BY MIKE SULLIVAN
For Part 1 please go here.
Homes under contract were never built. An Industrial Park was never built. 800 million went for a hospital never built. Fruits, vegetables and grain from local farmers spoiled in bins before being distributed to the people. In one deal after another, the Clintons enriched their donors in pay to play deals involving the installation of a Wifi system and minor construction projects, many of them never completed. A 120 million dollar textile plant built on the north side of the island lined the pockets of their corporate friends and became a sweat-shop for hundreds of workers, paid .61 cents an hour, working 16 hours a day. Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff, travelled to Haiti 40 times in 4 years, spending taxpayer’s money on worthless trips. A contract awarded to Tony Rodham, Hillary’s brother, who sat on the board of VCS Mining, exploited gold from mining operation inside the country. Relief efforts went asunder. Soon Chelsea’s memo became yesterday’s news. The Clintons, hailed as saviours of Haiti, were no better than leeches, sucking blood from the veins of Haitian people.
“What happened to all the money?” Jameson asked in a thick, Haitian accent, tossing up his hands. “Its blood money…all of it,” he added with a look of anguish. “The Clintons need to pay the money back, every last cent.”
Our meeting ended five minutes later. Jameson and I had breakfast inside the hotel, and a short time later we left the building. I told him I would write the story and watched him slip into a small, weather-beaten Toyota and drive away. I wasn’t finished. I still had something else I needed to do before I left the island tomorrow.
Soccer fields –built from Clinton Foundation money –dotted the landscape on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Stanley Israel, an old friend of mine from college, had settled in Haiti where he taught biology and coached soccer to inner-city teens after school. I wondered if he was still here. I waited until three o’clock and took a cab to the edge of town, stopping near a settlement just off the highway. Barbed wire closed off a large dirt field filled with white tents, sagging clotheslines full of wash, and isolated pockets of shabby, run-down wooden shacks. I noticed a small group of rough, grisly-looking men, hanging out near the front gate, not doing much of anything until they saw me pull up, and then their interest perked as they stared across at me with cold, dark eyes and sullen faces. I paid the driver and got out on the opposite side of the cab to remain as inconspicuous as possible.
“Don’t stay long here,” the driver said, motioning back toward the men. “It’s not safe.” I thanked him, tipped him generously, and with a pang of fear racing my heart scooted up the field on my right where I saw soccer activity going on.
It was a jaw-dropping moment when he first saw me. Stanley –a short, bald, slightly built Haitian, as lean and willowy as I remembered him in school–rushed and embraced me. We hugged and then separated. “How…how…?” he said over again excitedly. “I can’t believe it’s you.” When I told him about my meeting with Jameson, the stoic expression on his face never changed. I don’t know what I was expecting to hear from him, perhaps a display of outrage as I’d heard from Jameson, but Stanley remained unusually calm, signalling to an elderly man nearby to take over coaching duties. The man, spry for his age, hustled a group of teens to the middle of the field where they began conducting soccer drills, while Stanley and I talked about life, love, career and family –catching up on old times. We hadn’t seen each other since we graduated from Montana State University almost fifteen years ago.
Our conversation continued later that night over dinner at my hotel. We talked late into the evening, recalling all the good times we’d had as college roommates. Finally at 1 am, tired, mentally exhausted, Stanley and I decided to call it a night and he called a taxi. As we embraced one last time and promised to stay in contact with each other, Stanley slipped into the back seat of the taxi. As he drove off, I had the feeling I’d never see him again –our worlds were so vastly different. Stanley had a wife and two teenage daughters. He was a devout Christian. I, on the other hand, was single, never married, and very much committed to being a bachelor.
In spite of the earthquake, in spite of floods, famine, and the poor living in the depths of poverty inside dilapidated shelters six years after the earthquake, Stanley showed very little anger or bitterness. He avoided commenting on my talking points: gross UN incompetence, failed programs, and pay for play deals involving the Clintons. In a quiet voice, his head down, at last, to my amazement, he responded. “I’m happy, Joe. I’m happy with what I have. I try to lead a life pleasing to God. By doing so, I know what it really means to live.”
I spoke of a startling ambiguity I’d noticed from the moment I arrived here. Why was there such a lack of commitment, a failure by the people to make a choice between alternatives? Why had they accepted a life full of struggle and hardship with a stoic display of indifference? They had political rights, so why not exercise them by marching on the capitol in a show of protest. He said nothing. When I asked him what he thought was worse, a .7 magnitude earthquake, or the stench left by the Clinton Foundation’s dump on Haiti, I was surprised by his answer. He told me he had forgiven the Clintons long ago for their crimes against the people of Haiti.
