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Saturday, January 13, 2018

King and Queen of Haiti: Bill and Hillary Clinton. Like many before them the Clintons focused on Haiti's elites rather than its general population-Politico, Jonathan M. Katz, 5/5/2015

5/5/2015, "The king and queen of Haiti," Politico, Jonathan M. Katz 

"There’s no country that more clearly illustrates the confusing nexus of Hillary Clinton’s State Department and Bill Clinton’s foundation than Haiti—America’s poorest neighbor."...

"Two months later [in March 2011], Martelly [Hillary's choice] was elected president. Fewer than one in five adult Haitians voted. At his inauguration, Martelly pledged his country would at last be “open for business.”

Bill Clinton applauded from a few feet away. 

Many in Haiti thought the Clintons’ influence had reached its peak when, shortly after Martelly took office, he selected one of Bill Clinton’s top aides, Garry Conille, to be his prime minister. Conille had been Bill Clinton’s chief of staff at the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy, and many in the Haitian political elite assumed that the Clintons had imposed him to keep an eye on the unpredictable new president. 

If that was the idea, it failed. Conille lasted just four months. He was replaced by Laurent Lamothe, Martelly’s longtime business partner, whom the former pop star had once referred to, lovingly, as a “true bandit” in a song. 

Things have only gotten more discordant since. Haiti has not held a single election, at any level, in Martelly’s four years in office. Parliament disbanded late last year when the terms of its members expired, leaving Martelly to rule by decree. Both the Clintons and the State Department tried to remain enthusiastic about the Martelly-Lamothe administration. But when opposition protests broke out last year, even Bill’s last-ditch endorsement of the prime minister in a Miami Herald interview could not save him from being forced to resign. 

Shortly thereafter, a New York Times article by reporter Frances Robles [3/16/15, "Haitian Leader’s Power Grows as Scandals Swirl"] spotlighted criminality surrounding the Martelly administration, including its protection of members of an alleged kidnapping and drug smuggling ring. A day after the article’s publication, one of the most prominent allies of the president, Woodley Ethéart, was indicted on charges of kidnapping and murder—only to be freed within weeks. 

I asked Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson, Nick Merrill, whether Martelly’s track record had changed her opinion about the leader she helped put in power. “She supports democratic elections, just like she did as secretary,” Merrill said. He declined further comment....

When (Bill) Clinton ran for president in 1992, he blasted the George H.W. Bush administration for rounding up boats of Haitians fleeing the military junta that ousted Aristide and for taking too light a hand countering the junta itself, many of whose leaders had received U.S. training or money. Ultimately, Clinton’s intervention returned Aristide to power.... 

As president, Bill Clinton had intensified a crippling embargo against Haiti’s then-ruling military junta and ordered the 1994 U.S. invasion to restore the democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to power. Now he was supposed to finish the job, spearheading development after a hunger crisis and a series of damaging hurricanes that had struck in late 2008. Haitians weren’t sure what to think: Clinton was popular with the masses for returning Aristide to power and hated by the elites for the same reason.... 

But Aristide did not live up to White House expectations. In the years ahead, U.S. relations worsened, and in 2004 the George W. Bush administration provided a plane to fly him into exile, touching off years of instability and lost growth, all capped by the 2010 earthquake. That last disaster presented another chance for the U.S. to get involved and another chance for redemption. 

(Bill) Clinton won headlines by apologizing for having maintained as president the import-substitution policies that destroyed Haiti’s food sector—policies built on the dangerously misguided theory that factory jobs obviated the need to produce rice and other food locally. He made a special point to note that the policy had benefited farmers in his home state of Arkansas. The message was clear: This time would be different. And he had grand plans for what the industry could become. Clinton predicted that with the right support to the garment sector, 100,000 jobs would be created “in short order.” 

Secretary Clinton joined in too: She hired Collier’s research partner in Haiti, Soros Economic Development Fund consultant Jean-Louis Warnhoz, as a senior adviser.

She and her key aide Cheryl Mills negotiated an agreement between the Haitian and U.S. governments, multilateral financiers and the South Korean textile giant Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd., which makes clothes for Old Navy, Walmart, Kohl’s, Target and other retailers. The Haitian government provided the land. To create a “plug and play” environment in a country lacking nearly all basic services, IADB and USAID invested millions in roads, water systems, a power plant, executive dormitories and the warehouse-like “shells” that would house the factories. The Clinton Foundation “helped to promote Caracol as an investment destination and worked … to attract new tenants and investments to the park,” says Greg Milne, the foundation’s director of Haiti programs. 

In October 2012, Hillary and Bill Clinton flew down to join President Martelly at the ribbon-cutting, where she pledged, “Our partnership, I promise you, will extend far beyond my time as secretary of state. And so, too, will the personal commitment that my husband and I have to Haiti.” 

If things went as planned, Caracol would be a triumph of the Clintons’ core model: the “public/private partnership”—U.S. taxpayer dollars, Haitian land and private corporations working together to put cheap clothes on American shelves and wages in Haitian pockets. 

Today’s reality, though, falls far short of the 2012 dream—despite an incredible financial investment. Far from 100,000 jobs—or even the 60,000 promised within five years of the park’s opening—Caracol currently employs just 5,479 people full time. 

