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Updated: 2 hours 53 min ago

Gas Price Hike Fuels Misery and Anger in Haiti

Oct. 16, 2014 - 6:22 pm
by Thomas Péralte (Haiti Liberte)
President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe have decided to dramatically raise government-fixed fuel prices in Haiti over the next six months despite the plummeting price of oil on the world market and the Haitian Senate’s refusal to approve their budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The price hikes, announced by Finance Minister Marie Carmelle Jean-Marie, took effect on Oct. 10, 2014 and will rise in three or four increments.            According to the proposed budget still not approved by the Senate, a gallon of gasoline will rise from its current cost of $4.38 (200 gourdes) to $4.70 (215 gourdes) until December; in January 2015, it would jump to $4.99 (228 gourdes); finally, during February and March 2015, it would be set at $5.32 (243 gourdes) a gallon, a 21.5% increase overall.             A gallon of diesel over the same time period would increase from $3.54 (162 gourdes) to $3.87 (177 gourdes) to $4.03 (184 gourdes) and finally to $4.20 (192 gourdes) in March 2015, an 18.5% increase.            Kerosene will rise from $3.52 (161 gourdes) a gallon to $3.74 (171 gourdes) to $3.92 (179 gourdes) to $4.05 (185 gourdes) in March 2015, a price hike of 14.9%.             Taken all together, the Haitian government will raise the fixed price of fuel on average 18.3% over the next six months, although the price for a barrel of oil has fallen from $104 a barrel in June to about $81 a barrel today.            Ironically, since 2008, Venezuela meets most of Haiti’s petroleum needs under the PetroCaribe contract, whereby Haiti pays about 60% of its oil bill up front, while the remaining 40% can be paid over 25 years at 1% interest.            Despite this advantageous deal, the Martelly/Lamothe government, rather than passing on the savings, is in effect taxing the Haitian people to raise revenues to fund their corruption and profligate ways.            In general, the fuel price hike will further impoverish the Haitian people and degrade Haiti’s environment. Already, 70% of the population lives in extreme poverty; 75% to 80% are in the chronic and endemic unemployment; minimum wage workers earn less than $120 a month working 40 hour weeks; and more than five million Haitians, half the population, are food insecure. All indicators of the Haitian Institute of Statistics and Information (IHSI) show the cost of household food basket is increasing. The rise in petroleum prices will be a heavy burden for the Haitian masses, who already live in abject poverty.            The soaring cost of petroleum-based fuels will force many people to turn to lower cost charbon, which is charcoal made from trees. This will accelerate deforestation in a country which has already lost more than 98% of its forests, resulting in desertification, erosion, and flooding, particularly of poor urban neighborhoods as happened recently in Cité Soleil as well as Tabarre.            The cost of transit on Haiti’s colorful tap taps, taxis, and buses, fixed by the government, will also rise. The public transport drivers’ union is already preparing a protest against the government’s fare hikes.            Ironically, in 2003, as the U.S. government (with the support of the then konpa singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly) was fomenting a coup d’état against the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the cost of gas was about 60 gourdes to 70 gourdes a gallon. There was not yet any cheap PetroCaribe oil flowing into Haiti. But the Haitian government subsidized the price of gas to alleviate the misery of the masses.            Today, the forces which collaborated in the 2004 coup d’état are in power and the cost of living in Haiti has quintupled. People are living in increasingly desperate poverty and fleeing the country in record numbers to seek work elsewhere.            Senator François Annick Joseph of the Artibonite, who is with the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL), says that the Martelly/Lamothe government has no concern for the population. He has called on Venezuela to revise the PetroCaribe agreement so that the funds generated by it are not misused by the government, whose officials are merely enriching themselves at the population’s expense.
            “Shake up this government,” he recently advised the Haitian people. “Shake it up until it falls down.”
Categories: Haitian blogs

Les avocats de l’ancien Président Jean Bertrand ARISTIDE dénoncent "une campagne de désinformation visant, ont-ils dit, à tromper l’opinion publique en faisant croire que Monsieur Aristide refuserait de se présenter devant la justice.

Sep. 5, 2014 - 11:47 am
Agence Haitienne de Presse (AHP) Nouvelles du 3 septembre 2014

Les avocats de l’ancien Président Jean Bertrand ARISTIDE dénoncent "une campagne de désinformation visant, ont-ils dit, à  tromper l’opinion publique en faisant croire que Monsieur Aristide refuserait de se présenter devant la justice. Les avocats de l'ancien chef d'Etat rappellent entre autres, s'être adressés à la  justice, particulièrement à la Cour de cassation pour obtenir le dessaisissement de son  dossier du juge d’instruction, Maître Lamarre BELIZAIRE, pour cause de suspicion légitime.

 Note de presse  du Bureau des Avocats internationaux

"Les avocats de l’ancien Président Jean Bertrand ARISTIDE présentent leurs compliments à la  population et croient opportun de dénoncer une campagne de désinformation visant à  tromper l’opinion publique en faisant croire que Monsieur Jean Bertrand ARISTIDE a refusé de se présenter devant la justice.  Rien n’est plus faux.



Il s’est déjà présenté devant la justice et s’est récemment adressé à la  justice, particulièrement à la Cour de cassation pour obtenir le dessaisissement de son  dossier du juge d’instruction, Maître Lamarre BELIZAIRE, pour cause de suspicion légitime.

Il  n’offre aucune garantie d’impartialité et est totalement acquis au pouvoir pour les raisons  suivantes. La loi fixant le statut des magistrats établit clairement les conditions pour être nommé juge à un Tribunal de Première Instance.

 Le postulant doit être diplômé de l’École de la magistrature ou être avocat depuis 8 ans. Maître Lamarre Belizaire n’est pas diplômé de l’École de la magistrature et avait lors de sa  nomination à peine trois ans de pratique comme avocat et non les 8 ans qu’exige la loi.

 La Cour de cassation a décidé qu’un plaideur qui a des motifs sérieux de douter de  l’impartialité d’un juge, en raison de ses tendances et de ses intérêts peut demander le  renvoi devant une autre juridiction pour cause de suspicion légitime : « Voir Pierre-Marie  Michel, Code de procédure civile, note 16 en dessous de l’article 457 ».

Dans ce cas, le cabinet d’instruction du juge Raymond Gilles avait été dessaisi et l’affaire  renvoyée à un autre juge d’instruction, ce qui devrait mettre fin aux informations erronées  qu’un  juge d’instruction ne peut être dessaisi.

 D’ailleurs, en date du 16 Juin 2014, la Cour de  Cassation de la République a rendu un Arrêt dans lequel elle a déclaré admissible la  demande en récusation présentée contre le juge d’Instruction Lamarre BELIZAIRE par les  sieurs Franckel  POLYNINCE, Yves CUPIDON et Luckner JEAN.

De plus, le Doyen du Tribunal de  Première Instance de Port-au-Prince, Me Raymond Jean Michel, n’a-t-il pas  déclaré sur les  ondes de certaines stations de radios de la capitale :  « dès lors où le juge reçoit la  déclaration en dessaisissement , il doit surseoir à la connaissance de l’affaire ».

Le respect dû à la loi s’impose d’abord à ceux qui sont chargés de l’appliquer. En convoquant dans ces circonstances le chef de la police, le juge Lamarre Bélizaire essaie de retenir un  dossier qui a été l’objet d’une demande en dessaisissement pour cause de suspicion  légitime.

Un juge dont l’appartenance et les intérêts sont de notoriété publique, peut-il sans porter  atteinte à sa fonction, méconnaître les droits d’un justiciable ?

