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Updated: 4 hours 46 min ago

The Question This Earth Day: Will Humanity Survive?

Apr. 23, 2014 - 9:47 pm
by Berthony Dupont (Haiti Liberte)
The life systems of the planet are in crisis. The climate is warming. Oceans are rising. Deserts are spreading. Wars for dwindling supplies of oil and water are flaring. Some 90% of the ocean’s large fish – tuna, sharks, swordfish and cod -- have disappeared in the past 50 years. According to some expert estimates, about 10,000 species of plants and animals are becoming extinct every year – an average of 27 a day.            In Haiti alone, biodiversity is under huge assault as we are rapidly losing many species of frogs, bees, fish, flowers, and trees every year.            For example, of the 50 frog species on our island, two-thirds -- 30 species -- live only in Haiti and do not occur in the neighboring Dominican Republic, according to Dr. Blair Hedges, a biology professor at Penn State University and a leader of “species rescue missions” in Haiti and other countries in the Caribbean.            “Haiti is on the brink of an era of mass extinctions similar to the time when dinosaurs and many other species suddenly disappeared from the Earth,” wrote Barbara Kennedy on Penn State’s science website in 2010 about Dr. Hedges’ work.            This week, in the midst of this bleak tableau, comes Earth Day, which has been celebrated worldwide since April 22, 1970.            “Happy #EarthDay!” tweeted the US Embassy in Haiti, in both English and Kreyòl, on Apr. 22. “ Today we're celebrating greener cities & cleaner energy.”            The irony of this Tweet, which treats the day as a celebration rather than an alarm, could not be greater. This same embassy, hand in hand with the Martelly regime, is championing investment priorities and policies which devastate Haiti’s natural environment, and promise to devastate it even more, all while wrapping themselves in the words and images of being “green” and “pro-environment.”            If ever there was an example of how capitalism has savaged the natural environment, it is Haiti. When Christopher Columbus landed on our island in 1492, he saw mountains covered with beautiful forests of pine, oak, and mahogany, that reminded him of verdant Spain, and hence he renamed the island Hispaniola in honor of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, the Spanish sponsors of his voyage.            However, the European colonists immediately began to rape this paradise. After killing through massacres, disease, and slave labor in gold mines the Arawak population of over three million in a mere 15 years, the Europeans, particularly the French, began to clear-cut the forests to fuel the first great capitalist enterprise on the island: sugar mills.            Two centuries later, capitalism continues to stoke this deforestation by punishing the descendants of the slaves who worked in the sugar mills. Haiti’s peasantry has been pushed off the land by capitalist-imposed neoliberal policies – agricultural dumping and lowering of tariff walls – and forced to flee to the cities. The ruling groups provide no infrastructure for this influx – housing, water systems, sanitation systems, roads  – not even electricity or gas. So the millions of uprooted peasants who have fled to Haiti’s cities over the past 40 years must rely on charbon, which requires twice as much wood per energy unit output as fresh wood used in the countryside.            The deforestation caused by this IMF-dictated urbanization, which is also killing our frogs, is then blamed on the peasants. About 98% of the forests Columbus saw are now gone.            And what is the Martelly regime doing? Accelerating this rape of the land. On the southern island of Ile à Vache, for example, the government unilaterally cut down the island’s one forest, which used to provide the population with livelihoods harvesting crabs and honey, to put in an airport. They are now going to uproot peasants from food producing land in order to put in hotels, golf courses, and casinos, all without the population’s input or participation.            In Haiti’s North, we see a similar crime with the Caracol Industrial Park, for which authorities bulldozed some of Haiti’s most fertile farmland, destroyed a virgin mangrove forest, and destroyed precious coral reefs. A 2009 study for the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN)  put the “value of ecosystem services” of the mangroves and coral reefs in Caracol bay at US$ 109 million per year.            Now the Caracol Park, which pays its workers pennies an hour, is sure to spawn another Cité Soleil, complete with canals of open sewage, mountains of smoking garbage, and dirty oil and smoke from nearby power plants fouling the slum next door.            Finally, there is gold-mining, which both President Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe are enthusiastically encouraging (and investing in?), despite the Senate’s attempts to block their moves. The Spanish removed most of the big veins of gold five centuries ago. What remains is mostly gold dust, whose extraction requires an extremely destructive and toxic process. Mountain-tops, already denuded of trees, are removed and millions of tons of rocks are “washed” with the deadly agent cyanide, which then poisons streams and groundwater, rendering agriculture and even life nearby unviable.            As we have detailed in past issues of Haïti Liberté, multinational companies like Newmont Mining, after causing massive ecological damage in countries like Peru and Ghana, have been practically chased out of those nations and are now alighting in Haiti. With gold prices at about $1,600 an ounce, they estimate that Haiti has some $20 billion in gold dust in its mountains. They pretend, as they did elsewhere, that they will generate revenue and jobs for Haiti. But in reality, after taking out the precious minerals, they will leave the land defiled and polluted, and the population just as poor but now unable even to practice agriculture due to the poisons they have left behind. Only a handful of local cronies, like Martelly and Lamothe, will get a cut of the riches extracted.            So on this Earth Day, let us remember that we, the Haitian people, are not just fighting against exploitation, oppression, and injustice and for self-determination, equality, and human dignity. We are fighting for the survival of the human species on this planet, starting in Haiti.            “The economic order imposed on the world after World War II has led humanity to an unsustainable situation,” declared Fidel Castro in a Sep. 21, 2009 speech entitled “Humanity is an Endangered Species.” Humanity is facing “a really imminent danger and its effects are already visible.” Fidel gives us a mere 60 to 80 years to avoid mass extinction.
            So don’t be fooled by the happy face the U.S. Embassy and the Martelly regime are putting on Haiti’s environmental destruction. Let us all join in the struggle against the forces of unbridled and destructive capitalism in Haiti today – principally Martelly and MINUSTAH – to build a new sustainable future, where our children will have unpoisoned land, water, and air in this little corner of the world which our ancestors bequeathed to us.
Categories: Haitian blogs

New Report Details Persecution of Public and Private Sector Union Activists in Haiti

Apr. 18, 2014 - 12:43 pm
by CEPR's Relief and Reconstruction Blog

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haiti-based partner Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) have released a report outlining recent cases of persecution of organized workers in Haiti as well as Haitian government complicity in allowing illegal attacks against, and terminations of labor activists to occur without judicial consequences.  The report, titled “Haitian labor movement struggles as workers face increased anti-union persecution and wage suppression,” documents attacks and firings of union organizers by both public and private sector companies. In mid-December of 2013, garment workers staged a walkout and demonstrations to protest the low wages and subpar working conditions in Haiti’s garment factories.  As Better Work Haiti revealed in its 2013 Biannual Review of Haitian garment companies’ compliance with labor standards, only 25 percent of workers receive the minimum daily wage of 300 Haitian gourdes (equivalent to $6.81). They also found a 91 percent non-compliance rate with basic worker protection norms.  The BAI/IJDH report explains that on the third day of the December protests, “the Association of Haitian Industries locked out the workers, claiming they had to shut the factories for the security of their employees.”  In late December and January, IJDH/BAI documented “at least 36 terminations in seven factories throughout December and January in retaliation for the two-day protest, mostly of union representatives. The terminations continue.”The report notes that union leaders at Electricity of Haiti (EDH) - Haiti’s biggest state-run enterprise – have also been illegally terminated and even physically attacked.   As BAI/IJDH describe,On January 10, 2014, the leaders of SECEdH [Union of Employees of l’EDH] held a press conference at EDH, as they had countless times over the last several years. The purpose of the January 10 press conference was to allege mismanagement and corruption at EDH. At the last minute, EDH management refused to let journalists in the building, although they had given permission for the press conference the day before. SECEdH’s leaders joined journalists on the street outside EDH’s parking lot gate to convene the press conference. EDH security guards pushed down the metal gate onto the crowd, hitting SECEdH’s treasurer in the head and knocking him unconscious. The security guards stood by while the employee lay on the ground bleeding and witnesses urged them to help. Some journalists took the injured employee to the hospital in one of their vehicles. He was released from the hospital but suffers constant pain in his head, shoulders, arms, and back from the heavy gate falling on him.
The following week, SECEdH’s executive committee, including the injured officer, received letters of termination dated January 10, 2014.The report goes on to describe government complicity with employer infractions of labor laws at the level of the judicial system, where “public and private employers enjoy impunity” and where workers continue to have extremely limited access to the justice system as “court fees and lawyers are too expensive for the poor to afford” and “proceedings are conducted in French, which most Haitians do not speak.”  Moreover, the Ministry of Labor as well as the Tripartite Commission for the Implementation of the HOPE agreement (which mandates garment factory compliance with international labor standards and Haitian labor law) have “backpedalled on the 2009 minimum wage law and issued public statements that support factory owners’ interpretations and non-compliance with the piece rate wage.”  The reports suggests that part of this backpedalling may be caused by President Michel Martelly’s efforts to promote increased international investment in Haitian sweatshops:Making Haiti “open for business” was a core piece of President Michel Martelly’s election platform that has won him political and economic support from the U.S. government, despite low voter turnout and flawed elections in 2010 and 2011. Part of the Martelly administration’s strategy to attract foreign investment has been to keep wages low so that Haiti can be competitive with the global low-wage market. Haiti has the third lowest monthly wages in the apparel industry, surpassing only Cambodia and Bangladesh. This U.S.-backed “sweat shop” economic model is similar to the model in the 1970s and 1980s under former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Haiti Solidarity - New Issue - Volume One - Number Three

Mar. 24, 2014 - 2:54 am
Please go and read the new issue of "Haiti Solidarity" here.  It includes a historical chronology of recent years events in Haiti, as well as a comparison of Haiti and Honduras, Caribbean solidarity information, and background on the continuing persecution of Fanmi Lavalas activists.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Ile à Vache Under Siege

