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Fraud, false aid, false charity, false food aid -Ezili Dantò reviews Timothy T. Schwartz's book

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An Ezili Dantò Book Review:

TRAVESTY in Haiti : A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid and drug trafficking A book by Timothy T. Schwartz, Ph.D. (buy the book)

An Ezili Dantò Book Review:
I am feeling this book. It's easy to read and it's a courageous book. The back cover of the book explains that it's "An anthropologist's personal story of working with foreign aid agencies and discovering that fraud, greed, corruption, apathy, and political agendas permeate the industry." Travesty in Haiti takes on the powerful and speaks an explosive truth about the do-gooders in Haiti that, as this reviewer and Ezili's HLLN know well, would not interest most mainstream book publishers. It's a difficult topic but Dr. Timothy T. Schwartz makes the complex and weighty topic of foreign aid to Haiti, Christian missions and the impact of "charitable" works in Haiti interesting, humorous and readily understandable. With this book, Timothy Schwartz has made a significant contribution to the plight of the Haitian people in the struggle against the institutional poverty pimps and Haiti's deliberate containment-in-poverty.

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Schwartz has rendered a service here not because there's authentic value in being a foreigner's FIELDWORK. For the sum of the parts do not equal the whole and being someome's fieldwork is in itself a condescension. But Schwartz's book reports on his own tribe's corruption in Haiti and that, indeed, is of value to Haitians.

The book is a must read for anyone interested in hearing the truth about Haiti. Schwartz's contribution is a guidepost to those working for charities, working in the development and foreign aid industries who accept corruption and mediocrity because it's part of the status quo, "it's a job." It's laughably idealistic to wish for accountability, honesty, grace and dignity from the folks at USAID, World Bank, the Christian missions and those "doing good" in Haiti for more than half a century now, but if just a few people, if one person working in the human rights field who read this book began to reevaluate and nixed the profit-over-people trend of these failed-State-making organizations, the world, humanity would breathe that much easier.

There are some slight errors throughout in this self-published book (for instance "the 1891 to 1804 Haitian Revolution." It's 1791.) but nothing serious that takes away from the substance, power and honest resiliency of it. Kudos, chapo ba, Timothy T. Schwartz, chapo ba. You are to be commended.

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The best way to encourage the Ezili Network to purchase this, the best book that's been written by a foreigner on Haiti since forever, is to present Timothy T. Schwartz to you in his own words.

Below we outline certain excerpts, especially from the chapter on orphanages.

The sections on The Hamlet, The Village, The Survey, the Windmill Fiasco, The History of Aid in Haiti, The American Plan, The Greed, Rudeness and Renegades in Medical Treatments, CARE International Dedicated to Serving Itself, The Disconnected Directors and Arrogant Haitian Elites, The USAID/World Bank waste of research monies on the obvious, and nepotism in foreign aid, are all, highly recommended reading. And, most interesting, alarming and crazily humorous is the final chapter entitled: Colombia and It's Drug Trade To the Rescue.

At first when I read the title of the book TRAVESTY in Haiti : A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid and drug trafficking, I thought Schwartz, he's surely going to demonize the poor in this chapter. It's par for the course. But Schwartz just lays out how the fall of the Haitian army democratized their previous drug monopoly. I know it's not the whole current story on drug trafficking in Haiti because all Haitians know there are 9,000 UN troops in Haiti, lots of Latin Americans during the job of the old Haitian military and keeping the people excluded and impoverished and the Oligarchy and imperialists in power. But the episode recounted in the final chapter where the most neglected and poorest of peasants living in the coastal fishing village approach the heavily-armed drug traffickers in the dead of night, mostly armed with rocks, for their "toll" is such a typically and rurally Haitian way of making those who pass through their territory - remember it's their territory - that I forgot I was looking for examples of some white guy demonizing the Haitian poor.

The roadblock is how the neglected poor majority, pèp la, make city slickers, foreigners, the Haitian Oligarchy and outsiders who pass through their territory remember it's their territory. That sense of ownership is part of why, although Haiti is occupied by invaders, over 10,000 so-called charitable NGOS and 9,000 UN troops and their sycophants, its soul is still owned by the descendants of African warriors who fought for the land, fought for their humanity after 300-years of brutal European enslavement.

Drug trafficking is a sinister thing but Schwartz writes the episode from the poor's perspective not from Officialdom's - not from the enforcers' point of view. For once, the Haitian poor who are thebait for billions in foreign "aid" and Christian "benevolence" that never reaches them finally, finally by some miracle, won the lottery - got some aid, got some charity. Drugs to the rescue! And even the sting of official police revenge that's recounted and the book's foreshadowing of the drug owners' retribution to come, seems not so alarming. In fact, parts of the story are really comical.

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Schwartz's book unveils paradoxes and lots of critical data on foreign aid, mission schools, orphanages and the world's major multinational charities working in Haiti. He writes on a complicated set of issues and politically sensitive topics with the skill and talent of a seasoned novelist. He explores a current Haiti you'll not read about in current mainstream books and papers on Haiti. His voice is likable - it's that of a regular guy not some dry academic or saintly eunuch.

I know there's a PH.D. in the byline of the book and I should refer to Schwartz by his Western title, "Dr. Schwartz." But not to put too fine a point on it, the man seems too whole to so compartmentalize. At times the reader sees a self-serving drifter, a calculated and unapologetic bum spear-fishing and drinking with "the natives;" at times we understand his discomfort and aloneness as the outsider. But it all goes to make you believe it when he writes he selected to go to Haiti because he wanted to enjoy "a life of adventure and maybe do some good for people while working largely alone and free of the authoritarian constrictions of a regular job." (p.214). And, most impressive of all, for a white guy in Haiti working with the NGOs and in the charitable field, he seems to have no detectable savoir complex, no religious or political imperative, not too much of the nauseatingly patronizing noble white man's burden thing, no fake righteousness - doesn't claim to have "shared the Haitian people's pain;" never talks about experiencing some fake epiphany to share the people's pain that compelled him to live with the poor for over ten years in Haiti.

He's struck me as real. He appropriately expresses self-disgust and derision. He smokes, he drinks, he has sex appeal that, well, at least Sharon, if not others, want to own, maybe put a ring on. He seems to feel a lot of guilt about it, always emphasizing how Sharon helped him while also showing her and her family's corruption. You can tell he may have, wittingly or unwittingly, used his eligibility/exotic presence in Haiti and his male sex appeal on her and elsewhere to live more comfortably or to be successful in his research. But he's not offensive with it, makes strong sense. And he shows he's aware of the power his gender and white skin gives him in neocolonial Haiti. So, vis-a-vis the Haitians in the Hamlet and Village he tries, at least it seemed from reading the book, not to abuse his mobility and relative privileges indiscriminately.

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Human Rights Lawyer, Ezili Danto is dedicated to correcting the media lies and colonial narratives about Haiti. An award winning playwright, a performance poet, author and lawyer, Ezili Danto is founder of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, (more...)

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