American foreign policy has differed in Haiti and Chile for many reasons. While Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, Chile is one of the richest. U.S. policies have had far reaching consequences on the infrastructure of these countries. This can be seen glaringly in the aftermath of the recent earthquakes. This paper will compare the differences in policy and the reasons for the differences. I will consider the effect these policies have had on the political climate and the social and economic structure of both Haiti and Chile.
Haiti and Chile have both had their share of tumult since being discovered by Europeans. The outcome, however, has been very different for each country. Chile has no doubt benefitted from its many natural resources, while Haiti’s lack of regulation and the effects of colonization caused widespread deforestation and a present day lack of resources. U.S. policies have had mixed results for each country, in many cases worsening circumstances.
Haiti’s history is one of instability and corruption. Although Haiti was the second nation to declare independence in the Western Hemisphere, it is often called a “failed state” because democracy never really took hold. Haiti was slow to industrialize, and the political and civil turmoil led to minimal business investment in the country.
Over the years, about 98% of Haiti has been deforested, leading to massive soil erosion
and difficult farming conditions. By the 19th century, Haiti had borrowed heavily from other countries and fallen into debt. In 1915, after a period of instability, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent American troops to restore order and compel Haiti to repay their foreign debts. When the U.S. finally left Haiti in 1934, the political situation worsened with a series of military coups. Haiti saw its first political stability with the election of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Unfortunately, this also marked a time of government corruption and human rights abuses. Papa Doc and his son Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, held power until 1986. During their time in office they stole government funds for their own use, including American Foreign Aid money.
Conditions in Haiti in the 1980’s were desperate. The economy was in shambles, Tuberculosis and diarrhea were the leading cause of death, and the illiteracy rate was more than 90%.
The 1990 election of Jean-Bernard Aristide inspired hope in the Haitian people. He created Ministry for Haitians Living Abroad, urging overseas Haitians to assist their homeland. He implemented higher minimum wage, taxes on the wealthy, and protection of human rights. He was followed by President Rene Preval, and Aristide again took office in 2001. When questions arose as to the legitimacy of his election, and over the corruption surfacing within his administration, the U.S. stepped in. Aristide was forced to step down, and placed in exile. After a period of U.S. military control, Rene Preval was again elected president in 2006. In the meantime, Haiti suffered several natural disasters. Tropical storms and hurricanes caused flooding and mudslides that wreaked havoc on an already suffering population.
The effect of U.S. policy on Haitian government has been of greater destabilization. The United States has repeatedly supported military coups when it was thought to be in our best interest. American foreign aid money has been given and withheld depending on who Haiti had in power at the time. The U.S. has supported military rule in Haiti at times that human rights violations were occurring.
By 1980 most all Haitian families had at least one lean, black Creole pig that could be sold to pay for weddings, baptisms, funerals, emergencies, or to pay for school fees or the purchase of school supplies and uniforms. The pigs could also be eaten. With the outbreak of African Swine Flu in Haiti, the U.S. feared it would spread throughout the world. Pressure from the US and Canada forced Haiti to sign the Program for the Eradication of Porcine Swine Fever and the Development of Pig Raising (PEPPADEP) agreement. Without their pigs, many families could not send their children to school, enrollments dropped by half.
U.S. policy towards Haitian immigrants has been particularly severe, especially when viewed in comparison with the migration policies for other Latin American countries, such as Cuba. Haiti does not have the strong lobbying influence that Cuba has. Haitian migrants have been viewed by the U.S. government as economic migrants, but rates of migration throughout the years have shown sharp increases in migration during times of political upheaval. That being said, the average Haitian seeking asylum in the U.S. is usually poor and unskilled, with little or no literacy. This reflects the average Haitian citizen, because of the lack of opportunity and education available in Haiti. The most skilled and educated workers in Haiti left the country during the Duvalier years. The shear numbers of Haitian’s seeking asylum in the United States has been cited as the reason for the strict policy towards that country.
The infrastructure of Haiti was unsound even before the earthquake hit. As the U.S. expanded its policy of free-trade zones, many Haitian workers in Port-au-Prince receive less than $3 a day. Because of this unlivable wage, shantytowns have become the norm in Haiti. Houses are built with whatever material is around, such as scraps of wood, tin, and metal from cars. These areas have no running water, no sewer systems, and no electricity. This flimsy infrastructure collapsed easily when the earthquake hit the country. The years of government corruption and political instability have translated into few regulations and few updates to building codes. The widespread poverty among the citizens of Haiti means that available funds go to basic needs and not to building updates. One of the biggest reasons for the amount of damage in Haiti is that Port-au-Prince has a population of 3 million, but only can really only support 1 million.
