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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
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

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

"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
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.A Damned Paradise: Does Haiti Need Tourism? Or Does It Need Justice?Samiha Shafy, Der Spiegel
July 18, 2014Human 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 VictimsIt 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 HaitiVilledrouin 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 BlindThat’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 FriendlinessJoseph 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 InvestingWhen 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 PhotoOn 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

Martelly Regime Targets KOD’s Oxygène David

Jul. 7, 2014 - 10:25 pm
by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
According to several radio stations in Haiti, there is a warrant for the arrest of Oxygène David, a prominent leader of the party Dessalines Coordination (KOD) and the popular organization Movement for Liberty and Equality of Haitians for Fraternity (MOLEGHAF).            While Oxygène’s lawyer, Mario Joseph, is trying to verify at the courthouse if there is indeed a complaint against Oxygène or if an investigating judge may have issued an arrest warrant, KOD put out a statement on Jun. 25 informing human rights groups and the public that “Oxygène David has had to go into hiding because the Martelly-Lamothe government wants to intimidate him” because of his political mobilization “calling for the resignation of Martelly and Lamothe and the departure of MINUSTAH,” the UN’s 6,600-soldier military occupation force.
            Many speculate that talk of an arrest warrant for Oxygène may well be targeted to the fact that “on Sunday Jun. 8, KOD and MOLEGHAF members in Fort National prevented, through their mobilization, the Martelly cortege from distributing Brazil and Argentina T-shirts in this poor neighborhood [of the capital] which was heavily damaged by the 2010 earthquake and whose earmarked reconstruction funds have been plundered by the gangs in power,” said the KOD statement.            The statement goes on to specify that large SUVs, some marked “Police” but without license plates, were slowly cruising through Fort National, where Oxygène David lives, all during the night of Jun. 23. “Since the opening of the World Cup in Brazil, one has seen each evening an increase in fixed posts and mobile patrols of masked men driving in vehicles with blackened glass and without license plates,” the KOD statement says.            Lawyer Newton St. Juste also put out a similar statement warning about the targeting of Oxygène David. Both St. Juste and KOD said that other targeted militants include James Samuel Jean, Fritz Robert, and Adelson Voyard.            In the summer of 2012, the Martelly government imprisoned Oxygène for over two months. “Oxygène was charged with vandalism of a white Nissan SUV belonging to the executive of Haiti's telecommunications bureau, CONATEL,” reported Meena Jagannath of the Dissident Voice. “However, while the charges indicated Oxygene smashed a window of the car with a rock during the protest, Oxygene maintained that he never saw the car described in the complaint. The police simply arrived and singled him out without reason,” but “it became evident that there was no evidence to support the charges against Oxygène,” who was released on Aug. 30, 2012.            Jagannath also reports that “in an interview after his release, Oxygène said that he had received a warning before his arrest from a Martelly supporter who urged Oxygène to be prudent because he would be imprisoned if he did not stop protesting against the Martelly government's policies. Oxygène mentioned that while in prison, he was offered his release if he accepted a position in the Martelly government.” Oxygène refused the deal, preferring to stay in prison “a long, long time” if necessary.            “As the people’s mobilization grows, we are seeing the teeth and claws of the Martelly regime coming out more and more,” Oxgène David told Haïti Liberté. “From Cap Haïtien to Ile à Vache, people are protesting against the regime. That is why it is important to build a fighting organization like KOD. A structured organization is essential to not only lead the masses in struggle, but to withstand the counterattack and repression that we know will inevitably come.”

