Across the country from Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, miles of decrepit pot-holed streets give way to a smooth roadway leading up to the gates of the Caracol Industrial Park, but no further. The fishing hamlet of Caracol, from which the park gets its name, lies around the bend down a bumpy dirt road. Four years after the earthquake that destroyed the country on January 12, 2010, the Caracol Industrial Park is the flagship reconstruction project of the international community in Haiti. Signs adorn nearby roads, mostly in English, declaring the region “Open for Business.” In a dusty field, hundreds of empty, brightly colored houses are under construction in neat rows. If all goes as hoped for by the enthusiastic backers of the industrial park, this area could be home to as many as 300,000 additional residents over the next decade.
The plan for the Caracol Industrial Park project actually predates the 2010 earthquake. In 2009, Oxford University economist Paul Collier released a U.N.–sponsored report outlining a vision for Haiti’s economic future; it encouraged garment manufacturing as the way forward, noting U.S. legislation that gave Haitian textiles duty-free access to the U.S. market as well as “labour costs that are fully competitive with China… [due to] its poverty and relatively unregulated labour market.”
The report, embraced by the U.N. and the U.S., left a mark on many of the post-earthquake planning documents. Among the biggest champions of the plan were the Clintons, who played a crucial role in attracting a global player to Haiti. While on an official trip to South Korea as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton brought company officials from one of the largest South Korean manufacturers to the U.S. embassy to sell them on the idea. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, having just appointed Bill Clinton U.N. special envoy to Haiti, tapped connections in his home country, South Korea.
A cornerstone of post-earthquake ‘reconstruction’, the Caracol park is not living up to its backers’ lofty promises
CARACOL, Haiti — The young men playing dominoes in this tin-roofed fishing village used to have high hopes for the industrial park being built up the road. They had heard of the U.S. government’s plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a part of Haiti where most people are barely scraping by, and promises from a South Korean garment manufacturer to create tens of thousands of jobs.
But less than a year after Caracol Industrial Park’s gala opening — with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Sean Penn, designer Donna Karan and Haiti’s current and former presidents among the guests — the feeling these days is disappointment. Hundreds of smallholder farmers were coaxed into giving up more than 600 acres of land for the complex, yet nearly 95 percent of that land remains unused. A much-needed power plant was completed on the site, supplying the town with more electricity than ever, but locals say surges of wastewater have caused floods and spoiled crops.
A former French colony called Saint-Domingue in the Western side of the Spanish Island of Hispaniola erupted into a Slave revolt against France. The revolt cost the lives of over 100,000 blacks and over 20,000 whites not including innocent civilians caught in the crosshairs of the revolution. The new Haitian Republic was born and won its independence from France in 1804. It became a free Republic that abolished slavery and became a center of inspiration for many African slaves across the world.
But since the Haitian Revolution and it’s resistance to slavery, Western nations has managed to keep Haiti enslaved. From Internal conflicts that divided Haiti to successive dictatorships and a constant fear against a French invasion in the decades that followed, Haiti has always experienced a struggle for freedom. When President Theodore Roosevelt introduced “The Roosevelt Corollary” in a 1904 address to the US congress in relation to the Monroe Doctrine, he mentioned the fact that the US will intervene on the side of Europe who was in constant war against their former colonial possessions in Latin America if any new conflict were to arise from that point on. In 1915, the US Marines lead by Major General Smedley Butler, occupied Haiti under the orders of US President Woodrow Wilson to protect US Corporations and to prevent a people’s revolution. The occupation lasted until 1934. Then after the US occupation ended, Haitians chose a national assembly and elected Sténio Joseph Vincent as President of Haiti with US approval turned out to be an Authoritarian President.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A few days after the Jan. 10, 2010, earthquake, Reginald Boulos opened the gates of his destroyed car dealership to some 14,000 displaced people who settled on the expansive property. Seven months later, eager to rebuild his business, he paid the families $400 each to leave Camp Boulos and return to their devastated neighborhoods.
At the time, Dr. Boulos, a physician and business magnate, was much maligned for what was portrayed as bribing the homeless to participate in their own eviction. But eventually, desperate to rid public plazas of squalid camps, the Haitian government and the international authorities adopted his approach themselves: “return cash grants” have become the primary resettlement tool.
This represents a marked deflation of the lofty ambitions that followed the disaster, when the world aspired not only to repair Haiti but to remake it completely. The new pragmatism signals an acknowledgment that despite billions of dollars spent — and billions more allocated for Haiti but unspent — rebuilding has barely begun and 357,785 Haitians still languish in 496 tent camps.
“When you look at things, you say, ‘Hell, almost three years later, where is the reconstruction?’ ” said Michèle Pierre-Louis, a former prime minister of Haiti. “If you ask what went right and what went wrong, the answer is, most everything went wrong. There needs to be some accountability for all that money.”
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Nobel peace laureate Mohammad Yunus announced Saturday that his pro-business development group is financing several endeavours through a mix of loans and equity.
The projects that incorporate Yunus’ development philosophy of “social business” include two poultry farms, a bakery and a plantation of jatropha plants that can be used for biodiesel, offering an alternative energy source while creating jobs for 200 farmers.
The amount invested in each will range from $80,000 to $500,000, and feature loans with interest rates ranging from 6-10 per cent.
Such “social businesses” must each have a social mission like a non-governmental organization, but also generate revenues to cover costs like a profit-making business.
According to a report released on August 31 by Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon regarding the United Nations Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH by its French acronym), it appears that the renewal of the highly controversial mission will occur once again without any meaningful debate. Moon’s report effectively acts as a rubber stamp of approval for the occupation, stating that he was “Reaffirming my commitment to continue to focus the activities of the Mission, I recommend that the Security Council extend its mandate of one year, until 15 October 2013.”
MINUSTAH’s reputation and credibility as a stabilizing force has been shattered since the introduction of cholera into the island by the negligence of both the troops and shoddy base infrastructure in October 2010. Up until the deployment of Nepalese troops in the Artibonite Valley that October, Haiti had never experienced a cholera outbreak. According to the latest figures, the cholera epidemic has killed over 7,500 people, infecting another 590,000.
To date, the United Nations has refused to take responsibility for their role in the epidemic, despite “irrefutable molecular evidence” that the Haitian strain was virtually identical to the Nepalese strain. Reports from American medical researchers at the Center for Disease Control, in addition to separate French and Danish teams, have all confirmed that the MINUSTAH base in Mirebalais was the source of the cholera strain.