Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti's Earthquake Through Political Legacy Lens

Haiti is a Third World country. To understand the description "third world country" a good definition can be found at "The term Third World was originally coined in times of the Cold War to distinguish those nations that are neither aligned with the West (NATO) nor with the East, the Communist bloc. Today the term is often used to describe the developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania.
Many poorer nations adopted the term to describe themselves."

The country is also the poorest in our hemisphere. Under the thumb of notoriously corrupt political leadership for decades, Haiti has now been the victim of a catasthropic earthquake. Haiti is in desperate straits.

Former President Clinton was named Special Envoy to Haiti by President Obama in 2009. Clinton has worked on the issues confronting Haiti for more than thirty years, by his own admissions. He is now teaming up with former President George W. Bush, at the request of President Obama, to coordinate recovery efforts.

An interesting aspect of the tragedy is the political posturing of it all. Clinton himself is using the event as a boost to his own political legacy. He was even referencing what he called progress within the political structure of Haiti in recent years; that he hopes the devastated country can continue on with moving away from blatant corruption. This, to contrast naive liberal platitudes, is from a blog entry from the Baker Institute (bakerblog): "Since the overthrow of dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier in 1986 (whose despotic rule, combined with that of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, spanned the period 1957-1986), Haiti has experienced a series of weak, corrupt and disorganized authorian and quasi-democratic governments that have disregarded the basic social welfare and development needs of its people. The past few years have been emblematic of Haiti's status as a failed state, with the country's political class focused on short-term posturing, infighting and personal enrichment, essentially neglecting the medium and long-term public policies necessary to improve the living standards of the Haitian people. It is, for instance, no surprise that Haiti in 2009 was ranked by Transparency International as one of the 13 most corrupt countries in the world, and the most corrupt country in the Western Hemisphere." This is progress?

Rather than set into place public policy that would benefit the people of Haiti - building codes, emergency personnel and procedures, security forces, etc., the ruling elite continued to line their own pockets and live the good life as the people lived in flimsy structures and starved. On a good day, the hospitals didn't have adequate drug provisions. Nor was there an electrical grid to produce electricity with regularity for the whole country.

The generosity of the American people is spotlighted again. Our country, so heavily criticized by despots around the world, is the world's 911. Here's hoping supplies and human help can be brought in and distributed without much more delay.


Rob said...

This was more or less all because since 1915 the US and France have been dominating Haiti, constantly propping up corrupt leaders and using the UN as their own personal death squads in the nation.

Haiti is America's legacy, in the 1800's there were 2 free nations in the west, Haiti and the US, Haiti built South and Central America in many aspects, and southern America in many more. Its reward was constant scorn, insulting, being treated like a human landfill, and worst of all, the constant support of the French forces that sought to dominate Haiti once more that came from the United States.

We caused the problems, we let Haiti die, and now we want praise for doing the basic human thing of helping them in such a horrible time? Where's the legacy in that?

vikk simmons said...

The sheer breadth of the Haitian tragedy is unbelievable, but, as you say, this one is only more visible than the ones that have gone on before. It is a shame that this country and these people have not been able to shape their country into one that provides them with a good and safe everyday life without corruption spilling into every corner of their lives.

Unfortunately you have to ask "When will the corruption begin?" How long can these efforts go before these efforts are milked and the money is diverted? It is too bad that the UN is, itself, in the grip of so much corruption. In the end I have to wonder whether all these efforts will be anything more than a temporary stop gap. It's sad.

Rob said...

It's tough to 'shape your country' when outside nations are constantly supplying rebels and warlords with guns while doing nothing about the fact 'mud cakes' are a dietary staple in many cities.

Janelle said...

The language of Haiti is Creole, not French. Why are we or any other nation subsiding French? For pete's sake, that island isn't French. It is Haiti. Rob, speak for yourself. Not others, please.