Taken from:

Eduardo A. de Oliveira

«These are not the conditions [that] human beings should be living in,» actor Matt Damon recalled Wyclef Jean, a Haitian hip-hop artist in the US, saying during a visit to Haiti last September.

Damon participated in a recent «Change Haiti Can Believe In» seminar at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. The debate circled mostly around misery, corruption, natural disasters, and reconstruction. A crowd of about 500 people came to the debate, hoping to hear the latest about the US island neighbor.

Born in 1804, Haiti was the first Latin American nation to be freed from slavery, which should have given the Caribbean country an edge. But a series of invasions, including by French and Americans, and several natural disasters deprived the Haitian people of much progress.

Today, Haiti’s 9 million people experience severe poverty, aggravated by profound social and political perils that range from the country’s infrastructure and job market, to an unequal education system.

«It’s not an accident…that Haiti has the highest rate of privatized schools in Latin America, and also has a lot of illiteracy,» said Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health, a nonprofit based in Haiti that provides access to health care for hundreds of Haitians.

«Education in Haiti hasn’t been viewed as a people’s right,» he added.

Massachusetts state Rep. Linda Docerna Forry, a Haitian-American who filled the Dorchester seat in Boston of former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran in 2005, said the country needs a collective answer.

Forry referred to the inheritance of a deteriorating political establishment, which has had no free elections from 1804 to the 1990.


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