Les avocats du président Jean Bertrand Aristide renouvellent à la population l’assurance de  leur haute considération."
Categories: Haitian blogs

Harry Numa: 1961-2014

Sep. 4, 2014 - 7:45 pm
By: Kim Ives - Haiti Liberte
Harry Numa, 52, a long-time leader of the National Popular Assembly (APN) and later the National Popular Party (PPN), died in the early morning hours of Aug. 25 in a tragic car accident in the southwestern Haitian city of Jérémie. His funeral was held and he was buried in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 30.            Born in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 31, 1961, he spent his early years under the dictatorships of François and Jean-Claude Duvalier. “On Rue Sans Fil where he grew up, Harry revealed himself to be a true leader among the youth both through the positions he took and by his serious attitude,” wrote his wife, Lucienne Houanche Irby, in a funeral tribute. “For those who knew him, Harry didn’t joke often. He took everything seriously. Caught up in the socio-political situation of the country, he saw himself as a defender of the weakest and most marginalized.”       In 1980, Harry traveled to New York, where he went to Rockland Community College and worked various jobs. But in 1987, after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, he returned to Haiti like many young people to take part in the burgeoning democracy movement and the newly formed National Popular Assembly (APN), a nationwide popular organization which played a key role in contributing to the political rise of Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the turbulent post-Duvalier period. Harry also played an important role in the leading leftist weekly of the day, Haïti Progrès.            During the coup d’état of 1991 to 1994, Harry largely stayed in Haiti where he set up a clandestine printing press to put out anti-coup flyers and a special version of Haïti Progrès, which for several months in 1994 was unable to enter Haiti from New York, where it was printed, due to an international embargo which stopped airline flights.
            Harry also helped organize a short-wave radio network for communications within Haiti and with New York and Miami, as well as keeping track of, hiding, and caring for APN militants, many of whom were on the run from, shot at, and beaten up by soldiers and paramilitaries of the military regime.            Harry helped plan and execute one memorable resistance operation in 1993 with his long-time comrade, Georges Honorat, and other APN militants, which involved the felling of trees with chainsaws along the Bourdon road to Pétionville to impede the Haitian army’s troop carriers.            Along with other APN militants, Harry met with the celebrated North American intellectual Noam Chomsky, who traveled to Haiti in 1993 during the coup, to be filmed and interviewed by Crowing Rooster Arts. Harry engaged in a long animated discussion with Chomsky about how to resist the coup, portions which are captured in the feature documentary Rezistans, directed by Katharine Kean.            “Are the Haitian people ready to carry out those actions [of resistance] given the cost they will suffer,” Chomsky asks Harry in one scene.            “We, the Haitian people, have no choice,” Harry replied. “We have to fight, we have to mobilize, we have to organize ourselves to finish with this situation [of the coup]. So that’s the kind of work we are doing right now.”            In 1999, the APN formed itself as a full-fledged political party, the PPN, of which Harry was one of the principal leaders. The party did not field candidates in the 2000 elections but organized several historic marches of thousands of its militants against the U.S. military assault on Iraq in March 2003 and against the unfolding coup d’état against President Aristide from 2001 to 2004.            In 2004, faced with a number of personal problems, Harry stepped down from leadership of the PPN and Haïti Progrès, although he kept close contact with his former comrades and often offered them his penetrating analysis and ready advice.            He moved back to New York, where he met is wife, Lucienne, moved to North Valley Stream, and made a living driving taxi cabs and later as a building contractor.            But his passion was Haitian politics and every Monday or Tuesday he would call Haïti Liberté’s director Berthony Dupont to offer his analysis of the “conjuncture,” as Haitians call the political situation.            “Harry’s insights were always invaluable in analyzing complex situations,” Dupont said. “He knew the players, he understood political theory and dynamics, and he had a deep faith in the power of the Haitian people when organized.”            Harry was shaken by the fatal shooting on Mar. 23, 2013 of his long-time comrade, Georges Honorat, with whom he had strongly argued not to take a job working for Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe’s office. Only a week before his killing by two still unknown gunmen on a motorcycle, Honorat had told Harry that his advice had been right. “My place is not there,” Georges had said, according to Harry.            Before the Cuban Ambassador to the UN Pedro J. Nunez Mosquera came to address a community meeting at Haïti Liberté on May 29, 2010, Harry single-handedly threw himself into repairing and remodeling the newspaper’s meeting room to accommodate the overflow crowd that turned out. He also helped organize the meeting with the Cuban ambassador and always came with his wife to support Haïti Liberté at its fundraising events.            The fatal accident was a freak tragedy. Harry was visiting Jérémie for its annual Saint Louis Festival. Leaving the nightclub Pipirit at about 4 a.m., Harry backed up his white jeep to make way for a passing vehicle. Unfamiliar with the road in the dark, he backed his car over a bank so it fell into a rain-swollen river. Although he may have hit his head, it appears that he may have managed to break the windshield and escape from the submerged vehicle but drowned in the strong and deep currents. His body was not recovered until about seven hours later.            Many comrades from Haiti and progressive parties in the U.S. who had a chance to work with him will miss Harry Numa. We at Haïti Liberté will particularly feel the void, missing his sharp insight and deeply principled politics.            A memorial evening commemorating the life of Harry Numa will be held at Haïti Liberté on Sep. 20 at 6 p.m.. Former friends and comrades are expected to attend from as far away as Canada and Florida. Haïti Liberté extends its condolences to his wife, Lucienne, his children, Kenneth and Sandra Irby, and his brothers, cousins, and many other family members.            Harry, for your life of personal sacrifice and unflagging dedication to the cause of the Haitian people’s liberation from oppression and exploitation, we salute you!

            Harry Numa !presente!
Categories: Haitian blogs

U.S. Haitian Puppet Targets Jean-Bertrand Aristide Yet Again

Sep. 4, 2014 - 7:43 pm
By: Joe Emersbergerfirst published, in a slightly different version, by Telesur.
No evidence of corruption has ever been found to incriminate the former Haitian leader, who was overthrown by a U.S.-led coup.
Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is once again being hounded with bogus corruption allegations by the government of Michel Martelly – a government that owes its existence to U.S. bullying.            I don’t dismiss corruption allegations against any politician lightly – even one the U.S. despises. Reasonable, but uniformed, readers may ask why we can be sure the allegations against Aristide are baseless.            If the facts were widely known about what the U.S. has done in Haiti in recent years, nobody would ask that question. They’d be too busy working for the prosecution of U.S. officials for crimes perpetrated in Haiti. In fact, Canadian, French and United Nations officials would also be struggling to stay out of jail for aiding and abetting those crimes, as I’ve mentioned before.            On Feb. 29, 2004, the U.S. perpetrated a coup against Haiti’s democratically elected government which was headed by Aristide. That’s worth repeating. The U.S. directly perpetrated the coup. It did not simply provide decisive support for a coup carried out by local allies as it has done so many times in Latin America. In this case, U.S. troops physically removed Aristide from Haiti in the middle of the night and flew him off to the Central African Republic. Canadian troops assisted the U.S. by securing the airport in Port-Au-Prince. The U.S. government claims that Aristide begged rescue from a small group of “rebels” even though his own security team could have led him to safety, if that was his priority, in various countries within the Caribbean.  The U.S. and its allies, after its alleged “rescue” of Aristide, took over Haiti and promptly set up a dictatorship under Gérard Latortue. The rebels – essentially led by the death squad leader Jodel Chamblain – were immediately made completely subordinate to the U.S. and its allies. Rebels who objected too strongly to their subordinate role were simply told to get lost and, in a few very isolated cases, hunted down. Hundreds of the more obedient “rebels” were incorporated into a revamped Haitian police force under the close direction of U.S. and UN officials. Yes, criminals were made police under the direction of even bigger criminals in Washington. That’s how our upside down world functions.
            It should be stressed that even those who insist that U.S. troops “rescued” (as opposed to “kidnapped”) Aristide have absolutely no basis for denying that the Washington perpetrated a coup. The U.S. and its allies used the “rebels” as a pretext to forcibly restore its traditional far right allies to dominance in Haiti. Aside from the widely ignored murder of thousands of Aristide’s supporters that took place under Gérard Latortue’s dictatorship, Aristide’s political party (Fanmi Lavalas) has also been banned from participating in elections held since the coup. Latortue stacked the judiciary with people keen to facilitate the persecution of Aristide’s supporters – people with the same mentality as the Martelly-appointed judge who recently issued the arrest warrant against Aristide for allegedly ignoring a summons. And that examining magistrate, Lamarre Bélizaire, is disbarred from acting as a lawyer when he steps down as a judge. So a judge who has been renounced and cast out by the Haitian Bar issued the arrest warrant. That’s perfectly consistent with what the U.S. has established in Haiti.            Part of the U.S.“rescue” of Aristide in 2004 supposedly included a promise to protect his property in Haiti. Colin Powell – the man tasked with lying extravagantly to the world about Iraqi fictitious weapons of mass destruction (WMD) – claimed that the U.S. had made this promise to Aristide. Immediately after the “rescue”, Aristide’s house was ransacked for days thereby exposing Powell, yet again, as a liar.             But there is another consideration that is relevant to the allegations against Aristide. Since 2004, the U.S. and its allies had every opportunity and incentive to build a devastating case against Aristide for corruption or anything else they wanted. They had access to any number of personal and official documents combined with the ability to lean on heavily (bribe and coerce, that is) countless former Aristide associates. The Latortue dictatorship spent a lot of time and money in U.S. courts, and predictably received a great deal of help from U.S. Treasury officials trying to build some kind of case. It speaks volumes that all they’ve been able to charge Aristide with after all these years is what this disbarred judge came up with – allegedly ignoring a summons.            In 2005, Ira Kurzban, Aristides’s attorney in the U.S., has pointed out: “If you recall, a lot of the venom was spewed against President Aristide both before and following the coup - wild accusations that he had $280 million in a bank account somewhere in Europe and so forth. To my understanding, the United States sent seven people from the Treasury Department immediately after the coup to investigate financial wrongdoing, and a number of Haitians have been working day and night to find the money that President supposedly took. But, it’s now obvious, there is none. There are no Swiss bank accounts, no yachts, no Trump Tower apartments, all of which there were with Duvalier. There are none of the things that one classically identifies with the claim that a president has abused his authority and stolen money for his own benefit.”            Lack of evidence never stopped the U.S. from aggressively peddling its claims that Iraqi WMD existed. The case for war depended on it. Evidence and logic were therefore dismissed by both the U.S. government and the corporate media. Similarly in Haiti, the ongoing crushing of democracy requires the relentless demonization of the popular Haitian president whom the U.S. government deposed.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Interviews with IJDH's Brian Concannon and Haiti Action's Pierre Labossiere on the trumped up charges and character assassination targeting of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Aug. 28, 2014 - 2:33 pm
Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio's Senior Producer Kevin Pina interviews IJDH's Brian Concannon & Haiti Action Committee's Pierre  Labossiere. Listen to the interviews here: http://www.haitiinformationproject.net/blog.php
Categories: Haitian blogs

