The Border-Industrial Complex Goes Abroad

“Nothing will stop our national security officials from making this country more secure from one of the least pressing dangers Americans face: terrorism.”
In this Nov. 12, 2013 photo, a Haitian man crosses into Haiti along the border with Jimani, Dominican Republic. In September, the Dominican Constitutional Court ruled that being born in the country does not automatically grant citizenship, including people born to non-legal residents going back to 1929. The ruling is a reflection of deep hostility in the Dominican Republic to the vast number of Haitians who have come to live in their country, many brought in to work in the sugar industry and their descendants. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

In this Nov. 12, 2013 photo, a Haitian man crosses into Haiti along the border with Jimani, Dominican Republic. In September, the Dominican Constitutional Court ruled that being born in the country does not automatically grant citizenship, including people born to non-legal residents going back to 1929. The ruling is a reflection of deep hostility in the Dominican Republic to the vast number of Haitians who have come to live in their country, many brought in to work in the sugar industry and their descendants. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

It isn’t exactly the towering 20-foot wall that runs like a scar through significant parts of the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. Imagine instead the sort of metal police barricades you see at protests. These are unevenly lined up like so many crooked teeth on the Dominican Republic’s side of the river that acts as its border with Haiti. Like dazed versions of U.S. Border Patrol agents, the armed Dominican border guards sit at their assigned posts, staring at the opposite shore.  There, on Haitian territory, children splash in the water and women wash clothes on rocks.

One of those CESFRONT (Specialized Border Security Corps) guards, carrying an assault rifle, is walking six young Haitian men back to the main base in Dajabon, which is painted desert camouflage as if it were in a Middle Eastern war zone.

If the scene looks like a five-and-dime version of what happens on the U.S. southern border, that’s because it is. The enforcement model the Dominican Republic uses to police its boundary with Haiti is an import from the United States. Continue reading

US opposition to minimum wage increase in Haiti revealed

Sweat shop in Haiti (file foto)

Sweat shop in Haiti (file foto)

WikiLeaks public cables have showed how the U.S. Embassy in Haiti worked closely with factory owners contracted by Levi’s, Hanes and Fruit of the Loom to block an increase to the minimum wage for Haitian workers.

In 2009, the minimum wage was $1.75 per day. In June 2009, responding to workers’ pressure, a parliamentary bill proposed to raise it to $5 per day. Factory owners opposed it saying they would only pay $2.50 “to make T-shirts, bras and underwear for US clothing giants like Dockers and Nautica”. Backed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Embassy, they urged then Haitian President René Préval to intervene.

The Haiti cables reveal how closely the US Embassy monitored widespread pro-wage increase demonstrations and the political impact of the minimum wage battle. UN troops were called in to quell workers and students protests, sparking further demands for the end of the UN military occupation of Haiti.

Because of these fierce demonstrations, sweatshop owners and Washington were unable to keep the minimum wage as low as they had wanted to for long.

In August 2009, President Preval negotiated a deal with Parliament to have two minimum wages: $3.13/day for textile workers and $5/day for other workers. But Parliament also adopted a progressive increase over three years so in October 2012 textile workers minimum wage finally went up to $5/day ($6.25 for other sectors).

200 Gourdes ($5) right now!”

UN washes its hands of Haiti epidemic

The organisation ducked responsibility for the cholera outbreak in denial of the ideals set out in its own charter

By Ian Birrell, Gulf News, March 5, 2013

Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News

Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News

Imagine if a multinational company went to one of the world’s most impoverished countries and, while saying it was there to help, contaminated the water supplies, unleashing a new disease that killed thousands of people. Hundreds of thousands more develop a hideous sickness, suffering such debilitating loss of liquid their eyes sink into their face, their skin wrinkles, their body shivers uncontrollably. Then there is a cover-up as the firm evades responsibility and, when finally taken to court, it simply refuses to play ball with the legal process.

Such a story sounds like something created in the febrile mind of a Hollywood scriptwriter, which in real life would lead to a huge and justified outcry.

But this is precisely what has just happened to the people of Haiti, except with one big difference — it was the UN at the centre of events, not a multinational. And there was no furore, just a few murmurings of mild concern. Yet such behaviour is worse coming from the body that is supposed to serve as the conscience of the world rather than a profit-hungry firm. The UN purports to exist in order to guard human rights, to spread the rule of law, help the poor and defend them from conflict and disease. It has all too often fallen woefully short of these noble ideals, but rarely has it shown such wilful contempt for them in its own actions.

