10 Years Ago, We Pledged To Help Haiti Rebuild. Then What Happened?

Hundreds of millions in aid went to U.S. corporations and the U.S. military. A fraction went to Haitian institutions.

Isabel Macdonald January 12, 2020

“There was no garbage here before,” environmental activist Milostène Castin says, gesturing at a mountain of trash produced by the garment manufacturing center in Caracol, Haiti. The industrial park was built with the help of $202 million in U.S. recovery funds earmarked from the 2010 earthquake, though the area was untouched by the disaster.

The earth­quake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, unleashed one of the worst human­i­tar­i­an crises in decades. In hard-hit places like Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s cap­i­tal and most dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed city, schools and med­ical cen­ters col­lapsed. More than 300,000 homes were dam­aged or destroyed. The dis­as­ter is esti­mat­ed to have killed at least 220,000 Haitians and dis­placed 2.3 mil­lion — about a quar­ter of the population.

The cri­sis also unleashed an unprece­dent­ed human­i­tar­i­an response. Char­i­ty groups, pri­vate indi­vid­u­als and gov­ern­ments around the world offered sup­port. At a Unit­ed Nations con­fer­ence in New York on March 31, 2010, 58 donors pledged more than $8.3 bil­lion to help Haiti build back bet­ter,” reduc­ing the nation’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to future dis­as­ters. The Unit­ed States made the biggest pledge of any nation, promis­ing $1.15 bil­lion. Then‑U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton empha­sized Haiti’s urgent needs: safe homes, food secu­ri­ty and basic ser­vices that were not broad­ly acces­si­ble even before the earth­quake — includ­ing health­care, potable water and a nation­al sys­tem of sanitation.

A decade lat­er, for many, con­di­tions are still worse than before.

The U.S. Con­gress ulti­mate­ly approved more than $1.6 bil­lion for emer­gency human­i­tar­i­an relief and more than $1.14 bil­lion for recov­ery. The Unit­ed States went on to finance oth­er Hait­ian devel­op­ment projects, bring­ing the total in post-earth­quake com­mit­ments to almost $4.16 billion. 

But rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle of the hous­ing that was destroyed in hard-hit areas like Port-au-Prince has been rebuilt. More than 34,000 Haitians who lost their homes still live in dis­place­ment camps, and more than 300,000 Haitians have migrat­ed to new slums just north of the cap­i­tal that lack health­care ser­vices and potable water. Many Hait­ian fam­i­lies have even less access to food. And there is still no func­tion­ing nation­al san­i­ta­tion sys­tem; more than 10,000 have died of cholera since the earthquake.

So where did all that aid mon­ey go?

To find out, In These Times reviewed U.S. gov­ern­ment spend­ing records and spent three weeks on the ground in Haiti in July 2019. Of the $1.6 bil­lion com­mit­ted to human­i­tar­i­an relief, we found all of it bypassed Hait­ian insti­tu­tions — and more than a third went direct­ly to the U.S. military.

Of the $1.14 bil­lion for recov­ery, more than a fifth was ear­marked for the par­tial can­ce­la­tion of debt to mul­ti­lat­er­al orga­ni­za­tions such as the Inter-Amer­i­can Devel­op­ment Bank (IDB) and the World Bank. Anoth­er $10 mil­lion went to over­head for the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment (USAID), the agency that chan­neled much of the recov­ery money.

Near­ly a quar­ter of what remained — $202 mil­lion — was allo­cat­ed to infra­struc­ture projects, but not to rebuild Port-au-Prince or oth­er hard-hit areas; they were to pro­vide elec­tric­i­ty, trans­porta­tion and hous­ing for a new indus­tri­al park in Cara­col, a com­mu­ni­ty in north­ern Haiti untouched by the earth­quake. To date, the Unit­ed States has com­mit­ted $160 mil­lion of these funds and giv­en an addi­tion­al $15 mil­lion to the State Depart­ment to help build the park itself.

In These Times vis­it­ed Cara­col, where Hait­ian work­ers are paid $5.25 a day to sew cloth­ing for Amer­i­can brands like Gap, Wal­mart and Tar­get. We found it has intro­duced a host of new prob­lems, includ­ing increased food inse­cu­ri­ty, expo­sure to pol­lu­tion, unliv­able wages and work­place sex­u­al harassment.

Rather than address­ing Haiti’s needs, much of the recov­ery aid has instead made Haiti even more vul­ner­a­ble to envi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ters, includ­ing severe droughts inten­si­fied by cli­mate change. As cli­mate change exac­er­bates dis­as­ters around the world, this rais­es ques­tions about the poten­tial con­se­quences of U.S. dis­as­ter aid for many oth­er countries.

