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Last night Direct Relief International and the UC Haiti Initiative packed Campbell Hall for a free screening of the documentary Baseball in the Time of Cholera, which takes a critical look at the recent cholera outbreak in Haiti.
The event began with a panel discussion featuring the film’s director Bryn Mooser and Direct Relief International representatives Brett Williams and Andrew MacCalla, who shared insight and updates on the state of Haiti’s healthcare system following the disastrous earth- quake that struck the nation in January 2010. Following the screening of Baseball in the Time of Cholera, which earned a “Special Jury Mention” in the category of “Best Documentary Short” at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, attendees pitched questions to renowned Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph and Operation Blessing International Vice-President David Darg during a Q&A session.
Joseph — who famously led the prosecution in the case of the Raboteau Massacre in 2000 — said the event’s primary goal was to show human rights injustices present in Haiti, including a recent cholera outbreak that has reportedly killed 7,500 people to date.
Discussion moderator Trevor Neilson, president of Global Philanthropy Group, said Haiti is a complex country with national issues but a relentlessly optimistic public and colorful culture.
“We’re going to get into some really sticky issues tonight,” Neilson said. “Haiti is not a simple place, and it’s not a place where you’re going to find a lot of clarity when we look at what’s happening there.” While the cholera epidemic is often called a ‘natural disaster,’ it was actually brought in by UN troops, accord- ing to Joseph.
Furthermore, Joseph said UN troops should not have been occupying Haiti as there was no ‘war’ and therefore no legal justification for their occupation. According to Joseph, such a violation of self-determination is due to racism.
“So it’s an illegality that has created this disaster,” Joseph said. “What we’d like to do is expose the racial discrimination because [the UN] wouldn’t do that in the U.S. or France.”
Haiti is currently the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, a burden Joseph said is exacerbated by imperialist policies of the U.S. and other Western powers.
According to Joseph, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s interference in last year’s Haitian elections only intensified the damage.
“So Clinton right now is practically the president of Haiti because we had a very bad election and it was the wife of Clinton who basically put in the new president of Haiti,” Joseph said. “He admitted when he was president that he did bad to Haiti. His free trade policies might’ve been good for farms in Arkansas but they destroyed the economy in Haiti.”
In order to counteract these policies, Joseph encouraged students to educate themselves and try volunteering in Haiti or writing their con- gressmen, adding that he has faith in the American people, if not the American government.
“Students will be the taxpayers [so] they must understand how the American government badly uses the taxes they’re going to be paying,” Joseph said. “[But] I understand the American people love Haitians. There’s over 1 million Haitians living in the U.S. and they’re not mis- treated.”