03 February 2010
By Yulia Latynina
Haitian police have detained 10 Baptists from the United States who had planned to evacuate 33 orphans to a shelter in the Dominican Republic. The Haitian authorities claim that the group took the children illegally and hinted that the Yankees were involved in an illegal adoption scheme, child trafficking or even organ trafficking.
I asked Moskovsky Komsomolets journalist Alexander Kots, who had been on assignment with Russian rescue workers in Haiti, why it took 15 days to find the last survivors. “They were found long before that, but nobody pulled them out,” Kots answered.
That is, a person is lying in the ruins, crying out for help — he is even visible through a hole to the outside — but he is left to suffer in horrid conditions. Sometimes workers bring him food and water, but they report that all survivors have been pulled out of the wreckage.
Except for the 48 hours immediately after the earthquake hit, rescuers never worked at night in Haiti. The streets became very dangerous. There were armed bandits roaming the streets, not to mention cannibals looking for prey. Even the police stayed home. But there was one area where law enforcement officials showed amazing diligence: detaining U.S. citizens for taking orphans without the proper documents.
I have two main questions. First, is it even possible to obtain the proper documents in a country where the president still doesn’t know how many people have died? Second, considering that Haiti had the highest infant mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere even before the earthquake, why are they suddenly so concerned about the fate of these, or any other, children?
The United States has collected more aid for Haiti than any other country. And in return for their generous assistance, the Americans have received an avalanche of criticism from the international community and even from the very people whom they are rescuing. The Haitian Internet is full of comments saying U.S. aid — above all, military personnel on the ground — is just a pretext for yet another invasion.
In reality, the United States has reacted to the 200,000 deaths in Haiti as if its own people had suffered. But the Haitian authorities do not view the deaths of their own citizens in the same way. Human life in Haiti has a very different value. It cannot have a high value in a country where voodoo is the official religion.
Moreover, the authorities for so many years ignored the fact that 99 percent of Haitians lived in homes made from substandard concrete. It is no surprise that they collapsed like a house of cards by an earthquake with a magnitude of only 7.1, which would never be catastrophic in other countries where homes are built from normal materials.
There is nothing unusual in looters sacking Haitian stores after the disaster. Looting would have happened in any country under these circumstances. I can also understand why the Haitian police don’t dare go on the streets at night.
But what I can’t understand for the life of me is why police detain Baptists for wanting to save orphans from hell. Instead of thanking the Baptists, they hint that they are involved in organ trafficking.
Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.