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What the New DNI Threat Assessment Says about Haiti

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

A Life Less Ordinary : Humans and Heroines

Livesay Haiti - Jan. 29, 2014 - 10:31 am
...Another post about the crazy-strong God and Momma that delivered twins on Friday... written
by Beth Johnson, CPM at Heartline Maternity Center

A Life Less Ordinary : Humans and Heroines
Categories: Haitian blogs

a story of life (and its many surprises)

Livesay Haiti - Jan. 26, 2014 - 10:17 am

There are many ways to tell a story.  Five people in the same room would all choose different details to share. The more experienced midwives and nurses would tell this story with far more sagesse (wisdom) than I, but they are exhausted from using their wisdom so stinkin much this last 36 hours. They elected me to write this story. 
Midwives love telling birth stories. It is kind of their thing. After DOING birth stories; their second favorite activity is TELLING birth stories. When I wasn't in the club I used to feel very left out. Half the words start with V or P and none of it sounds earthly to a novice.  The stories fishermen tell always evolve until the fish is bigger than the boat. If you had only been there before it got away, you would believe it, too. The stories midwives tell evolve until the maneuvers they used to get the baby out mirror that of a martial arts master. If you had only been there, you would know about the back flip I did with that mother in my arms. Every midwife at some point or another has thought of themselves as Bruce Lee.  The stories are told and their husbands roll their eyes and slowly back toward the nearest door. Their good friends either come to accept and enjoy these special stories, or they do what husbands do.
This is a fact of midwife life.  The story-telling and shoptalk cannot be stopped. To love a midwife is to love birth stories.
~          ~          ~

Last Thursday, we posted this photo of the classroom on Prenatal Day.  More than a few people commented on "yellow shirt girl" in the front row. A few wise bookies and numbers runners even placed bets on yellow shirt to pop next. She can't even sit up, they astutely noted.
Truth be told, we were all getting impatient. We had a 23 day streak with no births, and had not yet welcomed a baby in 2014. We hoped all you bet makers were onto something.

After class on Thursday all the midwives and nurses went about doing prenatal visits. On Thursdays we yell from room to room, "Hey, come feel this, this is unusual" - or - "You guys, tell me if I am right here, this feels like a breech baby."  The way we go about it is not all that polite, but our leader is Bostonian and we have all assimilated.  Her nickname is 'boombox'. She bellows. We bellow. 
Dr. Jen happens to be in Haiti for a couple weeks.  While prenatal ultrasound is not her specialty by any means, she is better than the rest of us at ultrasound. Our machine is older, but still very useful to us during key times in a woman's pregnancy. We had accepted five new ladies into the program Thursday and Jen was "dating" (not going out for coffee, rather finding out how pregnant they were) a few of the brand new ladies for us. 
When Beth McHoul got to the prenatal visit with yellow shirt, she said, "I need to see what this is all about", she asked Jen to do an ultrasound.
Stephanie (yellow shirt) was measuring very large and other midwives and nurses had been seeing her on and off for many weeks, but Beth felt something was off about her fundal height (the measurement of her large tummy). An ultrasound was done. We all gathered round to watch. Five sets of eyes looked on with Jen. As a group we saw a head down and we saw a vant that was plen (a tummy that was full). There was agreement in the room that Stephanie would deliver her baby soon, hopefully very soon. The midwives stripped her membranes and tried to get her to a place where she'd begin contractions soon.
Jen, Beth, Beth, Tara (a few others were also in the room at this time)

