Saturday, October 27, 2012

Haiti's excluded majority opposes army's re-creation

By: Jeb Sprague - Jamaica Observer
[The entire version of the shortened article published in the Jamaica Observer is published below.]

FOLLOWING the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010, the country's small right wing has had a political comeback. As with the shocking return of former dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier i
n early-2011 (who remains unaccountable for his crimes), through a controversial and very poorly attended election, musician Michel Martelly, a longtime Duvalierist, was able to woo a small part of the population as an “outsider” candidate.
Since the 2004 coup d’état in Haiti, there has been a clear rollback of the slow but positive reforms that had been undertaken by Haiti's popularly elected governments. Judicial rulings that had held accountable some of the country's most violent criminals were overturned. As we now know through WikiLeaks, 400 paramilitaries were integrated into Haiti's revamped post-coup police force. A UN force has also remained in the country since mid-2004.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

For-Profit Folly in Haiti: Development-Industrial Complex Can't Deliver Reconstruction After Earthquake

by Jake Johnston, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Over the past few decades, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has seen its staff level drop significantly at the same time as the amount of money under its discretion has rapidly increased. Over this time, USAID has stepped up its reliance on for-profit contractors to fill the void. The result, as Hillary Clinton stated in her confirmation hearing (USAID is part of the State Department), is that USAID has “turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.”

To be sure, there are efforts are underway to slowly fix this. In the meantime, the status quo reigns, with perhaps nowhere serving as a better example of the pitfalls than Haiti. Since the devastating earthquake in January 2010, USAID has awarded some $450 million in contracts – with 70 percent of them going to DC-area contractors, the so-called “beltway bandits”. The largest USAID contractor in Haiti (and the world, for that matter), Chemonics has received some $177 million of this total. With such a large amount of resources going to one company, you might expect there to be vigilant oversight and strict guidelines. Unfortunately, you would be mistaken.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Demonstration, Delegation, and Community Meeting Demand UN Troops Leave Haiti

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

Despite cold weather, over 100 people protested in Ralph Bunche Park in front of the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan on Oct. 12 as the Security Council renewed the mandate of UN troops in Haiti for one more year.

            The day before, a 10-person international delegation led by Haitian Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles met with UN officials to argue against renewal of the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti, known by its acronym MINUSTAH (see accompanying article). After the meeting, the delegation reported what was said at the encounter to the Haitian community at the offices of Haiti Liberte newspaper in Brooklyn.

Two years after the outbreak of cholera in Haiti, access to clean water and sanitation is desperately needed

Open Letter to US Officials by various authors (published by Haiti Liberte)

Oct. 22, 2012, Washington, D.C. – On the second anniversary of the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, human rights groups, faith-based organizations, policy institutes, and humanitarian organizations renew their call for the United Nations and U.S. government to help Haiti install the clean water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the ongoing epidemic.

            The cholera epidemic in Haiti has received less U.S. attention during the presidential campaign season, but it remains a critical problem for this Caribbean neighbor that is not being adequately addressed and is undermining broader aid efforts.  Last month, 260 new cholera cases were reported daily, and 2-3 children died a day.  Since the epidemic broke out in October 2010, 7,564 Haitians have reportedly died from cholera and some 600,000 persons (6% of the Haitian population) have been infected. The number is undoubtedly much higher, as cases in more remote areas are often unreported. As the World Health Organization has stated, those without access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation, and hygiene constitute the majority of cholera cases.

Haiti’s Institutional Crisis Deepens

by Isabelle L. Papillon (Haiti Liberte)

Seventeen months after President Michel Martelly became Haiti’s head of state with Washington’s backing, Haiti is plunged into a downward spiral of institutional and political crisis. This crisis traces its roots to Martelly’s illegal publication of amendments to Haiti’s 1987 Constitution earlier this year and his illegal appointment of judges to Haiti’s Supreme Court.

