Monday, January 25, 2010

The Future of Haiti

Raymond Joseph, the Haitian ambassador to the US, told C-SPAN, "What was not politically possible, was done by the earthquake. We will rebuild differently . . . The future of Haiti will be very different from the past.'' We hope Haiti's future will be better, but we remain very concerned about the signs we have seen so far.

This week, journalist Jeremy Scahill revealed the mercenary companies that are already setting up in Haiti, including "Triple Canopy, the company that took over Blackwater's massive State Department contract in Iraq." Scahill reports that one mercenary group set up a website to advertise their services in Haiti within hours after the earthquake.

The Washington Post reported that Haiti's wealthy were spared much of the destruction. Describing "an extreme, almost feudal divide between rich and poor in Haiti," the Post says "search-and-rescue operations have been intensely focused on buildings with international aid workers, such as the crushed U.N. headquarters, and on large hotels with international clientele. Some international rescue workers said they are being sent to find foreign nationals first."

The Post quotes a church-goer who says that reconstruction dollars will likely be directed to businesses owned by Haiti's elite. "They only give the aid money to the same big families, over and over. So I ask, what is the point? They have given money to these families to help Haiti for 50 years, and look at Haiti. I say the Americans need to make up a new list."

The program Democracy Now, which has featured some of the most powerful and important journalism from Haiti, reported on Friday, "Security 'Red Zones' in Haiti are preventing large aid groups from effectively distributing aid." Author Rebecca Solnit has written an excellent article called When The Media is the Disaster about the ways in which the media is demonizing the people of Haiti, condemning, "those members of the mass media whose misrepresentation of what goes on in disaster often abets and justifies a second wave of disaster."

We hope that grassroots voices will be able to combat the corporate media's bias, and that the people of US and other countries will be able see past the fear and support our friends in Haiti not just in this relief effort, but in a just rebuilding as well.

As we reported on Thursday, Louisiana Justice Institute co-director Jacques Morial co-convened a gathering to plan next steps in New Orleans solidarity with Haiti. Saturday, the Times-Picayune reported on these continuing efforts - including a plane carrying aid that just left New Orleans - under the headline "New Orleanians pitch in to provide medical aid for Haiti." In the coming days and weeks, there are many fundraisers and other local efforts still to come. New Orleans will not forget Haiti.

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