Categories: Haitian blogs

Revolution vs. Counter-Revolution

Jul. 7, 2014 - 10:23 pm
by Berthony Dupont (Haiti Liberte)
This week, the United States of America will celebrate the 238th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence. “On July 4th, 1776, a small band of patriots declared that we were a people created equal, free to think and worship and live as we please, that our destiny would not be determined for us, it would be determined by us,” said U.S. President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony last year. “At that time in human history, it was kings and princes and emperors who made decisions. But those patriots knew there was a better way of doing things, that freedom was possible, and that to achieve their freedom, they’d be willing to lay down their lives, their fortune and their honor. And so they fought a revolution.”            This is the misleading version of United States history that every American school-child learns. But this myth has been exploded by historian Gerald Horne with his new book “The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America,” published two months ago by New York University Press.
            “We should understand that July 4th, 1776, in many ways, represents a counterrevolution,” Dr. Horne explained in an interview about the book on Jun. 27 with the program Democracy Now. “That is to say that what helped to prompt July 4th, 1776, was the perception amongst European settlers on the North American mainland that London was moving rapidly towards abolition. This perception was prompted by the ‘Somerset’s case,’ a case decided in London in June 1772 which seemed to suggest that abolition, which was going to be ratified in London itself, was going to cross the Atlantic and basically sweep through the [North American] mainland, thereby jeopardizing numerous fortunes, not only based upon slavery, but the slave trade.”            It has often been noted that the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” demanded by the slave-owner and principal Declaration of Independence drafter Thomas Jefferson did not extend to the 500,000 African slaves who made up about 20% of the 2.5 million people inhabiting the 13 break-away colonies. It did not apply to women either.            But Dr. Horne’s book  illustrates how this exclusion was not the result of simple oversight or opportunist hypocrisy. “1776 can fairly be said to have eventuated as a counter-revolution of slavery,” Dr. Horne writes in his book. “ Defenders of the so-called Confederate States of America [during the U.S. Civil War] were far from bonkers when they argued passionately that their revolt was consistent with the animating and driving spirit of 1776.”            Indeed, one understands better the reproach that the American founding fathers made “to our British brethren” in their Declaration of Independence. “We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.” Their principal concern: that slavery and the slave trade would be outlawed.            The birth of Haiti, the second independent nation of the Western Hemisphere, stands in stark counterpoint to that of its northern neighbor. It was a true revolution, aimed at forever ending slavery, not preserving it.            Consider the words pronounced by General Jean-Jacques Dessalines on Jan. 1, 1804 in the city of Gonaïves: “It is not enough to have expelled the [French] barbarians who have bloodied our land for two centuries; it is not enough to have restrained those ever-evolving factions that one after another mocked the specter of liberty that France dangled before you. We must, with one last act of national authority, forever assure the empire of liberty in the country of our birth. We must take any hope of re-enslaving us away from the inhuman government that for so long kept us in the most humiliating torpor. In the end we must live independent or die.”            Unfortunately, the primitive accumulation of capital by the newly emerged United States bourgeoisie through its inhuman crimes helped make it the super-power it is today. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed: “We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifices. Capitalism was built on the exploitation of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both black and white, both here and abroad.”            Furthermore, Dr. King observed that the U.S. “was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race... We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade.”            In contrast to the American founding fathers, who denounced the “merciless Indian Savages” in their Declaration, the victorious slaves of the former French colony of St. Domingue renamed their new nation “Haiti,” the original Arawak name for the entire island, meaning “mountainous land.”             Haiti is, in fact, the world’s first nation to truly defend “liberty, equality, and fraternity” – the French Revolution’s watchwords – by opposing slavery and the extermination of the Native Americans.            These founding Haitian principles have deprived the nation of the great capital that can be extracted from exploitation, theft of land, and imperialist aggression. Haiti’s poverty also was contributed to when the U.S. refused to recognize Haiti for six decades (much as it embargoes revolutionary Cuba today) and militarily occupied our country for 36 years out of the past century, most recently though the United Nations proxy force, MINUSTAH.            Indeed, today, just as in time of Thomas Jefferson, the U.S. seeks to destroy our 1804 revolution by making us again a slave colony. In the past decade, their two principal thrusts have been 1) to land an occupation army in 2004 and 2) to intervene in our sovereign 2010/2011 elections to put in place a neo-colonial puppet regime, that of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. Their goal is to re-enslave us in the sweatshop free trade zones of of SONAPI, CODEVI, and Caracol, and to steal the wealth from our “mountainous land,” in particular the $20 billion worth of gold dust left behind by the Spanish conquistadors who annihilated the Arawaks.
            So, on this July 4, therefore, let us renew our allegiance to the call that General Dessalines made to all Haitians – both our ancestors and those of us living today – at the end of his January 1, 1804 declaration: “Vow before me to live free and independent, and to prefer death to anything that will try to place you back in chains.”
Categories: Haitian blogs

Presidents Martelly and Clinton to Be Honored and Protested in NYC

Jun. 20, 2014 - 7:01 pm

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)On Jun. 19, model Petra Nemacova’s Happy Hearts Fund will honor Haitian President Michel Martelly and former U.S. President Bill Clinton at a star-studded fundraiserat a Cipriani chain restaurant on 42nd Street in Manhattan.            But Haitian community groups and their supporters in New York are planning to demonstrate outside the event to call attention to Mr. Martelly’s corruption and repression, and Mr. Clinton’s responsibility for the largely bungled international relief effort which he headed after Haiti’s Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.            The Happy Hearts Fund, which was created 10 years ago by Ms. Nemacova after she survived the Indian Ocean tsunami, will give Martelly a “Leadership in Education Award” for “his transformational leadership after the devastating earthquake and commitment to uplifting the country’s future through education,” the HHR explains on its website.
            Mr. Clinton will receive a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for “his leadership and life-saving work ensuring that children and communities are not forgotten after disasters strike.”            Ms. Nemacova is the girlfriend of Martelly’s Prime Minister and longtime business partner Laurent Lamothe, who will also reportedly attend the event.            “Already this month, there have been two massive demonstrations in Port-au-Prince demanding that Martelly and Lamothe resign for looting state coffers and jailing critics,” said Ray Laforest of the International Support Haiti Network (ISHN), one of the groups sponsoring the protest outside Cipriani. “Teachers are striking and students are marching to denounce how the Martelly government is strangling education in Haiti. Now the clueless glitterati are going to toast him for supposedly promoting education. It’s an outrage and a disgrace.”            This is not the first time that Ms. Nemacova’s charity has been criticized. “After surviving the 2004 tsunami in Thailand by clinging to the top of a palm tree, the supermodel wanted to pay it forward by founding a charity to build schools in Latin America and Indonesia,” reported the New York Post on Nov. 9, 2008. “Instead, it seems an outrageous portion of the donations have gone for lavish parties at Cipriani. Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman and Eva Mendes have attended the black-tie affairs. According to the most recent tax filing, for 2006, the organization spent more than half of its funds on administration and fund raising, including its annual star-studded Heart of Gold ball, and gave nothing in aid. Glen Nordlinger, a director of Happy Hearts Fund, said the group raised $4.5 million in 2007 and spent $2.1 million on programs, including building schools... But even those figures raise red flags with charity watchdog groups, which use the almost universal standard that a well-run charity should spend 65 to 75 percent of its donations helping people.”            Mr. Clinton has been roundly criticized for his leadership as co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), which coordinated disbursement of billions of dollars contributed to Haiti after the earthquake.            “Four years after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake toppled the capital city of Port-au-Prince and heavily damaged other parts of the country, hundreds of millions of dollars from the State Department's U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), allocated to the IHRC, are gone,” wrote Mary O’Grady in a May 18 column in the Wall Street Journal. “Hundreds of millions more to the IHRC from international donors have also been spent. Left behind is a mishmash of low quality, poorly thought-out development experiments and half-finished projects.”            As a result, “Haitians are angry, frustrated and increasingly suspicious of the motives of the IHRC and of its top official, Mr. Clinton. Americans might feel the same way if they knew more about this colossal failure. One former Haitian official puts it this way: ‘I really cannot understand how you could raise so much money, put a former U.S. president in charge, and get this outcome.’”            Four years after the quake, “more than 170,000 people are estimated to still be living in more than 300 displacement camps, in the majority of cases in appalling conditions with no access to essential basic services such as clean water, toilets and waste disposal,” wrote Amnesty International in a Jan. 9, 2014 statement.            Demonstrators will gather on Thursday at 5 p.m. in front of Cipriani, which is at 110 East 42nd Street in Manhattan, between Lexington and Park Avenues.            Also being honored at the event are United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek and philanthropist John Caudwell.
            “Under Martelly, demonstrations in Haiti are almost always broken up with the police firing teargas into the crowd and beating people,” said Henriot Dorcent, a leader of the Dessalines Coordination (KOD), a new Haitian party which is also supporting the demonstration outside Cipriani. “Martelly won’t be able to do that in New York. He has enriched himself and his cronies from the Haitian treasury and PetroCaribe account, while Clinton has monopolized, squandered, and misdirected Haiti’s precious earthquake funds. Haitians in New York won’t allow those two men who have so damaged Haiti’s present and future to be honored without people knowing the truth.”
Categories: Haitian blogs