That evening, around 7:30 pm, Stephanie came back to the Maternity Center having regular, intense contractions.  That was what we had hoped for at her afternoon consultation. The team of Beths (count them - 2 Beths) got her settled in and decided this was the real deal.  They made calls to let others know that Stephanie had come back.  We labored with her until 2am before putting her to bed to sleep (it is not sleep so much as it is a darker room with the same contractions but a little bit more relaxing atmosphere) for a couple of hours. All night long Stephanie labored. She was vocal and miserable, as laboring women are sometimes known to be. In between contractions she snoozed. 
Morning light came, Stephanie had made some progress. She did some walking and stair climbing and took a shower in between her vocal exercises. She worked hard all morning and into the mid afternoon.  Her blood pressure was high and the appropriate steps were taken to manage that.  Stephanie said every hour or so, "I can't do this anymore. I feel that I have suffered too much."  
That is an understandable way to feel. These are things women in labor say. When those things are said, we say, "di tet w, mwen ka fe sa, mwen gen fos" - "tell yourself I can do this, I have strength."  These  are easily the most often uttered words during a labor at the Heartline Maternity Center. Di tet w - 'MWEN KA FE SA.'
Around 4:30 Friday afternoon, Stephanie had reached the magical number we all love to hear; ten centimeters.  

Our team at the Maternity Center varies from time to time, but as of last week the group that will be in place for the next six or seven months all found their way back to Haiti after short and long breaks. Dr. Jen was the bonus player in house.

At each birth we generally take turns playing different roles. We all have a turn assisting, we all get to be the primary, we rotate spots and try to know how to do everything, should we ever find ourselves alone to deliver a baby. Our entire team knows how to act as a team and knows how to play varying roles. 

Because I am so near finished with my clinical requirements, I was being supervised by Beth Johnson (my official preceptor and an experienced midwife) and was ready to catch Stephanie's baby. Stephanie leaned on the side of the bed with her knees on the floor. We watched and encouraged as she pushed. Jen popped in and out to see how the pushing was going.

I debated writing this story for the other midwives, using all the jargon and asking the wiser ones to edit me and make me sound smarter.  In the end I decided everyone can enjoy this story if I write it for everyone, (less gore, detail, and official vernacular) and leave the sounding smart part to the very smartest people.

Stephanie wanted to be where she was, at the side of the bed. She continued pushing and pushed for about 30 minutes. As each contraction subsided, she rested.  Everything was going beautifully, even with the IV lines she was forced to deal with due to her blood pressure and signs of preeclampsia, and even in spite of her fatigue from 24 hours of labor. Her baby's heart rate remained strong and steady. 

A few minutes after 5pm Stephanie pushed her baby's head out.  I felt a hand up near the baby's neck and called out that we had a nuchal hand but no cord around the neck.  As it turned out the baby had her right hand up next to her left ear.  (Take your right hand, put your arm on your chest and rest your right hand so it is touching your left earlobe. That's your visual.)  

Because of the position of that right arm and hand, we had about a 90 second delay between the delivery of the baby's head and completion of delivery of the body.  Beth J. was great at coaching and telling me how to proceed and allowing me to learn and do the delivery.  

Helping a woman deliver is technically a plyometrics workout. We did our workout and a shoulder and then an entire baby emerged. Once the baby was out we passed her through so she was on the front side of Stephanie and we had Stephanie turn around and lie down on her back on the edge of the bed to deliver her placenta. Her baby had a very short cord, making that a little bit interesting, but the flip happened (this is where Bruce Lee and some fancy-pants moves come in handy.)  

Wini and Beth M and Dr. Jen and Jenny, the photographer that caught this excitement on camera, were all in the room helping and playing their roles. (There are people with towels ready to dry baby, there are people with pitocin ready to stop a large hemorrhage. There are people handing supplies to the primary. There are people charting the time and vitals.) 

L to R - Wini, Beth M., Tara, Beth J.A few minutes post delivery Stephanie began to bleed pretty heavily. Midwives with some experience under their belt don't flip out about blood gushing, it is part of the story sometimes. Beth J. calmly watched and directed and said, "I think we need to get this placenta out, don't you?"  Meanwhile Wini had pointed out that Stephanie's tummy was still pretty large. 

