CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot has filed his latest Guardian column from Port-au-Prince. It highlights ongoing forced evictions following a tense stand-off over the weekend between residents of Camp Barbancourt 17 and actor Danny Glover and other activists, on the one side, and the camp’s landlord, on the other.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti -- At this sprawling IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp of battered tents and tarps here in the neighborhood of Barbancourt in Port-au-Prince, a confrontation was underway. A landlord who claimed ownership of the land on which some 75 families had been living since the earthquake was very angry. A crowd of hundreds had gathered and a man in his thirties said that the landlord had beaten him and destroyed his tent.
“These people have been here for 19 months and I want them out of here!” the landlord shouted. He was yelling in English now because a group of activists had arrived, including the actor and human rights campaigner Danny Glover. They were defending the camp residents, but the landlord wasn’t having it.
Meanwhile a group of heavily armed troops from MINUSTAH – the UN military force that has occupied the country for the past seven years – arrived on the scene. They were tense and sweating in the morning heat, and as the standoff continued and the crowd spilled into the street, another contingent of troops arrived, bringing the total to about fifteen.
Finally, a well-known human rights lawyer, Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) arrived. He explained to the landlord – in another heated argument -- that there was a legal and judicial process for evictions, and that as a matter of law, people could not be evicted without a court decision. The standoff came to an end, for the moment, as residents returned to the camp to avoid being locked out and possibly losing their possessions.
But nineteen months after the earthquake, there are still almost 600,000 people living in camps, mostly under tents and tarps. Despite the billions of dollars of aid pledged by governments and donors since the earthquake, there are probably less than 50,000 that have been resettled. And for the 600,000 homeless, the strategy seems to be moving in the direction of evictions – without regard to where they might end up.
“The government, in collaboration with international donors and some NGO’s, is trying to pretend that there is no land,” says Etant Dupain, an activist with the group Bri Kouri Novel Gaye (Noise Travels, News Spreads). His group is organizing to stop the evictions, and he was present in the confrontation in Barbancourt on Saturday, where he tried to defuse the confrontation by talking to the landlord, whom he happened to know. “But there is land – they gave a big piece of land to MINUSTAH, and this was cultivated land.”
Indeed this seems to be the heart of the problem: the international donors, led by the U.S. , do not seem to care enough to resolve the problem by “building back better,” as President Clinton promised after the earthquake. Or building much of anything, really. (Clinton heads up the Haiti Interim Recovery Commission – which until recently was called the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission, as well as being the UN special envoy to Haiti.)
Read the rest here.