Head of OAS Electoral Mission in Haiti: International Community Tried to Remove Préval on Election Day

Jun. 20, 2014 - 6:56 pm

by the Center for Economic and Policy Research
Speaking in early May at the “Who ‘Owns’ Haiti?” symposium at George Washington’s Elliot School of International Affairs, Colin Granderson, the head of the CARICOM-OAS Electoral Mission in Haiti in 2010-2011 confirmed previous accounts that the international community tried to force then-president Réné Préval from power on election day.            That the international community had “offered” President Préval a plane out of the country during Haiti’s chaotic first-round election in November 2010 was first revealed by Ricardo Seitenfus, the former OAS Special Representative to Haiti. Seitenfus subsequently lost his position with the OAS, but Préval himself soon confirmed the story, telling author Amy Wilentz: “‘At around noon, they called me,’ he said in an interview at the palace recently. ‘It’s no longer an election,’ they told me. ‘It’s a political problem. Do you want a plane to leave?’ I don’t know how they were going to explain my departure, but I got rid of that problem for them by refusing to go. I want to serve out my mandate and give the presidency over to an elected president.”            Despite accounts of the story from three different high-level sources who were there, the story has gained little international traction in the media.
            In filmmaker Raoul Peck’s documentary “Fatal Assistance,” Préval revealed that it was the head of the UN mission in Haiti at the time, Edmond Mulet, who made the threat. (Seitenfus recently offered his recollection of discussions with Mulet and other high-level officials that day in an exclusive interview with CEPR and freelance Georgianne Nienaber.) For his part, Mulet categorically denied the event, telling Catherine Porter of the Toronto Star: “I never said that, he never answered that,” Mulet told the Star when asked about Préval’s allegation. “I was worried if he didn’t stop the fraud and rioting, a revolution would force him to leave. I didn’t have the capability, the power or the interest of putting him on a plane.”            The election, plagued by record-low turnout, problems with voter registration and massive irregularities, was in doubt on election day when, around noon, 12 of 18 presidential candidates held a press conference calling for the election to be cancelled. Speaking at last month’s symposium, Granderson discussed what happened next:            “The international community intervened, working with representatives of the private sector, and managed to get two of the candidates to reverse themselves, to renege on their commitment, and this rescued the electoral process. But what I think was most unsettling, was that following this attempt to have these elections cancelled, was the intervention of certain members of the international community basically calling on President Préval to step down.”            This wouldn’t be the end of the international community’s intervention in the electoral process. After first-round results were announced showing Mirlande Manigat and Préval’s successor Jude Célestin moving on to the second round, a team from the OAS was brought in to analyze the results. Despite having no statistical evidence, and instead of cancelling the elections, the OAS team overturned the first round results, replacing Célestin in the second round with Michel Martelly. Seitenfus has described in detail how this intervention was carried out, in his recent interview with CEPR and in his forthcoming book, International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti.

Categories: Haitian blogs

Urgent Appeal for the Protection of Haitian Human Rights Lawyer Evel Fanfan

Jun. 16, 2014 - 5:29 pm
URGENT APPEAL FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE LIFEAtty. Evel Fanfan, Activist Lawyer, Defender of Human Rights, Director of the Executive Council of  AUMOHD (Action Units Motivated for a Haiti With Rights)________________________________________________________________________
Haiti, June 12, 2014Ladies and Gentlemen,
Atty. Evel Fanfan is an Activist,Lawyer, Defender of Human Rights, Executive Director of the Executive Council of AUMOHD (Action Units Motivated for a Haiti With Rights), an Organization for Human Rights which has as its main mission to promote the personal rights and dignity of Haitians.
Since 2005 because of his involvement in the battle for the establishment of a rule of law in Haiti, his family and his office staff continue to be the constant target of threats and intimidation to the point where in July 2006, following requests for protection by Amnesty International, OAS and Front Line, International the Director General of the National Police of Haiti then saw it was obliged to detach a policeman to his office for protection.
Despite this decision, his life, his family and the staff of his office have become increasingly prey to death threats, intimidation by anonymous phone calls, texts and voice messages from unknown individuals.

