Haiti, the US Presidential election and us. Cynical? Difficult to be cynical enough… September 29, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
…is the thought that comes to mind reading this quite brilliant overview in Slate.com/a> of how Haiti has become a political football in the US election (indeed a certain name is mentioned only today – though more on that…) and some background on the issue. <What’s most fascinating is the way in which it perfectly exemplifies so many different aspects of the contemporary. Trump uses it as a stick to beat Clinton with – but in doing so aligns himself with the most reactionary elements from that society. Clinton uses it as an example of her supposedly far-sighted economic and foreign policy, but in doing so underpins economic oppressions that cannot be waved away. And as the author, foreign correspondent Jonathan M. Katz writes:
But what the shallower critics of the Clintons miss is whom this fundamentally unjust system is designed to benefit. Despite cherry-picked, half-understood stories about permits for nonexistent gold mines and isolated instances of naked (and duly punished) fraud that account for rounding errors in the actual billions raised and spent after the earthquake, there is simply no evidence that the intent was to line the Clintons’ pockets.
The system isn’t designed for them; it’s for us. The low wages that the U.S. embassy helped suppress are the reason we can enjoy a steady stream of $9 Mossimo camisoles and $12.99 six-packs of Hanes T-shirts. Even U.S. military uniform parts get made in Haitian sweatshops. As America moves further away from its producer past and deeper into its consumer present, we will want cheaper and cheaper smartphones and cheaper and cheaper clothes that we can afford on our stagnant service wages, and we will demand our leaders find us alternatives to sourcing from rivals like China. Places like Caracol are the result. Some Americans say they want production jobs to come back home, but few are ready to pay twice as much for their clothes or $100 extra for their iPhones, most of which would still have to be sourced from overseas.
To get the things we want, the United States has been in the business of overturning elections and toppling governments for more than a century. Clinton’s trip to Haiti in 2011 represents the softer end of a long tradition of U.S. invasions, coups, and usurpations: Panama in 1903 to Iran, 1953; Guatemala, 1954, to Congo, 1961; Vietnam, 1963, to Chile, 1973, to Iraq 2003, and on and on.
And just when you think that the resonances couldn’t be more apt, there’s a local one to here.
Bill continues to mix his post-presidential fame and Haiti business matchmaking in ways that set off alarm bells—often in conjunction with his trademark quarter-million-dollar speaking fees. In the reconstruction effort, he often partnered with Irish cell phone company Digicel and its head, Denis O’Brien. The company helped arrange at least one lucrative speaking engagement for the former president, while the Clinton Foundation “facilitated introductions” to help O’Brien build a luxurious new Marriott hotel next to Digicel’s Port-au-Prince headquarters. USAID has directed about $1.3 million to Digicel since 2008, along with private grant money. Digicel has donated tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. It’s hard to say how, or even if, any of those parts fit together: Digicel was dominating Haiti’s cell phone market and doing development work there long before the Clintons re-engaged with the country in 2009. USAID money started going to Digicel while George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice were running U.S. foreign policy, and most has been paid out since Clinton left the State Department. An indirect speaking fee is hardly proof of a kickback scheme. Still, the relationship is clearly an example of the many ways money and celebrity combine and strengthen each other at the highest levels of power.