Thursday, October 31, 2013

Uruguay Will Withdraw from MINUSTAH, President Says. Beginning of End of UN Occupation of Haiti?

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

Following a visit earlier this month from Haitian Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles, Uruguay’s President José Mujica told a council of ministers on Oct. 28 that he would withdraw Uruguayan troops from the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), the 9,000 soldier force which has militarily occupied Haiti since June 2004.
            “It is a huge victory,” Sen. Jean-Charles told Haïti Liberté. “Uruguay’s bold step to show that it will no longer do Washington’s bidding in Haiti will hopefully be an example that other nations from around the world participating in MINUSTAH will follow.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Questions Swirl Around World Vision’s Targeted Food Program

by Haiti Grassroots Watch

A food distribution program aimed at expectant and new mothers and their babies may have increased the number of girls and women getting pregnant in and around the town of Savanette, located in Haiti’s Centre département (province).
            That's the perception of many residents and even beneficiaries of a USAID-funded World Vision “Multi-Year Assistance Program” (MYAP), running from 2008 through September 2013 here and in a number of communities in Haiti. As part of the MYAP, World Vision distributes food to pregnant women and mothers of children six to 23 months old (so-called “1,000 day programming”), as well as to vulnerable populations such as people living with AIDS, orphans, and malnourished children.

Demonstrators Surround Police Station as Prominent Regime Critic Arrested

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

Over 1000 people massed in front of a police station in the Martissant section of Port-au-Prince on the evening of Oct. 22 as police encircled the car of outspoken lawyer André Michel, who was stopped while driving nearby shortly after 6 p.m.
            Just before 10 p.m., the police removed Michel from his vehicle, smashing its windows, his lawyer Newton St. Juste said. Mr. Michel was then taken into the police station, as CIMO riot police fired teargas and shots in the air to disperse the angry crowds outside.
            At midnight, Mr. Michel was still being held in the station with clusters of protestors regathering on some street corners, despite the lingering teargas.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Haiti: Turning Back the Clock

By: Ayana Labossiere - Haiti Action Committee

I will never forget my first trip to Haiti. In 1990, at five years old, I went to Haiti with my dad to visit family.  I spent my days chasing goats and chickens on farms, enjoying the beach with my family, playing with kids in the street, and learning my very first Creole curse words. I had an amazing experience and have long since given credit for these experiences to my family, without contextualizing them.  Haiti in 1990 and in 2001 (when I was there for a trip at the age of sixteen) was a place of poverty but also of hope. I never realized how fortunate I was to experience Haiti at the height of Lavalas organizing and during Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s presidency; the country was being run by a movement created by, for, and devoted to the grassroots and the poorest of the poor.
Going to Haiti now is different, harder, and more arduous.  Certainly, being an adult means that my lens has changed, but Haiti is becoming a place that I’d only heard about from my father and others who remember the Duvaliers’ dictatorships: a place of economic exploitation and brutal repression of the poor and a place of opulence and gaiety for the wealthy and foreign  And now, as an adult and high school teacher, it is part of my job to take high school students to Haiti and help them contextualize the poverty they see. In June 2013, I and other teachers in San Francisco took students to Haiti, where they were exposed to all of these harsh realities.  They were exposed to the massive tourism and propaganda campaigns dedicated to covering up these realities, and to the fight that Haitians continue to wage against the forces that would oppress them.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Behind Haiti’s Hunger

by Haiti Grassroots Watch

During the past year or so in Haiti, as humanitarian actors raised an alarm about hunger, Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) journalists kept hearing complaints and rumors about the misuse, abuse, or negative effects of food aid. HGW journalists and the community radio members who worked with them decided to investigate.
            Why – when the country has received at least one billion U.S. dollars worth of food aid between 1995 and the 2010 earthquake – is hunger on the rise? Who are the actors in the “hunger games” in Haiti and internationally?  What can be done that isn’t currently being done?

