Jan 21, 2010 Editorial
All over the world the focus is on Haiti. Ever since the earthquake struck that country last week with such force that it affected one-third of the population. People were trapped in just about any building; many died. The death toll up to yesterday was conservatively put at more than 200,000 and the injured numbered about 1.3 million.
Any disaster of such magnitude would tax the limits of any country, particularly a poor country that has been considered for as long as one could remember, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
When one sees the images of people walking the streets with no place to shelter, one is left to imagine the impact such a disaster would have had on a country like Guyana which is also a poor country and with not much separating this country from Haiti.
In the wake of the Haiti disaster the world is rushing aid and any support that the country needs. Russia shipped a mobile hospital and numerous other countries shipped tones and tones of pharmaceuticals. It must have been the constant reminders that there was just no medicine to treat the injured who, once left untreated, died.
But Haiti is more than the disaster; it is about the impact the world has had on the lives of the people. The country has never been allowed to manage its own affairs. From the days of Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier there was a move by the foreign powers to fashion the country along what the western world saw as democracy.
‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier was however crucial to the stability in the country. For the duration of his rule, which was touted outside the country as repressive, there were no serious problems, no revolts and certainly no outside intervention on the grounds of ‘liberating the people of Haiti’.
‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier died and his son acceded to leadership. He was described as many things, including a playboy who helped squander money that could have benefited Haiti. As the world now says, Haiti need not have been poor.
The young Jean Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier fled his native Haiti and ever since the country has not known long-term political stability. The United States, on the whim of some group, actually spirited the then elected leader, Jean Bertrand Aristide, out of the country.
Aristide was said to be a dictator; he was accused of corruption and many other ills. However, the region found his removal distasteful. The ballot is still the recognized way of choosing leaders and Aristide was a duly elected leader. But through foreign intervention, he was removed and all the protests by the rest of the world never changed that situation.
Aristide’s supporters were expected to abide by that decision. However, this is not how people operate in the country and the result is that Haiti continued to suffer. Skilled people kept migrating.
New elections were called and up until the earthquake the government was shaky. There was a contentious vote for Prime Minister; Ministers who did not find favour with the populace were quickly hounded out of office. Some were killed by the hostile elements in the society.
Under such conditions, Haiti had every reason to remain poor. The earthquake has simply made matters worse. The reaction by the developed world is what is expected because they helped destabilize the country.
Guyana and other small countries know the effect of poverty and devastation. It is this knowledge that makes them respond in the manner they do. For example, there will be a great rebuilding task and Guyana will contribute heavily in this area.
Other countries in the region will do likewise simply because they do not have the financial resources to provide the kind of economic relief.
It may be decades before Haiti returns to the level it was but the time is now for some countries to allow the people of a country to determine their destiny.
AUBREY NORTON FRIGHTEN RENEGOTIATION AND RING-FENCING
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