Haiti Activists Speak Out as President Clinton Visits Vancouver BC


May 18, 2010--The following statement is issued by Haiti Solidarity BC, the Vancouver affiliate of the Canada Haiti Action Network, on the occasion of the May 20 visit to Vancouver of former U.S. President William Clinton.

Vancouver's business community will gather on May 20 to hear a high-priced speech from former U.S. President William Clinton. The host Vancouver Board of Trade describes Clinton as a "powerful voice for progress." It fails to mention that President Clinton is both the UN Special Envoy on Haiti and the co-chair of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission. The former president's record on Haiti exemplifies the past and current failures of foreign aid that at turns neglects and harms the Haitian people.

More than four months after the January 12 earthquake, hundreds of thousands of Haitians are without shelter, food and medical care. As the seasonal rains fall, grave threats of infectious disease epidemic hover over the earthquake zone. Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal, aid from foreign charities and NGOs has not reached many, perhaps a majority, of earthquake victims. A recent study by CBS News of five top U.S. charities raising funds for Haiti reveals they have spent only a fraction of funds raised. The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund and the Clinton Foundation are among the most delinquent; they have raised $52 million and spent only $7 million.

As the calamity in Haiti continues, growing numbers of observers are noting the same patterns of neglect of the basic needs and rights of Haitians, coupled with foreign interference in Haiti's politics and economy, that marked the pre-earthquake period. One glaring example is the fact that the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, responsible for allocating much of the $14 billion dollars promised by the world for Haiti relief, is in its majority run by non-Haitian appointees.

By his own admission in March of this year, President Clinton's past record in Haiti is one of failure. In 1994, his U.S. administration sponsored the restoration to power of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, who had been overthrown in a 1991 military coup. It set conditions on Aristide's restoration to the presidency, including agricultural import policies that destroyed a large part of Haiti's food-producing capacity and ruinous privatization of the precious few public enterprises in the country.

The current prescriptions for Haiti by the former president and the Interim Commission he heads follow similar failed themes, including promoting sweatshop factory investment as a panacea for the country's economic ills. Additionally, since the second overthrow of President Aristide, on February 29, 2004, the U.S., Canada and other foreign powers have consistently failed to follow through on promises of aid spending in Haiti.

Half of the $220 million in aid promised by the Canadian government to "match" donations made by Canadians to charities in the calamitous aftermath of the earthquake will not go to Haitians at all, but instead to international financial institutions to retire Haiti's foreign debt. Another $65 million is promised to the Red Cross and other international agencies. The federal government and Canadian International Development Agency have allocated an additional $44 million for prison construction and equipping the Haitian National Police, a notorious human rights violating agency.

Meanwhile, the Haitian government has received next to nothing of the funds raised internationally in Haiti's name.

For several months now, Canada's print and broadcast media have all but fallen silent on the perilous situation still facing most earthquake victims and what, if anything, Canadian aid money is accomplishing. When Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, visited Haiti for three days in early May, not a single English-language news outlet in Canada reported on his visit. The same media has steadfastly avoided any serious examination of Canada's participation in the 2004 overthrow of President Aristide.

Haiti Solidarity BC reiterates here the principles of Haiti reconstruction that its affiliated organization, the Canada Haiti Action Network, voiced in a February 28 statement:

* Relief and reconstruction must respect and promote the sovereignty of Haiti's government and social and political institutions.

* A national emergency program of economic development must be supported. It should prioritize revival of the agricultural economy and food self-sufficiency as well as promotion of public, industrial and service enterprises, manufacturing investment that pays living wages, tourism, fishing, and arts and culture.

* Inclusive democracy must be promoted and respected. The 2009 decisions of Haiti's interim electoral council to exclude the Fanmi Lavalas party from participation in elections must be repudiated, and steps must be taken to facilitate the return of the exiled President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

* Foreign control of Haiti must end. Restitution and compensation for the illegal and destructive coup d'etat of 2004 must be provided. All remaining political prisoners dating from the coup d'etat of 2004 must be released from prison or freed from judicial persecution. Foreign militaries and police must undertake a quick and orderly withdrawal, subject to Haitian government directives.

* Haiti's outstanding debt to international financial agencies must be cancelled.

Haiti Solidarity BC calls on the Canadian government to spend relief funds on social and economic assistance for Haiti, not on prisons and police. We call on Canada's media and federal political parties to properly inform Canadians of what our government and the aid agencies it funds are, or are not, doing in our name.

To contact Haiti Solidarity BC: By phone: Roger Annis 778 858 5179, Stuart Hammond 604 338 2558 By e-mail: haitisolidaritybc(at)resist.ca Read this statement at: www.canadahaitiaction.ca