Posted on New America Media
Chile is experiencing a social earthquake in the aftermath of the 8.8 magnitude quake that struck the country on February 27. “The fault lines of the Chilean Economic Miracle have been exposed,” says Elias Padilla, an anthropology professor at the Academic University of Christian Humanism in Santiago. “The free market, neo-liberal economic model that Chile has followed since the Pinochet dictatorship has feet of mud.”
Chile is one of the most inequitable societies in the world. Today, 14 percent of the population lives in abject poverty. The top 20 percent captures 50 percent of the national income, while the bottom 20 percent earns only 5 percent. In a 2005 World Bank survey of 124 countries, Chile ranked twelfth in the list of countries with the worst distribution of income.
Yesterday was the Oscars. Last year's Best Actor Sean Penn made the morning's headlines, donating a million dollars to Haiti's relief / reconstruction effort. Collectively U.S. citizens have donated $1 billion so far. Two questions arise: one, which I and many others have asked numerous times, where is this money being spent, how, and what plan? A second, related question is where Haiti will get the funds for the rest of the effort conservatively estimated at $16 billion.
Private charitable donations can only go so far. Where is the rest of the reconstruction coming from? What is the plan of these other actors? Generally speaking there are two sets of actors: the "public sector" and the "private sector." I put both in quotes because there is considerable slippage between governments and private, for-profit investors or companies, in the U.S. as in Haiti. Both sets of actors have a planning conference coming up, one in Miami and the other in New York.
Published in The Nation
If we are to believe the G-7 finance ministers, Haiti is on its way to getting something it has deserved for a very long time: full "forgiveness" of its foreign debt. In Port-au-Prince, Haitian economist Camille Chalmers has been watching these developments with cautious optimism. Debt cancellation is a good start, he told Al Jazeera English, but "It's time to go much further. We have to talk about reparations and restitution for the devastating consequences of debt." In this telling, the whole idea that Haiti is a debtor needs to be abandoned. Haiti, he argues, is a creditor—and it is we, in the West, who are deeply in arrears.
Our debt to Haiti stems from four main sources: slavery, the US occupation, dictatorship and climate change. These claims are not fantastical, nor are they merely rhetorical. They rest on multiple violations of legal norms and agreements. Here, far too briefly, are highlights of the Haiti case.
[The following was co-written by Naomi Klein, author of the #1 international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, Terry Tempest Williams, world renowned wildlife author, Bill Mckibben, founder of 350.org and author of The End Of Nature, and Dr. James Hansen, author of Storms of my Grandchildren, and who is regarded as the world's leading climatologist. All recognize the trial of Tim DeChristopher to be a turning point in the climate movement. Included are links to resources for travel to Utah].
The epic fight to ward off global warming and transform the energy system that is at the core of our planet’s economy takes many forms: huge global days of action, giant international conferences like the one that just failed in Copenhagen, small gestures in the homes of countless people.
Last week started with a conference in Montreal, called by a group of governments and international agencies calling themselves Friends of Haiti, to discuss the long and short term needs of the recently devastated Caribbean nation. Even as corpses remained under the earthquake's rubble and the government operated out of a police station, the assembled "friends" would not commit to cancelling Haiti's $1bn debt. Instead they agreed to a 10-year plan with no details, and a commitment to meet again – when the bodies have been buried along with coverage of the country – sometime in the future.
A few days later in Washington, Timothy Geithner, the US treasury secretary, came before the house oversight committee to explain why he paid top dollar for $85bn worth of toxic assets when he bailed out the insurance company AIG. Geithner said he was faced with a "tragic choice". "The moral, fair and just choice is to protect the innocent," he said.
In the wake of the earthquake that has killed more than 100,000 people in Haiti, the foreign ministers of several countries calling themselves the "Friends of Haiti" met on Monday in Montreal to discuss plans for "building a new Haiti." Participants in the Ministerial Preparatory Conference on Haiti, who included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; representatives of international financial institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive came to what Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, the conference chair, referred to as a "road map towards Haiti's reconstruction and development."
"The most important thing is that the IMF is now working with all donors to try to delete all the Haitian debt, including our new loan. If we succeed—and I'm sure we will succeed—even this loan will turn out to be finally a grant, because all the debt will have been deleted. And that's the very important thing for Haiti now."
Bottom feeders follow closely on the heels of disaster. After Hurricane Katrina, private security contractors landed in New Orleans, hired to guard against looters. After the Indian Ocean tsunami, governments in Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, and the Maldives pushed aside coastal villages to make way for resort developers. That kind of profiteering is standard fare. But is it organized? That's what author Naomi Klein says in her book The Shock Doctrine, arguing that "disaster capitalists" take advantage of post-crisis chaos to push through a set of free-market reforms that further their own interests, rather than those of the victims. Is that the case in Haiti right now, even as rescue operations are still underway? NEWSWEEK's Katie Paul chatted with Klein about what she—and the 20,000 people who have already joined the No Shock Doctrine for Haiti group on Facebook—are watching out for this time around. Excerpts: