Monday, August 23, 2021

Aid insufficient in Haiti (Aug. 23, 2021)

The death toll from the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on Aug. 14 has risen past 2,200. Government officials said yesterday that more than 12,000 people were injured, more than 100,000 homes were destroyed or damaged and about 30,000 families were left homeless.

Aid efforts are increasingly impacted by violence, gangs have blocked roads, hijacked aid trucks and stolen supplies, forcing relief workers to transport supplies by helicopter. Desperate survivors are sometimes fighting over scarce handouts. 

Yesterday a prominent gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, alias “Barbecue,” offered the assistance of his group, the G9 Revolutionary Forces. Experts say, however, that it's unclear what impact his truce might have on the ground.

An initial gang truce aimed at permitting aid to reach earthquake victims broke down last week, when two surgeons working with survivors were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince.

The earthquake has robbed Haiti’s south of the infrastructure it so desperately needs: schools, hospitals and churches. The quake damaged power plants, bridges and roads, compromising electric grids and transit. The water supplies for countless communities are contaminated, in some because of corpses upstream, reports the Washington Post.

Haiti's political crisis, together with previous misuse of aid funds, will likely affect international philanthropic aid directed toward the country in the wake of the recent earthquake, reports the New York Times.

Efforts to assist Haiti should be channelled through the country's grass-roots networks that are in direct contact with the victims and have a record of coordinating relief efforts, argues Michèle Montas in a New York Times opinion piece.

"A vicious cycle is about to reignite, the features of which are already predictable: Plans for reconstruction without consultation with those most affected, camps for displaced people, disaster capitalism," writes Myriam Chancy at NPR.

Too often, natural calamities in Haiti are accompanied by political crises. "In the aftermath of natural disasters, funds pour into the country for recovery efforts, leading to greater political avarice and instability. And the merciless political aftershocks make it impossible to restore a nation on its knees or build resistance to further disasters," writes Francesca Momplaisir in the Washington Post.

The earthquake caught Haiti in a leadership vacuum, and there has not been a concerted state relief effort. Prominent Haitian politicians have tried to fill the gap, reports the New York Times, flying out the injured on their private planes, delivering medical supplies and food and even handing out cash. Their efforts have effectively become the start of campaigns for some of Haiti’s presidential and congressional hopefuls.

More Haiti
  • Haitian officials are examining whether President Jovenel Moïse’s killing in July was tied to the drug trade. The commander in charge of guarding Moïse's home, Dimitri Hérard, was a suspect in a major trafficking case, reports the New York Times.
  • In the days before Moïse was shot dead in a murky international plot last month, he was telling friends that enemies were out to get him, reports Reuters. Conversations with more than a dozen officials, politicians, diplomats and relatives of Moïse "painted the 53-year-old president as a man increasingly isolated and in peril toward the end of his life."
News Briefs

  • Jailed former Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez is in “stable” condition after she tried to take her own life, a day after prosecutors charged her with “genocide” over the deaths of protesters in 2019. (Al Jazeera)
  • A lack of medical supplies is crippling Cuba's medical response to Covid-19, as the country grapples with a one of the western hemisphere’s highest coronavirus rates, reports the Guardian. In the face of extreme scarcity, doctors are increasingly prescribing herbal remedies. Rollout of Cuba's nationally developed coronavirus vaccines has been slowed down by U.S. sanctions – supercharged by Trump, left in place by Biden.
  • Seven months into U.S. President Joe Biden’s term, the administration is considering reinstating Remain in Mexico and is ramping up Title 42 border expulsions, reports El Faro English in a review of the Biden administration's migrant policies.
  • Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has hit the highest annual level in a decade, according to data released by Imazon, a Brazilian research institute. Between August 2020 and July 2021, the rainforest lost 10,476 square kilometers, reports the Guardian.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reportedly said he regretted granting the country's central bank autonomy earlier this year, as surging inflation impacts his reelection prospects, according to the Associated Press.
  • Peruvian President Pedro Castillo tapped career diplomat Oscar Maurtua to head his foreign ministry, after a scandal forced his first pick to resign last week. Maurtua already served as foreign minister in the early 2000s under centrist President Alejandro Toledo, and will likely strengthen Castillo's cabinet ahead of a confirmation vote from the opposition-led Congress. (Reuters)
  • The move has spurred discontent within Castillo’s socialist Peru Libre party, according to Bloomberg.
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele's continual assault on the judicial system and the independence of other branches of the government which could act as a check on a president’s powers undermine the credibility of positive proposals included in Bukele's draft constitutional reform, writes Tim Muth at El Salvador Perspectives. "Despite the fact that some of the changes might be ones which could be individually supported, civil society groups are condemning the Ad Hoc Group and the process surrounding this draft of the Constitution."
  • Chilean senate president Yasna Provoste will be the center-left Unidad Constituyente coalition presidential candidate in the November election, after winning a citizen consultation on Saturday. (Telesur)
  • Argentina's major political coalitions -- the ruling Frente de Todos and the opposition Juntos por el Cambio -- are remarkably stable, despite the country's history of instability, writes María Esperanza Casullo in Americas Quarterly.
  • Carpinchos (capybaras) have invaded an affluent gated community in Buenos Aires' suburbs, sparking a surge of support for the rodents among progressive peronists who say the animals are at the vanguard of class struggle. But beyond the internet memes, the case has sparked a broader debate over the situation of the Paraná river wetlands, and how environmental degradation builds on inequality, reports the Guardian


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