            Article 289 of the amended 1987 Constitution calls for a Provisional Electoral Council until a Permanent Electoral Council can be formed, as provided for in Article 192.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Has the Mobilization against Martelly Reached a Point of No Return?

by Yves Pierre-Louis (Haiti Liberte)

Workers, peasants, teachers, and the unemployed continued their protests across Haiti this week. Both in the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as in many provincial towns, Haitians are rising up in growing numbers against President Michel Martelly, while repression claims a growing toll of dead and wounded.

            Large crowds are now calling on President Martelly to step down, accusing his government of embezzlement, waste, corruption, nepotism, drug trafficking, lying, bluffing, and failure to keep its promises.

            Like a spreading wildfire, people took to the streets in Gonaïves, Nippes, Jérémie, Les Cayes, Petit Goâve, Trou-du-Nord, Fort-Liberté, Belladère, and Port-au-Prince, protesting the high cost of living and unemployment while demanding decent salaries, observance of a scheduled minimum wage hike, job creation, as well as electricity, potable water, river clean-up, and the building and repair of infrastructure.

            Port-au-Prince had two major demonstrations. The first, on Tue. Oct. 2, was organized by the Movement for the Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity of Haitians (MOLEGHAF), a grassroots organization based in the capital’s Fort National neighborhood. Hundreds of MOLEGHAF’s activists, supporters, and sympathizers marched through the city before rallying, as they regularly do, outside the offices of the Social Affairs Ministry to demand improvement of the horrific living conditions in most of the capital’s poor neighborhoods.

            The second demonstration, on Fri., Oct. 5, was carried out by unions of workers and teachers to mark World Teachers' Day and the World Day for Decent Work (Oct. 7). Workers and teachers called for compliance with the 2009 law that, as of Oct. 1, sets the minimum daily wage at 300 gourdes ($7.12). They also demanded jobs with decent wages, the payment of salary arrears to teachers, and the hiring of all graduates of the State Teachers College (École Normale Supérieure) and the Training Center for Basic School (CEFEF), among other institutions. The demonstrators asked for a base monthly salary of 50,000 gourdes ($1,186) and other benefits for teachers, the publication of a law setting tuitions and regulating teachers’ status, allocating 34% of the Haitian budget to education, and generally improving working conditions.

            Meanwhile, on Oct. 4 in Petit Goâve, in the locality of Barette, the population demonstrated when President Martelly inaugurated 1 km of road funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Presidential security guards retaliated with tear gas, which killed an octogenarian as well as some animals. The guards also clubbed protesters and burned motorcycles.

            In Belladère, on Oct. 8 demonstrators rallied to demand the restoration of electricity in the area, but a man opened fire on them, wounding four people.

            The same day, in Fort Liberté, people demonstrated to demand a shipping port for their coastal town. But the city’s hard-line mayor quickly deployed the police who dispersed the crowd with tear-gas and shots in the air. In the ensuing melee, a bystander was killed, shot in the back.

            More large protests are planned for Port-au-Prince on Oct. 14 and for Cap-Haïtien on Oct. 17. Other actions are planned for provincial towns.

            Despite eight years of military occupation by foreign forces, the imperialists seem unable to prevent the breakdown of the right-wing neo-Duvalierist regime they installed through an illegal election in March 2011. It is collapsing under the weight of its own hedonism, arrogance, and corruption.

The Oct. 5 march of teachers and other workers in Port-au-Prince. “Workers should have good conditions” said the sign, in Kreyòl, of one protestor.

Photo by Haïti Liberté

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Belen Fernandez Reviews the New Book: Paramilitarism and the assault on democracy in Haiti - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

By: Belen Fernandez - Al Jazeera 

In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, certain media outlets painted a picture of a country overrun by looters and at the mercy of gang members and other criminals, including thousands of prisoners jolted free by the quake.

Relevant details were ignored, such as the contention by prominent Haitian human rights attorney Mario Joseph that 80 per cent of said prisoners had never been charged. The media effort perhaps aided in rendering less incongruous in the eyes of the international public the deployment of a sizeable US military force to deal with quake-affected people who did not seemingly require military attention.