Consider the facts. In 2010, UN peacekeepers went to Haiti to protect stability and prevent the spread of disease following a devastating earthquake. Instead, Nepalese soldiers almost certainly imported cholera, a condition not seen in the country for more than a century, then spread it by dumping sewage into a river. More than 8,000 Haitians have died so far, with another 647,000 people infected, yet from the start media and public health investigators met obfuscation from officials. Continue reading

NGOs and the repeated re-colonization of Haiti

March 5th, 2013

A Tale of Two NGOs: In Haiti, Disaster Aid or Aid Disaster?

By Beverley Bell, Other Worlds

This review of Killing With Kindness was written by Other Worlds’ founder and coordinator Beverly Bell

Three years after the deadly earthquake in Haiti, what has become of the commitments made on Red Cross billboards, the promises from telethon hosts, the moving declarations of Presidents Obama and Clinton? What has happened to the nearly $10 billion that was pledged to assist survivors and to rebuild, most of which was entrusted to the large non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that Professor Mark Schuller terms “non-profiteers”?

Not much. Almost nothing has improved for the millions who survive on an even thinner razor’s edge than before the earthquake. As for the nearly 350,000 displaced people who continue to live under shredded plastic, the only plentiful resource is scarcity. Cholera stalks the land, still growing two and a half after the global community learned of its introduction to Haiti through UN occupation soldiers. (Last month, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon cited the UN’s diplomatic immunity in rejecting a legal claim for compensation filed on behalf of Haitian cholera victims.)

Anthropologist Mark Schuller’s new book Killing with Kindness: Haiti, International Aid, and NGOs (Rutgers University Press) examines why abundant foreign aid dollars and agencies have not improved the socio-economic status or security of Haiti’s people. Continue reading

Haitian police clash with student protesters


Nov 15, 2012 by VideoTopNews
Hundreds of students march in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, shouting and waving signs against the National Police. They’re angry over the weekend death of a university student — allegedly shot by a police officer at a party. But the protest erupted into clashes as demonstrators threw rocks at police, who responded with tear gas. The unidentified police officer accused of fatally shooting twenty-four-year-old Damael d’Haiti on Saturday has been taken in for questioning. The investigation, however, has done little to quell anger. According to authorities, several students were injured in the clashes.

International Business Times: “Food Shortage Fears In Haiti After Hurricane Sandy”

Post-Sandy devastation in Haiti

by Ryan Villarreal, International Business Times, October 31 2012

Haiti is suffering one of the worst impacts of Hurricane Sandy as torrential rains and flooding damaged more than 70 percent of the country’s crops, further weakening its already insecure food supply.

Hurricane Sandy caused major flooding in Haiti, resulting at least 52 deaths and damaging more than 70 percent of the country’s crops.

Staple crops like maize, plantains and bananas have been affected, which means Haiti will have to rely even more on increasingly expensive food imports as record summer droughts have driven up prices.

According to the U.N. World Food Program, Haiti depends on food imports for half of its required supply. Continue reading

Book Exposes Violent Role of Paramilitaries in Haiti

Paramilitaries destroyed the free school buses that had been operating in Cap Haitian under Aristide’s government. Credit: Judith Scherr, Cap Haitian, Haiti, August 2004.

By Judith Scherr, Inter Press Service

OAKLAND, California, Aug 16 2012 (IPS) – Haiti’s brutal army was disbanded in 1995, yet armed and uniformed paramilitaries, with no government affiliation, occupy former army bases today.

President Michel Martelly, who has promised to restore the army, has not called on police or U.N. troops to dislodge these ad-hoc soldiers.

Given the army’s history of violent opposition to democracy, Martelly’s plan to renew the army “can only lead to more suffering”, says Jeb Sprague in his forthcoming book “Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti”, to be released mid August by Monthly Review Press.

The role of Haiti’s military and paramilitary forces has received too little academic and media attention, says Sprague, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He hopes his book will help to fill that gap.

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Sprague researched the book over more than six years, traveling numerous times to Haiti, procuring some 11,000 U.S. State Department documents through the Freedom of Information Act, interviewing more than 50 people, reading the Wikileaks’ files on Haiti, and studying secondary sources. Continue reading