Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Building walls to hide poverty

The country of Trinidad is about to host the Summit of the Americas. In preparation for the event some clean up of the city has taken place. Some of the efforts to clean up include taking homeless to shelters, but it also includes building walls to hide sections of the city with high poverty.

From the Miami Tribune again, writer Jacqueline Charles describes how building a wall has sparked a debate about poverty.

The government has erected a wall along the neighborhood's frayed edges, blocking the view into a long troubled community that shares space with the murky waters of industrial waste, overgrown weeds and the constant stench of the nearby landfill.

The 5-foot-tall wall is simply a beautifying touch, say government officials, who have spent months prepping for the arrival this week of 33 leaders including President Barack Obama at the largest and most important gathering of hemispheric leaders.

But to those who live behind the wall, the structure means something else: It's a symbol of years of broken promises, government neglect and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots.

''They can talk prosperity. They can talk about development. But there can be no development in a country if you continue to leave behind any community or any of your people,'' said Sherma Wilson, 42, a mother of four and community activist who has taken on the plight of this long-suffering east Port of Spain community. ``The peace we seek? We can only do that if we develop community by community.''

As Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepare to engage regional leaders at the three-day summit that begins Friday, the question of deep-rooted social and income inequalities in the region will be a priority for the new administration.

''We know that there has been progress . . . in this hemisphere on gross domestic product increase and reduction of poverty, particularly abject poverty,'' said Jeffrey Davidow, a former U.S. ambassador in Latin America and now a White House special advisor for the summit.

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