[News] Venezuela’s Anti-Hegemonic Aid In Haiti

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Feb 23 11:46:32 EST 2010

Venezuela’s Anti-Hegemonic Aid In Haiti

February 23rd 2010, by Kiraz Janicke - Venezuelanalysis.com

a February 17 article “Venezuela’s Renegade Aid” 
published in the Huffington Post, freelance 
journalist Patrick Adams implies that there is 
something untoward and problematic about the 
Venezuelan aid effort in earthquake ravaged Haiti.

Venezuela’s main crime appears to be its 
non-participation in the UN coordinated “cluster 
system” which Adams argues “has worked fairly 
well” – never mind that the UN has been an 
occupying force in Haiti since the United States 
engineered overthrow of democratically elected 
President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004 and 
never mind that John Holmes, the head of the U.N. 
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian 
Affairs, himself heavily criticised the 
implementation of the “cluster strategy” in a 
confidential email leaked on February 16.

“One month into the response, only a few clusters 
have fully dedicated cluster coordinators, 
information management focal points and technical 
support capacity, all of which are basic 
requirements for the efficient management of a 
large scale emergency operation,” Holmes said.

Despite the clearly logistical nightmare of 
organising such a large scale relief operation 
Adams argues that it is “one group -- such as the 
National Armed Fores [sic] of the Bolivarian 
Republic of Venezuela” that is creating “problems for everyone else.”

Adams’ main source for the supposedly problematic 
behaviour of the Venezuelans is Dr. Tiffany 
Keenan, “founder and president of Haiti Village 
Health, which oversees the supply and 
distribution of private aid from its offices in 
the airport,” in the port city of Jacmel. As it 
turns out Adams is “embedded” in Keenan’s 
guesthouse in Jacmel (though he doesn’t mention that in the article).

“The Venezuelans haven't showed up at a single 
meeting," complained Dr. Tiffany Keenan,” Adams writes.

"We were all sitting there the other day and 
someone said, 'Did you hear they just put a bunch 
of tents in Pinchinat?' Nobody had had any idea 
they were there. We still don't know how many 
doctors they have or how long they'll be there." Keenan continues.

However, as Adams later admits, the Venezuelans 
are coordinating their work directly with the 
Haitian government (which is ultimately 
responsible for deciding “how aid is coordinated 
and who manages its distribution among 
populations in need”) and in the case of the 
Pinchinat camp in Jacmel, the Venezuelans were 
brought there directly by the local mayor’s 
office, so it’s pretty clear that some people had an idea they were there.

As one perceptive commentator on Adams’ article 
wrote, “So they chose to work through the local 
government instead of the North-American run 
“cluster” system. I guess that makes them renegades.”

It later also emerges that the whole story seems 
to be concocted around a communication problem as 
the cluster system meetings are conducted only in 
French and English, whereas the Venezuelans speak Spanish.

In fact, Adam’s article is one big whine about 
the Venezuelan aid effort, implying that it is 
uncooperative, inept and inefficient.

However, occasionally facts on the ground force 
Adams to take a reality check: “When the 
Venezuelans first arrived, Pinchinat was a sea of 
makeshift huts assembled with sticks, bed sheets 
and scraps of plastic -- whatever could be 
salvaged from the collapsed homes that many of 
its residents had fled. Within days, some fifty 
Venezuelan soldiers in forest green fatigues had 
erected more than a hundred 40-foot, green canvas 
tents with "U.S." stamped on the side.”

But again Adams finds something to complain 
about; he mocks Maximo Tampoa, a 25-year-old 
engineer in the Venezuelan Civil Defense and 
another Venezuelan Capt. Chapparo for spray 
painting the red, yellow and blue colours of the 
Venezuelan flag on the tents provided by 
Venezuela and chides them for not knowing that 
more than two centuries ago “on March 12, 1806, 
the "Generalísimo" Francisco de Miranda, 
predecessor of the revolutionary leader Simon 
Bolivar, whose vision of a unified South America 
has become Chavez's own, raised the original 
Venezuelan tricolor on the ship Leander, anchored at the time in Jacmel Bay.”

Then he goes on to list a string of complaints: 
the tents are hot, and there are no floors. 
That’s it! That’s the problem with the Venezuelan aid effort!

The Venezuelans haven’t occupied the country 
militarily, blocked aid supplies from arriving at 
the airport, tried to impose unfair conditions on 
reconstruction loans or attempted to kidnap 33 
Haitian children a la Laura Silsby and the 
Central Valley Baptists, BUT
. their tents are hot!

So what are the Venezuelans really doing in Haiti?

Venezuela has certainly differentiated its 
approach to what Venezuelan Foreign Minister 
Nicholas Maduro described as “the hegemonic, 
abusive form in which U.S. military has sought to address the issue of Haiti.”

