Posted by: John Adams | February 12, 2009

History Repeating

In a chirpy, optimistic piece for the Miami Herald, Andres Oppenheimer writes that despite the unrelenting stream of bad press Haiti gets in the international media, “there is hope for the poorest, most environmentally devastated and possibly corrupt country in the Americas…” He quotes Oxford University professor Paul Collier, who argues the same point for the following reasons:

Haiti is not part of a troubled region. Unlike many African and Central Asian countries with severe internal problems, Haiti lives in a peaceful neighborhood and is not under attack from other nations or foreign-based guerrilla groups.

It is not divided by civil war, nor does it have a guerrilla group ready to launch a rebellion.

It has a huge and nearby diaspora. Haiti’s immigrant community in the United States and Canada is proportionally one of the largest in the world, and it provides the country with massive family remittances, a reservoir of skills and a powerful political lobby.

It has a preferential access to the world’s largest market. Thanks in part to its lobby in Washington, Haiti has duty-free and quota-free access to the U.S. market guaranteed for the next nine years — more than most other countries.

Haiti’s current political leadership is good by the standards of most troubled countries in post-conflict situations.

All of which sounds great, until you get to this:

But — here comes the potential glitch — [Haitian president René] Préval said that “I am sure that I know better than the international community what is good for Haiti. We have to listen to everybody, but Haitians have to have the leadership in identifying the strategy of the plan, and in defining the projects.”

Translation: “I have to be in charge of any rebuilding projects, or they will not happen. Also, I will be defining the projects–or rather, the funding for them–right into someone’s personal bank account. (Guess whose.)”

This is the history of Haiti in microcosm. While the country’s problems are not bigger than potential solutions, the only solutions that would help are routinely thwarted by those in power for their own selfish ends. Which is, of course, business as usual under the Haitian sun.



  1. Good summary John!

  2. Ugh, John, that’s so sad. You’re right, history repeats herself all the time.

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