The people of Haiti need our solidarity in the face of the increasing violence of the fraudulently imposed government of Jovenel Moise.
Last Thursday July 14, 2017, in Petionville, Haiti, near Port-au-Prince, a young book vendor was shot to death by a police officer in front of horrified witnesses. The police used tear gas and batons against a crowd outraged by the murder and the quick, forcible removal of the body in a perceived attempt at a cover up. This is the latest of recent extra-judicial killings by the Haitian police and paramilitary forces.
The brutal killing occurred as the occupation government of Jovenel Moise, installed in the fraudulent elections of November 2016, is pushing to restore the brutal and corrupt Haitian military, which was disbanded by then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995. Moise has stated that he wants the Army back within two years. Haitians remember the US-supported bloody rampage by former members of this army that claimed thousands of lives during the period of the 2004 coup d'etat against the elected government. The US/UN forces and occupation governments subsequently integrated many of these killers into the Haitian police and government paramilitary units.
This announcement takes place at a volatile moment in Haitian society. The Haitian police and other government paramilitary forces, accompanied by UN occupation forces, have carried out criminal attacks against protesting teachers, students, factory workers, market women, street vendors and others who are victims of government extortion, theft of land, money and merchandise.
· On July 10 - 12, 2017, during three days of peaceful protest for an increase in the minimum wage, Haitian police attacked the workers from the industrial park in Port-au-Prince with tear gas, batons and cannons shooting a liquid skin irritant. One of the beaten workers is a woman who had recently returned to work from giving birth.
· On June 12, the government-appointed rector of the Haitian State University used his car to hit and run over a protesting university student. The government prosecutor has ignored the complaint filed by the students against the rector and is instead pursuing the victim's colleagues in a blatant attempt to harass and intimidate them.
· In May 2017, units of the Haitian police and paramilitary forces again attacked the people of Arcahaie protesting the government's plan to remove the main revenue-generating district from the community, located about 30 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince.
· In May 2017, a food vendor in Petionville was killed after he was deliberately hit and run over by a car of the municipal paramilitary forces according to outraged witnesses.
· On March 20th, 2017, police officers were videotaped shooting at the car carrying President Aristide and Fanmi Lavalas presidential candidate Dr. Maryse Narcisse as they returned from court. The police officers were reportedly observed returning to the national palace; there was no condemnation of this blatant assassination attempt by the government.
Adding a newly organized Haitian Army to this mix is a sign that the Haitian government is planning on more repression. The Haitian military’s purpose was to protect Haitian dictatorships and to attack any challenges by the Haitian people. Whether under the Duvalier dictatorships from 1957-1986 or when the military overthrew the democratically elected Aristide government in 1991, leading to the killing of over 5000 people, the military has been a central anti-democratic institution in Haitian society. When then-President Aristide disbanded the narco-trafficking Haitian military in 1995, the Army was eating up 40% of the national budget in a country with fewer than two doctors per 10,000 people.
Now this infamous military is being restored just as the United Nations is said to begin a staged withdrawal of its troops. This is similar to what happened following the U.S. occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, a period in which 20,000 Haitians were killed. As the U.S. forces withdrew, they left in place a neo-colonial army with Haitian faces to do their bidding and continue the repression of popular discontent.
Haitians are saying NO to the restoration of an additional repressive military force. They are demanding an end to police terror and an end to impunity. We join their call.
E-mail and phone-in campaign to:
- Say No to the Restoration of the brutal Haitian military
- Hold the US and UN occupation accountable for the terror campaign by the Haitian police and security forces they train and supervise.
- Say No to impunity for police terror in Haiti
- US State Department: HaitiSpecialCoordinator@state.gov
- Your Member of Congress: 202-224 3121
- UN Mission in Haiti: email@example.com
CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston published the following article at World Politics Review:
The UN’s Legacy in Haiti: Stability, but for Whom?
After 13 years and more than $7 billion, the “touristas” — as the United Nations soldiers that currently occupy Haiti are commonly referred to — will finally be heading home. Well, sort of. While thousands of troops are expected to depart in October, the UN has authorized a new, smaller mission composed of police that will focus on justice and strengthening the rule of law. But the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH, is not just thousands of foreign soldiers “keeping the peace.” It is the latest and most visible manifestation of the international community’s habit of intervening in Haiti, a habit that is unlikely to change.
World powers have always had a difficult time accepting Haitian sovereignty. When a slave revolt delivered Haiti independence from France in 1804, gunboat diplomacy ensured the liberated inhabitants would pay for their freedom. For the next 150 years, Haiti paid France a ransom for its continued independence. In the early twentieth century, a new hegemonic power held sway, with US Marines occupying the country for more than 20 years.