As the Hait­ian gov­ern­ment acknowl­edged at the 2010 UN donors’ con­fer­ence, the dead­ly toll of the earth­quake was not caused by tremors alone. The dan­ger­ous con­di­tions that fol­lowed are, in many ways, insep­a­ra­ble from the ongo­ing dynam­ics of Haiti’s colo­nial past.

Mod­ern Haiti was found­ed in 1804 after the world’s only suc­cess­ful slave rev­o­lu­tion, win­ning its inde­pen­dence from France after a cen­tu­ry of bru­tal slav­ery. But France refused to rec­og­nize Haiti’s sov­er­eign­ty until the nation paid its for­mer col­o­niz­er an indem­ni­ty of 150 mil­lion gold francs, com­pen­sa­tion for French prop­er­ty” lost — includ­ing the enslaved peo­ple who won their free­dom. Haiti paid the debt with high-inter­est loans — some­times devot­ing 80% of its nation­al bud­get to repay­ment — until 1947, which ham­strung the devel­op­ment of basic infra­struc­ture and services.The Unit­ed States, for its part, failed to rec­og­nize Haiti’s sov­er­eign­ty until after the Con­fed­er­a­cy seced­ed. Since the U.S. first occu­pied Haiti — from 1915 to 1934, as part of a broad­er strat­e­gy to secure exclu­sive influ­ence in the area sur­round­ing the near­by Pana­ma Canal — the Unit­ed States has worked to reori­ent the country’s eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal sys­tem to bet­ter serve U.S. and transna­tion­al corporations.

To this end, the Unit­ed States sup­port­ed the Duva­lier dic­ta­tor­ships from 1957 to 1986. Then, in 1991, when the Hait­ian mil­i­tary oust­ed Haiti’s first demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent, Jean-Bertrand Aris­tide, the Unit­ed States covert­ly sup­port­ed death squads tar­get­ing his sup­port­ers. The Unit­ed States even­tu­al­ly agreed to Aristide’s return, on con­di­tion he imple­ment neolib­er­al reform rec­om­men­da­tions from the World Bank — a rever­sal of the plat­form Aris­tide cam­paigned on. Such poli­cies, pushed on Haiti since the 1980s by aid donors and mul­ti­lat­er­al finan­cial insti­tu­tions, have under­mined Hait­ian pub­lic ser­vices by slash­ing social spend­ing and pri­va­tiz­ing state enter­pris­es. These reforms have also under­mined the liveli­hoods of Hait­ian farm­ers by remov­ing tar­iffs on food imports that pre­vi­ous­ly pro­tect­ed them from unfair com­pe­ti­tion from U.S. agribusi­ness. These reforms, com­mon­ly referred to in Haiti as Plan Lan­mò—“the death plan” in Cre­ole — had cat­a­stroph­ic effects on Hait­ian agri­cul­ture, and pre­cip­i­tat­ed a mass migra­tion of Haiti’s rur­al pop­u­la­tion to cities like Port-au-Prince, thus con­tribut­ing to the urban pop­u­la­tion den­si­ty that has been cit­ed as a fac­tor in the earthquake’s dead­ly toll.

When Aris­tide was reelect­ed in 2000, the Unit­ed States suc­cess­ful­ly pres­sured the IDB to block a series of loans it had promised for Haiti, ear­marked for health­care and basic ser­vices, includ­ing potable water and edu­ca­tion.

In 2004, the Unit­ed States sup­port­ed a sec­ond coup to remove Aris­tide and sent troops for anoth­er occu­pa­tion, lat­er sup­port­ed by a UN sta­bi­liza­tion effort known as the Mis­sion des Nations Unies pour la sta­bil­i­sa­tion en Haïti, or Minus­tah.

Liv­ing in dan­ger­ous­ly con­struct­ed homes in the over­crowd­ed cap­i­tal, with­out reli­able health­care or potable water, Haitians were, thanks in large part to years of neolib­er­al pol­i­cy and ongo­ing U.S. inter­fer­ence, par­tic­u­lar­ly vul­ner­a­ble dur­ing both the earth­quake and the cholera epi­dem­ic that fol­lowed.

At the 2010 UN donors’ con­fer­ence , Clin­ton empha­sized the need for donors to avoid bypass­ing Hait­ian pub­lic insti­tu­tions. It will be tempt­ing to fall back on old habits — to work around the gov­ern­ment rather than to work with them as part­ners,” she cau­tioned.

Despite Clinton’s warn­ing, much aid exem­pli­fies the same pat­tern. Of the $1.6 bil­lion relief bud­get, none was allo­cat­ed direct­ly to any pub­lic Hait­ian insti­tu­tions, accord­ing to the Con­gres­sion­al Research Office. By far the largest por­tion of this aid, $655 mil­lion (about 40%), was ear­marked direct­ly for the U.S. mil­i­tary, which received an addi­tion­al $40.5 mil­lion from USAID.