Beth J. asked me if I was comfortable going in for the placenta.  I basically said, "No, but I'll do it."  (Beth McHoul cheers out loud for you when you do and say things like this. Who doesn't love a good cheer from Madame John?)  I put on new sterile gloves and reached in to try to manually remove the placenta. Below you will see the face a person makes when a placenta feels like a fluid filled sac with a thing that is not placenta-like inside. I pulled my hand out and said it doesn't feel like a placenta. Later I added, it felt more like little bones. Wini tossed the doppler back onto Stephanie's uterus to listen for another heartbeat. It was sort of a moment of the entire room adding up the puzzle pieces from Thursday and Friday and a collective, "YIKES" was screaming from our souls.

At that point so much happened so fast that I know each one of us would recall different parts of the story.  Beth J put on new gloves to confirm the second baby herself. I think Wini went to get the ultrasound machine.  I think Jen cut and clamped and took the first baby out of the picture. I think Beth M. abandoned her charting job and get in on the action. I think Jen put the ultrasound probe onto Stephanie and said, "that looks like a butt first". I think I pooped my pants. I think Beth J, the most experienced in the room, turned into a ninja midwife warrior.  I think Beth McHoul hurriedly called Troy from two blocks away to ask him to high-tail it over to the ambulance and be ready with whatever his mid-husband duties required of him. I think Wini put the oxygen on Stephanie.

We talked to Stephanie.  "Stephanie, nou gen lot baby. W' gen marasa." (Stephanie, we have another baby. You have twins.)  I am still very amused at how Stephanie handled this announcement. If anything, she seemed kind of entertained by this news. She smirked and said, "I have two?" Later I asked her about twins in her family.  She said yes, her mother, no longer alive, had been a twin. 

Twin B's heart rate was sketchy. (Fancy medical terminology here, try to stick with me.) It had dropped to 60 beats per minute. A decision was made to break the amniotic sac and try to get the baby delivered as quickly as a breech position would allow. I held the baby from the outside with my hands as Beth Johnson broke the sac and touched the baby from the inside. Beth J. had Stephanie flip back to her hands and knees. 

She was near the edge of the bed so three of us sort of supported her and gave her help by pushing back on her as her feet pushed into our legs while we stood at the bedside. We figured another plyometric workout was in order. After-all, it had been six or seven minutes since we last worked out. 

Stephanie followed instructions like delivering surprise twins - one breech - was a thing she had been practicing doing for decades. She pushed hard when asked. 

Troy came into the delivery room and said the ambulance was ready and available. We started bossing him around. Beth McHoul asked him to move a few things in the room. He was given the camera. (Those photos are amazingly beautiful but far too personal for the Internet.) In the minutes that felt like hours, Stephanie delivered one foot, then the butt, then the second leg came, then the torso of her second daughter. Beth McHoul wrapped towels around the baby to keep it warm and hopefully prevent it from taking a breath before the head was delivered. The fan in the room was turned off. 

We were all sweating bullets of nervousness.  I dripped on the people around me. I wish we had audio on these moments, people just kept praying out loud as needed. Jesus was asked to protect, guide, and direct. (Multiple times by multiple people.) 

At 5:34pm the limp little baby's head slowly emerged, in fact we saw the chin pop out, and then a little pink tongue.  We could feel the heart beating as the baby hung mostly outside of her mother. "Baby is alive" was announced. Once the head was fully delivered, we cut and clamped quickly and Dr. Jen (trained in Emergency Pediatrics) went to work on baby B while Jenny held baby A and the rest of us (Wini, the two Beths and Tara) focused on Stephanie. The amount of blood and fluid was abundant. We had it up our arms and splattered all over our feet.

Troy told me late that night, "I really wanted to cry at what I was seeing but I looked around the room full of women doing their jobs without melting down and decided I best not do that."  

Instead of crying, Troy captured many beautiful images...

At that point, we were finally in a position to actually deliver a placenta. 

Back in the day, surprise twins were a thing. It happened. Technology has meant that it is not typically a surprise anymore, especially in the developed world. We are not in the developed world and we don't routinely do ultrasounds; obviously we hadn't ever done an early ultrasound on Stephanie. The babies were positioned in a way that made it really difficult to detect. We certainly did not see twins at the Thursday ultrasound. 

