,” Scahill said to expect “a lot of (disaster profiteering) in Haiti over the coming days, weeks and months. (It’s) kicking into full gear in Haiti,” and arrivals signal the kinds of terrorizing common wherever these professional killers are deployed.
Exploiting Haiti’s Resources
In October 2009, Marguerite Laurent, exposed the key reason for exploiting Haiti, easier under occupation and hundreds of thousands of Haitians removed from where huge oil deposits likely exist and other development is planned. In 2008, an estimated 20 billion barrels were found in deep water off Cuba. Haitian resources are believed to be far greater, and they’ve been known about for decades.
In a 2004 article titled, “Oil in Haiti,” George Michel explained that:
“Since time immemorial, it has been no secret that deep in the earthy bowels of the two states that share the island of (Hispaniola – Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and the surrounding waters that there are significant, still untapped deposits of oil. No one knows why they are still untapped.” Why is with abundant Middle East and other resources, they weren’t needed. Ahead they will be, so maybe now’s the time to exploit them.
“Since the early twentieth century, the physical and political map of the island of Haiti, erected in 1908 by Messrs. Alexander Poujol and Henry Thomasset, reported a major oil reservoir….near the source of the Rio Todo El Mondo, Tributary Right Artibonite River, better known today as the River Thomonde.”
Oil also exists “in the Dominican plain of Azua, a short distance north of the Dominican Republic in the town of Azua.” The field was operating earlier in the last century, producing up to 60,000 barrels daily. In 1982, more significantly, “a huge oil field offshore at the coast of (the Dominican Republic’s) Barahona” province was discovered, but left untapped.
In Haiti and offshore, geological evidence shows oil reserves at “the Bay of Cayes, Les Cayes and between Ile a Vache.” The Dunn Plantation papers as well as George Michel confirm that Haiti is oil rich.
“big US oil companies and their inter-related monopolies of engineering and defense contractors made plans, decades ago, to (exploit Haiti’s resources and use its) deep water ports either for oil refineries or to develop oil tank farm sites or depots where crude oil could be stored and later transferred to small tankers to serve US and Caribbean ports.”
No wonder Washington has its fifth largest embassy in Port-au-Prince after Iraq (the largest anywhere on 104 acres, costing at least $592 million to build), China, Afghanistan and Germany.
Haiti is a strategic resource for its cheap labor, but mostly its exploitable resources, including, oil and gas, gold, copper, diamonds, iridium, and zirconium as well as deep water ports at Fort Liberte and elsewhere.
In February 2004, removing Jean-Bertrand Aristide and exiling him was step one, followed by a coup d’etat government, UN paramilitary “peacekeepers,” and an elected one, subservient to Washington, opening Haiti to greater plunder, including privatizing state-owned companies, exploiting its cheap labor even more, letting unwanted portions perish, and developing its resources.
Now the occupation and, according to Laurent, US-France-Canada balkanization for resource exploitation, Washington wanting the South, including Port-au-Prince, La Gonaive island, offshore to the West, Les Cayes, the southern peninsula and offshore waters. Around 20,000 US Marines and paratroupers arrived for the duration, to ensure Haiti is open for business for the usual corporate interests, and to ensure none of its wealth is shared with the poor – how Haitians have always been treated for over 500 years, except for the brief interregnum under Artistide and short period after becoming the first free and independent Black republic.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday – Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.