Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper quoted me in an article about Haiti and the Dominican Republic that ran this morning, Wednesday, January 20th.
A tale of two nations
Tourists pose for a picture on the beach in Samana, Dominican Republic. Eduardo Munoz/Reuters
Although they have a shared history and geography, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are worlds apart
From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail Published on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010 12:00AM ESTLast updated on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010 4:16AM EST
They have been both been colonized, oppressed and exploited. They have lived through brutal dictatorships and U.S. invasions.
The two countries that occupy the tiny island of Hispaniola may have a shared history, but they have developed into two startlingly different places. The massive earthquake that devastated the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince left many people in the Dominican Republic, just 250 kilometres away, feeling nothing worse than a little dizziness.
Tremors from the January 12 earthquake that devastated the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, reached all the way to the Dominican Republic, which shares the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola. In the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo, new high-rise apartment buildings that have gone up over the past several years swayed but did not collapse. The brand-new metro system closed in case of aftershocks. In most cases, however, the biggest issue was motion sickness.
The tremors will be felt in other ways, particularly in their impact on the long-complicated relationship between the two countries. It may not be a tectonic shift, but more likely a series of lurches for the better, even keeping in mind the new challenges to the ties between the two nations.
Video and transcript from my guest appearance on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC Thursday January 14th, talking about the relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti and how the January 12 earthquake plays in to that dynamic.
Haiti desperately needs the world’s help. Four devastating storms last year destroyed nearly all of its crops, much of its livestock, and many of the roads that farmers need to get their goods to market. Even before the storms, Haiti only grew 40 percent of the food it needed. After years of coups, violence, mismanagement, and corruption, the challenges facing Haiti are enormous: environmental catastrophe, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, unemployment, and continuing violence. But is the kind of help the world has given so far what Haiti needs most? Many Haitians rightfully feel that international intervention in Haiti doesn’t always benefit Haiti as much as it should; funds are perpetually short, priorities not always well thought out, and the participation of Haitians in the decision process limited. How can the international community do better by Haiti? Can Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola, put behind them centuries of conflicts and work together to solve mutual problems? What should the priorities be for former President Bill Clinton, recently named UN Special Envoy to Haiti, as a new champion for the Caribbean nation?