Two hundred years after Haitian independence, when the UN Security Council created MINUSTAH, it also mandated the formation of the “Core Group,” which included MINUSTAH’s leadership as well as diplomatic representatives from foreign governments and multilateral organizations. Since its creation, the group has influenced — subtly and not so subtly — Haiti’s internal affairs, with the backing of a heavily armed military force.
Read the rest here at World Politics Review.
The army was disbanded in 1995 following a bloody period of military rule that resulted from the U.S.-backed removal of President Aristide in 1991
It has been over twenty years since the Haitian armed forces were dissolved, and replaced by a continuous United Nations security force presence on the island, but now the Haitian government has initiated the process to reform its armed forces as the UN mission is scheduled to leave the country later this year.
The government is looking to recruit approximately 500 soldiers to serve as border patrol, security, and natural disaster relief, in addition to supplementing the civilian police force of 15,000 officers.
The United Nations Security Council announced in April that it would be withdrawing its “blue helmet” security forces from the island, leaving a group of Brazilian army soldiers in Haiti until October, when UN security operations in Haiti are set to end officially.
Some politicians have hoped the move will also provide jobs for young Haitians. The positions are open to both men and women between the ages of 18 and 25. Others, however, are more wary of the move, fearing the potential for politicization.
The Haitian military has its origins in the Haitian Revolution that overthrew French colonial rule, but the revolutionary army was dissolved shortly after by mandate of the occupying United States Marine Corp forces. Since then, the army has come in and out of existence, often being heavily politicized during oppressive governments such as that of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier who sidelined the army in favor of private militias.
The most recent iteration of the Haitian armed forces was disbanded in 1995 following several years of military-junta rule after a U.S.-backed military coupremoved popular democratically elected President Aristide, a priest, and liberation theologian.
According to Harvard University academic and writer Paul Farmer, "Declassified records now make it clear that the CIA and other US groups helped to create and fund a paramilitary group called FRAPH, which rose to prominence after a military coup that ousted Aristide in September 1991... For the next three years, Haiti was run by military-civilian juntas as ruthless as the Duvaliers."
Over 4,000 people are beleived to have been killed in the few years following 1991.
Following a plea deal struck in April, U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga on Jun. 21 in Miami sentenced former Haitian soldier, police officer, paramilitary leader, presidential candidate, and Senator-elect Guy Philippe, 49, to 108 months in U.S. Federal prison for laundering up to $3.5 million in drug money between 1999 and 2003.
If he had gone to trial and been convicted of the other two charges against him for drug trafficking and “Engaging in Transactions Derived from Unlawful Activity,” Philippe could have been sent to jail for life. Instead, those charges were dropped, and, as recommended by prosecutors, he received the minimum sentence allowed in a plea bargain on the remaining charge of money laundering. With good conduct, he could get out of jail in seven and a half years, or 2024. Judge Altonaga said that Philippe would be on probation for three years after serving his sentence but will almost surely be deported back to Haiti.
“There was also a $1.5 million judgement entered against him for forfeiture, so the government is allowed to go after assets up to the amount of $1.5 million,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn M. Kirkpatrick after the sentencing hearing.
The sentencing, which had originally been scheduled for Jul. 5, took all of ten minutes.Demonstrators organized by Veye Yo rallied outside the courthouse to say that the sentence was too lenient. Credit: Miami Herald
Outside the courthouse, about a dozen demonstrators convened by the Miami-based Haitian popular organization Veye Yo, founded by the late Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste three decades ago, denounced Philippe’s close association with Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and condemned the sentence as too lenient.
“We told the judge that nine years was too little and to add another nine to it,” said Veye Yo leader Tony Jean-Thénor. “Make the sentence 99 years, we said.”
The demonstrators held up posters showing Philippe and Moïse embracing and campaigning together before the anemic Nov. 20, 2016 election in which they were both elected. On the picture was printed: “Guy Philippe and Jovenel Moïse: Drug-Dealing Brothers in Crime.”
“We told the judge that nine years was too little and to add another nine to it,” said Veye Yo leader Tony Jean-Thénor. “Make the sentence 99 years, we said.”
“Philippe is just the tip of the iceberg,” Jean-Thénor told Haïti Liberté. “Jovenel Moïse was the one who introduced former President Michel Martelly to fugitive drug trafficker Evinx Daniel [arrested in 2013 by Haitian police then released through the president’s intervention, he disappeared into the Haitian countryside], according to Sweet Micky [Martelly’s nickname] himself. The Senate President, Youri Latortue, is described as a drug dealer and Mafia boss by the U.S. Embassy itself in secret cables released by Wikileaks and Haïti Liberté. Guy Philippe was not the only candidate to use drug money to buy his way to a parliamentary post in the 2015 and 2016 elections which were boycotted by over 80% of Haitian voters.”
