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Clinton Apology to Haiti Surprises NS Activists

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Issue: 69 Section: Food Geography: USA, Latin America, Atlantic Haiti, Truro Topics: food security

May 11, 2010

Clinton Apology to Haiti Surprises NS Activists

Former US president calls dumping cheap rice "a mistake"

by Bruce Wark

Former US President Bill Clinton visits Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 18, 2010. [US Forces] Photo: Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock

HALIFAX—Nova Scotia activists are expressing surprise that former US president Bill Clinton has apologized for flooding Haiti with cheap American rice beginning in the mid 1990s. During testimony before a US Senate committee last month, Clinton admitted that requiring Haiti to lower its tariffs on rice imports made it impossible for Haitian farmers to compete in their domestic economy. The trade policy forced farmers off land and undercut Haiti's ability to feed itself.

“It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake,” Clinton—now a UN special envoy to Haiti—told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee March 10. “I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.”

“I would like to believe that Clinton has had a change of heart,” wrote Heidi Verheul of the Halifax Peace Coalition in an e-mail. “But he actually needs to do something to challenge the free market shock doctrine economic policies that are being designed to further subjugate and impoverish Haiti,” she added. “The policies of aid and development in Haiti have continuously served to undermine democracy [and] local economies, and have driven tens of thousands of people from their land, enslaved them in sweatshops, makeshift homes, and absolute grinding, miserable poverty.”

Clinton’s apology attracted scant media attention in the US and none in Canada. It was included as part of an Associated Press news agency report that was published March 20 by the Washington Post. The AP report from Haiti’s earthquake-ravaged capital, Port au Prince, suggests world leaders are reconsidering trade and aid policies that make poor countries dependent on rich ones. It quotes UN aid official John Holmes as saying that poor countries, like Haiti, need to become more self-sufficient by rebuilding their own food production.

“A combination of food aid, but also cheap imports have...resulted in a lack of investment in Haitian farming, and that has to be reversed,” Holmes told AP. “That's a global phenomenon, but Haiti’s a prime example. I think this is where we should start."

The Clinton administration forced Jean Bertrand Aristide to agree to cut rice tariffs drastically when the US restored the Haitian president to power in October 1994. Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president, had been overthrown by a US-backed military coup in 1991. In return for $770 million in international loans and aid, Aristide was required to agree to a business-friendly “structural adjustment” program that, aside from cutting food tariffs, also included freezing the minimum wage, cutting the size of the civil service, and privatizing public utilities. (Aristide annoyed the US by being slow to implement such policies, making Clinton’s apology last month all the more surprising.)

Janet Eaton, trade and environment campaigner for Sierra Club Canada, said members of the global democracy movement have long known about the failures of the globalized food system, and Clinton’s apology to Haitians only reinforced what many activists have talked and written about for years.

“When high-profile leaders admit that economic globalization isn’t working, then it’s time for governments to get on board and look at alternatives.” Eaton added. “It is time to admit that these failures exist and put an end to the aggressive free trade frenzy that is now occurring in Canada, the US and Europe as they vie for foreign markets, raw materials and unfettered free trade.”

Eaton pointed to one alternative in Nova Scotia—a Food Policy Council, which was formally established at a meeting in Truro on April 19. Farmers, consumers, academics, policy analysts and organizations were promoting food security for all Nova Scotians by focusing on ways to grow more of our own food. Eaton contended that growing more local food would help curtail climate change, reduce dependence on increasingly expensive fossil fuels and alleviate global poverty.

She added, “Haiti should be seen as a metaphor for what can happen on a planetary level if we fail to recognize the crisis we face.”

Bruce Wark is a freelance journalist based in Fall River, NS. This article was originally published by the Halifax Media Co-op.

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Comments

Headlines Matter

"Clinton Apology to Haiti Surprises NS Activists," is Bruce Wark's title for this article. It's not clear to me what Bruce makes of all this nothingness by one of corporatocracy's celeb proponents, namely Bill Clinton.

What do we need to know about this apology by Bill Clinton? We need to know, as I indicated on my own blog when I first learned about this, that Bill's apology isn't worth a fig. If it serves any purpose, it's not one that is good for the people. My view is, and was, that an apology like this from such a high profile figure, who is also at the center of efforts by the corporatocracy's special interests to do disaster capitalism in Haiti, is meant to dampen Haitians' resistance to the corporatocracy's theft of Hatian resources and blocking of Haitians' freedom.

I'm with Heidi Verheul on this. The Sierra Club's Janet Eaton makes a point as well, but sort of misrepresents the reality of corporatocracy. Governments don't 'just happen' to get things wrong. And whatever seemingly fine things a corporatocracy government might do, the system isn't changing until it's changing. And it's the that we are currently under, namely the corporatocracy and it's neoliberal - shock doctrine - capitalism that is the problem. A government that has bad intentions and that does one good thing isn't the answer.

In "Bill Clinton & His Boy René Préval," I wrote the following on April 2:

"In the sticky on my front page, the reader will learn about how the U.S. deliberately and coldly destroyed Haiti’s agricutural self-sufficiency. In this 3 part segment of DN, the reader will see Bill Clinton, aka “slick Willy,” issue a mea culpa and an apology for being a part of that assault on Haiti. It’s not an apology that’s worth a fig, of course. It’s only meant to help tamp down the Haitian resistance to the U.S. takeover of their country. An apology from Bill Clinton that would mean something would be one accompanied by Bill’s announced withdrawal from helping to implement the corporatocracy’s plan, aided by the traitor René Préval, to maintain Haiti as a sweatshop zone and to place control of all funds earmarked for Haiti in the hands of the World Bank and other foreigners and to completely exclude Haitian civil society from decision-making in connection with the reconstruction of Haiti. The people are the enemy, as usual, and will have no (genuine) say in matters affecting them. (DN did not help us greatly by chopping this Haiti segment up the way they did.)

"Kim Ive’s report on Haiti, discussed on DN, can be found at the Haiti Liberté website. His March 31st article is titled “UN Conference to Consummate US Take-Over of Haiti.” To see it in English, click on the ‘English Version’ button." (my blog post here: http://bit.ly/bL2CPJ / Haiti Liberté http://www.haiti-liberte.com/)

Long Nose

Excuse me... Do I see an elephant in the room?!

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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