Monday, January 17, 2011

What's up, Baby Doc?

After last year's horrific earthquake in Haiti, there was a bit of a surprise when the exiled dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, better known as "Baby Doc," announced he was donating his "fortune" of $6 billion (read, just a portion of the billions he plundered) to the relief effort.   At the time, I thought, what a nice guy -- but there's got to be a catch.   People just don't give away large chunks of their wealth without expecting something.   Even Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, who have dared the rest of the 500 richest people in the world to give away 99% of their net worth, have ulterior motives.

Last night, Baby Doc made a surprise return to Haiti.   This is stunning given the numerous human rights abuses he and his father committed during their reign of terror, including systemic torture which has been well documented by many human rights organizations -- Amnesty International and Freedom House just to name two.   The total lack of progress in reconstruction is appalling enough, but to allow this maniac back with no questions asked, makes me ask if he bought immunity in exchange for his free return.

How is this possible?   How can this happen in this age, when human rights should be non-negotiable?

More thoughts after the jump.

I will admit that I was grousing a bit last week when there were many groups in Toronto (i.e. private businesses) who claimed that because of "bureaucracy" they haven't been able to ship any goods to Haiti, with boxes tied up in warehouses and basements of restaurants -- even though common sense dictates that in crisis situations it's cash what's needed since emergency supplies can be purchased locally sourced for far less and thus have much greater benefit.   This is something continually emphasized by the legitimate charities -- the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, CODE -- just to name three.  Not to mention with those groups you actually get a receipt and accountability  -- not private businesses who just buy up our goods, no doubt with good intentions but with it firing back in their faces.  Forget the overhead we pay to buy it, imagine the price of actually shipping it.   By the time $100 of off-book donations flow through, maybe only $5 if that actually gets to its destination.   What if instead 90% or more went there instead?  I think this is one big reason why the effort has been just a flop.

No doubt this haphazard response has been a big problem in the States, Europe and other well off areas in the world as well -- areas which not coincidentally helped to get Duvalier out of the country 25 years ago.   But I very much doubt they would have signed up for the short and medium term real relief efforts if they knew that The Doc was ever coming back.   I thought exile for thugs like him meant permanent exile -- not an interim one.

There can and should be no amnesty.   Duvalier must face trial, either in his home country or as a guest of the Scheveningen Hotel -- the rather ironic nickname given to the detention centre where suspected war criminals are held before appearing before the War Crimes Court.

As for the relief effort ... those on the ground who have held up the relief effort should themselves face the consequences.   There is no excuse why Haiti should continue to be in the rut that it continues to be in, natural disasters or not.   Or for the continued bureaucracy on the ground that prevents legit NGOs from doing their job.   Frankly I couldn't blame the ICRC or the Sally Anns if they just give up with things as bad as they are.

Now that Duvalier's back it'll be even more difficult.   Sadly, even though it would be adding more insult to injury, I think Western trade sanctions against Haiti may be warranted in this case.

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1 comment:

code d'einstein said...


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Clovis Simard