Sunday, October 28, 2007

Declaration of the Haitian "Block the EPA" coalition

(The following declaration of several progressive Haitian organizations speaking out against the adoption of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) agreements with Europe was forwarded to me, and it seemed of great enough general interest to repost here. For my part, I have been following the progress of the EPAs in an EU-Africa context from here in Paris, and Haitians are not the only ones voicing concern, for sure. as I have written about some of the objections that have been voiced by African nations before. Something slightly worrisome to me about the press release below, though: Nowhere can I see does it address the pervasive corruption of the Haitian state that has also played a major role in strangling development and economic growth (and pummeling the poor), regardless of the professed political ideology of whoever may be in power at any given moment. I think that that the Haitians themselves need to do a bit of soul-searching on this issue, and not be simply content to blame all of their woes on outside forces. I realize that many of the signatory organizations here have been pushing for better governance in Haiti for many years, but on a wider level in public discourse, I think there needs to be a greater acknowledgement of this problem in Haiti and not just the wink-wink tolerance of it that is often the case. MD)

Declaration of the Haitian coalition, ‘Block the EPA’

Port-au-Prince, 17 October 2007.

Translated from French by Charles Arthur for the Haiti Support Group.

The member organizations of the ‘Block the EPA coalition’ hereby state
their position on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) by
providing the following succinct arguments justifying our approach. In
the following document we will reiterate our critiques, our demands and
our recommendations.

The ‘Block the EPA coalition’ members salute the courage, awareness,
and determination of hundreds of Haitian organizations and citizens who
have participated in the mobilizations that have taken place over
recent weeks. We also salute the involvement of numerous artists and
musical groups in the anti-EPA mobilizations, notably the Dahomey Dance
Troup, AWOZAM, the artists from the Chandel popular organization, and
the musicians of Boukman Eksperyans, who, by lending their support to
this cause, have once again shown their renewed commitment to the
struggle to defend our country’s future.

The lively interest generated by the campaign was evident during the 16
October demonstration through the streets of Port-au-Prince from the
Place Catherine Flon in Champ de Mars to the Karibe Conference Centre.
Several hundred people, representing organizations from the provinces
as well as the capital, chanted “Block the EPA”, arousing an
enthusiastic response from thousands of spectators and passers-by.

More than 7,500 people have already signed the petition against the
EPA, and thousands more attended a free concert in Place Jérémie on
Sunday, 14 October.

We are sure that the mobilization will only grow in strength in the
coming weeks.

Numerous conferences, press conferences, workshops with the media, and
information seminars for grassroots organizations from seven of the
country’s ten departments, have already taken place. This public
campaign, focused on providing information, training, and advocacy
around the issues of Economic Partnership Agreements for the Africa,
Caribbean and Pacific region (ACP) countries, in particular Haiti, is
being carried out in the context of a struggle between the superpowers
for control of the world’s markets.

1. The reality of the EPAs

The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)proposed by the European
Union do not constitute a framework of partnership, but are essentially
neo-liberal-inspired free market agreements that prolong imperialist
domination and a neo-colonial vision, and which aim to strengthen the
position of European multinationals in the context of the rivalry
between the most powerful economic trade blocs. In an October 2006
document, the European Community declared its ambition to control the
majority of the global market by the year 2010.

The EPA requires (with few exceptions) a complete trade liberalization.
Our country has already lived with, and is still living with, the
disastrous consequences of the liberalization imposed by the
International Finance Institutions (IFIs) in the 1980s and with even
greater force since the years 1994-95. Haiti has become one of the
countries most open to foreign trade, with existing import tariffs set
at an average of 2.9% and the vast majority of the imported products
coming in with a zero tariff. This situation is largely responsible for
the collapse of whole sectors of the peasant economy which currently
generates only 25% of annual GDP, and can barely produce 48% of the
food consumed in our country. Following this accelerated
liberalization, our country has entered a period of rapid economic
decline, which has plunged the vast majority of the population (76%)
into extreme poverty. We have also witnessed an explosion in
unemployment. According to available information, in the sectors
producing rice, sugar, chickens and eggs, more than 830,000 jobs have
been destroyed by the liberalization of the 1990s. We cannot accept a
continuation along the same path. Agreements like the EPA will
accelerate the destruction of our economy.