Other demonstrators complained that Philippe had not been prosecuted for much more serious offenses than laundering money and running drugs. “His real crimes are, first, that he was instrumental in helping to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004,” said Simonville Estinphil, 65, a retired security guard. “Then, after the coup, in Cap Haïtien, he and his paramilitaries locked many Aristide supporters in a container and dropped them in the sea, drowning them. This was just the worst of many murders his thugs committed from 2001 to 2004. Then, in May of last year, his troops attacked the Aux Cayes police station, killing a police officer and wounding others. Guy Philippe has wronged Haiti in many ways. I hope he is judged there when he is sent back after doing his time in the States.”Guy Philippe’s “real crimes” were helping to overthrow Aristide, killing Aristide supporters, and killing and wounding policemen in 2016, said demonstrator Simonville Estinphil.
Although dozens of Guy Philippe’s supporters traveled to Miami for his arraignment in January, to proclaim his innocence and demand his release, only one showed up on Jun. 21 for the sentencing.
Mistaking the Veye Yo demonstrators for allies, the Philippe supporter took one of their signs and held it up. But when he heard their chant – “Nine years is not enough!” – he realized his mistake, dropped the sign, and ran away.
Haitian police arrested Philippe outside a radio station in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 5, 2017, just days before he would have been sworn in as a Haitian Senator with legal immunity. He was extradited the same day to Miami, having eluded capture by U.S. authorities since he was indicted in 2005.
“This case is the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies,” wrote the office of Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Benjamin G. Greenberg, in a press release. “The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations and enterprises.”
Just long enough to feel more than Coo-coo and for there to be too much to process.
I tell Troy, "I'm crazy. I need to write this stuff out."
He says, "Please.Then. GO."
<MY GOODNESS, WOMAN. Have you learned nothing?!?>
I go to my laptop. I open it. This time I turn on a Selah / Christy Nockles song and toss it back to 2006, before life got so real.
I find no hope within to call my ownFor I am frail of heart, my strength is goneBut deep within my soul is rising up a songHere in the comfort of the faithful one
Certain lyrics are so raw, they force me to sob for two hours. After the sobbing I have fat eyes, am tired, and terribly ugly. I no longer feel the need to write.
This cycle repeats itself in varying forms with varying lyrics until I arrive at the day that some of the crazy hard stuff seems kinda funny and some of the stuff that made me angry becomes hilariously absurd. That is when I write.
Painting Kids -
Summer is designed to kill all the Mothers (and some Fathers) with anxiety. What is the anxiety, you ask? Well, the anxiety is about bored, unstimulated, and under-attended kids roaming around thinking about how to be on the Internet and play video games more than they are allowed.
Every summer, the months of June, July and August attempt to wreck my life. The lament over the situation is dramatic, although it mainly remains internal lament. The messages being spoken from inside the crazy house (my head) are never positive. The tape replays. Certainly summer will win and we will all die of the sweaty-hotness and the lack of healthy distractions from said heat.
Assignment number one of summer? Get the kids to paint cement walls that surround our home. Keep them occupied and away from Internet and evil. Is this paint necessary? No. Not at all. Is this paint going to be an improvement to the feng-shui of the 10 foot cement walls with barbed wire on top? No.Cement walls are ugly no matter what color, grey or white or candy-striped. Painting walls will occupy several hours of time.
Someone suggested we change the color of the walls every two or three days. We are taking that under dead-serious advisement. If paint were cheaper this would be a done deal. It is basically what a lot of short term mission groups do anyway, paint the thing that was just painted.
Summer Travel for Kids-
The good news? Travel begins on July 9 for the 15 and a half year old kids, Isaac and Hope. Hope will go to Cape Girardeau, MO to be with the Ferguson family. This is the family that gave us Walnut, our GoldenDoodle. We met them in 2010 and have laughed a lot and been so well loved as we have grown closer. Hope will be going to art camp and classes and doing some singing and acting and dancing too. She will see what a family besides ours is like. Hopefully she still wants to come back to our family in mid August. By hopefully, I mean, there is no chance at all that she will.
Truthfully, I want to be Hope. I think her summer plans are the most exciting of anyone.
Isaac is also leaving July 9.
He and Hope have one flight together, the one out of Port au Prince. His seat was a wonky pricing situation and it was cheaper to put him in business class. This means Hope will slum it like the commoners and Isaac will be sipping a Mimosa up front.
They part ways in Miami and Isaac is going to take Driver's Training in El Paso, TX. I wish I could spy on the process of their transfer from flight number one to flight number two. That is going to be some great comedy. You might believe that Driver's Ed in El Paso would be learning to ride a horse or a wild bull or something super Western like that. Not true. We found out that there are cars in El Paso and he will learn to drive one from Michael (his responsible brother-in-law). Please don't bring up why we think Michael should teach and not Paige. I cannot tell why. But it is because Paige is a wild distracted driver.