The over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of inter­na­tion­al donors fol­lowed suit. Accord­ing to the UN Office of Paul Farmer, UN deputy spe­cial envoy for Haiti from 2009 to 2012, less than 1% of relief aid dis­bursed by donor nations and mul­ti­lat­er­al orga­ni­za­tions by 2012 went to Haiti’s pub­lic insti­tu­tions.

Farmer cau­tioned in 2011, With … relief fund­ing cir­cum­vent­ing Hait­ian pub­lic insti­tu­tions, the already chal­leng­ing task of mov­ing from relief to recov­ery — which requires gov­ern­ment lead­er­ship, above all — becomes almost impossible.”

THE EARTH­QUAKE DESTROYED MANY PUB­LIC BUILD­INGS, under­min­ing Haiti’s already weak pub­lic sec­tor. Some Hait­ian insti­tu­tions, how­ev­er, did sur­vive, and were arguably bet­ter posi­tioned than the U.S. mil­i­tary to pro­vide relief. For exam­ple, Haiti’s most impor­tant med­ical facil­i­ty, Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal, remained stand­ing. Hait­ian NGOs could like­ly have dis­trib­uted food and water more quick­ly and to greater num­bers than the U.S. mil­i­tary, whose oper­a­tions were lim­it­ed by lan­guage bar­ri­ers and its self-imposed restric­tion to oper­ate only in zones it deemed secured.”

The U.S. Depart­ment of Defense (DOD) deployed 22,000 per­son­nel, more than 300 air­craft and 33 ships to Haiti, instruct­ed to save lives” and mit­i­gate human suf­fer­ing” — but the goals of mil­i­tary secu­ri­ty and con­trol seemed to take prece­dence. One of the military’s first actions was to seize con­trol of air traf­fic at the main Port-au-Prince air­port, a move the mil­i­tary claimed was nec­es­sary to ensure order — but also, as Haïti Lib­erté report­ed, blocked life-sav­ing human­i­tar­i­an relief sup­plies and emer­gency search and res­cue per­son­nel. As the New York Times report­ed, U.S. com­man­ders turned away World Food Pro­gram flights so that the Unit­ed States could land troops and equip­ment, and lift Amer­i­cans and oth­er for­eign­ers to safe­ty.” One search and res­cue team from the U.K. was blocked from land­ing, as were five plane­loads of sup­plies for Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders, whose staff resort­ed to buy­ing a saw from the local mar­ket for ampu­ta­tions.

More than a week after the earth­quake, Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal still hadn’t received sup­plies and med­i­cines need­ed to treat hun­dreds of dying patients. One doc­tor iden­ti­fied the dis­pro­por­tion­ate empha­sis on secu­ri­ty as our major block to get­ting aid in.” While the U.S. mil­i­tary and the inter­na­tion­al response saved Amer­i­cans and West­ern expats, jour­nal­ists and researchers report­ed much of the work of dig­ging out Hait­ian sur­vivors from col­lapsed build­ings was done, in fact, by oth­er Haitians, often with bare hands.

About 6% of the U.S. relief mon­ey, $96.5 mil­lion, went to the U.S. State Depart­ment, which fund­ed more sol­diers and police for Minus­tah. Minustah’s infa­mous con­tri­bu­tion to the relief effort is a dead­ly cholera epi­dem­ic, cholera being unknown in Haiti before Octo­ber 2010. Despite the well-doc­u­ment­ed fact that Haiti lacked a basic san­i­ta­tion sys­tem, cholera-infect­ed Minus­tah sol­diers from Nepal were housed at a mil­i­tary base whose sewage UN con­trac­tors dumped near impor­tant water sources, trig­ger­ing the out­break. After deny­ing its role for years, the UN apol­o­gized in 2016.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which received $50 mil­lion for its role in the dis­as­ter response, deployed 16 cut­ters to patrol Hait­ian and inter­na­tion­al waters — to ensure, as Lt. Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, a Coast Guard spokesper­son, told the Wash­ing­ton Times, that no one try to enter the Unit­ed States ille­gal­ly by sea.” Mean­while, the DOD flew one of its car­go planes over Haiti five days after the quake, broad­cast­ing a loud, pre-record­ed announce­ment in Cre­ole: If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that’s not at all the case. They will inter­cept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.”

The Unit­ed States also award­ed the pri­vate prison cor­po­ra­tion GEO Group more than $540,000 to pre­pare for a Haiti surge” through oper­a­tions in Cuba, where the U.S. had recent­ly pre­pared a migrant deten­tion camp on its naval base in Guan­tanamo Bay. But Haitians did not flee their coun­try in droves and, in fact, the num­ber of Hait­ian migrants inter­cept­ed by the Coast Guard decreased the year after the dis­as­ter. More than 1.5 mil­lion home­less earth­quake sur­vivors, how­ev­er, formed camps through­out Port-au-Prince dur­ing that same time. Many report­ed they received no human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance what­so­ev­er.

