[Homestead] Haiti, total environmental collapse.
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Sep 28 17:25:12 EDT 2004
No good President since tree-planting Estime (they too were all slashed
to the ground by charcoal producers---jeither they or their customers
could wait for trees to grow) And further victimized by the Bush
contempt for honest elections---he blocked international aid to the
Aristide government and forcibly drove him out of office.
Does the UN see Haiti?
September 28, 2004
Buffeted by the hand of man and the hand of nature, Haiti may be on the
verge of becoming ungovernable and ecologically ruined. If there ever
was a case for forceful action by the United Nations, Haiti is it.
Gonaives, Haiti's third largest city, was devastated a week ago by
flooding caused by a fierce tropical storm that later became Hurricane
Jeanne and struck Florida. Before-and-after satellite pictures of
Gonaives show neat rows of rooftops, once separated by bustling streets,
now swamped by a sea of mud and pestilence.
The latest estimates put the death toll at about 1,500 people, with just
as many missing. Disease is bound to spread and kill many more people
because of dirty water and lack of food.
Man-made chaos has made Haiti's natural disaster infinitely worse.
Troops working under the UN flag and led by Brazil are desperate to hold
back looting mobs so clean water and food can be distributed.
The police station in Gonaives was overrun by gangs in February and
seven officers were killed, so there's little presence of local law
enforcement. The national police force is not in much better shape.
The caretaker government of Gerard Latortue, installed after former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was pressed to flee the nation earlier
this year, has been nearly useless in keeping the peace or distributing
The backdrop to much of the flood damage in Gonaives is the almost
complete destruction of Haiti's environment. The differences along the
border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti are shocking. Dominicans
have lush forests, while the Haitians have clear-cut their timber and
denuded the landscape to use the wood for fuel. With little or no
vegetation to hold the topsoil, much of the arable land has washed to sea.
For the U.S., Haiti's problems are more than a tragedy, they're a
security concern. The U.S. already has long and bitter experience with
Haitian chaos leading to refugees fleeing to U.S. shores, while
narcotraffickers find safe haven on the island.
Earlier this year the UN Security Council authorized deployment of 6,700
peacekeeping soldiers in Haiti, but only half have arrived, with Brazil
contributing one of the largest contingents. Their charge was to make
Haiti safe enough for elections next year. But that seems like a
far-fetched goal, with gangs and former soldiers still running amok in
The UN has to make a fast and firm commitment to Haiti, and that may
require the creation of a trusteeship arrangement to restore order. It
will take money to rebuild the infrastructure, such as a network of
paved roads and rudimentary health-care facilities. There has to be an
international police force large enough to keep the peace and train a
new cadre of Haitian officers. It is essential to have professionals in
place to ensure that relief money is not squandered.
Soon the flood waters in Gonaives will recede, along with much of the
world's attention. But Haiti will remain a desperate, miserable and
dangerous place. And unless it acts, the UN will, once again, be as good
as its empty words.
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune <http://www.chicagotribune.com/>
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