The classroom part of the education will be a few hours each day for a month. If I know Isaac he will have every dang rule of Texas roads totally memorized and be able to repeat them in alphabetical order if you so desire that. He will get to be with Paige and Michael and his two nephews for six weeks +. He is awesome with those little boys and is looking forward to being with the Gonzales family. At the end of Isaac's time in TX, Britt and Gideon will go west to visit too.
On July 22 Noah goes to our friends Scott and April Salvant. This was a life goal of his because he desperately loves his friends, Jeff and Dave Salvant and he just about broke when they had to leave Haiti to help their Momma fight Cancer. He will spend two weeks in Virgina and then he and the teenage Salvant boys will get on a Southwest flight and fly to Dallas together. Three teenage knot-heads free in the sky. I shudder. Noah told me his goal is to get dragged off the plane (like that guy we saw recently, he said) and have a video of it go viral. I wish I thought that was a joke. Watch for that on August 4. Once to Dallas he says goodbye to his buddies and spends a day with Britt and Chris and Gideon before going way further west to see the El Paso contingent.
Noah and Isaac will fly home together in late August. That will be another day to watch for viral videos. It will be Noah stirring some pot, and Isaac will be begging him to behave and biting his nails off in the background.
On July 22 Lydie and Phoebe get two weeks in Florida with Grandma and Grandpa Livesay. They are saying that Grandma and Grandpa Livesay give them ALL THE POP and ALL THE WATERMELON AND STRAWBERRIES and outside of those facts nothing else matters. Pop and fruit equals LIFE MADE. Those two little fools are besties and I am guessing Troy's parents are going to laugh a lot for two weeks.
All of the above means that Troy and Tara have two weeks with zero children in Haiti. The last time that happened was due to a dramatic-evacuation of our children after an earthquake in 2010. This should be far more pleasant and hopefully a lot sexier. What do people do when they come home to a house without thirty-thousand requests for any number of things? I know this: Troy hopes they have "advanced romance" with that free time. I hope they sleep and sleep and sleep. Maybe we can find a way to compromise. Time will tell. Two weeks without kids. We have been married 19 years and this has never happened without some terrible circumstance. Troy married himself into fatherhood. It will be wild to see what no kids is like. My friends predict we will sit around talking to our kids on FaceTime. I vow to do exactly that.
Eight years ago on a particularly hot as balls night, I asked Troy to please sleep outside with me. He said, "No not gonna." I asked another 56 times in the following seven summers. He always pulled his nose up and said, "No go."
One day in late May of 2017 he said, "Okay, I will". We have been sleeping outside every single night since then. It is easily 10 to 15 degrees cooler. The normal fipping of sweaty pillowcase is no longer required. The stars and the moon are overhead and the palm trees blow in the breeze near our bed. The only downside is the blood loss from mosquitoes, but we will ward off the anemia with vitamins and iron. In the morning it sometimes looks like someone murdered us by tiny stabs with little pin prick blood spots making our solid sheets appear to have a pattern. After 8 years of asking, we now sleep outside. If I hate it, I cannot admit it. So I am not.
one of these two people won a decade long battle - the other is the loser - or maybe both are losers
Sarah and Sophie-
Carline - Sophie's nanny next fall The summer is going to mean less Sophia and Sarah, but they should be back in our neighborhood by late August. (You may recall some dishonesty with Sarah's mom and some confusion. We are always confused, so that has not changed but the situation is a little less tenuous right now.)
Sarah is going to be living with an aunt in Carrefour, about 90+ minutes away with traffic. (So like 7 miles.) Her Mom will be way down south in an area where they have a garden. The current intel we have is that everyone is back in Port au Prince by the time school starts up again. Sophia will be cared for while Sarah goes to school starting again in the fall. The nanny we hired is adorable (see her with her precious baby girl on her graduation day from the program). Carline will come Monday to Friday to be with Sophie during school hours. A job for Carline and a trustworthy daycare person for Sarah. Hoping and praying this can be win/win. Expecting any number of things to jack with us on the way to that goal.
I have been trying to make my kids leave the house to make them have a life. We went to buy paint one day. My kids claim that I outwardly show more aggression and anger about traffic things than their Dad. They say he holds it in better. As if.
That statement? It's whatever.
The way humanitarian type people in developing countries use this word is so much liar liar pants on fire. I roll my eyes every time I hear it. Not that many things are sustainable in practice. According to websites and tag lines, all of it is sustainable. I always want to scream-quote Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." (Also as an aside, Mandy Patinkin is my older man crush. Don't tell Troy.)
Midwifery is hard - Haiti is harder
We (The MC staff) have had a rough go lately too. I posted six photos on IG about Rebecca, a really amazing client of the Maternity Center. Check that out and feel the feelings with us.