2. The consequences of the EPAs for the poor

The EPAs have been widely denounced by bodies like the International
Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Caribbean Policy Development
Center (CPDC), the Caribbean Labor Council (CCL), by hundreds of
organizations in Europe and the ACP countries, and even by governments
concerned about the negative impact of these agreements on all the
countries concerned. In general terms, it is possible to predict
massive shocks with devastating effects that will vary according to
each nation’s specific situation. A report issued in 2006 by a working
group of French members of Parliament concluded that the EPAs will
inevitably lead to four types of shocks:

- A budgetary shock. There will be a significant reduction in customs
revenue for countries which have important trade with the European
markets. (In Haiti, the loss of customs revenue as a direct consequence
of the EPA is estimated by the Ministry of Trade and Industry will be
at least US$8m. annually. Only 10% of Haitian imports currently come
from EU countries but it is anticipated that there will be an increase
of around 10% per annum over the next five years). This blow will cause
a reduction in the welfare state’s capacity in the areas of health,
education, environment, the creation of productive employment, and the
strengthening of vital sectors of the national economy;

- A balance of payments shock with a rapid deterioration in the trade
deficit, making the country more vulnerable and more dependent, and
complicating macroeconomic management. Remember that Haiti with annual
imports of about US$2bn. and exports of US$600m is experiencing a
structural trade deficit which has worsened rapidly in recent years.
The absence of policies designed to enhance the productive capacities
of the country raises fears of an exponential growth in imports that
will jeopardize the country’s productive sectors;

- A blow to agriculture by putting farmers already operating in a
hostile environment in direct competition with European agricultural
products enjoying a high level of productivity and generous subsidies.
Haiti today imports nearly US$40m of dairy products each year, even
though we have a stock of 450,000 head of cattle that, with sustained
investment and improved infrastructure, would be perfectly capable of
meeting domestic demand. We already import a large quantity of dairy
products from Europe. With the EPA, this dependency will increase,
depriving our country of the possibility of a drive to transform the
livestock industry and dairy production. All recent studies indicate
the great potential of this sector, and such a drive could have clear
positive effects in terms agriculture and industry. It is sufficient to
refer to the success of initiatives such as "Lèt Agogo” (Milk Galore)
carried out by several peasant organizations supervised by Veterimed
and other organizations;

- An industrial shock ruining the ACP countries’ embryonic
industrialization efforts by exposing them to competition from
industrial products coming from Europe. Similarly, the situation of
basic social services, from which a large part of the Haitian
population is already excluded, is likely to worsen with the
penetration of the major European multinational companies which are
among the most efficient in the service sector. There is a danger that
an existing trend of de-industrialization will be accentuated by once
again accelerating an increase in unemployment, by a regressive
specialization ruining any opportunity for diversification, and by
increased dependency on European multinational companies that are sure
to speed up the process of privatization and the deregulation of key
service sectors (e.g. education, health, telecommunications, etc.). All
this will accentuate what is already underway with the commitments
undertaken by our country in the context of GATS-driven multilateral
negotiations at the WTO. This trend will worsen the exclusion and
marginalization of entire sections of our population.

3. Ten reasons why we must reject the EPAs

Having carefully read the 154 pages of a draft agreement governing
economic relations between the 27 EU countries and 17 countries of
CARIFORUM, dated September 19, 2007; after conducting multi-sectoral
consultations and debates since May 2007; and after analyzing the
impact assessment studies conducted in several different regions -
notably in Kenya and Haiti, especially by the European Union with its
PRIMA program - the ‘Block the EPA coalition’ demands the withdrawal of
this agreement for the following reasons:

3.1 It is a neo-liberal inspired free trade agreement written in the
framework of a subordinate integration into the world market in a
context characterized by brutal asymmetries and struggles between
different regional blocs for a share of the global market. Any
agreement with these characteristics can only heavily penalize ACP

3.2 It is an agreement establishing reciprocal relationships without
regard to the concept of special and differential treatment or to the
huge disparity between, on one hand, the world’s major economic power,
with nearly 29% of global GDP, and on the other, a region with ultra
poor countries, (out of the 79 ACP countries, 39 of them are LDCs)
which have an average per capita income US$450.00 a year.

