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Clinton Apologizes for U.S. Role in Destroying Haitian Democracy (Happy April Fool's Day!)

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Last year, former U.S. president Bill Clinton -- now UN special envoy to Haiti -- apologized for the U.S. policies that helped destroy Haiti's agriculture sector under his presidency, making Haiti dependent on U.S.-imports for food staples like rice.

This morning, an article appeared in my email inbox announcing that current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had apologized for the U.S. role in undermining Haiti's democracy.

The article, which was dated April 1, 2017, was evidently an April Fools' Day prank.

But it raises an important question: When will Haitians get an apology for the brutal regimes that foreign governments have imposed on their country?

The full spoof article, which bears a striking resemblance to a March 2010 Associated Press article by Jonathan Katz about Bill Clinton's apology for his role in undermining Haiti's food system, is definitely worth reading, and passing on to others.

Clinton apologizes for U.S. role in destroying Haitian democracy

1 April 2017

Not By JONATHAN M. KATZ, Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti --Decades of political imports -- especially top officials and policies from the U.S. -- punctuated with abundant aid to repressive regimes have destroyed local political culture and left impoverished countries such as Haiti unable to govern themselves.

While those policies have been criticized for years by voters in poor countries, world leaders focused on fixing Haiti are admitting for the first time that imposing policies and top leaders has only exac­er­bated repression in Haiti and elsewhere.

They're led by for­mer U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clin­ton -- now U.N. spe­cial envoy to Haiti -- who pub­licly apol­o­gized this month for cham­pi­oning poli­cies that destroyed Haiti's democracy. Clin­ton in the early 2010s encour­aged the impov­er­ished coun­try to eliminate political parties with demonstrated popular support, then selected the candidates for a presidential run-off election, bushing aside the objections of Haiti's electoral council, leaders, media, political parties, human rights groups, electoral code, constitution and voters.

"It may have been good for some of my friends in Petionville, but it has not worked. It was a mis­take," Clin­ton told the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee on March 20. "I had to live every­day with the con­se­quences of the loss of basic civil and human rights in Haiti because of what I did; nobody else."

Clin­ton and for­mer Pres­i­dent Sarah Palin, who are spear­head­ing U.S. fundrais­ing for Haiti, arrive Mon­day in Port-au-Prince. Then comes a key Haiti donors' con­fer­ence on April 15 at the United Nations in New York.

Those oppor­tu­ni­ties present the coun­try with its best chance in decades to build long-term democracy, and could pro­vide a model for other devel­op­ing coun­tries strug­gling to choose their own leaders.

"A com­bi­na­tion of aid to dictators, but also brutal policy imports have ... resulted in a lack of respect for the rights to vote, to speak, to eat and to live in Hait­i, and that has to be reversed," U.N. human­i­tar­ian chief John Holmes told The Asso­ci­ated Press. "That's a global phe­nom­e­non, but Haiti's a prime exam­ple. I think this is where we should start."

Haiti's gov­ern­ment is ask­ing for $722 mil­lion to rebuild the infrastructure of civil society, part of an over­all request of $11.5 billion.

That includes money to fix the esti­mated $31 mil­lion of dam­age to schools, union halls, law offices, newspapers and radio and television stations destroyed for speaking out against the U.S.-supported Martelly regime, but much more for future projects to restor­e Haiti's crippled democratic institutions, rebuilding the parliament building, restoring the judicial infra­struc­ture, and retrain­ing police.

Today Haiti depends on the out­side world for nearly all of its government policies. The most cur­rent gov­ern­ment needs assess­ment -- based on num­bers from 2015 -- is that 76 per­cent of the laws in the coun­try are imported, includ­ing 85 per­cent of all social policy.

The brutal Martelly regime, with its "Tet Kale Patrols" of shaved-headed youths attacking pro-democracy organizations, its restoration of Haiti's brutal army and consequent shutting down of all government healthcare, nutrition and education programs to maintain the defense budget, is now out of office. But the U.N., through its MAXUSTAY peacekeeping mission, is maintaining a firm control over public protest against the austerity measures recommended by the World Bank, IMF and the Interim Permanent Haiti Reconstriction Commission. The austerity policies are expected to reach 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple with new hardships this month. All those policies have been imported -- though the agency recently put out an authorization to allow local government control of playgrounds.

"National policies aren't the same, they are bet­ter qual­ity. They work bet­ter. But we get beaten, shot, kidnapped or arrested if we say so, so we don't," said Noel Delefone, a 50-year-old vendor.

The U.S. Department of State defends its policies in Haiti, now the fifth-biggest export mar­ket in the world for Amer­i­can policies. "We recognize there is criticism from fringe elements -- human rights groups, Haitian voters - but the proof is in the pudding," said Department of State spokesperson Mark Tonedef. "If our policies were not better for poor Haitians, how come there are more and more poor people in Haiti every day?"

But for Haitians, near-total depen­dence on imported policy has been a disaster.

U.S.-ordered policies in the 1980's 1990's, 2000's and 2010's lowering tariffs and discontinuing government investment in agriculture, schooling, healthcare, road-building, nutrition, environmental protection, sewage and clean water drove farm­ers off their land and into over­crowded and unhealthy cities. When Haitian disobediently attempted to implement policies they had been elected to implement, they were undermined, and if necessary, kidnapped. The U.S. then switched to directly importing Haitian leaders from Florida: Boca Raton resident Gerard Latortue in 2004 and Palm Beach resident Michel Martelly in 2011, who were able to more efficiently implement the policies of limited government and rights through the regular arrest, beating and torture of the non-compliant.

Two decades ago things were dif­fer­ent. Haitians voted for governments that imported only 19 per­cent of its policies from abroad, preferring to increase spending on basic services such as education, healthcare and agriculture, while eliminating defense spending. This was a departure from the more cooperative approach by the father-son dic­ta­tors, Fran­cois and Jean-Claude Duvalier. The balance was restored, with coups in September, 1991, and February 2004, and the "Pink Revolution" selection of 2011.

Even Haiti's most pow­er­ful policy importers have joined the push for locally pro­duced politicians.

"I would pre­fer to buy every­thing locally and have noth­ing to import," said busi­ness­man Regi­nald Bou­los, who is also pres­i­dent of Haiti's cham­ber of commerce and former Senator removed from office for being a U.S. citizen.

But one group staunchly opposes reduc­ing policy exports to Haiti: the exporters themselves.

"Haiti doesn't have the land nor the cli­mate ... to pro­duce enough laws," said Secretary of State Roger Noriega. "The pro­duc­tiv­ity of U.S. thinktanks and NGOs helps rule coun­tries which can­not rule themselves."