The Occupation of Haiti

WATCH | Will Progressive Latin America Oust USAID?

Aug 14, 2012

Lizzie Phelan reporting for Press TV in Managua, Nicaragua



NGOs and Empire | Canadian Aid Agencies Take Empire Building Seriously


by Nikolas Barry-Shaw, Dru Oja Jay

Jul 1, 2012



Photo Credit: Creative Commons: googmami



On November 30, 2009, the Conservatives fired the opening salvo of a far-reaching assault against Canadian development non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The concerted campaign to shift the political centre of the NGO world began when the head office of KAIROS Canada received a phone call from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) notifying the church-based development NGO that its request for funding had been rejected. CIDA officials cryptically informed the organization that its $7.1 million in federal funding had been cut because its activities did not fit the agency’s development priorities. It rapidly became clear, however, that KAIROS had run afoul of Stephen Harper’s foreign policy priorities, most notably his Conservative government’s staunchly pro-Israel stance.

NGOs guilty of similar transgressions soon faced cuts as well. In December 2009, Alternatives – another NGO critical of Israel’s occupation of Palestine – learned that its $2.1 million in CIDA funding would be cut. In April 2010, over a dozen groups concerned with women’s rights, including development NGOs such as MATCH International and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), also suffered funding cuts. MATCH International ($400,000 in CIDA funding in 2009) and the IPPF ($6 million in 2009) had been critical of the Harper government’s anti-abortion stance internationally. For the targeted organizations, the loss of government funding meant between 40 per cent and 75 per cent of their annual budgets disappeared overnight. The cuts exacted a heavy toll: overseas programs were shut down, offices were closed, staff positions were eliminated, and properties were liquidated.

Haiti: A Time Bomb Which Must Be Defused Immediately

Addicted to power and white privilege in poor countries, the large NGOs are funded mostly to make way for the imperialist and global corporatocracy stealing natural resources, destroying , for instance, Haiti’s food sovereignty, water, public health, democratic governance. All, the better to make a market and jobs for foreigners, their vaccines, fertilizers, pesticides and pharmaceuticals behind the mask of “development.”
March 26, 2012
by Ezili Dantò

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” — Lily Watson

Ezili Dantò of HLLN — Transcending the 2002 Ottawa Initiative for Haiti


There’s a reason to recall the efforts responsible Haitians make to survive the Western rabid rage hidden behind the do-gooders’ benevolence.

Few in power want to hear that  the World bank and the International Monetary Fund  contain the poor in war, poverty, disease so to save them with Paul Farmer pharmaceuticals, USAID tied-aid, the Clintons’ subsidized Arkansas rice and Monsanto GMOs-hybrid seeds.  Not when this is the age where Barrack Obama nominates Paul Farmer’s partner, Jim Yom Kim, co-founder of what some from Haiti call  “Partners in Death”, to head the World Bankers fleecing Black and poor countries worldwide.

It’s not news that the post-World War II alliance, use the World Bank, the IMF, the IFIs and the UN to pillage poor countries and continue the old colonial lines of domination.

Addicted to power and white privilege in poor countries, the large NGOs are funded mostly to make way for the imperialist and global corporatocracy stealing natural resources, destroying , for instance, Haiti’s food sovereignty, water, public health, democratic governance. All, the better to make a market and jobs for foreigners, their vaccines, fertilizers, pesticides and pharmaceuticals behind the mask of “development.”

Certainly in this age, the Nobel Laureates won’t be lining up to honor and give prizes to the homeless street boys in Haiti who dug up the earthquake victims, lifting steel and concrete, saving lives with bare, bleeding hands. Won’t be lining up to honor Haitians battling to end the US occupation. Won’t be lining up to honor  and give those, like Rea Dol, Jean Ristil Jean Baptise, Jean Jafrikayiti Saint-Vil, Yves Point Du Jou, Dahoud Andre, Pierre Labossiere or Ezili Dantò a peace prize for saving lives, battling tyranny. The neocolonial narrative on Haiti won’t allow it.

We don’t exist. Whitemen speak for us. Mr-lets-hoard-it-all wants everything.

He forgets. We reMEMBER. Laugh. Do battle. Walk with honor.

Sean Penn is saving us along with Paul Farmer and his acolytes. We who have made no dishonorable alliances and stood, from the beginning, against the return to dictatorship, oppression, re-colonization of Haiti, don’t exist. In fact, they say they treat Haitians well.  You know, as well as the godly Thomas Jefferson was treating 14-year old Sally Hemings nightly at Monticello. As well as the slaveholders who provided food and shelter to their slaves and only really beat them senseless when they were not working hard enough on the plantation, or were so ungrateful as to speak for themselves, or escape.

He forgets. We reMEMBER. Laugh. Do battle. Die with honor. Suffer humiliating pains, defeats. Endure.

Constantly under fire. But made of fire. Unborn. Never burn. We roll with it. Handling seismic shifts.  Freestyling to murder Tarzan, Jane and their Uncle Toms.

Acid and Clorox hunger we know. Stigmas we know. World Bank structural adjustment policies we know. IFM death plans we know. We’re never filled with the humiliating defeats. Our sorrows run deep. Yet and still, Ibo granmoun lakay Ibo.

We don’t exist. We’re the Haitians who save ourselves. We keep honor. We reMEMBER, always. The Ancestors. Don’t forget their traditional enemies. Never.  Bay kou bliye pote mak sonje.

“Cut your chains and you are free. Cut your roots and you die” –Haitian Proverb

What is the Ottawa Initiative?

Haitians and those still blind or in denial and who are participating in the International crime and travesty going on in Haiti right now are urged to recall the Ottawa Initiative .

What is the Ottawa Initiative?  Why is there a UN, Chapter 7 peace enforcement mission in Haiti for 8 years? A country not at war, without a peace agreement to enforce and with less violence than most countries in the Western Hemisphere?  (See the UN’s own Global Study on Homicide at page 93 ).

Why is Haiti the only place in the world where the UN has a Chapter 7 peace enforcement mission without a peace agreement amongst warring parties to enforce? Why is the third largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world really in Haiti?

What’s the secret behind the rush of the international mining and oil companies to Haiti?

Why the amazing strings of catastrophes in tiny Haiti these last 8-years of occupation? During the period since US regime change in 2004, the US managed to build, in “corrupt” and “resource-less” Haiti, the largest US Embassy in the Western Hemisphere and the 5th largest US Embassy in the world after Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Germany. (See Haiti’s Riches, and Oil in Haiti – Economic Reasons for the US occupation.)

