Thursday, April 30, 2009

Foreign Policy Change?

Dear Secretary Clinton,

First let me thank you and your husband for you life long commitment to public service to our nation. I have the deepest respect for both of you and am extremely proud of the example that you have set. As a woman, I am particulary proud of you.

It was wonderful that in your capacity as Secretary of State, you chose to visit Haiti and the Dominican Republic within the first 100 days of the new administration. I take heart that this signals a strong and ongoing commitment on the part of the United States to the continuing development of these two neighboring nations. Since we invaded and occupied them both during the last century, we certainly owe them.

We all took heart in your allusion to the situation of the Haitian immigrants in the United States and await a very quick designation of Temporary Protected Status of all Haitians now in the United States.

As someone who has been on the ground here for four years, studying these two nations, I would suggest that there are some strategic errors in your policy. Two years ago, the President of the Dominican Republic, through his foreign secretary, suggested to the Secretary General of the United Nations that the Dominican Republic wished to become the breadbasket of the Caribbean by upgrading its agricultural sector and asked for the help of the international community. The response from Secretary Ban Ki Mon was that they would welcome that suggestion if it came from both island nations. The government of Haiti quickly responded through its Border Director, Max Antoine.

However, when Paul Collier, a scholar out of Oxford, said that Haiti should upgrade its textile sector, both the Secretary General, your husband and you, supported that suggestion. One wonders why?

It was not well received that you went to visit a textile factory in Haiti, where the business leaders are fighting to keep the daily minimum wage just at the global poverty level. It was noted that your words were only translated into French, not Kreyole. You were perceived to be clearly on the side of the small business elite, not the people.

It was also not well received that you came to the Dominican Republic and said that they had to do more to help Haiti when the Dominican Republic has more than a million Haitian immigrants, all of whom are treated for free in the nation’s public hospitals. The Dominican Republic, while it certainly is an economically advanced nation compared to Haiti, is not in a position to do much more to help Haiti when it has a high proportion of its population at the poverty level.

It is clear that the Obama administration wishes to change the image of the United States and with its southern neighbors but, alas, your visit did not really do that. We are still seen as a nation that wishes to use the low wages of its neighbors while ignoring their basic needs. We flood their markets with our heavily subsidized rice, destroying their local production. We flood the island with our left over used clothing and shoes, destroying the work for their tailors and shoe repair shops. But we ignore the requests of their governments for help in their agricultural sector so that their people can eat.

Alas, no one was cheering or dancing in the streets after you left. Instead, there were calls for the replacement of the current US Ambassador in Haiti and pointed cartoons in the Dominican papers. We can do much better. I trust that we will in the future.

Frankly, I am very disappointed. There was, in fact, absolutely no change whatsoever evident in your policy towards the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Please support the requests of the governments involved. We really need the help of the United States here. If you actually supported the development of these nations, our Coast Guard would not have to do so many heart wrenching patrols, resucing refugees from shark infested waters.

Perhaps if we acted more like a big sister than a bullying big brother, we would be more popular.

Please see my previous blog post at

for a more locally empowering vision of border development than more textile factories under the HOPEII Act.


With Respect,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you think Hillary would ever see this? If only she would address the real problems in Haiti.