My hormones are so jacked beyond belief. I'm wishing I knew how to tell you ALL about it in a way that would cause you to know I am dead serious and also about to go crazy and also totally fine - depending which minute you check in on me.
I forget what I am doing while I am doing it. I have a piece of bread with peanut butter in my hand with a bite out of it. How did that get in my hand? No recollection. I already struggled in the kitchen, you can imagine how this helps not at all with those struggles.
Want to know? Throw an egg in a frying pan on medium flame and walk away to grab butter and forget because you see that the laundry fell off the line. Then, remember the egg but forget you turned on the hose. No worries, when your flipping kitchen is both on fire AND flooding, you'll scream, "WHO TURNED ON THE HOSE!?!?!"
My hormones are SO tanked, there is a strong possibility I can grow a beard better than Troy now. I'm not kidding. That says very little for either of us.
Email and Technology Woes-
I talked to a nice young man on the phone. (I know he was young because once my memory returned I stalk-found him, I saw he was born in 1990, which makes him 27.). We talked because he called me to ask adoption and Haiti questions. I was honest and told him I suck at sending long detailed emails because I get too many requests and my response is to totally shut down and reply to nothing. I tried to keep up and failed and the lesson was, never try.
So I said, "Call me." He did, which I admit I never expect will happen. I am sure he googled me and saw that I am an older person. However, he probably did not know about the perimenopause because that is not coming up in searches quite yet.
At the end of our call I said I would email him several links to more information and helpful websites and books. I hung up the phone and went to my computer to do the promised things before I forgot, which allows me exactly 16 seconds to get it done. I realized I had no idea what his name was at that moment. I asked Troy, "How do you search for the email address of a person whose name you do not know?"
This sort of thing is happening all the time right now. Refer to previous paragraph.
Five Clowns Dinner, just hours ago -
Our kids know things are hard. They know we are stressed and transitioning and challenged and now they understand the word menopause too. They are sweet to us at every turn. Last night they were helped by Midwife, Beth Johnson to create a romantic meal for us. I was first call so the meal came to the Maternity Center.
new five clowns star restaurant in Tabarre, Haiti
You know what? I love that Troy is "more and more into me".
Now, if only I could remember, WHO WAS IT that was more and more into me again?
That's that for this June struggle bus edition.
“The UN Member States brought MINUSTAH to Haiti, and they have a collective responsibility to pay for the damage caused by its peacekeeping operations,” said Sienna Merope-Synge, IJDH Staff Attorney. “They must either contribute their fair share, or agree to draw funds from the UN’s budget by MINUSTAH’s withdrawal.”To date, the UN has raised only 2% of the $400 million promised to implement its New Approach to Cholera in Haiti — a plan intended to eliminate cholera and provide remedies to the hundreds of thousands who have suffered from the epidemic. As a result of the funding shortfall, implementation has stalled, and the UN has refused to begin even consulting with victims about the plan.On Tuesday, the Secretary-General appointed a new high-level special envoy, Josette Sheeran, to lead the fundraising efforts. Ms. Sheeran has a strong record of leadership, including as the former head of the World Food Program, and has previously raised billions of dollars for UN humanitarian efforts. But she is the third senior official to be assigned to the cholera issue. Her two predecessors did not succeed at raising any substantial funds.“Ms. Sheeran’s nomination is a welcome acknowledgement of the UN’s predicament, of launching a justice support mission while the organization continues to disdain its well-documented legal obligations to Haiti’s cholera victims,” said Brian Concannon, Executive Director of IJDH. “But her efforts and experience will bear no results unless the Secretary-General and Security Council Members provide leadership. They led enough to find $7 billion for MINUSTAH peacekeepers in a country that had no war, they now need to lead enough to find $400 million for a real cholera epidemic their troops introduced.”“Promoting rule of law requires abiding by the rule of law. The UN cannot succeed in its mission unless it sheds its double standard and complies with its obligations to repair the harms it caused,” said Beatrice Lindstrom, IJDH Staff Attorney.Cholera continues to take a grave toll in Haiti, infecting thousands each month, and killing at a rate of one Haitian each day. The UN estimates 30,000 Haitians will contract the disease this year, and the country remains vulnerable to a resurgence of deaths, with few improvements to water, sanitation and health care since the height of the epidemic. For the thousands of families who lost loved ones and livelihoods, the financial and emotional consequences of cholera continue to impose a crushing burden long after the disease has passed.
The End of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti
What It Means for the Country's Future
By Michael Deibert
(Read the original here)
Under an ash gray sky threatening rain this past April, dozens of people in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Cité Soleil (Sun City) gathered across the street from the local police station to survey a flat patch of earth where goats normally graze. As surveyors in helmets and green vests took measurements of the land, residents discussed their plan for this corner of a desperately poor quarter of this impoverished country: the construction of a new library, the Bibliyotèk Site Solèy, funded by small donations from hundreds of Haitians and with books contributed from both within Haiti and abroad.