3.3 It is an agreement that purports to align itself with WTO rules,
but in many ways goes much further, particularly in the following
areas: services, agriculture, government procurement, and intellectual
property. While multilateral negotiations are at an impasse, it
attempts to impose a WTO + enabling this organization’s dominant
countries to go even further than their already stated ambitions

3.4 It is a clear regression in relation to the spirit of the Lomé
Conventions and the Cotonou Agreement, in that the issue of the
development of the ACP countries is not a priority in the current
agreement. The development of free trade cannot on its own lead to a
real development process. What a thought!

3.5 The agenda for discussions and negotiations clearly reflects the
priorities of the European Union. Issues that are vital to our region,
such as the management and protection of the Caribbean Sea, the common
heritage of our nations, mass tourism and its negative social impacts,
agricultural production and crafts, poverty, unemployment and
underemployment, migration’s effect in depriving the region of a
substantial part of its skilled human resources, trade networks between
Caribbean countries, the redistribution of wealth, and so on, have been
marginalized or ignored altogether. There are no mechanisms to
strengthen the institutional and productive capacities of the region.
The allusions to sustainable development (requested by the NGO
community in the region) are just wishful thinking and remain
statements of principle. In this sense, a special program of support
for micro-enterprises and SMEs should have been considered.

3.6 The negotiations have not permitted the creation of real spaces for
participation and discussion. In the case of Haiti, the situation is
even worse. The negotiations are conducted in an atmosphere of
quasi-confidentiality. Haiti is participating in group negotiations
concerning 1) market access, 2) investment, 3) good governance, and 4)
business institutions, but without any substantial information having
been made available to society as to the content of the negotiations or
the commitments made by Haiti. In 2003, the Haitian government mandated
CARICOM to negotiate the EPA on its behalf while taking into account
its LDC status. However, the negotiators acting on our behalf have not
been provided with any directives explaining our national economic
situation or the state of trade relations between Haiti and the
European Union. Between 2004 and 2006, there was a break in diplomatic
relations between the interim (Latortue) government and the leaders of
CARICOM. This situation requires clarification in relation to what
commitments were made by other actors in the name of our country during
the most intense period of negotiations.

3.7 The timetable for the negotiations, based as it is on the EU’s
insistence on the need to fall in line with WTO rules, is no longer
justified at the present time. Indeed, multilateral negotiations are at
an impasse at the WTO. Everything seems to indicate that no consensus
solution is on the horizon at least for the next two years. The
deadline of January 2008 should be revised accordingly by giving
countries a space to set up extensive consultations and a thorough
discussion with all sectors. We need a process of inclusive,
participatory and transparent negotiation, out of which a national
development strategy can be developed with the participation of all
sectors of national life.

3.8 The EPAs threaten to decapitalize the productive sectors of the ACP
countries, particularly Haiti. It is clear that this agreement
represents a threat to food sovereignty of ACP countries by leading to
an extension of the practice of large monoculture plantations. The
brutal proletarianization of an important part of the small peasantry
will cause social problems on a large scale. Why jeopardize the future
of more than 60% of the Haitian population to satisfy the desire of the
European powers?

3.9 We believe that the negotiators from the Caribbean region have
committed a grave error in accepting that the tariffs to be applied
will be based on the mathematical average of the rates applied by the
CARIFORUM countries. This approach is likely to be detrimental to
countries with weaker and smaller economies.

3.10 The exclusion lists, the special safeguards, the provisions for
special products, and the financial compensations and adjustments, all
seem to us to be quite inadequate. We are being asked to make
structural changes in our economies and our institutions, while the
total funding allocated under the 10th EDF only promises an envelope of
165 million Euros over the period 2008 – 2013. This represents a
ridiculous amount to the order of 1.09 Euros per person per year for
the 17 countries of CARIFORUM – and, in addition, we know that a
significant proportion of these funds will never actually be disbursed.
This level of funding is far less than the 0.7% of their GNP promised
by the rich countries for years and restated in the form of the
commitments to increase development assistance made at Monterrey in
2002 and the Paris Conference of 2005. It is especially not
commensurate with the huge social, ecological, and historical debt to
our country that Europe has accumulated over the past centuries and
which continues to accumulate through neo-colonial mechanisms based on
unfair and unbalanced trade.

