Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Haiti looks more like a war than a recovery

As the United Nations Haitian donor conference begins today in New York, delegates from throughout the world will talk about what the country should look like. An article from IPS today gives us an idea on what it looks like now, and it's far from where it should be. Writer Ansel Herz says that Haiti looks more like a war zone instead of a place of rebuilding and recovery.

On an empty road in Cite Militaire, an industrial zone across from the slums of Cite Soleil, a group of women are gathered around a single white sack of U.S. rice. The rice was handed out Monday morning at a food distribution by the Christian relief group World Vision.

According to witnesses, during the distribution U.N. peacekeeping troops sprayed tear gas on the crowd.

"Haitians know that's the way they act with us. They treat us like animals," said Lourette Elris, as she divided the rice amongst the women. "They gave us the food, we were on our way home, then the troops threw tear gas at us. We finished receiving the food, we weren't disorderly. "

Some 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers, known by the acronym MINUSTAH, have occupied Haiti since 2004, including 7,000 soldiers of which the majority are Brazilian. The mission has been dogged by accusations of human rights violations.

"It's time to begin thinking about changing the nature of MINUSTAH's mission," Brazilian Defence Minister Nelson Jobim told the Brazilian newspaper O Estado after the January earthquake struck Haiti.

"MINUSTAH's mandate is to maintain the peace, that is, security, but the U.N. needs to realise that its mission is no longer solely to strengthen security but also to build the infrastructure," he said.

So far, there's no evidence of a shift in policy.

In Potay, a neighbourhood near downtown Port-Au-Prince, a dozen U.S. soldiers toting automatic weapons walked past men drinking beer on a stoop.

Wearing jeans and a black vest, Brital, one of Haiti's most well-known rappers with the Barikad Crew, watched them go past his collapsed home.

"I don't think we need soldiers with guns. We need engineers the most," he said. "I'd prefer to see soldiers who could educate instead of those with guns. Soldiers that can come and build roads, bridges, universities and hospitals."

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