Worse, on the night of Sunday, June 1, 2014, unknown individuals climbed onto the building housing the Central Headquarters of the organization, to set fire in the rear of the building burning all materials and objects that were there as they tried in vain to get into the main office.
That same day they took all the materials, the power supply (solar energy);  two mixers; two microphones; one equalizer; four speakers; two CD decks; two CDs with recording spots for awareness and civic education; all making up the Mobile Civic Education unit for worker mobilization and the struggle for social justice.
Worse, Sunday, June 8, 2014, eight (8) days after the sabotage of the Central Headquarters of the Organization AUMOHD, three (3) armed individuals on motorcycle came to ambush and murder Atty. Fanfan in front of his residence.
When Atty FANFAN headed for his car, one of the three men told the two others, “look, Atty. FANFAN is coming out”, and then the other two came up to put their plan into action.
Thanks to the solidarity and sudden intervention by residents and neighborhood friends, Atty.FANFAN was spared, but the offenders were lucky to get away.  However they left their motorcycle registration plate: MTTB. 4544, gray.
 It is important to note that these threats are increasing at a time when Atty. Evel FANFAN and his team are involved in key issues such as the case of the workers of Haitel SA, the reparation to victims of the government involved Grand Ravine massacres, and the defense of poor citizens arrested and kept in prison for having participated in protest movements against the current Haitian government in defense of media persecuted by the government.
Faced with these repeated and blatant attacks, it is urgent and imperative to appeal to the Haitian authorities to take adequate measures for the protection of Atty Evel FANFAN, his family and the staff of his office.
In order to help a variety of needs are now urgent.  At the moment we have no place to send money or addresses of government officials to lobby.  That will be forthcoming on my old website: <hurrah.org>.  Please check there.
1.) Replacement of mobile public education materials; 2) travel money for the 3 children of Atty. Fanfan.