ILNA SAINT JEAN REMEM­BERS ALL THE CROPS HER FAM­I­LY USED TO GROW where the Cara­col Indus­tri­al Park now sits. On her half-hectare plot, the 60-year-old peas­ant farmer recalls, We had yuc­ca, corn, black beans, pigeon peas, okra, peanuts, all kinds of stuff.” This plot, in the farm­land area referred to by locals as Tè Chabè, allowed Saint Jean to sup­port her nine chil­dren. The com­mu­ni­ty was untouched by the 2010 earth­quake.

One year lat­er, how­ev­er, in Jan­u­ary 2011, every­thing was lost,” Saint Jean says. A Hait­ian gov­ern­ment agent arrived with­out warn­ing and removed her fence. The yuc­ca, beans and oth­er plants were soon entire­ly destroyed by roam­ing ani­mals.

They told us the land doesn’t belong to us, it’s the state’s land, it’s the for­eign­ers’ land,” Saint Jean says. They came and took the land, they cement­ed it, and they made that indus­tri­al park on it.”

Saint Jean is one of 442 peas­ant farm­ers who lost their crops and their farm­land in the evic­tions for the indus­tri­al park.

While sup­port­ers describe the indus­tri­al park as a flag­ship project of post-earth­quake recov­ery, the plans for it had actu­al­ly been dis­cussed months before the dis­as­ter, at a trade con­fer­ence con­vened by the IDB and the William J. Clin­ton Foun­da­tion, a non­prof­it found­ed and direct­ed by for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton. Such indus­tri­al parks are cen­tral to the neolib­er­al eco­nom­ic mod­el the U.S. gov­ern­ment has pushed for decades. This mod­el has long held that low-wage sec­tors like gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing are a nec­es­sary step­ping stone to pros­per­i­ty for coun­tries like Haiti, and that gov­ern­ments should offer tax breaks and incen­tives for pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions to set up shop. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, because these fac­to­ries pay work­ers so lit­tle, they can also exac­er­bate pre-exist­ing eco­nom­ic and social inequal­i­ties. More­over, gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing is often detri­men­tal to local com­mu­ni­ties and envi­ron­ments, giv­en its high water require­ments and pol­lut­ing waste.

The U.S. gov­ern­ment has cham­pi­oned gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing as a viable eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment strat­e­gy for Haiti since the 1970s, pro­claim­ing Haiti could become the Tai­wan of the Caribbean.” With U.S. sup­port, employ­ment in the gar­ment indus­try — which, at the time, had large­ly been con­cen­trat­ed in Port-au-Prince — peaked in the 1980s. Part­ly because of the extreme­ly low wages, how­ev­er, these fac­to­ries nev­er kick­start­ed the promised eco­nom­ic boom. They also spurred the rise of slums, attract­ing tens of thou­sands of job-seek­ers to Port-au-Prince who could not afford stan­dard hous­ing.

Despite these prob­lems, the U.S. con­tin­ued to cre­ate incen­tives for the Hait­ian gar­ment indus­try. HOPE II, a 2008 trade deal between the Unit­ed States and Haiti, allows Hait­ian-made tex­tiles to enter the U.S. with­out tar­iffs, an attrac­tive lure for com­pa­nies from around the world.

The Hait­ian government’s Action Plan for Nation­al Recov­ery and Devel­op­ment, unveiled at the March 2010 UN donors’ con­fer­ence, artic­u­lat­ed a vision of recon­struc­tion based on a more just soci­ety, capa­ble of meet­ing Haitians’ basic needs, with an empha­sis on hous­ing and envi­ron­men­tal­ly sus­tain­able projects. But it also includ­ed more indus­tri­al parks for such sec­tors as tex­tile pro­duc­tion.

The Inter­im Haiti Recov­ery Com­mis­sion, an inter­na­tion­al body man­dat­ed to ensure account­abil­i­ty in the post-earth­quake rebuild­ing and co-chaired by Bill Clin­ton, approved the con­struc­tion of the Cara­col park. Hillary Clinton’s State Depart­ment recruit­ed Sae‑A, a major Kore­an gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­er, as its anchor ten­ant.

The Hait­ian gov­ern­ment agreed to pro­vide the land, the IDB offered $100 mil­lion for con­struc­tion, and the Unit­ed States pledged $124 mil­lion for a pow­er plant, a new port (lat­er can­celled), and a hous­ing project. Sae‑A com­mit­ted $78 mil­lion to the project and pre­dict­ed 20,000 new jobs, scor­ing free facil­i­ties and tax breaks in exchange.

