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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 1/24/11

Haiti: The New Prometheus

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Message Dimitry Romulus
In Greek mythology, the Titan Prometheus was a wise craftsman who taught humans many useful skills. When the gods punished mankind by withholding fire from them so that they would have to live in cold and darkness Prometheus gives fire to man. The gods were outraged when they had learned what Prometheus had done. They felt that only they should have fire. To punish Prometheus, they confined him to a rock on a mountain peak. Every day an eagle tore at Prometheus's body and ate his liver, and every night the liver grew back. Prometheus remained chained and in agony for many years.

Although Haiti did not give humanity an exotic gift like Prometheus did, it inspired the West Indies with the idea of Freedom, a notion that all men are created equal. Haiti's forefathers didn't simply transcribe these proclamations in some fancy parchment and forget about them afterward. They practiced what they preached, a costly gift that caused Haiti to be unfairly punished ever since. After proclaiming their independence in 1804, Haiti provided Simon Bolivar "El Libertador" with Haitian soldiers and vital material support on the condition that he abolish slavery in all Latin America. If one were to compare logically how Haiti has been treated ever since it claimed its independence, it would be evident that Haiti is unmistakably receiving the "Prometheus treatment" by the international community. Prometheus was chained on top of the highest mountain so that all the other gods could see his dreadful fate. Haiti is the Prometheus of our Hemisphere, exposed for all others to see: if one does not abide by their rules, you will become like Haiti. Most recently there was a documentary about Haiti titled, "The island that ate itself". Interesting documentary, however, the narrator failed to successfully identify the genesis of the problem, the actual reasons why the island has been eating itself.

Shortly after its independence, Haiti was embargoed by the international community. Fearful that the Haitian revolution might inspire enslaved Africans in other parts of the world to rebel, US Congress banned trade with Haiti, joining French and Spanish boycotts. The embargo was accompanied by a threat of re-colonization and re-enslavement if Haiti failed to compensate France for losses incurred when French plantation owners lost access to Haiti's slave labor. Why didn't Haiti fight back? Fighting the French was one thing, but now fighting France, Spain and the US simultaneously, that's another story. France ultimately used its military power to force Haiti to pay reparations for the slaves who were freed. These embargoes deeply crippled Haiti's economy to the point where Haiti was forced to borrow money with high interests from banks. Today we have a better understanding of how banks and debts actually work, and now I'm wondering if that wasn't the plan all along, if in 2011 the World Bank has the blatant audacity to loan Haiti $15 million dollars to fight cholera when they are well aware that the American Red Cross alone has in their possession $479 million dollars that rightfully belongs to Haiti.

This is not pledged money. It's hard physical cash that the American people had donated to the American Red Cross in 2010. They had collected nearly $2 billion on the behalf of poor Prometheus, then they stuck most of that money into their own bank accounts, and now as of January 19, 2011 the Haitian Government has to take grants from the World Bank in order to fight cholera. World Vision, which reports spending $107 million of the $194 million it raised through appeals to help Haitian earthquake survivors, is keeping unspent millions of Haiti donations in "low-risk" investment accounts. While these low-risk investment accounts are collecting interest Prometheus, I mean Haiti, is laid on top of the mountain suffering terribly with its liver hanging out. Basically, what they are saying by that is, "Haiti, we have your money. It is in our banks, under our names. We've invested it. It's collecting our interests. We don't care if there's a cholera epidemic, or that your people are in hardship with no homes to live in. Now buzz off, go and practically beg the World Bank for another grant. I wonder what the interest rate is on that 15 million that the World bank recently granted Haiti. Don't be fooled into thinking that these grants are interest free, with no strings attached.

