The Boston Globe's Paul Farmer and Brian Concannon point out that the inauguration of a U.S. president committed to reversing "the failed policies of the past" provides an opportunity to build a stronger, more prosperous Haiti.
THE INAUGURATION of a US president committed to reversing "the failed policies of the past" provoked sighs of relief around the world. Few were more relieved than the citizens of Haiti, because few have suffered so much from failed US policies. But Haitians are still waiting to see whether the "past" that is to be reversed extends beyond the illegal and destructive policies of the last eight years to include over two centuries of US policies that have failed both our oldest neighbor and our highest ideals.
Our treatment of Haiti was bad enough during the Bush administration. We imposed a development assistance embargo in 2001, because we did not like the elected government's economic policies. The embargo stopped urgently needed government programs - a Partners In Health study found that cancelling water projects in just one city had a devastating impact on health in the area. In 2004, US officials forced Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide aboard a clandestine flight to Africa and placed a Bush supporter from Florida at the head of Haiti's government. Thousands were killed in the ensuing political violence. Years of hard-won progress toward democracy were erased overnight.