The United States has been quick to respond to the crisis in Haiti after the earthquake. Foreign Aid money was pledged, not just by the U.S. government, but by U.S. citizens as well. U.S. policies towards Haitian migration were relaxed as President Obama offered Temporary Protected Status to Haitians. The process of the cancellation of Haiti’s debt is currently underway, although the U.S. has not been as fast to act on this as some of our allies. The biggest issue in offering aid to Haiti at this time is planning. The plethora of organizations coming forward to help Haiti causes some concern because of the logistical nightmare of post-earthquake Haiti. At a time when Haiti really needs financial support, as well as basic necessities, the number of organizations offering other objects is growing. An example of this is an organization called, “Soles for Souls”. This organization has made significant progress toward its goal of shipping 50,000 pairs of shoes to Haiti, assisted by a celebrity endorsement from Jessica Simpson.
While this is a lovely gesture, it stands to reason that shoes may be a product already available domestically. The cost of shipping these products is money that could be better spent elsewhere in Haiti. The real needs of the people are basic, clean water, shelter, and food. The U.S. government needs to be sure the essentials get to the people that need it.
Chile won independence from Spain in 1818. The late 19th century marked a time of European immigration and large-scale mining of nitrate and copper. By 1925, Chile had a new constitution that increased the power of the president and separated church and state. Amidst great political instability, and by way of a bloodless coup, Carlos Ibanez del Campo took the presidency in 1927. He governed as a dictator until 1931. The economic crash of 1929 struck Chile hard, and the deep economic crisis and forced Ibanez del Campo to step down. After a short period of instability, Arturo Alessandri Palma came to power. From 1938 to 1946, the Communist, Socialist and Radical parties formed the Popular Front coalition. Economic policies were introduced based on the U.S. New Deal. In 1948 the Communist Party was banned. General Carlos Ibanez was elected president in 1952 promising to strengthen law and order.
The Great Chilean Earthquake hits Chile in 1960, it is the most intense earthquake ever recorded with a rating of 9.5. Eduardo Frei Montalva, a Christian Democrat, was elected president in 1964. He introduced cautious social reforms, but failed to curb inflation. His presidency paved the way for the world’s first democratically elected Marxist president, Salvador Allende, who embarked on an extensive radical social reform. The U.S. feared his leftist policies and in 1973 assisted General Augusto Pinochet in ousting Allende in CIA-sponsored coup. Thousands were killed, tortured or exiled under Pinochet’s rule. Pinochet established a brutal dictatorship until 1990, when he lost a referendum on whether he should stay in power. Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin won the presidential election and was succeeded by Eduardo Frei in 1994. Socialist Ricardo Lagos was elected president in 2000. Socialist Michelle Bachelet won the presidential elections in 2006 to become Chile’s first woman president. The 2010 elections saw a change in party leadership with the win of Right-wing candidate Sebastian Pinera.
Chile is no stranger to natural disasters, with another volcano eruption in 2008, and also widespread flooding. Chile endured nearly two dozen major earthquakes in the 20th century, including the greatest earthquake ever measured, the 9.5 quake of 1960. In February of 2010, hundreds died and widespread damage was caused as a massive earthquake struck central Chile. The 8.8 magnitude quake is the biggest to hit the country in 50 years.
United States foreign policy has had a huge impact on the political history of Chile. The United States government applauded the rebirth of democracy in the 1990’s, despite the C.I.A. having facilitated the coup of 1973, including destabilizing the country’s economy and politics in the period before the coup. There has been a disclosure of more than 16,000 of the papers from covert CIA operations in Chile, first during the rule of the democratically elected President Salvador Allende and then during that of the military dictator General Augusto Pinochet proving this. The U.S. first tried to prevent his the election of Allende, referred to by the CIA as Track I. When that failed, they continued with his overthrow, referred to as Track II. The U.S. had a strong interest in Chile’s politics for many reasons, one being business interests. The U.S. was also determined to undermine the Allende presidency because a communism success story in Chile could cause a domino effect of Latin American countries turning against capitalism and towards communism.
The U.S. policy towards Chilean immigrants has been considerably less severe than the policy towards Haiti. The basic reasons for this are that the proximity to the U.S. is farther, and the Chilean economy and political atmosphere does not generate the immense numbers of immigrants that Haiti does. Chilean immigrants are on average middle to upper class citizens that can afford to make the journey to the United States.