Delivering a breech baby is a lost art. There are many newer, younger docs and nurses that won't ever see it because C-Section has become the answer for a breech baby. The reality is, knowing what to do when a C/S is not an option is a really wonderful thing. We are 20 minutes from the hospital in the best conditions and you don't even want to know what the worst traffic conditions could mean. We need to have plan A and B.  Midwives learn about breech deliveries, they read birth guru, Ina May Gaskin, and they hear older midwives tell their stories and while they may never see it, they know what to do. Thank the good Lord, Beth Johnson took charge of the situation and those of us around her knew how to support her and we did what we have been trained to do. 

Without being uber dramatic and self-congratulatory, we do want to acknowledge that had Stephanie not been in our program and had she chosen to deliver at home, two and possibly three people wouldn't have lived. The first baby was not an uncomplicated delivery, the second was the opposite of uncomplicated and many measures were taken to stop bleeding. Giving birth at home without help is risky business in Haiti. Most women do it because they don't have access to better options.  

We quickly took turns getting showered and changed. Nirva (nurse on staff) arrived. She and Jenny helped feed the twins a breast milk snack while Stephanie underwent some pretty major repair work.  Wini started the repair, and Nirva and Dr. Jen jumped in to help. Beth and I began charting the insanity of the previous hour and we all collectively sighed our "thank you Jesus" prayers.  

Within a few minutes of starting the repair, Stephanie began to bleed very heavily again. That took us back into adrenaline mode. Orders were shouted to those in a position to help and many measures and maneuvers to stop the bleeding were done. 

After a lot of investigation and repair, it turned out that poor Stephanie also had a cervical laceration. At this point, the bleeding was under control but we always want every woman to be given the treatment we would want. Because the cervical tear was of questionable severity it was decided that we should try to see if we could get a second opinion. We called the hospital and they said to come. Troy fired up the ambulance and we transported Stephanie to another hospital with OB doctors on staff. The hospital staff and OB doctor looked at it and agreed it was torn but said they felt that repairing it could potentially worsen the bleeding (which had since slowed considerably) and cause more damage. We took Stephanie back to Heartline and got her settled in for the night. Her bleeding continued to improve overnight. 

Nirva, Jenny and important nutrition while Momma is off in the ambulance

Twin B (left) 4lbs 13 ounces - Twin A 5lbs 13 ounces

the face you make when you see a miracle

the face you make when you are in love
At this hour the baby-girl-twins and their Mama, Stephanie, are resting in the post-partum area. Help will be given for days, maybe weeks, as Stephanie is cared for, encouraged, and helped to breastfeed twins.  
They have been joined in post-partum by Lonecia, who delivered her baby girl into Nirva's hands - sans drama - Saturday morning.  That makes two births, three babies for 2014. 

We were grateful that many had said they were praying for Stephanie's birth. It takes a team to do this work, and we consider you a part of that team. We know that statistically-speaking things as complicated as this don't always have such a happy ending. During the labor portion of this many hour event, I had turned to Stephanie's aunt and asked where her children were born.  She said, "both at home", then she added "all normal".  At the end of the birth the aunt's eyes were doubled in size and she knew she'd seen some not so normal things. 

This experience may very well be a once in a life-time for all of us. We're aware we witnessed something unusual and miraculous. 

How blessed are we to get to be there when God shows up?

Mesi Jezi.

Photos courtesy of: Jenny Duhm, Troy Livesay, Beth McHoul


Troy Livesay's Post
Beth Johnson's Post 
Categories: Haitian blogs

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

HaitiAnalysis - Jan. 25, 2014 - 4:33 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jean Dominique Case: Surrounded by Speculation

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

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

Categories: Haitian blogs

Judge in Jean Dominique case threatened

Michael Deibert's Haiti Blog - Jan. 23, 2014 - 10:43 pm
The Haiti Press Network is reporting that Yvickel Dabrésil, the judge investigating the murder of journalist Jean Dominique and Radio Haiti caretaker Jean-Claude Louissant, has been threatened since the case dossier was made public, and that American authorities are being asked to locate former Lavalas senator and Aristide Foundation for Democracy head Mirlande Libérus so she can face charges in Haiti (she is believed to be in the US at present). Also voiced is confusion as to why Aristide himself has not yet been charged.  The article (in French) can be read here.

