Originally: Harvard Must Take 2nd Look at P. Farmer’s Relationship with Haiti’s Oppressors

Attention: Members of Executive Committee

               of the Harvard Haitian Alliance (HHA)
As you must all be aware, Dr. Paul Farmer’s work in the medical field in Haiti has been highly publicized recently. While we believe that Dr. Farmer’s reputation for humanitarian efforts to extend health care to one of the most remote areas of our homeland may be well deserved, we deplore the fact that he has placed that reputation at the service of a flagrantly anti-humanitarian political cause, namely the defense of a questionably-elected president in Haiti who is ruling by gross political violence. In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 15, 2003, for example, Dr. Farmer shamelessly defended the aggression of Aristide thugs against members of the civil society attempting to hold a peaceful meeting in a school in Port-au-Prince on July 12, 2003. Drawing on his affiliation with such prestigious institutions as Harvard University and the Bill and the Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Farmer has served as a perfect calling card for the team of high-powered lobbyists who have received about $2 million per year to market an enhanced image of Haiti’s first couple. 

 Overcommitted to a friendship with Haiti’s first lady Mildred Trouillot Aristide, Dr. Farmer and his colleague Nancy Dorsinville have relentlessly sought to align Harvard University behind Ms. Aristide’s agenda, ignoring all facts about the brutal oppression that the Haitian people have been suffering at the hands of Mr. Aristide’s militia during the past few years.  Similarly, Farmer and Dorsinville have spent a lot of time in Washington urging the World Bank and other international institutions to redirect funds originally earmarked for local NGOs in Haiti to government agencies, with a complete disregard of valid concerns of malfeasance backed by Transparency International’s findings about massive corruption within the Aristide administration.

Dr. Farmer’s crusade has resulted in dozens of front-page articles, radio and TV appearances, and even a recent book that portrays Mr. Aristide as the savior of the impoverished masses in Haiti.  The Sun-Sentinel, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times and National Public Radio are just a few of the venues that have uncritically carried his moving story.
Regrettably, Dr. Farmer’s  main marketing tactic has been an astute use of the highly-sensitive issue of HIV-AIDS in Haiti as an emotional tool to present Aristide as an innocent victim of a right-wing conspiracy emanating from rich people in Haiti and the Republican administration in the U.S.  This conspiracy strives to undermine Aristide’s selfless efforts to promote the well-being of Haiti’s poorest, especially Haiti’s children. Over time, this partisan message has evolved to include, as at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, direct jabs at the country’s struggling democratic movement — opposition parties, organized civil-society, human rights organizations, local media, in short, any and all who dare to dissent from Mr. Aristide’s ruling party and regime.
Today, in the aftermath of the regime’s bloody attack on students and academics on December 5, 2003 that has revealed the true nature of Aristide’ s government and its total disregard for the rule of law, we urge all members of the Harvard Haitian Alliance and of all other Haitian-American Students Associations (HASA) to petition the Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities at Harvard University and the Gates Foundation to take a hard second look at what  has been going on in Haiti and to distance themselves from Dr. Farmer’s shameful relationship with Aristide’s increasingly-despotic and corrupt government and his personal complicity in the many wrongdoings committed by Haiti’s first couple.
Myriam R. Celestin

Boca Raton, Fl 33432

December 15, 2003