Haiti in the test

Publish date 04-12-2021

by Lucia Capuzzi

History repeats itself, the first time in farce, the second in tragedy, argued Karl Marx. This sultry and dramatic August denied the German philosopher's claim: history is repeating itself with the same tragicity. In Afghanistan, time seems to have gone back twenty years.
In Haiti, the jump is eleven, when an earthquake of similar intensity reduced the capital, Port-au-Prince, to rubble, killing 230,000 victims in a matter of minutes. The earthquake of 14 August hit a much less densely populated area: the west of the country.
The dead are, therefore, much less: a few thousand, to which 12 thousand injured, 100 thousand houses destroyed, at least 600 thousand affected are added. For the poorest country in the western hemisphere, already exhausted, it is still a catastrophe. To further amplify it is the monotonous repetition, by Western diplomacy, of the same waltz. The aim of which, rhetoric aside, is to keep the "problem" as far as possible from its respective borders. Then as now there is no politics that has the broad breath of a vision and not the gasp of the latest opinion poll or the short-sightedness of one's immediate interests.
Haiti, in this sense, less mediatic than Afghanistan, is perhaps even more eloquent.

In the aftermath of January 12, 2020, Bill Clinton, newly appointed special commissioner for reconstruction, made an ambitious promise: "We will create a better tomorrow by rebuilding Haiti better." Build back better became the post-earthquake mantra.
The structure led by the former president and managed by the UN, the main donor states and the Haitian authorities, raised 6.4 billion dollars in a short time. A high figure. At least in theory. The announced reconstruction did not take place. According to independent estimates, less than 3 percent of the money raised went to local organizations and businesses. The rest, in the form of lucrative procurement contracts, went to the companies of the donor nations. Their investment choices appear at least bizarre. The Champs de Mars, which have little in common with the Parisian gardens of the same name, in the center of Port-au-Prince, have been graced with kiosks, bistros and souvenir stalls. The breezy revival of tourism, the cornerstone of the international reconstruction project, never took place. The brand new luxurious Marriott and Best Westerns in Petion Ville, a residential district of the capital, know this well: the first is perpetually empty, the second closed its doors on October 31, 2019. An announced failure.

It is difficult to imagine crowds of visitors wandering the streets of Port-au-Prince invaded by waste because there is no national disposal system, dark at sunset due to a power failure and terribly unsafe due to the presence of hundreds of gangs. Little was spent on building the basic infrastructure.
To contribute to the construction of an economic, political and social system.
A project to be "sold" on the media and able to guarantee an immediate return of image, leveraging global forgetfulness, was preferred to a broad, inconspicuous but lasting process. Local corruption did the rest: a widely known drama that the international community had pledged to watch over. Evidently, however, he did not.

In the end, the country remained in ruins, as evidenced by the crisis underway before the earthquake. President Jovenal Moïse was assassinated on 7 July last. The murder came at the end of a grueling tug-of-war between the government and the opposition, which never recognized its legitimacy. The conflict, which lasted over four years, paralyzed the institutions. Meanwhile the gangs - mafias of the poor but well armed - have multiplied. So much so that, in the aftermath of the new earthquake, the UN had to negotiate with them the "safe passage" of the convoys with aid. Since last January, the kidnappings had become daily. The world, however, had not noticed the situation.
Not even the killing of Moïse managed to attract his attention.

Back in the shadow of international politics, Haiti had to suffer a new earthquake to be torn from it.
As in a flashback, the international community - Washington first - has launched into emphatic promises. If, once again, it will be empty words or if the world will finally take charge of a country that has contributed so much to devastate - if there will be "shared interest", as Pope Francis asked at the end of the Angelus - it will say. only time.

info: Haiti, a Central American country located in the Caribbean Sea, with more than 10 million inhabitants, is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Over the years it has been hit by numerous natural disasters, including the devastating earthquake of January 2010.

#sume: Little has changed since eleven years ago. The earthquake has once again placed Haiti at the center of international attention, a country that continues to be plagued by poverty and internal conflicts. Promises are no longer enough, but a recovery plan is needed.

Lucia Capuzzi
NP August / September 2021

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