Mar. 19, 2014 - 11:12 pm

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
The government of President Michel Martelly is literally sealing off the Haitian island of Ile à Vache, on which the residents are rising up against government plans to throw them off their land.             On Mar. 11, Haïti Liberté journalists discovered in the southern city of Aux Cayes that agents of the Martelly government had paid off boat captains, who take people to the island, not to accept Haitian passengers.            Meanwhile over 120 heavily armed officers of the Haitian National Police’s Departmental Unit for the Maintenance of Order (UDMO) and the Motorized Intervention Brigade (BIM) have been deployed to the island to uproot residents and control protests. Already 20 families have been dispossessed, according to the Organization of Ile-à-Vache Peasants (KOPI or Konbit peyizan Ilavach), which is leading the resistance on the island. Meanwhile, KOPI’s vice president, journalist/policeman Jean Maltunès Lamy, has been arrested and jailed in the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, which is illegal since it is in a different department (West) than Ile à Vache (South).            Following a May 10, 2013 presidential decree declaring the island was a “zone of public utility,” Martelly’s government has begun to implement its plan to kick peasants off their land and townspeople out of their homes and turn the entire island into a tourist resort.
            Journalists and Haitian human rights activists seeking to reach the island last week in order to investigate the situation there found that the Haitian government had paid the captains of small boats that ferry people out to the island 10,000 gourdes ($225) to only accept foreigners on their vessels. The normal cost of a round-trip to the island is 4,000 gourdes ($90).            It takes about 40 minutes to travel by boat to the 20 square mile island about 10 kilometers southeast of Aux Cayes. It was once a base of the renowned English pirate Henry Morgan (c.1635–1688).            Events on the island began to escalate after Tourism Minister Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin gave a 90-minute presentation to a group of farmers on Jan. 16.* In response, on Jan. 17, several hundred of the island’s 20,000 residents demonstrated, blocking road, burning tires, closing schools and businesses, and chanting “Ile à Vache is not for sale, neither wholesale or retail!”            A week earlier, on Jan. 9, island residents threw stones at Fernand Sajous, one of the owners of the island’s Abaka Bay Resort, Fritz César, the local unelected interim representative of the central government, and Dorcin Fresnel, a secretary of state for agricultural production, after a public meeting about government plans turned sour, according to Jean Claudy Aristil of Radio VKM (Vwa Klodi Mizo our Voice of Claudy Museau).            According to KOPI, UDMO soldiers were deployed on the island on the night of Feb. 9, and beat residents Charles Laguerre, Bertin Similien, Maxo Bell, forcing them to remove the barricades they had erected in protest. The next day the UDMO policemen beat up a girl, Rosena Masena, in the township of Madame Bernard, according to KOPI.            On Feb. 14 on Radio VKM, one of KOPI’s organizers said that the residents of Ile à Vache do not recognize the Presidential decree divesting them of their lands and denounced the increased police presence. Historically, there have only been two police officers for the whole island. The KOPI leader asked for solidarity from Haitians around Haiti and its diaspora.            On Feb. 20, more than 40 soldiers from the BIM arrived on the island and destroyed several houses, according to KOPI. The next day, KOPI Vice President, Jean Matulnès Lamy, himself a police officer, was arrested. Mr. Lamy was imprisoned without being brought before a judge, and many KOPI members went into hiding. The same day, Ile à Vache residents, brandishing tree branches and singing rara songs, protested in the township of Kay Kòk to demand Lamy’s release and to oppose a government delegation’s inauguration of a new community center, restaurant, and radio station. The demonstrators complained that their calls for a high school and vocational school have been ignored and that local masons, foremen, and technicians were passed over for the construction work in favor of people from out of town. The islanders expressed doubt that the government was promoting “eco-tourism” on the island when it has cut down Ile à Vache’s only forest to build an airport.            KOPI President Marc Lainé Donald (Jinal) said that KOPI still wants the May 10, 2013 presidential decree rescinded, saying it “reflects a macabre plan, a rat trap, a collective suicide, that aims to drive all the residents from the island. It is a cultural genocide...”            On the morning of Feb. 25, soldiers of the BIM, firing live ammunition, attacked a peaceful demonstration of about 1,000 Ile à Vache residents near the Madame Bernard township. The assault was led by the local interim governor, Fritz César, who carried a 9-mm handgun and pointed out which protestors should be beaten or arrested. About 12 people were injured, and two men – Carl Oza and Aizan Silien – were arrested. The injured included Adrien Justin and Genel Justin. Although it was raining, the demonstration started spontaneously when the island’s residents learned that Mr. Lamy was taken to court but was not heard by a judge and instead taken to the National Penitentiary.            On Feb. 27, 2014, Sen. Pierre Francky Exius, Chairman of the Senate Committee for Justice and Security, said he would summon Justice Minister Jean-Renel Sanon and the Chief of Police to discuss the Ile à Vache situation. Senator Exius called the arrest of Mr. Lamy “political” and based on “a supposed event which is over one year old and hence no longer anything in flagrante delicto.”            On Mar. 1, Tourism Minister Stephanie Villedrouin traveled to Ile à Vache, but KOPI members, still in hiding because they are vilified as “bandits” by the government, refused to meet with her. KOPI said that island residents will not meet with government representatives until after:1. The May 10, 2013 decree to expropriate their lands is rescinded. 2. The 100 BIM soldiers are removed from the island. 3. Jean Maltunès Lamy is released.4. The defamation campaign on Haitian radio, labeling KOPI members as “bandits,” is stopped.            The islands residents accuse government officials of lying, insisting that 20 families have already been dispossessed, although they were promised that no one would be.            In an effort to quell and appease the uprising, Minister Villedrouin held a press conference in the capital on Mar. 10, saying that “nobody is going to be expelled from Ile-à-Vache” and “up until now, no individual has been expelled,” according to Alterpresse.            She said that “measures for compensation are foreseen for the families living in places affected by the plan to build hotels on the western point of the island,” Alterpresse also reports.            “Families will be dealt with on a case by case basis,” she said. “Nothing is going to be done in an arbitrary manner.”            UDMO and BIM police officers had been dispatched to Ile-à-Vache, Villedrouin said, following “violent demands” and “with the aim of stabilizing the area.”            But the minister’s comments are belied by the government’s apparent efforts to seal off the island. A delegation of the Dessalines Coordination (KOD), a new political party, was among those seeking to get to Ile à Vache on Mar. 11. The KOD members had to hunt down a private boat to take them to the island.            “Our delegation has come to Ile-à-Vache to bring KOD’s solidarity to the island’s people, whom the government of President Martelly and Prime Minister [Laurent] Lamothe is trying to uproot with the complicity of imperialist governments,” said KOD delegation leader Oxygène David. “Our delegation had a hard time getting to the island. People here tell us that the government has stepped up corruption in an effort to prevent progressives from other places from coming to give solidarity to the island.”            Oxygène David also pointed out that “the government had Jean Maltunès Lamy arrested and deported him all the way to the National Penitentiary in Port-Au-Prince without any judge in Aux Cayes charging him with a crime. This is an act of kidnapping because it has no legal or juridical foundation which would allow them to arrest someone in Aux Cayes and then jail them in Port-au-Prince. Any indictment must be done in Aux Cayes’ jurisdiction and then the person goes before a court in that jurisdiction.”            In addition to supporting KOPI’s demands, KOD has joined with the population of Ile à Vache in forming three demands: 1. The unconditional liberation of everybody arrested in demonstrations on the island.2. The rescinding of the illegal decree declaring the island a tourist development zone.3. For the government to stop repressing the island’s people and to withdraw all of its BIM police from the island.

* Much of the reporting for this article was drawn from the website Haiti Chery of Dady Chery. Her excellent updates can be found at www.dadychery.org.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Video: Confronting the IDB over its role in the 2001-2004 embargo on aid to Haiti's government

Mar. 13, 2014 - 3:41 pm
A special video release for HaitiAnalysis.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Interview: Former OAS Diplomat Exposes the Crimes of the “International Community” in Haiti

