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Factually negligent at best
on February 4, 2013
The author mentions in his "Diagnosis" that he desires to avoid being "intellectually dishonest". Unfortunately, that is exactly what he has accomplished in this book. I would excuse the original edition for it's short-sightedness, given the incomplete story of Aristide and Preval, but with the facts now known, Farmer has made the conscious decision to skew facts in order to show support for his original hypothesis, and ironically, to further "use" Haiti for his own benefit.
One of the surprises when I first visited Haiti, after reading books such as this one, and hearing the stories that are so common about the nation, is how bad Haiti ISN'T! In fact, it is one of the greatest frustrations of Haitians, that books like these continue to propagate the woes of Haiti in lieu of the complete story that includes incredible accomplishments, a thriving culture and beautiful country (among other things). Haiti is beautiful, and Haiti is strong. The place where Farmer gets it right is in his title, "The Uses of Haiti." Numerous NGOs, private and public organizations, and other individuals and groups, thrive on the public perception of Haiti as horribly weak and needy. There might be the side which chooses to blame in order to build guilt (such as in the case of Farmer), or the side that simply tugs on the heartstrings of the developing world by showing the worst of Haiti. Haiti's poor are an extremely valuable marketing tool used by "non-profit" organizations which pocket millions of "aid" money. So here, Farmer gets it right on the surface, at least.
I simply can't get into the vast amount of inconsistencies and outright deceptions in Farmer's book. And it horrifies me to think of his reasons for such deceit, but there are some very easily researched points that I will bring up. First, Farmer indicates that Aristide was happy to step down in order to have a democratically elected president take his place. In reality, Preval was a friend of Aristide, and the corruption in Aristide's administration is what secured Preval's win. In addition, Aristide only "supported" Preval (i.e., named his successor) after he first tried to (illegally) retain his seat and was opposed. Shortly afterward in his book, Farmer states that Aristide won "in a landslide" in his second election. This is interesting, and accurate if one looks at the percentage of votes for Aristide. But the other side is that only 5% of the eligible voters participated in the election, due to fear of the CURRENT administration (Preval/Aristide). He cites "overwhelming support" and that the Haitians were "eager to re-elect him". Does 5% sound like "eager" to you? Mr. Farmer, you are a blatant liar, twisting facts in order to place blame on those you wish were at fault, and ignoring the actual enemy of Haiti.
Throughout the book, Farmer also points his finger at every American Republican he can find to blame, ignoring that it was first Clinton who blocked loans to Aristide, because Aristide's administration was shown to be so corrupt that the money was assumed to "go to waste". This was not initiated by the Bush II administration as Farmer would have us think.
The solution for Haiti comes from the same solution for the U.S. and everywhere. Right now, Haiti is the victim of the Curley Effect. It's the same thing that has pushed Detroit and other U.S. cities to dire need. Politicians use the plight of the poor to bring in "aid" money, from which they take a large portion and then "redistribute" a remainder to the poor to make it look as if they are generous. Sure, Aristide did some good. And so did the U.S. forces at the time of their occupation. But without a strong middle-class which can be used as a virtual ladder upon which the poor can climb out of their poverty, Haiti and Detroit will remain in their current condition. It is the conservative policies so hated by Farmer, which help to build such middle-class strength. But if Haiti is truly strong, then Farmer will have no market for his book, and he risks the embarrassment of having to admit he was wrong after-all. Instead, he will continue to deceive. Shame on you, Paul!