Before the deal was signed, the AFL-CIO warned the U.S. gov­ern­ment about Sae‑A’s record of “ acts of vio­lence and intim­i­da­tion” in Guatemala, where it closed its flag­ship fac­to­ry in 2011, after threat­en­ing to leave the coun­try fol­low­ing a dis­pute with a local union.

Envi­ron­men­tal­ists also raised con­cerns about water and waste, giv­en the site was on some of Haiti’s most fer­tile farm­land and close to Cara­col Bay, a frag­ile marine ecosys­tem home to crit­i­cal­ly endan­gered species and an impor­tant source of food and income for many in Cara­col. The may­or of Cara­col was not informed of the project until after the site had been decid­ed. The U.S. con­sult­ing firm that pro­posed the site, Koios Asso­ciates, lat­er admit­ted it had not car­ried out an envi­ron­men­tal assess­ment; upon review, the con­sul­tants rat­ed the project high risk” and rec­om­mend­ed either a change of loca­tion or to just end the project alto­geth­er.

The project’s back­ers charged for­ward.

The indus­tri­al park opened its doors in 2012. Sev­en years lat­er, In These Times vis­it­ed Cara­col to find the labor and envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns were well found­ed. Through inter­views with fac­to­ry work­ers and evict­ed peas­ant farm­ers, union reps and a local envi­ron­men­tal group, it emerged that this U.S.-backed project cre­at­ed a host of new prob­lems for thou­sands of Haitians.

LAND RIGHTS HAVE BEEN A FOCAL POINT OF HAITI’S LONG STRUG­GLE to main­tain its inde­pen­dence since 1804. In the first U.S. mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion (1915 – 34), author­i­ties rewrote Haiti’s con­sti­tu­tion to remove a pop­u­lar pro­vi­sion that lim­it­ed land own­er­ship to Hait­ian nation­als. Thou­sands of peas­ant farm­ers were sub­se­quent­ly dis­placed in areas such as Tè Chabè, where the Cara­col Indus­tri­al Park now sits, so that large swaths of land could be defor­est­ed for U.S. agribusi­ness plan­ta­tion crops like sug­ar and sisal. Hait­ian farm­ers final­ly reclaimed the land after the 1986 upris­ing that led to the fall of the bru­tal U.S.-backed Duva­lier dic­ta­tor­ships.

Many of the farm­ers evict­ed for the Cara­col Indus­tri­al Park had been farm­ing there since the late 1980s. The site’s 608 acres had pro­vid­ed a liv­ing for 442 fam­i­lies, sup­port­ing an esti­mat­ed 4,000 peo­ple in the area.

While a few farm­ers owned their plots, most sim­ply had cus­tom­ary rights to the land — which should have been respect­ed under Hait­ian and inter­na­tion­al law, accord­ing to Action­Aid, a U.S.-based non­prof­it that has been work­ing to sup­port the dis­placed farm­ers. For most of these farm­ers, the land seized for the park was one of the only forms of finan­cial secu­ri­ty avail­able, accord­ing to Wil­son Menard, a 53-year-old peas­ant farmer and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion the farm­ers found­ed, Kolek­tif Pey­izan Vik­tim Tè Chabè. One’s access to a piece of land could always be trad­ed for mon­ey, Menard explains, act­ing like an insur­ance pol­i­cy or emer­gency sav­ings. For this rea­son, Menard, who was him­self evict­ed from the land, says, Los­ing a piece of land, it has a huge con­se­quence.”

The seized land was some of Haiti’s most fer­tile. Dense green foliage of man­go and plan­tain trees peeks over the top of the con­crete perime­ter wall sur­round­ing the park. Many farm­ers used this land not only to grow a rich array of crops, but to keep live­stock — anoth­er cru­cial source of finan­cial secu­ri­ty, Menard explains, as a cow can always be sold.

Since the park opened, the price of the remain­ing land in the area has sky­rock­et­ed, mak­ing it impos­si­ble for most of the dis­placed farm­ers to rent or buy a piece. More­over, the remain­ing land is much less fer­tile than what was paved over. While Menard has been able to sub­let a small plot out­side the park, two of his three cows died in the drought of 2018 – 19; he is adamant the ani­mals would have sur­vived on the Tè Chabè land, where there was enough foliage to sus­tain graz­ing ani­mals even dur­ing drought. Before the evic­tions, he says, Ani­mals didn’t die like that.”

Res­i­dents told In These Times that the remain­ing land has also suf­fered envi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion from the man­u­fac­tur­ing itself — air pol­lu­tion, aquat­ic pol­lu­tion and waste dumps. As Milostène Castin, of the local envi­ron­men­tal group AREDE, gazes at an enor­mous pile of trash from the park, just a few miles away in the com­mu­ni­ty of Madras, he says, It’s a wrong they’re doing to the com­mu­ni­ty, which will have a big impact on gen­er­a­tions [to] come.”