4. Our demands and our recommendations to the European Union (EU):

4.1 The EU should abandon its goal of reciprocal trade liberalization
with respect to the weaker economies of the South;

4.2 In compliance with at least the principles and objectives of the
Cotonou Agreement, the EU must necessarily focus on development
cooperation, rather than on the trade aspect of the EU-ACP Partnership

4.3 As a matter of urgency, it is necessary to examine the
possibilities of alternative trade regimes. These must take into
account the imperatives of the development of ACP countries and their
priority needs;

4.4 The EU should change its strategy of negotiating by working with
the ACP countries to get more "WTO-flexibility" and push for a
comprehensive reform of this institution so that it is more geared to
enhance the development of international trade instead of being under
the thumb of multinationals and powerful governments.

4.5 The EU should respect and help build (rather than undermining) m
existing regional integration mechanisms, which for the most part
remain in a virtual condition. The strengthening of these integration
efforts is the first step towards an upgrade of regional economies so
that they can cope with the unfair competition that currently dominates
the global capitalist market;

4.6 As the EU is the leading economic power in the world (29% of global
GDP) it should devote additional resources to strengthen the productive
capacities of our countries, to strengthen competitiveness and to
diversify our economies. These resources should be made available more
easily and more quickly;

4.7 The EU should release more financial resources and technology for
sustainable development and the eradication of poverty by increasing
development aid, by the immediate and unconditional abolition of debts
claimed from the ACP countries, and by exploring innovative sources of
development funds (including a tax on financial transactions in
progress - several variations of the model of the Tobin Tax are quite
applicable, as shown by numerous studies);

4.8 The EU should reform the Common Agricultural Policy in such a way
that it contributes to a more sustainable family farming in Europe, and
does not interfere with agricultural and trade interests of third

4.9 The EU should establish transparent and participatory mechanisms to
more thoroughly assess the impact of existing and future trade policies
(including measuring the impact of trade policy reforms carried out
under the Structural Adjustment Policies, and putting compensation and
reparation measures in place);

4.10 In the current negotiations, the EU should refrain from putting
any pressure on the ACP states beyond the scope of the Cotonou
Agreement, with regard to issues such as those relating to the
liberalization of investment, competition policies, government
procurement, trade facilitation, data protection and services;

4.11 The EU should refrain from the use of blackmail by de-linking
access to funds from the 10th EDF and the pace of EPA negotiations;

4.12 The EU needs to improve the negotiating process by clearly
defining mechanisms for wide, real and effective consultation,
especially with community-based organizations, social movements, and
civil society in general. The EU countries should be more accountable
to their national and supranational parliaments, including the ACP-EU
Joint Parliamentary Assembly.

5. Our demands and our recommendations to the Haitian authorities.

5.1 The Haitian government should carry out a process of setting up a
national strategy for rehabilitation and development in the context of
a broad and meaningful participation of all sectors of national life.
This should take place as soon as possible. Only on the basis of this
strategy we will be able to define a path of regional integration in
the Caribbean and the coherent elements of a framework relating to our
trade with the rest of the world;

5.2 The government should give serious consideration to the potential
of our economy in relation to the needs of countries in the region. To
take advantage of these opportunities, the intelligent mobilization of
all concerned producers will be required;

5.3 The Haitian government should refuse to sign the EPA and ask for a
moratorium of at least three years in order to develop a transparent,
inclusive, and truly participatory consultative process;

5.4 The Haitian government should seek to take into account our
particular situation (a country plagued by a long systemic crisis) and
invoke the concept of special and differential treatment, both in terms
of our relations with countries in the Caribbean as well as in the
framework of their relations with other regions;

5.5 The government should intensify its relations with blocs of
countries proposing an alternative vision of integration – like the
ALBA framework - based on respect for our culture and our history and
which is built on the basis of cooperative advantage;

5.6 The Haitian government should definitively assess the past 20 years
of domination by neo-liberal policies, and implement different policies
based on a vision of eradicating poverty, and fighting the polarization
between the rich and the excluded. It must show a real will to
rehabilitate the small peasant economy and build a regime of
accumulation prioritizing the needs of the domestic market and coherent
articulation of the productive sectors;