The majority in Haiti have not been allowed to vote in elections since the US occupation began. Haitians suffer Clorox hunger, yearly floods and drownings, no development. The US military closed schools when they landed in 2004, which still have not reopened. The UN’s personnel sodomize a Haiti child daily. The UN mission in Haiti is getting paid nearly one billion dollars per year by the Western powers.

Haitians abroad have not been spared either. A puppet government is in place doing what an authentic government would never be able to get cooperation from the world bankers and financing houses to do.

The powerful  bankers and global politicians have finally found a way to tax the poor majority by unilaterally, without accountability, authorizing taxing Diaspora phone calls and remittances. The  $2billion,360million per year in Diaspora remittances is the only real direct and aid-with-dignity the people actually get.

But the world turns away, marginalizes Haiti and other voices who tell the truth.

Paul Farmer and his UN and World Bankers continue to “heal” Haitians from the “threat” we pose to ourselves they advertise, not to the white predatory system.  They’ve brought us “healing” with UN guns, (37,000?) NGOs , foreign diseases, vaccinations, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, pedophiles, priests, charity workers and such.

What is the Ottawa Initiative? In 2002, high level Western officials secretly got together in Ottawa, Canada and made plans for Haiti because Haiti with popular democracy was a “threat to North American countries. “

The expressed and reported concern was that “Haiti might have, by some estimates, a population of 20 million by 2019…It is a time bomb, the high level Canadian diplomat said, ‘which must be defused immediately.’” (The Ottawa Initiative; and Transcending the 2002 Ottawa Initiative.)

We are the Haitians

We shall overcome this latest US occupation and subjugation. We are the Haitians. The first to put liberty into application in the Western Hemisphere. The first to help liberate five “Latin” American countries.

The first to bring the music now called Jazz into being in the West. The first to beat all the European powers and their white settle derivatives in combat and end slavery, direct colonialism, the slave trade, forced assimilation. The first to defeat the Western bankers attempts at taxing the labor of the peasants through control of the foreign-backed Bank of Haiti.

The first, in the 1946 Haiti Revolution, to successful overthrow a U.S.-backed regime in the Americas. The first to reject bourgeois democracy. The first to refuse to make taxable income for the bankers, mulatto elites and politicians to enrich themselves, preferring a peasant ownership economy pursuing balance, Viv, family stability, Lakou sufficiency, not wealth, not profit to become taxable income. Haitians work to live, not live to work.

Haiti was the first to reject wage-slavery – the Western serf-like system of valuing and turning the human body/soul into a commodity useful solely for its labor for making profit for some bigmen’s enterprise, or to improve someone else’s land and life. Haitians prefer to be small business entrepreneurs on their own plot of land, living the sunny ocean, small farmers Island life without government interference or taxation without representation.

Haitians suffer the agony of endless debt, domination, starvation, imported diseases and all sorts of other deprivation to deny the Western inhuman economic and value systems.

In 1990 with the election of Aristide, the Haitians were the first to thwart US imperialism hidden behind the pretense of bringing democracy through sham elections and the false promises of tied aid.

The Haitians see through the current US occupation behind UN guns and shall again successfully overcome all US-backed puppet regimes, until the subjugation of the voice of the Haitian peasant and patriot stops, sovereignty regained, the foreigners, white saviors and their NGOs and World Bank bankers are gone.

He forgets. We reMEMBER. Laugh. Do battle. Live with honor. The Haitian union forged at Bwa Kayiman has never wavered. Nou se Ginen, nou fè yon sèl kò.

The Bwa Kayiman call is still our call.

Ezili Dantò,
Li led, li la
March, 2012


“Si nou fè silans,
Y’ap fè l pou nou,
Y’ap fè l sans nou
Y’ap fè l kont nou…Ki vle di, pran peyi Ayiti lan men nou…”–Alina Sixto , Sept. 2007

Haïti: Les ONG sont-elles un outil de domination néocoloniale? | Un État faible face à une invasion d’ONG

Colloque international sur le rôle des ONG en Haïti

par Julie Lévesque, Le 17 juin 2012

Ceci est la première partie d’une série sur le colloque du 15 juin qui s’est tenu à Montréal, Les ONG en Haïti: entre le bien et le mal.

Paternalisme, néocolonialisme, outil de domination de l’ordre mondial, voilà seulement quelques-uns des attributs et concepts accolés aux organisations non gouvernementales (ONG) lors du colloque sur le rôle controversé des ONG en Haïti, lequel a soulevé des passions le 15 juin à Montréal. L’organisatrice Nancy Roc d’Incas Productions, a admis que ce colloque intitulé « Les ONG en Haïti : entre le bien et le mal », est « un colloque qui dérange ». Elle a salué la présence de plusieurs ministres haïtiens : « Ce sont eux qu’on accuse mais ils sont là aujourd’hui, ils nous prennent au sérieux », dit-elle avant de déplorer l’absence d’un grand nombre d’ONG québécoises.

Nancy Roc au colloque « Les ONG en Haïti : entre le bien et le mal » 15 juin 2012.

« Les Québécois ont été les plus généreux donateurs et ils sont en droit de se demander où sont les fonds. J’ai contacté toutes les ONG, l’Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI), et la plupart n’ont même pas pris la peine de me répondre. J’ai appris la semaine dernière que l’AQOCI tenait son assemblée générale aujourd’hui même. J’étais prête à payer pour que le programme du colloque soit affiché sur le site de l’AQOCI. On m’a répondu que ce n’était pas possible pour le technicien web…

 « Lorsqu’une étude a été menée auprès des ONG par le Disaster Accountability Project (États-Unis), 80% des ONG ont refusé de rendre des comptes. On accuse souvent le gouvernement haïtien mais seulement 1% de l’aide s’est rendue au gouvernement. Pour chaque dollar canadien donné à Haïti, 6 sous seulement sont allés aux Haïtiens. Voici la vérité qu’on ne vous dit pas.

 « La plupart des rôles de l’État ont été refilés aux ONG, les fonds sont dirigés vers d’autres gouvernements, vers des compagnies privées étrangères. Comment s’étonner que l’on qualifie Haïti de Far West des ONG! Il s’est développé en Haïti une forme de colonialisme humanitaire. Depuis 1986, Haïti est le pays qui a reçu le plus d’aide mais s’est appauvri. Et on accuse les victimes! Par ailleurs, les ONG haïtiennes ne reçoivent pas d’aide et pourtant ce sont elles qui connaissent le pays et les besoins de la situation. »

Mme Roc se défend de vouloir faire le procès des ONG. Le but de ce colloque est de « chercher des solutions et mettre en œuvre une coordination entre les acteurs, d’amorcer un dialogue, un nouveau virage ».

La faiblesse de l’État haïtien et la propagande voulant qu’il soit trop corrompu pour se voir allouer des fonds profite grandement aux ONG étrangères qui récoltent l’aide financière qui autrement irait à l’État. Ce dernier est davantage affaibli par cette pratique et les intervenants ont dans une grande majorité mis l’accent sur la nécessité du renforcement de l’État. S’il faut avoir les moyens de ses ambitions, le renforcement de l’État haïtien passe d’abord et avant tout par les moyens financiers.

« Est-ce la faiblesse de l’État qui a causé cette invasion d’ONG dans les compétences gouvernementales ou l’invasion d’ONG qui a contribué à affaiblir l’État? » Sans amener de réponse à la question que plusieurs se posent, le directeur exécutif de l’Observatoire canadien sur les crises et l’aide humanitaire, François Audet, conclut qu’il « faut revoir les paradigmes de l’intervention en Haïti ».

Daniel Supplice, ministre des Haïtiens vivant à l’étranger accuse plutôt l’instabilité politique d’être responsable de la faiblesse de l’État. Il n’a toutefois pas mentionné le rôle prépondérant des pays donateurs dans l’instabilité politique haïtienne.

Ce rôle antidémocratique des grandes puissances est également passé sous silence dans les grands médias qui n’osent même pas parler du coup d’État concocté par le Canada, les États-Unis et la France contre Jean-Bertrand Aristide en 2004 et préfèrent le qualifier de « départ » du président. Ce dernier, élu démocratiquement avec un pourcentage des suffrages à faire rougir n’importe quel dirigeant des pays qui l’ont chassé du pouvoir, faisait face à une insurrection armée et financée entre autres par le CIA. Quant à l’opposition politique, le gouvernement canadien a largement contribué à son financement :

Le gouvernement canadien a été fortement impliqué sur tous les plans dans le coup d’État. Le Canada, l’Union européenne et les États-Unis avaient supprimé toute aide au gouvernement Fanmi Lavalas tout en finançant ses opposants. Pire, le Canada a participé à la planification et à l’exécution du renversement du gouvernement et au kidnapping d’Aristide. La nuit du coup, 125 troupes canadiennes étaient sur le terrain à Port-au-Prince, assurant la sécurité de l’aéroport à partir duquel les soldats étasuniens forceraient Aristide à prendre un avion pour l’exil. Le Canada a aidé à installer le nouveau régime non élu et lui a fourni des millions de dollars d’aide. L’aspect probablement le plus honteux est que les troupes canadiennes et les policiers envoyés en Haïti ont activement appuyé la répression. (Nikolas Barry-Shaw, Dru Oja Jay, Paved with Good Intentions, 2012, p. xi. Traduction libre.)

NGOs Spend More Than 80 Percent of Donations to Haiti

Prensa Latina

Port-au-Prince, Jun 18 (Prensa Latina)

More than 80 percents of the reconstruction donations sent to overcome the aftermath of the January 2010 massive earthquake in Haiti are drained to meet the needs of NGOs from the USA, Canada and Europe, denounces the Conference “Post-Quake Work of NGOs in Haiti”, held in Canada.

Haitian Nancy Roc refuted allegations that Haiti squanders the international relief and wondered why none such officials were invited to the event while Prof. Stephane Pallag,of Canada, urged to reformulate the aid to Haiti for it remains ineffective near three years later.

In message to the colloquy, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe warned their presence can now be called damaging since their operations never fund state projects, hence his call to the world to review their destination.

He also warned that his government plans to urge for more transparency from the NGOs -today some 595 but the exact numbers remain shady- and to channel every relief efforts and aid reaching Haiti to state-run institutions for it is the foreign companies who are managing the donations if they ever reach Haiti.

“The government is the best suited to channel this aid as long as it meets the rigour and act as transparent as the donors demand.”

President Michel Martelly denounced last January that his government has not seen one single cent from the international reconstruction donations and just one percent the four billion USD sent for the purpose were invested in social programs, obviously frustrating reconstruction.

The independent magazine Dissident Voices also blames NGOs, private contractors and some governments for the contradictory management mechanism and corruption that turned the US Administration into the largest recipient of the relief funds for Haiti.

Just after the quake, they assigned $379 million as preliminary relief budget but sent in troops, so 33 cents in every dollar returned to the mainland to refund their salaries or pay checks.

The magazine also quotes a report from the US Congress Investigations Office on more funds sent later ($655 million) which returned to the Deparment of Defense and $220 million refund to the Health and Human Services Deparment and the United Nations confirmed that Haiti just got half the aid request in 2011 and this year just 8.5 percent of the promised aid.

Postcard from Haiti: Life After the 2010 Quake

June 19, 2012

This is a joint post with Julie Walz. 

On January 16, 2010, at 16:53 hours, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the city of Port-au-Prince, killing over 200,000 people and leaving several million homeless.  Foreign aid poured into Haiti, at the rate of almost a thousand dollars per Haitian.  For the past two years, we have been putting together the various pieces of data we could find on aid flows and foreign involvement after the quake. We found that the big international NGOs and private contractors have been the primary recipients of billions of dollars in U.S. assistance have been not been required to report systematically on how they use the funds. There has been a lack of accountability to both the funders and recipients.  Our preliminary impressions based on our visit to Haiti are that this lack of accountability is if anything worse on the ground: the NGOs are frequently not accountable to the Haitian government or to the people they aim to serve.  We even learned something about earthquakes–for example, did you know that Haiti’s two major faults (the northern Sententrional fault and the southern Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault) are called slip-strike faults, and are similar to the San Andreas Fault in California? It was the southern fault that triggered the quake two and a half years ago.

Thunderstorm over Port-au-Prince
Credit: Vijaya Ramachandran

Last week, we finally got a chance to visit Haiti.  It was hot and dusty when we arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport.  While most of the rubble has been cleared, many roads and buildings still had scars from the quake.  As we left the airport and headed to the hills above Port-au-Prince, we began to notice the walls.  Walls that were 25 to 50 feet high; some even higher, accompanied by security guards and entry gates.  These walls surround the offices of various NGOs, foreign government missions, and diplomatic residences.  During our brief visit to Haiti, they became symbolic of the enormous divide between the foreign assistance community who live fairly comfortably in the hill towns of Petion-ville and surrounding areas, and ordinary Haitians in Port-au-Prince who suffer from extreme poverty, limited services, and increasing levels of violence.

