By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza, African Exponent, Feb. 18, 2020
The imprint of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton is indelible. The couple’s presence and impact on the Caribbean island have brought nothing but prolonged despair for the Haitians. Their elusive and opaque deals in the country have not done anything to alleviate the country out of poverty depths. The purported interests of helping Haiti from its myriad of problems have only caused stagnation in Haiti.
The presence of Bill Clinton, who also served as the president of the United States together with his wife who served as the Secretary of State during Obama’s tenure can be traced back to the 90s. Their interests in Haiti are not a new phenomenon. If not, their interests in Haiti have almost become irrevocably entrenched and have had far-reaching consequences in the lives of ordinary Haitian citizens.
Their history with the country dates back to 1975 when they had their honeymoon there. If there is an unpopular couple in Haiti, it definitely has to be the Clintons; for they are held in contempt and in despicable terms. What the Clintons did is unforgivable to the Haitians.
The devastating 2010 earthquake left Haiti in tatters. The country’s economy reeled under the biting and excruciating effects of the earthquake. Because of their history with Haiti, the Clintons seized this chance in the interests of “assisting” Haiti in its times of unparalleled difficulty. But their involvement with the earthquake relief programs was the final proof Haitians needed to show that the Clintons’ true intentions with the country were to rob it for their own parochial interests.
Bill Clinton’s influence in Haiti ranges from the 1990s agricultural policies in Haiti that destroyed the country’s rice industry to the meddling in internal affairs and finally to the earthquake. There is a sense of permanency attached to the Clintons’ name as regards their activities in Haiti, particularly the Clinton Foundation.
When the earthquake struck, the global response was to send in donations to Haiti. But of course, that needed a commission that would be designed to have an oversight role as regards the disbursement of the various relief packages pouring through. The Clintons stepped up to lead the global response. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) was brought into life and Bill Clinton was selected to be its co-chair. At that time, Hillary Clinton was still the Secretary of State and thus responsible for channeling USAID relief spending to Haiti.
One could not have found an escape from their influence. Bill Clinton co-chaired the commission alongside Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. Some $13.3 billion was pledged by international donors so that Haiti could be rebuilt and the lives of Haitians uplifted.
The IHRC was comprised of two parts: one that had the foreigners and one led by the Haitian Prime Minister. Bill Clinton chaired the foreign part and it had all the donors; they had to the IHRC $0.10 billion over two years or forgive $0.20 billion of Haitian debt. Each and every decision made by the Haiti section of the commission had to be endorsed by the foreign section. And Clinton was at the helm of the foreign part of that commission.
As the money found its way into the possession of the IHRC, it increasingly became arrogant and opaque. The only thing that came out of the post-earthquake relief plans was the construction of an industrial park called Caracol, which cost $300 million. The US was also amenable to financing a power plant. The belief held by the Clintons and their allies in terms of rebuilding Haiti was premised on employing short-term plans espoused in the foreign aid industry that the US had imposed on Haiti all these years.
They hoped that Caracol would sizeably attract foreign businesses for the reconstruction of the country’s badly fractured economy. It was the same old policy that did not care about the pertinent issue of creating long-lasting projects that would eventually help the poverty-stricken Haitians. The foreign-aid industry plans are concerned with benefiting the international players, the private contractors.
The industrial park is considered a very big flop by the US. Worse still, several hundred farmers were evicted from there in order to make way for the 600-acre park. Too much emphasis was placed on “outside players” instead of the Haitian government to effect change.
As such, the jobs that Caracol was expected to make fall far below the reality on the ground. The post-earthquake efforts by the Clintons, particularly Caracol, was a damning failure that did nothing to lift the Haitians out of their misery but only lined the pockets of big firms. South Korean textile giant Sae-A Trading Co, which is the main employer at Caracol, gifted the Clinton Foundation with donations between $50,000 and $100,000.
The IHRC had little to show for all the money that came through except the Caracol industrial park. Not much reconstruction in Haiti was done. Where did all the money go? The Clinton Foundation has refuted claims that it had influence in the running of the IHRC, saying, “Since 2010, the Foundation has worked on the ground in Haiti with a range of partners - helping more than 7,500 farmers lift themselves out of poverty; improving the Haitian environment by planting more than 5 million trees and installing more than 400 KW of clean energy; and supporting women through literacy training and job skills for over 2,000 women,” when responding to the BBC.
It has been speculated some of the money that came through the commission found its way towards sponsoring Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign which she lost to the incumbent Donald Trump in 2016 but this is an area she has always been evasive about when probed. They become allegations without proof but to Haitians the more she dodges the question, the more she becomes suspicious and pernicious to the interests of Haitians.
It is estimated that the IHRC collected over $5.3 billion over two years and $9.9 billion in three years but Haitians still find themselves mired in abject poverty. A US Government Accountability Office report circumvented the issue by deciding not to find any iota of wrongdoing, but the gravity of the failure made them mention that the plans by the IHRC, co-chaired by Bill Clinton, “did not align with the Haitian priorities.”
The failure by the IHRC to rebuild Haiti is still haunting Haiti. The failed agricultural policies by the US made sure Haiti, a country that produced its own rice, would be reliant on US food to the extent that Haiti imports food from the US. Foreign aid is continuously pumped into Haiti, and no plan is made to bolster the country’s own capacity to rebuild and produce.
Haiti is still run on which business finds favor with the US, and while the Clintons were in charge of the US, they presided over all these failed policies. It is high time the onus to build Haiti shifts back to the government.
Posted Feb. 23, 2020