Haiti: neoliberal cabal will "advise" on economic policy

On Sept. 8 Haitian president Michel Martelly announced the formation of a Presidential Advisory Council for Economic Development and Investment as part of a "strategic vision" that he claims will create 500,000 jobs over the next three years. The council is to help his administration "remove the brakes on investment to free up Haitian growth," Martelly said. The council's two co-directors will be former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and Laurent Lamothe, the president of the South Africa-based telecommunications company Global Voice Group. Three former heads of state are on the council in addition to Clinton: former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar (1996-2004), former Jamaican prime minister Percival Patterson (1992-2006) and former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Vélez (2002-2010). Aznar and Uribe are both rightists who, like Clinton, are strong proponents of neoliberal economic policies; Patterson is a moderate social democrat.

The council also includes Haitian American hip-hop star Wyclef Jean; Haitian Canadian Michaelle Jean, Canada's governor general from 2005 to 2010; and Irish telecommunications magnate Dennis O'Brien, who owns the Haiti-based Digicel cell phone company.

Clinton already has a remarkable degree of influence over Haiti's economic policies: in the country's political circles he is referred to as the "governor of Haiti." In addition to being the United Nations' special envoy for the country, he is co-president of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC, or CIRH in French and Spanish), which was established to monitor international aid for reconstruction after a January 2010 earthquake. (The other co-president is acting prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive, a holdover from the previous administration serving because so far the Parliament has refused to approve any of Martelly's choices for prime minister.) The CIRH has received much of the blame for the slow pace of reconstruction, and its mandate expires in October. The position on Martelly's advisory council seems to guarantee Clinton a leading role in Haiti even if the CIRH is closed down. (AlterPresse, Haiti, Sept. 8; Haïti Libre, Haiti, Sept. 9)

In other news, the newly formed Defense Council of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), representing 12 South American defense ministries, decided during a meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Sept. 8 to begin the gradual withdrawal of South American troops from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a military and police force that has occupied the country since June 2004. The force has been the target of protests in Haiti, especially after poor sanitary practices at a MINUSTAH base started a cholera epidemic last October that has killed some 6,000 people to date. Opposition swelled in the past month because of allegations that Uruguayan soldiers sexually abused Haitian youths in the southern town of Port-Salut.

In its first stage, the withdrawal would lower the troop levels by 2,000 or more, bringing the force closer to the 9,000 members it had before the 2010 earthquake; since then the number has been about 12,200—some 8,700 soldiers and 3,500 police agents. MINUSTAH's mandate comes up for renewal by the United Nations Security Council on Oct. 15. The Security Council is expected to approve a renewal, but probably with a reduced force in line with the UNASUR Defense Council's decision. (TeleSUR, Sept. 8; AlterPresse, Sept. 9)