Our visit to Haiti was facilitated in part by Kent Annan of Haiti Partners, who has deep ties in the country because of his long-term presence there.  Our guide and interpreter, Cara Kennedy, who has family ties in Haiti and speaks Creole fluently, also helped us to meet locals.  We are enormously grateful to Kent and Cara; through them, we met with professors at the university, a writer, and several Haitians running small NGOs, who have a deep understanding of local culture and norms.  The conversations we had with these individuals were invaluable to our understanding of what has happened in Haiti since the quake.  Some of the repeated themes and key takeaways are:

1. The $9 billion that was disbursed to NGOs and other intermediaries in a period of twenty-seven months has been spent largely without consultation of local Haitians.  Almost no one we interviewed had been contacted by members of the foreign assistance community to discuss local needs.  Due to a fears about security, a strongly-held perception of lack of local capacity, and the need to disburse money quickly, international NGOs have set up programs and carried out construction projects that are often at odds with local needs, and sometimes harmful in the longer-term.  The United Nations Logistics Center, near the airport, was virtually inaccessible to Haitians in the period immediately following the quake.  The brand new U.S. embassy, housing the largest USAID mission in the world, is like a fortress, complete with a perimeter of sandbags and armed guards.  A lack of communication often means mistakes are made, for instance we learned of a housing project constructed by an NGO over a watershed for Port-au-Prince, in violation of environmental guidelines and the Government of Haiti’s own rules.

Building damaged by the 2010 quake
Credit: Julie Walz

2. International NGOs have frequent staff turnover and very high costs.  In the aftermath of the quake, we learned that senior staff came and went, some staying as little as a few weeks.  A new arrival meant starting all over again, often with an individual who had little knowledge of Haiti and no knowledge of Creole (or even French).   The cost of maintaining expatriate staff in Haiti is very high.  According to the Miami Herald, it can cost upwards of $200,000 annually in housing and other benefits to keep a senior-level manager in Haiti. Some of our interviewees explained how NGOs and foreign workers are exempt from Haitian taxes and often do not follow Haitian registration requirements.  Donors have spent billions of dollars trying to repair Haiti’s broken infrastructure, largely with their own goods and labor.  In the meantime, most Haitians in Port-au-Prince spend their day trying to sell a few vegetables or fruit or other goods on the sidewalk, which in most cases, does not generate enough money to feed themselves or their families.

3. We repeatedly heard stories about the unintended economic and social consequences of the influx of foreign workers.  Housing costs in certain areas have skyrocketed – rentals easily go for over $30,000 per year, with some houses being rented for a lot more. Restaurants and supermarkets in certain areas of Petion-ville cater exclusively to foreign tastes, and prices of basic goods have been driven up to a level that even middle-class Haitians cannot afford.  Social norms and practices have been impacted as well.  We heard stories about how houses built by NGOs after the quake were not appropriate for most Haitian families–tradition dictates a partition in the house, no matter how small, but the new homes did not have these.  Rumors that access to temporary tents meant access to permanent housing in the long term caused families to split up, sometimes with disastrous social consequences.  The leader of a small, grassroots NGO explained to us that he now has difficulty drawing people to meetings and outreach unless he provides food or compensation for participants, like the foreign NGOs do.  The Haitian concept of “konbit” (working the land of other farmers as part of the community) has been challenged as foreign NGOs have started to pay farmers on an individual basis for soil-conservation and community farming.  One of our interviewees pointed out to us, gently, that some NGOs are “slowly destroying the fabric of Haitian society.

Roadside shops in Port-au-Prince
Credit: Julie Walz

Almost three years after the quake, we need to ask ourselves what we could have done differently.  Many people asked that the United States make significant investments in training, thereby giving Haitians the opportunity to study in American universities and training centers.  We also heard about the need to form networks of local and international NGOs to ensure that projects are guided by local knowledge.  Our interviewees requested the foreign assistance community rethink their assumptions about corruption that have led to almost complete circumvention of the Haitian government, and instead to examine how interventions can serve to reinforce the fledgling efforts of the Government of Haiti.  They were less enthusiastic about the used clothing, furniture, and other goods that have poured into Haiti since the quake.  One interviewee put it bluntly: “we need sustainable projects, not temporary solutions.”  Our colleague Michael Clemens has made the case that the US needs to open up to more Haitian workers, which will provide much-needed employment and remittances.  And while the United States government has signed on to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), little has been done to improve the transparency of aid flows.  Almost three years after quake, we do not know where the money has gone – a point that became even more evident after this trip.  We have argued that the lack of accountability of NGO expenditure in Haiti is unacceptable, and that better monitoring, evaluation, and reporting by international NGOs and the United States government is critical to the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance programs, in Haiti and elsewhere.

Haiti and the Shaming of the Aid Zealots: How Donated Billions Have INCREASED Poverty and Corruption

One car dealer sold more than 250 Toyota Land Cruisers a month at £40,000 each. ‘You see traffic jams at Friday lunchtime of all the white NGO and UN four-wheel drives heading off early to the beaches for the weekend,’ said one Irish aid worker. ‘It makes me sick.’

By Ian Birrell
27 January 2012

The Daily Mail

The first thing that strikes you is the smell: a sweet, sickly stench that sticks to your skin. It is worst in the morning, since women are terrified of risking a nocturnal trip to the handful of lavatories serving the thousands of people in the camp because of an epidemic of rape. Even the youngest girls are in danger.

I stop to chat to a young man in a green polo shirt. Ricardo Jenty says we must take care because three gunmen have just walked by on their way to settle a feud. He fears trouble; already he has seen friends shot dead.

Ricardo, 25, a father of three young children, recounts how the earthquake that hit Haiti two years ago ruined his home and wrecked his life. His makeshift tent is one of thousands crammed onto what was once a football pitch.

Elianette Derilus tucks her prematurely born new baby daughter in the top of her dress in the maternity wing on January 04, 2012 in Port-Au-Prince, HaitiElianette Derilus tucks her prematurely born new baby daughter in the top of her dress in the maternity wing on January 04, 2012 in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

‘Every day there are fights between gangs. There are so many young bloods that don’t care now. You have to avoid them — most of us don’t want any part of these things.’

Ricardo lifts the faded sheet that serves as his front door. His three-week-old baby lies asleep on the single bed that fills the family’s home, while his two-year old son screams at the back entrance.

The heat under the plastic roof is so intense his wife Roseline, 27, drips with sweat as she describes living in such hell. She looks exhausted. If she is lucky, she says, she has one meal a day, but often goes two days without food, putting salt in water to keep her going.

Since giving birth she has passed out a number of times and does not produce enough breast milk to feed her new son. She shows me a small can of condensed milk she gives him; she cannot afford the baby formula he needs.

So had they seen any of the huge sums of aid donated to alleviate such hardship? They shake their heads — just one hygiene kit from the local Red Cross. ‘I have heard about this aid but never seen it,’ says Roseline. ‘I don’t think people like us stood a chance of getting any of it.’

Two years after the Haiti quake, only 4,769 new houses have been built, and 13,578 homes repaired, while 520,000 people remain in squalid camps


Two years after the Haiti quake, only 4,769 new houses have been built, and 13,578 homes repaired, while 520,000 people remain in squalid camps

Ricardo says it makes him angry. ‘If I looked back two years ago I would never have thought I would still be here in this camp. If the aid organisations really cared about our lives, they could have done something. But how can I have hope for my future, living like this?’

The family’s story shames all those international organisations that flocked to Haiti after the earthquake two years ago, which killed an estimated 225,000 people. It was one of the most devastating natural disasters of recent years — and the world responded in sympathy. The international community claimed to have given  £6.5?billion to heal Haiti’s wounds, while donations poured in to charities.

Earlier this month, on the quake’s second anniversary, aid agencies pumped out press releases proclaiming their successes. Add up all the people they claim to have helped and the number exceeds the population of Haiti.

The reality is rather different — and shines a stark light on the assumptions, arrogance and deficiencies of the ever-growing global relief industry. As promises were broken, mistakes were made and money was wasted, prices of food and basic supplies for local people soared, sanitation deteriorated, there was less safe water to drink and well-meaning interventions made matters infinitely worse.

How USAID Undermines Democracy in Haiti

The image above is from the article “Putting the Aid in Aiding and Abetting: CIDA’s Agents of Regime Change in Haiti’s 2004 Coup”. CIDA is the Canadian version of USAID. #62 (May 2008)

November 18, 2011

by Leslie Mullin, Pambazuka

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is an arm of the US State Department. Founded in 1961, USAID serves as a ‘velvet glove’ for US foreign policy. The political bias of its operations in Haiti goes back decades. Here are ten things to know about USAID in Haiti:

1. USAID paid millions to Haiti’s ruthless dictator, Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, aimed at shoring up US influence in the region after the Cuban revolution. Thirty to fifty thousand people were killed under Duvalier’s regime while aid funds were siphoned into the private coffers of the Duvalier family. Under Duvalier, assembly production for American corporations became the blueprint for Haiti’s economic dependence on the US. The formula, essentially unchanged to this day, backs Haiti’s ruling elite while turning Haiti into a low-wage export-focused economy that creates profitable business opportunities for foreign investors. Haitians call it ‘the death plan’.

2. USAID backed Duvalier’s son, Jean-Claude ‘baby doc’, when he took over in 1971, with plans to promote Haiti as the ‘Taiwan of the Caribbean’. American taxpayers provided millions to build an infrastructure to lure US manufacturers to open assembly plants, taking advantage of Haiti’s high unemployment, political repression, and wages of 14 cents an hour. The consequences were profits for US business and the Haitian super rich. By the time of Duvalier’s fall, Haiti was the world’s ninth largest assembler of goods for US consumption, and the largest producer of baseballs.

3. USAID sabotaged Haiti’s domestic food production. USAID has a major impact on Haiti’s economy, both directly and as an agent for big financial institutions like the IMF. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than Haiti’s food system. As recently as 30 years ago, Haiti produced most of its own food. Then, in the early 1980s, USAID undertook a plan to redirect Haiti’s domestic food production towards export crops. The idea, tied to Ronald Reagan’s Caribbean Basin Initiative, was to integrate Haiti into the world market via agro-industry and export manufacturing.

With full awareness of its dire impact on Haitian peasants, USAID experts set about to shift 30 per cent of Haiti’s cultivated land from food produced for local consumption to export crops. As Haiti’s rural economy unravelled, impoverished peasants fled to the capital city.

Competition from cheap imports and the absence of policies to promote production led to a rapid decline in Haiti’s food production. By 2008, local food production amounted to 42 per cent of Haiti’s food consumption, compared to 80 per cent in 1986. At the same time the value of US agricultural exports to Haiti began to increase – from $44 million (1986) to $95 million (1989). Recently, USAID was helping agriculture officials boost Haiti’s production of mangoes – for export to the United States.

4. USAID enforced trade liberalization policies that undercut Haiti’s rice industry while promoting American rice. In 1986, USAID conditioned aid to the ruling military junta on lowering rice tariffs, while advising the government to remove the little assistance it gave to Haitian farmers. Haiti slashed its rice tariff from 35 per cent to 3.5 per cent (1986) and to 1.5 per cent (1995). Not only were Haitian farmers hurt, but American producers and grain sellers profited. Cheap, heavily subsidised ‘Miami’ US rice flooded Haitian markets, and Haitian rice production began to drop. Until the early 1980s, Haiti produced the majority of its own rice, but Haiti is now the fourth largest importer of American rice.

One beneficiary was the Rice Corporation of Haiti (RCH), owned by Erly Industries – a massive US agribusiness and the largest marketer of American rice. In 1992, RCH secured a nine-year contract to import rice from Haiti’s illegal coup government – a military junta responsible for the deaths of thousands of Haitians. RCH was managed at the time by the former director of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (1982-1988), with powerful friends in Washington like Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC).

Erly Industries gained another foothold in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake when USAID awarded an Erly subsidiary, Chemonics, the contract to implement the 2009 USAID ‘winner’ program. Chemonics is an international consulting firm that relies on USAID for 90 per cent of its business. Winner is another example of USAID’s reckless assault on Haitian agriculture. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Winner championed the introduction of Monsanto hybrid seeds at cheap prices to Haitian farmers, despite the recommendation of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture to halt all seed donations as both unnecessary and harmful. Winner undermines Haitian seed distribution networks, and will leave Haitian farmers dependent on Monsanto seeds when the program expires in 2015.

5. USAID ‘food aid’ is good for us agribusiness, not for Haitian farmers. Haiti’s domestic rice production was undermined even more by the vast amounts of ‘free’ American rice that USAID dumps on Haiti every year in the form of ‘food aid’. A recent report, ‘Sak Vid Pa Kanpe: The Impact of US Food Aid on Human Rights in Haiti’, explains how food aid is given to the poor as direct food assistance or sold by NGOs to support their overhead and operating costs, (a process known as ‘monetisation’). The report examines how US food aid benefits the American companies who provide and transport it, but has a negative impact on local Haitian economies which would benefit instead from agricultural assistance or cash to boost local production. In its most recent budget request, USAID proposed spending $1.2 billion globally on helping poor farmers grow more food, while asking Congress for $4.2 billion for food aid, almost all of which will be spent on purchases from American farmers.