Stop the attacks on former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Lavalas Movement

Aug. 28, 2014 - 2:28 pm
By: Haiti Action Committee - HaitiSolidarity.Net

      On Aug. 13, the Haitian government summoned former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to court on corruption charges. This summons is part of a chilling pattern of repression aimed at destroying Aristide’s political party, Fanmi Lavalas, as the country approaches new legislative elections. We denounce it in the strongest possible terms.
      On March 18, 2011, tens of thousands of people followed President Aristide’s car as it drove from the airport to his home, following his return from seven years of forced exile. They then climbed over the walls into the courtyard of the Aristides’ residence to continue an emotional and heart-felt greeting for Haiti’s first democratically elected president, overthrown in a U.S.-orchestrated coup in 2004. In his speech at the airport, President Aristide focused on education and the importance of inclusion for all Haitians in the process of restoring democracy.
      Since his return, President Aristide has done exactly what he promised to do – reopen the University of the Aristide Foundation (UNIFA). On Sept. 26, 2011 the Medical School once again opened its doors. Today, there are over 900 students studying medicine, nursing and law at a university whose mission is to provide higher education to all sectors of Haitian society, not just the children of the rich.
     And yet, in spite of this powerful and important work, Aristide and other Lavalas leaders and activists remain the target of government harassment and attack. This is not surprising; after all, the Haitian government of Michel Martelly came to power after elections with a historically low turnout in which Fanmi Lavalas, Haiti’s most popular political party, was banned from participation.
    Martelly has embraced Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the former Haitian dictator. Human rights organizations estimate that the Duvaliers – “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” – were responsible for the deaths of over 30,000 Haitian citizens during their 29-year rule. While Duvalier now lives freely in Haiti and was honored by Martelly at the Jan. 1, 2014, Haitian Independence Day celebrations, President Aristide and the democratic movement are under assault.
    For over a decade, U.S. and Haitian authorities have periodically threatened President Aristide with indictment and “tried” him in the pages of a compliant media. None of these charges has stuck, for the simple reason that they are all lies. This is the third time since his return in 2011 that Haitian authorities have trumpeted charges against President Aristide. Each time, after sensational headlines, the cases were unceremoniously shelved after an initial hearing and interview, before President Aristide could even challenge the accusations.
    The politicized nature of the charges is further evidenced by the history of the judge in the case, Lamarre Bélizaire. The Port-au-Prince Bar Association has suspended Bélizaire for 10 years from the practice of law – the suspension to begin once he steps down as judge – for using the court to persecute opponents of the Martelly regime. This latest summons is one more example of a government determined to derail any opposition.
    Each time these charges are trotted out, the goal is to defame Aristide, weaken Lavalas and endanger the vital educational work that he has led since his return. Haiti’s grassroots movement knows that each new rumored indictment is part of a campaign to intimidate and silence them. When President Aristide was last called to court, thousands of people surrounded the courthouse, chanting: “If they call our brother, they call all of us.” Yesterday, once again, people took to the streets to show him their support.
    We echo their voices. Enough is enough. It is time for education, health care, and democratic development in Haiti, not a resurgence of political repression. We call on the Haitian government to withdraw this warrant.

Revolving door of criminal charges against Aristide in Haiti
    A summons was reportedly issued for former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti on Tuesday that was said to be related to corruption charges and a litany of well-known accusations for which evidence has never been presented in a court of law. It is part of a long list of charges in the U.S. and in Haiti that regularly appear whenever there are moves towards serious elections. Aristide and his supporters believe this is part of a documented campaign of character assassination against the former president that is designed to exclude the Lavalas party from free and fair elections in Haiti.
    Contact the Haiti Action Committee at www.haitisolidarity.net and on Facebook.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Aristide Warrant and Brandt Prison Break Overshadow Election Derailment

Aug. 28, 2014 - 2:26 pm
By Kim Ives - Haiti Liberte

Last week, Haitian demonstrators erected barricades of burning tires and car frames in front of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's home in Tabarre to prevent the government of President Michel Martelly from arresting him. On Aug. 12, investigating judge Lamarre Bélizaire had issued a court summons for Aristide to come to his offices for
questioning the next day, Aug. 13. Aristide never received the
last-minute summons which was allegedly left at his gate, according to his lawyer Mario Joseph. Having heard about the summons on the radio, Joseph did show up at the 10 a.m. hearing with a letter explaining that the summons had not been correctly served. Ironically, Judge Bélizaire did not show up for his own hearing but nonetheless later that afternoon issued an arrest warrant for Aristide because of his
absence.

Meanwhile, at about 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, two vehicles of armed men shot automatic weapons at the outside of the new prison in Croix-des-Bouquets, just north of the capital, precipitating the escape of 329 prisoners. Among them was Clifford Brandt, 42, the scion of a prominent bourgeois family who was jailed in October 2012 (but to date never tried) for heading a kidnapping ring that held hostage the
son and daughter of Haitian banker Robert Moscoso. On Aug. 12, Dominican authorities recaptured Brandt and three other fugitives across the border in the neighboring Dominican Republic and turned them over to Haitian authorities, who tried to take credit for the capture. (The Dominican Defense Minister had to issue a statement setting the record straight.)

These two unfolding dramas, perhaps by design, have all but eclipsed a much more ominous development last week: the cancellation of parliamentary and municipal elections, already two years overdue, which had been promised for Oct. 26. As a result, it is all but certain that another third of the Haitian Senate and many in the House of Deputies will see their terms expire on Jan. 12, 2015, rendering the Parliament nonfunctional and Martelly ruling by decree.

This is exactly where the konpa-singer-turned-president wanted to
arrive. "First thing, after I establish my power, which would be very
strong and necessary, I would close that congress thing," Martelly
told the Miami New Times in a 1997 feature article. ""La chambre des
députés. Le sénat." He claps his hands. "Out of my way.""

These were not jokes. The article made clear that even back then
Martelly was planning a run for president and was "not afraid to
reveal that he has given serious thought to his philosophy of
government," which was essentially a "Fujimori-style solution." Former
Peruvian dictatorial president Alberto Fujimori is presently in
prison, having been convicted of committing major human rights and
corruption crimes during his administration in the 1990s.

Martelly's looming one-man rule marks a sharp political reversal. Last
autumn, massive popular demonstrations, led largely by outspoken Sen.
Moïse Jean-Charles and radical Lavalas base organizations, were
marching almost weekly to demand the resignation of Martelly and his
Prime Minister and business partner Laurent Lamothe and the departure
of the 6,600-soldier United Nations force, acronymed MINUSTAH, which
has militarily occupied Haiti since Jun. 1, 2004.

But in December 2013, Aristide's Lavalas Family party (FL) expelled
Sen. Jean-Charles for criticizing and outshining the party's Executive
Committee, and from January to March 2014, Washington and the Catholic
Church connived with the Martelly government to carry out a charade
conference of national reconciliation, resulting in the "El Rancho
Accord" supposedly putting the country on the road to the Oct. 26
elections. As a result, despite a few sizable marches on symbolic
dates, last year's mobilization began to weaken.

Now from being on the defensive, Martelly is back on the offensive.
"It is not without reason that the puppet judge Lamarre Bélizaire
published a list with the names of [31] people who can't leave the
country a few days before the Martelly-Lamothe-MINUSTAH government
allowed its associate Clifford Brandt to escape from jail," said the
Dessalines Coordination party (KOD) in an Aug. 19 declaration. "They
knew what kind of scandal that would provoke... That may be why they
decided to hatch a plot to issue a warrant for former President
Aristide, as a way to distract the population... That may be why they
created the crisis of Aristide's so-called arrest to cover not only
the illegal liberation of more than 300 bandits, but the CEP
[Provisional Electoral Council] now saying that elections are not
possible this year."

"Instead of the people being mobilized 24/7 to demand the departure of
Martelly, Lamothe, and MINUSTAH, [the regime] is now giving us our
work, making us stand out in Tabarre day and night making sure they
don't arrest Aristide," KOD concluded. "They have now put us on the
defensive so we don't attack them for the crimes they are carrying out
in the country."

On Aug. 18, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the FL's national coordinator and now
formal presidential candidate, held a press conference at the Aristide
Foundation where she called the attacks against Aristide "maneuvers
and diversions to distract Haitians from the real problems they face
daily." Among these, she included the ever-escalating cost of living,
the eviction of hundreds of families in downtown Port-au-Prince, the
uprooting of farmers on Ile-à-Vache, the disaster in the state exam
results this year, the withholding of elections for 4 years, the
failure of the El Rancho Accord, and the spectacular release of
Clifford Brandt. She said that the latest charges of embezzlement and
drug-trafficking against Aristide, which are drawn from a
long-discredited politically-motivated report by the
Washington-installed de facto government which took power on the heels
of the Feb. 29, 2004 coup against Aristide, were "fabricated in a
laboratory with the participation of a small group of enemies of
democracy."

"The Lavalas Family continues to demand free, fair, and democratic
elections," Dr. Narcisse concluded, from which the party "will not
allow itself to be excluded," as it has been in all elections over the
past decade.

"The Haitian people do not accept and will never accept a retrograde,
reactionary power, which has issued from the Macoute Duvalierist
ideology, to use the justice system to persecute an honest citizen who
has faithfully put himself at the service of his people," said Lionel
Etienne, an FL Executive Committee member and former deputy. FL
leaders also called for the release of the Martelly regime's political
prisoners like Jean Robert Vincent, Joshua and Enold Florestal, and
Louima Louijuste.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 15, Aristide along with several of his lawyers sent
a long letter to the Organization of American States' Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to lay out numerous reasons why the
legitimacy and "impartiality of Judge Lamarre Bélizaire is far from
established, and the credibility of the judicial system is quite
flawed." The letter called on the IACHR to "urgently adopt
precautionary measures to safeguard the freedom and rights of
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide whose freedom is seriously threatened
by the reckless and arbitrary actions of Judge Lamarre Bélizaire."

In Haiti, Aristide's lawyers have formally asked that Judge Bélizaire
be recused from the case for which he has summoned the former
president.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Death Squads Sow Terror in Port-au-Prince’s Poor Neighborhoods

Aug. 26, 2014 - 7:40 pm
By: Isabelle L. Papillon - Haiti Liberte
Some popular neighborhoods around the capital were in turmoil over the past week. Heavily armed government thugs, or “legal bandits” as they are commonly called, wearing pink bracelets sowed panic in the areas of Simon Pelé, Cité Soleil, the Croix-des-Bossales market, and the suburbs south of Port-au-Prince.             This violence comes at a time when the Haitian people are mobilizing against the political persecution which the government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is waging against partisans of its political opposition. The people are also demanding the release of political prisoners such as Jean Robert Vincent, Louima Louis Juste, Jean Matulnès Lamy, and Joshua and Enold Florestal. Progressive political activists rot in prison without trial for years while gang leaders like the kidnapping kingpin Clifford Brandt, Colombian drug-traffickers, and other notorious criminals are released, as was the case when 327 prisoners “escaped,” with the patent collusion of prison authorities, from the modern new prison in Croix-des-Bouquets. Meanwhile, Haitian diaspora visitors and citizens from the United States continue to be victims when arriving on Haitian soil.

            On Wed., Aug. 20 in Cité Soleil, Clifford Charles, a member of the Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization was killed following a demonstration by residents demanding the release of their imprisoned comrade Louima Louis Juste in the National Penitentiary for the past six months for his political opinions. As a leader of the Movement of the Opposition in Cité Soleil (MOPOSS) Louima Louis Juste had been very active at the head of every demonstration demanding the resignation of the reactionary Martelly-Lamothe regime. Another MOPOSS member, Junior Louimé Louis Juste said that Louima's arrest demonstrates how far the neo-Duvalierist Martelly government is willing to go in persecuting its political opponents.             The general coordinator of the Popular Movement of Haiti (MOPHA), Pierre Lemaire, meanwhile points out that the Martelly government has undertaken a propaganda campaign to pretend it is trying to reestablish the rule of law when, in fact, the regime is working to restore a dictatorship in flagrant violation of democratic gains. The proof is everywhere: since the illegal arrival of this regime in power in May 2011, no elections have been held, the municipal administrations throughout the country are led by de facto executive officers appointed by Martelly, the Senate is cut by a third, and the Chamber of Deputies is vassalized as it undertakes its last session, and the negotiations to hold new elections are still deadlocked.            Every day, one sees a terrible political climate emerging which is not conducive to the holding of elections. On Sat., Aug. 23, 2014, the people of the Bélécourt section of Cite Soleil discovered the bodies of five people killed by the “legal bandits,” four boys and a woman. The victims were on their way to where they try to make a living. The residents of Bélécourt point to a man in the area known as “Gabriel,” a gang leader in the Soleil 17 neighborhood, as the person behind the killings. "These crimes were committed by Gabriel, the leader of the Soleil 17 gang,” said one resident. “He works in Cité Soleil for Laurent Lamothe and Michel Martelly. He said he was ordered by the authorities to control Cité Soleil. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe visited him last week."            On Thu., Aug. 21, in downtown Port-au-Prince at the Croix-des-Bossales market, heavily armed bandits began firing weapons and breaking things. Larger stores were forced to close their doors while small sidewalk merchants were forced to flee, sandwiching buyers in the melee. The panic resulted in an unspecified number of people killed and wounded, according to reports.            On Mon. Aug. 25, lawyers André Michel and Newton Louis Saint-Juste were taken hostage in Petit Goâve at the town’s courthouse by “legal bandits” who are in the pay of the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Stevenson Thimoléon. The lawyers went to Petit Goâve to defend their clients, victims of these bandits. They were attacked by the thugs in the court itself. Officers of the Haitian National Police (PNH) had to intervene to save the lawyers’ lives and escort them from the building.            According to some observers, the climate of panic and political persecution in the capital is being generated purposefully to distract from the brief escape of gang leader Clifford Brandt and the dismal scores students got in state exams despite the government’s incessant propaganda that it is providing free, universal schooling for which $1.50 is arbitrarily levied on international money transfers and 5 cents on each minute of every international telephone call.
            One is also justified in wondering if the surge in violence is the result of the distribution of arms to the “legal bandits”?
Categories: Haitian blogs

When Will the UN Pay For Its Crimes in Haiti? When Will Anyone?

