How American corruption derailed Haiti’s earthquake recovery

Residents of the Jean-Marie Vincent camp for people in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2013.
Residents of the Jean-Marie Vincent camp for people in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2013.
AP

Corruption, corruption, corruption. We hear about it all the time, but usually when someone’s speaking about some problem over there in some part of the developing world – there’s a lot of corruption in Africa, people say. Or Colombia. Or Haiti.

An expose in the Boston Review this week, however, turns that line of thinking on its head. Looking at the four years that have elapsed since a violent earthquake shook Haiti to its core in 2010, the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Jake Johnston shows in painstaking detail how American corruption played a huge role in Haiti’s faltering reconstruction process. In short, the political agendas of US officials – including Hillary and Bill Clinton – determined how many houses were going to be built in the aftermath of the destruction, who was going to get paid for them and how much, and most startlingly, which Haitians were going to get to live in them. Turns out, it wasn’t the families eking out an existence in tent camps, who’d lost everything, including their homes. Listen to this discussion with Johnston to find out why.

In the headlines portion, East Coast correspondent Tom Murphy and I discuss the United Nations screening process for cholera among its personnel (lack thereof, really), how aid groups should function in places with discriminatory laws on the books, and yet another study discrediting microfinance.

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About Author

Contributor

Ansel Herz is a freelance multimedia journalist whose objective is to “go to where the silence is." His work has been published by ABC News, The Nation magazine, the New York Daily News, Al Jazeera English, Free Speech Radio News, Inter-Press News and many other publications. A Seattle native and survivor of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Ansel is producer of Humanosphere's podcast, among other things. You can contact him at ansel.herz-at-gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @Ansel.

  • Rick Taylor

    If Haiti had the local capacity to build the number of houses needed, the cost very well may have been around $8k each. The sad fact of international development is that international firms are frequently the only organizations capable of performing the projects. I don’t dispute that the Haiti program is a disaster, but Jake Johnson’s Boston Review article should flesh out the specifics of the claims of corruption.