Haitian corruption and graft delay relief efforts, punishes destitute refugees

April 21, 2010 04:12

Police and bureaucrats hold aid groups’ vehicles hostage for exorbitant fees, starving refugees wait for water and food

By Jonathan StrongThe Daily Caller

In Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, there is a police impound lot where dozens of brand-new vehicles sit gleaming in the sun, sporting the logos of aid groups that poured into the city to help in the wake of a devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and left 1 million homeless.

Haitian police are holding the vehicles for ransom, American aid workers say, demanding exorbitant sums for registration technicalities. The relief workers call it a brazen display — even for a country known to be rife with corruption.

When many of the vehicles were brought into Haiti, as cries rang out from beneath the rubble, there was no Haitian government to register the vehicles. The factory that made license plates, for instance, was destroyed.

But in mid-March, less than two months after the earthquake that registered 7.0 on the Richter scale, Haitian police began to impound vehicles without tags.

Relief groups are given a choice, American aid workers say: Pay a fine of 50 percent of the vehicles’ value, which quickly adds up to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for most groups, or wait two to three months for paperwork to be processed.

Another option is a temporary workaround: Hiring a police escort for $100 per day per vehicle will ensure other Haitian police don’t fine aid workers or impound vehicles. The average Haitian wage is $7 a day.

Five Americans from four aid groups confirmed the vehicle registration problem in Port-au-Prince. No governments would discuss the issue — the State Department, U.S. A.I.D., the United Nations and the Haitian embassy in Washington all declined talk to The Daily Caller about it.

Although developing countries often use vehicle duties as a lucrative revenue stream, aid workers say they are shocked at the callous disregard Haitian authorities have for their fellow citizens — who are, to this day, living in tent cities and waiting in miles-long bread lines.


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