5.7 The Haitian government should take advantage of the Common External
Tariff (CET)applied by CARICOM to selectively protect production chains
with strong potential (tubers, coffee, cocoa, fishing, arts and crafts,
cottage industries, cultural production, grains, livestock, dairy
production and the processing of fruits, télétravail, construction
materials, eco and cultural tourism, etc.);

5.8 The exclusion lists should be discussed with all sectors of the
country, and take into account our potential in the medium term. The
deadline for signing before the end of the year will not permit serious
work on the list of products excluded from the liberalization, and we
believe that we must break this doctrine of progressive liberalization
as the expiration date of 20 years does not, we believe, offer adequate
insurance coverage.;

5.9 The issue of the defense of national production and food
sovereignty must be an essential component in the process of
negotiation of any partnership agreement;

5.10 The government should refuse to liberalize government procurement
which constitutes a lever to protect and recapitalize small and
medium-sized domestic companies;

5.11 The government should protect social services by preserving any
commodification process to ensure accessibility and universality of
these public goods and services;

5.12 The Haitian government should support the reservations expressed
by several leaders of CARICOM countries who reject the inclusion of
standards of "good governance" in the context of the EPAs because this
implies a reduction in state interventions in social issues, the
environment, poverty alleviation, the creation of stable employment,
and so on;

5.13 The Haitian government should fight to retain the levers to
subsidize agricultural production and fragile niches of transformative

6. Our recommendations to our country’s social movements and

6.1 We call on all citizens to support the petition against the EPA in
order to signal our rejection of any mechanism that jeopardizes our
chances of development and the participation of citizens in the
construction of a strong and united nation;

6.2 We call upon all organizations to contribute to the dissemination
of as much information as possible on the issue of the trade
negotiations, and to hold serious discussions on these issues;

6.3 We call on everyone to exert pressure on the Haitian authorities to
refuse to sign such a harmful agreement, and to maintain constant
vigilance of these negotiations. We need the establishment of a genuine
strategy of rehabilitation and national development. The organizations
and agencies which are coalition members have a wealth of documentation
on the EPA negotiations, which is available to everyone;

6.4 We call on the Haitian people, on all organizations and citizens
across the country, to form networks to exert strong pressure in order
to be able to influence the country’s decision-making mechanisms, to
safeguard the achievements won in 1804 and to continue to be at the
forefront of all peoples’ struggles for emancipation in a spirit of
solidarity, equity and social justice;

And the mobilization continues...

Members of ‘Block the EPA’ coalition:

With the support of: OXFAM - ACTION AID - BRODERLIJK DELEN – MCC -

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Haiti’s constitution: Préval’s white elephant?

As is reasonably well known, since his return to office in May 2006, I have been largely supportive on the administration of Haitian president René Préval. Having watched him be undermined by Jean-Bertrand Aristide and a recalcitrant parliamentary opposition at every opportunity during his 1996-2001 first term as Haiti’s president, I was pleased to see Préval, whom I have always regarded as a generally decent man even if he may be not a brilliant innovator of public policy, have a second opportunity to govern Haiti, a country I have grown to love.

My sense of satisfaction was further reinforced when I saw the highly competent team - including Mario Andresol as head of the Police Nationale d'Haiti (PNH) and Luc-Eucher Joseph as Secretary State for Public Security - that Préval put in place to try and reign in Haiti’s spiraling crime rate and the violence that has affected every level of Haitian society, none more so than among the country’s poor majority, in recent years. I was also pleased to see how adroitly Préval played the international diplomatic circuit, managing to be on cordial terms with both Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and U.S. President George W. Bush (no small feat) while putting Haiti’s interests on the front burner. My chief complaint with Préval thus far - that he has not advocated in a more forceful public way on behalf of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic with Dominican president Leonel Fernandez - could perhaps be put down to simply not having enough time to do everything at once.

