On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake followed by a number of tsunamis devastated Haiti. Estimated cost of the damage is between $8 billion and $14 billion. The death toll was between 200,000 to 250,000. About 634,000 live in displacement camps. Reconstruction has barely begun. In late 2010, a cholera epidemic killed more than 7,000 and sickened more than 531,000, or 5 percent of the population. Unfortunately, too many have forgotten Haiti.
Farming has declined to 25 percent of the economy from 40 percent a decade ago.
Unfortunately foreign aid has slowed. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which was created to coordinate aid closed in October 2011. The Commission was set up to provide assurances to donors that the money would be well spent considering Haiti's historically corrupt government. Without such assurances, donations are bound to slow.
In short, Haiti disaster help is lagging. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in tent cities that are overcrowded, noisy, filthy, and crime-ridden. Only about half of the $4.5 billion pledged by governments for reconstruction has been disbursed more than two years after the earthquake.
But don't just blame the earthquake for all the death and destruction in Haiti. Blame Papa Doc and Baby Doc, the Duvalier dictatorship, which looted the nation for 28 years. The Duvaliers put an estimated 80 percent of world aid into their own pockets with the complicity of the U.S. government who wanted the Duvaliers and their militia, Tonton Macoutes, as compliant allies. The Duvaliers' death squads murdered as many as 60,000 opponents of the regime. What the Duvaliers didn't steal, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) finished off through its "austerity" plans. The austerity plan meant cutting government services.
In 1991, five years after Baby Doc fled, Haitians elected a priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who resisted the IMF's austerity dictates. Within months, the military, with a wink and a nod from George HW Bush, deposed him. In 2004, after Aristide was re-elected President, he was kidnapped and removed again, with a wink and nod from George W. Bush.
Like a bad penny, Baby Doc arrived back in Haiti last January. Technically he is under house arrest, but reportedly he is leading a nice life. His portrait is sold on the streets and last December, he was the commencement at the law school in Gonaives. The betting is that Duvalier will never be tried for his crimes, including forced disappearances, illegal detentions, intimidation, torture, and executions of journalists, activists, political opponents and others. The U.S. seems to be taking a hand-off approach to Duvalier. The U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Merten, said the Duvalier case “is a matter for the Haitian courts and for the Haitian people who feel aggrieved.” There are even rumors that Duvalier may return to politics.
Aristide returned to Haiti from his exile in South Africa. He claims he is not returning to politics.
As a simple matter of justice, we owe Haiti billions. We helped break it, therefore we have an obligation to fix it.