Leading article: America must fulfil its responsibilities to Haiti

The US can help set the Caribbean nation on a more prosperous road

Share
Related Topics

Thousands of American troops are expected to arrive in Haiti today. The security that their presence will provide is urgently needed, with reports of law and order fraying in the capital Port-au-Prince. The efforts of US soldiers should be invaluable in the relief effort too. Army medical teams can help the injured, and troops can distribute food.

But the docking of the carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Bataan in Haitian waters will also be a symbolic moment in the relations between these two nations. America has a special responsibility towards this poor and now utterly stricken Caribbean neighbour.

From the earliest days of both republics, Washington has regarded Haiti as part of its sphere of influence. The human ties go deep. The US has an immigrant Haitian community of 420,000. And Washington has a long record of intervention in Haitian politics, on several occasions even invasion.

The US supported the brutal regimes of "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier in the Cold War to ensure Haiti did not go the way of Cuba. It aided the military coup in 1991 which deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and set off a vast exodus of refugees to the US.

And the careless dumping of food aid has undercut local agricultural producers, stunting the Haitian economy and cementing its status as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Haitian governments have long been unstable and many of its leaders corrupt. But its political and economic development has hardly been helped by its powerful neighbour.

In fairness, there have been signs of a growing awareness in Washington of its responsibilities. The US supported a $1.2bn debt write-off for Haiti last year by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. And Washington now backs constitutional government.

And though the speed of the earthquake emergency response might have been disappointing, the scale of the effort announced by President Obama last week is nonetheless impressive. Indeed, it is still going up. The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has announced that a hospital ship and more helicopters will be despatched in the coming days. Total troop numbers will rise to 10,000.

Meanwhile, a temporary amnesty has been announced for the 30,000 illegal Haitian migrants in the US who were facing deportation. It would, clearly, have been a sick joke to even contemplate deporting people to this broken nation. The US should surely now go further and make the amnesty permanent, allowing these Haitians to stay and work in the US. Their remittances would help rebuild their homeland. France, the old colonial master, should do the same for its own illegal Haitian migrants.

America needs to recognise that its responsibilities extend further than simply helping Haitians deal with the immediate disaster. The institutions of Haiti's government, from the presidential residence, to the Supreme Court, to the interior ministry, have literally collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless and desperate. The US has the wealth and influence not only to pick Haiti up, but also to set it on a more prosperous road. This tragedy is an opportunity for the US to make amends for the combination of shameful meddling and malign neglect which, up until now, have characterised its relations with its benighted neighbour.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; VMWare, Windows; Disley; £40k

£40000 per annum + benefits: Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; V...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Australian cricketer Phil Hughes has died aged 25  

Phillip Hughes: A sensational man, both on and off the pitch

Angus Fraser
Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party  

If people voted for policies, the Green Party would win the next election

Lee Williams
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?