Friday, September 21, 2012

Anti-Martelly Uprisings Sweep Haiti

By: Yves Pierre-Louis & Kim Ives - Haiti Liberte

Demonstrations erupted across Haiti this past week as deep-seated anger against the government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is now surging into the streets on a daily basis. Marches, picket lines, a mock tribunal, and a general strike were among the different actions which took place in six out of Haiti’s 10 geographic departments, a new high-water mark for anti-government protests.

            Peasants, small merchants, store owners, slum dwellers, teachers, unions, laid off state enterprise employees, and the unemployed were among the different sectors protesting against government indifference, corruption, insecurity, the high cost of living, environmental degradation, and, above all, Martelly’s broken promises.

            On Sep. 12, in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien, thousands took to the streets, called out by 20 popular organizations and outspoken opposition Senator Moïse Jean-Charles. The demonstrators marched through the city, stopping in front of different government offices along the way. They accused Martelly of implementing a policy of "mètdam, pike devan" (bluff and headlong programs) based on lies, concocting illegal taxes and shell-game programs to benefit his friends and family, the Haitian oligarchy, and imperialist powers. Marchers accused the president of being in cahoots with several big landowners, called "grandon" in Haiti. Particularly around the northern town of Milot, where Sen. Jean-Charles hails from and was once mayor, the government and "grandon" are trying to evict peasants from land they have occupied for decades.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Reviving Haiti’s army would harm democracy

By: Jeb Sprague - Miami Herlad Op-ed 

Sep 12, 2012

Haiti’s government is making plans to revive the country’s disbanded army, an institution guilty of many of the worst crimes ever perpetrated in the country. At the same time, special police units have been used to drive earthquake victims out of camps.

While civil society and grassroots organizations in Haiti are campaigning against a return to the era of Duvalierist repression, people in the United States should be made aware of our government’s long history with that country’s military and security forces.

It started with the formation of Haiti’s modern military under the U.S. occupation between 1915-1934. The U.S. left only after ensuring the military could be relied on to continue the occupation by proxy. In the early 1960s, U.S. Marines trained the Tonton Macoutes, the dreaded paramilitary force of then dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

When Duvalier’s son, Jean-Claude, took over in 1971, former U.S. marine instructors trained and equipped a brutal army corps called the Leopards. The instructors worked for a Miami company under CIA contract and U.S. State Department oversight.

The country’s worst human-rights abusers were driven underground with the inauguration of Haiti’s first democratically elected government in February 1991.

Only seven months later, however, military forces in the country ousted the country’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A new paramilitary organization, the FRAPH, launched a wave of terror.

After years of grassroots pressure on the United States and the United Nations to act, Haiti’s democracy was restored in 1994. The country’s army (entwined with the paramilitaries) was disbanded and judicial processes began. Yet U.S. diplomats pressured for the inclusion of some former Haitian military into important positions in the country’s new police force. As Human Rights Watch pointed out in a report at the time, the United States used sectors of Haiti’s revamped security forces against the country’s left-leaning grassroots movement.

By 2000, a group of former soldiers known as the “Ecuadorians” (a group of cadets who had received training in Quito, Ecuador, benefiting from close relations with the United States) demonstrated how U.S. influence on Haiti’s security forces, far from reforming them, had had the opposite effect. In late 2000, this group launched a paramilitary war of attrition on Haiti.

Over time, others joined in support, including some of Haiti’s wealthiest textile factory owners, neo-Duvalierists, a handful of disloyal Haitian government officials, a clique within the Dominican foreign ministry and army, and very likely some kind of support from U.S. and French intelligence agencies — as recently revealed through Freedom Of Information Act documents and interviews with participants.

Using the Dominican Republic as a base, paramilitaries were able to ramp up their murderous operations and, by 2004, played a key role in the coup that ousted Aristide’s second government.

Shortly afterwards, 400 members of the paramilitary force were inserted into a revamped police under close U.S., U.N. and OAS supervision. We now know this also from U.S. Embassy cables revealed through WikiLeaks.