Mar. 10, 2014 - 6:54 pm
Former OAS Diplomat Exposes the Crimes of the “International Community” in HaitiIn his new book, Ricardo Seitenful writes about the “electoral coup” which brought President Martelly to power, the UN’s “genocide by negligence” through importing cholera, and Venezuela’s “new paradigm” with PetroCaribe
(First of two parts)*
by Georgianne Nienaber and Dan Beeton (Haiti Liberte)
The title of Brazilian professor Ricardo Seitenfus’ book, HAITI: Dilemas e Fracassos Internacionais (“International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti,” published in Brazil by the Editora Unijui – Universite de Ijui– in the series Globalization and International Relations) appropriately opens with a reference to existentialist philosopher Albert Camus.            Camus’ third great novel, The Fall, is a work of fiction in which the author makes the case that every living person is responsible for any atrocity that can be quantified or named. In the case of Haiti, the January 2010 earthquake set the final stage for what amounted to what Seitenfus says is an “international embezzlement” of the country.
            The tragedy began over 200 years ago in 1804, when Haiti committed what Seitenfus terms an “original sin,” a crime of lèse-majesté for a troubled world: it became the first (and only) independent nation to emerge from a slave rebellion. “The Haitian revolutionary model scared the colonialist and racist Great Powers,” Seitenfus writes. The U.S. only recognized Haiti’s independence in 1862, just before it abolished its own slavery system, and France demanded heavy financial compensation from the new republic as a condition of its honoring Haiti’s nationhood. Haiti has been isolated and manipulated on the international scene ever since, its people “prisoners on their own island.”            To understand Seitenfus’ journey into the theater of the absurd, it is necessary to revisit the months after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. As the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Special Representative in Haiti, Seitenfus lost his job in December 2010 after an interview in which he sharply criticized the role of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the devastated country. But it appears that the author also had insider information about international plans for a “silent coup d’etat,” electoral interference and more.
On the Ground in Haiti: October-December 2010
It was not yet one year since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed 220,000 or more, left infrastructure in chaos, and 1.5 million people homeless. Accusations were rampant in October international press reports that the United Nations mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH) had introduced cholera into Haiti’s river system. As of Feb. 9, 2014, 699,244 people contracted cholera and 8,549 have died.            Ground zero for the outbreak was negligent sewage disposal at the Nepalese Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp. The malfeasance was first documented by the Associated Press and ultimately provided crucial proof of the U.N.’s guilt. Thousands were infected and the number of dead rose exponentially. On Nov. 28, the national election was contested in what can only be termed an electoral crisis. Hundreds of thousands of voters were either shut out of the electoral process or boycotted the vote after the most popular party in the country — Fanmi Lavalas — was again banned from competing. Many of those displaced by the earthquake were not allowed to vote, and in the end less than 23% of registered voters had their vote counted.            Eyewitness testimony on election day reported numerous electoral violations: ballot stuffing, tearing up of ballots, intimidation and fraud. Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council , responsible for overseeing elections, announced that former first lady Mirlande Manigat won but lacked the margin of victory needed to avoid a runoff. An OAS “experts” mission was dispatched to examine the results. Even though it was indeterminate that he should advance, due to the OAS’ intervention, candidate and pop musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly was selected to compete in the runoff instead of the governing party’s candidate Jude Célestin.            The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) subsequently released a report showing that there were so many problems with the election tallies that the OAS’ conclusions represented a political, rather than an electoral decision.            CEPR reported that for some 1,326 voting booths, or 11.9% of the total, tally sheets were either never received by the CEP, or were quarantined for irregularities. This corresponded to about 12.7% of the vote not being counted and not included in the final totals that were released by the CEP on Dec. 7, 2010 and reported by the press. CEPR also noted that in its review of the tally sheets, the OAS Mission chose to examine only a portion, and that those it discarded were from disproportionately pro-Célestin areas. Nor did the OAS mission use any statistical inference to estimate what might have resulted had it examined the other 92% of tally sheets that it did not examine.            The runoff was finally scheduled for Mar. 20, 2011 and Martelly was declared the winner with 67.6% of the vote versus Manigat’s 31.5%. Turnout was so low that Martelly was declared president-elect after receiving the votes of less than 17% of the electorate in the second round.            Into the fray stepped Brazilian professor Ricardo Seitenfus. Seitenfus, a respected scholar, made statements to Swiss newspaper Le Temps criticizing international meddling in Haiti in general and by MINUSTAH and NGOs in particular. He was abruptly ousted on Christmas Day. The press was equivocal on whether Seitenfus was fired or forced to take a two-month “vacation” before his tenure ended in March 2011.            Was Seitenfus let go for citing a “maléfique ou perverse” (evil or perverse) relationship between the government of Haiti and NGOs operating amidst fraud and waste; his accusations about the cholera cover-up; or more troubling, knowledge of a silent coup being orchestrated against then-President Rene Préval by a secret “Core Group?” Was he silenced because of his knowledge of covert meetings between the then Special Representative of the Secretary-General and MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet, then U.S Ambassador Kenneth Merten, and then-Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive?            Seitenfus’ passionate accounting of the events in the year after the January 2010 earthquake reveals a man seemingly at odds with his internal moral compass and what he describes as “the black hole of western consciousness” in relations between Haiti and the international community of donor nations. This is a book written by a man enthralled by the beauty and promise of Haiti. It is also a book written by a professor serving as a diplomat struggling to be a whistleblower in the absurd and troubling world of international diplomacy.
Q: You write about international collusion in plans for a “silent coup.” Why wait until now to name the perpetrators? Does the fact that Mulet, Bellerive and Merten have all moved on from their offices have anything to do with your timing? You state emphatically that you opposed the coup plans.
RS: No. It is not true that I kept quiet. I gave various interviews to the Brazilian and international press, in late December 2010 and early January 2011, mentioning this and other episodes. See, for example, the BBC and AlJazeera.            The problem is that the international press was manipulated during the electoral crisis and never had an interest in doing investigative journalism. In the interviews that I gave, and especially in my book (“International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti”), soon to be published in Brazil and other countries, I describe the electoral coup in great detail.            Furthermore, the vast majority of the elements I reveal, I discovered in a scientific research project over the past three years. Many questions were hanging in the air, without adequate answers. I believe I managed to connect the different views and actors, providing the reader a logical and consistent interpretation about what happened. We are dealing with a work that is required by the historical memory, without any shadow of revenge or settling of scores.
Q: Were you the background press source on early reports of the cholera epidemic being caused by MINUSTAH in October 2010? You write about the “shameless” attitude of the United Nations (including Edmond Mulet and Ban Ki-moon) and ambassadors of the so-called “friends of Haiti;” countries that refused to take responsibility after MINUSTAH introduced cholera to Haiti. You say that this “transforms this peace mission into one of the worst in the history of the United Nations.” Would you be willing to testify in the current class action lawsuit, filed in a U.S. federal court, accusing the U.N. of gross negligence and misconduct on behalf of cholera victims in Haiti?
RS: There is no doubt that the fact that the United Nations — especially Edmond Mulet and Ban Ki-moon — systematically denied its direct and scientifically-verified responsibility for the introduction of the Vibrio cholera into Haiti, projects a lasting shadow over that peace operation. What is shocking is not MINUSTAH’s carelessness and negligence. What is shocking is the lie, turned into strategy, by the international community. The connivance of the alleged “Group of Friends of Haiti” (integrated at first by Argentina, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Chile, the United States, Guatemala, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, as well as Germany, France, Spain and Norway, in their role as Permanent Observers before the OAS) in this genocide by negligence, constitutes an embarrassment that will forever mark their relations with Haiti.            Even former President Clinton, in a visit in early March 2012 to a hospital in the central region of Haiti, publicly admitted that “I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera in Haiti, the U.N. peacekeeper, or [U.N.] soldier from South Asia, was aware that he was carrying the virus. It was the proximate cause of cholera. That is, he was carrying the cholera strain. It came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti, into the bodies of Haitians.” [1]            Although soon after he stated that the absence of a sanitation system in Haiti propagated the epidemic, these statements by the Special Envoy of the U.N. Secretary General for Haiti represent the first major fissure in the denial strategy of the crime committed by the United Nations.            Currently, the United Nations hides behind the immunity clause conferred by the Jul. 9, 2004 agreement signed with Haiti legalizing MINUSTAH’s existence. Now, this agreement is void, since it was not signed, as provided in the Haitian Constitution (Article 139), by the Acting President of Haiti, Boniface Alexandre, but by the PM [Prime Minister] Gerard Latortue. According to the 1969 and 1986 Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties, any treaty signed by someone who lacks jus tractum — that is, treaty making power — is null and considered ineffective.            As with any legal action, without validity it has no [legal] effect. The existence of a lack of consent — whether due to the inability of state representatives to conclude a treaty or to an imperfect ratification — results in the absolute voiding of the action (Vienna Convention, Article 46, paragraph 1).            With the contempt for Haitian constitutional rites and for the legal principles that govern the Law of Treaties, the United Nations demonstrated, once again, the constant levity with which it treats Haitian matters. Responsible for establishing the rule of law in the country, according to its own mission, the UN does not follow even its own fundamental provisions, thus making the text that it supports and that should legalize its actions in Haiti void and ineffective.Therefore, the UN’s last recourse in trying to deny its responsibility for introducing cholera in Haiti can be easily circumvented, since MINUSTAH’s very existence is plagued with illegalities.Clearly, I am and will always be available to any judicial power that deals with this case. Even federal courts in the United States. If asked, I will testify, with the goal of contributing to establish the truth of the facts and the search for justice.
Q: Were you threatened in any way prior to your departure from Haiti? Since you were effectively fired, why not name names and discuss the actions of the “Core Group” in 2010?
RS: As a coordination agency for the main foreign actors (states and international organizations) in Haiti, a limited Core Group (which includes Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, the UN, the OAS and the European Union) is an indispensable and fundamental instrument in the relations between the international community and the Haitian government. It is not about questioning its existence. What I was able to verify was that on [election day] Nov. 28, 2010, in the absence of any discussion or decision about the matter, [then head of MINUSTAH] Edmond Mulet, speaking on behalf of the Core Group, tried to remove [then president of Haiti] René Préval from power and to send him into exile. Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince published a press release at 9 p.m. the same day dismissing the voting results and imposing its position on the whole Core Group. Still, the majority of the decisions in which I participated as representative to the OAS in the Core Group during the years 2009 and 2010 were sensible and important.
Q: You write about the “maléfique ou perverse” (evil or perverse) relationship between NGOs and Haiti. In your view, has this problem become institutionalized? You said some of the NGOs exist only because of Haitian misfortune?
RS: There is a will — deliberate or tacit — by the international community to bypass the Haitian institutions and to give preference to Transnational Non-Governmental Organizations (TNGOs). [2] Their overwhelming invasion following the earthquake reached levels never before imagined. [Then] U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, herself pointed out in an interview some months after the earthquake that more than 10,000 TNGOs were operating in Haiti. This means that there was an increase in their presence of over 4,000% in the course of a short period of time. This NGOization turns Haiti into what many have called a true “Republic of the TNGOs.”            In the face of a weakened state and one that was almost destroyed by the earthquake, the emergency aid apparatus had no option but to directly confront reality. Direct connections were established with the victims and even those in charge of the UN system in Haiti were not taken into account. A true pandemonium came into being in which everyone decided on his own what to do, and when and how to do it.            An optimistic and official report, presented by Ban Ki-moon to the UN Security Council in October 2012, recognizes that of the alleged US$ 5.78 billion in contributions made over the 2010-2012 period by bilateral and multilateral donors, a little less than 10% (US$ 556 million) was given to the Haitian government. It is worth mentioning that the governments of the donor states use both private donations and public resources to cover the spending of their own interventions in Haiti. As such, for example, more than US$ 200 million in private donations from U.S. citizens served to finance the transportation and stay of U.S. soldiers in Haiti soon after the earthquake.            Traditionally in Haiti, the “goods” such as hospitals, schools and humanitarian aid are delivered by the private sector, while the “bads” — that is, police enforcement — is the state’s responsibility. The earthquake further deepened this terrible dichotomy.            The circle was closed with the ideological discourse to justify this way of proceeding. According to this [discourse], the transfer of resources is done through the TNGOs for the simple reason that the Haitian state suffers from total and permanent corruption. Sometimes, the lack of managerial capacity is cited. Therefore, there is nothing more logical than to bypass public authorities without even thinking that without a structured and effective state, no human society has managed to develop.            The former Governor General of Canada, Michäelle Jean — of Haitian origin — is one of the rare voices in the international community to propose a complete change of strategy. To her,“Charity comes from the heart, but sometimes, when it’s poorly organized, it contributes more to the problems than to the solutions. Haiti is among the countries that’s been transformed into a vast laboratory of all the experiments, all the tests, and all the errors of the international aid system; of the faulty strategies that have never generated results, that have never produced or achieved anything that’s really sustainable despite the millions of dollars amassed in total disorder, without long term vision and in a completely scattered fashion.” [3]            Certainly, direct financial cooperation with a state that has a lack of administrative capacity increases the risk that resources will be misused. However, there is no other solution: either the public management capacity of the Haitian state is strengthened or we will keep plowing the sea.            Unfortunately, the international community prefers to continue with the strategy that has already proved to be thoroughly inefficient. It not only impedes financial transfers to Haitian institutions, but it also tries to force them to channel their own meager resources to be administrated by international organizations. There was, for example, an attempt to transfer the PetroCaribe fund resources for Haiti to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. The determined resistance by Préval and Bellerive terminated this move. Nonetheless, in every election campaign, the donor countries insist on having the resources of the Haitian treasury be administered by the UN Development Program (UNDP). Therefore, the strategy of the international community not only impedes institutional strengthening, but it also takes away from the Haitian state the little financial autonomy that it possesses.            The model imposed on Haiti since 2004 has two elements. On the one hand, there is the military presence through MINUSTAH, and on the other the civil presence in the form of the TNGOs and the alleged private development corporations. Added to these are the bilateral strategies of the member states in the so-called Group of Friends of Haiti. In interpreting the popular sentiment, it is impossible to disagree with these words by Liliane Pierre-Paul:“The great majority of Haitians weren’t mistaken and the promises ultimately did nothing to change the disastrous perception of an international community that was bureaucratic, condescending, wasteful, inefficient, and lacking in soul, modesty and creativity.” [4]            As long as this model is not significantly revamped there will be no solution. Social vulnerability and the precariousness of the state continue to be major Haitian characteristics. With the model applied by the international community through the UN system, the TNGOs and the United States, we are deceiving ourselves, misleading world public opinion and frustrating the Haitian people.
Q: What are your thoughts on the amount of agricultural land taken out of production to make way for the Caracol Industrial Park, a $300 million public-private partnership among a diverse set of stakeholders??
RS: Caracol symbolizes a development policy far more than any loss of mainly agricultural lands. It so happens that the Caracol model was used during the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier and its results are known to everyone. As a complement to agricultural production, Caracol is acceptable. Nonetheless, to want to turn Haiti into a “Taiwan of the Caribbean” [5] is to completely disregard the social, anthropological, historical and economic characteristics of the country.
Q: You write that Venezuela’s PetroCaribe initiative was a key motive for the U.S. government’s turn against Préval. Why then do you think the U.S. and the OAS wanted a candidate – Michel Martelly – in the second round of elections who would ultimately be even friendlier with Venezuela? Do you think Martelly’s relations with Venezuela might pose a threat to him as well?
RS: Compared to the alleged development cooperation model imposed by the international community on Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela follow absolutely opposite paths. Whatever our opinion about the domestic policies of these countries, it cannot be denied that their form of cooperation takes into account more the demands and needs expressed by Haitians themselves. Cuba — lacking financial resources and rich in human resources –since 1998 has implemented a local family health and medicine program that reaches the most remote places in Haiti. Cuban medical diplomacy directly benefits the most humble of the Haitian people and attempts to compensate for the brain drain in the health sector promoted by certain western countries, particularly Canada.            In turn, although recent, the Venezuelan development cooperation offered to Haiti asserts itself as a new paradigm in the Caribbean Basin. It is sustained through the following trilogy: on the one hand, Caracas listens to the Haitian claims and strives to make its offers and possibilities compatible with these demands. On the other, nothing is carried out without the knowledge and previous consent of the public institutions and the Haitian government. Finally, the cooperation aims to bring direct benefits to the Haitian people without taking into consideration any ideological discrepancy there may be with the incumbent government in Haiti. This is a principle equally espoused by Cuba and it explains not only the absence of any interference by the two countries during the election crisis of 2010, but also the excellent relations maintained, both by Havana and Caracas, with the Martelly administration.            The PetroCaribe program is the crown jewel of Haitian-Venezuelan cooperation. Everything is put into it. Everything depends on it. In the face of a true boycott of Haitian public power promoted by the so-called Group of Friends of Haiti, the resources made available by the PetroCaribe program represented, in 2013, 94% of the investment capacity of the Haitian state. [6]            Most of the beneficiary countries — as with Haiti — do not include the resources from the PetroCaribe program in the national budget, preventing legal and accounting oversight. This situation generates distrust and criticism, both domestic and foreign, due to the lack of transparency in using them.            Far beyond its results, the philosophy on which the Venezuelan cooperation is based contrasts with that of the developed countries. The energetic Pedro Antonio Canino Gonzalez, Venezuelan ambassador in Port-au-Prince since 2007, highlights the principles that guide the actions of the ALBA countries in Haiti: “We did not come to carry out an electoral campaign in Haiti. Why would we make spurious commitments? Venezuela’s assistance aims to attenuate the Haitian people’s misery without any strings attached. My government isn’t even interested in the Haitian Republic’s diplomatic relations with other countries, including the U.S.. This is a prerogative of the Haitian authorities, who are free to have relations with whomever they wish.” [7]            This is the exact opposite of the long and constantly increasing list of conditionalities that characterizes the cooperation offered by the west. With disregard for national idiosyncrasies, the idea of democracy is used as a screen to camouflage their own national interests.            The United States and its allies in Haiti should pay attention to the lessons of the young Venezuelan cooperation because, in addition to respect for the public institutions of the host state, as a current Haitian leader bluntly states, ” Friendship with a country as poor and with as many needs as Haiti isn’t measured in the number of years of domination, but in how many millions are on the table. “[8]            Although the PetroCaribe program is based on an anti-imperialist and liberationist discourse to mark a break between Monroe and Bolivar, it is, in fact, a counter model to traditional development aid from the developed countries and international organizations. In the universe of the international cooperation provided to Haiti, Venezuela constitutes an exception, being the only one that provides, regularly, financial resources directly to the Haitian state. [9]
(To be continued)
* This article was originally published under the title “International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti” by the LA Progressive. Georgianne Nienaber is a freelance writer and author and frequent contributor to LA Progressive. Dan Beeton is International Communications Director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and a frequent contributor to its "Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch" blog.
Notes1. ABC News, March 9, 2012. Accessed January 7, 2014.2. Seitenfus: “I prefer the term TNGO because I am only referring to the foreign non-governmental organizations that operate in Haiti.”3. In Le Nouvelliste, Michaelle Jean: Présidente d’Haïti ? , Port-au-Prince, March 25, 2013.4. La grande manip in Pierre Buteau, Rodney Saint-Eloi and Lyonel Trouillot, Refonder Haïti ?, 
Categories: Haitian blogs