Readers will remember that more than a decade ago, investigating judge Claudy Gassant was driven from the country after threats were made against him and his security was removed, telling Newsday at the time that "with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide nothing will happen precisely because he has done everything to block any effort to find  who was involved in killing Jean Dominique." [Full article available here]

Let's hope this scenario does not also play out this time around.
Categories: Haitian blogs


Livesay Haiti - Jan. 23, 2014 - 10:01 am
Phoebe & Lydia with some Glennon encouragementToday we are excited to host a guest writer. (One you may know and love already.)

I am anxious to share a chapter from Glennon Doyle Melton's book with you.  I love Glennon for her heart and I admire her for being in writing exactly what she is in person.  (which is WONDERFUL) I handed Troy this particular chapter to read and the man got teary.  (I had the same response.) If this insight is enough to make guys teary, I figure you all need to read it.


 ~            ~           ~

There was a couple who’d been married for twelve years. The first two years were good, happy even, but then the kids came and work got hard and money got tight and the shine wore off each of them. She used to see strong and silent, but now she saw cold and distant. He used to see passionate and loving, but now he saw dramatic and meddling. They allowed themselves to become annoyed with each other, so they stopped being careful. They stopped taking care of each other because they decided they needed to look out for themselves. 
The distance between them grew longer and deeper until it felt impossible to touch even when they were in the same room. One day she said to her girlfriend, I just don’t love him anymore, and it felt terrifying and exciting to say. Then he said to his buddy, I don’t know if I ever loved her. And their friends asked, what about counseling? But it all seemed tangled up too tight to try to unwind.
She got home from work one evening, fed the kids, and put them to bed. She was tired to the bone. He was late again. Late again. And even though he was late and the house was a mess, she knew that he would walk in the door, pour himself a glass of wine, and sit down at the kitchen table and relax. He’d sit and relax. She couldn’t even remember what relaxing felt like. She was always either going like hell or sleeping. Somebody had to keep the family running. She stared at his bottle of wine on the counter. Then her eyes wandered over to their wedding photo on the wall. Clueless, she thought. We were clueless. But happy. Look at us. We were happy. We were hopeful. God, please help us, she said silently. Then she walked over to the counter and poured his glass of wine for him. She put it next to his book on the kitchen table— the place he loved to sit and relax— and she went upstairs to sleep. He tiptoed into the house fifteen minutes later. He knew he’d missed the kids’ bedtime again, he knew she’d be angry again, and he prepared himself for her steely silence. He hung his coat and walked into the kitchen. He saw his glass of wine, and his book, and his chair pulled out for him. He stood and stared for a moment, trying to understand. It felt as if she was speaking directly to him for the first time in a long, long while. 
He sat down and drank his wine. But instead of reading, he thought about her. He thought about how hard she worked, how early she woke to get the kids to school and herself to the office. He felt grateful. He finished his wine and then walked over to the coffee maker. He filled it up and set the automatic timer. 5: 30 a.m. It would be ready when she came downstairs. He placed her favorite mug on the counter. And then he walked upstairs and quietly slipped into bed next to her. 
The next morning, she woke up and stumbled downstairs, exhausted, to the kitchen. She stopped when she heard the coffee maker brewing and stared at it for a few moments, trying to understand. It felt as if he was speaking directly to her for the first time in a very, very long while. She felt grateful. 
That evening she allowed her arm to brush his as they prepared dinner together. And after the kids went to bed, she stayed up and they assumed their TV-viewing positions on the couch. He reached out for her hand. It was hard, but he did it. She felt her hand find his. And things started to unwind. A little teeny bit.  
•  •  •   
Look. I know it’s hard. It’s all so damn hard and confusing and complicated and things get wound up so tight you can’t even find the ends sometimes. All I’m saying is that somebody’s got to pour that first glass of wine. 
Because love is not something for which to search or wait or hope or dream. It’s simply something to do.
Melton, Glennon Doyle (2013-04-02). Ca
Check out Carry on Warrior and get your copy here. 

