With contingents of up to 3200 soldiers, over twice the number of the country’s current contribution to the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the Brazilian Armed Forces are at present occupying large parts of the favela agglomeration Complexo da Maré in Rio de Janeiro. After the mission in Alemão and Penha (Operação Arcanjo, November 2010 – June 2012), this is the second occasion on which the Armed Forces have significantly contributed to the Pacification programme.
Two countries (and keywords!) that have recently been in the headlines are Haiti and Cuba – the former because it suffered a devastating earthquake earlier in the year and the latter because significant changes seem imminent in one of the world’s last communist bastions.
For both countries our Digital Library offers extensive resources for research ‘behind the headlines’ and for further insights into the historical challenges and future prospects of these two fragile Caribbean nations.
Head out to explore our holdings and let us know what you found particularly interesting and helpful. Some publications worth highlighting include:
- An Elcano Royal Institute paper examining the history of Cuba’s economic development since the 1990s.
- A comprehensive US Congressional Research Service report on Cuba.
- Two United States Institute of Peace papers on the importance of educational reform in Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and on the state of the country six months after the catastrophe.
- An Elcano Royal Institute paper on the role of US military aid in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake.
The Haiti earthquake has become the new measure of generosity.
The country’s big northern neighbours have earned much praise for their effort: The US has pledged $168 million to date, and Canada $131 million. The bronze medal goes to Spain, with ‘only’ $45 million, although the latest data from ReliefWeb indicates that Saudi Arabia has caught up.
But data journalist David McCandless puts things into perspective: Measured as a percentage of GDP, the most generous countries in the Haiti crisis have been… Guyana and Ghana! Canada and all Nordic countries make it to the top ten in this wealth-corrected ranking as well, but not Uncle Sam.
Beyond its primary purpose of disaster relief, the donation campaign has lifted Haiti out of the realm of forgotten poverty-stricken nations. This is a chance for the country, but I am worried about two potential pitfalls.
For all the criticism about open collaborative projects, these have one unquestionable asset: the speed and efficiency of updates.
In crisis situations such as the Haiti earthquake, this makes all the difference. I’ve been following the developments of OpenStreetMap (OSM) after the first earthquake hit and it’s fascinating. Just check this comparision with Google to convince yourself (play with the transparency in the top right corner).
In the critical 72 hours following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the country lacked almost everything: drinking water, food, basic medical supplies, doctors, lifting equipment, power generators, you name it.
But what it did not lack were journalists. A who’s who of reporters from the great cable networks like CNN and MSNBC were on the ground within hours.
This is not a problem in and of itself, had it not been for the fact that the airport outside of Port-au-Prince was partly damaged and over capacity. This caused long delays for rescue teams trying to land there. Some planes providing aid had to be turned away.
Journalists were in many cases the first people from outside the island to venture into the devastated alleyways of the capital city. Many of them took on an active role helping locals to pull earthquake victims out of the rubble. One CNN journalist reported that he gave his granola bar to a starving earthquake victim.
What these journalists-turned-emergency-rescuers did during those critical hours following the earthquake is nothing but human. If you see suffering and are in the position to help, lending a hand is not only the natural but also the ethical thing to do.
Still, it is my guess that the residents of Port-au-Prince would have preferred to see rescue workers with chain saws instead of journalists with camera equipment coming their way.