Ten Years After the Coup in Haiti, Democracy is Still Under Siege

Mar. 1, 2014 - 3:56 pm
by Dan Beeton (CEPR)

It has been 10 years since the February 29, 2004 coup d’etat that ousted the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti. Paramilitary groups – including many former members of Haiti’s disbanded army and/or CIA-funded death squads – had engaged in a campaign of violence directed against supporters of the government, and the Haitian National Police (HNP), for years before. Supported by the Dominican government and advised by groups based in Washington, they unleashed a wave of terror, killing innocent civilians including children and women, assaulting and brutalizing others, and burning down police stations and other government buildings. In the end, however, these groups seem to have realized they could not mount a successful incursion into Port-au-Prince, and it was a U.S. plane that flew Aristide out of the country.
As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot wrote after the coup, Washington also directed international financial institutions to withhold funds from the Aristide government (some of which were designated for potable water – their being withheld helping to create the conditions for the cholera epidemic several years later):[T]he Administration has been working on toppling Aristide for the past three years, plunging the country into chaos in the process.The major international financial institutions (IFI's) -- including the IMF, World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, supported the administration's destabilization efforts by cutting off hundreds of millions of dollars in credit to one of the most desperately poor countries in the world.The pretext was a dispute over the election of seven senators of Aristide's party in 2001. Aristide offered every possible solution but it didn't matter. With Washington and the IFI's backing them, the opposition refused any agreement short of Aristide's resignation.In the end, Aristide did not resign – although the Bush administration claimed he did. Aristide himself claimed instead that he was the victim of a “kidnapping in the service of a coup d’etat.” His account is verified by witnesses, as Randall Robinson has pointed out in his account of events related to the coup. Bundled onto a plane, he and First Lady Mildred Aristide were flown to an unknown destination, what turned out to be the Central African Republic.

The coup took place amidst what can only be seen as a massive disinformation campaign against Haiti’s popular and democratic government. Scholars such as Jeb Sprague and Peter Hallward have combed through previously classified U.S. government documents and conducted countless interviews with people involved. Often the perpetrators of the destabilization of the Aristide government have been open in discussing their activities and who supported them. Accounts of grave human rights abuses by the Aristide government – often promoted by Haitian organizations that had essentially been bought off – have now been shown to be false, but at the time they were carried in the domestic and international media and did much to harm Aristide’s reputation. They also served as a pretext for the political persecution of members of Aristide’s government, including Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert,  and leaders and prominent supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas party such as Annette Auguste and the late FatherGerard Jean-Juste.
In the coup’s wake, the people of Haiti experienced one of the country’s worst human rights disasters in recent times. Human rights researchers estimate that some 4,000 people were killed for political reasons, with killings targeting members of Fanmi Lavalas and opponents of the coup and of the interim government imposed on the country; some massacres carried out in broad daylight. Others were falsely imprisoned, or forcibly disappeared. Some 35,000 women and girls reported having been the victim of sexual assault; of these “officers from the Haitian National Police accounted for 13·8% and armed anti-Lavalas groups accounted for 10·6% of identified perpetrators” according to a study in The Lancet. Some of the same paramilitaries who had rampaged through Haiti from 2000 up to the coup carried out the violence while the interim government and international community stood by. (Many of them would be integrated into the HNP, as Sprague explains in detail.) Other atrocities were committed by the HNP, sometimes with the involvement or tacit support of MINUSTAH (U.N. mission) troops. At the urging of Haiti’s powerful elite, HNP officers and MINUSTAH troops carried out deadly raids into slums in order to eliminate “gang” leaders, often killing bystanders in the process.
International human rights organizations paid little attention to what was almost certainly the largest human rights crisis in the hemisphere at the time, and the international media even less. A few brave journalists – usually independent –documented some of these events.

While the intensity of the post-coup human rights crisis may have been greater, this period of political persecution and repression never really ended. Fanmi Lavalas leaders and supporters have continued to find themselves targeted. In 2007, when René Préval was president, human rights activist and Fanmi Lavalas supporterLovinsky Pierre-Antoine was kidnapped and disappeared. International cries of alarm were met with rumors that it was a “fake” kidnapping, and that Lovinsky was trying to get attention. He has never been found. More recently, leading human rights activist Daniel Dorsainvil and his wife Girldy Lareche were murdered, and a new round of bogus accusations have been leveled against Annette Auguste, Mirlande Libérus Pavert and others relating to the still-unsolved murder of journalist Jean Dominique in 2000, while some of the individuals that evidence links most closely to the crime are ignored. More well-known is that Fanmi Lavalas as a party has beenarbitrarily excluded from elections since the coup.

Aristide’s return to Haiti from forced exile in 2011 – against the U.S. government’s wishes and efforts to convince the South African government to stop him – has undermined the various false accusations leveled at him and Fanmi Lavalas. For years, we heard that Aristide would likely face charges of corruption and human rights crimes if he ever returned to Haiti. Nearly three years later, he has yet to be charged with anything. As Aristide’s attorney Ira Kurzban wrote before Aristide’s return to Haiti – and as still holds true, he is “charged with no crime” and “The New York Times noted during his first exile (1991-1994), [Aristide] ‘won Haiti’s first and only democratic election overwhelmingly,’ followed by a “seven-month tenure [that] was marked by fewer human-rights violations and fewer boat people than any comparable period in modern Haitian history.’”
The coup and the events after also are part of a pattern of foreign intervention in Haiti going back centuries, and such interference continues today as well, as the U.S. government seeks to “manage Haiti” through the ongoing MINUSTAH presence and other means. Along with the U.S. government, France and Canada also overtly supported the undermining and removal of the Aristide government (France motivated in part by Aristide’s call for it to pay back the ransom it demanded Haiti hand over as a price for its independence). This intervention has continued, notably – as recently recounted by former Organization of American States (OAS) Special Representative to Haiti Ricardo Seitenfus -- in the 2010 threatened removal of then-President Préval (via airplane, a la Aristide) and the blatant intervention by the OAS – led by the U.S., Canada and France – in Haiti’s elections, resulting in the arbitrary replacement of governing party candidate Jude Célestin with Michel Martelly in the run-off. Martelly would go on to win the presidency despite receiving votes from less than 17 percent of the electorate in the second round.
In order for Haiti to be able to move beyond the 2004 coup and the subsequent political and human rights crisis, this foreign intervention must end. Fanmi Lavalas and other political parties must be allowed to participate in elections, and the Haitian people’s will freely expressed in choosing its government and its own path forward. This is called national sovereignty and democracy, and it is unfortunately what powerful outside interests have been trying to impede in Haiti for over 210 years.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Deadly Attack on the Croix-des-Bouquets Prison and Other Insecurity

