Wealthy Nations Give Haiti Under Dictatorship Aid Denied Democracy

Three days ago the most powerful governments in the world confirmed their support of dictatorship over democracy in Haiti.  On January 6 the World Bank Group approved $73 million in loans and grants for the illegitimate and discredited government of the suffering nation, with the bulk of it to be distributed immediately.

The money given previously has not consolidated the violent rule of this government.  This is the first money the World Bank released since promising $150 million at a July pledging conference.  At this two-day conference at World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., wealthy nations pledged $1.1 billion to Haiti less than five months after an armed invasion and insurgency, and U.S. intervention, forced the elected government out and replaced it with the regime of Gerard Latortue, recruited from Florida to be interim prime minister.  The European Union, France and the Inter-American Development Bank disbursed $200 million so far, and Canada donated $12.7 million to help Haiti pay its overdue payments to the World Bank, the Associated Press reported.  (The AP incorrectly called this paying off Haiti's debt to the World Bank, which the Bank put at $501 million in 2002.)  In addition, donors already gave the coup government $440 million before the July 20 pledging session, the World Bank reported at the time.

The same countries that pledged so generously at this conference withheld aid and loans during Jean Bertrand Aristide's entire time in office, from his undisputed election until the 2004 February 29 coup, wrote Jeffrey Sachs.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and Organization of American States (OAS) suspended aid under instructions from the United States, Sachs reported at the time of the coup.  The U.S. government explained the cut-off of aid to Haiti as because of irregularities in the 2000 legislative elections, and was insisting that Aristide make peace with the political opposition before releasing any aid, pointedly making Haiti hostage to the intractable opposition group, even though Aristide offered and did address the 10 legislative races the OAS said should have gone to run-off elections.  (The World Bank's fact sheet on Haiti states only "January-March 2001: All IDA [International Development Association] disbursements and most grants to Haiti are suspended."  Aristide took office 2001 February 7 after being elected November 26.)

After – even during – the coup d'etat U.S. and French soldiers flowed in to protect the U.S.-appointed successor regime, and the loans and aid followed to help that government– protection and assistance for the dictatorship the U.S., France, and Canada chose; nothing for the democracy Haiti's people chose.

Likewise, the United Nations helps prop up the present dictatorship, but did nothing to come to the aid of the former democracy.  "A UN armored personnel vehicle rolls through Delmas 2 in Bel Air," Haiti Information Project (HIP) wrote beneath a photograph of a huge white tank-like truck.  "Five people were killed on January 5 when the UN entered the pro-Lavalas neighborhood under the pretext of cleaning the streets of garbage."  In addition to conducting or backing up the Haition National Police in murderous raids on poor, anti-coup populations, UN troops have participated in unlawful arrests, HIP reported.

Democracy & Debt

The World Bank and IMF never demand democracy as a structural adjustment condition to receive a loan, even though both hold entire nations and all the people in them responsible for repayment, and not just the leaders of the government that accepted the deal.  Of the $73 million the World Bank is now giving to the U.S.-installed Latortue government, more than half–$37 million–is a no-interest loan that later governments, and ultimately the now-oppressed people of Haiti, who will have to pay it back.

Oxfam complained that the pledges for loans rather than grants "will do nothing to ensure faster, deeper debt relief for Haiti, but, in fact push it into further, unsustainable debt," reported Jim Lobe of the International Press Service
July 21, 2004 in an article reprinted by Global Exchange.

Most of Haiti's current debt was run up by the Duvalier dictatorships.  So although wealthy nations and their international institutions could widely promote democracy and economic development simply by making nations' debts enforceable only when democratically elected representatives contract the debt, institutions such as the World Bank lend freely to unelected governments and choose to use other jargon in rationalizing the purpose of their loans.

"The chief goal of the Bank is to help the Government deliver urgently needed basic services to the Haitian people and strengthen the transparency and credibility of public institutions,” said World Bank President James Wolfensohn, quoted in the January 6 press release announcing the $73 million worth of programs.

