Haiti chérie — may god help you
Once again Haiti is in the news — for all the wrong reasons.
Shortly before elections were due the country’s president was murdered in his palace by armed invaders, allegedly mercenaries who had flown in from Colombia.
Nothing in the bizarre story adds up. How did the attackers gain access to the well-guarded presidential palace? What was their motive? Who paid them or commanded them? Who gained by this crime?
This latest scandal follows a devastating earthquake several years ago which prompted aid organisations to send cash, food and experts to help the country get back on its feet. Without obvious result. Over the years millions of dollars in aid have poured into Haiti, but the country remains the poorest in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Forgive me if, as somebody who has visited Haiti, I have a somewhat cynical attitude about its future. Sadly Haiti is an island with a brutal past and an unpromising future. Corruption is a way of life. A handful of its people live comfortable, opulent lives while many others exist in slum conditions.
Organisations such as Doctors Without Frontiers (more familiarly known as Médecins Sans Frontières, http://www.msf.es) do a tremendous job but they are faced with an impossible task.
Some surely did very well out of the Haiti earthquake. Inevitably, millions of dollars evaporated as corrupt local politicians siphon off aid money. Some NGOs and the many foreign companies awarded contracts for the rebuilding have been well compensated for their trouble.
Some years back I visited the island known as the “slum of the Caribbean” and only then did I appreciate what juicy pickings there are in poverty-stricken countries.
With a European aid worker, I travelled to the north of Haiti. We stopped at a godforsaken town, its dirt streets lined with hovels. At a grocery store we knocked back soft drinks. Then I took a look at the merchandise on sale — and was stunned.
Apart from an astonishing range of imported foods, one wall was lined with champagne, about 16 different brands, from Moet & Chandon to Dom Perignon.
“Who buys this?” I asked my companion.
“The aid workers in this area. And they don’t need to touch their salaries. That goes into their bank accounts back home and they live off their expenses.”
Haiti chérie…may god help you!