After the disaster struck on January 12, 
Venezuela was the first country to send aid, with 
an advance team of doctors, search and rescue 
experts as well as food, water, medical supplies, 
and rescue equipment arriving in Port-au-Prince on the morning of January 13.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also announced 
the cancellation of Haiti’s US$ 295 million debt 
to Venezuela on January 25, (a fact which Adams 
does not mention). In addition to thousands of 
tonnes of food aid Venezuela has also sent 
225,000 barrels of diesel fuel and gasoline and 
Chavez has pledged “all the free fuel that Haiti needs.”

The Venezuelan government has donated 30,000 
tents and sent more than 10,000 tonnes of food to 
Haiti and has pledged to continue shipments of 
food aid and supplies. Collection points have 
been set up all around the country for donations 
to ship to Haiti and Chavez’s United Socialist 
Party of Venezuela has organised dozens of 
concerts and fundraising events to help out with 
the Haiti reconstruction effort.

As part of a broader effort in collaboration with 
the member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance 
for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), which 
also includes Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, 
Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and 
Antigua and Barbuda, Venezuela and the ALBA 
countries also pledged $120 million to help 
reconstruction efforts, and together with the 
Union of South American Nations (UNSAUR) 
Venezuela has also agreed to contribute to a $300 
million fund, with each country donating according to their GDP.

Venezuela has also set up three “community 
camps”, that together house 3,900 Haitians whose 
homes were destroyed by the earthquake - the 
Simón Bolívar and Alexander Petión camps in 
Leogane, which each house 1,200 people, and the 
Francisco de Miranda camp in Jacmel, which houses 1,500 people.

The camps provide medical attention, trauma 
counselling, food, access to sanitation, adult 
literacy programs as well as sports, education, 
and music classes and other recreational 
activities for children. Venezuela’s ambassador 
to Haití, Pedro Canino, said Venezuela’s 520 aid 
personnel are also working directly with 219 
grassroots social organisations in Haiti to 
distribute food aid and other supplies to the 
local communities. The Venezuelans are also 
helping with reconstruction efforts, digging 
latrines, clearing rubble, building houses and schools.

Rather than living in hotels or guesthouses like 
many other aid workers, the Venezuelans are 
living and working side by side with the Haitian 
people. Jean H. Charles MSW, JD Executive 
Director of AINDOH Inc, wrote of the Simón 
Bolívar camp in Leogane in Caribbean Net News on 
February 17,  “The Bolivarian tent city, is well 
organized, its a transitional model that should 
be replicated; the Venezuelan soldiers living 
with the refugees are social workers, teachers, 
cooks and community organizers.”

The Venezuelan plan is to work with local 
communities to multiply the camps to extend 
access to thousands more people in need. The 
Jacmel camp is scheduled to be handed over to a 
team of Cuban doctors, while the Venezuelans will 
go back to Port-au-Prince, to work on 
constructing additional camps. The approach of 
the Venezuelan aid effort is not to impose 
conditions or win lucrative reconstruction 
contracts, but rather to help provide Haitians 
with tools with which they can organise and 
empower their communities for their own sovereign development.

Of course, efforts can always be improved, and 
unlimited solidarity with the people of Haiti is 
urgently necessary right now, but Venezuela, a 
small underdeveloped country has attempted, in a 
spirit of internationalism to step up to the 
challenge to the best of its ability and 
resources. As Chavez said, “Venezuela’s aid is 
modest but it is done with a big heart.”

So, rather than attacking the efforts of poor 
countries engaged in genuine solidarity to 
alleviate the suffering of the Haitian people 
perhaps Adams could better spend his time 
questioning the imperialist intentions of his own 
country that has sent more than 15,000 soldiers 
to occupy Haiti, which, incidentally, is thought 
to have potentially massive untapped reserves of 
oil and gas. He could also investigate where the 
billions of dollars in international aid is 
actually going, what conditions the IMF is 
imposing on Haiti’s reconstruction loans or what 
Christian missionaries – who, as with all 
colonising projects are an essential part of the 
“hearts and minds” strategy to maintain 
subordination to Western imperialist and 
capitalist interests - are really getting up to?

Maybe he could even start with the Christian 
relief and missions organisation, ORA 
International, of which Keenan’s NGO, Haiti 
Village Health, is an affiliate. According to the 
website Ministrywatch.com, whose stated aim is 
“educating and empowering donors to support 
Christian Ministries,” ORA International’s 
“transparency grade” is “F” and the website posts 
a “Donor Alert” on the ORA International profile 
with a warning “Non-Transparent Ministries: Are 
they Faithful in the Small Things?”

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