This graphic was assembled by Jake Johnston of the Center for Economic and Policy Research
Foreign interests needed bait to lure more investment that would ultimately hook the Haitian population into a fantasy that would feed those predatory interests. Since the 1980s, Haiti's main employment sector had been the garment industry. Investment in the industry had stalled due to trade embargoes and employment fell accordingly. The main complaint was that Haitian workers could not meet export quotas. The earthquake provided the perfect opportunity for corporate entities, led by the United States, to dangle the ultimate holy grail of more jobs and economic recovery based on what Naomi Klein termed "disaster capitalism" after the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.
U.S. trade preferences would make Haiti an attractive place to invest. But investments inevitably benefit the investor, and the women of Haiti would become the victims of foreign speculation. That consequence may or may not have been the overt intent, but greed would force a result that, by its very nature, necessitated concealment.
A five page Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Haiti, Korean apparel manufacturer Sae-A Trading Co., Ltd, the International Finance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank and the U.S. Department of State promised an investment utopia that would showcase "Haiti's advantages as a place to do business to other potential investors to create a competitive economic cluster with a range of production facilities and support services." The MOU did not address the source of labor except in the context of "supporting infrastructure." click here
So on a late November day with the temperature a sticky 91 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barely noticeable breeze whispering through the tropical foliage, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and Korean apparel manufacturer Sae-A Co. Ltd., officially laid the foundation stone for the Caracol Industrial Park. The stone was set in solid earth; earth untouched and unmoved by the 7.0 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince less than two years earlier.
A promise was made and the Caracol cornerstone was the embodiment of that promise; one that would take less than two years to become an epithet. Clinton's husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, along with the U.S. protegee, President Michel Martelly, presided at the ceremony. Caracol would not only be the largest industrial park in the Caribbean, it would also become the poster child for graft, corruption, mismanagement and incompetence of the USAID program. The lie was believable because desperate people will believe the big lie, and the lie became the headwind for exploitation.
In 2006, The U.S. Congress enacted the Haiti Hemispheric Opportunity for Partnership Encouragement Act of 2006 (HOPE). A plan was set in motion, which on paper, was intended to allow the Haitian garment industry to participate in a duty free preference program. This was an expansion of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act. Building on HOPE I, HOPE II was enacted in 2008 with the intent of protecting workers by an aggressive monitoring program focusing on working conditions in the garment sector.
The Haitian garment industry had never been a worker's paradise. In 2009 the "Clorox" food riots erupted against starvation minimum wage laws. The reference to Clorox described a hunger being so unbearable that it felt as if one were swallowing bleach.
The utopian plans for Korean garment manufacturing at Caracol would go down easy in theory, but would ultimately prove equally as difficult to swallow as bleach in reality.
The lie was as incredible as it was enormous. Sae-A promised 20,000 direct jobs and a potential 65,000 indirect jobs. Factory profit margins were estimated to reach 22 percent because "Haiti has the lowest wage in the Caribbean-labor costs being by far the largest economic component in garment manufacture. Haiti has labor costs that are fully competitive with China, which is the global benchmark."
There it was. Planners admitted that profits would be built on the backs of sweatshop workers and labor costs were "fully competitive with China." China was the global benchmark for worker exploitation. SAE-A had just promised to out- China China in worker exploitation.
The PR pitch was a pyramid scheme. Opportunities would multiply exponentially for supporting industries and vendors. USAID would fund the new electrical plant, new housing for workers and a port facility. The Koreans would not come unless managers were promised gated communities. The seamstresses live in hovels at the village of "La Difference." The Government of Haiti would mange the project "top to bottom." The port facility would facilitate lower shipping costs and faster time to market.
"A sin (sic) qua non in the fashion sensitive world," promised the marketing PDF from the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (CAIPA).
The typo would be laughable if it were not an inadvertent admission of truth. The lies surrounding Caracol were sins of lies-- lies of omission and commission committed in collusion by some of the world's most powerful nations and economic alliances. Sine qua non--with out which not.