Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the U.S.
In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region.
While on the ground in Haiti, the U.S. military can also interrupt the nightly flights of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and counter the ongoing efforts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to destabilize the island of Hispaniola. This U.S. military presence, which should also include a large contingent of U.S. Coast Guard assets, can also prevent any large-scale movement by Haitians to take to the sea in rickety watercraft to try to enter the U.S. illegally.
...and to think that people will still call Naomi Klein a conspiracy theorist.
The rest of the blog post uses the same imperialist/disaster capitalist outlook that we've grown accustomed to since the days of Pinochet. What's frustrating to me about it is the Heritage Foundation's ignorance of the fact that Haiti already has enacted some of the harshest neoliberal 'reforms' ever even conceived of. Among the results have been unprecedented dependence on foreign agribusiness, food riots and mud cakes.
Most callous of all is the call to exploit the current powerful position of the US Coast Guard in Haiti to prevent them from reaching the US. There is no legitimate reason that Haitians currently do not have temporary protected status and that is what needs to be fixed. One can't help but be reminded of the way Clinton broke a campaign promise by denying asylum to Haitians fleeing the murderous junta of Gen. Cedras.
It was Mr. Clinton who helped create the expectation of an exodus from Haiti when he condemned the Bush Administration for a "cruel policy of returning Haitian refugees to a brutal dictatorship without an asylum hearing."
Mr. Clinton had promised to give Haitians refuge and make it easier for them to apply for political asylum until democracy is restored in their country. At one point in the campaign he said, "If I were President, I would -- in the absence of clear and compelling evidence that they weren't political refugees -- give them temporary asylum until we restored the elected Government of Haiti."
But in a bluntly worded taped radio message broadcast this morning directly to Haiti and Haitian communities in the United States, Mr. Clinton said that Haitians who fled by boat would be intercepted and returned to the island. He also emphasized that he would enforce current United States immigration policy, which prevents Haitians escaping poverty -- but not those fleeing political persecution -- from seeking asylum in the United States.
Mr. Clinton's announcement was met with dismay in Haiti and among American refugee groups that have worked closely with the transition team to forge a new appraoch to the problem of boat people.
"The practice of returning those who flee Haiti by boat will continue, for the time being, after I become President," Mr. Clinton said in the broadcast. "Those who leave Haiti by boat for the United States will be intercepted and returned to Haiti by the U.S. Coast Guard. Leaving by boat is not the route to freedom."