Categories: Haitian blogs

A Neo-Duvalierist Dictatorship à la Martelly Takes Shape

Jun. 12, 2014 - 3:57 pm

Justice Minister Sanon plays an important roleby Thomas Péralte (Haiti Liberte)
The regime of President Michel Martelly, which came to power through the electoral meddling of the United States and its "Ministry of Colonial Affairs" the Organization of American States (OAS), is currently planning to replace the current 6,600 UN occupation troops of MINUSTAH with a new Haitian military force trained by the U.S. and Brazil over the next two years.            In May 2013, Nigel Fisher, then head of the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), said that there would be about 3,000 UN troops in Haiti in 2017. Currently, UN officials are talking with Haitian officials about speeding up troop withdrawal and “five options [for the UN] to perform the political and peacekeeping functions that are likely to remain relevant beyond 2016," said Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, MINUSTAH’s spokesperson.
            MINUSTAH was deployed on Jun. 1, 2004 [some months following the U.S. orchestrated coup of Haiti's elected government], and Brazil has always provided its commanders and the majority of its troops.            Now, Brazil will begin training 200 Haitian soldiers for a so-called "corps of military engineers." That agreement was signed between Brazil’s Defense Minister Celso Amorim and Haiti’s Foreign Minister Duly Brutus in Port-au-Prince on May 29.            Beginning in July, the U.S. will train 20 Haitian officers at the Inter-American Defense College in Washington, DC. The military school is similar to the infamous "School of the Americas" at Ft. Benning in the state of Georgia and is run by the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB).             These soldiers will all be part of a projected "National Guard" (Garde nationale), which is similar in name and proxy nature to "the Guard of Haiti" (Garde d’Haïti), conceived, trained, equipped, and set in place by U.S. Marines in 1934 at the end of their 19-year military occupation. Haiti’s “National Guard” will begin with 3,500 soldiers.            Furthermore, according to Radio Zenith, Reginald Delva, the Minister of Interior and National Defense, has resurrected Haiti’s National Intelligence Service (SIN), which was dissolved 20 years ago. The new SIN will deploy 10 informers in each of Haiti’s 565 communal sections for a total of 5,650 spies.            Meanwhile, Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon, a former officer of the demobilized Armed Forces of Haiti (FAdH), is restoring the infamous section chiefs (chefs de section), again according to Radio Zenith. Each of the 565 section chiefs will have 10 deputies, who were called during the Duvalier era, "chouket lawoze" (dew breakers).            So, "official" networks for spying and repression, similar to the Tonton Macoute legions of the Duvalier regimes, are already being set up by the Interior Ministry, Justice Ministry, and the Communications Ministry, headed by Rudy Hériveaux, a former leader in the Lavalas Family party who has opportunistically joined the government of President Martelly and his Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.            Alongside are “informal” networks of so-called "legal bandits" directed by regime strongmen like Calixte Valentin, Youri Latortue, Joseph Lambert, and Ronald "Roro" Nelson, who just last week arrested six students who dared to pass his vehicle on the Ruelle Nazon in the capital.            Meanwhile, progressive grassroots activists and organizations have been targeted in recent weeks. Lucien Anerville, an inspector of the Haitian National Police (PNH), led a commando unit which tried to search and, some say, assassinate Sen. Moïse Jean Charles in Gressier on May 8. On May 24, Officer Anerville illegally arrested (many say kidnapped) Rony Timothée, spokesman for the Patriotic Force for the Respect of the Constitution (FOPARC), a mass organization. Prison guard Frantzy Julien attacked Sen. Moïse Jean Charles in Arcahaie on May 30.            On May 29 in Delmas 49, as Lavalas grassroots groups met at the offices of the Association of University Students Committed to a Haiti with Rights (AUMOHD), they were surrounded by armed, masked men. A few days earlier, the office had been robbed and burned by regime thugs, according to AUMOHD’s president, lawyer Evel Fanfan. Mr. Fanfan, who defends political prisoners including protestors arrested in a demonstration on May 1, also says he was threatened on Jun. 4 at the courthouse by government prosecutor Kerson Charles who said: "You are among those who are creating disorder in the country. You defend troublemakers." Mr. Fanfan was also attacked by three gunmen on a motorcycle in Delmas 65 on Jun. 8 at around 9:00 a.m..            Volcy Assad, an activist with the Heads Together Organization (OTAN), was also threatened with arrest by the shadowy agents who threatened Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles in Gressier on May 8. In an open letter to President Martelly published last week in Haiti Liberté, Mr. Volcy described the threats and intimidation endured by many progressive activists in recent months.            "On Monday, May 19, four armed individuals in a pickup without license plates forced my driver to stop after he had just dropped off my children at school," Mr. Volcy wrote. "Even my family’s lives are in danger."            Unfortunately, some political organizations, through anarchic practices and a lack of security and organizational discipline, allow anyone to participate in their meetings, thereby facilitating the task of regime spies. These organizations function more like a church and often do not know who are members and who are not. This is how, on May 25, Jocelyn Dorval, a liaison officer working for the Justice Ministry and the State Secretary for Public Security was easily able to infiltrate and spy on a regular meeting of FOPARC.            Similarly, on May 23, the regime managed to penetrate a weekly meeting at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, commonly called "Lavalas Family Fridays." The regime-linked individuals videotaped and recorded everything said at that meeting. Ten days later, on Jun. 2, their tape was broadcast on some of the capital’s media, including Radio Zenith and Scoop FM. Journalist Garry Pierre-Paul Charles, owner of the latter station, not only broadcast what was said in a private space but also accused two Lavalas Family leaders – Coordinator, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, and executive committee member, Joel Edouard “Pasha” Vorbe – of "preaching violence." However, it was meeting participants who, at the end of the meeting, loudly chanted: "Grenadiers, to the assault, for those who die, we’ll avenge them.”            Twenty-four hours after the radio broadcasts, on Jun. 3, the Justice Ministry released a long press release signed by Minister Jean Renel Sanon. It reads: "The Ministry of Justice and Public Security (MJSP) is surprised and very concerned about the recent violent and incendiary statements by two senior officials of the executive board of the Fanmi Lavalas party. In order to maintain public order and prevent at all costs the return to a chaotic period of which the nation still has painful memories, the MJSP feels obliged to alert the public and deter any potential troublemakers. The Ministry reminds people that the mission of political parties is, among other things, to maintain the health of democracy while using peaceful and legal strategies for taking state power. When the most senior leaders of a party use media microphones to chant slogans like ‘Mache pran yo’ (Go get them), the Ministry believes that it is all of society, and especially the other political parties themselves, which need to be concerned. The MJSP is the guarantor of national security, and these thinly veiled slogans were used to inflame the country in the darkest moments of violence and killings in the past two decades. Under no circumstances nor for any reason should such periods reappear in Haiti today, and we should devote ourselves to the restoration of the rule of law and stability, the sine qua non for attracting foreign investment. Recalling that the Haitian Penal Code punishes inflammatory statements and incitements to violence, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, invites everyone, especially politicians, to show a sense of responsibility, tolerance, and moderation, to assist in the conservation of peace and stability which are key to development in any country."            In response, Ms. Narcisse, accompanied by Mr. Vorbe and Lionel Etienne, another Lavalas Family Executive Committee member, gave a press conference on Jun. 6 in which they denounced government intimidation of their party. "The Lavalas Family will not allow itself to be intimidated by the regime,” said Ms. Narcisse. “We will not let the image of the Lavalas Family be tarnished. We speak the truth, and we will continue to speak the truth, and the people must continue to mobilize to defend the truth. We denounce the base intimidation and threats carried out by the Lamothe government against honest citizens, the leaders of the Lavalas Family. This is further evidence that demonstrates that they are afraid and panicked."            Ironically, on May 30 in Kenscoff, Prime Minister Lamothe, reportedly sang with the former Macoute leader of that town, Father Jeanty Oxide alias Pè Siko. "Go get them, Martelly. Go get them, Pè Siko. Go get them, Lamothe, go get them."            These songs harken back to the terror during the Duvalier regimes (1957-1986) when dictatorship supporters used to sing: "Go get them, Duvalier, go get them."            There are many disturbing things in the record of Minister Sanon, who today would like to give democracy lessons to others.             ● In October 2013, he reported that there was a subversive meeting, organized by people hostile to elections, on Avenue Pouplard in the capital, in which the murder of journalist Jean Monard Metellus of Radio Caraïbes FM was discussed. Despite this detailed disclosure, Minister Sanon has never managed to name the would-be killers or bring them to justice.            ● Also in October 2013, on Minister Sanon’s orders, Government Prosecutor René Francisco ordered the arrest of opposition lawyer André Michel. A note from the Justice Ministry said the arrest was carried out before the arrest deadline specified by the Constitution, 6:00 p.m. But Mr. Michel was arrested at 7:30 p.m. Nonetheless, Sanon disingenuously said the arrest was carried out in strict compliance with the law.            ● In September 2012, Sen. Edwin "Edo" Zenny, a regime ally, spat in a judge’s face in Jacmel. Rather than denounce Sen. Zenny, Minister Sanon fired the judge, Bob Simonise. The incident occurred in front of witnesses at a Jacmel radio station.            ● In late 2013, Government Prosecutor Jean-Marie Salomon was fired after he arrested in flagrante delicto a suspected drug trafficker, hotelier Evinx Daniel. Minister Sanon dispatched his lawyers to release Mr. Daniel. Mr. Salomon was then fired and forced to seek refuge overseas. Mr. Daniel has been missing since January.            ● Minister Sanon took part in an infamous Jul. 11, 2013 meeting in which President Martelly and Prime Minister Lamothe reportedly threatened Judge Jean Serge Joseph for investigating a corruption case involving Sophia and Olivier Martelly, respectively the president’s wife and son. Judge Joseph died two days later under very suspicious circumstances.            ● On Mar. 29, 2014, Minister Sanon, accompanied by Government Prosecutor Gerald Norgaisse, personally went to the women's prison in Petion-ville in order to illegally release the wife of Woodly Ethéard aka Sonson La Familia, who was accused of involvement in money laundering, drug trafficking, and conspiracy. Since then, Marie Taïssa Mazile Ethéard has disappeared while the examining magistrate Jean François Sonel, who is the only person who can legally release her, has called for her to return to prison.            ● Former Government Prosecutor Jean Renel Sénatus accused Jean Renel Sanon, a former FAdH officer, of being involved in sexual encounters and parties (zokiki) with minors.            The regime’s emerging repression and threats have brought about a change in the political position of some organizations, particularly the Lavalas Family. Party leader Maryse Narcisse used to say that President Martelly should complete his mandate despite widespread calls for his resignation. The party even expelled Sen. Moise Jean-Charles for his clear and consistent denunciations of the budding dictatorship. Now, the Lavalas Family is being targeted, and recent declarations by some of its leaders suggest it may soon publicly join the call of the vast majority of the Haitian people that President Martelly and Prime Minister Lamothe step down so that a provisional government can conduct free, fair, and sovereign elections.