Categories: Haitian blogs

keep seeing

Livesay Haiti - Jan. 21, 2014 - 9:33 pm

To my left, out the window, a man with crumpled legs lies on the sidewalk in the sun. I see him.

His hair is matted and tinted a peculiar orange. His clothes stained so badly their original color is unknowable.

Flies land freely on his face, his hands.

His life is this.

Sitting against a wall, watching men and women and children go by; he watches life happen from his prison. Trapped in a body that doesn't cooperate and a mind that won't allow him to communicate at all, he sits.

He is a reminder that many things lie outside of our solutions, outside of our abilities, outside of all our talk. I have no answers. I have no ability to fix it, there is no "justice" for him.

I see him.
I cannot fix it.

~          ~          ~

To my right, an older man pushing a wheelbarrow as I walk past him.  I've come to know him a little bit.

Well, that is a stretch.

I've come to know his name.

I see him. I greet him, "Bonjour Marcel".  "He keeps his eyes forward and replies, "Bonjour Madame".

Marcel is what many folks might describe as 'slow'.  He keeps his head down and quietly, daily, always faithfully, does his work.

His job is coming to pick up trash from middle class families. Marcel walks the trash about two miles away where he can dump it.  He does this by hand, on foot, just he and his trusty wheelbarrow.  Over and over again. Day after day after day.

People call him "Mesye fatra" - or - Mr. Trash. That is why I have decided it is important we know his real name.

His life is this.

Taking people's garbage away in his wheelbarrow. Walking miles in heat, mud, dust, and traffic. Coming home to eat a little, sleep a few hours, then wake up and do it again tomorrow.

Marcel can move. Marcel can work.  He may be suffering from an incomplete development of his mind, but Marcel is making a small wage. His grueling work hasn't meant a climb up a corporate ladder to success, but it has meant a meal most days and a place to lie his head at night.

Marcel is a reminder that life is not fair, and poverty steals much. I have no better ideas for Marcel. He's not headed to a promotion or an earthly reward for his diligence.

I see him. 
I cannot fix it.

~          ~           ~

In front of me at the Maternity Center is a pregnant woman.  She is nervous and shy.

The other midwives and nurses tell me she is really doing well. I should have seen her when she first arrived on the doorstep, they say.

Her story has been shared with me in fragmented pieces by my co-workers. Abuse. Poverty. Servitude. She is pregnant but has been so used that she cannot say which man might be the father. It matters not. She is not interested in knowing him anyway.

She seems mainly accepting that this little life within her womb is heading full-speed-ahead toward delivery day, toward life outside the walls. She has begun to trust a few people, although I know I'm not among them yet.

She will deliver later this spring, during a time of year that signifies birth, new life, and resurrection.

For her, there are a few things we can do.  We can show up weekly and at her delivery. We can support and encourage in those difficult early weeks and months.  We can believe in the metaphorical significance of her spring time birth. We can choose love. We can be love. 

We see her. 
We cannot fix everything, but we can fix some things.

~          ~          ~

In my room, lying on my bed, my son is crying.  

"What is wrong, son? Why are you so very sad?" 

He pours out his sorrow in words and in tears.  I listen.  I empathize. I listen some more.

He wants to be comforted and I have been given all the gifts necessary to provide him with the perfect words of assurance and comfort.  

I see my son. 
I cannot fix everything, but I can fix some things. 