“This is not just a library. This symbolizes a lot for us,” said Louino Robillard, a native of the northern town of Saint-Raphaël who moved to Cité Soleil with his father when he was three and grew up in the district’s Ti Ayiti section. Robillard is the driving force behind the Konbit Solèy Leve, a social movement whose name refers to both the tradition of volunteer community work in rural Haiti (konbit) and the neighborhood’s name (solèy leve, meaning “rising sun”).
“This symbolizes unity,” Robillard said. “This symbolizes hope.”
A little more than a decade ago, Cité Soleil was a war zone where daily survival, let alone long-term planning, was a Herculean task. It was, and to some degree remains, a redoubt of the armed political pressure groups known as the baz (base) in Haiti, who maintain an uneasy and ambiguous relationship with the country’s political factions. Today, however, grass-roots organizations such as Konbit Solèy Leve and the Sant Kominote Altènatif Ak Lapèhave been working to put the konbit model into practice, gathering residents to clean the fetid canals and other areas of the district and trying to sow connections between the sometimes fractious groups in the zone. The grass-roots nature of such initiatives is especially significant given what Haiti has witnessed over the last decade.
In February 2004, then Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a democratic icon who had decided years before that he was not beholden to the rules of democracy, fled the country into exile amid massive street protests and an armed rebellion against his increasingly despotic rule. He left behind a nation devastated by political warfare and environmental crises, with a treasury virtually emptied by years of corruption and theft. After the brief presence of the U.S.-led multinational interim force, in June 2004 the United Nations established the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by its French-language acronym, MINUSTAH.
The Brazilian-led mission that came for an initial period of six months would stay on for 13 years, tasked with “stabilizing” this often tumultuous country of glittering Caribbean beaches, mist-shrouded mountains, and the syncretic vodou religion. Haiti also boasts the distinction of having conducted the only successful slave revolt in history, which saw it gain independence from France in 1804, making it the second independent republic in the Western Hemisphere after the United States.
Although MINUSTAH oversaw three consecutive presidential elections, each more turbulent than the last, the UN Security Council voted unanimously this April to end the mission by October. Yet many of the problems that afflicted Haiti’s tentative democratic gains before the mission landed remain and, in fact, have been codified into practice.
When MINUSTAH arrived, Haiti (and Port-au-Prince in particular) was violently factionalized between Aristide supporters and the former members of Haiti’s disbanded military who had helped oust him, both heavily armed. The unelected interim government in power at the time cut off supporters of the ancien régime from the meager government funds they had been accessing, while some members of the country’s economic elite advocated a policy of repression and revenge against the ousted president’s partisans.
The tensions spiraled into a period of violent anarchy known as Operation Baghdad, which ground on for two bloody years that also saw the suicide of MINUSTAH’s military commander, Brazilian Lieutenant General Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar. The chaos lasted until the election of René Préval in 2006, for what would be his second tenure as Haiti’s president.
Criticized for years for its perceived passivity in the face of relentless violence, MINUSTAH seemed to find its footing under Préval, who had a volatile but ultimately productive relationship with the UN mission’s chiefs, first Guatemalan diplomat Edmond Mulet and later Tunisian diplomat Hédi Annabi. With MINUSTAH as a reserve force insulating him from the coups that had marked Haiti’s history, Préval, a savvy politician, could set about the work of trying to unite a divided country and attracting foreign investment. To a surprising degree, over the next three years, he largely succeeded. Even when unrest roiled Haiti in 2008, there seemed to be no fear that Préval would be ousted.
All that changed on January 12, 2010, when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince and the surrounding regions. Tens of thousands of Haitians and 101 UN employees, including Chief of Mission Hédi Annabi, died. This was the largest single-day loss of life in the organization’s history. The stability that had been so carefully nurtured over the preceding three years vanished within seconds.
After the earthquake, the tense relationship between Préval and Mulet (who returned to head MINUSTAH after Annabi’s death) became even more so. In the words of the Haitian economist Ericq Pierre, foreign aid and organizations poured in with “too many propositions, too many resources, too many promises, too much knowledge, and not enough know-how,” and a sense of drift and curdling directionlessness became palpable.
The culture of impunity within Haiti’s body politic is one of the country’s most destabilizing problems. Yet following the earthquake, MINUSTAH chose to avail itself of this culture rather than combat it.
After video evidence surfaced in September 2011 that Uruguayan peacekeepers might have raped an 18-year-old boy in the southern town of Port-Salut, a local human rights organization, the Réseau National de Défense des Droits de l’Homme, charged that the contingent had been leading “a life of debauchery” for some time. (Four of these peacekeepers were later convicted of “private violence” in the case by a Uruguayan court.) It was one of several sexual assault scandals that rocked the mission, including others involving Pakistani and Sri Lankan peacekeeping forces.