Categories: Haitian blogs

MUST WATCH Debate: Is Human Rights Watch Too Close to U.S. Gov’t to Criticize Its Foreign Policy?

Jun. 11, 2014 - 3:12 pm
   Why did Human Rights Watch (HRW) not call for evoking the OAS charter following the US carried out coup d'etat of Haiti's constitutional government? Why was HRW silent over the thousands of people killed in the wake of the coup?
Categories: Haitian blogs

Resistance & the Lavalas Movement

Jun. 2, 2014 - 11:54 am
HAITI ACTION COMMITTEESTUDY GROUPJoin HAC as we explore Haiti’s history, current political situation, and the connections to parallel struggles throughout the U.S. and around the world. We will be meeting regularly to examine texts and films, analyze the latest resources, and utilize discussion and reflection.
Come to our first meeting!
Resistance & the Lavalas Movement
What is Lavalas? Do people in Haiti support the current government? Who is involved in Haiti’s fight for democracy? Why do the world’s superpowers fear the people’s movement? Who is really in power in Haiti? What does activism look like in Haiti?
Saturday, June 7th2:00 - 4:00pmNiebyl Proctor Library6501 Telegraph AveOakland, CA
Future Topics include:The return to dictatorship; mass incarceration and political prisoners; sweatshops and privatization; the ongoing pillaging of Haiti’s resources; labor activism; COINTELPRO tactics in Haiti and the U.S.; racism; parallel struggles in Latin America; and many more!
For more see:
www.haitisolidarity.net and on FACEBOOK
Categories: Haitian blogs

While on Trip to Demand MINUSTAH’s Withdrawal: Senator Moïse Jean-Charles Meets with Haitian Refugees in Brazil

