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US-HAITI: The Loan that Wasn't - Part 1 - IPS ipsnews.net
It is an unusual combination of optimism and realism that is driving development experts to try to shed the blemished history of international aid to Haiti, rid the issue of a generation of devastating politicisation, and think way outside the conventional development paradigm.

The fate of one particularly important project is emblematic of factors that have consistently and severely reduced the effectiveness - even the existence - of viable development projects.

Eric Michael Johnson of the Department of History at the University of British Columbia in Canada told IPS, "The U.S. role towards Haiti can best be understood as a kind of abusive paternalism, at times condescending and at others domineering depending on how fully Haitian governments obey the patriarch's dictates."

To illustrate his point, Johnson told IPS what happened after the first coup d'etat and reinstatement of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in late 1994 to a term that ended in 1996. This was followed by five years of René Préval (who is president today).

In 2000, Aristide once again won overwhelmingly in the Haitian elections. Aristide's second election did not please the new U.S. president, George W. Bush.

Johnson then recounts how the Bush administration conspired to cut off funds already appropriated for a vital infrastructure and public health project.

An award of 146 million dollars from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had already been approved, but at U.S. insistence was not being disbursed. Some 54 million dollars of this loan was intended for desperately needed water and sanitation projects.

"This decision likely resulted in the needless deaths of an untold number of poor Haitians," Johnson said.

In 2006, the Robert F. Kennedy Center filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to force the U.S. to release documents related to this decision.

According to the documents, "there was clear evidence that the United States blocked the loans because they objected to the election of Aristide," Johnson said.

The IDB approved these loans between 1996 and 1998, and Haiti paid around 10 million dollars in interest even before the loans were dispersed. By 2001, there was no reason for the IDB to continue blocking these loans. But block them they did.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 12:15:17 PM EST
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