When I visited Haiti around this time, I witnessed a group of surly, well-fed men who identified themselves as Canadian police advisers drink themselves into oblivion and splash around in a hotel pool. Only feet away, in a tent encampment of earthquake victims, thousands sat in darkness through long evenings of pounding rain, creating the perception of a fraternity party amid an apocalypse.
Also in 2011, at a base set up by MINUSTAH peacekeepers from Nepal, a broken PVC pipe was pouring raw sewage into a tributary that fed directly into the Boukan Kanni and Jenba Rivers, which then flowed into the larger Artibonite River, the main water source for the eponymous lush agricultural region. This would lead to a cholera epidemic that has so far killed over 10,000 people. After years of denials, and despite multiple reports conclusively linking the cholera outbreak to the mission, the UN would not admit culpability until August 2016. To this date, it has compensated none of the victims.
MARTELLY'S MIXED RECORD
Along with the U.S. government, MINUSTAH played a decisive role in Haiti’s acrimonious 2010–11 elections. Préval tried to impose upon a weary nation his successor, the highly unpopular Jude Célestin. But through a combination of international diplomatic pressure (including that of Mulet and then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) and violent street protests, he was forced to back down and assent to a runoff that eventually saw singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly inaugurated as Haiti’s president in May 2011.
The record of the Martelly government, whose rise MINUSTAH aided, was a mixed one. It made advances in terms of infrastructure and tourism, and the country’s spirits were often buoyed by the president’s charisma. But many of the salutary effects were undercut by the violence surrounding last year’s aborted election, and the government, like many before it, was marked by a high degree of corruption and impunity.
Both symbolically and mechanically, Martelly represented the return of a political strain associated with the former Haitian dictator François Duvalier and, more closely, his son and successor, Jean-Claude. Whereas Duvalier père presented himself as a noiriste dictator enacting a kind of color-based revenge, the son attempted to portray a more liberal laissez faire image while promoting foreign investment (a dishonest image, as the country remained a brutal police state). This strain historically has often seemed locked in a struggle with the anarcho-populism most vividly typified by Aristide. When elections were finally held in November of last year—again delayed, again disputed—Martelly’s designated successor, Jovenel Moïse, an agribusinessman and, like Martelly, political novice, won an outright majority.
“Perhaps MINUSTAH served to prevent coups,” says Laënnec Hurbon, Haiti’s most eminent sociologist and the author of key works such as Le Barbare imaginaire. “But, while I am wary of the nationalist rhetoric of politicians who make regular criticisms of international interference, I must admit that in the 2011 elections MINUSTAH intervened in the electoral system to impose a candidate in the second round...When this candidate who came to power, a whole new layer of neo-Duvalierist politicians took over the state who were only interested in doing business with the resources of the state.”
Although relatively peaceful at the moment, despite MINUSTAH’s long-stated goal of stabilization, Haiti is a country where many appear to have lost faith in the democratic process, with only the most desultory electoral participation. Haiti remains a kingdom of impunity, with political malefactors who are able to reinvent themselves (one need only look at Haiti’s current Parliament to confirm this) and a police force whose autonomy, cultivated by Préval and former Police Chief Mario Andrésol, had eroded under Martelly, despite the best efforts of many dedicated officers. Many, including the president, speak openly about resurrecting the Haitian army, extraconstitutionally disbanded in 1995, which the police replaced.
Moïse remains an unknown quantity, whose words of commitment to the country’s long-underserved peasant majority bring hope even as what some say are authoritarian tendencies give pause. (One of his first acts as president was to dismiss the head of the Unité Centrale de Renseignements Financiers anticorruption body.)
“The new government will have to be careful of its image and ensure the president's staff is impeccable in terms of honesty,” says Marilyn B. Allien, the president of La Fondation Héritage pour Haïti, Haiti’s branch of the global anticorruption organization Transparency International. “This also applies for cabinet members and members of Parliament. Every effort should be made to ensure to project an image of honesty and integrity. If the president is honest and shows no tolerance for corruption, this will deter those in his entourage and in the government from engaging in corrupt practices.”
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
In Cité Soleil, fishermen still cast nets into the capital’s polluted bay as schoolchildren in pressed white and green uniforms amble down the now quiet streets.
“Right now Cité Soleil is very cool, very calm,” Phozer Louis, the lead MC for the Haitian rap group Fos Lakay-Majik kleng and a Cité Soleil native, told me. “The young people here have put down the gun and picked up the ball, the book, the microphone. . . . We ourselves have to change Cité Soleil, as no government has ever done anything for us.”
When the MINUSTAH troops leave this nation where they saw so many of their number die and where, intentionally or not, they themselves caused so many deaths, they leave a country where the cost of living is rising ever higher for average citizens, who lost the ability to feed themselves thanks to international agricultural policies foisted on Haiti in the 1990s and where many of the structural problems of its political reality remain unchanged.
