Belen Fernandez, Al Jazeera
In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, certain media outlets painted a picture of a country overrun by looters and at the mercy of gang members and other criminals, including thousands of prisoners jolted free by the quake.
Relevant details were ignored, such as the contention by prominent Haitian human rights attorney Mario Joseph that 80 per cent of said prisoners had never been charged. The media effort perhaps aided in rendering less incongruous in the eyes of the international public the deployment of a sizeable US military force to deal with quake-affected people who did not seemingly require military attention.
A Reuters dispatch from one week after the disaster - which reported "marauding looters", "scavengers and looters swarm[ing] over damaged stores", "increasingly lawless streets" and "[h]eavily armed gang members" - offered the following plea from policeman Dorsainvil Robenson:
The whereabouts of the ever-elusive Americans are of course hinted at two paragraphs later, when we learn that "the White House said more than 11,000 US military personnel are on the ground, on ships offshore or en route". Elsewhere, French Co-operation Minister Alain Joyandet was quoted as commenting in reference to seemingly skewed US priorities: "This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti". As foreign military monopolised the Port-au-Prince airport, teams of paramedics and first responders were delayed in the critical hours immediately following the earthquake.
Subscribers to the fantasy that the US is somehow qualified to counteract violence and install order in the Caribbean nation would do well to peruse a new book entitled, in which author Jeb Sprague masterfully documents - among other topics - the detrimental role of US and fellow international actors in Haitian history.
Offering new evidence obtained through interviews and a massive amount of formerly classified US government documents, the book clarifies how Haiti's post-quake reconstruction rests on a foundation of total impunity achieved by the country's most brutal paramilitaries and their financiers.
As Sprague notes, the US occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934 under "the pretext of possible German encroachment during the First World War… caused
Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier in the 1960s, US Marines trained the dictator’s Tonton Macoutes paramilitary force, known for
wrotevigorously opposed by the US Agency for International Development because of the threat such an increase would pose to the 'business climate', particularly to American companies paying rock-bottom wages to workers in Haiti".
remarked[The] international media, the media leaders helped us a lot. And thanks to them we were able to overthrow the dictator. And without them I don't think that we could have".