Monday, December 22, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Though such events do not leave one overly optimistic for the future, there was one notable cause for celebration this year: The election of Illinois Senator Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, the first African-American to hold that post. Obama’s election resulted in scenes of jubilation in the United States and beyond, and served as a powerful "answer," in Obama's words, to "anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy." After the eight disastrous years of the administration of George W. Bush, it is my hope that Obama lives up to the slogan that he used throughout his campaign, change we can believe in. The United States and the world at large certainly needs it.
Based in Australia for the next few months, where the affects of climate change are increasingly present, I hope that my travels in the coming year will enable me to report on a more humane, more just and more responsive world, where that which unites us as humanity proves stronger than that which divides us, and we prove ever less susceptible to those who would exploit such divisions.
What follows is my entire oeuvre of reportage from the year 2008. Hopefully it will be of some interest, and the stories of those contained within will hold some resonance.
The Cuba problem: A review of The Cuba Wars: Fidel Castro, the United States and the Next Revolution by Daniel P. Erikson for the Miami Herald (7 December 2008)
Trial of Muslims grips Australians for the Washington Times (30 November 2008)
ECONOMY: EU Involvement in DRC Mining Project Draws Protest for the Inter Press Service (28 October 2008)
Mixed signals: What is an investor to make of Africa? for Foreign Direct Investment (7 October 2008)
Garífunas Confront Their Own Decline for Tierramérica (6 October 2008)
Nicaragua’s poisonous political brew for Folha de Sao Paulo (31 August 2008)
"Haiti Is Going From Catastrophe to Catastrophe": Michael Deibert interviews Chavannes Jean-Baptiste for the Inter Press Service (28 September 2008)
Congo: Between Hope and Despair for the World Policy Journal (Summer 2008)
Distilling the ties between Bacardi and Cuba: A review of Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten for the Miami Herald (14 September 2008)
TRADE-AFRICA: New Technology to Sever Timber's Link to Conflict? for the Inter Press Service (8 August 2008)
CULTURE-ETHIOPIA: Debate Swirls Around Fate of Holy Sites for the Inter Press Service (3 July 2008)
A Glittering Demon: Mining, Poverty and Politics in the Democratic Republic of Congo for CorpWatch (26 June 2008)
POLITICS: Is Democracy Dangerous in Multi-ethnic Societies? An interview with Frances Stewart, Oxford University Professor of Development Economics for the Inter Press Service (26 June 2008)
POLITICS-ETHIOPIA : A Tangled Political Landscape Raises Questions About African Ally of the U.S. for the Inter Press Service (21 June 2008)
Ethiopia's Urban Poor Cannot Afford To Eat: Interview with Abera Tola, Director of Oxfam's Horn of Africa regional office for the Inter Press Service (21 June 200*)
TRADE-AFRICA: EU Seeks to Subdue Competitive China for the Inter Press Service (15 May 2008)
RIGHTS: In South Africa, Zimbabwean Refugees Find Sanctuary and Contempt for the Inter Press Service (4 May 2008)
"We Mustn't Think as South Africans That We Have Won the Day": An interview with Bishop Paul Verryn for the Inter Press Service (4 May 2008)
DRC: With Rebel Leader's Indictment, a Tentative Step to Accountability for the Inter Press Service (1 May 2008)
HEALTH-DRC: Water Everywhere, But Is It Safe To Drink? for the Inter Press Service (24 April 2008)
POLITICS-DRC: Cautious Calm Settles Over War-scarred Ituri Region for the Inter Press Service (17 April 2008)
Why I am voting for Barack Obama for Michael Deibert, Writer (15 April 2008)
Extraction from chaos: Embattled by war and corruption but laden with large deposits of diamonds and copper, DR Congo is largely avoided by investors. Might that change? for Foreign Direct Investment (10 April 2008)
The Fruits of Reform: Mozambique, whose history has been blighted by a long liberation struggle and years of civil war, is starting to reap the benefits of recent macroeconomic reforms for Foreign Direct Investment (10 April 2008)
Failure To Renew DRC Expert's Mandate Draws Criticism for the Inter Press Service (1 April 2008)
POLITICS-DRC: In a Governmental Vacuum, Yearnings for a Lost Empire for the Inter Press Service (21 March 2008)
A Review of Peter Hallward’s Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment for Michael Deibert, Writer (16 March 2008)
A Humanitarian Disaster Unfolds in Eastern DRC for the Inter Press Service (1 March 2008)
Fidel's view: A Review of Fidel Castro: My Life by Fidel Castro and Ignacio Ramonet for the Miami Herald (27 January 2008)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Arrestation, parmi des manifestants lavalas, de deux présumés bandits réputés dangereux
Sérieuses charges contre les prévenus formulées par des habitants de La Saline et de Fort Touron
mercredi 17 décembre 2008,
(Read the original article here)
Deux présumés bandits activement recherchés, Mercius Fénel (alias Ti Wilson) et Riccardo Pyram (alias Kiki) ont été appréhendés mardi par la police sur la route menant à l'aéroport international de Port-au-Prince, alors qu'ils prenaient part à la manifestation des partisans de l'ancien président Jean Bertrand Aristide, à l'occasion du 18ème anniversaire de la 1ère accession de ce dernier à la présidence.