All of this considered, I still paused when I read late last week that, in a speech at Haiti’s National Palace, Préval has called on an overhaul of Haiti’s 1987 constitution (which had been voted on much the way an presidential election is, by popular ballot) to, among other things, allow presidents to serve consecutive terms in office, a process he wants to be overseen by Haiti’s Senate and Chamber of Deputies, where politicians, it must be said, often behave more like roosters in a yard than the elected servants of the people.

In a country where nearly 9 million people can look forward to a life expectancy of just 57 years, where the nation's infant mortality rate claims almost 64 babies for every 1,000 live births, where the literacy rate creeps just north of 50%, where two-thirds of the labor force have no formal jobs, where 80% of people live below the poverty line and where, over the past 50 years, 90 percent of the tree cover has been destroyed, it would be hard to think of a more pointless waste of political capital or energy than to amend Haiti’s constitution to allow the oft-rancid politicians jockeying for the country’s top job another bite at the apple. In a country where the government can’t even turn the lights on, make water come out of the tap or pave the roads, the only exercise more pointless that comes to my mind would by the sometimes-bandied-about resurrection of Haiti’s notoriously brutal army, rather that the training and reinforcing of its civilian police force, the latter job which Mario Andresol appears to be doing admirably well overseeing.

I can’t remember the last time I agreed with the Haitian attorney (and former presidential candidate) Gérard Gourgue on anything, but he is quite right when he states that, in order to amend the constitution in such as sweeping manner, a popular vote would be required, which would seem a curious waste of Haiti’s resources and the country’s UN mission given the figures cited above.

The 1987 constitution is a flawed document, to be sure, but as there has also been a disturbing recurrence of violence in Haiti’s capital in recent days, one can only hope that Préval’s advisors bring him to his senses and he returns to the work of the people rather than the work of the politicians in Port-au-Prince, many of them eager to bend Haiti’s oft-violated constitution to their own ends.

Mica de Verteuil: A sign of Hope for Haiti

Mica de Verteuil is a genuine hero in Haiti who has been maintaining 11 schools in rural areas in and around the Jérémie in southwestern Haiti, helping to finance them with the exquisitely handmade tablecloths that the local women in the area produce. She has been doing this, without any government support, for many years.

The BBC recently did a profile on Mica that all those who think Haiti is a hopeless case should watch. It can be viewed here.

Inter Press Service led astray in Haiti?

The Inter Press Service (IPS), an organization to which I have been a proud contributor on three continents since mid-2006, has a long tradition of insightful and challenging reporting from Haiti, as typified by the stories filed by journalists like Jane Regan and Amy Bracken. Describing itself as “civil society's leading news agency,” IPS has always struck me as an outlet with a singularly worthy mission in an era or ever-more scaled back and dumbed-down foreign coverage.

All of which may explains why some who have contacted me in recent months have viewed the recent Haiti coverage by IPS with some disappointment and dismay. In place of the articles such as Bracken’s thoroughgoing coverage of the 2006 elections there, or Regan’s perceptive examination of the nation’s history of political violence, IPS readers are now treated to passages such as the following:

"The inhabitants do not forgive former de facto Prime Minister Gerard Latortue for not even helping his birthplace. The officials elected in 2006 sit in Port-au-Prince speaking French and awaiting the patronage festivals to give some gourds to the priests of the parishes to show how close they are to the people," he said bitterly.

The passage, taken from an October 17th article titled “After the Deluge, Residents Turn to Each Other” by Wadner Pierre and ostensibly quoting a man named “Rogest” speaking in a stilted, press-release style in which I have never heard a Haitian speak before, is indicative of the stridently partisan tone IPS’ coverage of Haiti has taken in recent months, replete with the conflicts of interests of some of the correspondents currently reporting for the agency as well as the erratic, unstable, and often plainly dishonest background of others.

Following an amusingly frothing attempt at vilification of some of IPS’ long-standing correspondents earlier this year by a handful of affluent white North American “activists” whose slavish adherence to former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his now-marginal Fanmi Lavalas political party is matched only by their ignorance of the country (most notably with the idea that Haitian history began in February 2004) and its culture (not a Kreyol speaker among them), this particular current of thought began doing what one would of supposed would have been a logical first step: Writing and filing articles on the situation in Haiti. No problem thus far, of course, as a plurality of challenging, dissenting views should be heard on any given subject (though that is not a point of view this current, given to intolerance and defaming of those who think differently, would endorse). However, the problem arises when advocacy, often paid advocacy, for Haiti’s political actors masquerades as journalism.