It is true that MINUSTAH likely prevented both Préval and Martelly from being ousted, a laudable feat, but the core of the malaise afflicting the Haitian state—the culture of impunity for anyone boasting political or economic influence—remains, with a judiciary as corrupt as it ever was and a police force that has become notably more Balkanized in recent years.
The lives of the moun andeyo—the forgotten rural masses—have, over the last decade plus, benefited here and there from a desalination program to make salt water suitable for human consumption or the restoration of a rural road or other projects, but they remain essentially unchanged. From the shacks of Cité Soleil to the elegant restaurants in the hills above the capital to the small villages that dot the country’s historic Plaine-du-Nord, within this country still in the grip of largely unreconstructed political and economic elites, Haitians now hold their breath and wait to see what will come next.
Kelly teaching us all
Last week we talked about diseases and epidemics in Haiti. It was really interesting. We talked a lot about how those diseases can spread and how to help the animals that get sick. Here are some of the diseases we covered: anthrax, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and rabies.
In class we even discussed about two strange but enthralling diseases in Haiti that affect horses specifically. Lagoum, which is a virus that spreads from horse to horse and kills. The other disease is Lampa. It is an inflammation of the soft pallet (the roof of the mouth) - this disease in particular is usually caused by a cut or a burn in the mouth. It is most common during the dry season.
With diseases, you have got to have the symptoms, so we also talked about the multitude of symptoms to go along with the diseases we discussed. For example a dog with rabies is most commonly known for having a foaming mouth.
I got to Dechapelles on Sunday evening and started class Monday morning. On Tuesday we had two guest teachers. Kelly Crowdis was the main professor for the week, she is a great teacher. With our guest teachers we talked about rabies and infectious epidemics. They talked about how imperative it is that we vaccinate as many dogs as we can to prevent rabies. It is in your best interest to not ever be bitten by a dog. You probably knew that. Here is a fun fact, if you do get bit - you should immediately wash the wound with running fresh water and soap for ten minutes straight. That will decrease your chances of getting rabies by 50%. Isn't that crazy?
I asked my Mom if it was okay to put a cow butt on the internet.
She said it was.
With epidemics we first talked about their characteristics, the quickness of the spread, the space or geographical area the epidemic occurs, and the duration of the epidemic. All this is crucial information because we would need to send all of this information to the government. They hopefully provide the country with useful prevention information and give warnings when possible.
Wednesday and Thursday we did a lot of hands-on work. We got to practice physical exams, giving shots, hydrating animals by passing tubes down their noses and throats, and we did a few fecal exams (that's looking for microorganisms in poop). I think that it is interesting looking at poop, but only if you find stuff in the poop. We put the poop in a beaker thing and add solutions to it. Then you put it on a slide before it goes on the microscope.
The most enticing hands on thing we did was to dissect a goat. It was SUPER cool. We got to see how everything would work in the body if that animal were alive. With gloves I got to touch and hold a lot of the goat's organs. I even got to hold shut an artery that was cut open. There were a lot of slimy and mushy parts. Many things looked the way I expected them to look. The thing that I was shocked by was the stomach. A goat is a ruminant, which means it has FOUR stomachs. Can you image having FOUR stomach aches at once? The rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum are the four parts. It amazed me how large these four parts were. After the dissection we each got a section of the goat to practice doing suturing.
I got the back of the goat. We practiced suturing torn muscles. It smelled very bad. Before we started suturing we used scalpels to cut the fur off around the wound we practice stitching. It was a lot of fun.
suturing goat muscle
One day we went on a field trip to Ti Rivere. Oh my gosh! It was so amazing. The fields of emerald green grass and the land teeming with banana trees was beautiful. It got even more beautiful as we approached our final destination. At the top of the mountain there was an old fort that the Haitians used to fight off the French. From the fort we got a panoramic view of the fields and green trees and the river. In the background we could see the abundance of mighty rolling mountains and hills. Honestly, it was one most beautiful things I have ever seen in my country. It looked like a place that National Geographic would put in their magazine. I was in awe. I hope to return to Ti Rivere on one of my future trips north.
Overall I think I enjoyed my second week in Dechapelles even more that the first. I was more comfortable with the environment and the people I was working with. There was more action and less sitting. Seeing that beautiful part of Haiti was a gift to me.
Sadly, I won't be able to be at Vet camp in July or August because I will be in El Paso, Texas seeing my big sister and nephews and taking Driver's Education for a month - which is also a good thing. I wish I could be two places at once. I look forward to the September class and I will write again after that week. I am excited for the summer I have planned and anxious to meet our new teacher later this month. I get to meet my new teacher June 29th and I get to go to America July 9th.