On Haiti and Reconstructing What Didn’t Need Reconstruction

For those who missed it, the New York Times had a great piece up about how some relief for the 2010 earthquake went to places that didn’t need it:

 On the first anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, in a sleepy corner of northeast Haiti far from the disaster zone, the Haitian government began the process of evicting 366 farmers from a large, fertile tract of land to clear the way for a new industrial park.

The farmers did not understand why the authorities wanted to replace productive agricultural land with factories in a rural country that had trouble feeding itself. But, promised compensation, they did not protest a strange twist of fate that left them displaced by an earthquake that had not affected them.

As bad as that is, even worse is the role Bill Clinton, ever in favor of neoliberal policies that damaged local populations while enriching multinational corporations, is playing in this.

In Port-au-Prince, meanwhile, with rubble still clogging the streets, former President Bill Clinton, co-chairman of Haiti’s recovery commission, had celebrated the Caracol Industrial Park as a glimmer of hope during a ceremony cementing an agreement with the anchor tenant — Sae-A Trading, a South Korean clothing manufacturer and major supplier to American retailers like Walmart and Gap Inc.

“I know a couple places in America that would commit mayhem to get 20,000 jobs today,” Mr. Clinton said, referring to the jobs that Sae-A pledged to generate over six years. In exchange, thanks to a deal that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped broker, Sae-A looked forward to tax exemptions, duty-free access to the United States, abundant cheap labor, factory sheds, a power plant, a new port and an expatriate residence outfitted with special kimchi refrigerators.

Two and a half years after the earthquake, Haiti remains mired in a humanitarian crisis, with 390,000 people languishing in tents. Yet the showcase project of the reconstruction effort is this: an industrial park that will create jobs and housing in an area undamaged by the temblor, a venture that risks benefiting foreign companies more than Haiti itself.

If there was ever an example of how a consumption with helping big business takes precedence over actual humanitarian relief, this is it.

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About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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