6. USAID destroyed the Haitian creole pig. The 1982 swine flu outbreak in the Dominican Republic provided the justification for USAID to condemn Haiti’s 1.3 million pig population, promising to replace them with ‘better’ pigs. Over a period of 13 months, enforced by Duvalier militia, the Creole pig was wiped out. A Haitian woman recalls the era: ‘When the armed forces of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s regime set about exterminating Haiti’s Creole pigs, they would come to Haiti’s rural villages, seize all of the pigs, pile them up, one on top of the other, in large pits and set fire to them, burning them alive.’ In monetary terms Haitian peasants lost $600 million dollars. Haiti’s former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide analyzed the outcome in his book, ‘Eyes of the Heart’, explaining the small, black, Creole pig was at the heart of the peasant economy and constituted the primary savings bank of the peasant population. Pigs were sold to pay for emergencies, special occasions and to pay school fees and buy books for the children. What followed was a 30 per cent drop in enrollment in rural schools, a dramatic decline in protein consumption in rural Haiti, and a negative impact on the soil and agricultural productivity. When ‘better pigs’ arrived from Iowa two years later, they could not survive Haiti’s rural life, requiring clean drinking water (unavailable to 80 per cent of the Haitian people), imported feed (costing $90 a year when the per capita income was about $130), and special roofed pigpens.

7. USAID has consistently opposed minimum wage increases in Haiti. In 1991, USAID used US tax dollars to oppose a minimum wage increase from $.33 to $.50 per hour proposed by the Aristide government, claiming it was bad for business. The agency also countered a plan for temporary price controls on basic food so people could afford to eat. According to secret State Department cables, after the 2010 earthquake, the US Embassy in Haiti worked closely with factory owners contracted by Levi’s, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to block a small minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest paid in the hemisphere. The factory owners, with backing of USAID and the US Embassy, refused to pay 62 cents an hour, or $5 per eight-hour day, a measure unanimously passed by the Haitian parliament in June 2009.

8. USAID promoted and funded the 2004 overthrow of the democratically-elected Aristide. While millions of American dollars have propped up Haiti’s dictators, aid shifted abruptly away from the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Under the guise of ‘democracy promotion,’ USAID and USAID-funded organisations like the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute, funnelled millions to organise political opposition to Aristide and build conservative alternatives aligned with US interests. After the 2004 coup, USAID funded the integration of former death squad forces into the Haitian National Police to quell resistance among Haitians to the illegitimate coup government. USAID paid millions to fund the fraudulent November 2010 and March 2011 elections that excluded Haiti’s largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas, the party of President Aristide.

9. USAID extends its far-reaching influence in Haiti by funding NGOs (non-governmental organisations) which receive 70 per cent of their budgets from the agency. Over 10,000 NGOs operate in Haiti with authorisation to bypass the elected government and serve as a permanent form of ‘soft’ invasion. As far back as 1995, Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott reassured members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that, ‘even after our (military) exit in February 1996 we will remain in charge by means of the USAID and the private sector.’

10. USAID boasts that 84 cents of every dollar of its funding in Haiti returns to the US in the form of salaries, supplies, consulting fees, and services. As the lead US agency for Haiti reconstruction, just 2.5 per cent of USAID’s $200 million in post-earthquake relief and reconstruction contracts had gone to Haitian firms by April 2010. USAID paid at least $160 million of its total Haiti-related expenditures to the Defense Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, two US search and rescue teams and, in at least two instances, itself. US Ambassador Merten reported to Washington that the post-quake ‘gold rush’ was on, according to a secret cable that described disaster capitalists flocking to Haiti for contracts to rebuild the country.


* This article was first published by the Haiti Action Committee.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


– Aristide, Jean-Bertrand (2000). Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization. Common Courage Press, pp 13-14.

– Center for Economic and Policy Research (2010). Haitian companies bypassed in favor of DC area contractors with poor track records. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Center for Public Integrity, Windfalls of War: Chemonics, International. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Partners in Health, RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights (December 2010). Sak Vid Pa Kanpe: The Impact of US Food Aid on Human Rights in Haiti. Available at (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Coughlin, Dan and Ives, Kim (2011). ‘Wikileaks Haiti: Let them live on $3 day.’ The Nation, June 1, 2011. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– DeWind Josh and Kinley David H (1994). U.S. Aid Programs and the Haitian Political Economy: Export-Led Development. IN The Haiti Files, Ridgeway J (ed). Essential Books/Azul Editions. Washington, DC. P125

– Diederich, Bernard and Burt, Al (2009). Papa Doc and the Tonton Macoutes, 3rd edition. Markus Wiener Publishers, Princeton, NJ.

– Doyle, Mark (Oct 2010) US urged to stop Rice Subsidies. BBC news, Latin America & the Caribbean. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Farmer, Paul (2006). The Uses of Haiti, 3rd edition. Common Courage Press.
– Flynn, Laura (Jan 2011). In Haiti, Reliving Duvalier, Waiting for Aristide. Huffington Post. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Gros, Jean-Germaine. Indigestible Recipe: Rice, Chicken Wings, and International Financial Institutions: or Hunger Politics in Haiti. Journal of Black Studies 2010 40: 974 originally published online 29 September 2008. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Haiti Info (Sept 1995) Vol 3, #24. Neoliberalism in Haiti: The case of rice. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Hallward, Peter (2007). Damming the Flood. New York: Verso.
– Herz, Ansel and Ives, Kim (June 16, 2011). Wikileaks Haiti: The Post Quake Gold Rush for Reconstruction Contracts. The Nation. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Katz, Jonathan (March 2010). Haiti Relief Money: Criticism of Nonprofits Abounds. Huffington Post. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Kurklantzick, Joshua. (Dec/Nov 2004). The Coup Connection. Mother Jones. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– McGowan, Lisa (January 1997). Democracy Undermined , Economic Justice Denied: Structural Adjustment and the Aid Juggernaut in Haiti. The Development Group for Alternative Policies, Inc. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– NACLA (1995). Haiti: Dangerous Crossroads. South End Press, Boston, MA. Chapter 19, p. 190

– Quigley, Bill (April 2008). Thirty years ago Haiti Grew All the Rice It Needed. What Happened? Counterpunch. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Smith, Ashley (24 Feb 2010). Haiti and the AID Racket. Counterpunch. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Weisbrot, Mark (14 Oct 2010). CEPR Co-Director Criticizes US Funding of Flawed ‘Elections’ in Haiti. Press Release. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Weisbrot, Mark (10 Jan 2011). Haiti’s Election: A Travesty of Democracy. The Guardian. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Yaffe, Nathan. (June 2011) USAID’s Assault on Haitian Agriculture. Haiti Justice Alliance. Available at: (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

NGOs in Haiti: “The Handmaidens of Imperial Domination”

NGOs in Haiti: "The Handmaidens of Imperial Domination"
An Interview With Ashley Smith

By Mike Whitney

January 26, 2011

MW–In your article in CounterPunch titled "Haiti and the Aid Racket", you said that "The catastrophe in Haiti has revealed the worst aspects of the U.S. government and the NGO aid industry". Can you explain what you mean?

