The recent Sestak case provides an interesting glimpse into the prevalence of influence peddling and political horse-trading that takes place in the U.S. This influence peddling is not limited to domestic elections; it extends beyond the U.S. borders in some cases. In Haiti, where Bill Clinton's influence is significant, it appears as if the former President is already flexing his political muscles and putting in place the right structure and atmosphere for his favorites to take the elections.
To be sure, Haitians are grateful for President Clinton's involvement in Haiti and for his effort to raise awareness of the situation in country. At the same time, they are weary of his political involvement based on his somewhat controversial history in Haiti. For an in-depth analysis of Clinton's track record in Haiti, see "Clinton Takes His First Trip to Haiti" http://solutionshaiti.blogspot.com/2009/07/former-president-clinton-takes-his.html and the Wall Street Journal article, "Clinton for Haiti Czar?" http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704509704575019070435720154.html
Mr. Clinton and his former colleagues seem to have put in place a comprehensive lock on any international and domestic decision making related to Haiti. He is the UN Special Envoy to Haiti controlling all official government aid promised to Haiti as well as the Co-Chairman of the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission (HIRC), which will tender and approve all reconstruction contracts. He has the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative, and Clinton Bush Haiti Relief Fund, which together account for a significant portion of the private donations. Further, Clinton's former staff and allies sit in all key international policy positions in the U.S. Government, including the State Department (his wife Hillary Clinton), the White House (Rahm Emmanuel) and CIA (Leon Panetta). Arturo Valenzuela, the current Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, was a former special assistant to President Clinton. Additionally, Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, chairs one of two U.S. non-government organizations that monitor international elections, the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
Despite his prime positioning to deploy aid, there is a surprising disconnect between all the money that has poured in to provide aid to the Haitians and the aid actually getting to the people. The numbers are disheartening at best: Five months after the quake, 1.7 million people are still sleeping in 1,350 makeshift camps without shelter, electricity or access to regular healthcare or meals. They lack any sanitation so disease will become rampant. The camps are not managed by any organization and have become dangerous places, particularly for women and children. Women's organizations have been requesting solar lights to help address the security issues as well as simple pots and pans to cook meals for months.
Equally surprising is Clinton's exclusion of Haitians in the reconstruction planning, particularly the well-educated Haitian Diaspora community, which has been almost completely marginalized.
For his Deputy at the UN, he selected Paul Farmer, an American doctor who has a high profile NGO, Partners in Health, conducting AIDS and health programs in Haiti. Partners in Health has received funds from USAID and about $80 million in private donations. Many Haitians have voiced concerned about Farmer's Haiti initiatives, which have been implemented by bringing in his own people rather than building capacity in Haiti. He has also meddled in politics, which has been worrisome to many Haitians. For additional information on this issue, see: http://solutionshaiti.blogspot.com/2009/01/us-policy-toward-haiti-stanley-lucas.html.
Further, not a single member of the six governing Board Members of the Clinton Bush Haiti Relief Fund is Haitian. Clearly there would be thousands of Haitians in the Diaspora community that would be qualified and eager to sit on that Board to bring a Haitian perspective to the fund. There are two million Haitians in the United States and about 60% of them are American citizens. Why the exclusion? One of the tenets of foreign aid put forward by the Director of USAID under Clinton, Andrew Natsios, is that you must not replace the client, i.e. the country receiving aid. By contrast, the Chileans are proud to see a Chilean-American, Arturo Valenzuela, lead the U.S. response to Chile's earthquake.
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