January 15, 2010

I am happy that CNN and Anderson Cooper have decided to go down to Haiti to shine a spotlight on just how dire the circumstances there are with their coverage over the last few days. That said, this "Keeping Them Honest" segment left a lot to be desired. They failed to note some of the reasons for the extreme poverty there that Susie wrote about here at C&L--Let's Talk About Haiti's REAL Deal With The Devil: Exploitation By The Western World.. They failed to talk about how so much of the intervention in that country has been nothing but destructive as covered by Democracy Now. And no mention of the coup in 2004 that The Nation reported on--Coup in Haiti.

I'm no expert on Haiti but you don't have to be one to see how horrid the mainstream media has been with telling us what has caused this natural disaster to be even worse. While this segment hit at some of the real problems in that country, they really just whitewashed the underlying causes and the role The United States and other countries have had in making their misery as horrid as it is now.

COOPER: Did all of this, though, have to happen on this kind of scale? There's no doubt this is a natural disaster, but there are many, many people who believe it has been compounded by generations, years of corruption that has plagued this nation, corruption that contributed to the shoddy kind of construction of homes and buildings now that have been reduced to rubble. It's a "Keeping Them Honest" angle that Joe Johns is taking a closer look at for us tonight.

Joe joins us from Washington. What have you found, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, talking about a money pit here. Money going to Haiti. After all, yes, it's the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Fifty percent of the people can't read, and the infrastructure's a shambles. Look at the construction. All the buildings that have collapsed and how virtually there is no Haitian response.

Over the last 50 years since 1960 the U.S. has spent a lot of money, about $5 billion, on aid to Haiti. Raj Desai at Georgetown University is an expert in international development.


RAJ DESAI (ph), GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I think it's no secret that U.S. Aid, as well as aid from other donors, has been basically an abject failure in Haiti. Now, there have been some areas of success, such as in reducing the HIV infection rate, but all the other metrics by which you would measure aid success -- sustainability, impact, effects on economic development, human development -- it's been an utter disaster.


JOHNS: In other words, the money didn't go where it needed to go.

A lot of this, of course, about the government. Last year Transparency International, a government watchdog group based in Germany, ranked Haiti among the ten most corrupt nations in the world. The Haitian government has been seen as incompetent, sometimes unstable for decades under the rule of Papa Doc Duvalier and then his son, known as Baby Doc. The country was ruled by feared dictators who helped themselves to whatever they wanted, with Baby Doc, according to some accounts, taking hundreds of millions of dollars with him.

As corrupt as they were, the U.S. supported the Duvaliers, because they were friendly to our government, and Haiti was seen as a vital strategic ally during the Cold War.

And then there was the on-again, off-again rule of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1990, the first ever democratically elected president. But a year later, the military threw him out.

Then in 1994, under President Bill Clinton, the U.S. invaded Haiti to reinstall Aristide. So the point of all this: not a lot of government stability over the last 50 years. Corruption, mismanagement.

"Keeping Them Honest," we also have to point out the U.S. bears much responsibility for the mess in Haiti. First, too often the U.S. gave millions to the dictators that never got the money to the people who needed it. Nicole Lee, president of TransAfrica, lived in Haiti for years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NICOLE LEE, PRESIDENT, TRANSAFRICA: We need to make sure that aid is getting to the right people. That we need to make sure that aid is getting to the people who need it the most. And unfortunately, many, many times our aid has actually gone to people who we agree with politically, but not necessarily can be most efficient or most effective. And so that's a real concern.


JOHNS: Also with every new U.S. election, foreign policy changed. So did the amount of aid provided to Haiti. And now, Haiti, of course, is going to need much more money than ever before.


COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a country that has suffered for so long with bad governance, the destruction of their -- of their land. Cutting trees down to have charcoal so you have fuel. It's a devastated country, and it desperately needs help in creating an infrastructure, putting in roads, putting in electricity, putting in cell-phone connections. Everything that a country needs.


JOHNS: So pushing forward now, the hope is this catastrophe could be an opportunity for a fresh start. A chance finally for the nations of the world, including the U.S., of course, to get it right -- Anderson.

COOPER: Joe, you know, what's, I mean, so amazing about your report and about the generations of corruption here among government officials is that you talk to Haitian people in the streets now, and it's like they have come to so accept it and expect it from their own government. They don't even look to their government to be -- to be providing aid.

They're talking about the U.S. They're talking about the United Nations. They're looking at outsiders to help them, or they're helping themselves. And that's what the Haitian people have had to do for generations, because the central government has not been there for them.

It's shocking when you see it up close, and you just see that it's so -- it's become so accepted, almost, people think it's normal. There's nothing normal about the level of corruption which has occurred here for a long time.

Joe, "Keeping Them Honest." Something that we do every night. Appreciate it.

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