[News] Bush Administration Accused of Withholding "Lifesaving" Aid to Haiti

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Mon Jun 30 17:22:04 EDT 2008

Bush Administration Accused of Withholding "Lifesaving" Aid to Haiti

Written by Cyril Mychalejko
Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Human rights groups released a report on June 23 
accusing the Bush Administration of blocking 
"potentially lifesaving" aid to Haiti in order to 
meddle in the impoverished nation's political affairs.

The report, 
nan Soley: The Denial of the Right to Water in 
Haiti,” also takes aim at the international 
community for its role in politicizing aid while 
standing idly by as people suffer and die.

“The international community is able to turn a 
blind eye to the impact of its policies because 
it is not forced to confront the human faces of 
those who die or become ill through its action or 
inaction," said Loune Viaud, Director of 
Operations for 
Lasante. "This report shows the devastating human 
rights impacts of its policies.”

Zamni Lasante, 
<http://www.pih.org/home.html>Partners in 
Health's flagship program in Haiti, helped 
prepare the report along with the 
<http://www.chrgj.org/>Center for Human Rights 
and Global Justice and 
<http://www.rfkmemorial.org/>Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center (RFK Center).

The International Development Bank (IDB) approved 
a $54 million loan and $956,000 grant to increase 
access to drinking water and improve sanitation 
services in 1998. IDB officials believed that its 
proposed projects would alleviate preventable 
water-related diseases and would help decrease 
poverty by slashing water costs by as much as 90 
percent. The projects were designed to improve 
“the quality of life­particularly for women and 
children­and to reduc[e] incidence of disease and child mortality.”

But in what the report calls "one of the most 
egregious examples of malfeasance by the United 
States in recent years," the Bush Administration 
blocked the scheduled loan disbursal in 2001.

“When an institution takes on the responsibility 
to improve water and health conditions, it cannot 
turn around and undermine the rights of the 
people it was established to serve, regardless of 
pressure from one of its most powerful members,” 
said Monika Kalra Varma, Director of the RFK 
Center. “To keep history from repeating itself, 
the IDB and the U.S. government must take 
responsibility for their actions and put in place 
transparency and oversight mechanisms to 
guarantee that the human rights of the people of 
Haiti and other IDB member states will not be 
violated by an institution mandated to support 
their economic and social development.”

The report points out that Dean Curran, 
ambassador to Haiti at the time, said in 2001, 
“There now are a certain number of loans of the 
Inter-American Development Bank that are not yet 
disbursed with the objective of trying to request 
of the protagonists of the current situation, in 
the current political crisis, to reach a compromise.”

Treasury Department officials sent internal 
emails responding to the ambassador's comment, 
regarding it as a "major screwup"  that could be 
"easily interpreted as linking the hold-up in 
disbursement of loans at the IDB to the U.S. government’s political concerns.”

Brookly McLaughlin, a Treasury Department 
spokeswoman, told the 
New York Times on June 23 that she had not yet 
read the report, but suggested that the United 
States government and other international 
agencies had played a positive role in the 
development of Haiti. What may be even more 
remarkable is the fact The New York Times 
admitted that the Bush Administration encouraged 
the 2004 coup which removed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

In addition to being the poorest nation in the 
Western Hemisphere, Haiti also has some of the 
worst water in the world, ranking last in the Water Poverty Index.

"Lack of access to this crucial resource 
continues to impact all aspects of life for the 
vast majority of Haitians, contributing to poor 
health, food shortages, and diminished 
educational opportunities" the report states. 
"The result: a vicious cycle of contaminated 
water consumption, ineffective public hygiene, 
persistent health crises, and­beneath it 
all­chronic and deeply embedded poverty."

The organizations that authored the report hope 
that it will contribute to real policy changes by 
compelling international financial institutions, 
national governments, and other entities to 
understand that respect for human rights is 
inextricably linked to resource and development 
issues and, crucially, that they are legally 
obligated to respect, protect, and fulfill those rights.

“We must strive to hold our governments, and the 
institutions to which they belong, accountable. 
And we must commit to ensuring that the right to 
water is realized in rich and poor countries 
alike," said Zamni Lasante's Viaud. "It is time 
for all actors in Haiti to put the rights of the Haitian people first.”

Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at 

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

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