US project in Haiti took land and broke promises
In the countryside, people rarely have bank accounts; instead, land and livestock are insurance for a rainy day. Often, when there is a death in the family, a graduation, or school fees to pay, people sell whole swaths of their land. Thus, when a plot is put up for sale, its owner is eager to resell it quickly.
Duone’s father said the UTE did not call him back in time and he lost the land he hoped to acquire. After a while he found another, but again UTE took too long and the land was sold to someone else. Joassaint said private land purchases — which Duone’s father requested — take longer to process than public land purchases. According to him, an amendment made last year to the 2018 agreement clarified that public lands were also available as compensation.
“We know of some private land cases where there is no doubt about their eligibility and the documents provided,” said Megumi Tsutsui, one of the farmer’s attorneys and a communities associate at Accountability Counsel, “but there is no transparency on the cause of the delay.”
In a survey of 158 people who participated in the small business development part of the deal, less than half said their income had increased ‘after investing part of their first payment’, according to a Mechanism report IDB’s Independent Advisory and Investigation Office, which receives complaints from communities affected by bank-financed projects. In recent years, Duone’s mother, who said she also had a plot of land that was seized, received two stipends to open a small business. With the first, she bought soft drinks and water to resell from home until the money ran out. She used the second to buy two goats but lost them earlier this year after a flood hit the area.
Others have experienced similar setbacks.
After Polline Pierre lost her land, money became scarce and, one by one, her nine children stopped going to school. Three of them have moved to the neighboring Dominican Republic. Her husband, Damusca Fucien, chose to receive materials and have a well dug on another piece of land the family owned. But it has since dried up. According to the IDB report, agricultural equipment was distributed to 63 of the 89 people registered for this option.
Fucien said he reported the problem to the local UTE office, which subcontracted the digging of the wells to the Ministry of Agriculture, but nothing was done. Joassaint said all “slow-flowing” wells have been repaired.
Joassaint admitted that he was not entirely satisfied with the way the implementation of the agreement was going. “There are things we are doing now that we should have done before,” he said of compensating affected families.
Cheryl Mills, then Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff and her interlocutor on the Caracol project, did not respond to a request for comment via an email sent to the company she founded after she left the Department of State, BlackIvy.
About 20% of those affected by the Caracol program who have registered for training and employment in the park have been offered employment since the agreement was signed. RP, a woman in her twenties whose father and grandmother have both been displaced, is one of them. She received training at the industrial park in 2019.
She didn’t hear from the park’s tenants until last year, when they reached out to offer her a job hemming t-shirts. RP, who is only identified by her initials to avoid reprisals from her employer, earns about $6 a day. She said she wishes she could respond to supervisors who get visibly angry when she doesn’t meet production quotas, but are afraid of how they might react.
She doesn’t know if the money is worth the discomfort she feels at the park.
“You have to keep it inside of you,” she said, “and it makes you cry.”