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News > Latin America

Clinton Pledges to Help Caribbean After Hurricane Damage, Region Has Flashbacks of Haiti Aid Debacle

  • Former President Bill Clinton, center, announced the projects during a two-day conference in Puerto Rico.

    Former President Bill Clinton, center, announced the projects during a two-day conference in Puerto Rico. | Photo: Twitter/@HillaryClinton

Published 31 January 2019

"Our work is far from over," Clinton said. "The work is not for those with short attention spans."

The Clinton Global Initiative announced a series of projects Tuesday aimed at helping the United States overseas territory of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, which have so far struggled to raise funding to rebuild following the deadly 2017 hurricane season.


Puerto Rico: Study Puts Hurricane Maria Death Toll at 2,975

However, many citizens in the Caribbean territories of Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, the Virgin Islands, and others included in the pledge would be wary of the aid offered following the Foundation's exploits in Haiti, where foreign aid came with a side of disease and a hefty portion of corruption. Especially after estimates put the cost to mend the damage caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria into the billions.

Former President Bill Clinton announced the projects during a two-day conference in Puerto Rico, which range from pledges to help provide clean water in the event of another disaster, building a hurricane resistant solar-powered library and launching an in-home therapy pilot program, among others. ​​​
"Our work is far from over," Clinton said. "The work is not for those with short attention spans."

Former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who attended the event and Bill made grandiose promises in the aftermath of the 2010 quake, which caused a minimum of 92,000 deaths according to a study done by Radio Netherlands. Although internal estimates placed the figure at 230,000 in February 2010 rasing to 316,000 according to data published by former Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive in January 2011.

The Clinton Foundation itself was responsible for $30 million in recovery funds, while the United Nations estimates over $10 billion of aid was pledged to Haiti. Many critics in Haiti and the U.S. have accused the Clinton of using global disasters as a part of a vast influence-peddling campaign, with poverty-stricken Haitians paying the price in this case.

“The Clinton family, they are crooks, they are thieves, they are liars,” Haitian activist Dahoud Andre told the BBC in 2016.

Kim Ives, the editor of the Haiti Liberte newspaper, added that “a lot of Haitians are not big fans of the Clintons, that’s for sure.”

"The fact the Clintons kind of took over things after the earthquake and did a pretty poor job of it translates to why the Haitians have a pretty dim view of them," he added.

At the time of the 2010 earthquake struck, Hillary was the Secretary of State, and Bill was made the UN Special Envoy to Haiti. The former President was also appointed co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), along with then Prime Minister Bellerive.

A report published by the US Government Accountability Office said there was "no hint of wrongdoing," however it was concluded the IHRC's decisions were "not necessarily aligned with Haitian priorities."

Bill Clinton's office at the UN found about 9% of the foreign aid cash went to the Haitian government and 0.6% to local aid organizations. The office also found that the majority of funds went to UN agencies, international aid groups, private contractors and donor countries' own civilian and military agencies.

The Pentagon, for example, billed the State Department hundreds of millions of dollars for troops, who only handed out bottled water and "kept order" on the streets of Haiti's capital.

Fast forward to the Clinton's most recent project, over 500 people representing 400 organizations attended the conference of the Clinton Global Initiative, which Clinton created to help raise attention and money for causes worldwide.

Many in the private sector promised to deliver several solar projects, including one that would make the Puerto del Rey marina in the island's northeast completely solar powered and another that would provide solar panels and a battery bank to the emergency management office in the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, which is still running on generators more than a year after Maria.

Another project includes improving technology to help governments across the Caribbean better prepare for natural disasters and their aftermath.

The pledges follow dozens of others made last year in previous conferences that include rebuilding schools, distributing solar lanterns and providing medical care and equipment.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Over 150,000 people and 75,000 buildings faced wind speeds higher than 252 kilometers per hour, according to ReliefWeb, a site operated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Three of the hardest-hit jurisdictions alone — Dominica, Barbuda, and the Virgin Islands — took some $5 billion worth of damage combined. While a study commissioned by Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rosello to the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University (GWU) revealed hurricane Maria left 2,975 deaths on that island, prompting the governor to update the official death toll from 64 to the number found by the study. 

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