Haiti's Rice Problems

Over the weekend, I had a chance to catch the Frontline/World segment on Haiti's aid problems since the earthquake earlier this year. The report specifically focused on the dilemma foreign aid has "caused" on the island, especially for Haitians who sell rice. My issue with this report was the fact that Haiti has had a rice problem long before the earthquake, thanks in part to U.S. policies towards the island.

Excuse me for bringing this up - since NPR won't do it - but last time I checked, Haiti used to grow its own rice. I am surprised that nowhere in the program was this mention. It was almost a given that the United States was suppose to give rice to Haiti, rather than allow it to be food secure with its own agricultural resources.

A little history lesson...

From Reader Supported News:

Today, little rice is grown in Haiti; instead, the nation is a market for the subsidized rice crop grown in the United States. Human Rights lawyer Bill Quigley, now at the Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote about this trend in the spring of 2008, as food riots shook Haiti and other parts of the developing world:

In 1986, after the expulsion of Haitian dictator Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loaned Haiti $24.6 million in desperately needed funds (Baby Doc had raided the treasury on the way out). But, in order to get the IMF loan, Haiti was required to reduce tariff protections for their Haitian rice and other agricultural products and some industries to open up the country's markets to competition from outside countries. The US has by far the largest voice in decisions of the IMF. "American rice invaded the country," recalled Charles Suffrard, a leading rice grower in Haiti, in an interview with the Washington Post in 2000. By 1987 and 1988, there was so much rice coming into the country that many stopped working the land.

Haiti is now the third largest importer of U.S. rice in the world. The rice is "dumped" on the island by American farmers receiving subsidies from the US government to grow surpluses of rice at a rock-bottom rates, undercutting Haitian rice farmers.

And some Americans have the nerve to call Haiti "the basket case of the Western Hemisphere," when, in fact, the United States and their friends at the WTO and IMF are undermining the very structure it needs to survive.


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Prejudice in Uganda

I had a chance to see this amazing documentary on Current TV last night.

A few observations:

1. Because of the growing acceptance of LGBT folks in the United States, Christian evangelicals feel like they are losing the battle in their own country and have found more supportive and impressionable people in Africa to spread their wealth of homophobic crap.

2. I think the Ugandan pastor featured in the film is the next Ted Haggard...



Viva La France...and Racism!?

When in doubt, blame the black guy!

Or this seems to be the route some French folks have resorted to in light of the country's sour loss at the World Cup this week. All racial hell has broken out. I was listening to the BBC this morning when I heard a French dude blame the loss on team members who are "millionaire thugs from the Paris suburbs."

From New York Times:

The philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, who has often criticized the failures of French assimilation, compared the players to youths rioting in the banlieues, France’s suburban ghettos. “We now have proof that the French team is not a team at all, but a gang of hooligans that knows only the morals of the mafia,” he said in a radio interview.

While most politicians have talked carefully of values and patriotism, rather than immigration and race, some legislators blasted the players as “scum,” “little trouble-makers” and “guys with chickpeas in their heads instead of a brain,” according to various news reports.

Fadela Amara, the junior minister for the racially-charged suburbs who was born to Algerian parents, warned on Tuesday that the reaction to the team’s loss had become racially charged.

“There is a tendency to ethnicize what has happened,” she told a gathering of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s governing party, according to reports in the French news media. “Everyone condemns the lower-class neighborhoods. People doubt that those of immigrant backgrounds are capable of respecting the nation.”

You mean to tell that France isn't post-racial? Oh, the horror! Read on.

...France is confused about its identity and uncomfortable with the growing numbers and sometimes the attitudes of its poorer, darker immigrants and their children, he said. “What is certain is that we are going through in France questions of disobedience, of incivility, of loss of bearings, and this group of irritated young kids is an excessive reflection of those questions.”

In 1998 the successful French team that won the World Cup was widely praised for its multiethnic nature — black, white and Arab, and seen as a symbol of a more diverse nation. But today, Mr. Tétart said, the talk is the opposite...

...On Tuesday, Mr. Le Pen said that “the myth of anti-racism is a sacred myth in France.” He added, with no apparent irony, that he hated politicians who turn the national soccer team into “a flag of anti-racism instead of sport.”

Just in the last few months a French government official was convicted for making racial remarks about Arabs and the French Parliament is currently debating creating a ban on burqas. Of course, the 2005 Paris suburbs riots should have been a wake-up call to the country.

Anti-racism certainly is a myth these days...