Blocking Doctors? Let the Aid to Haiti Go Through
The TV story seems to be that aid from America is pouring in to Haiti. But on the ground the US military is blocking doctors and American aid workers with longstanding relationships in Haiti from bringing in desperately needed aid, and the US is also being slow to expand airdrops of water, water purification tablets, and food. Where is the United States Congress? Because the US military is involved, does that mean no-one can say anything?
Yesterday, Doctors Without Borders reported that
A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) cargo plane carrying 12 tons of medical equipment, including drugs, surgical supplies and two dialysis machines, was turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport since Sunday night despite repeated assurances of its ability to land there…Since January 14, MSF has had five planes diverted from the original destination of Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic. These planes carried a total of 85 tons of medical and relief supplies.
One of their staff members said,
"We have had five patients in Martissant health center die for lack of the medical supplies that this plane was carrying…. Today, there are 12 people who need lifesaving amputations at Choscal Hospital. We were forced to buy a saw in the market to continue amputations."
Groups ready to deliver aid to Jacmel - the fourth-largest city in Haiti - were told they would receive no clearance to land there from the U.S. military, even though they already had both aid supplies and the means for distributing them. This aid is only now being delivered - thanks to assistance from the Dominican Republic, not the U.S.
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have pledged that the US will do all it can to help Haiti following the devastating earthquake. But while getting assistance into Haiti right now is extremely difficult, there are two things the Obama Administration could do immediately to help Haiti that are entirely within its control. It could grant "Temporary Protected Status" to undocumented Haitians in the U.S. - so they can stay here instead of adding to Haiti's burden, work legally, and send home money to help their relatives - and it could support the cancellation of Haiti's debts to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, where the U.S. Treasury department has decisive influence. So far the Administration has refused to move on either issue. Why the delay?
Even the Washington Post editorial board - on foreign policy, not usually known for singing Kumbaya - calls the Administration to account on both issues.
On Temporary Protected Status for Haiti, the Post says:
Congresswoman Maxine Waters sent a letter to Haitian President Rene Preval today - copied to Secretary of State Clinton - to express her concerns about the the arbitrary exclusion of political parties from the upcoming elections in Haiti. The text of the letter is below; the PDF is here.
December 23, 2009
His Excellency René Préval
President of Haiti
c/o Embassy of Haiti
2311 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
I am writing to express my concerns about the decision of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to exclude more than a dozen political parties from the Parliamentary elections scheduled for February and March 2010. I am concerned that these exclusions would violate the right of Haitian citizens to vote in free and fair elections and that it would be a significant setback to Haiti’s democratic development.
As you know, I have a longstanding commitment to supporting democracy and development in Haiti. I led efforts in the United States Congress to obtain debt cancellation for Haiti. These efforts culminated in the World Bank’s announcement last June that Haiti reached the “completion point” for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and would receive complete cancellation of its multilateral debts. I am also working to increase United States bilateral assistance to Haiti.
It is imperative that Haiti’s next elections be free and fair and that they be perceived as free and fair. Political parties should not be excluded from an election without a legally compelling reason, determined through a transparent, impartial process.
The coup in Honduras - and the at best grudging and vacillating support in Washington for the restoration of President Zelaya - has thrown into stark relief a fundamental fault line in Latin America and a moral black hole in U.S. policy toward the region.
What is the minimum wage which a worker shall be paid for a day's labor?
Supporters of the coup have tried to trick Americans into believing that President Zelaya was ousted by the Honduran military because he broke the law. But this is nonsense. A Honduran bishop told Catholic News Service,
"Some say Manuel Zelaya threatened democracy by proposing a constitutional assembly. But the poor of Honduras know that Zelaya raised the minimum salary. That's what they understand. They know he defended the poor by sharing money with mayors and small towns. That's why they are out in the streets closing highways and protesting (to demand Zelaya's return)"
This is why the greedy, self-absorbed Honduran elite turned against President Zelaya: because he was pursuing policies in the interests of the majority. The Washington Post noted in mid-July,
To many poor Hondurans, deposed president Manuel "Mel" Zelaya was a trailblazing ally who scrapped school tuitions, raised the minimum wage and took on big business.
In a statement condemning support for the coup by U.S. business groups, the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation expressed its concern that under the coup regime, there are