Ashley Smith—After the earthquake, the imperial powers and international NGOs collected billions of dollars with the promise that they would provide relief for Haiti’s quake victims and then rebuild the country. Today, even mainstream figures are profoundly critical of what the U.S. and the NGOs have done. For example, Ricardo Seitenfus, the special representative from the Organization of American States (OAS) to Haiti, told the Swiss daily Le Temps, "If there is failure of international aid, it is Haiti."

For that moment of honesty, the OAS fired Seitenfus. But he was right. Today, there are still over 810,000 people, essentially quake refugees, trapped in 1,150 tent camps in and around Port-au-Prince. Only 15 percent of the promised transitional housing has been built. Astonishingly only 5 percent of the rubble has been removed. And there has been next to no reconstruction.

The U.S. is principally to blame for this failure. Initially the Obama Administration used the cover of humanitarianism to deploy 20,000 troops and 17 naval ships to bolster the UN occupation in policing desperate people and preventing an exodus of refugees. This military response, as Doctors without Borders complained at the time, actually interfered with the distribution of humanitarian aid. Once it did turn to relief and reconstruction, it set up the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) under its control, which garnered promises of $10 billion in donations from the imperial powers. The IHRC, however, has only collected 10 percent of the promised sums. When and if they do collect the donations, the U.S. aims to implement a neoliberal plan of to exploit Haiti’s cheap labor in sweatshops, export-oriented plantations, and tourist resorts. So what they claim to be an effort, in IHRC co-chair Bill Clinton’s words, an "effort to build back better" is actually a ruse for the exploitation of Haiti.

The international NGOs’ record is almost as abysmal. To be clear, some have done invaluable work, especially Partners in Health. But on the whole, the NGOs have failed the Haitian people. The NGOs have not spent the enormous sums of money they collected. The Red Cross, for instance, garnered $479 million in donations for Haiti, but has only spent or committed $245 million to projects. The NGOs do not coordinate their relief efforts. They are engaged in capitalist competition with one another for funds and are pre-occupied with branding their separate efforts so that they can advertise their "successes" to their donors. As a result, the NGOs provide at best provide a chaotic jumble of services to quake victims. At worst, they are sitting on piles of cash.

In truth, the U.S., its allies, and NGO surrogates have overseen and in many cases caused worsening conditions in Haiti worse over the last year. The failure of reconstruction left hundreds of thousands trapped in camps, vulnerable to storms, disease, and violence brought on by desperate conditions. On top of that, the UN occupation forces, specifically a contingent of Nepalese soldiers, most likely introduced cholera that has now become a countrywide epidemic, killing thousands and infecting hundreds of thousands more. The U.S. then precipitated a political crisis by pushing for parliamentary election to give a democratic veneer to American neocolonial rule. The election was a sham; it excluded the country’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, and was marred by massive fraud and a contested outcome. Finally, like a nightmare, the former dictator, "Baby Doc" Duvalier, has returned to the country from exile, throwing the country into political chaos.

MW—Professor David Harvey says that NGOs act as "Trojan horses for neoliberal globalization." Do you agree with Harvey and, if so, would you elaborate?

Ashley Smith—Let’s be clear first that NGOs form a big range of groups, from reformist organizations to large international humanitarians ones and others that are essentially appendages of various state powers, both major and minor. Some reformist NGOs have played a significant role in the World Social Forum and others are clearly on the side of neoliberal globalization. Harvey is absolutely correct about the role of the international NGOs. There is an insidious relationship between them, U.S. imperialism and neoliberal globalization.

After the economic crisis of the 1970s, the U.S. abandoned Keynesianism, whose emphasis on state-led development had failed, and adopted market fundamentalism, aka neoliberalism, at home and abroad to restore profits and growth in the system. In the U.S. the ruling class busted unions, cut the welfare state, and deregulated the economy. Internationally, as Walden Bello documents in Dark Victory, the U.S. used the debt crisis to compel third world countries to open up their markets, abolish regulations on foreign and domestic capital, privatize state industry, and shred state-run social programs.

Neoliberalism worked for the capitalist class, restoring profit and growth—however uneven—in the world system. But neoliberalism exacted an enormous social price everywhere. In the third world, it dislocated peasants, impoverished workers, and created enormous slums in many parts of the world. On top of that, the hollowing out of the states left many countries unable to provide services, regulate capital, or respond to natural and social crises.

The imperial powers, International Financial Institutions, and corporate foundations diverted their money from third world states to NGOs to fill the vacuum. In this way, the NGOs have actually accelerated the opening up of third world economies. In an apt phrase, David Harvey calls the process "privatization by NGO."

MW—Do the big NGOs see natural disasters as a "growth industry" or is their interest strictly humanitarian?

Ashley Smith—In reality the answer is both. They are part and parcel of what Naomi Klein has called disaster capitalism. International NGOs are really businesses and big ones at that. There are about 50,000 international NGOs that compete for about $10 billion in funding from the International Financial Institutions, the imperial powers, and local governments. Just like corporations, they have chief executive officers, boards made up of mainly capitalists, a middle class professional staff, and then down at the bottom poorly paid laborers in their countries of operation.

These NGOs raise their funds by highlighting problems in the third world especially catastrophes like the earthquake in Haiti, branding their relief projects, and then advertising their efforts to imperial, corporate, and individual donors to raise more money. They are in the business of poverty and disaster management. A couple of people in the international NGOs actually told me that when the earthquake struck in Haiti some NGO bureaucrats, excited with the new prospects of fundraising, celebrated the disaster as if they had struck oil.

As capitalist entities they affirm and exacerbate the class division in the societies in which they operate. Anthropologist Mark Schuller describes their impact in Haiti. He writes: "In addition to higher salaries, NGO employees have access to many privileges: clean drinking water, electricity to charge cell phones, e-mail and the ever-prized U.S. visa. These privileges in turn plug individuals into the global economy. People’s first visits to the U.S. solidified neoliberal ideologies. This artificial, dependent middle class–the "NGO class"–thus directly support a form of economic globalization, accomplishes ideological work and further stratifies the Haitian population, selecting a chosen few for privileges denied Haiti’s poor majority."

For all their professed humanitarianism, these NGOs in no way solve the ongoing crisis and at best mitigate the disaster in societies where they operate. Since they are inter-twined with neoliberal capitalism, they cannot and will not challenge the systemic roots of third world poverty that turn natural disasters into social catastrophes. They are in fact complicit with the problem. Thus, they do a booming business putting band-aids on the mortal wounds their neoliberal donors inflict. Haiti is the paradigmatic example. As Haiti spirals into greater poverty NGOs have exploded to over 10,000 across the country. The worse the conditions have gotten, the more NGOs have sprouted up, in a cycle of growing needs ever more inadequately met.

