Friday, April 25, 2008

Hunger and History in Haiti

There is perhaps no case more disturbing in the global economy than that of Haiti. Today's Miami Herald has a story on donors attempting to come to Haiti's aid in the midst of violence (and the threat of much more violence) due to rising food prices.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, but it was the jewel of the French colonial crown. The primary reason for its ongoing poverty is the unending desire on the part of the "civilized" world to extract vengeance for Haiti's defeat of the French in 1804, making it the second oldest republic in the Americas. The best book for understaning this story is Adam Hachschild's Bury the Chains which is a remarkable account of the end of the transatlantic slave trade and one of my all time favorites.

The Miami Herald article also mentions the role of the World Bank and the IMF:

In November 2006, Haiti signed a multi-year program with the IMF that would culminate with a pardon of nearly $1 billion of the $1.6 billion the country owes multilateral institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank

That program, HIPC (the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program), would lock in the liberalization policies that have been such a disaster for Haiti. While debt cancellation is a good thing, tying it to these conditions is ludicrous, especially in a country that has been as colonized as collectively punished as Haiti.

Today that colonization goes on in the form of a UN occupation. For more on economic and political justice and to find out how to get involved, check out the Quixote center's Haiti Reborn project.

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