During the Duvalier eras and more so after the departure of "Baby Doc", The US and the US-dominated world financial institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank forced Haiti to open its markets to the world. Then they dumped millions of tons of subsidized rice and sugar into Haiti, undercutting Haitian farmers and ruining Haitian agriculture. The island has to eat itself when farmers are unable to compete with the global market. Then they have these silly USAID programs continuously patronizing the Haitian agriculture sector with these insignificant programs and WINNER agriculture activities, which only makes Haiti farmers' LOSERS in all actuality. They brag about how many millions they have spent yearly in helping out the farmers in Haiti. In that situation then why are the poor poorer after so many years? How many tractors, how much farm machinery have they donated to the average farmer in Haiti? Why are the majority of the farmers are still cultivating their lands manually? Even if USAID truly wanted to invest money in helping Haiti to become self-sufficient in rice or sugar production, the agency is prohibited from doing so by a little publicized American law called the Bumpers Amendment of 1986.

The law prevents U.S. government aid from being spent on programs that could benefit crops that might compete with American exports on the global market. This Amendment sets a legal precedent over the orientation of US aid on agricultural research. The amendment stipulates that, "none of the funds to be appropriated to carry out Chapter 1 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1981 may be available for any testing or breeding, feasibility study, variety improvement or introduction, consultancy, publication, or training in connection with the growth or production in a foreign country for export if such export would compete in world markets with a similar commodity grown or produced in the United States." It was in that era that the Duvaliers and the United States government and business community worked together to put Haiti on track to becoming what it has become today. Duvalier was ousted in February 1986 and the Bumpers Amendment was passed in May 1986, what a coincidence. The Bumpers Amendment also inhibits the usage of US funds for agricultural research of competing vegetable oil crops such as palm oil and coconut. In 2010, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tried to include legislation in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act that would soften the law and make exceptions for the world's most food-insecure countries. The move met with opposition from rice-lobby groups, as well as from Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. As then Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark., said in 1985, the law is designed to "prevent American tax dollars from being used to help foreign countries that are trying to take our export markets."

Since Haiti doesn't have enough television sets to transmit American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, they are attempting to distract the masses with another dog and pony show, "the trial of Duvalier". I guess Snooki wasn't available, so they got Veronique Roy to tag along instead for the ride. Come on, you don't actually believe that Duvalier woke up one morning and brought himself a one-way ticket on Expedia-dot-com, to go to Haiti? Duvalier was "bad", Duvalier was "good", Duvalier was this; Duvalier was that; he has been gone for nearly 25 years, and ever since Haitians have enjoyed 25 long years of peace and perfect harmony with no corruptions, no kidnappings, no rapes, no murders everything has been just fine and dandy. Our economy blossomed. Our employment rates had never been higher, our imports to export ratios excellent, up to the time of that awful evening of January 16th, 2011 when Ivan The Terrible, with the complexion of Idi Amin and the reputation of Vlad The Impaler came back to Haiti.

It's true that Duvalier's regime was based on fear and repression. However, what has changed in Haiti, since he has left? Let us be honest with ourselves. Now with all the kidnappings, rapes, murders, and killings going on in Haiti, even under the watch of the UN, I think that the situation has gotten worse. Don't you think? Those who want Duvalier to be arrested are gravely mistaken. Would you want to see him hanged like Saddam? Would that make things any better? How will that help Haiti? Is Iraq any better today after Saddam's death?

Consider this, if there's a trial, it will be very lengthy and expensive and Haiti will have to foot the bill since Duvalier is broke. The last administration reportedly spent $75 million to help pay costs related to the special tribunal for Saddam. That was only part of the bill, now how much money do you think Duvalier's trial will be? Couldn't that money be used to build a school or something? In good faith, I think that it's time for the Haitian people to forgive each other and look forward to rebuilding this proud but impoverished nation. Duvalier belongs to the past. Let's move forward. Where's the reconstruction money? That's the symphony that we were all vibbing to at the beginning of the year, so let's keep that rhythm going, don't change the tunes on me now. Duvalier is here "good", "bad", "whatever" etc.... Frankly, I don't care. Now where's the money. Where's the reconstruction plan for 2011?

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Hello world, average Joe here, nothing special, really. I enjoy reading, writing, etc... I recently published my second novel titled, "Lilith" by Maximus Romulus. It's a religious thriller. I'm currently working on my third novel, I'll let you know (more...)
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