Feb. 22, 2014 - 7:32 pm

by Thomas Péralte (Haiti Liberte)
Heavily armed bandits in a gray Daihatsu Terios without license plates fired on the civilian prison in Croix des Bouquets on Mon., Feb. 17, 2014 at around 8:00 p.m., killing a policeman, Sadrac Nicolas, an Agent 2 officer in the National Prison Administration (APENA).             The attack occurred when Off. Nicolas approached the vehicle because it was parked in a dark area near the prison. The assailants opened fire on the policeman, who died at the scene, and also aimed bursts of fire at the prison.             According to preliminary reports, the policeman’s gun was found at his side. An investigation was conducted by the forensic police, who quickly arrived at the scene. Already, several witnesses have been identified. No prisoner escaped, said the Secretary of State for Public Security, Reginald Delva, who also said that more than 750 prisoners are incarcerated in the prison.            Businessman Clifford Brandt, the alleged leader of a powerful gang of kidnappers which was dismantled in October 2012, is among the inmates at this high security prison. Among the other prominent prisoners is Emane “Jacques” Jean-Louis, the owner of Sourire Rent a Car, who has been jailed at the prison since September 2013 on charges of money laundering. (Mr. Jean-Louis claims he was a victim of a police kidnapping in April 2012 and had filed a suit against the police.)
            It remains unclear what is behind this incident, which comes at a time when Haitians are denouncing the distribution of weapons to people close to the government of President Michel Martelly and a marked uptick in violent crime around the country. Is this a strategy to distract attention from the failure of the so-called “institutional and political dialogue” led by the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarch? Is this an attempt to force the release or transfer of prominent prisoners like Mr. Brandt and Mr. Jean-Louis? Time will tell if the investigation of this crime will join the many others that are classified as “the investigation continues.”            In Carrefour Feuilles, a neighborhood in the east flank of the capital, in the area of Fort Mercredi, on Wednesday, Feb. 14, policemen killed three people, including a woman, according to area residents. The victims were Jean Renaud, his girlfriend, and a man known only as Ti Pikan.            On Tue., Feb. 18, two students, Johnny Charmant, 20, and Marc-André Louis, 22, were killed in the area of the capital’s Upper Turgeau neighborhood, near Cité Georges, as they were on their way to the Oswald Durand school, located in downtown Port-au-Prince. They were apparently the accidental victims of crossfire between two armed groups in the area. The grieving relatives of the two young men are demanding justice.            Following such events, many people are complaining about the growing insecurity in Haiti. Bank customers are often victims of thugs who don’t hesitate to rob them as they are leaving the bank or follow them on their way home. Robbers often kill their victims after robbing them. This is apparently what happened to the general coordinator of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), Daniel Dorsinvil, 48, and his wife, Girldy Larèche, 46, who were both shot to death in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 8. He had just come from a bank branch.            In Hinche, on the Central Plateau, the father of four children and a currency trader, Tevnor Gauthier, 41,was killed by gunmen on Wed., Feb. 12, 2014, at the entrance to his currency exchange office. Six bandits on two motorcycles armed with 9mm pistols attacked him. According to his relatives, the gunmen fired at close range and fled with the suitcase he was carrying.             "They made off with several thousand U.S. dollars, gourdes and also packets of European currency," said one relative. Shot several times, Mr. Gauthier was rushed to St. Thérèse Hospital in Hinche but succumbed to his injuries shortly afterwards.            According to a report from the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), released on Feb. 4, the climate of violence is closely linked to the impunity that reigns supreme in Haiti since President Michel Martelly and his Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe came to power. Between January and December 2013, at least 870 people died violently, an average of 73 people per month. Some 711 were killed by guns, 96 by knives,  and 63 by stoning, the report said.
            Impunity is now protected by the government. The Martelly government gives unconditional support to former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, even while there is an on-going criminal investigation against him for embezzlement and crimes against humanity. Others close to the Martelly government, including drug traffickers and those sought because of their involvement in wrongdoing, also benefit from the official tolerance of impunity and the climate of violence it begets.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Livesay [Haiti] Weblog: ...On Compassion

Feb. 14, 2014 - 9:08 am
Livesay [Haiti] Weblog: ...On Compassion: This Valentine's Eve I am purposefully focusing on compassion rather than the February 14 hearts and cupids type of romantic love. ...
Categories: Haitian blogs

What Can Come of the Current “Dialogue” Between Bourgeois and Macoutes?

Jan. 30, 2014 - 1:07 am

by Isabelle L. Papillon (Haiti Liberte)
After rallying Duvalierists in Gonaïves on Jan. 1, 2014, President Michel Martelly is now trying to peddle what he calls “political and institutional dialogue” in an attempt to escape from the growing political and economic crisis engulfing Haiti.            This new round of “dialogue” has ostensibly being orchestrated by the Catholic Church hierarchy, which historically always takes the side of the propertied classes against the disenfranchised masses. This “dialogue” between the executive branch, legislative branch, and some political parties, with a few “civil society” (read bourgeois) groups as observers, has three basic themes: governance, elections, and amending the constitution.            What is the real goal of this dialogue? Will it lead to the dismissal of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and his government and of the Transitional College for a Permanent Electoral Council (CTCEP) of Emmanuel Ménard? Do the political players involved in the dialogue have any credibility with the public? Why are some parties not a part of this “dialogue” while others complain that they were not invited to these meetings? Who will implement any resolutions which come out of these talks?            The “political and institutional dialogue” began on Fri., Jan. 24, 2014, at the El Rancho hotel in Pétion-ville, in a room filled with government officials, parliamentarians, political parties, and civil society. Tellingly, two major opposition sectors, the Lavalas Family Political Organization (FL) and the Patriotic Movement of the Democratic Opposition (MOPOD), a center-right coalition of parties and organizations, were not in attendance, while several other very small parties demanded to be included.            Following a heated debate over the core document around which dialogue is taking place, President Martelly, the new Haitian cardinal Chibly Langlois, and Senators Steven Benoit and Edmonde Supplice Beauzil all spoke at the opening session of the talks, which should last for two or three weeks, according to the Catholic mediators.            President Martelly thanked the members of the Mediation Committee of the Catholic Church and all other actors involved in the process. He then invited political players to engage in deep dialogue and negotiations. "The key for us now is to be able to talk among ourselves, to resolve our differences, and to think of the greater good of Haiti," he said, adding that there was an urgency to act now and to introduce into all levels of the state qualified people to modernize the Haitian political landscape and consolidate democracy.            Cardinal Chibly Langlois, meanwhile, insisted that there be real change and a focus on the main objective of these discussions: the collective search for durable solutions. "This search for solutions must be done truthfully," he said.             Sen. Edmonde Supplice Beauzile, representative of the Fusion of Social Democrats party, welcomed the “dialogue” initiative, saying it implies it should be the work of Haitians themselves . She also said that the participants do not have room for error because the Haitian people “expect a lot from these discussions,” especially a commitment to put Haiti on a path towards change.            Sen. Steven Benoît, representing the parliament in the absence of Senate President Simon Dieuseul Desras (who was in New York over the weekend), thanked the initiators of the talks and asked for the FL and MOPOD to join the discussions in order “to give the nation a chance.”             The FL’s Executive Committee apparently heard Benoît’s call and rushed to get on the “dialogue” train. In a Jan. 27, 2014 press statement, the party wrote: "Following the letter of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti (CEH), dated Jan. 25, 2014, in which Monseigneur Chibly Langlois, President of the CEH invited the Lavalas Family to join the dialogue process, the Lavalas Family, which wants dialogue and always encourages dialogue, has decided to participate [in the talks], as requested by the CEH which is playing the role of mediator... The Lavalas Family, while participating in this dialogue, does not put aside [the need for] a national dialogue with the participation of all sectors, creating the conditions necessary to bring to the dialogue table all popular demands."  The note was signed by four members of the FL’s Executive Committee: Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the party’s coordinator, former deputy Lionel Etienne, agronomist Anthony Dessources, and businessman Joël Edouard “Pasha” Vorbe.             The same day, Jan. 27, Narcisse, Dessources, and Vorbe showed up at the talks. (Interestingly, FL Executive Committee member Claude Roumain, the former leader of a right-wing party, Generation 2004, did not sign the note and has not yet attended the talks.)            Along with the FL leadership, this “dialogue” involves only political parties from the same political family as Martelly: the Struggling People’s Organization (OPL), the Fusion of Social Democrats, the Konbit of Workers and Peasants to Liberate Haiti (KONTRAPEP), and the Democratic Unity Confederation (KID ).            The West Department’s senator, John Joël Joseph, expressed doubts about the outcome of the talks. He doesn’t think the president is acting in good faith, but rather that the difficult political situation compels him to take part in the talks. He advised Cardinal Langlois to proceed with caution so as not to be manipulated by both national and international players, who want simply to waste time. However, since the country is at an impasse, Sen. Joseph doesn’t dismiss the need for “Haitians from all sectors to talk” and be serious about it.            The deputy representing the southwestern town of Dame-Marie, Acclush Louis-Jeune, took a position diverging with his own party, the OPL, on the issue of dialogue. He called on the CEH to stop the process of dialogue until many other national sectors were participating in the discussions. It does not make sense, he added, that someone like MOPOD’s Dr. Turneb Delpé, who has long advocated dialogue in the form of a National Conference, not to be involved. For Dep. Acclush, the parties involved in the discussions are not mandated to represent the peasantry and other key sectors of Haiti. Furthermore, he said, the participating parties are not in conflict with the Martelly government in the same way as the member parties and organizations of MOPOD and some progressive popular organizations which have repeatedly condemned the way Martelly wields power.            Béguens Théus, the deputy for La Gonâve, also deplored the lack of other national sectors at the discussion table. He also chided the three branches of the government for not being able to resolve their disputes and called on participants to discuss the real obstacles to development in Haiti.            Paul Denis, a spokesman for the Unity party (INITE), said that the real problem of Haiti is none other than Martelly himself and does not believe it possible that Martelly would respect any resolutions that might possibly be taken as a result of discussions. Mr. Denis also believes that Haiti’s real problems will not be on the table, nor will the many outrages already committed by the Martelly/Lamothe government.             Lawyer André Michel, who has brought corruption suits against the Martelly regime, thinks that the “dialogue” will result in nothing substantive and that only some government posts will be given to some of the participants. He called it a “gathering of friends” and asserted that none of Haiti’s real problems are actually being raised.            Meanwhile, MOPOD held a retreat this past weekend to discuss how to the to structure and transform itself from a political platform into some kind of new party. During 2013, MOPOD’s slogan was "elections or resignation," but there were no elections, and President Martelly remains in office. So MOPOD is having to revise its strategy. Nonetheless, it has so far refused to take part in the “political and institutional dialogue” and continues to demand Martelly’s resignation.            We should recall that the de facto coup government of President Alexandre Boniface and Prime Minister Gérard Latortue (2004-2006) also had initiated a supposed “dialogue” of this kind, which led to nothing but a waste of state resources and time. In 2012, a similar dialogue was led by Religions for Peace, which resulted in the formation of the CTCEP, which was supposed to organize elections for one third of the Senate and for municipal posts. But the CTCEP was vassalized by the Martelly government and elections have never been carried out to date.            In short, President Martelly is afraid of elections and cannot overcome the troubles that confront him. To save face, he and the international community are hiding behind the Catholic Church’s robes as it organizes this meaningless “dialogue” of principally bourgeois and Duvalierist (Macoute) parties.
            Free, fair, and sovereign elections will require Martelly’s resignation and an end to Haiti’s military occupation by U.S. imperialism’s proxy force, the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH). Neither of these conditions have been mentioned by the initiators of the current “dialogue.” It is quite clear that the “dialogue” participants are more interested in salvaging what they can of the status quo than in any revolutionary transformation of Haitian society, which will be necessary to create a participatory democracy.
Categories: Haitian blogs

