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Email to Janel Bagnall (Montreal Gazette) re: Haiti

#1 Guest_Emersberger_*

  • Group: Guests

Posted 31 January 2010 - 01:37 AM

RE: Blame the U.S. and France for Haiti's woes

Dear Janet Bagnall:

I'm very glad you wrote this article. You made some excellent points that urgently need to be if the US and Canada are not to succeed in using disaster relief as a way to take their policies in Haiti to an even more criminal extreme.

However, you should have mentioned Canada's criminal role in Haiti over the past decade. If you've read Canadian author Peter Hallward's book , which you mentioned - then I am sure you recall how valuable Canada's contribution was to the 2004 coup.

Canadian authors Anthony Fenton and Yves Engler also wrote a short book, "Canada in Haiti: Waging war on the poor majority", that exposes how Canada helped sweatshop owners overthrow a democratically elected government for the second time since 1990.

Canada went out of its way to help a regime that murdered and imprisoned thousands of people. Our leaders have paid no real political price for their actions because most Canadians have no idea what hapenned..

Joe Emersberger

The Gazette (Montreal)

January 29, 2010 Friday
Final Edition

Blame the U.S. and France for Haiti's woes; The U.S. propped up corrupt regimes and France piled on the debt


SECTION: EDITORIAL / OP-ED; Janet Bagnall; Pg. A15

LENGTH: 768 words

It has been 17 days since a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, killing as many as 200,000 people, reducing housing to rubble, tearing up roads, destroying schools and hospitals, and killing outright a fragile but real economic rebound.

Seventeen days is unusually long for the world's media to remain at the site of a natural disaster. In Haiti's case, the prolonged attention has led to two interconnected developments: An outpouring of generosity from a world horrified at the suffering of fellow human beings, and a closer-than-usual examination of why Haitians seem to have been singled out for so much hardship.

More than two weeks along, a new view of Haiti's perennial problems is gaining currency: Haiti would not be the western hemisphere's hard-luck case if France and the United States repaid the billions of dollars they owe the island nation for exploiting its people and land.

Bill Quigley, legal director of the U.S. Centre for Constitutional Rights, founded in 1966 by civil-rights lawyers, argued last week in an article posted online that the U.S. "helped bleed the country economically since it freed itself, repeatedly invaded the country militarily, supported dictators who abused the people, used the country as a dumping ground for our own economic advantage, ruined their roads and agriculture, and toppled popularly elected officials."

This is, at heart, a call for reparations. And it is not the only one. Richard Kim, senior editor at the Nation, wrote this month, "Haiti was made poor - by France, the United States, Great Britain, other Western powers, and by the IMF and the World Bank."

The reparations argument runs like this: Haiti's crippling debt load was imposed shortly after its birth in 1804. No sooner had Haiti's slaves declared their freedom and established Haiti as a republic, than France imposed reparations of 150 million francs - under the threat of a trade embargo. Haiti had to borrow from the U.S. to pay the French. It took Haiti until 1947 to pay off about 60 per cent of the loan, valued in 2003 dollars at more than $21 billion.

Since 1915, when it first invaded Haiti, the U.S. has meddled in its neighbour's governance and economy. Haitian rights activists Eric Toussaint and Sophie Perchellet, in an online article, hold the U.S. responsible for maintaining the despotic rule of the Duvaliers because it served U.S. interests to have a friendly dictatorship close by.

The 1957-86 Duvalier period saw Haiti's foreign debt increase 17.5 times, Toussaint and Perchellet write. By 1986, the country's debt totalled $750 million - after most of the money vanished into personal bank accounts of the Duvalier family.

According to a report by PBS, the U.S. public TV network, between 1971 and 1986 Jean-Claude Duvalier, his ex-wife, and their agents were believed to have taken $504 million from Haiti's public treasury, before fleeing into France's welcoming embrace.

In 1986, at a time when 90 per cent of its people were living at starvation level, the new Haitian government requested Switzerland's help in tracking down Haiti's stolen public funds. Switzerland found $6.5 million in an account set up by Duvalier's mother, PBS reported. By February 2009, the money had yet to be returned to the Haitian people.

Vanished funds and onerous debt make up much of Haiti's tragic history. In 2003, Haiti spent $57.4 million to service its debt, Richard Kim reports, a sum that dwarfed the $39.2 million it was given in foreign aid for education, health care, and other services.

When the International Monetary Fund extends a helping hand to Haiti, as it did this week, strings are usually attached. According to information posted by Kim, the IMF's conditions include switching from domestic consumption to exports, devaluation of local currency, a sell-off of public goods and services, and a reduction in the salaries and size of the civil service. Haiti's public-sector employment is the lowest in the region at less than one per cent.

An economically "reformed" Haiti has seen its 1990 per-capita GDP of $617 fall to $425 by 2004. Sweatshop wages run to $2 to $3 a day, the lowest wages in the region, according to Peter Hallward, author of a 2007 book on Haiti. Astonishingly, sweatshops are being touted as a salvation for Haiti's starving poor.

This week, apparently chastened by unaccustomed public scrutiny, the IMF issued an interest-free $100-million loan in emergency funds. The IMF attached none of its usual conditions - a reminder that public scrutiny remains one of the most potent weapons in the struggle for justice.


#2 Guest_Emersberger_*

  • Group: Guests

Posted 04 February 2010 - 03:15 AM

Thank you very much for this. I will read the Fenton/Engler book. The sweatshop story is very interesting, as you say.
All the best,

Janet Bagnall
Editorial writer/Columnist


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