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It’s been a couple of weeks but I had to take this one on: President Trump reportedly refers to African nations as well as the island nation of Haiti as a “shithole” and the media, both on the left and the right loses their minds.
But here’s the problem—while media and politicians want to fight about Haiti, nobody seems to care that Haitians have been ripped off by American foreign aid and politicians for years.
Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.
The comments by President Trump were reported but not recorded.
Here’s what the Washington Post was first to claim: President Trump “discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.”
‘Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?’ Trump said, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers. … ‘Why do we need more Haitians?’ Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. ‘Take them out.’”
By now you know that media lost its collective mind.
On the left, all they could talk about was what a racist, savage President Trump is. On the right, it was an effort to defend the use of the word with commentators insisting it’s okay, because thats what Haiti really is.
Of course the problem with all of this is that the debate hasn’t been about Haiti. It’s been about Trump. The argument is over whether Donald Trump is a racist or right.
That argument robs the Haitian people of the debate we should be having, the debate over why that country has remained in abject poverty and with an unemployment rate of 40 percent even with billions of dollars and investment flowing there.
Reality Check here: those billions of dollars never got to the Haitian people.
And that is the discussion we should be having.
It was January 2010 when a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck island of Haiti, killing an estimated 220,000 people, leveling 100,000 homes, and leaving 1.5 million people destitute.
Some $13.3 billion was pledged by international donors for Haiti’s recovery. At the time, Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. And her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was appointed co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), along with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.
So what happened? Well, of the $13.3 billion pledged, some $9 billion actually came in as the total international funding, which is an incredible amount of money.
The problem is, that money was wasted, mis-managed and went just about everywhere except to actual Haitian organizations.
According to the BBC, of the $6 billion that came from bilateral and mutilateral donors, 89.8% went to non-Haitian organizations, $580 million went to the Haitian government and around one half of one percent went to Haitian organizations.
The vast majority of the funding went to U.N. agencies, international aid groups, private contractors and donor countries’ own civilian and military agencies.
Now, a lot of people have blamed the Clintons personally for what happened in Haiti.
Perhaps some of that criticism is unfair, and perhaps it is not.
For instance, thanks to diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, we know that one US envoy described the value to contractors who were eager to cash in as a “gold rush”.
According to the BBC, “In email exchanges with top Clinton Foundation officials, a senior aide to Mrs Clinton, who was then-secretary of state, kept an eye out for those identified by the abbreviations “FOB” (friends of Bill Clinton) or “WJC VIPs” (William Jefferson Clinton VIPs).
‘Need you to flag when people are friends of WJC,’ wrote Caitlin Klevorick, a senior State Department official who was vetting incoming offers of assistance coming through the Clinton Foundation.”
Some of those friends who appear to have gotten sweetheart deals?
According to the National Review, “the Clinton Foundation selected Clayton Homes, a construction company owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, to build temporary shelters in Haiti. Buffett is an active member of the Clinton Global Initiative who has donated generously to the Clintons as well as the Clinton Foundation.
“The contract was supposed to be given through the normal United Nations bidding process, with the deal going to the lowest bidder who met the project’s standards. UN officials said, however, that the contract was never competitively bid for.”
Again, according to National Review, “The Clintons also funneled $10 million in federal loans to a firm called InnoVida, headed by Clinton donor Claudio Osorio. InnoVida’s application was fast-tracked and approved in two weeks. The company, however, defaulted on the loan and never built any houses.”
An investigation revealed that Osorio had diverted company funds to pay for his Miami Beach mansion, his Maserati, and his Colorado ski chalet. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in 2013, and is currently serving a twelve-year prison term on fraud charges related to the loan.
There are many other stories just like those.
But perhaps the biggest mess of all in Haiti’s recovery, or lack thereof, was what the Clinton Foundation touted as a signature project, a garment factory known as the Caracol Industrial Park.
According to the National Review, “The project was funded by the U.S. government and cost hundreds of millions in taxpayer money, the largest single allocation of U.S. relief aid.”
From the BBC: “The foundation, working with the Clinton State Department, helped arrange a U.S.-subsidised deal with the Haitian government to build a $300 million factory complex in 2012.
“Several hundred farmers were evicted from their land to make way for the 600-acre manufacturing site.”
The plant began producing clothes for retailers such as Old Navy, Walmart and Target.
Former President Clinton said 100,000 jobs would be created “in short order”. But the Caracol Industrial Park only created 8,000 jobs.
Again, from the National Review, “In addition, Caracol was supposed to include 25,000 homes for Haitian employees; in the end, the Government Accountability Office reports that only around 6,000 homes were built.”
And of course, the criticism goes deeper than not simply creating jobs.
South Korean textile giant Sae-A Trading Co, which was the main employer at the facility, donated a sum between $50,000 to $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to the BBC.
The failure in Haiti, as much as some people would like to put it solely on the Clintons, is not their failure alone.
It is the failure of the entire U.S. Foreign Aid landscape… donor nations and private contractors control the money. And, in many cases, funnel it to projects, contractors and organizations that align with their interests—not the interests of the people in need.
Maybe the best of example of how that worked in Haiti was like this.
According to the GAO, the cost to build one house in the post-earthquake relief effort $33,000 because it was paid to outside contractors. That is five times what it costs one nonprofit, called Mission of Hope, per house, using local contractors.
So when the media is outraged that Trump uses words that seem to dismiss the people of Haiti, but expresses virtually no outrage over how the people of Haiti were actually robbed of what was promised them in the aftermath of that devastating earthquake, you have to question what their outrage is truly over.