Long-Awaited Haiti Cholera Lawsuit Against the UN to be Launched This Week

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

The legal noose is tightening around the United Nations to take responsibility for unleashing the world’s worst cholera epidemic in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, where hundreds of thousands have been affected by the deadly disease.
            On Oct. 9, lawyers representing over 5,000 Haitian cholera victims and their families will file a class action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York to demand that the UN recognize its responsibility for introducing cholera into Haiti three years ago and pay reparations.
            Lawyers with the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Port-au-Prince-based International Lawyers Office (BAI) first brought a legal petition against the UN in November 2011 within the world body’s legal redress framework. That 37-page complaint charged that the “UN is liable for negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and deliberate indifference for the health and lives of Haitian people resulting in petitioners’ injuries and deaths from cholera” and sought financial compensation for 5,000 Haitian petitioners, constructive action to prevent cholera’s spread, and a formal acknowledgment of and apology for the UN’s responsibility for bringing cholera into Haiti.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Popular Forum: Roadmap Proposed for a Provisional Government

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

On Sep. 30, the 22nd anniversary of the 1991 coup d’état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, tens of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of Port-au-Prince and Cap Haïtien to demand two things: “Martelly must go! MINUSTAH must go!”
            Knowing this agenda, the day before over 100 delegates representing about two dozen different popular organizations from all of Haiti’s ten departments gathered at the Fany Villa Reception Center in Port-au-Prince to reflect on and debate a proposal on how to form a provisional government which could lead the country to free, fair, and sovereign elections after Martelly’s departure from power, which all of the delegates felt would be coming in the days ahead, one way or another.
            The proposal was made by the Kòwòdinasyon Desalin or Dessalines Coordination (KOD), a new formation headed by several prominent veterans of Haiti’s democratic struggle over the past 25 years.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

10 Steps to Dictatorship

10 steps to dictatorship: Why the grassroots movement in Haiti is
taking to the streets against President Michel Martelly - SF BayView

September 25, 2013

By: Charlie Hinton, Haiti Action Committee

1. Who is Michel Martelly? Martelly grew up during the 27-year
dictatorship of Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his son, Jean Claude
"Baby Doc." He joined the Duvalierist death squad, the Tonton
Macoutes, at the age of 15 and later attended Haiti´s military
academy. Under Baby Doc, Martelly, a popular musician, ran the Garage,
a nightclub patronized by army officers and members of Haiti´s tiny
ruling class.

After Baby Doc´s fall in February 1986, a mass democratic movement,
long repressed by the Duvaliers, burst forth and became known as
Lavalas ("flood"), from which emerged Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a
popular liberation theology Catholic priest, who was elected president
in 1990 with 67 percent of the vote in the first free and fair
election in Haiti´s history.

Martelly quickly became a bitter opponent of Lavalas, attacking the
popular movement in his songs played widely on Haitian radio.
Martelly "was closely identified with sympathizers of the 1991
military coup that ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,"
the Miami Herald observed in 1996, and ran with members of the vicious
FRAPH death squad from that period, infamous for gang rapes and
killing with impunity.

On the day of Aristide´s return to Haiti in 2011, after eight years of
forced exile in South Africa and two days before the "run-off"
election, Martelly was caught in a video on YouTube insulting Aristide
and Lavalas: "The Lavalas are so ugly. They smell like s**t. F**k you,
Lavalas. F**k you, Jean-Bertrand Aristide."

2. The fraudulent presidential election of 2010-2011: In the
presidential election cycle of 2010-2011, the Electoral Council ruled
that Aristide´s Fanmi Lavalas Party could not participate, which
de-legitimized the whole corrupt process. Voter turnout was less than
25 percent in the primaries and less than 20 percent in the "run-off."

14 Caribbean nations sue European countries for slavery reparations

Lawsuits seek reparations from Britain, France, Netherlands for their roles in Atlantic slave trade

Associated Press

Fourteen Caribbean nations are suing the governments of the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands for reparations over what the plaintiffs say is the lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade.
In a speech Friday at United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves said the European nations must pay for their deeds.
“The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity – a legacy which exists today in our Caribbean – ought to be repaired for the developmental benefit of our Caribbean societies and all our peoples,” Gonsalves said. “The European nations must partner in a focused, especial way with us to execute this repairing.”