Aug. 1, 2014 - 7:24 pm
By: Joe Emersberger - first published by Telesur
A cholera outbreak has killed 8,500 Haitians since 2010 and UN forces are responsible, the author argues. Not only that, but the UN helped consolidate Gérard Latortue’s post-coup regime.
Since 2010 the UN has been dodging responsibility for a cholera outbreak that has killed 8,500 Haitians and sickened more than 700,000. Nepalese soldiers with the UN “peacekeeping” forces caused the outbreak by allowing their sewage to leak into Haiti’s largest river. According to the UN itself, cholera could kill 2,000 more people in 2014.             The UN now faces a lawsuit in U.S. courts that was brought by some of the victims. The Obama administration is trying to have the suit dismissed but, this May, Amicus Briefs filed by prominent international law experts refuted the U.S. government’s arguments for dismissal. Scientific evidence of the UN’s guilt is so conclusive that Bill Clinton, a UN special envoy to Haiti, acknowledged in 2012 that UN soldiers brought cholera to Haiti, but he made the UN’s demented excuse that “what really caused it is that you don’t have a sanitation system, you don’t have a comprehensive water system.”            By this logic, if I kill a gravely ill person by knocking them off their hospital bed, my defense should be that a healthy person would have survived the fall. In a civilized legal setting, where the victim cannot be dismissed as irrelevant, making such a repulsive argument might provoke a judge to hand down the harshest sentence allowable. Unfortunately, international law has always been the plaything of the most powerful, and Haitians have long endured the consequences of that fact. Criminal negligence is one of many crimes in Haiti for which UN officials should answer.
            On Feb. 29, 2004 – at about 6:15 a.m. – U.S. troops flew Haiti’s democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, out of Haiti. In fact, they flew him out of the Western Hemisphere – all the way to the Central Africa Republic.  According to the Bush administration’s comically implausible story, Aristide simply asked the U.S. to save him from a small group of insurgents led by a convicted death-squad leader, Jodel Chamblain. The public face of the insurgents was a crooked ex-police chief named Guy Philippe who had long standing ties with local elites and the U.S..  Chamblain was responsible for thousands of murders and rapes under a military junta that ruled Haiti from 1991 to 1994, after the first coup that ousted Aristide. It made sense to put the far younger Guy Philippe in front of cameras, but nobody with any knowledge of the 1991 coup had any excuse for failing to see what was coming in 2004.            The insurgents had been launching hit and run attacks into Haiti for years (since 2000) from the safe haven offered by the Dominican Republic, a U.S. client. Jeb Sprague’s book Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti documents how key players among Aristides’ “peaceful opponents” in Haiti, along with military and government officials from the Dominican Republic, closely supported the insurgents who killed dozens of people while the international press (and the human rights industry) ignored it and depicted some of the financiers as victims of a “crackdown on dissent”.  The “crackdown” was one of the excuses the Bush administration used to starve the Aristide government of funds for years with the help of the OAS. U.S.-led sanctions, among other things, blocked funds for projects to improve Haiti’s water supply to protect against the spread of diseases like cholera. At the same time, tens of millions of U.S. government dollars flowed to Aristide’s political rivals.            Sprague’s book reveals that, after Aristide was overthrown in 2004, hundreds of former rightist paramilitaries were incorporated into Haiti’s police force under the UN and U.S. Embassy’s close supervision.  Anyone familiar with the 1991 coup will find this as unsurprising as it is disgusting. When the Clinton Administration ordered the Cédras military junta to stand down in 1994 (and permit Aristide to serve out what little was left of his first term in office), it did so only after guaranteeing impunity for the junta’s leaders and arranging for some of its henchmen to remain within Haiti’s security forces. Aristide, to some extent, countered those maneuvers by disbanding the Haitian army over strong U.S. objections. The re-constructed Haitian police remained infiltrated by officers close to the U.S. and local right-wing forces. Nevertheless, the U.S. and its allies were forced to a play a far more direct role in the 2004 coup because Haiti lacked its own army, the force traditionally used by the U.S. to bring down governments it dislikes.            A few months after the 2004 coup, UN troops (known by the French acronym MINUSTAH) took over the task of consolidating Gérard Latortue’s post-coup dictatorship.  Roughly 4,000 of Aristide’s supporters were murdered under Latortue according to a scientific survey published in the Lancet medical journal [1].  Hundreds more, by conservative estimates, became political prisoners. Most of the killing was done by the police and death squads allied with them. MINUSTAH generally provided tactical support but also perpetrated its own atrocities. On July 5, 2005, MINUSTAH went on a shooting spree in the shanty town of Cité Soleil that was so murderous (and so well documented) that a MINUSTAH spokesman felt obliged to promptly state that it “deeply regrets any injuries or loss of life during its operation”.  In 2012, MINUSTAH found some of its troops guilty of rape and sexual abuse. The actual perpetrators, to say nothing their commanding officers, have evaded serious consequences even when found guilty. Over a hundred MINUSTAH troops have been sent out of Haiti to “face justice” at home for sex crimes. Little wonder that abusers have been undeterred.            Thanks to Wikileaks, we need not speculate about exactly what the U.S. government wanted to get out of MINUSTAH in Haiti. In a 2008 cable, the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti predicted that the “security dividend the U.S. reaps from this hemispheric cooperation not only benefits the immediate Caribbean, but also is developing habits of security cooperation in the hemisphere…” She identified “resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces" in Haiti as a threat to the entire hemisphere. She highlighted the importance of having other countries contribute towards neutralizing the threat:            "This regionally-coordinated Latin American commitment to Haiti would not be possible without the UN umbrella. That same umbrella helps other major donors — led by Canada and followed up by the EU, France, Spain, Japan and others — justify their bilateral assistance domestically."            It won’t do for allies to explain to their own people that they are doing the USA’s dirty work in Haiti – helping it contain the political threat posed by “populist and anti-market forces” or, in other words, sacrificing Haiti as a pawn on a regional chessboard imagined by U.S. officials.             After two years of terrorizing Aristide’s supporters – murdering, imprisoning and driving them into exile -the U.S. and its allies allowed Haitians to elect a government to replace Latortue’s dictatorship. The presidency was won by René Préval – a former president and Aristide protégé who had played no role at all in the 2004 coup.  It was a stunning refutation of the propaganda used to justify the coup. Préval won the election in the first round despite barely being able to campaign. Candidates who had been prominent leaders of the coup (Charles Baker, Guy Philippe) received single digit percentages of the vote.            The cables procured by Wikileaks show that Préval worried about being given the Aristide treatment while in office and treaded very carefully around U.S. officials.  Former Brazilian diplomat, Ricardo Seitenfus, says that in 2010 MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet explicitly threatened Préval with a coup and exile for opposing U.S. interference in Haitian elections. Préval supposedly responded to Mulet’s threat by saying: “I am not Aristide. I am Salvador Allende”.  Préval and Colin Granderson, head of the CARICOM-OAS Electoral Mission in Haiti in 2010-2011, have backed up the claim that Préval had been “asked” to step down.            Seitenfus has also strongly denounced the corruption and hypocrisy of the key governments that sustain MINUSTAH – in particular the infamous “core group”: the USA, Canada, France, Spain, and Brazil. Commenting on the impact of the 2010 earthquake that may have killed 200,000 people, Seitenfus remarked: “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.”            An “aid” sector made up of foreign NGOs that are not accountable to the vast majority of Haitians breeds corruption and inefficiency, as former CARE employee Timothy Schwartz has also pointed out. It gives many NGOs, with some honorable exceptions, a strong incentive to thwart the development of democratic institutions in Haiti that would hold them accountable and take over many of their functions.             Brazil stepped up to play a leading role in MINUSTAH. Today, despite various MINUSTAH related scandals, Brazil continues to supply the largest contingent of troops. Uruguay supplies the second largest contingent though President Mujica has pledged to withdraw them. Bolivia and Ecuador also supply troops. Venezuela’s Chavista governments, on the other hand, always recognized the 2004 coup for what it was and never took part in MINUSTAH.            Thankfully, the backlash from Latin American governments was fierce when the USA and Canada maneuvered at the OAS to weaken a strong regional response against the 2009 coup in Honduras. Sanderson’s dream of “hemispheric cooperation” with the U.S. to defeat “populist and anti-market economy political forces” quickly became more of a fantasy. Edward Snowden’s revelations of extensive U.S. spying on the Brazilian government also poured cold water on the USA’s imperial dreamers. This year’s upper-class revolt in Venezuela – an undisguised attempt at “regime change” – was strongly opposed by the OAS, much to the Obama Administration’s dismay.            Rejecting coups and coup attempts is very important step in the right direction. However, Latin American governments should move beyond that. They should call for the prosecution of MINUSTAH officials like Edmond Mulet. Eventually, the prosecution of his bosses in Washington, Ottawa, and Paris might become a realistic option.
***
Notes

[1] Athena R. Kolbe and Royce A. Hutson, "Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households," The Lancet, Vol. 368, No. 9538, September 2, 2006.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Does a Better Haiti Start with Justice or Tourism?

Jul. 24, 2014 - 5:32 pm
[This is a great story that sheds light on the incredible work (and life story) of BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph and makes clear why there is no way around justice for cholera victims. It not only portrays Mario’s struggle to bring justice Haitians but also contrasts it with the current Tourism Minister’s opposing view that attracting tourists will create a better future for Haiti.]