MW—Why has it been so hard to make progress in addressing the basic needs of the Haitian people? Is it a question of funding, logistics, access to heavy equipment, politics or something else?

Ashley Smith—-It is really not a technical or logistics problem at all. Nor is it a problem with the Haitian people, as racists often argue. As Alex Dupuy documents in his brilliant book, Haiti and the World Economy, the fault of the Haitian underdevelopment lies with the Haitian ruling class and imperialism. After the Haitian Revolution in 1804—the first successful slave revolution in history—the new Haitian ruling class tried to maintain plantation farming for export to the world market. But the freed slaves fled the plantations to become peasants farming for subsistence and small-scale export. Unable to sustain their capitalist plantations let alone industrialize the society, the ruling class split into two parts—urban merchants and rural land barons, both parasitic on the domestic peasant majority and dependent on international capitalism.

Imperialism, however, was and is the central cause of Haiti’s underdevelopment. The imperial powers—all slaveholders at the time—were terrified by the threat of the Haitian Revolution. They initially imposed an economic embargo on the fledgling society and then trapped Haiti in debt. In return for recognition of the country in 1825, France forced Haiti to pay 150 million francs, the equivalent today of $21 billion, in compensation for the loss of its slaves. Thus France structurally adjusted Haiti at its birth. As the rising imperial power in the region, the U.S. developed a predatory relationship to Haiti, invading and occupying several times at the end of the 19th century to ensure debt repayments. It occupied the country from 1915 to 1934, repressing the population and setting up the dreaded Haitian Armed Forces. Later it backed the Duvalier family dictatorship as an anticommunist ally against Castro in Cuba.

At the end of the 1970s, the U.S. convinced Baby Doc to implement a neoliberal plan to open up Haiti to American agribusiness, build sweatshops for the multinational textile industry, and set up swank tourist resorts for yuppies. Impoverished and fed up, the Haitian peasants, workers and urban poor rose up in the mass movement, Lavalas, that drove Baby Doc from power and then elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide President in 1990 on a program of social reform. The U.S. responded by backing the Haitian ruling class in two coups, one in 1991 and another in 2004. Their aim was to repress the mass movement and block the attempt to use the Haitian state to improve conditions for the country’s masses. Since 2004, it has maintained a UN occupation in the country to police resistance, while it has tried to impose the same old economic plan.

MW—Author Mike Davis says that NGOs are a form of "soft imperialism." If he’s right, then the work of the thousands of NGOs in Haiti could be seen as a form of occupation? Your thoughts?

Ashley Smith—He’s absolutely right about the international NGOs. In the past, imperialism used religious institutions as a means to justify conquest, colonization and plunder as a civilizing mission—they were bringing the light of Christianity to the heathen masses. Today while the imperial powers plunder the third world, they funnel money into NGOs to make it seem like they are interested in aiding the very people they are robbing and exploiting. Haiti is perhaps the worst example of this process. While the U.S. imposed neoliberal plans that impoverished the people, it poured money into NGOs, cultivating the self-congratulatory illusion that it is helping Haiti.

Just like the religious institutions of the past, the NGOs are part and parcel of imperial domination of third world countries. In Haiti, for example, 70 percent of the NGO funding comes from the U.S. state. As a result, they become vehicles for control through provision of the societies in which they operate. As Peter Hallward argues, "the bulk of USAID money that goes to Haiti and to other countries in the region is explicitly designed to pursue interests–the promotion of a secure investment climate, the nurturing of links with local business elites, the preservation of a docile and low-wage labor force, and so on."

Perhaps one of the worst impacts of the NGOs is how they have become a vehicle for the cooptation of the indigenous resistance. As Mike Davis puts it in Planet of Slums, "Third World NGOs have proven brilliant at co-opting local leadership as well as hegemonizing the social space traditionally occupied by the Left. Even if there are some celebrated exceptions—such as the militant NGOs so instrumental in creating the World Social Forums—the broad impact of the NGO/’civil society revolution"…has been to bureaucratize and de-radicalize urban social movements."

MW—To what extent are NGOs being used to usurp the power of the state? Do they pose a direct threat to Haiti’s sovereignty?

Ashley Smith—This is the most insidious face of the imperial use of NGOs in Haiti. As I noted earlier, even before the earthquake, imperial and corporate donors were bypassing the Haitian state to give money directly to international NGOs. They thus exacerbated the gutting of the Haitian state so much so that Haitians now refer to their own country as ruled not by their own government but by a "Republic of NGOs."

That phrase captures how Haiti has lost its sovereignty. But the reality is even worse than the phrase implies. The NGOs are not part of any republic; they are not democratically accountable to the Haitian people or even its government, but to international donors. And they are not truly non-governmental. They are in fact so dependent on imperial powers for their donations that they are better thought of as subsidiaries of those governments.

In reality, the NGOs are part of how U.S. imperialism rules Haiti today as a neocolony. It uses the UN occupation force as its repressive arm. And it uses NGOs to oversee social services. The combination of the UN and the NGOs undercut any notion that the Haitian state let alone its people control their own country.

MW—What is the relationship between the Pentagon and the NGOs?

Ashley Smith—-Historically, NGOs had an established doctrine of neutrality in conflicts and refused to endorse imperial intervention. However, as Conor Foley documents in The Thin Blue Line: How Humanitarianism Went to War, many of the big NGOs like Doctors Without Borders have abandoned that stance and call for imperial intervention. They are thus handmaidens of imperial domination.

In Haiti, the U.S. deliberately used willing NGOs as allies in their destabilization and eventual overthrow of the Aristide government. The U.S. imposed an aid embargo to prevent Aristide from implementing any social reforms. They then channeled money through USAID into NGOs. Many of these NGOs would line up with the ruling class opposition, the Group of 184, some even backed the U.S.-backed death squads, and others supported the U.S. coup.

Today, Haiti is a neocolony of the United States. The U.S. has effective state power through the UN occupation. It controls its economy through IHRC. It dominates almost every aspect of civil society through its NGO raj. For all these reasons former OAS representative Ricardo Seitenfus said the UN was "transforming the Haitians into prisoners on their own island."

Ashley Smith writes for the Socialist Worker. He can be reached at: < ashley05401>

< Mike Whitney lives in Washington state and can be reached at fergiewhitney>

FLASHBACK: CrossTalk on Haiti: Year of Agony

Uploaded by on Jan 12, 2011

“On this edition of Peter Lavelle’s CrossTalk, he asks his guests why aid efforts in Haiti have largely failed. Who is to blame? Is it the U.N., the U.S. and its NGOs or is it the fault of the Haitian people?”