~           ~          ~

This is life.  Seeing sorrow. Seeing want.  Doing what we can.  Seeing sorrow. Seeing need. Refusing to stop seeing it, even when our lack of ability to fix it frustrates us.  
Categories: Haitian blogs

Still Committed to Haiti

New York Times on Haiti - Jan. 21, 2014 - 1:00 am
The United States ambassador to Haiti disagrees with an editorial suggesting that other countries have forsaken it.
Categories: Haitian blogs

"Depositions...support the theory that Aristide himself ordered" April 2000 murder of Haiti journalist Jean Dominique

Michael Deibert's Haiti Blog - Jan. 20, 2014 - 1:02 pm
Nine indicted for radio journalist Jean Dominique’s murder 14 years ago
Published on Monday 20 January 2014
Reporters Without Borders
(Read the original article here)
Reporters Without Borders responds with a mix of satisfaction and prudence to the news that nine people were indicted on 18 January in connection with Radio Haïti Inter owner Jean Dominique’s April 2000 shooting murder, in which the radio station’s security guard, Jean-Claude Louissaint, was also killed.
“We welcome this major judicial step, one that was quite unexpected after years of paralysis and impunity in a case that was handled successively by seven investigating judges,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The investigation was relaunched on 8 May 2013 when former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is reportedly linked to the nine accused, was questioned as a witness. The different degrees of responsibility must now be established with precision on the basis of the depositions of these nine people. Everyone’s cooperation is needed for this case to proceed. The truth must finally emerge, 14 years after Dominique’s murder.
“Like SOS Journaliste, we urge the authorities to do take the necessary steps to ensure that Myrlande Lubérisse appears in court in Haiti. A former senator for Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, she is named in Judge Yvikel Dabrésil’s report as the person who ordered Dominique’s murder. The authorities in the United States, where she now resides, should authorize her extradition if required.”
The indictments that Judge Dabrésil passed to the Port-au-Prince appeal court on 18 January also named former Port-au-Prince deputy mayor Harold Sévère and former Lavalas organizer and Vaudou priestess Anne “Sò Ann” Augustin, as well as alleged henchmen Frantz “Franco” Camille, Toussaint Mercidieu, Mérité Milien, Dimsley “Ti Lou” Milien (now dead, according to some sources), Jeudi “Guimy” Jean-Daniel and Markington Michel.
The last three escaped from prison in February 2005 after two years in detention.
The Dominique murder case has been politically very sensitive because of the alleged links to the polarizing figure of Aristide, who returned to Haiti in March 2011 after years in exile.
Some of the depositions taken by judges and incorporated into the 18 January report, including the deposition of former Aristide security chief Oriel Jean, support the theory that Aristide himself ordered Dominique’s murder because he posed a obstacle to Aristide’s return to power.

L’ancien président Aristide aurait ordonné l’assassinat de Jean Dominique/Neuf inculpations, dont celle de Mirlande Libérus Pavert, très proche de l’ancien leader lavalas  
Publié le vendredi 17 janvier 2014 
Radio Kiskyea
(Read the original article here)
Neuf personnes, dont des proches de l’ancien président Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ont été officiellement inculpées dans le dossier de l’assassinat le 3 avril 2000, du directeur de Radio Haïti Inter, Jean Léopold Dominique, et d’un gardien de la station, Jean-Claude Louissaint.

La sénatrice Mirlande Libérus Pavert, résidant actuellement aux Etats-Unis, ex-responsable de la Fondation Aristide pour la démocratie et très proche de l’ancien président Lavalas, est considérée comme l’auteure intellectuelle de l’acte quoique, dans le rapport du magistrat, il est précisé que des témoins-clé, dont l’ex-chef de la sécurité de M. Aristide, Oriel Jean, ont affirmé au Cabinet d’Instruction que ce dernier avait déclaré en leur présence que Mme Libérus avait pour mission de réduire Jean Dominique au silence pour qu’il n’ait pas à contrarier son projet de retour au pouvoir en l’année 2000.

