The anger that burst out in the streets of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, on June 5 and June 10 spilled over into the streets of New York City on June 19.
More than 100 Haitians and some North American supporters showed up on short notice to protest the “Happy Hearts Fund” special award to Haitian President Michel Martelly for his “Leadership in Education.” Former President Bill Clinton was there and got his award for “Lifetime Achievement” for “ensuring that children and communities are not forgotten after disasters strike.”
One of the main chants of the demonstrators was “Clinton, where is the money?!” with the response being “In whose pockets?!” Clinton was responsible for overseeing the billions in aid promised to Haiti after the devastating earthquake four years ago. While the rubble is cleaned off the streets — finally — over 200,000 people are still in tents and temporary shacks and other ill-designed, unsuitable housing that has been built.
Just a few schools and other public facilities have been replaced. The jobs program promised early after the disaster has been scattered and ineffective. Most Haitians work catch-as-catch-can, strictly temporary by the day, and very rarely getting more than $2 for a day’s labor.
Some of the signs and chants raised the fact that President Barack Obama has continued Clinton’s policies towards Haiti.
Another issue, raised in both Port-Au-Prince and New York, was the United Nations’ “peacekeeping” occupation, which is currently 10 years old. Haiti, in fact, is at peace. What the U.N. is doing is “keeping” domination by the U.S. intact.
U.N. refuses reparations for cholera epidemic
Four years ago, the U.N. brought cholera to Haiti by dumping untreated fecal matter into Haiti’s largest river system. To date, over 830,000 Haitians have been sickened from the U.N.’s cholera, with more than 8,000 dying from the disease. Despite overwhelming evidence of its guilt, the U.N., with the firm backing of the U.S. and other imperialist powers on the U.N.’s Security Council, has refused any form of reparations to the victims of cholera in Haiti.
Another issue raised in both cities is whether Martelly is a thief. While that charge is unlikely to be proven in a court of law during the time he is president, it is clear that he enjoys ostentatious luxury during the numerous foreign trips he makes. Martelly has awarded himself a daily allowance of $20,000. (Haiti Sentinel, Dec. 13, 2012) This per diem does not cover the other members of his entourage, like his spouse. They get their own.
Cipriani’s, the restaurant where the award ceremony was held, is owned by an international company which has a long history of conflicts with Local 6 of UNITE HERE, and had been sued a number of times over how it distributes tips and wages. It is a frequent venue for ruling-class celebrations.
The ceremony itself was conducted by supermodel Petra Nemcova, head of the Happy Hearts Fund and companion of Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. It attracted a number of the glitterati, like actor Naomi Watts and figure skater Scott Hamilton.
The Dessalines Coordination (KOD) and New York Lavalas were among the Haitian groups at the protest. The International Action Center and Socialist Action were the North American groups present.