I have never met Wadner Pierre, who is Haitian and may very well be a personable sort of fellow, but the tenor of his reporting for IPS thus far, characterized by a marked hostility to the elected government of Haitian President René Préval, and an inability or uniwllingess to criticize anything in the 2001-2004 Aristide II regime, might be explained by a closer look at his resume.

In several instances (here and here and here), Wadner Pierre is identified as an employee of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI). The BAI is the Haiti-affiliate organization of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), headed attorney Brian Concannon, who was employed by the Aristide government as an attorney from 2001 until 2004. In the IJDH's annual report, the organization directs donations to be sent to P.O. Box 806, Key Biscayne, Florida, 33149, where Mr. Aristide's personal attorney, Ira Kurzban, resides. The IJDH's annual report also lists Kurzban as one of its main donors, as well as "one of the founders" and "a member of the Board of Directors" in a March 2005 letter to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights head Santiago A. Canton.

On the IJDH’s own website the organization has the following to say about its links with the BAI:

The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port-au-Prince, has helped victims prosecute human rights cases, trained Haitian lawyers and spoken out on justice issues since 1995. The BAI used to receive most of its support from Haiti's constitutional governments, but since February 2004, it has received most of its support from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and no support from any government or political organization.

If the IJDH or the BAI have ever criticized Mr. Aristide or the Fanmi Lavalas party for any violence they have been responsible for, or called for justice on behalf of the many victims among the regime's opponents in any statement, I have never read it.

The IJDH, like the BAI, is a political pressure group whose sole mission, I believe, is to undermine the Préval government and the UN presence in Haiti in order to facilitate the return of Mr. Aristide to political power in Haiti. One can and should report critically on moves by both the UN and Préval, but one should not simply repeat as facts the tired lies of political actors discredited in Haiti a long time ago, pocketing simultaneously with both hands money from a legitimate journalistic outlet and an organization working to bring about the aims described above. And it would be the height of condescension not to hold Haitian journalists to the same standards when it comes to declaring conflicts of interest that one would hold foreign journalists to reporting from the country.

The quoting of Mr. Concannon in a July 2007 piece co-authored with Jeb Sprague (in effect, quoting his employer without acknowledging it as such) is further proof of this highly unusual muddying of the waters of a journalist’s mission, with Concannon's quote being followed with the statement that international lenders "reacted further by cutting off nearly all support to the aid-dependent but privatization-weary state" because Aristide "refused untrammeled privatization,” which is simply false. International aid to Haiti was suspended after the fraudulent 1997 and 2000 legislative elections, as even a cursory review of Haiti's recent history shows.

Jeb Sprague, for his part, an evidently deranged eternal “graduate student” from Long Beach, California who first announced his existence to me by emailing me (unsolicited) photos of bullet-riddled corpses, is known chiefly for his obsessive slandering of progressive elements in the Haiti debate deemed insufficiently loyal to Haiti’s disgraced former government. His libelous allegations against Charles Arthur, director of the U.K.-based Haiti Support Group, in connection with a now-discredited “study” of violence in Port-au-Prince conducted by an Aristide acolyte being a particularly notable example.

IPS is a fine organization with many talented writers and journalists working hard to bring out stories that much of the news media would just as soon not bother covering. They do, however, owe the people of Haiti, more objective and less partisan and compromised coverage than they are providing for them at present. I am confident, though, with the superior journalists, both Haitian and foreign, that I have seen reporting in Haiti over the years, that the editors responsible for IPS’ Caribbean coverage will come to their senses eventually and treat the country and the issues confronting it with the respect that they deserve.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Haiti's Preval Seeks to Amend Term Limit

Haiti's Preval Seeks to Amend Term Limit

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitian President Rene Preval on Wednesday called for a constitutional amendment to allow presidents to serve consecutive terms — a change he said would bring more stability to a country frequently mired in political chaos.

Preval, in a speech at the National Palace, proposed overhauling the country's entire constitution to give the government more flexibility to promote development and fight corruption.