Samiha Shafy - Der Spiegel

July 18, 2014


Human rights attorney Mario Joseph and Tourism Minister Stéphanie Villedrouin are both trying to improve Haiti, but they are following radically different paths. The one wants justice, the other wants tourism.
       The attorney stares at a hut next to the grave. It’s made of wood and mud, and is covered with a plastic tarp. “I used to live like that,” Mario Joseph says quietly, more to himself than to the three women crouching behind him in the shade of a tree.
        The women are keeping watch over a rectangle of freshly dug up earth, surrounded by loose stones. One of them, Itavia Souffrant, says it is the grave of her mother. Two weeks ago, the mother had diarrhea and was vomiting, but because of heavy rains the family was unable to take her to the doctor. The mother died of cholera, the same fate suffered previously by Souffrant’s three-year-old daughter and by so many others in the vicinity of Mirebalais, north of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.
The three women at the gravesite have also had cholera, but they survived. They knew that they shouldn’t have been drinking from the river, they say, but it was the only water available. The tablets to disinfect it are unaffordable, and they don’t have enough charcoal to boil it.


Attorney Joseph believes that he has found a way to help them and all other victims of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. About 750,000 people have been infected with the disease and the death toll now stands at 8,500. Officials expect there to be about 45,000 new cases in 2014.


The culprit is the international community. A few months after the earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010, United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal emptied their latrines into the Artibonite River, and thus introduced the pathogen to Haiti. Until then, cholera was one of the few plagues that this poor country had been spared.


This explains why the attorney is now standing in front of a mud hut on a humid green hill, from which vapor rises in the heat. He has returned to the world from which he came in the hopes of changing it.


Joseph, 51, is a burly man with a moustache. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, a straw hat and sunglasses, he takes large gulps from his Diet Coke. He is asking the women questions in the search for information could help him realize his plan. It is as obvious as it is ludicrous: He wants to take the United Nations to court.


Justice for Haiti’s Victims


It isn’t actually possible to sue the UN; the organization invokes the principle of immunity, which seems cynical in this case. Nevertheless, Joseph, a well-known human rights attorney in Haiti, has filed a class action lawsuit in a federal court in New York, where the UN has its headquarters. “The peacekeepers knew that Haiti is a poor country without a waste water system,” says Joseph. “They should have been extra careful, instead of dumping their fecal matter into the river!”


Joseph wants justice for Haiti’s victims. In addition to his fight against the UN, he wants to see former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier brought to trial in Port-au-Prince. He also represents women who were raped in tent cities in the capital after the earthquake.


Joseph believes that for wounds to heal, they need to be examined and cleaned — so that his wounded country can eventually recuperate. He wants to prevent the world from forgetting Haiti’s suffering.


Joseph’s adversary is sitting in her office in a yellow government building in Port-au-Prince. Stéphanie Villedrouin, Haiti’s tourism minister, doesn’t want the world to constantly hear any more tales of suffering coming from her country. She wants a Haiti that looks to the future and markets itself more effectively.


Four PR consultants are gathered around a table in Villedrouin’s office. They have flown in from France, Great Britain, the United States and the Dominican Republic to hear about Villedrouin’s vision of Haiti as the next vacation paradise in the Caribbean. The minister wants the marketing specialists to campaign for this vision in their respective countries.


“Which language should we speak?” asks the minister, smiling at her guests. She is fluent in English, Spanish, Creole and French. At 32, Villedrouin is the youngest and undoubtedly most attractive minister Haiti has ever had.


On this afternoon, she is wearing a pink silk blouse, black trousers, pumps, a diamond ring and diamond earrings. She has slightly wavy, caramel-colored hair, a smooth face and light skin. In Haiti, skin color is still a sign of social status. The poor are mostly black while the country’s few white citizens usually have money and influence. Villedrouin is from the upper class.


Changing the Image


“The first thing people always tell me is that Haiti is a devastated country,” she says. “We have to change that image.”


The earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince in January, 2010, was the worst in a series of natural disasters that have ravaged vulnerable Haiti, a country torn by regime changes and civil wars. More than 220,000 people died.


Still, something bordering on hope emerged for a short time after the tremor. Might it this time be possible to build a better country out of the ruins? When, if not now — now that Haiti was in the global spotlight and governments and private donors alike were promising billions of dollars for reconstruction? Aid organizations had muddled along in Haiti for decades. This time, though, they pledged to do everything differently — and everything right.


More than four years later, most Haitians have given up hope. The tent camps in Port-au-Prince have all but disappeared, but they have been replaced by new slums on the surrounding hillsides. They look as if the next heavy rain could flush them into oblivion. The government had some of the shacks painted in bright colors so that the view from new hotels in Pétionville wouldn’t be quite so depressing.


And yet, despite everything, does hope still exist in Haiti?


Villedrouin embodies the way she would like to see Haiti: dynamic, modern and elegant. She grew up in Venezuela, where her father served as the Haitian ambassador under the Duvalier regime. When the dictator was ousted in 1986, the family returned home, where it owned restaurants and hotels. Villedrouin attended a tourism school in the Dominican Republic, returned to Haiti and began convincing important people to support her vision. The fact that she became a cabinet minister at 29 is partly due to her connections, but also a result of her talent to fill people with enthusiasm for ideas that sound almost as audacious as Mario Joseph’s plan to take the UN to court.


“We have to start with France,” says Villedrouin. France, she notes, has a large community of Haitian immigrants who could easily be won over as tourists. She also points out that the French have a historic connection to their former colony and might be interested in visiting the country.


The next stops in the marketing campaign are Germany, Great Britain, Spain and Russia.


Saving Haiti


Villedrouin believes that her plan could help Haiti pull itself out of poverty. Tourist attractions and hotels create jobs. Hotel owners can support Haitian farmers by buying local meat and produce. And the general population also benefits from the roads and airports built primarily for tourists, such as the Hugo Chávez International Airport in Cap Haïtien, modernized with Venezuelan aid. Once the tourists arrive, says Villedrouin, things will begin looking up for Haiti.


From listening to Villedrouin and Joseph, it becomes apparent that although they represent contradictory approaches, they sometimes have the same goal: to save Haiti. Many have failed at the task. Indeed, everyone who has tried has failed, and some have even spent their entire lives in the process. Haiti was once the richest colony in the world. Today, countless tragedies later, it is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.


The current list of the “25 most interesting people in the Caribbean,” published by the magazine Carib Journal, lists names such as Usain Bolt and Rihanna, but it also includes two Haitians: Mario Joseph and Stéphanie Villedrouin. After being made aware of that fact, Joseph is so amused that he almost chokes on his Diet Coke. “The government would be overjoyed if the minister were the only Haitian on that list,” he says.


Joseph walks down the path leading from the shack and the old woman’s grave to the road, where his car is parked. One of the three women, whose name is Lizette Paul, walks behind him so that he can give her a lift. Joseph drives past a gray shell of a building without windowpanes. Inside, small children are sitting on wooden benches, singing at the top of their lungs.


Looking grim under his straw hat, the attorney says that missionaries built the school. Only a 10th of all schools in Haiti are government-run, he explains, while foreign aid workers operate the rest — a shameful state of affairs, Joseph says. Lizette Paul concurs. In fact, she says, she voted for singer Michel Martelly in the presidential election because he had promised free schools for the poor. But now, three years into Martelly’s term, she still cannot send her three children to school.


Paul, 43, first met Joseph in a church. He had come to Mirebalais to speak with victims of the cholera epidemic and tell them about his plan to file a class action suit on their behalf. Paul’s one-and-a-half-year-old daughter died in the epidemic, as did her father and her brother, who had supported her and the children financially.


“At least there is someone like him in the government, someone who does his job,” says Paul, pointing at the attorney. She says that she very much hopes to receive her compensation from the UN soon. Joseph shakes his head. He looks tired. “I’m not part of the government, Lizette, you know that,” he says. “I’m an opponent of the government.” The woman looks at him uncomprehendingly and says nothing.


‘This Is About Emotions’


Joseph’s Haiti, the land of the wounded, is everywhere. One would have to be blind to ignore it. Villedrouin’s promising Haiti also exists, but it isn’t immediately apparent.


The minister has sent her PR advisers on a tour. “This is about emotions — either you love Haiti or you hate it,” she told them as they left. “To find out, you have to see it, sense it, taste it and feel it.”


The four men are now sitting in a white, air-conditioned minibus as it rattles along hellish roads throughout the country. They say nothing as the bus passes piles of debris, mountains of garbage and slums. Finally, they arrive in gated oases of calm: hotels with private beaches that charge between $15 and 20 (€11-15) for their use.


Most Haitians live on less than $1 a day. Most of the people basking in the sun on the hotel beaches are aid workers, UN employees and groups of American missionaries. They are no tourists yet.


Two of the tourism experts, the Frenchman and the Dominican, visit a place that is normally off-limits to anyone arriving by land: the Labadie Peninsula. It lies 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Port-au-Prince, and is hidden behind a tall, black, barbed-wire fence patrolled by security guards.


