The United States would be a lot more popular around the world if we didn’t do things like demand that Haiti not raise its minimum wage from 24 to 61 cents an hour. Our Deputy Chief of Mission down there, David Lindwall, has a funny sense of humor.
However, the Columbia Journalism Review has written up a summary of the Nation piece, recounting how American clothing makers with factories in Haiti were displeased after the government raised the minimum wage more than two and a half times the previous minimum 24 cents an hour.
The U.S. State Department subsequently brought pressure to bear on Haiti’s president, “who duly carved out a $3 a day minimum wage for textile companies.”
But the US Embassy still wasn’t pleased. According to the Wikileaks report excerpted by the CJr: “A deputy chief of mission, David E. Lindwall, said the $5 per day minimum “did not take economic reality into account” but was a populist measure aimed at appealing to “the unemployed and underpaid masses.”
David Lindwall is the son of missionary workers. I wonder if they brought the Gospel of Low Wages along with the Gospel According to John on their visits with the savages. Maybe Mr. Lindwall should consider the fact that we can’t make shirts in this country because of factories in Haiti that pay $3 for a full day’s work. I love how he complains about a measure to give more pay to the “underpaid masses.” What reckless populism!
But, hey, we also tried to tell the president of Haiti that he couldn’t take advantage of an arrangement with Venezuela that would save the poor island country a hundred million dollars a year.
The U.S. embassy at the time noted that Haiti would save a hundred million U.S. dollars a year under the terms of the PetroCaribe deal; the saved dollars would then earmarked for development in schools, health care, and infrastructure. Yet, under the charge of ambassador Janet Sanderson, the embassy immediately set out to sabotage the deal.
In a classified cable, Sanderson noted that the embassy started to “pressure” Haitian leader Rene Preval from joining PetroCaribe, saying that it would “cause problems with [the United States.]” Major oil companies — such as ExxonMobil and Chevron — began threatening to cut off ties with Haiti, and Sanderson repeatedly met with the energy firms to assure them that she would pressure Haiti at the “highest levels of government.” The U.S. embassy also continually warned Preval against traveling to Venezuela and collaborate with other left-wing governments in the region.
Despite this intimidation campaign, Haiti successfully completed its deal with PetroCaribe, rebuking both its superpower neighbor and the combined threats of the world’s most powerful oil corporations.
As, yes, Ambassador Janet Sanderson. What a treasure.
But, of course, this is not the fault of mid-to high level members of the State Department. This is just how America rolls. We can be a good friend when you’ve suffered a catastrophe or your neighbor is picking on you, but a lot of the time we’re just trying to keep the poor people down and our profits up. And that’s why a lot of people resent us.
You won’t see this on CNN.