What the New DNI Threat Assessment Says about Haiti

Jan. 29, 2014 - 8:05 pm
by Dan Beeton (for CEPR)
The Office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released its “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community” [PDF] for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today. The assessment’s section on Haiti is longer this year, due to concerns that the DNI apparently has regarding what it sees as a need for an ongoing foreign military presence there, support for which is waning internationally. The assessment cites chronic factors such as poverty and “weak institutions” as reasons why foreign military intervention is still warranted:Stability in Haiti will remain fragile due to extreme poverty and weak governing institutions.  Meaningful long-term reconstruction and development in Haiti will need to continue for many years.  Haiti remains vulnerable to setbacks in its reconstruction and development goals due to the possibility of natural disasters.  Food insecurity, although improving, also has the potential to be a destabilizing factor.  Periods of political gridlock have resulted due to distrust between President Michel Martelly, in office since May 2011, and opponents in Parliament.  Martelly is generally still popular, but politically organized protests, possibly violent, might occur before the elections, scheduled for 2014.
While the assessment claims (as it also did last year) that Martelly “is generally still popular,” no evidence is provided. Indeed there have been protests and other signs of public discontent with his administration in recent months. Contrary to what the assessment says, there are as yet no elections scheduled; the delay in elections has been a key issue behind the demonstrations.The long delay in scheduling the elections has also contributed to “donor fatigue” among countries that contribute to MINUSTAH – something the assessment acknowledges apparently for the first time:During the next decade, Haiti will remain highly dependent on assistance from the international community for security, in particular during elections.  Donor fatigue among contributors to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), however, will likely lead to reductions in force, evident by the 2013 mandate which calls for consolidating and downsizing forces.This comes after Uruguay’s recent, public announcement that it will withdraw its troops from the mission. The mention of waning regional interest in MINUSTAH participation is presumably a concern for the U.S. since it has been seen as a way to “manage” Haiti on the cheap, as we know from State Department cables made available by Wikileaks.
Categories: Haitian blogs

New Charges in Dominique Case are meant to Draw Attention Away from Martelly's Narco Controversy

Jan. 25, 2014 - 4:33 pm

 Like other cases of political violence in Haiti, it is vital that the killers of Haitian journalist Jean Dominique (murdered in 2000) be brought to justice. Over the years though it is clear that the case has been politicized and exploited for political gain on different occasions. From what we have gathered the new charges related to the Jean Dominique case became known in December and do not implicate Aristide. The charges also appear to rely solely upon one account from a former security official who was implicated in drug trafficking and previously cut deals with the U.S. justice department to shorten his time in U.S. federal prison.

The story and the inaccurate way in which it has been covered has been pushed by Martelly's press agent Guy Delva. Guy Delva formerly worked for Reuters, but currently is a press agent for the Martelly regime. 

The timing of the court charges and the inaccurate way in which Delva has explained the court charges (picked up by Reuters and repeated uncritically and ad nauseum by groups like reporters sans frontiers and rightwing commentators) are meant to draw attention away from the growing crisis over the Martelly government's connections with the narco trade.  By this, I refer to the arrest in late 2013 of Martelly's close friend Daniel Evinks with two dozen kilos of marijuana. Since then Evinks has gone missing. The Martelly government does not want coverage of the missing narco trafficker/Martelly associate Daniel Evenks (sometimes spelled “Evinx”).

Other than a piece in the Sentinel, the Evinks story has not been getting coverage in the international media and the English speaking press, even though it is a big story in Haiti. 

Evinks supposedly threatened to talk if he was arrested and it has been reported that he met with the DEA in late December and disappeared in early January.

The Martelly government does not want this story coming out in the international press, especially in the lead up to elections. They are rushing now to collect voter ID numbers and telephone numbers as the "international community" is pushing for them to finally think about an election. According to a well placed source, Martelly's people by gathering voter IDs  are then able to use these to buy food kits (for distribution) from aid agencies and then resell them to the Haitian government at double or triple the cost. This is one way in which Martelly regime officials have been funneling money to themselves.

For more background on the Dominique case see this 2007 interview with IJDH attorney Brian Concannon and BAI attorney Mario Joseph on the Jean Dominique murder investigation. Also listen to these recent talks by Brian Concannon, Aristide's attorney Iraq Kurzban, and documentarian Kevin Pina on Flaspoints radio. These talks are especially important because they look critically at the source of the recent allegations made against Myrlande Liberis-Pavert, Aristide, and others. They also provide more historical context. Haiti Liberte's Jacque Pierre Kolo also has an excellent article on the controversy here.

Since 2004 Haiti's sovereignty has been undermined. The post-coup regime and its allies ransacked Aristide's house. For years they've had the best possible opportunity, and ample incentive, to find any credible evidence against Aristide and not just for Jean Dominique's murder but for countless other allegations that were made. They've found nothing. They now resort to the same tactics of insinuation that helped set up the 2004 coup that made Haiti safe for Jean Claude Duvalier's return.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Flashpoints Radio Interviews on the new Charges in the Jean Dominique Case

Jan. 25, 2014 - 4:05 pm
Listen at 36 minutes & 40 seconds to an interview with Aristide's attorney Ira Kurzban on the new charges in the Jean Dominique case: http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/99376
Also listen to a discussion with documentarian Kevin Pina and IJDH attorney Brian Concannon about the new charges in the Dominique trial:http://haitiinformationproject.blogspot.com/2014/01/did-aristide-order-myrlande-liberus-to.html
Categories: Haitian blogs

Sentinel: Police find car of missing Martelly Narco-Businessman Associate Daniel Evinx

Jan. 24, 2014 - 4:41 pm
GONAIVES, Haiti (sentinel.ht) - The whereabouts of businessman Daniel Evinx has been unknown since January 5. The vehicle of the close friend of President Michel Martelly, who was arrested in late 2013 for being in the possession of two dozen kilos of marijuana, was found at a gas station in Gonaïves over the weekend where he was last seen weeks ago.
Police Spokesman, Inspector Garry Desrosiers, in briefing the press said Daniel had left his vehicle at a gas station in Gonaives, Artibonite and had taken a motorcycle taxi to another destination but hadn't been seen since.Evinx Daniel was a resident of Les Cayes and participated in the organizing of the first National Carnival outside of Port-au-Prince in 2012. This year the Martelly administration announced the Carnival would be in Gonaives.

Daniel, a 2010 Digicel Entrepenuer of the Year finalist, made news in September 2013 when he was arrested for retrieving 23 kilos of marijuana while aboard his yacht off the southern coast of Haiti, Les Cayes.Daniel was released 24 hours later without ever facing charges and the Government Commissioner who arrested Daniel was relieved from his position. A series of events that brought to question the close relationship Daniel has with the President of the Republic.
During the United Nations General Assembly in November, that President Michel Martelly did not attend, missing for a few days it was discovered that the Head of State spent nights at the home of Daniel, who is also a hotelier.

Read more: http://www.sentinel.ht/politics/articles/defense/5389-police-find-car-of-missing-businessman-daniel-evinx#ixzz2rRe6CTZS
Categories: Haitian blogs

The Jean Dominique Case: Surrounded by Speculation

Jan. 24, 2014 - 1:26 am
By Jacques Pierre Kolo
The double murder on Apr. 3, 2000 of journalist Jean Dominique and his radio station’s guardian Jean-Claude Louissaint resurfaced in the news this week after Joseph C. Guyler Delva, an advisor to the National Palace, announced on Fri., Jan. 17, 2014 the some findings of the investigative report of the case’s examining magistrate Yvikel Dabrézil.

            Dominique’s station, Radio Haiti Inter, was at the center of political and ideological debate in the post-1986 period. With a dedicated and battle-hardened team, it earned a special place in the Haitian radio landscape by denouncing stinking and corrupt practices in our nation. Dominique made a choice to fight against the forces of the status quo. That is why he was targeted on many occasions by angry "anti-change" forces who saw him as a man to bring down or get out of the way.            According to statements of Guy Delva, who claimed to be quoting from the indictment (which has not yet been made public) of Judge Dabrézil, a former Haitian senator, Mirlande Libérus, is allegedly the intellectual author of this double murder committed in the courtyard of Jean Dominique’s station. Also according to Guy Delva, who toured Port-au-Prince’s media on Friday to "sell" the indictment, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide should also have been indicted, although he was not charged.            There was no real reaction from the public following the declarations of Guy Delva, the former Secretary of State for Communications of the government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. It also wasn’t a scoop. The Haitian people have become accustomed to Delva, the former correspondent of Radio Métropole in the south, putting out this kind of charge against his enemy Aristide, the spiritual leader of the Lavalas Family party. Guy Delva was the first to go public with the Judge Dabrézil's decision to summon former President Aristide to his office for questioning on May 8, 2013 as part of the same case.            It is important to note that the investigation is supposed to be secret in such a case that, almost 14 years later, is still at an impasse. It is true that some lawyers have a different opinion on the need for confidentiality in a case like this, while others believe that, on the contrary, the defendants should be notified first, before the case is made public. How could Guy Delva have access to a judge’s ordinance on such a sensitive case that is not even unsealed yet? Delva, who is also the head of SOS Journalist, is possibly privy to the secrets of the gods, or perhaps, as an advisor to the National Palace, he was called upon to put the information out for a "good reason." Because this matter is primarily political. Each government seeks to use to its own ends the death of Jean Do, as the great journalist was nicknamed.            Not less than 10 judges and state prosecutors have scoured the case of Jean Dominique in whole or in part. Several leading figures have been questioned, including former President René Préval, former Sen. Dany Toussaint, former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, and the leader of the Struggling People’s Organization (OPL), Sauveur Pierre Etienne. At least two key witnesses died under very mysterious circumstances: one when undergoing minor surgery at the Hospital of the State University of Haiti, and the other while in a prison in Petit-Goâve. Important documents in the case are missing or buried in the rubble of the Palace of Justice in Port-au-Prince, that housed Cabinet of Instruction (investigating judges) prior to the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010.            Nine people have so far been charged: Mirlande Libérus, Harold Sévère, Annette Auguste (Sò An), Franco Camille, Merité Milien, Dimsley Milien, Toussaint Mercidieu, Jeudi Jean Daniel, and Markington Michel. Among them, two are considered to be the gunmen, and another, an accomplice, said Michèle Montas, the wife of the murdered journalist.  She said she believed it was a clear that her husband was killed by powerful men in Haiti, during an interview with Radio Caraïbes, also posted online on Jan. 20, 2014.            What seems odd is that the latest ordinance from Judge Dabrézil, as reported by Guy Delva, has indicted citizens whose names do not appear anywhere in any of the previous ordinances in this case. Needless to say, each government has its own examining magistrate. And each indictment targets its own witnesses or defendants. What a singular small country where justice is so multi-faceted!            Why was Guy Delva given the responsibility to make public excerpts from the report of the Judge Ivikel Dabrézil in the case of Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint? Guy Delva headed a commission established by President René Préval to shed light on the cases of murdered journalists, but it has not been functioning for a long time. Mr. Delva cannot today claim, as he did, to be speaking on behalf of this long-defunct Commission and that this is why he had access to the record of the secret investigation. If that were the case, Mr. Delva would be occupying at least two official functions, one of which is incompatible with the other. In this respect, Sen. John Joël Joseph was correct to point out that "there were clearly political maneuvers and manipulation involved, aimed at weakening a powerful political sector as elections approach."            For the senator, quoted by the Haitian Press Agency on Jan. 17, 2014, there is a very close link between the release of this information and the outcry against former President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier on the third anniversary of his return from golden exile in France.            Rightly, the Collective against Impunity, an association of plaintiffs and human rights organizations, said it deplores what it calls the “trivialization of dictatorship” and attempts to rehabilitate the former dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier. The group’s coordinator, Danielle Magloire, a victim of Duvalier, said that "efforts are currently underway at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to reactivate the Duvalier case. These efforts may result in obtaining a session organized by the IACHR in March on the Duvalier case. "            The current regime, inspired by Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes, faced with this political imbroglio, is trying to make a headlong flight with the case of Jean Dominique to distract the population onto something else. Also, the upcoming elections are a thorn in the foot of the Martelly-Lamothe government.            The regime in place, which is not sure to win the next election if it were free and fair, is attempting to divert, or at the very least weaken, the Lavalas machine, which is presently the strongest political force in the country and, in all likelihood, would be able win any transparent election. During the forthcoming elections, if the regime lost its majority, built with money and promises, in the Chamber of Deputies and could not take control of the Senate, it would be the death knell for President Michel Martelly, who has a sword of Damocles over his head with the Senate resolution calling on the House of Representatives to "impeach" him and the Prime Minister for their "responsibility in the suspicious death" of the Magistrate Jean Serge Joseph.            President Martelly faces great pressure to organize municipal, local, and partial senate elections, and also for renewal of the Chamber of Deputies, especially from the democratic opposition that constantly demands his resignation for "failing to deliver the goods" promised during his election campaign and for his "totalitarianism."            So in an attempt to assure its survival, the Martelly regime is trying to muddy the water and equate Jean-Claude Duvalier (symbol of the dictatorship) with Jean-Bertrand Aristide (symbol of the masses). The Martelly regime in cahoots with a certain sector of the international community will seek to get the Fanmi Lavalas out of the way before organizing the upcoming elections, which will be a crucial step for the country and for the future of the Martelly-Lamothe regime.