In these cables there is some unease expressed by the U.S. Embassy about the paramilitaries — but never was the basic policy questioned: that men who had perpetrated grave abuses and helped overthrow an elected government could be made into police officers rather than be held accountable for their crimes.

Following the 2010 earthquake and the controversial 2011 election of President Michel Martelly, a campaign has been launched to recreate the country’s army. France has offered to help finance it, while Brazil and Ecuador have offered to help with training.

Congress needs to increase its financial oversight of aid to Haiti making sure that the money appropriated for foreign relations goes to building, not undermining democracy, and justice, not impunity for Duvalierist criminals and their allies. It’s high time that U.S. citizens hold their own officials accountable for their actions in Haiti.

Jeb Sprague is the author of the new book, “Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti.” He is scheduled to speak at Books and Books in Miami on Sept. 27.

Haitian activist tours U.S. demanding housing rights for the country’s 400,000 displaced

By Alexis Erkert - Haiti Liberte

(September 11, 2012) Housing activist Reyneld Sanon is beginning a tour to key cities in the United States. The tour will raise awareness about Under Tents, the international campaign for housing rights in Haiti.  The campaign is a joint initiative of Haitian grassroots groups and more than 30 international organizations that are demanding a solution for Haiti’s homeless.

            The January 2010 earthquake killed an estimated 300,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.  In its wake, survivors spontaneously created more than a thousand temporary encampments throughout Port-au-Prince.  There has been no long-term planning for a solution to the country’s housing crisis, and the Government of Haiti has no comprehensive plan to relocate the majority of people into safe, permanent homes.  Indeed, fewer than 6,000 houses have been constructed since the earthquake. Nearly 400,000 Haitians are still living in displacement camps, where they face high rates of gender-based and other violence, forced evictions, lack of clean water and toilets, and cholera.

            “People simply want a space where they can live like human beings,” said Sanon. 

The National Palace, a Den of Corruption

By Yves Pierre-Louis - Haiti Liberte

A string of corruption scandals are erupting at Haiti’s Presidential Palace, directly involving President Martelly and his wife Sophia Saint-Rémy Martelly, and his son, Olivier Martelly. The president is evidently trying to legalize a culture of bribery that takes several forms: nepotism, embezzlement, bribery and offers of all kinds, either involving his family or to get favors from established authorities in return for performing criminal acts.

Following a legal suit filed by lawyer Newton Saint-Juste against wife Sophia Martelly and son Olivier Martelly, two presidential decrees were published in Le Moniteur, the official government journal.

The first, dated Jan. 24, 2012, Supplement No. 10, established the National Commission for the Fight against Hunger and Malnutrition (COLFAM) and the program "Aba grangou" (Down with Hunger!). Both projects are directed by Sophia Saint-Rémy Martelly, are valued at hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars, and are included in a resolution adopted by the Council of Ministers. The second decree dated Jun. 15, 2012, in Le Moniteur No. 94, creating the Commission to Support the Coordination of Infrastructures for Sports and the Accompaniment of Haitian Youth (CACISAJH) run by his son Olivier Martelly. In both cases, these are projects with which the Social Affairs Ministry and the Youth and Sports Ministry respectively should deal.

A legal brief filed by lawyer Newton Saint-Juste seeks an injunction to immediately stop President Martelly’s decrees because they are "contrary to the Constitution, laws and general principles of law, and constitute attempts to undermine the stability of republican institutions and a duplication which serves as an excuse to squander the scarce funds in the public treasury belonging to all Haitians," he wrote. The summons was served on President Martelly. Saint-Juste also denounced the nepotism of these acts.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lack of Press Freedom Shields “Reporters Without Borders” From Exposure

By Joe Emersberger - HaitiAnalysis

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the press freedom watchdog, is a fraud. You can find people who say this in small non-corporate outlets, and who provide slam dunk evidence for that harsh assessment.

However, the corporate media in English speaking countries has been routinely citing RSF’s Press Freedom Index as if it were irrefutable evidence that the Correa government in Ecuador  (and even more so the Chavez government in Venezuela) has been “cracking down” on press freedom.

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