A primping Ms. Palin, who travelled in part by helicopter, provided access on her tour solely to the U.S. cable network Fox News.
The story that best describes Haiti’s last year is not from a slum, nor from a cholera clinic. It’s not to be found in the rubble—but in a courtroom in Texas.
In November, 2010, Lewis Lucke, a former U.S. ambassador to Swaziland and former USAID official in Haiti, filed suit against Haiti Recovery Group Ltd. for some $500,000 in unpaid fees for the tens of millions of dollars in contracts Lucke secured for the group in the days after the earthquake. After leaving his USAID position, Lucke immediately signed a $30,000 a month “consulting” contract with the Haiti Recovery Group, a conglomerate formed by several American contractors with the specific goal of securing U.S. funding. Lucke used the contacts developed while at USAID to score the conglomerate over $20 million in contracts. Then it canned him. Sucker.
Lucke’s take is typical of a Haiti that’s become a massively swelled teat on which NGOs profitably suckle. Overall, Haiti has become one of the greatest money laundering operations in history, an island engine turning public funds into private profits.
What’s more, U.S. taxpayer dollars are, against Presidential directive, being funneled from the United States Agency for International Development to Billy Graham’s charities for use in Christian proselytizing—all while building Sarah Palin’s 2012 campaign army.
“At that time, they were not open to the Gospel, and now they are,” said “Festival of Hope” director Sherman Barnette, of the difference in Haiti before and after the earthquake. The festival was held on January 9, in Haiti’s National Soccer Stadium. It was put on by Franklin Graham in cooperation with his Samaritan’s Purse charity and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Franklin—William Franklin Graham III—has been head of the Association for ten years. He is the successor to his father, who is now 92, and who has appeared infrequently in public these last few years.
A month before the event, Sarah Palin had appeared in Haiti beside Graham, urging followers to help “those less fortunate” by contributing to Samaritan’s Purse. “It is still here doing the tough work,” Palin said. She was gone less than 48 hours later.
Exactly what the tough work Palin spoke of depends on who you’re talking about. It could be raising millions more dollars that Haitians will never see. Or, in the case of Samaritan’s Purse, whose Haiti work is being heavily funded by the taxpayer-funded USAID, it could be to “take back their country from voodoo, despair, and sin,” one of the charity’s stated goals for the “Festival of Hope.” As Graham said of Haiti in his address at the Festival, “…the biggest need is the spiritual need.” (Graham and his crew are especially obsessed with the elimination of voodoo, as it comes up again and again in Purse literature. A recent personal update on work in Haiti from Franklin Graham himself reads, “Through our partnership, the three original churches have been able to establish 28 more—including one in a village that was infamous for voodoo….”) Video of the heavily promoted fundraising event has been erased from the Samaritan’s Purse website as a result of our questions to USAID.
Somewhere around 10,000 NGOs now operate in Haiti, without any organization. Much of the money that was raised in the nation’s name has not been spent. In some cases, it seems this is intentional.
The Disaster Accountability Project estimates that a year after nearly $11 billion was raised or pledged (“Text HAITI! to donate $10!), only half has been spent. In some cases, not even that. By November, Catholic Relief Charities had reported spending just 32 percent of the $192 million it raised for Haiti.
Many NGOs say the reason they are reluctant to spend more is that it may be wasted. But as DAP’s Ben Smilowitz discovered in his investigation with the Red Cross, the organization is treating the interest generated on the $500+ million “trust fund” it raised (and has not yet spent) for Haiti relief as “unrestricted revenue.”
A report on U.S. contracts for reconstruction found that only $1.60 of every $100 awarded goes to Haitian firms, essentially meaning that the brunt of Haiti funding actually functions as stimulus for economies elsewhere. An audit by USAID’s Inspector General found that 70% of the cash awarded to the two largest U.S. contractors was spent on equipment and materials (bought outside of Haiti), meaning just 8,000 Haitians a day were hired instead of the promised 25,000 a day.
Meanwhile, American corporations see the push to rejuvenate rural Haitian agriculture as a chance to, literally, sow the seeds of future profits. No matter that Haiti is broke, and will be broke for a long time. Monsanto has rigged it so that you, the taxpayer, will be underwriting those profits.
Monsanto donated tons of corn and vegetable seed to Haitian farmers and has committed to donating hundreds of tons more in the coming months. But these seeds are hybrids, engineered not only so that they cannot naturally reproduce, but to assure Haitian farmers remain in hock to Monsanto in the future. Of this donation, Monsanto had the unbelievable balls to claim “There are no contractual obligations between Haitian farmers and Monsanto since this is a donation.” Responding to whether or not the donated seeds will force farmers to need “additional inputs” (i.e., trademarked Monsanto products), the company said “technically, it can be planted without any additional inputs.”
Pressed about why Monsanto didn’t just provide open pollinating seed, a spokesperson said, “Open pollinated seeds would be a great option if they produced as much crop as a hybrid seed.” That’s like saying, nobody should bother driving a Honda Civic because it doesn’t perform like a Maserati.
But here’s the best part. Monsanto added that it contacted NGOs in Haiti and that those organizations will “support farmers with recommendations and resources [including] helping farmers decide whether to use additional inputs (including fertilizer and herbicides).” Two of the NGOs Monsanto identified are the WINNER organization and World Vision, both heavily funded by USAID. This means your tax dollars will be used to purchase any “additional inputs” from Monsanto.
To understand where the Haitians are headed, just look to Malawi, which Monsanto itself points to as a goal for Haiti. In 2005, droughts devastated Malwai. Monsanto donated hybrid seeds. Today Malwai has achieved food security. But It turns out, what Malwai did was recreate the American model by subsidizing farmers to use Monsanto hybrid fertilized seeds. Malawi’s farmers have now converted to a one-crop, undiversified, exporting agriculture model that is dependent on its government to subsidize production—by buying from Monsanto. Today Monsanto’s market share in Malawi is 50%. No wonder it holds up Malwai when speaking of Haiti.
(Of course, Haiti needs to be a corn-producing nation now, since its former rice economy was obliterated by Bill Clinton, whose subsidies for U.S. rice farmers destroyed Haiti’s rice industry. As an Oxfam report notes, the total of U.S. aid to Haiti is nearly $80 million less than the $434 million annual subsidies for U.S. rice production. That’s rice that taxpayer-funded NGOs now buy to help feed starving Haitians, in what is maybe the darkest joke of all time following Clinton’s appointment as co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.)