[News] Venezuelas Anti-Hegemonic Aid In Haiti
news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Feb 23 11:46:32 EST 2010
Venezuelas Anti-Hegemonic Aid In Haiti
February 23rd 2010, by Kiraz Janicke - Venezuelanalysis.com
a February 17 article Venezuelas 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.
Venezuelas 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 Keenans
guesthouse in Jacmel (though he doesnt 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 mayors
office, so its 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, Adams 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.
Thats it! Thats the problem with the Venezuelan aid effort!
The Venezuelans havent 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 Haitis 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 Chavezs 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. Venezuelas ambassador
to Haití, Pedro Canino, said Venezuelas 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, Venezuelas 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 Haitis 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 Keenans 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 Internationals
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?
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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