While assuring Haitians that they will not be abandoned, President Obama has named former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton as special envoys to the devastated island. Both of them in turn removed the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who sits in exile in South Africa and would once again like to come home, where most Haitians want him to be.
Try to hear Democracy Now this evening if you missed it in the morning or at noon, for an excellent primer on why Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere. It is provided by the African-American lawyer, writer and political activist Randall Robinson. His latest book is An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President, Perseus Books Group, 2007. See his unusual bio on Wikipedia.
When you see the pictures of Haiti’s lush countryside on television, you wonder why the country can’t feed itself. Then you follow a few links on-line and learn that even though it has been an independent country for most of the last century, the United States in effect has dominated its economy, in particular destroying its agriculture and forcing Haiti to buy U.S. food.
When you are told by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta,sent to practice a little medicine as he tells the story of Haiti’s disaster, you wonder why “there are no doctors, the hospitals lack even the basic medications such as Tylenol.” The sight of a hospital in Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince, looks strikingly similar to hospitals in Gaza and other destitute places around the world that Americans are given to contemplate in passing on the occasion of some tragedy.
The Dominican Republic, which shares a Caribbean Island with Haiti, has sent no aid. There is a history of discrimination on the part of its “lighter” inhabitants.
From a little more than 50 miles across the Windward Passage of the Caribbean, Cuba has trained 500 doctors who are working in rural areas of Haiti, and is training 500 more, with government scholarships.
Venezuela sent the first plane the day after the quake. It carried 19 doctors, 10 firemen and rescue specialists, 17 civil protection experts and three members of the Simon Bolivar International Brigade that is visiting affected areas and evaluating damages.
P.S. Philadelphia 76ers Haitian-born player Samuel Dalembert is raising funds for relief efforts in Haiti. He is the founder of the Samuel Dalembert Foundation, which has teamed with UNICEF, the Red Cross and Feed the Children to support humanitarian aid to his home country, and has pledged to match the total of donations collected at tonight’s game.
Here is a link to a Haitian organization trying to build democracy in Haiti
http://www.fonkoze.org/. You can donate on their website.