Categories: Haitian blogs

Wikileaks Reveals Obama Administration's Role in Stifling Haitian Minimum Wage

Jan. 18, 2014 - 3:48 pm
American corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss prefer to pay Haitians slave wages to sew their clothes.

by Rod Bastanmehr for Alternet

Strike another one for Wikileaks. The ever-controversial leaker of the world’s best-kept secrets has published a wire on The Nation that reveals the Obama Administration fought to keep the Haitian minimum wage to 31 cents an hour.

According to the published wire (which came to light thanks in large part to the Haiti Liberte, a newspaper based in Port-au-Prince and New York City), Haiti passed a law in 2012 raising its minimum wage to 61 cents an hour. America corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss vociferously objected, claiming such an increase would irreparably harm their business and profitability. According to the leaked U.S. Embassy cable, keeping these garment workers at “slave wages,” was better for the two companies The corporations in question allegedly stated that they would only fork over a seven-cent-an-hour increase, eventually going so far as to involve the U.S. State Department.Soon, the U.S. Ambassador put pressure on Michel Martelly, the president of Haiti, to find a middle ground, resulting in a $3-a-day minimum wage for all textile companies. To put it in perspective, the United States’s minimum wage—already considered extremely low—works out to roughly to $58 a day. Haiti has about 25,000 garment workers, who are somehow getting by on these abysmal wages. According to Business Insider, if each garment worker was paid just $2 more a day, it would cost their given corporate employers $50,000 per working day, or $12.5 million a year. Hanes, the garment company best known for their t-shirts, had roughly 3,200 Haitians working in their factory. An increase of $2 a day would cost the company a mere $1.6 million a year—for a company that had $4.3 billion in sales last year alone.Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City with a passion for music, film and culture. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Haiti: Lack of political will allows ex-dictator Duvalier to escape justice

Jan. 16, 2014 - 9:57 pm
Amnesty International

A lack of political will and unacceptable court delays are allowing Haiti’s former “president-for-life,” Jean-Claude Duvalier, to escape justice for human rights violations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. 

The authorities re-opened a criminal case against the former Haitian dictator three years ago, shortly after he returned to the country on 16 January 2011, following a 25-year exile in France. He faced charges of serious human rights violations such as murder and torture of political opponents, and of corruption. But the case has stalled for almost a year. 
“It appears that the Haitian authorities have no intention of carrying out thorough investigations into Duvalier-era abuses,” said Javier Zúñiga, Amnesty International’s special adviser to regional programmes. 

“The judicial process has stalled, denying victims of his reign of terror their right to truth, justice and reparation. To add insult to injury, Duvalier continues to take part in public events, often at the invitation of the Haitian government.” 
Duvalier, also known as “Baby Doc,” inherited power from his father, the dictator François Duvalier, and ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986. During his rule, Haitian life was marked by systematic human rights violations. 

Hundreds of political prisoners held in a network of prisons known as the “triangle of death”, including the infamous Fort Dimanche, died from mistreatment or were victims of extrajudicial killings. Duvalier’s government repeatedly closed independent newspapers and radio stations. Journalists were beaten, in some cases tortured, jailed, and forced to leave the country. 

He is also alleged to have embezzled between $300 million and $800 million of assets during his presidency. 
In January 2012, an investigating judge ruled that Duvalier should stand trial before a lower court for misappropriation of public funds, but that the statute of limitations had expired on the human rights crimes he was accused of. Both the human rights victims and Duvalier appealed the decision. The appeal began on 13 December 2012.

Duvalier appeared before the Court of Appeal in Port-au-Prince on 28 February 2013, for the first time giving public testimony related to alleged crimes during his rule. 

“In a country in which impunity for the worst crimes has been the norm, Duvalier’s presence in the court was a glimmer of hope for the victims and their families,” said Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson at Human Rights Watch. 

“The Haitian authorities have an obligation to prosecute these grave human rights violations. Crimes including torture, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances are not subject to a statute of limitations.” 

Between March and May 2013, eight victims gave testimony in court despite objections from Duvalier’s lawyers, who have filed an appeal in an effort to prevent the victims’ from exercising their right to participate in the proceedings as civil parties. Victims also faced the hostility of the public prosecutor who seemed to have aligned with the defense. 

Testimony concluded in May, and the Court of Appeal’s decision has been pending ever since. Multiple sources have told Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that the Court of Appeal is waiting for some other procedural steps to be carried out before issuing its ruling.
“Under Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes militia, thousands were tortured, killed, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled into exile,” said Reed Brody. 
“Duvalier’s victims shouldn’t have to keep waiting and hoping for justice that never comes.” 

While the victims await the Court’s decision, Duvalier has been taking part in public events. Most recently, on 1 January 2014, he attended a state ceremony to celebrate Independence Day in the city of Gonaïves. 

Former president Prosper Avril, a close Duvalier ally who came to power following a military coup in 1988 and ruled until 1990, also was there.  President Michel Martelly justified Duvalier’s and Avril’s invitations as important to promote national reconciliation. 

“Reconciliation is not possible without justice, truth, and reparations,” said Javier Zúñiga. 
“This move is seen by many as a blatant attempt by the Haitian authorities to rehabilitate this former dictator, and it only adds insult and injury to the thousands of victims of Duvalier’s rule.”
Categories: Haitian blogs