About two dozen men are loitering outside the fence. They watch silently as a gate into the restricted zone opens for the visitors. Royal Caribbean, the American cruise line, has leased the peninsula and developed it into a sort of high-security playground for cruise-ship passengers. Those who go on land here remain behind the fence, where they can swim, snorkel and go jet-skiing.


The two men are taken along the coast in a boat. Wild, green and untouched mountains rise from the blue waters of the Caribbean. Citadelle Laferrière, a 19th-century fortress on the UNESCO World Heritage list, sits atop a 970-meter (3,180-foot) mountain in the distance.


He sees potential, says the Frenchman. What a gorgeous landscape, and what a pretty little spot of sand, that tiny island back there, he exclaims.


One-Eyed Among the Blind


That’s Amiga Island, says the skipper. Christopher Columbus supposedly landed on that spot of sand in 1492 during his voyage of discovery to the New World, and gave it its name. The Frenchman looks at the captain with amazement.


Tourism? In Haiti? Attorney Joseph shakes his head. “You’d have to sprinkle sand in the tourists’ eyes so that they’d see a different reality,” he says. But his next words are surprising: The minister’s ideas aren’t all that preposterous. Perhaps she can achieve something positive, he says, even if she is part of an incompetent government. “She’s a one-eyed person among the blind.”


On his way back to Port-au-Prince, Joseph travels along dirt roads filled with potholes, past scrawny horses carrying heavy loads and garishly painted vehicles to which too many people are clinging. Joseph drives an air-conditioned SUV with bulletproof windows, which he had installed because of the death threats that come with his work.


The road passes through the village of his childhood. Frail goats wobble around, and there are mud huts, but there are also small concrete houses and a small school. Joseph slows down to look out the window. “My life here wouldn’t be any different that Lizette’s,” he says, “if I hadn’t been lucky enough to go to school.”


Raised by their mother, Joseph and his three siblings grew up in a mud hut. Their father left the family when they were small. His mother took in washing for a living and sometimes sold rice. “The primary school cost nine Gourdes a year, and my mother could hardly scrape together the tuition for us,” he says.


As one of the most gifted pupils, Joseph was permitted to attend secondary school and a group of missionaries paid his tuition. Beginning in the 10th grade, he started working as a teacher, which enabled him to continue going to school, graduate and study law.


“Baby Doc” ruled Haiti at the time. Nineteen-year-old Jean-Claude Duvalier came into power in 1971 after the death of his father and he ruled the country the way he had learned from “Papa Doc” François. Joseph remembers how the Tontons Macoute, Duvalier’s paramilitary force, would beat farmers in his village. His aunt’s husband was arrested one day and then disappeared, he says, and the family never found out what had happened to him.


Indifference and Friendliness


Joseph began campaigning for human rights. In 1996, he joined the Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti, which had been founded a year earlier with the support of American attorneys, and Joseph now runs the institute’s office in Port-au-Prince. “I was really excited when Duvalier returned,” he says. “His return could be an opportunity to show the world that abuse of power will no longer remain unpunished in Haiti.”


“Baby Doc” accumulated an estimated $800 million before he was forced to flee in 1986. Some 25 years after his ouster, he returned unexpectedly from French exile, where he had squandered much of his fortune. Since then, he has been seen dining with politically influential friends in the better restaurants of Port-au-Prince.


The political elite received the former dictator with reactions ranging from indifference to friendliness. Joseph, however, announced on the radio that he was searching for witnesses to Duvalier’s crimes. More than 50 people contacted him, he says, and told him about people who had been arrested for no reason, spent years in prison without trial and were tortured.


Since then, Joseph has been spending a lot of time in court. The trial was already suspended once and now it is proceeding very slowly. Still, the dictator was at least summoned once to appear in court, where Joseph and other lawyers were allowed to question him. It was a historic victory, says Joseph, but not enough. “We cannot build a country without principles.”


Joseph has a wife and three children. Ten years ago, they fled to Miami because life had become too dangerous in Haiti and he visits his family once a month. “My wife understands me, sometimes,” Joseph says with a smile.


Stéphanie Villedrouin hasn’t seen her husband and three children very often in recent years, either. She travels around the world, searching for partners to convince of Haiti’s potential as a vacation destination. She has been traveling in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Dominican Republic in recent days. In the spring, she spent a day at the International Tourism Exchange in Berlin. A travel agency in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg now wants to attempt to “bring Haiti closer” to its customers, as an employee puts it.


Keep Investing


When the minister is in Haiti, she frequently attends the openings of new luxury hotels, like the Royal Oasis and the El Rancho. There are plans to build a luxury resort on an island in the south. A Marriott is under construction in Port-au-Prince, signs are being made for the city’s chaotic streets so that tourists can find their way around and a tourist police force of 110 officers patrols the areas around hotels and sights. Villedrouin is developing a strategy document for the next 15 years although she has less than two years remaining before a new government is elected, provided the current administration can remain in power until then.


Villedrouin is sitting in a suite in one of the new hotels in Pétionville, enjoying a quiet moment between appointments. The El Rancho, part of a Spanish chain, has pleasantly bland rooms and a pool, and it’s easy to forget where you are if you don’t leave the premises. Villedrouin says that she hopes to attract private investors. “I always say to them: You guys have to keep investing in tourism in this country.”


And what about her? She smiles. “Well, three years ago I had no idea that I would assume such an important position for my country.” She says that she is grateful for the opportunity to promote her vision. Then she abandons the attempt at modesty, which doesn’t suit her. “In any case, I also want to be in a leadership position in the future. That’s just the way I am,” she says.


Villedrouin seems to be winning her personal battle. But can she change Haiti? She says that she respects Mario Joseph for the fact that he wants to help his country, in his way. “The Carib Journal honored him because he is apparently a capable attorney,” she says. “He is doing something that he believes is helping his sisters and brothers.”


The minister has no budget to build roads and she has no power to make poverty and disease disappear. The question is how far optimism goes in making things happen in Haiti’s reality.


The Perfect Photo


On the tour of Haiti, Villedrouin’s PR advisers visit a former sugar plantation on the Côte des Arcadins that is now a hotel. With them are two French travel writers, guests of the ministry who have been invited to write a promotional article.







A museum in the garden commemorates a bloody colonial history. Haiti is the only country in the world where slaves were able to depose their tormentors and establish their own country. The PR agents learn how brutally the country was victimized, exploited and occupied by foreign powers. To this day, Haiti has never had a chance to become a healthy country.


To lighten the mood, the hotel owner takes the group out to a reef in a speedboat, and they splash around in the water and drink chilled fruit punch. And then, just once during their tour, the two Haitis collide, that of the minister and that of the attorney.


A fisherman in a dilapidated little boat paddles up to the group. He looks like the old man in Hemingway novel: toothless and with leathery skin, calloused hands and cracked fingernails. He says nothing. He merely gazes in astonishment at the scene and waits. The group on the speedboat looks down at the fisherman, equally astonished. The foreigners ask the old man to hand them a fish, and then they take pictures and hand it back to him. It’s the perfect photo, they say.


Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
Categories: Haitian blogs

Opposition Parties Denounce Martelly’s Electoral Council

Jul. 24, 2014 - 5:31 pm

This article explains why elections in Haiti have been delayed so long: After the executive branch stalled for years, President Martelly has appointed an unconstitutional Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), which is biased in his favor.  Opposition parties refuse to accept this CEP. If elections, scheduled for October 26, 2014, don’t occur this year, Martelly will rule by decree.Opposition sides claim Haiti elections jeopardizedAssociated Press, The Washington Post
July 10, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Leading opposition factions are alleging that Haiti’s presidentially appointed electoral council is stacking the deck in favor of President Michel Martelly, who has scheduled long-delayed legislative and municipal elections for October.Parties complaining of exclusion and unfair advantages include the Unity party of former President Rene Preval and the Lavalas Family founded by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. They are among the major opposition groups that boycotted election talks earlier in the year and have refused to register with the Provisional Electoral Council, which they contend is rigged.An accord setting Oct. 26 as election day has not been authorized by the Senate, where a group of staunch Martelly opponents argue it is unconstitutional.The electoral council picked by Martelly has only seven of its mandated nine members and its president, Fritzo Canton, is a lawyer who is defending former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier against charges of embezzlement and human rights abuses.
“What Haiti needs is an impartial electoral council that won’t take sides for either the government or the opposition,” said Dieudonne Saincy, Unity’s spokesman. “We are now in a political crisis because this electoral council is entirely under the control of Martelly.”Former Lavalas senator Louis Gerald Gilles asserted that Martelly’s government “is doing everything it can to take over the election process.”Martelly’s administration has brushed off the criticism as the intransigence of his political opponents, some of whom have organized street protests to demand his resignation. Martelly insists he has made several concessions to opponents, including forming a new Cabinet, and has actively tried to make compromises with members of the Senate.Despite pressure from the United Nations, the U.S. and other major supporters of Haiti, previous efforts to hold the legislative and municipal vote over the last couple of years were snarled by political infighting between the executive and legislative branches. In April, Washington warned Haitian authorities that $300 million earmarked for the country’s coast guard, health ministry and various projects was at risk because of the tardy vote.In May, Martelly announced he had appointed a new council to oversee the balloting in Haiti, where elections have never been easy. The Oct. 26 election date was announced in early June, and Martelly said late last month that the Caribbean country was committed to that date.The Organization of American States has said it will provide support. But political observers have expressed skepticism that the elections can take place in late October, and opposition figures are promising a fresh wave of street protests in coming days.The long-overdue elections would fill 20 seats in the 30-member Senate, all 99 seats in the lower chamber and 140 municipal positions. The terms of 10 senatorial seats are due to expire in January, which would leave the body with only 10 senators, not enough for a quorum. If the election isn’t held by then, Martelly would rule by decree.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Follow the new blog Haiti: Then and Now

Jul. 24, 2014 - 5:30 pm
We suggest to all of our readers to follow the excellent new blog "Haiti: Then and Now".
You can view it here: http://haitithenandnow.blogspot.com
Categories: Haitian blogs

IPS: Harkening Back to Dark Days in Haiti

Jul. 16, 2014 - 1:52 pm
Analysis by Nathalie Baptiste - Inter Press Service

WASHINGTON, Mar 12 2014 (IPS) - On Oct. 16, 1993, Alerte Belance was abducted from her home and taken to Titanyen, a small seaside village used by Haiti’s rulers as a mass grave for political opponents. There she received machete chops to her face, neck, and extremities. Despite her grave injuries, Belance was able to save herself by dragging her mutilated body onto the street and asking for help.

Belance’s survival was extraordinary, but not all were so lucky.
On Jan. 18, 1994, Wilner Elie, a member of the Papaye Peasant Movement, was knifed to death by a group of masked men in his own home. His 12 children were handcuffed by the assailants and forced to watch helplessly as their father was brutally murdered.Elie and Belance’s tragic stories were not anomalies. Not long ago in Port-au-Prince, decapitated bodies littered the streets, warnings to would-be dissidents. Violent men sexually abused young women seemingly for sport.People were ambushed in their homes and shot to death for attempting to escape. Thousands of Haitians fled in shoddy boats through treacherous waters to the United States, only to be sent back despite outcries from human rights groups.Though it reads like a horror script or dystopian novel, this is not fiction. This was reality for millions of Haitians living under military rule. And now, as the Haitian government moves to rebuild its once-banished army, some Haitians are wondering whether a sequel is in the works.

A dark legacyHaiti has a lengthy history of military and state-sanctioned violence. Shortly after coming to power in 1957, the infamous dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, feeling threatened by the regular armed forces, created a paramilitary force to protect himself.Nicknamed the Tonton Macoutes (Uncle Gunnysacks) after an old tale about a bogeyman who abducted unruly children and placed them in gunnysacks to be eaten at breakfast, these men carried out unimaginable murders and sent tremors of fear throughout the nation.Accountable to virtually no one, they continued their reign of terror after Papa Doc’s death and through the rule of his successor and son, Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. After Baby Doc was forced to flee in 1986, the Tonton Macoutes were officially disbanded, but other paramilitaries continued in their footsteps.Meanwhile the military itself continued to interfere in Haiti’s politics. On Sep. 29, 1991, Jean Betrand-Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president, was ousted by a military coup just eight months into his presidency.The coup, led by Lieutenant General Raoul Cedras, plunged the nation into a particularly violent and turbulent period. For three years the Haitian military and its paramilitary arm, the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, ran an exceptionally brutal regime, kidnapping, torturing, and murdering supporters of the ousted Aristide. By 1994, the death toll had reached an estimated 5,000.Following an intervention by the United States, Aristide was restored to power in late 1994 on condition that he implement economic reforms favored by Washington. He dismantled the military the following year. The disbandment of the military did not cure Haiti of all its ills, but the dissolution was followed by three successful transitions of presidential power – in 1996, 2000, and later in 2010.In 2004, however, a paramilitary force consisting of former soldiers with help from United States, France, and Canada organised a second successful coup against Aristide, who had been elected to a second term in 2000 after serving out his first in 1996. Even after their official disbandment, former soldiers were still able to influence political outcomes in Haiti.A return to formAnd now, after two decades in the shadows, the military is back: Haitian President Michel Martelly has followed through on a campaign promise to reconstitute the Haitian military. The new force launched its first operations this February.This has left many Haitians wondering why a country with no external threats, a history of violent, military-led repression against its own citizens, and an abundance of more pressing problems would need—or even want—a new military. “Given the history of Haiti’s military,” warned Mark Weisbrot, its “existence alone could be considered a threat to security.”Martelly’s personal history provides some clues about his own sympathies. Before he began his political career, Michel Martelly was a provocative konpa singer who went by the name Sweet Micky. During the Duvalier era, he ran a nightclub named Garage that was frequented by military officials and other members of Haiti’s tiny elite.Around this time Martelly befriended Lieutenant Colonel Michel Francois, the man who would later become chief of the secret police under Raoul Cedras. Martelly remained a “favourite” of the thugs who worked for the Duvalier regime and, after its collapse, would even accompany the death squads organised by Francois to murder Aristide supporters.While death squads hunted dissidents by night, Martelly taunted them by day. Lavalas, the massive pro-democracy movement launched by Aristide after Baby Doc was ousted, quickly became the target of Martelly’s biting lyrics. Throughout Aristide’s presidency, Martelly remained an outspoken critic of the president and his supporters, eventually emerging as a politician in his own right.After a hotly contested and controversial election in 2011, Martelly was elected president of Haiti. Later that year, an anonymous Haitian official leaked a document to the Associated Press outlining a plan for the revival of the Haitian military.Solving the wrong problemsThe document cited several reasons why Haiti supposedly needs to spend 95 million dollars building up a new military force: to provide opportunities for young people, to rebuild Haiti’s infrastructure, to patrol its border with the Dominican Republic, and – perhaps most ominously – to “keep order” during times of chaos.Although Haiti is well within its rights to establish an army, the purpose of a military is not to provide internal security, but to combat external threats. A Haitian official claims that it’s embarrassing to have the United Nations providing security in Haiti.But although its mission in Haiti has been marred by scandal, the U.N. is training a national police force to provide security and keep order once the peacekeepers finally leave. It’s unclear why a military would be preferable in this regard to a civilian security force.And it’s similarly unclear why Martelly thinks he needs to build a military to create jobs or invest in infrastructure. Haiti is in desperate need of construction workers – even before the 2010 earthquake leveled buildings and destroyed homes, Haiti’s infrastructure was already in a precarious position.If Martelly truly wanted to provide opportunities for the young people of Haiti, he could initiate a programme that would train men and women in construction and create jobs for the multitudes of unemployed Haitians. Instead, the new military will supposedly be rebuilding the country while millions of Haitians continue to languish in poverty.In a country with a sparse amount of cash and a government unable to provide even the most basic necessities to its own population, it seems fiscally irresponsible and morally bankrupt to spend 95 million dollars on rebuilding an army that has such an atrocious record of human rights abuses.The cholera outbreak, food insecurity, and the 500,000 squatters lacking permanent homes are just a few of the litany of problems facing Haiti today. The lack of a military force is not high on that list of priorities.Although Haiti’s elite and powerful seem to support the new military, a poll conducted over five years found that fully 96 percent of Haitians oppose its recreation. Defying the widespread opposition and pressing need for other development projects, Michel Martelly’s plan has finally come to fruition.Despite assurances from officials that this military force will not have the means to imitate its predecessors, the horrors from the recent past still linger in the minds of those who remember. If history repeats itself like it is prone to do, Haiti could revert back to the days where standing on the wrong side of the ideological fence means certain death.Nathalie Baptiste is a Haitian-American contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She holds a BA and MA in International Studies and writes about Latin America and the Caribbean. You can follow her on Twitter at @nhbaptiste. This article originally appeared on Foreign Policy in Focus.
Categories: Haitian blogs