Local fish­er­men report that catch­ing fish is more dif­fi­cult since the indus­tri­al park opened, and that some species seem to have dis­ap­peared alto­geth­er. Saint Jean, whose fam­i­ly lives less than five miles from the indus­tri­al park, as well as from the moun­tains of fac­to­ry garbage, reports that air qual­i­ty has dete­ri­o­rat­ed. As some of the garbage from the fac­to­ries is burned, a huge smoke ris­es in the air and then comes down,” she says. Sev­er­al oth­ers also con­firmed this.

The Hait­ian gov­ern­ment promised to look for land” for the farm­ers it evict­ed, llna recalls. Instead, more than 10 months after the evic­tion, the farm­ers were issued cash pay­ments as com­pen­sa­tion for lost crops.

This mon­ey has long since run out, accord­ing to the Kolek­tif, and fam­i­lies are grow­ing increas­ing­ly des­per­ate. It’s become worse,” Saint Jean says. We wake up hun­gry, we go to bed hun­gry.”

In 2017, the Kolek­tif filed a com­plaint with the account­abil­i­ty office of the IDB. After more than a year of nego­ti­a­tions, they arrived at a set­tle­ment, which was orig­i­nal­ly sup­posed to take effect in March 2019. Most of the com­pen­sa­tion promised to the dis­placed farm­ers, how­ev­er, had not been deliv­ered as of Decem­ber 2019, accord­ing to Action­Aid.

Under the terms of this agree­ment, one mem­ber of each fam­i­ly is eli­gi­ble” for employ­ment in the indus­tri­al park. The rest must choose between oth­er forms of com­pen­sa­tion, which could include spe­cial­ized tech­ni­cal sup­port, micro­cre­d­it pro­grams, voca­tion­al train­ing or land. Of the 442 farm­ers who lost their land, no more than 100 may receive new land.

Accord­ing to Action­Aid, just 12% of these fam­i­lies have man­aged to secure employ­ment in the indus­tri­al park. And the val­ue of that employ­ment is unclear.

THE BACK­ERS OF THE CARA­COL INDUS­TRI­AL PARK have claimed it will cre­ate up to 60,000 local jobs. At the cer­e­mo­ny that estab­lished the Cara­col Indus­tri­al Park in Sep­tem­ber 2010, Hillary Clin­ton assured the pub­lic that the jobs at Sae‑A’s new fac­to­ries would be not just any jobs; these are good jobs with fair pay that adhere to inter­na­tion­al labor stan­dards.”

So far, just 13,000 of the 60,000 pro­ject­ed jobs have been cre­at­ed, and most pay unliv­able wages. Haitians who do the phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing and repet­i­tive work of sewing and assem­bling cloth­ing in the new indus­tri­al park earn the Hait­ian min­i­mum wage of just 500 gour­des (about $5.25 U.S.) a day — three times less than the esti­mat­ed cost of liv­ing in Haiti, accord­ing to the AFL-CIO Sol­i­dar­i­ty Cen­ter.

The park’s largest employ­er is S&H Glob­al, Sae‑A’s whol­ly owned Hait­ian sub­sidiary, whose biggest cus­tomer is Wal­mart. Oth­er Cara­col fac­to­ries include Tai­wanese firm Ever­est Appar­el and Sri-Lankan-owned Mas Akan­syel, both of which man­u­fac­ture cloth­ing for Nike and Puma. Accord­ing to the Inter­na­tion­al Labor Organization’s Bet­ter Work Pro­gram, these three com­pa­nies have all repeat­ed­ly been found to vio­late Hait­ian and inter­na­tion­al labor laws, with numer­ous breach­es of health and safe­ty reg­u­la­tions, wage theft, tem­per­a­tures that exceed safe lev­els, ver­bal­ly abu­sive boss­es and sex­u­al harass­ment.

When Philogène Nelange, now 35, heard about the open­ing of the new indus­tri­al park in Cara­col, he had high hopes. He had grown up in the near­by com­mune of St. Suzanne, where there were few viable prospects for young peo­ple. I thought that, with the arrival of the fac­to­ry, things would be bet­ter,” Nelange says.

He land­ed a job at S&H Glob­al. Three years lat­er, the salary he makes is bare­ly enough to cov­er a sin­gle worker’s expens­es. Sit­ting on the porch of the tiny two-room home he rents in Trou-du-Nord with his wife and three kids, he says he often can’t sleep at night because he’s so wor­ried. It’s not even enough for food,” he says blunt­ly. Yet he also has to cov­er the costs of rent and util­i­ty bills, drink­ing water and school tuition (water and edu­ca­tion being large­ly unsub­si­dized by the gov­ern­ment). While S&H Glob­al built a school in Cara­col that pro­vides free school­ing to 500 local chil­dren, Nelange says this is insuf­fi­cient to serve its more than 10,000 employ­ees, many of whom have young chil­dren.

