Last night, the national debate landed in Miami for a couple minutes, when Donald Trump reminded the world that he came to Little Haiti a few weeks ago and found many Haitian immigrants and Haitian-Americans who really don’t like the Clintons.
“I want to tell you, they hate the Clintons, because what’s happened in Haiti with the Clinton Foundation is a disgrace. And you know it, and they know it, and everybody knows it,” he said last night.
The Haitian community generally votes Democrat, but this year it’s a little complicated. They have issues with Hillary and Bill Clinton’s past work in Haiti, from the way the Clinton Foundation spent money after the 2010 earthquake to the way the U.S. stepped in on elections and the economy while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
— Nadege C. Green (@NadegeGreen) October 20, 2016
It’s unlikely to actually prompt them to vote for Trump over Clinton, but it does make them less than thrilled about the Democratic candidate.
Where’s the money?
After the 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, killing 220,000 people and displacing 1.5 million, Clinton, then secretary of state, and her husband (named a special envoy to Haiti for the United Nations), helped raise billions of dollars for recovery.
According to a US assessment of spending in Haiti after the earthquake, $10.4 billion was pledged in total for humanitarian relief and recovery efforts and approximately $6.4 billion was spent. But a 2012 report from the UN says only a little over $600 million, about 10 percent of what was spent, went directly to the Haitian government and local organizations. That across-the-board failure has many Haitians wondering specifically about the Clinton Foundation now that she is running.
“I’m not sure what they’ve done,” said Francesca Menes, policy and advocacy coordinator for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “Six years after and we haven’t seen anything come out of it.”
“There definitely is a lot of tension with supporting Clinton because she refuses to acknowledge what she’s done” with that earthquake recover money, added Menes, who was born in Haiti and raised in Little Haiti. “Where did the money go? Who is willing to answer that question?”
During the debate the Clinton campaign sent out an email blast fact checking Trump’s claims about the Clinton Foundation’s work in Haiti:
Through the Clinton Foundation, President Clinton helped secure $30 million in immediate relief for those in need. All the funds raised by the Foundation were directed for emergency needs – such as medical supplies, tents and basic sanitation – and disbursed to leading non-profit organizations. Unlike other organization, not a single penny was kept by the Foundation for overhead.
Since 2010, the Clinton Foundation has continued to support the economic recovery and rebuilding of Haiti. Through the Foundation’s work, small businesses and entrepreneurs have received essential grants and assistance, Haitian students have received intern programs and scholarships for a better future, rural communities have received training in adult and financial literacy and one of the most important watersheds in Haiti has been protected.
…I'm officially silent, so as to say something I may regret later! Neither one of these candidates should be talking about Haiti! #Debate
— franmenes (@francescamenes) October 20, 2016
Mind your own business
As secretary of state in 2010, Clinton backed a recommendation from the Organization of American States that presidential candidate Jude Celestin should be left off the ballot in favor of populist rival Michel Martelly.
The Chicago Tribune reported Clinton “insisted that the United States would press the recommendations by international monitors after a disorganized, fraud-ridden first-round presidential vote in November. They determined that Preval’s preferred successor, Celestin, finished last and should drop out.”
“For all practical purposes the U.S. put him in power,” said Robert Fatton, professor of politics at the University of Virginia. “And if you are pro-Martelly you like what she did.”
Martelly won the presidency by popular vote of the Haitian people. While his presidency was controversial, the resentment is largely over the fact that they feel Clinton essentially chose their president for them.
“The same U.S. policy of building up governments,” Menes said. “Martelly is the person they chose to have access to Haiti.”
Martelly left office in February without an elected successor. Elections have been repeatedly postponed.
But will it be enough?
All this adds up to Haitians’ willingness to at least hear Trump out, even if they don’t like what he’s saying.
“At least he showed the courtesy,” said Menes. “She doesn’t even have the respect to meet with our community.”
But this doesn’t mean Haitians are going to turn out in droves for Trump. They still don’t like most of what he is peddling, particularly when it comes to immigration.
Immigration is a particularly hot topic for Haitians right now because the Obama administration is considering ending “temporary protected status” for Haitians illegally in the US. The policy went into effect after the 2010 earthquake because it was considered inhumane to return Haitians to their devastated homeland. Before Matthew, the Obama administration determined Haiti had stabilized enough to resume the practice, but because of the storm’s impact the Department of Homeland Security has temporarily suspended deportations.
Clinton is seen as more sympathetic on this issue than Trump, but Clinton is going to have to work hard to gain their trust and excitement in these last couple weeks before election day.
“I’m voting for her but I do not support her,” said Menes.
— franmenes (@francescamenes) October 20, 2016