After I showered I felt refreshed and not very sleepy. In a T-Shirt and boxer shorts, I stood staring through sheets of rain coming down outside my window. Through the water pelting against the glass, I saw the day of the grand opening at the Royal Oasis Hotel. Limos and dignitaries (the Clinton’s included) appeared on the scene. Grandiose statements in long, drawn-out speeches… jobs for the Haitian people…a sustained economic development program filled the air. There never was a detailed plan to solve the problems facing Haiti after the earthquake. In the end very little was ever accomplished for what had been promised.
The sound of the rain stopping jolted me back to reality.
Next day clouds moved across the sky threatening rain. My return flight to Bangkok was scheduled to leave at 4 pm, so I had time to spare before going to the airport. It was late morning, not many people around, so I felt safe stopping near a row of neglected tin shacks inside a nearby shantytown. I stopped one last time to take a few more pictures and to look around. Much of the area –after nearly six years –still lay in rubble. It reminded me of a primitive village detonated by bombs and charred black after being strafed by streams of liquid fire. No earthquake money, not a single dime had ever been spent here. I saw the faces of hungry children staring up at me. Women in dresses draped over thin brown shoulders looked to the sky and hurried to get clothes off clotheslines before the storm began.
I decided not to go any further. About four miles to the northwest, a broad, almost surrealistic layer of blue light spread across the land. Rows of tents inside the “Displaced Person’s Camp” shivered in desperation under the green expanse of a land rocked by disaster and unending misfortune. What I saw was no figment of my imagination. I wished it were. 85,000 to 500,000 thousand people were living there without toilets, running water, or electricity. How do they do it? I asked myself as a lump stuck in my throat, making it difficult to breathe. The answer came as a sober reminder about the people living her among the ruins. There was simply nowhere else for them to go. The dream of a rebuilt community after the earthquake had been shattered like shards of glass bursting inside a broken window.
In a subtle twist of irony, I glanced back up the road one last time at the Royal Oasis Hotel. The plumed heads of ancient palm trees swayed back and forth under a patchwork of blue sky. Taxis pulled up inside the driveway, business men and women in dark suits got out and entered the building, vans and tour buses drove away to other parts of the island. The Royal Oasis was booming with the energy of a neighbourhood block party.
Eventually, I turned back and stared at the shanty town laid waste in rubble, and at the Displaced Person’s Camp in the distance. The sharp, bitter smell of sadness and decay hovered in the air, and after a few minutes I decided not to take any more pictures. The eternal sadness of a dying land stabbed at my heart and left me feeling hollow and depleted. Let the poor have their day alone in peace, undisturbed by the clicking of another I-Phone camera, intruding on their lives. I thought about Chelsea Clinton. I saw the memo and her sentence, expressed so clearly. –i.e., you Dad –needs authority over the UN and all its myriad parts. Her suggestion clearly served as the push Bill Clinton needed to begin the rape of Haiti, one dollar at a time. I wondered about the millions of dollars wasted by the Clintons and the housing it would have provided. How the money could have been spent to enrich the lives of those less fortunate living here n the depths of poverty and oppression.
In time, I began to see a reason for all the pain and suffering. The majority of Haitian people lived in a social class beyond the grasp of wealth and power. The rich merely thought of them as nothing more than a line-item entry on a balance sheet. Seldom, if ever, would they be regarded as part of the same species that the wealthy elites of the world were a part of. Unlike the Clintons, most Haitians wouldn’t soar through vast skies on chartered flights throughout the world. They wouldn’t lodge overnight at the Royal Oasis Hotel in a fancy $200 dollar a night hotel room. One day in the years to come, a few of their offspring might play soccer in one of the soccer fields up the road on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Sadly enough, it was the best they could hope for.
At four o’clock I caught my flight. Twenty-one hours later, having gone through multiple time zones, the plane finally landed on the tarmac at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. Drowsy, light headed, hung over from jet lag, I retrieved my bag from the carousel downstairs and made my way to the curb outside the terminal. I signalled a taxi and was driven into the city, arriving at my apartment just as the sun’s morning smile appeared on the eastern horizon. Tomorrow I would write my story to restore a righteous verdict for the people of Haiti.
Mike Sullivan’s writing credits include three thriller novels published by Eden Press, Santa Rosa, California. As a US ex-pat and freelance writer, Mike lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand. His novels Dead Girl Beach, Ransom Drop, and Eden2 are listed on Amazon. They can be acquired via clicking on this link here.