When the earthquake struck Haiti last January, the first
person I wanted to hear from was John Perkins. Several years before Naomi Klein coined the phrase
"disaster capitalism," John Perkins' first-person account Confessions of an Economic Hitman described very clearly how US
economic interests set about exploiting crises in third-world nations in order
to gain control of them.
I did finally get to speak to John in March, and our conversation ranged from Haiti to US policy in Latin America and the Caribbean, to a recent film that collates material from his books on this topic. Perkins, for readers not familiar with his work, is what is called in Hollywood a "hyphenate." He doesn't have one area of expertise that he can call on; he has several, if not many of them, and can speak to economics, to geopolitics, to culture clashes and compatibilities. In our brief conversation, he moved among these seamlessly, now describing the big picture, now zooming in on fine detail.
Haiti. The part of our conversation that dealt with Haiti centered on two points: One, the massive amount of American aid now being moved into Haiti will likely not benefit Haitians, not small farmers, small businessmen in tourism or fisheries or other kinds of entrepreneurs. The funds will go to multinationals who are seizing this moment as an opportunity to buy investments in this devastated nation. And two, what Amy Goodman called the "militarization" of Haiti in the aftermath of the quake sends a troubling message that reverberates throughout the region.
Long term aid. Shortly after the quake, President Obama called on Bill Clinton and on George Bush to spearhead a relief fund for Haiti. It's a good bet that most Americans took the gesture at face value, as the current president calling on his immediate predecessors to step up and help one of our regional neighbors in their hour of need. It's likely that few of our countrymen know that our own government had a direct hand in the latest undermining, not only of Haitian democracy but also the Haitian economy and so, the infrastructure that might have helped this people respond to their own emergency.
As John noted in a January 21 blog entry at Huffington Post, the aid now flowing into Haiti for long-term aid will not for the most part aid Haitians: