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Behind the “Banana Man”: Haiti’s Only Presidential Candidate

If nothing changes, Haiti is scheduled to have a run-off election this coming Sunday, January 24. Only one candidate is running, a situation that has received the blessing of the European Union, United States, Organization of American States, and United Nations. The candidate is from the ruling party of Michel Martelly. Jovenel Moïse is also known as the “banana man.”

Who is this “Banana Man”? What have been the impacts of the much-touted project?

Agritrans SA, a large-scale banana export plantation, was designed and implemented in 2014 by Jovenel Moise in accordance with a public-private partnership with the Government of Haiti. The banana export plantation has so far converted 1000 hectares of the planned 3000 ha of state land in the Northeast Department that was previously utilized by small peasant farmers. The farmers, before the conversion, had grown food for their households and for small economic projects, as well as free ranged milking cattle for Veterimed.

Agritrans follos a foreign model. A 2009 report from British economist Paul Collier outlined export-oriented agriculture, using such “public private” partnerships, as blueprint for Haiti’s development. This report also hailed Bill Clinton as U.N. Special Envoy.

Agritrans, Haiti’s first agricultural export trading zone, has received US$27 million according to the Center for Facilitation of Investments. This is composed of $10.2 million from hundreds of shareholders, and $6 million from the Government of Haiti’s Industrial DevelopmentFund. Its “free trade zone” status will allow it to benefit from tax-free status for 15 years, including exemption from the communal taxes as well as having special customs treatment.

According to the mayors from Trou de Nord and Limonade, the tax collection office Direction Generale Impots (DGI) and Institut National de la Reforme Agraire Haitienne (INARA), who organizes state land use, the land officially belongs to the state and was leased to peasant organizations for farming activities.

All five peasant organizations who were interviewed in April 2014 opposed the land conversion. They were all informed with short notice that the conversion would occur, but the actual physical work came with no warning. Many lost cattle and crops in the transition. Local organizations asked for a meeting to discuss land changes, but their requests were ignored.

Over 3000 jobs were promised, however employment is closer to 600,with the majority of these for initial construction, including workers from Israel, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic to install the irrigation system. Promoters for Agritrans suggest employment numbers are closer to 3000, but these include the membership of farmer organizations and are not direct employees of the plantation. In these failed promises, Agritrans is much like neighboring project Caracol, also championed by Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,supposed to provide 60,000 jobs yet to date have hired only 4500.

Read the full story on counterpunch.org

Jan 22, 2016

Category: DR News |

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Last updated December 5, 2016 at 5:41 PM
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