One young seam­stress at S&H Glob­al spoke with In These Times on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, fear­ing ret­ri­bu­tion. She says she was sus­pend­ed with­out pay for refus­ing her boss’s unwant­ed sex­u­al advances. He asked me to sleep with him,” she explains. I didn’t agree.”

Anoth­er young woman, who applied for a job at S&H Glob­al in the sum­mer of 2019, tells In These Times that a man­ag­er offered to push her appli­ca­tion for­ward in exchange for sex.

Unité Tech­nique d’Exécution, the Hait­ian gov­ern­ment office respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing the indus­tri­al park, says it has a zero tol­er­ance pol­i­cy on sex­u­al harass­ment and requires com­pa­nies to have pro­ce­dures in place for work­ers to report such vio­la­tions.

Karen Seo, senior pub­lic rela­tions man­ag­er at Sae‑A, tells In These Times via email that Sae‑A takes a proac­tive stance to detect and address work­place prob­lems, includ­ing sex­u­al harass­ment, through train­ings and dis­ci­pli­nary actions.

A Hait­ian gov­ern­ment spokesper­son added that a 2018 report of sex­u­al harass­ment at the park result­ed in dis­ci­pli­nary action against a per­pe­tra­tor.

Yet sex­u­al harass­ment remains endem­ic across the fac­to­ries, accord­ing to a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from one of the unions work­ing at the indus­tri­al park, who feared retal­i­a­tion if their name was used. Each week, you hear a dif­fer­ent com­plaint,” they say, adding that dis­ci­pline and even fir­ings are com­mon if a work­er refus­es a supe­ri­or. They esti­mat­ed more than 60 work­ers have been fired the past four years at their fac­to­ry for this very rea­son.

Fac­to­ry work­ers have also filed com­plaints with Hait­ian author­i­ties, say­ing that com­pa­ny griev­ance pro­ce­dures had failed to address their reports of phys­i­cal vio­lence at the fac­to­ry and of bribes being demand­ed in exchange for employ­ment, accord­ing to the gov­ern­ment spokesper­son.

Even IDB’s Haiti depart­ment man­ag­er, José Agustín Aguerre, admit­ted in an inter­view with the New York Times before the park opened its doors, Cre­at­ing an exclu­sive­ly gar­ment maquilado­ra zone is some­thing every­one — I wouldn’t say tries to avoid, but con­sid­ers last resort.” He also defend­ed the deci­sion, call­ing this last resort” strat­e­gy a good oppor­tu­ni­ty” because of Haiti’s very high unem­ploy­ment.

But with such low wages, the gar­ment fac­to­ries have lit­tle capac­i­ty to stim­u­late the econ­o­my. As Hait­ian econ­o­mist Camille Chalmers put it in an inter­view with Haiti Grass­roots Watch: It’s a big error to bet on slave-wage labor, on break­ing the backs of work­ers who are paid noth­ing while [for­eign] com­pa­nies get rich. It’s not only an error, it’s a crime.”

Of the total of $4.16 bil­lion the U.S. gov­ern­ment award­ed for aid projects in post-earth­quake Haiti, for-prof­it U.S. cor­po­ra­tions received a greater share than any oth­er sin­gle group: $1.86 bil­lion, about 45%.

ANTI-COR­RUP­TION PROTESTS HAVE SWEPT HAITI for the past two years, pre­cip­i­tat­ed by evi­dence that the U.S.-backed gov­ern­ments of Hait­ian Pres­i­dent Jovenel Moïse and his pre­de­ces­sor mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ed hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars from a Venezue­lan aid pro­gram for sub­si­dized oil.

But for Castin, of the envi­ron­men­tal group AREDE, who has played an active role in these protests, the fun­da­men­tal issues at stake — in the anti-gov­ern­ment demon­stra­tions and the ongo­ing strug­gle around the Cara­col Indus­tri­al Park — are, in many ways, the same. In both cas­es, Haitians are fight­ing for greater account­abil­i­ty in how aid mon­ey is spent, and for a future that serves the needs of Hait­ian com­mu­ni­ties.

