Picture: Girl in a displacement camp, January 2013. REUTERS, Swoan Parker
“The international community is so screwed up they’re letting Haitians run Haiti.” –Luigi R. Einaudi, US career diplomat, member of the Council on Foreign Relations and former Assistant Secretary General at the Organization of American States
Haitian author and human rights attorney Ezili Dantò heard Luigi R. Einaudi make this shocking comment in 2004, as Haiti was about to celebrate its 200 years of independence with its first democratically elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Apart from his efforts to raise the minimum wage and other social measures for the majority of Haitians living in extreme poverty, Aristide planned to nationalize his country’s resources, a move which meant more money for Haitians and less for multinationals. One month later, in the name of the “international community”, Aristide was overthrown in a coup d’état orchestrated by the U.S., France and Canada.
Today, the “international community” is running Haiti again, colonial style.
One can easily tell by comparing the very slow construction of shelters and basic infrastructure for the Haitian majority with the rapid rise of luxury hotels for foreigners, sometimes with the help of aid funds which, we were told, were going to provide Haitians with basic necessities.
Most of the aid money went to donor countries’ businesses, government agencies and NGOs, as usual. International “aid” is a well-known capitalist scheme aimed at developing markets in the global south for businesses from the North. Of course this “aid” will benefit Haitians. But only the very few elite ones: those in power and the rich corporate elite. “Haiti’s open for business” and deluxe hotels will be welcoming businessmen so they can set up their sweat shops in a cool and luxurious environment.
Picture (left): Original caption “Back in 2011, the U.N. and Oxfam promised that a new system of cisterns and kiosks would soon provide residents with water from the state water agency. Two years later, the faucets remain dry [see photo]. Residents buy water at 5 gourdes (about US$0.12 cents) a bucket from private vendors or from the committees that manage the few still-functioning water “bladders” left over from the camp’s early days when water and food were free and when agencies provided “cash for work” jobs and start-up funds for would-be entrepreneurs.” (Reconstruction’s Massive Slum Will Cost “Hundreds Of Millions” Reconstruction’s Massive Slum Will Cost “Hundreds Of Millions” Haiti Grassroots Watch, June 17, 2013)
“Several new luxury hotels in Haiti”
A year ago the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund invested humanitarian aid money in a five star hotel, as some 500,000 Haitians were still in displaced camps:
Picture (right): Oasis Hotel, Petionville Haiti
As part of the country’s “Reconstruction”, The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund recently invested $2 million in the Royal Oasis Hotel, a deluxe structure to be built in a poverty-stricken metropolitan area “filled with displaced-persons camps housing hundreds of thousands”. (Julie Lévesque, HAITI: Humanitarian Aid for Earthquake Victims Used to Build Five Star Hotels, Global Research, June 28, 2012)
Now, as 300,000 Haitians are still living in camps, a “new Marriott hotel rising from the rubble in Haiti is getting a $26.5 million financial boost” from the International Financial Corporation (IFC), member of the World Bank Group:
Marriott International and telecom giant Digicel broke ground on the hotel last year, and it is expected to open in 2015. It will be among several new luxury hotels in Haiti after the devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. Spain’s Occidental Hotels & Resort and U.S.-based Best Western have both opened hotels in the last six months in Petionville, a Port-au-Prince suburb. Spanish hotel chain NH Hotels also will open a new El Rancho in Petionville over the next few months.
IFC officials say the Marriott’s construction is expected to create about 300 jobs. The hotel itself will offer 200 permanent jobs. Marriott Hotels & Resorts will operate the hotel under a long-term management agreement.
The IFC currently has about $78.5 million worth of investments in Haiti, which continues to limp toward recovery more than three years after the quake nearly wiped out its economy. The investments are aimed at creating jobs, access to basic infrastructure, and income opportunities for Haitians, the IFC said.
“Haiti has the fundamental conditions for sustainable economic growth, including a competitive workforce, proximity to major markets, and unique cultural and tourist attractions,” said Ary Naim, IFC Representative for Haiti. “With our long-term financing support for this new and important piece of business infrastructure, we are confirming our commitment and confidence in Haiti’s future.” (Jacqueline Charles New Marriott under construction in Haiti getting financial boost, Miami Herald, July 3, 2013)
Picture: Best Western Petionville, Haiti.
How a luxury hotel in a rich suburban area helps give the 300,000 displaced and most impoverished Haitians “access to basic infrastructure” has yet to be demonstrated. Moreover, it won’t create jobs for those who need it the most. It is very unlikely that a deluxe hotel in the plush suburb of Petionville will hire many poor, needy, often illiterate Haitians who only speak Creole to work for rich foreigners. These people are the “competitive work force” and end up in sweat shops and mines. What “competitive workforce” and “proximity to major markets” actually mean is “cheap labor for the U.S.”
On its web site the IFC says its investments are “focused on helping rebuild Haiti and reactivate growth through investment and advisory services, in priority sectors such as garment, infrastructure, telecom, tourism, and finance.” In addition to the $26.5 million for the Marriott, the IFC has invested $7.7 million to the aforementioned Oasis hotel, also located in Petionville. (IFC Investment Generation in Haiti)
In total, almost half of IFC investments have helped the construction of deluxe hotels in a rich suburb, home to the Haitian elite.
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