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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student


The world stands with Haiti

Two weeks after an earthquake razed its capital to the ground, Haiti remains the topic du jour. Every morning, few – if any – newspapers lack “Haiti” on the front page.

When I get back from school, I notice the stack of my host family’s mail. On top is a Haitian man with his arms stretched wide and his face toward the sky. La Croix is a French daily newspaper, but last week a headline reads in Creole: “Senyè, vin sove nou” (“Lord, come save us”).

With nearly 1 million Haitian immigrants in close geographical proximity, the United States has clear reasons to be involved in the Haitian relief effort.
But what about the rest of the world? Haiti kicked out the French in the 19th century in the world’s first successful slave revolt. So what does Haiti’s former colonizer owe it today?

“We can’t be blamed for what happened hundreds of years ago,” said Olga Bykina, a student of the Rouen Business School.

Bykina said France might owe its more recent colonies direct support, but in Haiti only the connections between France and the Haitian diaspora community need to be considered.

“Any major power bears a responsibility to help poor nations. It’s in their interest to look good,” said Behzad Meshkati, a Canadian exchange student studying at Rouen.

Because France wielded such an influence in shaping Haiti’s culture and economy, it owes Haiti a degree of protection, aid and support, Meshkati said.

French columnist Hervé Kempf of Le Monde exhorts readers not to remain aloof to the suffering in Haiti. He draws links between the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 and the earthquake in Haiti two weeks ago.

He commends the Chinese government for its prompt and continued efforts to address the situation, citing that one quarter of a Chinese stimulus plan was dedicated to rebuilding the devastated region.

More remarkable yet, he notes the disaster was well-handled although there was a largely tepid world reaction.

On the other hand, he doubts the motives of the West in Haiti, despite a much louder global clamor for foreign aid.

“Will the Westerners, whose cargo planes will plant their flag at Port-au-Prince’s airport, be there in a year to truly support the reconstruction of Haiti?” he asks.

However, Haiti remains a thorny issue. Hugh Schofield of the BBC postulates that France is suffering from “tangible hurt pride” at taking a backseat to the U.S. in what was once its sphere of influence.

Nevertheless, it is clear that France and the U.S. are committed to spearheading the relief effort for the foreseeable future.

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