L'arrestation aurait été perpétrée au moment où des passants étaient dépouillés de leurs bijoux par des gens qui se trouvaient parmi les manifestants.
Craignant pour leur vie et requérant de ce fait l'anonymat, des habitants des quartiers de La Saline et de Fort Touron (Nord de la capitale) dont sont issus les prévenus, affirment que des plaintes avaient été déposées depuis déjà plusieurs mois contre ces individus et nombre de leurs acolytes, pour leurs responsabilités dans de nombreux crimes perpétrés dans la zone.
Ils rapportent en particulier des cas d'exécutions sommaires de paisibles citoyens inhumés sur les lieux même où les crimes ont été perpétrés ou à l'intérieur de l'édifice d'un Commissariat de police désaffecté de la zone . Sont également répertoriés des cas de viol en série, d'extorsion de fonds au détriment de commerçants rançonnés, de cambriolage et d'exactions de toutes sortes à l'encontre des commerçants du vaste et important marché de la Croix-des-Bossales (un des plus importants marchés publics du centre de la capitale), des commerçants de toute la zone et de simples passants.
L'un des deux individus arrêtés mardi, se serait à maintes reprises publiquement vanté d'être un « violeur émérite », capable de violer sa propre mère, si l'occasion se présentait.
Selon les mêmes témoignages, dès le crépuscule, La Saline et Fort Touron tombent sous le total contrôle d'au moins quatre (4) puissants gangs, dont l'un dirigé par Mercius Fénel (dit Ti Wilson). Ils seraient principalement constitués de lieutenants d'un autre dangereux chef de gang, Emmanuel Milord (alias Billy), écroué en août 2007.
L'absence totale de la police à La Saline et à Fort Touron facilite les activités de ces gangs, selon les habitants de ces quartiers. Ils affirment par ailleurs ne pas comprendre que ces individus aient pu, en toute impunité, continuer à semer la terreur après maintes dénonciations et des plaintes déposées contre eux.
Le reproche est aussi adressé à la police concernant sa pratique consistant à appréhender les chefs de gangs, sans sévir contre leurs lieutenants et, encore moins, sans désarmer ces derniers. Ils se réorganisent donc aussitôt qu'ils sont décapités,
Le 20 mars 2004, la police avait commis une monumentale bévue lors d'une offensive contre les gangs de La Saline et de Fort Touron. Les corps criblés de balles de cinq (5) membres de ces gangs devaient être retrouvés non loin de la cathédrale (Basilique Notre-Dame), au centre de Port-au-Prince. Les policiers auteurs du « carnage » ont été jugés et condamnés. [jmd/RK]
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Seven years after radio journalist’s murder, convicted killers still at large
Reporters sans frontières
(Read the original article here)
Justice has still not been fully rendered in the case of Brignol Lindor, a young radio journalist who was murdered in a particularly barbaric manner in the southwestern town of Petit-Goâve exactly seven years ago today, although two individuals implicated in his murder were given life sentences in December 2007, Reporters Without Borders said.
Seven other people who were convicted in absentia of his murder in January of this year (see 25 January press release) are still on the run, Reporters Without Borders pointed out, adding that it hoped the appointment of Lindor family lawyer Jean Joseph Exumé as justice minister on 7 November will bring complete closure to a case that has dragged on too long.
"The political will demonstrated by President René Préval's government helped to put an end to the scandal of a case in which there was complete impunity for six years, and at the same time there has been an overall improvement in press freedom in Haiti," Reporters Without Borders said.