Outsourcing Haiti: How Disaster Relief Became a Disaster of its Own

Jan. 16, 2014 - 9:54 pm
Jake Jonston
Boston Review, January 16, 2014See article on original website
Across the country from Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, miles of decrepit pot-holed streets give way to a smooth roadway leading up to the gates of the Caracol Industrial Park, but no further. The fishing hamlet of Caracol, from which the park gets its name, lies around the bend down a bumpy dirt road. Four years after the earthquake that destroyed the country on January 12, 2010, the Caracol Industrial Park is the flagship reconstruction project of the international community in Haiti. Signs adorn nearby roads, mostly in English, declaring the region “Open for Business.” In a dusty field, hundreds of empty, brightly colored houses are under construction in neat rows. If all goes as hoped for by the enthusiastic backers of the industrial park, this area could be home to as many as 300,000 additional residents over the next decade.
The plan for the Caracol Industrial Park project actually predates the 2010 earthquake. In 2009, Oxford University economist Paul Collier released a U.N.–sponsored report outlining a vision for Haiti’s economic future; it encouraged garment manufacturing as the way forward, noting U.S. legislation that gave Haitian textiles duty-free access to the U.S. market as well as “labour costs that are fully competitive with China . . . [due to] its poverty and relatively unregulated labour market.”The report, embraced by the U.N. and the U.S., left a mark on many of the post-earthquake planning documents. Among the biggest champions of the plan were the Clintons, who played a crucial role in attracting a global player to Haiti. While on an official trip to South Korea as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton brought company officials from one of the largest South Korean manufacturers to the U.S. embassy to sell them on the idea. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, having just appointed Bill Clinton U.N. special envoy to Haiti, tapped connections in his home country, South Korea.Then suddenly, the earthquake presented an opportunity for the Clintons and the U.N. to fast track their plans. The U.S. government and its premiere aid agency, USAID, formed an ambitious plan to build thousands of new homes, create new industries, and provide new beginnings for those who lost everything in the earthquake. Originally the plan was to build the industrial park near Port-au-Prince. But land was readily available in the North, and the hundreds of small farmers who had to be moved from the park’s site were far less resistant than the wealthy land-owners in the capital. So the whole project moved to the Northern Department, to Caracol. Under the banner of decentralization and economic growth, the Caracol Industrial Park, with the Korean textile manufacturer Sae-A as its anchor tenant, became the face of Haiti’s reconstruction.Now, only 750 homes have been built near Caracol, and the only major tenant remains Sae-A. New ports and infrastructure have been delayed and plagued by cost overruns. Concerns over labor rights and low wages have muted the celebration of the 2,500 new jobs created. For those who watched pledges from international donors roll in after the earthquake, reaching a total of $10 billion, rebuilding Haiti seemed realistic. But nearly four years later, there is very little to show for all of the aid money that has been spent. Representative Edward Royce (R-CA), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, bluntly commented in October that “while much has been promised, little has been effectively delivered.”The story of how this came to pass involves more than the problems of reconstruction in a poor country. While bad governance, corruption, incompetent bureaucracy, power struggles, and waste contributed to the ineffective use of aid, what happened in Haiti has more to do with the damage caused by putting political priorities before the needs of those on the ground.The Housing Crisis and the Interim Haiti Recovery CommissionThe earthquake decimated Haiti’s housing stock: 100,000 were destroyed and more were damaged. There were $2.3 billion in damages in the housing sector alone, and 1.5 million people left living in makeshift tent camps. Unplanned and unregulated housing construction made Port-au-Prince, with population at least 3 million, extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. In less than a minute, entire shantytown neighborhoods came crashing down.The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission was created by the international community to coordinate post-quake aid and align it with Haitian government priorities. Bill Clinton, as the U.N. special envoy and the head of the Commission, was optimistic. “If we do this housing properly,” he affirmed, “it will lead to whole new industries being started in Haiti, creating thousands and thousands of new jobs and permanent housing.”Like the Caracol Industrial park, the Commission was presented as a response to the devastation of the earthquake. But its basic tenets—and its slogan, “Build Back Better”—were actually agreed upon by the U.S. and U.N. in the year prior. The commission’s formation was handled not by the Haitian government, but by the staff of the Clintons, mainly Cheryl Mills and Laura Graham, as well as a team of U.S.-based private consultants. The commission’s bylaws were drafted by a team from Hogan Lovells, a global law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. A team from McKinsey and Company, a New York based consultancy firm, handled the “mission, mandate, structure and operations” of the commission. Eric Braverman, part of the McKinsey team, later went on to become the CEO of the Clinton Foundation.According to Jean-Marie Bourjolly, a Haitian member of the commission, the body’s “original sin” lay in concentrating the decision-making power in the Executive Committee of the Board, made up of Bill Clinton and then–Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. In October 2010, just six months after its creation, Bourjolly wrote a memorandum to the co-chairs and the rest of the commission’s board. The note cautioned that by “vesting all powers and authority of the Board in the Executive Committee, it is clear that what is expected of us [the rest of the Board] is to act as a rubber-stamping body.” According to Bourjolly, the memorandum was not included in the official minutes of the October meeting at Clinton’s behest, and the document has remained out of the public sphere. But one former commission employee confirmed the commission’s role: he told me that many projects were approved because “they were submitted by USAID and State” and “that as long as USAID is submitting it and USAID is paying for it,” it should be approved.Bourjolly also contended that the commission was failing to live up to its mission “to conduct strategic planning, establish investment priorities and sequence implementation of plans and projects.” Rather, Bourjolly wrote, “our action has so far been limited to accepting projects that. . . come our way on a first come, first served basis” and that it would result in “a disparate bunch of approved projects. . . that nonetheless do not address as a whole neither the emergency situation nor the recovery, let alone the development, of Haiti.”Even the Clintons’ supporters conceded that their staff and the foreign consultants did more harm than good. A Haitian government official, who requested her name be withheld because of the power the Clintons continue to wield in Haiti, commented that “they were lucky to get someone as high-profile and experienced as Clinton” but that the staff “had no idea what Haiti was like and had no sensitivity to the Haitians.” “Out of ignorance, there was much arrogance,” the official said. “And who pays the price? The Haitian people, as always.”Article 22 of the Haitian constitution enshrines “the right of every citizen to decent housing,” and civil society groups have long advocated for the government to protect this right through large-scale, affordable public housing. But in October 2011, the commission quietly closed its doors. Its eighteen-month mandate was not renewed, and little remained of the grand plans to build thousands of new homes. Instead, those left homeless would be given a small, one-time rental subsidy of about $500. These subsidies, funded by a number of different aid agencies, were meant to give private companies the incentive to invest in building houses. As efforts to rebuild whole neighborhoods faltered, the rental subsidies turned Haitians into consumers, and the housing problem was handed over to the private sector.The number of displaced persons is down to 200,000 from its 1.5 million peak, according to the U.N. But only 25 percent of that decrease has anything to do with official programs to provide housing. Many were given a paltry subsidy and evicted from their camps. The highest profile and most visible camps were closed down, but those tucked in alleys, out of the view of the convoys of aid workers’ vehicles, remain forgotten. Fifty-five thousand Haitians who moved to areas known as Canaan, Jerusalem, and Onaville were recently removed from the “official” list of Internally Displaced Persons camps. Though those who were pushed out of the camps simply returned to their old homes, the international community claims progress. A USAID–sponsored study from the summer of 2011 estimated that over a million Haitians were occupying damaged homes and that nearly half of them were living in “buildings that might collapse at any moment.” In fact, if another quake happened today, they’d be more likely to die than they were living under tents in clearings.By September 2013, nearly four years after the earthquake, only 7,500 new homes had been built and 27,000 repaired—an incredibly small achievement when set against the billions of dollars and grand plans put together by the international community in the wake of the catastrophe. “Now, we have a return to the status quo, the same situation that was there before the earthquake, with no coordination and each project done haphazardly,” Gabriel Verret, the former executive director of the commission, said.USAID’s $33,000 HouseWhile the $500 rental subsidies recommended by the Clinton Commission at the end of its tenure became the preferred form of support by the Haitian government and international community, smaller projects to provide permanent housing that had already been approved by the commission were carried through. In December 2010, the commission’s board had signed off on the U.S. government’s “New Settlements Program,” which called for the construction of 15,000 homes in Port-au-Prince and the North Department, where the new industrial park was to be located.This June, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report revealing that only 900 of those 15,000 homes had been built. The overall goal has been reduced to 2,600. At the same time, costs increased from $53 million to over $90 million. The GAO found that the program suffered from a fatal flaw: original estimates had drastically low-balled how much the houses would cost. The calculation of 15,000 planned houses was based on an estimate of each costing around $8,000. With the cost of preparing the land, the total cost per house was over $33,000.USAID assembled a team of shelter experts in August of 2010. The goal, according to Duane Kissick, the head of the shelter planning team, was to put the majority of available resources into the damaged communities. The plan they came back with was simple and meant to be implemented quickly. Jerry Erbach, another member of the Shelter Team, recalled that “there was a good deal of pressure to develop a series of projects very quickly and at low cost in order to meet the needs of those households who became homeless after the earthquake.” The plan was to build homes that were simple, modest and small, but that could expand over time.The narrative put forth by the Shelter Team experts is confirmed by USAID’s Shelter Sector Activity Approval Document (AAD), which I obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The plan called for construction to be completed by December 2012 and specifically noted that “USAID programs will seek wherever possible to work with local partners.” A USAID-funded study by the International Housing Coalition recommended the same thing, noting that “wherever possible, USAID should utilize Haitian construction contractors.” Letting local companies or individuals handle the work means more money for Haiti, its economy, and its people. It’s also cheaper, and has worked in the past.Food for the Poor, an NGO that has worked in Haiti for decades, utilizes small local construction teams to build 1,000 homes each year at a cost of just $6,400 each. Brad Johnson, the president of Mission of Hope, another NGO working in Haiti, told the New York Times, “We’re not one of the big groups that sit in Washington, D.C., and get the financing. . . But we’re managing to get it done for $6,000 a house. I don’t understand, for all the money that came into Haiti, why there aren’t houses everywhere.”But the recommendations for using local contractors and the plan to build $8,000 homes were ignored. More international companies were brought in, additional studies were undertaken, and the first contract to actually build a house was not awarded until April of 2012, nearly two and half years after the quake and eight months after the project was approved. The contracts ended up going not to small local companies but to large international ones. Thor Construction, based in Minnesota, received $18 million, and CEMEX, a Mexican company, got over $7 million. Another $35 million went to two Haitian-American firms based in Maryland for environmental assessments, construction management, site preparation, and other associated projects.Outsourcing the construction drove the price up, since international companies had to fly in, rent hotels and cars, and spend USAID allowances for food and cost-of-living expenses. To incentivize working in Haiti, the U.S. government also gave contractors and employees “danger pay” and “hardship pay,” increasing their salaries by over 50 percent. With all these costs included in contracts, it’s not hard to see how prices ballooned. Bill Vastine, a long-time contractor and member of the Shelter Team, said, “if the American people saw the true cost of this, they’d say ‘you’ve got to be out of your mind.’” The changing priorities undermined any cohesion in the program.With 200,000 still homeless and hundreds of thousands more living in grossly inadequate and often structurally unsound buildings, the 900 homes that USAID has built won’t go very far. No current USAID employees agreed to speak about the project on the record, despite repeated requests for comment. In remarks before Congress, USAID administrator Beth Hogan stated that “we were significantly off in terms of what our original estimates were. . . when we got back bids from offerers who were going to actually build these homes. . . the estimates increased even further.”The Shelter Team also initially planned to build two-thirds of the homes in the Port-au-Prince area. But this has changed: the current plan is to build 75 percent of the homes in the Northern Department of Haiti, all within 13 miles of the new industrial park. Many USAID staffers on the ground wanted to focus on Port-au-Prince, where the damage was greatest. But the State Department had made a commitment to building houses in the North, in support of the Caracol Industrial Park.The State Department’s political intervention in the project also delayed the process of getting people into the houses that did manage to get built. According to Erbach, who also worked with an international NGO assisting the Haitian Government in selecting households to benefit from the new housing, pressure from the Department of State led to a “significant amount of time and effort being wasted on identifying and vetting workers from the industrial park who were not IDPs.” The internal shelter AAD warned that “if the process is perceived as inequitable, opaque, or led by the United States, the [government] will appear to be ‘choosing winners,’ resulting in political problems.” As Vastine describes it: “Every agency has its own little fiefdom, their own little budgets to protect and their own cadre of people they protect and they don’t work well together; there is no cohesiveness with our own internal bureaucracy in the United States, much less with everything else that’s here, from all the other countries.”Speaking before Congress, USAID Administrator Hogan conceded that, “what we realized as we were going into this. . . is that new homes isn't [sic] the solution for Haiti.” USAID is now officially out of the home-building business in Haiti.As for the 750 houses under construction in Caracol, as the four-year mark comes and goes, the first families are just now starting to move in. Meanwhile, back in Haiti’s capital, at least 200,000 quake victims face another year living under tattered tarps.Too Big to FailOver the last twenty years, the American foreign aid system, much like the military, has become increasingly reliant on private contractors. From 1990 to 2008, USAID experienced a 40 percent decline in staff while funds under their responsibility skyrocketed. A 2008 report from the American Academy of Diplomacy found that “implementation of programs has shifted from Agency employees to contractors and grantees and USAID lacks . . . [the] capacity to provide effective oversight and management.” In her Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said “I think it's fair to say that USAID, our premier aid agency, has been decimated. . . It’s turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.” Billions have been shifted to private corporations and NGOs. Many of those who actually implement foreign aid projects are explicitly for-profit companies, but even top employees at some USAID-funded non-profits earn over $300,000 a year.  Before he became head of the recovery commission, Bill Clinton urged those working in Haiti to ask, “Are we helping [the Haitian people] to become more self-sufficient? Are we building infrastructure in local development plans? Are we creating local jobs? Are we paying salaries for teachers, doctors, nurses, police, civil servants? Are we giving money to support government agencies that provide those services?”The answers to these questions would seem to be mainly in the negative. In Haiti, a report(which I co-authored) at the Center for Economic and Policy Research revealed that less than 1 percent of the more than $1.3 billion in assistance provided by USAID was awarded directly to Haitian companies or organizations. USAID awarded more money to one Washington D.C.-based for-profit contractor, Chemonics, than to the entire Haitian government since the earthquake.Haiti is not unique; these problems erode U.S. aid across the globe. A revolving door between NGOs, development companies, and the U.S. government has entrenched the system so deeply that any movement for change will be long and difficult. Fortunately, development agencies are slowly realizing that aid goes much further when more of it stays in the local economy. For its part, USAID has launched an ambitious reform program called “USAID Forward,” which aims to totally overhaul the procurement system, working directly with local institutions. USAID Administrator Beth Hogan told Congress that in Haiti, the United States is “trying to reach 17 percent of our overall budget to be channeled through local institutions.” But already, for-profit development companies have formed a lobbying group and hired the influential, Democratic party-linked, Podesta Group to get their message out. Their selling point: foreign companies are harder to hold accountable. It’s an argument that rings hollow when you realize that not a single USAID awardee, NGO, or for-profit has been suspended or reprimanded publically for their work in Haiti, despite all the high-profile failures.The failure of Haiti’s reconstruction is, sadly, another chapter in a long history of poverty perpetuated by outside powers. Bureaucracy, internecine quarrels, moneyed lobbying, waste and inefficiency—these are not monopolies of poor, “developing” countries such as Haiti. They are the problems of the United States and its foreign aid complex. 
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