A Reuters dispatch from one week after the disaster - which reported "marauding looters", "scavengers and looters swarm[ing] over damaged stores", "increasingly lawless streets" and "[h]eavily armed gang members" - offered the following plea from policeman Dorsainvil Robenson:

"Haiti needs help ... the Americans are welcome here. But where are they? We need them here on the street with us."

The whereabouts of the ever-elusive Americans are of course hinted at two paragraphs later, when we learn that "the White House said more than 11,000 US military personnel are on the ground, on ships offshore or en route". Elsewhere, French Co-operation Minister Alain Joyandet was quoted as commenting in reference to seemingly skewed US priorities: "This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti". As foreign military monopolised the Port-au-Prince airport, teams of paramedics and first responders were delayed in the critical hours immediately following the earthquake.

Subscribers to the fantasy that the US is somehow qualified to counteract violence and install order in the Caribbean nation would do well to peruse a new book entitled Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti, in which author Jeb Sprague masterfully documents - among other topics - the detrimental role of US and fellow international actors in Haitian history.

Offering new evidence obtained through interviews and a massive amount of formerly classified US government documents, the book clarifies how Haiti's post-quake reconstruction rests on a foundation of total impunity achieved by the country's most brutal paramilitaries and their financiers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Martelly Protested at Brooklyn College

By Kim Ives - Haiti Liberte

Haitians in New York joined their brothers and sisters marching in anti-government demonstrations across Haiti when President Michel Martelly headlined a rally at the Brooklyn College auditorium on Sep. 26 after speaking earlier in the day at the United Nations General Assembly.

Hundreds of Haitians marched a half mile down Nostrand Avenue through the rain from Radio Panou to Brooklyn College. There they jammed onto the sidewalk across from an entrance to Brooklyn College, where Martelly’s supporters waited on line for hours to get into the event.

“Down with Martelly,” the protestors chanted. “Down with corruption! Down with illegality!”

The demonstrators denounced a tax that Martelly has levied on money transfers and phone calls to Haiti. The tax is illegal because it has not been ratified by, or even presented to, Haiti’s Parliament.

“It’s been a while since Haitians have turned out in the streets like this. I’m very satisfied with the response of the community which has poured out to denounce Martelly as a thief,” said Marlène Jean-Noel, a longtime leader of the Fanmi Lavalas in New York. “One month after he came to power, Martelly put a $1.50 tax on every money transfer Haitians send back to their families in Haiti. He also put a 5 cents per minute tax on phone calls. You can’t call Haiti anymore. When you do, your calling card finishes almost immediately. And what does he do with the money? He gives it to his wife and his son to do baloney projects. Meanwhile, the Haitian masses are dying of hunger.”

The Mobilization Against Martelly Grows

By Isabelle Papillon - Haiti Liberte

For the second consecutive week, thousands of people of all ages and walks of life took to the streets of Cap Haïtien, Haiti’s second largest city, on Sep. 21 to protest against President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

They denounced high-level corruption, the high cost of living, Martelly’s “hijacking” of the electoral council, and government attempts to evict peasants from plots of land on which they have lived and farmed for almost two centuries.

After rallying at the Samarie roundabout in the morning, thousands of people from Cité Lescot, La Fossette and other Cap-Haïtien neighborhoods marched through the city, rallying in front of the central government’s offices, known as the Delegation of the North, and at the Courthouse. In front of the Delegation’s offices, pro-Martelly partisans hiding inside the government building threw rocks at the protesters. The demonstrators threw rocks back at them. The Haitian National Police (PNH) and UN occupying troops (MINUSTAH) fired tear-gas canisters to disperse the protesters, with only partial success.

When they met the marchers, some people were seen to theatrically take off their pink bracelets, meant to signify allegiance with the government, and throw them on the ground.

"Martelly, Martelly, pèp Nò a pap jwe," the demonstrators shouted. (The people of the North do not 
play around.) "We do not want imported rice, we want to work," they chanted.  "We want to live in peace in our country."

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