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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/30/10

Response to Senator Dodd: The Haitian People Deserve Sovereignty

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Message Stanley Lucas
I am not sure which Haitians Mr. Dodd is talking with to back up his assertion that the Haitian people want the United States and the international community to take over their country.Most Haitian people whom I talk to--and I talk to hundreds on a daily basis through numerous radio interviews--are frustrated that they still do not have steady access to food or tents.Their frustrations are pretty equally aimed at the failed Haitian government and the international community.Donations poured into international coffers and aid is only slowly trickling out. More than 1.2 million people still sleep on the streets in the rainy season. About 65,000 pregnant women are among them. The distribution of aid needs urgent attention.

But Mr. Dodd's call for the UN to take over the country based on a manipulation of the Chapter VII provision for trusteeship is ludicrous bordering on subversive. Trusteeship is just a technical word for "soft occupation" which has traditionally been reserved for countries that were invaded or that have severe political unrest, as Dodd points out while noting the potential "distastefulness" of the concept. Haiti suffered an earthquake. Is that reason to usurp the country's sovereignty? Did we invoke a trustee after the tsunami in Southeast Asia? Did the federal government take over control of New Orleans after Katrina?

The international community unfortunately does not have the best track record in Haiti over the past few decades. After 15 years and $9 billion in aid money, there is nothing to show for it. Haiti was in ruins before the earthquake and is devastated after it.The international community's biggest mistake was never holding the Haitian leadership accountable for the aid sent to the country. As a result, more than one Haitian leader has raided the Haitian coffers. The international community and the U.S. government have also made the mistake of meddling in Haiti's nascent democracy.The international community has gotten behind two leaders (Aristide and Preval) who were elected through fraudulent elections. Both turned out to lead corrupt and violent Administrations. Aristide was elected, evacuated, restored to power by the Clinton Administration, and then evacuated again a few years later.

MINUSTAH, the UN's mission on the ground, has been in control of the security in Haiti for two decades at a cost of about $700 million yearly. Unfortunately, the security situation in Haiti has also made little improvement. The Haitian people suffered through two "Operation Baghdad" campaigns of terror and violence carried out by bands of thugs and gangs, often operating with under the table support of the Haitian Government to achieve political ends.

Dodd further asserts, "Haitian authorities have repeatedly asked the United States and the international community to provide this help."Is he confusing requests for "help" with asking for the country to be taken over? To my knowledge no Haitian official has requested occupation, takeover or trusteeship. In fact, President Preval has called for elections this November when his term is up.This sounds nothing like a request for a takeover.

I agree with the Senator, however, on two major premises: Haiti will need the help of the international community to rebuild which it cannot do it alone, and there needs to be better coordination.There are ways to accomplish this without occupying the country. So far, everyone has overlooked one significant resource that can step in immediately and help manage rebuilding: the Haitian Diaspora. Mr. Dodd does not mention them at all.There are more than two million Haitians in the United States alone.Some are political refugees; some are economic refugees.But all are patriots, and bring unique skills. They remit more than $2 billion a year annually to the country, accounting for almost 20% of the GDP.They speak the language, and they are Haitian.

For rebuilding to really work in the long term, it must be Haitian led with the strong support of the international community.There is enough capacity in Haiti and among its Diaspora to lead reconstruction.The international community has a strong role to play, particularly by focusing on capacity building, setting up systems of accountability and transparency for rebuilding, supporting the strengthening of the infrastructure, revamping legal codes, helping with security, and building up the private business sector. What they must avoid is influencing the political system of a democratic country.They must avoid picking their favorites for leadership or structuring the government.That is the sovereign and democratic right of the Haitian people.This is not to say that Haiti will not need help in organizing free and fair elections it will.But the international community should not be involved in decisions on when those elections are held, who participates, or declaring a winner.

On a separate note, Dodd's history in Haiti calls into question his real goals in the country.He was a strong supporter of President Aristide. As Chairman of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee, he yanked the funding for important political training programs on the ground. Under his leadership, little has been accomplished in Haiti.Perhaps he has a favorite candidate for president? Perhaps as a Senator soon to be retired he sees a future leadership role for himself in the Clinton initiative?

While the international community sorts out who will get what authority to manage Haiti, the people continue to sleep on the streets in the rain.There is enough donation money right now to buy tents for every homeless person living on the streets.Why can't they get the tents? Do we need to really finalize the power structure before tents are deployed?The Haitian people have been devastated and demoralized let us not add insult to injury.

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Posted on Mon, Mar. 29, 2010
Place Haiti under 'trusteeship'


The nightly news cameras may have left, but the human suffering caused by the devastating earthquake in Haiti continues.

Hundreds of thousands of people are dead or injured. Many more are homeless or orphaned. And without sustained intervention by the international community, Haiti's future could be very bleak indeed.

Nearly a quarter million homes -- and 20,000 commercial buildings -- have been destroyed, or so badly damaged that they will need to be demolished. And the earthquake, which struck just 16 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince, essentially destroyed the capacity of Haitian authorities to act.

Haiti's education system, in the words of its minister of education, has ''totally collapsed.'' Transportation and communication systems have been wiped out. Finance and industry have been crippled.

There is no health care system to treat the wounded, no social services to help the displaced, and no government infrastructure left standing to bring about order out of the chaos.

The Haitian government, for all practical purposes, does not exist. It lies in ruins, in the rubble of the presidential palace, and other government buildings ranging from the Supreme Court to the National Assembly.

After the quake, the Washington Post interviewed Haitians who begged the United States to take over control of Haiti.

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Stanley Lucas is a specialist in political development projects. He has worked as a Senior Program Officer in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Lucas is currently the Executive Director for for the Washington Democracy (more...)
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