Wolfensohn did not say if the World Bank considered the national penitentiary in Port-au-Prince a priority public institution to bring transparency and credibility to.  Closed to visitors since December 1, with the exception of an aborted visit by independent journalist Reed Lindsay that uncovered convincing evidence of a massacre of prisoners by guards and a special police unit, the vast majority of people in the prison have not been publicly accused of any crime or even seen by a judge, let alone convicted.

“Given the urgent need to support recovery efforts in the country, we plan to disburse $46 million of this assistance in the next couple of days,” the January 6 press release quoted Wolfensohn.  The huge symbolism of the pledging events and the huge amounts of money show exactly what the governments of the richest countries prefer to support in Haiti, democracy or dictatorship, for the United States and a handful of other developed countries control all decision-making at the World Bank Group, to the total exclusion of third world countries.

For instance, just nine nations, by appointing executive directors possessing more than half the voting power, can control all decisions made by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the largest part and namesake of the World Bank Group.  The United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France together control 37% of the vote with directors they appoint directly (the U.S.-appointed director alone has more than 16 percent of the voting shares).  Remaining directors are elected by various regions.  A region dominated by Belgium and Austria control 4.8 percent of the votes.  Canada in its region can by itself nominate a director for its region and so control for 3.85 percent of the vote.  Italy, also, alone controls the choice of director for its area, for another 3.5% of the vote.  This brings the total over 52 percent.  Developing countries have virtually no role.  The Netherlands nearly control half the votes in their region, with Israel or the Ukraine or any of a number of countries with fewer votes the Netherlands can appoint its own director with 4.46%.  The Scandinavian countries have 3.34 percent; Switzerland and Poland together control their region's 3.04 percent.  All this before a single developing country has an opportunity to even influence a vote for one director.

Practically, the governments of the richest nations exercise complete control over the five agencies of the World Bank Group, with the U.S. dominant.

Power versus Reality

Power can't always bend reality to its will.  The Latortue government that the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Italy choose to support with direct financial support, financial support through the World Bank, and direct or by-proxy military support, nonetheless fails to consolidate its control and achieve stability.

Lobe reported the stated goals of the aid pledged 2004 July 21:

Over the next two months, the ICF [Interim Cooperation Framework, the two-year donor-supported project of Haiti's government] calls for the creation of 44,000 new jobs; the collection and disposal of 50 percent of the garbage that piled up in urban areas; the upgrading of 500 slum dwellings in the capital Port-au-Prince; and the doubling of the number of hours per day in which electricity is operating, to 12.

The silence of the World Bank on the subject suggests how far short the Latortue government and its wealthy patrons fell from these goals.  A January 8 article by Michael Kamber of the New York Times News Service (carried by the Philadelphia Inquirer) adds more detail:

"They say the former government was no good," [Jacques Rafael, employee of a slain storeowner] said, referring to the administration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was overthrown last February.  "But when Aristide was here, we could stay open until 10 p.m. Now, we can't even stay open until 4 in the afternoon."

Around the corner, at a school, Lycee Petion, the students were headed home at 9 a.m.  Police recently wounded three students there during a shoot-out with gang members, and the fearful teachers had stayed home, as they do many days now.

"We're the ones paying for what is going on," said Franzo Caryce, 19. "We expected more from Latortue."

Nine months after taking office, the interim government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue is besieged by mounting criticism from every sector of society.

Oxfam and other development groups noted the ICF process did not effectively engage local grassroots organizations, Lobe reported in July.  As a result, according to Oxfam, many local groups boycotted the donor conference.

Other NGO critics here were harsher in their assessments of the conference, accusing the ICF as having been designed primarily by the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with almost no input from Haitians themselves.

"International donors are risking complete failure by putting money into the hands of an undemocratic, unconstitutional regime that has no legitimacy, and in a climate of impunity and rampant human rights abuses," said Melinda Miles of the Quixote Centre.

"The chief goal of the Bank is to help the Government" said World Bank President James Wolfensohn truthfully, but then he kept talking.

The question remains how to help the courageously struggling Haitian poor majority gain control of their government and their lives.

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