La prêtresse du vodou Annette Auguste, alias Sô Ann, militante lavalas alliée actuellement au président Michel J. Martelly, l’ancien maire adjoint de la capitale Gabriel Harold Sévère, les nommés Frantz Camille alias Franco Camille, Jeudy Jean Daniel, Markenton Michel, Mérité et Dimsley Milien, Toussaint Mercidieu figurent sur la liste des inculpés.

Dans le rapport du juge, Jean-Bertrand Aristide et son ex-chef de sécurité Oriel Jean, sont considérés comme des témoins importants. [jmd/RK]

Categories: Haitian blogs

Never lose infinite hope

Livesay Haiti - Jan. 20, 2014 - 8:40 am

"On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And Vanity comes along and asks the question, "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right."

(Photo taken at the Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. King's assassination - and now the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN - November 2013)
Categories: Haitian blogs

9 in Haiti Accused in Journalist Case

New York Times on Haiti - Jan. 19, 2014 - 1:00 am
A judge in Port-au-Prince accused nine people, including friends of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, of having had a hand in the killing of the radio journalist Jean Dominique.
Categories: Haitian blogs

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

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

by Rod Bastanmehr for Alternet

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

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

on separation, grief, and forgiveness

Livesay Haiti - Jan. 18, 2014 - 2:05 pm

Article is posted at A Life Overseas today, read it here. 
Categories: Haitian blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dragging even the sexagenarians along

Livesay Haiti - Jan. 15, 2014 - 8:12 pm
Phones are not for talking. Everyone under 45 knows that cell phones are mainly used as tools to avoid speaking to anyone live. I use my phone most for texting, the camera, and facebook. You???

One of the things that is lame about living far from loved ones is missing out on day to day things, as well as the huge life events.  It is part and parcel of the living abroad experience and cannot be avoided. It takes effort to stay tight with our people far away. At times we have utterly failed.

For a long time we annoyed everyone by not being organized enough to do the web-cam Skype chat thing and we confess that life is unpredictable enough that keeping a promised Skype date caused stress so we avoided making dates at all.

I express myself better in writing so it never bothered me to be left to write emails, but I learned that most people I love don't really like writing emails and they preferred I call them. I would write long drawn out expressive emails to my Dad and he'd reply: "Yup. Sounds good. Love you."

We call whenever it works, but the best thing under the sun in this situation is an app called Voxer. (NOT Boxer, which my mom can confirm is also an app name. Ask her LOUDLY.)

Read about Voxer here. 

I started using it in May of last year. Troy mocked. Paige mocked. They are no longer mocking.  They both use it too.

Because of Voxer I get to talk with friends in CA, TX, FL, Canada, and Peru all at once.  (You can create group conversations or do one on one vox convos.) Today I chatted with my family while I ran on the treadmill.  It cost nothing.

Voxer allows me to hear their voices and allows for far better expression than texting. If I am busy when it comes in, I can listen and reply later. Even my 60-something year old Dad who refuses to engage the social media due to his superiority over our modern day world is promising that he will use Voxer.  Now I can hear my Dad say "Yup. Sounds good." That's gonna be way better. 

They haven't yet come out with a way to use it on your land line rotary dial phone, but I'm sure that will come next, Dad.

Our kids use it to talk to cousins and their big sisters and they don't need our help to do it.

This app is the best thing since sliced bread and I am sharing this so that my friends abroad can also have better communication with their loved ones "back home".

These kids of ours just cannot comprehend it, but I keep telling them that I didn't carry a cell phone to school and I didn't look up information on the Internet. I remember getting a pager and thinking that I was really very important to have that little black box beeping for me.  (... but then to drive to payphone to make a call...) Hope just said, "What is a land line?"  I asked her to take a guess and she said, "A person has their land and you have your land and you make a line to show you which land belongs to each person."

Categories: Haitian blogs

How the Poor Get Washed Away

New York Times on Haiti - Jan. 15, 2014 - 1:00 am
Poor people who don’t own land routinely bear the brunt of natural disasters.
Categories: Haitian blogs