May. 27, 2014 - 7:13 pm

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles held several meetings with disgruntled Haitian immigrants in Sao Paolo this week as part of a six-day visit to Brazil. On May 21, he will address both houses of the Parliament, and on May 22, the Sao Paolo City Council will recognize him as an honorary citizen of that city, the Western Hemisphere’s largest.            Sen. Jean-Charles’ current visit to Brazil, like his two previous ones in 2013, is part of a campaign to push for the withdrawal of the 9,000-soldier UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), which will mark its 10th anniversary on Jun. 1. Some 2,200 Brazilian troops make up MINUSTAH’s largest contingent, and Brazilian generals command the force.
            Joining the senator on his visit to Brazil is Oxygène David, a leader of the new party Dessalines Coordination (KOD), which is one of eight groups in the Haitian Coordination for the Withdrawal of UN Troops from Haiti. The Haitian Coordination, whose April declaration Sen. Jean-Charles also signed, is planning events to denounce MINUSTAH’s 10th anniversary in Haiti. There will also be demonstrations against MINUSTAH in nations around the world including Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, Trinidad-Tobago, Uruguay, and the United States.            A Haitian Senate resolution, drafted by Sen. Jean-Charles one year ago and passed unanimously, called for all UN troops to be out of Haiti by May 28, 2014. UN authorities have pointedly ignored the resolution and have fixed no deadline for their open-ended military occupation to leave Haiti.            Every Monday morning, KOD holds a demonstration of about 50 people in front of the UN base at the Port-au-Prince airport calling for MINUSTAH to pack up and go. UN troops and Haitian police have been increasingly disturbed by and aggressive against the weekly action, threatening demonstrators with tear-gas and arrest.            On May 18, Sen. Jean-Charles met with Haitians at the Church of the Immigrants in downtown Sao Paolo, about a block from a city-run emergency housing center which currently holds over 100 Haitian immigrants. On May 19, Sen. Jean-Charles, along with Oxygène David and a journalist from Haïti Liberté, returned to the “Auberge Emergenciel,” and later to a squatter-run commercial building, to hear the grievances of Haitian expatriates.            “I make only 1000 reals (US$450) per month in a terribly hard job cleaning chemicals from barrels,” said a 27-year-old Haitian man at the housing center who would identify himself only as Hector. “We are given dangerous work and don’t make enough to send home money or even to live. We are virtually slaves here!”            The Haitians at the center, managed by the mayor’s office, sleep in a giant fluorescent-lit hall on metal bunk beds and use communal bathrooms. The yard has lots of laundry hanging in it.            There are an estimated 50,000 Haitians now living in Brazil, but only 20,000 are legal and have work papers. Almost all have come to Brazil over the past decade that Brazilian troops have been in Haiti. As in many countries, the Haitian immigrants work in menial jobs as construction workers, maids, or janitors, although many are trained as nurses, doctors, accountants, or engineers.            “In talking with people, we’ve identified three main problems,” Sen. Jean-Charles said speaking later on May 19 at the Movement for Housing for All (MMPT), which has occupied a vacant commercial building in downtown Sao Paolo to provide shelter for homeless people, including dozens of Haitians. “There is the problem of sanitation, of education, and of salaries. Add to those, there may have been some human rights violations, for which Haitians need a lawyer. We are going to raise all these issues when we meet with local authorities to see what kind of relief our Haitian brothers and sisters can receive.”            Meanwhile, Oxygène David pointed out to the Haitians that ending the UN occupation of Haiti is in their interests. “Every year, Brazil spends millions of reals to support soldiers who are repressing and killing our brothers and sisters in Haiti,” he said to Haitians at the housing center. “That money could be going to hospitals, schools, agriculture, and better jobs and housing for immigrants like you here in Brazil. So you have a double interest in seeing Brazilian soldiers leave Haiti. One, to end the repression of your fellow Haitians. Two, to allow more money to be available for jobs and services here.”            The Brazilian committee sponsoring Sen. Jean-Charles’s trip to Brazil, “To Defend Haiti is to Defend Ourselves,” organized the meetings with Haitian immigrants as well as the trip to Brasilia to address both the Brazilian Senate and House of Deputies on May 21. Sen. Jean-Charles is also speaking to many radio and television stations in both Sao Paolo and Brasilia.            On May 22, Sao Paolo’s City Council will name Sen. Jean-Charles as a “Citizen of Sao Paolo.” The ceremony, which will be open to the public, was initiated by Councilwoman Juliana Cardoso of the ruling Workers Party (PT) and State Deputy Adriano Diogo, also of the PT. “It is a very great honor in Brazil to receive this recognition,” said Barbara Corrales, the coordinator of the “To Defend Haiti is to Defend Ourselves” committee.            Last December, Sen. Jean-Charles visited Brasil to attend the PT’s National Congress, in which he succeeded in convincing delegates to pass a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Brazilian troops from Haiti. In May 2013, the senator also visited several Brazilian cities to push for troop withdrawal.            On Jun. 10, Sen. Jean-Charles will meet for the second time with Uruguayan President José Mujica in Montevideo. “I will ask him to respect the promise that he made to me during our meeting last November,” Sen. Jean-Charles told Haïti Liberté. “He said he was going to withdraw Uruguayan troops from Haiti. I want to find out how that is progressing.”
            Uruguay has historically had about 1,100 troops in MINUSTAH, the second largest contingent after Brazil.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Scholars, Cholera Victims Tell Court UN Immunity Cannot Be Impunity

May. 27, 2014 - 7:12 pm

by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
International law scholars and practitioners from Europe and North America, many with United Nations (UN) connections, filed two amicus curiae briefs on May 15 in support of a federal class action lawsuit against the UN for bringing cholera to Haiti. The briefs demonstrate a consensus among scholars that the UN has an obligation to provide the cholera victims a hearing for their claims, and that its refusal to do so imperils the organization’s immunity.            The amicus briefs buttress another brief filed May 15 by the cholera victims. It explains why immunity cannot shield the UN from having to respond to the victims’ suit. All three briefs respond to a March 2014 filing by the U.S. Government urging dismissal of the case on the grounds that the UN is immune from suit.
            In one amicus brief, well-known international law scholars note that several international treaties, as well as the UN’s own General Assembly resolutions, legal opinions, and practices establish an obligation for the organization to compensate people harmed by UN operations – an obligation which has not been fulfilled in the cholera case.            One of the signers of this brief, José Alvarez, professor of international law at New York University School of Law, noted that “the UN has committed itself at the highest levels to the promotion and fulfillment of the rule of law, but apparently sees no contradiction in promoting accountability — including legal accountability — in others while refusing to address how the national or international law applies to itself in this case."            European legal experts point out in the second amicus brief that courts outside of the United States balance an international organization’s immunity protection with victims’ right of access to court. They describe how those courts have required that in return for immunity in court, international organizations must provide harmed individuals with a reasonable alternative procedure.            Manfred Nowak, Professor of International Law and Human Rights at Vienna and Stanford University and former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, added that “the UN needs to understand that immunity cannot mean impunity. If it refuses to provide people alleging harm with a path to justice, courts will refuse to uphold its immunity.”            The amicus briefs underscore the growing international consensus that the UN cannot be absolutely immune for its actions in Haiti. The international law authorities signing the briefs include current and former UN mandate holders such as Nico Schrijver and Krister Thelin. Last month, the New York City Bar Association sent a letter to the State Department expressing its concern that the U.S. Government should not support the UN’s violations of the law.            The plaintiffs’ brief is the first opportunity that the cholera victims have had to tell the court why UN immunity does not apply in this case, which was filed in October 2013. The plaintiffs argue that the UN’s promises to provide an out-of-court procedure for the settlement of claims against it are a fundamental part of the treaties that grant it immunity, and that the organization cannot invoke its immunity under those treaties when it has failed to fulfill those promises.
            Cholera continues to affect Haiti’s vulnerable population. The UN itself has warned that the disease may kill up to 2,000 more people in 2014. To date, the epidemic has killed more than 8,500 and sickened more than 700,000.
Categories: Haitian blogs