He suggested holding all national and local elections on the same day every five years, and recommended creating a constitutional court to interpret the nation's laws. He also said the president should have the power to dismiss the prime minister — who is now appointed by the executive, but can only be ousted by parliament.

Current rules limit Haitian presidents to two terms, with at least a five-year break in between. Preval's initial proposal, which spokesmen said he would refine before submitting to parliament, would allow future presidents to serve those terms back-to-back.

Preval, who won his second nonconsecutive term last year, assured legislators he could not, and would not, seek office again.

"I know that as soon as the president asks to reflect on the constitution, it gives rise to suspicion," Preval said. "I repeat once again for everyone: My tenure comes to end on Feb. 7, 2011, period."

Haiti's current constitution was signed in 1987 after 29 years of dictatorship and was intended to impede any return to authoritarian rule.

Preval urged lawmakers to work with him to overhaul the document, which he called the single greatest threat to Haiti's long-term stability.

Preval said the amendment process is slow, needing the approval of two-thirds of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies and requiring they then wait until the next session of parliament to implement the changes.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Memorandum pour Brignol Linsdor


4 octobre 2007


Le 3 décembre prochain, il y aura six ans que Brignol Lindor a été assassiné dans des circonstances qui impliquent, non seulement les personnes qui ont exécuté le jeune journaliste, mais aussi les auteurs intellectuels de cet assassinat.

Six ans plus tard, le Dossier de Brignol Lindor se au fond de tiroirs de la Cour de Cassation car cette instance, semble t-il, n’a pas jugé bon de le transmettre aux fins de droit au Parquet du Tribunal de 1ère instance de Petit-Goâve pour les suites nécessaires. Les personnes envoyées aux assises avec prise de corps par ordonnance du Juge Fritzer Duclair n’ont jamais été inquiétées.

Quel sort réserve-t-on à ce dossier ? Ce dossier maintient dans l’attente depuis six ans, tous les citoyens préoccupés par la persistance du règne de l’impunité. Et cette cause offre à l’Etat, en rendant justice à l’un de ses fils, l’occasion de signifier que ce règne est à sa fin.

Cette préoccupation est vivement ressentie au sein de la Commission Citoyenne pour l’Application de la Justice (CCAJ) pour laquelle ce dossier a fait l’objet d’attention particulière. Dès avril 2004, la CCAJ a documenté le cas Brignol Lindor à travers : des déclarations de témoins oculaires et auditifs ; l’examen des documents de justice et différents rapports disponibles ; les informations diffusées par la presse écrite, parlée et télévisée. Ceci pour produire un rapport remis officiellement aux autorités compétentes et permettant d’établir que toutes les personnes désignées comme les auteurs présumés de l’assassinat de Brignol Lindor n’étaient pas comprises dans les poursuites engagées. Encore plus grave, des auteurs matériels et intellectuels, dûment identifiés, ont été soigneusement écartés par le juge instructeur.

Si donc, le procès Brignol Lindor devait suivre les derniers errements de la procédure, tels qu’ils résultent de l’arrêt de la Cour de Cassation, il s’ensuivrait que la Justice serait une nouvelle fois bafouée et le règne de l’impunité renforcé car se manifesterait la coupable intention de ne pas remonter jusqu’aux véritables auteurs de cette ignominie. Qui y a intérêt ?

La Commission Citoyenne pour l’Application de la Justice appuie toute initiative de la société civile visant à faire avancer le dossier mais elle condamne toute tentative procédant d’une confusion des genres mettant en question l’indépendance de la justice et risquant sous prétexte de recherche d’efficacité de la conduire à des décisions hâtives au bénéfice de ceux qui ont commandité le crime.

Consciente qu’il faut que soit enrayée la dérive vers une justice sélective, la Commission Citoyenne pour l’Application de la Justice s’élève avec force pour qu’enfin soient corrigées, alors qu’il en est encore temps, toutes les faiblesses d’une procédure bâclée, comme celle de l’attaque du 5 décembre contre la Faculté des Sciences humaines, parodie de justice s’il en est.

Sinon ce serait un nouvel et flagrant échec de l’effort initié pour la réforme de notre Justice.

Pour la CCAJ,

Jean-Claude Bajeux, coordonateur