That comes out to roughly $55,000 in investment per job created so far; or, to put it another way, about 30 times more per job than the average Sae-A worker makes per year. The park, built on the site of a former U.S. Marine-run slave labor camp during the 1915-1934 U.S. occupation, has the best-paved roads and manicured sidewalks in the country, but most of the land remains vacant....

To many close observers of Haiti, the Clintons made the same mistake that has been made for generations. Though striking a populist pose, in practice they were attracted to power in Haiti, which meant making alliances and friendships within the Haitian elite. “The strong push toward Caracol is evidence of this,” says Robert Maguire, an expert on development in Haiti and the director of The George Washington University’s Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program. Their project responded not as much to the “more inclusive development priorities pushed for by most Haitians and their governmentbut rather to those supported by Haiti’s economic elites, who stood to benefit the most from them.” 

That does not mean that the Haitian elite are all fans of the Clintons. Far from it. Many still smart over Bill’s decision to reinstate the overthrown Aristide. Others are resentful of the power and money the Clintons bring with them in their entourage, including billionaires like O’Brien (who in turn have no love for the oligarchical power of the Haitian import-export cartels). But infighting, the maneuvering of power and political brinkmanship have long been tactics of the Haitian elite. In a way, some whisper in Port-au-Prince, it’s as if the Clintons have joined their ranks.  
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The Washington Post recently wrote that “the Clintons’ long influence in Haiti is hard to overstate.” It’s indeed hard—but not impossible. While the Clintons and their allies sometimes seem to be omnipresent, they are not omnipotent. In part, that’s because, as a rule, things in Haiti do not go as planned. 

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission closed shop in 2011, derided for ineffectiveness and decisions “not necessarily aligned with Haitian priorities,” according to the Government Accountability Office. In December 2010, the IHRC’s Haitian members protested in a letter that they were being sidelined by Clinton, Bellerive and major donors on the board, including the U.S. representative to the commission, Mills. “In reality, Haitian members of the board have one role: to endorse the decisions made by the Director and Executive Committee,” they wrote.... 

Others have questioned a $500,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation made by the Algerian government after the 2010 earthquake, and a $900,000 donation by Boeing to support Haitian schools at the same time Secretary Clinton was lobbying the Russian government to buy that company’s planes. The (Clinton) foundation has acknowledged it violated an ethics agreement with the Obama White House by taking the Algerian donation.. Boeing indeed won a major contract, according to the Washington Post.... 

But even looking at money and institutional heft alone barely captures the reach and influence of the Clintons’ network in Haiti: a vast, diffuse web of power in all its 21st-century permutations. 

Take the story of actor Sean Penn and his unlikely transformation into a Haiti power player. Penn used his celebrity to establish the aid group J/P HRO in the weeks after the earthquake, then to forge a friendship with Bill Clinton—who in turn used his foundation and his own celebrity to help turn J/P HRO into one of the most powerful NGOs in Haiti. That led to deeper ties to the newly elected government of Martelly, which named Penn an ambassador....

But, though tracing the money in Haiti is difficult, there are no solid indications that the donations went anywhere other than where they were supposed to go. A Clinton Foundation spokesman says the Algerian money went into a $16.4 million direct aid fund, which in turn provided money to groups including Partners in Health, the operating fund of the IHRC, and Sean Penn’s J/P HRO.

Boeing’s money went to a now-defunct NGO named Architecture for Humanity, which rebuilt a quake-damaged school in the impoverished Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bel-Air. I visited on a recent school day. While the new building does not scream luxury—there is no library or computer lab, barely any furniture, and the school building does not get electricity—it does seem to be a well-put-together piece of construction, certainly by Haitian standards, where schools collapsed from shoddy building materials even before the earthquake. The former lead for the project, Kate Evarts, told me that while she no longer has immediate access to the books, she thinks that $900,000 sounds about right as a price tag when considering fees, licenses and the cost of subcontractors. The foundation says some money also went to teacher training.... 

Even poring over documents doesn’t tell you much: In 2013, the most recent tax year for which disclosures are available, the foundation raised $295 million overall and spent $223 million—of which it says $197 million, or 88 percent, went to “program services.” That intentionally vague term, used universally by NGOs across the aid world, includes anything that can be justifiably linked to specific projects including travel, office expenses and salaries.... 

There is little transparency in Haiti. Almost every deal, even a legitimate one, gets made out of sight—and over the past five years, the Clintons have seemingly had a representative or friend in all the most important backrooms. That power discrepancy, along with the Clintons’ fondness for keeping their cards close to the vest, has led to wild rumors everywhere. Many center on the Clintons supposedly buying land, the traditional source of wealth and power.... 

The complexity and limits of the Clinton model in Haiti can be summed up in a complex of 750 pastel-colored houses up the road from Caracol. The residents of Village La Difference are happy to have homes with electricity and water cisterns. But the settlement has been plagued by construction problems since the beginning.

Two USAID contractors have been suspended for failures including using shoddy concrete blocks and failing to separate water and sewage pipes."...

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"Jonathan M. Katz spent three-and-a-half years covering Haiti for The Associated Press and is the author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). Follow him at @KatzOnEarth. The reporting and photographs for this article were assisted by a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. This piece originally appeared on POLITICO.com."



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