Jacmel Businessman Claims Joseph Lambert, a Presidential Advisor, Tried to Have Him Killed

May. 14, 2014 - 11:24 pm
by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
Jean Rony Philippe, a 44-year-old businessman and political activist from Haiti’s southeastern city of Jacmel, was driving home from Port-au-Prince on Apr. 3, 2014 when he was ambushed, robbed, shot, and left for dead by a eight heavily armed men. The crime, he believes, was ordered by former Sen. Joseph Lambert, who is today one of President Michel Martelly’s closest advisors.            “My family and I have become a problem for [Joseph ] Lambert,” Mr. Philippe said in a long interview with Haïti Liberté, in which he detailed the ambush and his long history of “political rivalry” with Mr. Lambert. “We are preventing him from controlling the [Southeast] department in its entirety, and I have been working hard to keep him from reigning as lord and master there. That is his problem with me.”
            Despite much talk, especially in the Southeast department, that he was behind the attempted assassination, Mr. Lambert has offered no comment on the attack, nor have his political allies, Sen. Edwin “Edo” Zenny and Sen. Wenceslas Lambert, his brother.            Mr. Philippe’s charges come as restauranteur Woodly “Sonson Lafamilia” Ethéard, another close Martelly associate, turned himself into the Haitian police on May 8 on charges of involvement in a kidnapping ring known as the “Galil Gang.” Mr. Ethéard, who was on the run and in headlines for the past two months, is currently being held in a Croix-de-Bouquets jail alongside Clifford Brandt, another close Martelly associate who was arrested two years ago for heading another kidnapping ring but who has never been brought to trial.            Trained in Haitian universities as an agronomist, Mr. Philippe owns a supermarket and an electronics store in Jacmel and is the assistant treasurer of the Southeast department’s Chamber of Commerce. He is also a political activist in the grassroots Organization of 22 (OG-22), which is close to the Lavalas Family party, and was the vice president of the Southeast’s Departmental Election Office (BED) for the 2009 Senate elections and the first round of the 2010 Presidential elections.             Well-regarded in Jacmel, Mr. Philippe is local success story, having been born a peasant in nearby Belle Anse, where his family is still influential.            As he drove home from the capital on the day of the attack, Mr. Philippe noticed a grey Toyota Rav4 SUV following him. Just before he reached the Port-au-Prince suburb of Mariani, the Rav4 blocked him. Almost immediately his car was surrounded “by eight men, all armed with brand-new 9mm guns.”            After shooting him once, the assailants took 40,000 gourdes (US$886), his phone, two rings, and a bracelet, but he was still negotiating for his life.            “At last I realized that they wanted to kill me no matter what,” Mr. Philippe said. “Still very calmly, I told them, ‘if you want other things, just ask me. But let me live! Here is the key to my car. Take it with everything in it.’”            The men mocked him and shot him again. “I was hit by many bullets and finally, I fell down on the car seat, pretending to be dead,” the victim said.            After the men fled the scene, Mr. Philippe, bleeding profusely, drove himself to a nearby Haitian police station, and the police took him to the nearby hospital of Doctors Without Borders. He was transferred to and operated on at the Canapé Vert hospital. He then traveled to Brooklyn, NY where he underwent more surgery at Kings County Hospital. He is now recuperating in New York City.            Joseph Lambert has long been accused and suspected of involvement in drug trafficking and other criminal activities in the Jacmel region.            In a May 12, 2006 secret diplomatic cable provided to Haïti Liberté by WikiLeaks in 2011, then U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson wrote that Mr. Lambert was reported to be one “of the best-known narco-traffickers in [Jacmel], distributing money for favors and engaging in vote buying... SIMO [U.S. Army’s Systems Integration and Management Office] and DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency] Port-au-Prince report that information on file reflects that he is suspected of association with known drug traffickers in Jacmel.”            In another secret Aug. 2, 2006 cable, Ms. Sanderson reported that Edmund Mulet, then the head of the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), complained that “drug trafficking has become an increasingly alarming problem, which is difficult to combat, in part because of the drug ties within the Haitian Government. In this connection, he mentioned Senate leader Joseph Lambert and Security Commission Chair Youri Latortue,” another former senator who is today another close Martelly advisor.            In 2013, a young Jacmel man, Sherlson Sanon, claimed to have worked for Mr. Lambert as a hired gunman for over 10 years and to have been instructed by him to kill Deputies Sorel Jacinthe and Levaillant Louis-Jeune. In his confession to police, Mr. Sanon claimed to have engaged in drug trafficking and murder for Mr. Lambert as well as Sen. Zenny.            Asked by Haïti Liberté what he knew about Mr. Sanon’s charges, Mr. Philippe replied that he had “no elements to verify” the accusations but said that “one day the Haitian judicial system has to free itself from the claws of Joseph Lambert and of the government he belongs to if we want to shed light on certain cases in which he is implicated.”            This may be difficult because, according to Mr. Philippe, “in Jacmel, for example, Lambert named the state prosecutor, the justice of the peace (juge de paix), and the investigating judge also. The local chief justice (doyen) is under his control. If Lambert controls the justice system to this extent, who is going to arrest him, even if he is accused or found guilty of whatever? He will be declared not guilty, and that’s it.”            Mr. Philippe explained he had once reluctantly visited Mr. Lambert, on his invitation, because his brother had been falsely arrested. One phone call from Mr. Lambert to the local judge resulted in his brother’s immediate release from jail, he said.
            “We need another governance, another Haiti,” Mr. Philippe concluded. “We need men and women who choose to go to universities to learn and to create jobs in the country, not choose to become criminals, kidnappers, or drug traffickers.”
Categories: Haitian blogs