At the 2010 UN donors’ con­fer­ence, which was called Towards a New Future for Haiti,” sim­i­lar aspi­ra­tions were voiced. Hillary Clin­ton acknowl­edged that years of pri­or aid to Haiti had failed to address basic needs, and empha­sized the need for donors to hold our­selves account­able.” Clin­ton warned, We can­not retreat to failed strate­gies.” Yet U.S. aid in post-earth­quake Haiti has been premised on long­stand­ing impe­ri­al­ist assump­tions, includ­ing the belief that Haiti’s most viable path of devel­op­ment is through for­eign cor­po­ra­tions tak­ing advan­tage of deval­ued Hait­ian labor — even as Hait­ian export man­u­fac­tur­ing work­ers con­tin­ue to be paid less than any oth­er work­ers in the hemi­sphere — and the relat­ed belief that mil­i­tary con­trol of Haiti’s pop­u­la­tion is required to ensure sta­bil­i­ty for for­eign invest­ment.

Of the near­ly $918 mil­lion Con­gress approved for recov­ery projects, more than $302 mil­lion (almost a third of the bud­get) was ear­marked for gov­er­nance and rule of law.” In addi­tion to fund­ing the expan­sion of Minus­tah and prison con­struc­tion, this U.S. recov­ery aid was used to strength­en the Hait­ian Nation­al Police (HNP), includ­ing sup­port for its SWAT and civ­il order units. Since 1995, the Unit­ed States has pro­vid­ed exten­sive sup­port for this domes­tic police force in Haiti, which the Hait­ian gov­ern­ment uses to keep the peace” — most recent­ly, to put down the anti-cor­rup­tion protests. More than 40 Hait­ian pro­test­ers have been killed in clash­es with the HNP since August 2019.

The fail­ures of the neolib­er­al poli­cies that have long guid­ed U.S. aid have nev­er been more appar­ent than they are today in Haiti, a coun­try that once pro­duced enough food to feed its pop­u­la­tion in the 1980s and is now almost entire­ly depen­dent on U.S. food imports.

Nelange places much of the blame on Haiti’s low min­i­mum wages. Cara­col fac­to­ry work­ers like Nelange face U.S. prices for many food sta­ples while earn­ing a min­i­mum day wage — which was 420 gour­des, just under $5, until Novem­ber 2019.

Gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies in Haiti and their allies in the U.S. gov­ern­ment have long fought wage increas­es. When Haiti’s low­er par­lia­ment vot­ed in March 2019 to raise the dai­ly wage to about $8.25 for export man­u­fac­tur­ing work­ers, S&H Glob­al can­celed an expan­sion at Cara­col that would have cre­at­ed 10,000 jobs, choos­ing instead to send those jobs to the Domini­can Repub­lic.

In the end, gar­ment work­ers won only a mod­est increase, effec­tive Novem­ber 2019, to 500 gour­des (about $5.25 today). A spokesper­son for Sae‑A con­firmed to In These Times that the com­pa­ny is nonethe­less build­ing a fac­to­ry in D.R. as a back­up now.”

Mean­while, soar­ing infla­tion, com­bined with rapid deval­u­a­tion of the gourde, has made basic neces­si­ties even more unaf­ford­able. Reached by tele­phone in Decem­ber 2019, Nelange said his fam­i­ly can now bare­ly even afford potable water.

You can’t live,” he says.

Castin has some advice for future aid donors so as not to repeat the same mis­takes as the Cara­col Indus­tri­al Park.” He empha­sizes the need for a more par­tic­i­pa­to­ry and trans­par­ent approach; advance assess­ments of the eco­nom­ic, social and envi­ron­men­tal risks of aid projects; and mech­a­nisms of account­abil­i­ty, includ­ing griev­ance offices in affect­ed com­mu­ni­ties.

At min­i­mum, Castin says, the Unit­ed States should not use Amer­i­can people’s tax mon­ey to finance projects that forcibly dis­place Hait­ian peas­ants from fer­tile land that is their prin­ci­pal source of rev­enue.”

The print ver­sion of this arti­cle incor­rect­ly stat­ed that the $202 mil­lion allo­cat­ed by the Unit­ed States for projects to sup­port the Cara­col Indus­tri­al Park rep­re­sent­ed a third of the U.S. Con­gres­sion­al funds for Haiti’s recov­ery that were not ear­marked for debt relief of USAID oper­at­ing expens­es. The cor­rect fig­ure, indi­cat­ed in the online ver­sion of the arti­cle, is near­ly a quar­ter. The print arti­cle also incor­rect­ly stat­ed that Milostène Castin had been arrest­ed and jailed in anti-cor­rup­tion protests. In These Times regrets these errors.

This sto­ry was sup­port­ed by a grant from the Leonard C. Good­man Insti­tute for Inves­tiga­tive Report­ing.

ISABEL MAC­DON­ALD is an inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist based in Mon­tréal who has trav­eled to Haiti fre­quent­ly since 2005.

JERE­MY DUPIN Jere­my Dupin is an Emmy-win­ning jour­nal­ist and filmmaker.

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