Chilean infrastructure is often seen as a successful product of democracy, but the building codes of Chile were actually established under a socialist administration. Since Chile enjoys greater wealth in the public sector than Haiti, it has a wider tax base to draw from for infrastructure projects.
Chile also has the benefit of preparedness. The frequent threat of earthquakes has pushed the government of Chile to include earthquake preparation in building codes.
Although the earthquake that hit Chile was 500 times more powerful than the one that hit Haiti, the effects were not as damaging. It was twice as deep beneath the surface as the one that hit Haiti. The epicenter was also farther away from a major city than it was in Haiti. The infrastructure of Chile is built to withstand an earthquake. The rural population in Chile has been the most affected by this disaster, but the government has a sound safety net in place. Many of Chile’s social programs were put in place during a socialist administration. The Chilean government has invested in the common good, such as infrastructure, services, and regulations.
The future of U.S. policy with Haiti will likely be one of heavy involvement. Haiti is currently unable to address it’s many problems. After the quake, even President Preval was left homeless. There is a humanitarian need in Haiti at this time, and the U.S. has made its presence in Haiti very visible. Former Presidents Bush and Clinton made the journey to tour Haiti in March. Clinton has been instrumental in Haiti policy since he became an envoy for the U.S. in 2009. The Clinton Global Initiative announced $258 million in aid projects for Haiti in 2009. The 21 projects included a $2 million pledge by actor mat Damon’s Water.org to get water and sanitation to 50,000 people.
Since the earthquake hit, the race has been on to collect as many donations as possible to help the small country get back on it’s feet. In the past, the U.S. has not had transparency or a coordinating organization to track the status of aid to Haiti. In 2004, the international community pledged $1 billion to support Haiti. Haitian government sources later confirmed that most of the pledges had never been fulfilled.
In the face of Haiti’s most recent crisis, donations should be kept transparent, so every Haitian knows where funds are going. Accountability mechanisms are needed to ensure that the government of Haiti, the international community and NGOs use these funds appropriately.
This is the only way to help Haiti move forward, by correcting the mistakes made in the past. U.S. and world donations are only significant if they actually get to Haiti.
Since the earthquake hit Chile, the U.S. has offered temporary protected status to Chile immigrants. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Chile after the earthquake to assess areas where the country might be in need of aid. Some of Chile’s needs post-quake are satellite phones, water purification systems and field hospitals. The biggest question the United States has going forward with Chile, is that of the new President and his administration. At the time of the earthquake, Michelle Bachelet was still in control of the government. In March, President Pinera was inaugurated. He has pledged to take on the tough task of rebuilding after the earthquake. His political ideology has not been seen in Chile in decades, and the U.S. and the world will be watching his every move.
In conclusion, the earthquakes that affected Haiti and Chile were both devastating, but the impact will be felt for much longer in Haiti than in Chile. The 7.0 earthquake that leveled Haiti hit in an overpopulated area with an unsound infrastructure. Since even the government offices and buildings were destroyed, the Haitian government was ineffective in the immediate aftermath of the quake. Although Chile’s earthquake, at a scale of 8.8, was hugely damaging, it was nowhere near as devastating to that country as Haiti’s was. The loss of life in Haiti is estimated at over 200,000, while Chile’s death toll is around 795. Chile’s government is admired for it’s efficiency, and Haiti’s government has a history of corruption.
Both countries have a history of instability due to U.S. policies, but Chile has managed to grow and improve throughout, while Haiti has remained stagnant. U.S. policy toward Chile has evolved since the 1990’s, not only because of increased stability in the Chilean government, but also because the U.S. stands to gain from Chile. The competitive nature of Chile’s business markets prove appealing to American investors. Therefore, policies towards Chile are based more on equality than with Haiti. Haiti policies are approached from a stance of charity and aid. This gives Chile the advantage. Chile also has the advantage of earthquake preparedness. Neither Haiti or Chile is a stranger to natural disaster, but Haiti does not have a history of frequent earthquakes like Chile does. It is like comparing Los Angeles and New York.
Obviously, Los Angeles would fare better if faced with an earthquake than New York would.
The road to recovery for Haiti will greatly depend on the charity and aid of the U.S. and other foreign nations. It is unimaginable that Haiti could move forward alone at this point. Chile, on the other hand, will take U.S. aid in certain areas, but will not need continued support from the U.S.
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