Saturday, January 23, 2010

Turning Guantanamo Bay into a point of light

By Jean H Charles:

The American base at Guantanamo in Cuba, refitted to receive the enemy combatant prisoners and the terrorists of Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, is on the verge of being closed again due to negative publicity surrounding the alleged mistreatment of those prisoners. Guantanamo Bay, with proper leadership and foresight, can reborn brightly as the most suitable place from critical care to recovery and rehabilitation for the Haitians victims of the devastating earthquake in a longer term. It is at only half an hour from the town of Mole St Nicholas, Haiti where Christopher Columbus landed in the country five hundred years ago.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.Those Haitians will return home later to a Haiti rebuilt and ready to receive them. Guantanamo, with the leadership of the United States and financial support from the rest of the world, is a potential first response disaster relief and management center for the Western Hemisphere. Fidel and Raul Castro, I am certain, would applaud such a move, causing a melting of the ice between the two governments, Cuba and the United States. Such synergy is already in place in Leogane, Haiti, where Cuban and American doctors are working hand in hand in perfect harmony.

The vista of a young man with broken feet being discharged from the hospital with no one to receive him and no home to go to is disheartening at best. Haiti after 1/12/10 needs a rehabilitation center for the thousand of discharged patients and halfway home for the thousand of orphaned children before adoption. The situation in Haiti is similar to the fate of Europe after the defeat of the Nazis. It took the leadership of a General John Marshall to transform the towns and the cities of France, Germany and England into vibrant entities. It took also the leadership of General MacArthur in Asia to transform Japan into the power house of today.

Haiti, a pearl of the islands before its independence, was destined to become a ever-shining pearl after its gallant victory over slavery. It has not been such. This massive destruction will set Haiti years behind if no proper leadership is exhibited. I share the concern of millions in the world, who wish Haiti well and would like to see its people enter into the kingdom of peace, harmony and welfare.

The state of the state of Haiti today is now one of confusion. The United States has asked Canada and Brazil to join its administration in taking the lead for the reconstruction of Haiti, yet France and the European Community want to be major players in a country where French language and French mores are still queen. Israel, Cuba, Venezuela and Turkey have been so far the most ready helpers. The Dominican Republic is now setting itself to become the trustee of Haiti.

The Haitian government is nowhere to be found. There was no better governance in the best of times. President Barack Obama has promised not to let the Haitians suffer alone in this difficult situation. He will have to appoint a strong leader to lead the recovery, bring the sick, and the ones with broken limbs to Guantanamo, work with Europe and the other countries that want to devise a Marshall plan for Haiti and help instill in the country a sense of urgency, safety and solidarity of one towards the other.

One week after the earthquake, the excuses in the delay in breaking the bottleneck for essential delivery of health care to the people affected by the disaster are not reasonable. The Haitian people once more have demonstrated their resilience, they know not to expect solace from their own government, they expect, though, a better coordination of leadership and logistics from the international community.

The Haitian government has paid the transportation for the refugees to return home to their ancestral towns. It is planning tent cities on the outskirt of Port au Prince, against the grain of Haitian ethos that refuse to be refugees in their own country. They need a hospitality center in each one of the small towns of Haiti to alleviate and organize the arrivals of the new residents. A purse of a minimum of one million dollars in each one of the 150 towns of Haiti will go a long way in setting the stage for the reconstruction of Haiti and easing the pressure on the capital.

The power vacuum in Haiti on the national and international level is potentially as explosive as the recent earthquake:

– the political ballet dance of the United States not wanting to offend the Haitian government in taking charge of essential services,
– the United Nations wounded by the loss of its people and discredited for dismal performance for the last five years in Haiti,
– the rest of the international community already into a mode of a charity fatigue due to unnecessary bottleneck by those three players,
– the posturing of the major nonprofit organizations more interested in putting the spotlight on themselves instead of working together to bring essential services to the ordinary earthquake afflicted person.
– the Haitian government culture of treating its own citizens as pariah entities.

These are all the ingredients that will impede the speedy recovery of Haiti. As the doctors and the nurses in the field who need essential tools and medication to save the sick and the wounded, as the community leaders in the slum documented by BBC, who provide better services for burying the dead, healing the sick, and feeding the hungry than the slow pace of the world armada camped at the airport still discussing logistics and protocol while Haitians are dying from post and non treatment.

I am crying for help, please! The ghost of Katrina is still haunting Haiti.

January 23, 2010