Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Of Mice, Men and MINUSTAH

On a fundamental level, The Lambi Fund of Haiti is an organization that focuses on the rural. With our belief that through the support of grassroots peasant organizations the true strength of Haiti can be realized, this type of rural focus is essential. But, since our ultimate hope lies in the realization of meaningful democracy, we cannot deny, nor ignore the 50% of the Haitian population that lives within the country’s capital, Port Au Prince. Yet, the issues faced by Haiti’s urban-dwelling population are often very different from those faced by the rural peasant associations that Lambi Fund works with.

Last week, 329 prisoners escaped from a Haitian prison in Croix-des-Bouquets, near the heart of Port Au Prince. And as of last Tuesday, only a few of the escaped had been recaptured. Haitian police are currently fanned out across the country in search for the remaining escaped prisoners. Ironically, the Haitian police force has received help from the Dominican Republic. At this point, it is still not clear whether the break was meant to free a particular prisoner or the work of a collective group.

Security, or lack thereof, is an all too important issue facing urban dwellers in Haiti. But it is interesting to consider the way that outsiders view security in Haiti. On one hand, there are numerous US reports that consider the safety of traveling to Haiti.  Yet this recent prison break found scant coverage in the U.S. or European media. Why no coverage? If a prison break of this magnitude had happened elsewhere, it would have at least been mentioned in the US news. But even with Haiti’s relative proximity to the United States, despite the presence of a diaspora population of more than one million Haitians, the story was not told.

Speaking of untold stories, the recently released UN Human Development Index ranked Haiti 168th out of 187 countries, just above Afghanistan, which has been plagued by over 40 years of constant war. Curiously, Haiti’s relative position has dropped steadily since the earthquake in 2010 (from 150th in 2009, to 158th in 2011 to 168th today), losing ground even as billions have been invested for reconstruction.  And yet, Haiti’s homicide rate and prison population are relatively low when compared to some of the higher-ranking countries on the list. Indeed, Haiti’s violent death rate is indistinguishable from that of the United States (95th vs. 92nd). Which begs the all important question – if violence in Haiti is not actually a problem, why is MINUSTAH still occupying the country four and a half years after the earthquake? If they are not there to protect the population from itself, could it be that they are there to protect something or someone else from the population?

What are your thoughts?

As of August 19th, the majority of the escaped prisoners have not been recaptured.