The Proposed 2013-2014 Budget: More for the President, Less for the People

by Francklyn B. Geffrard and Kim Ives

President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe have presented to the Haitian Parliament for ratification their budget for the 2013/2014 fiscal year, but it has provoked criticism and outrage from economists, politicians, parliamentarians, and civil society. Many consider the budget scandalous. Sen. Steven Benoit of the West Department called it a "criminal budget." Speaking Aug. 23 on a Port-au-Prince radio station, Benoit said that the budget, if adopted as presented by the Executive, would penalize Haiti’s poorest. "This is a budget that aims to protect the strong over the weak, those who have few ways to survive," he said, vowing that he would never vote for it. The Chamber of Deputies, where the Executive maintains a majority of votes through bribery, passed the budget without any modifications after one reading. However, the Senate must agree to the exact same version of the budget before it can be ratified. Some ministries saw their budgets increased, while others were severely cut. For example, the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s proposed budget was more than doubled from last year’s 41 million gourdes (US$935,000) to 90 million gourdes (US$2 million). The Ministries of Justice and Public Safety as well as Interior and Local Communities also would get more money, while the Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Public Health, and Social Affairs would be slashed. Meanwhile, the proposed operating budget for the President has more than tripled in the last two years. In 2011 when President Martelly came to power, the budget for the Presidency was 95 million gourdes (US$2.2 million). This amount was increased to 165 million gourdes (US$3.8 million) in Fiscal Year 2012/2013, and for this fiscal year, the Presidency wants a budget of 329 million gourdes (US$7.5 million). There is no conceivable justification for this increase in a country facing a serious economic crisis. To make matters worse, for years the Haitian government has relied on international donors for budget support, usually to the tune of 60 to 70%. But this year the international community has reduced its budget support by 30%. To compensate, the Haitian government is proposing higher taxes and fees on a host of goods and services. The budget reflects the government’s priorities. Out of its total 126.4 billion gourdes (US$2.9 billion), 46.26 billion gourdes (US$1 billion) are earmarked for operations, 77.48 billion gourdes (US$1.8 billion) for capital and social investments, and 2.65 billion gourdes (US$60.4 million) for servicing Haiti’s debt, which Martelly and Lamothe have run up from zero to historic highs (over $1.1 billion) while in office. In short, the government’s operating budget and debt servicing are being significantly increased, while investment in vital economic sectors is being reduced.

Dr. Matthew J Smith reviews new book 'Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti'

Working USA: The Journal of Labor & Society

Book Reviews

Sprague, Jeb. Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti.
New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012. 400 pp. US$23.95 (paperback).

A sense of the arguments and perspective that drive Jeb Sprague’s
detailed study of paramilitarism in Haiti from the early 1990s to 2004
is given in the following quote, which comes in a closing chapter: “As
with all historical processes, Haiti’s recent history cannot be
reduced to pure good versus pure evil— the popular Lavalas movement
had its own contradictions and failures. Even so, right-wing
paramilitarism and its backers have produced, by far, the most victims
of political violence in Haiti in recent history” (p. 281). Sprague
supports this point—and at the same time aims to expose layers of
political complexity—with an intriguing assessment of the role of
paramilitary organizations in ensuring that popular movements in the
Caribbean republic are kept hobbled.

The span of the study is marked by the two overthrows of
democratically elected popular leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his
Fanmi Lavalas (FL) movement in 1991, and later in 2004. It is to
Sprague’s credit that he keeps in clear view at all times the link
between these events—now half-forgotten in the minds of a foreign
audience unable (or unwilling) to recall Haiti’s history prior to the
2010 earthquake—and contemporary politics in Haiti.

This is a crucial story. For too long, the role of paramilitarism in
these events has been recognized but little studied. This is somewhat
surprising given the presence of state- and private-funded agencies of
social control in Haiti’s history. In the nineteenth century, Haitian
leaders ensured dominance by using the armed forces under their
command to contain popular risings. There was always resistance, and
this resistance only encouraged leaders to sharpen their tools of
repression. Emperor Faustin Soulouque (1847–1859) had his own forces,
and they would form the template for the military control of some of
his successors.

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