"But the political and judicial authorities cannot content themselves with the trials of the past year, which left the fate of seven convicted killers in limbo and failed to shed light on the then municipal government's apparent implication," the press freedom organisation added.
A journalist with local Radio Echo 2000, Lindor was stoned and hacked to death on 3 December 2001 in Petit-Goâve by members of Domi Nan Bwa ("Sleep in the Woods"), a locally-based armed group linked to Fanmi Lavalas, the party led by then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Four days before the murder, a press conference was held in Petit-Goâve by several local figures linked to Fanmi Lavalas, including Petit-Goâve mayor Emmanuel Antoine and his deputy, Bony Dumay, who launched into a violent verbal attack on the opposition Democratic Convergence coalition and Lindor, considered to be one of its allies. Another meeting was held three days later, the eve of his murder, this time between municipal officials and members of Domi Nan Bwa.
One of Domi Nan Bwa's chiefs, Joseph Céus Duverger, was attacked the next morning by presumed Democratic Convergence supporters. This incident was used as a pretext for the targeted reprisal against Lindor later in the day. Evidence of this comes from the fact that around 10 Domi Nan Bwa members were on the point of executing Democratic Convergence member Love Augustin at his home but, when Lindor arrived on the scene, they let him go and seized Lindor.
Despite all the evidence, the indictment issued by judge Fritzner Duclair on 16 September 2002 failed to bring charges against any of the presumed instigators of Lindor's murder.
After five years of inaction, the case was revived in 2007 when arrests warrants were issued for the persons named in the indictment. Four were arrested but only two of them were convicted and given life sentences - Joubert Saint-Juste and Jean-Rémy Démosthène. One of the other two, Simon Cétoute, 57, was acquitted because it turned out he had been arrested instead of his son, who had the same first name and who had recently died in the nearby town of Léogane.
And it emerged that the fourth defendant, Fritzner Doudoute, was mistaken at the time of his arrest for Fritznel Doudoute, and had not been named in either the 2002 indictment or in the arrest warrant issued last year. Nonetheless, witnesses identified him in court as one of the people who participated in Lindor's murder. He therefore remained in detention and is to be the subject of a new judicial investigation that could also target Dumay, the former deputy mayor, who was summoned to testify at the trial.
Fritznel Doudoute, also known as Lionel and Nènèl, was one the seven indicted Domi Nan Bwa members who were convicted in absentia on 23 January of this year by Petit-Goâve chief judge Emmanuel Tataye, who also ordered the seizure of all their possessions and assets and the suspension of their civil and political rights. The other six were Maxi Zéphyr, Bernard Désamour, Tyrésias also known as Téré, Fritznel Duvergé, Mackenzi and Belony Colin.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
The Associated Press
MIAMI: Max Rameau delivers his sales pitch like a pro. "All tile floor!" he says during a recent showing. "And the living room, wow! It has great blinds."
But in nearly every other respect, he is unlike any real estate agent you've ever met. He is unshaven, drives a beat-up car and wears grungy cut-off sweat pants. He also breaks into the homes he shows. And his clients don't have a dime for a down payment.
Rameau is an activist who has been executing a bailout plan of his own around Miami's empty streets: He is helping homeless people illegally move into foreclosed homes.
"We're matching homeless people with people-less homes," he said with a grin.
Rameau and a group of like-minded advocates formed Take Back the Land, which also helps the new "tenants" with secondhand furniture, cleaning supplies and yard upkeep. So far, he has moved six families into foreclosed homes and has nine on a waiting list.
"I think everyone deserves a home," said Rameau, who said he takes no money from his work with the homeless. "Homeless people across the country are squatting in empty homes. The question is: Is this going to be done out of desperation or with direction?"
With the housing market collapsing, squatting in foreclosed homes is believed to be on the rise around the country. But squatters usually move in on their own, at night, when no one is watching. Rarely is the phenomenon as organized as Rameau's effort to "liberate" foreclosed homes.
Florida especially the Miami area, with its once-booming condo market is one of the hardest-hit states in the housing crisis, largely because of overbuilding and speculation. In September, Florida had the nation's second-highest foreclosure rate, with one out of every 178 homes in default, according to Realty Trac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties. Only Nevada's rate was higher.
Like other cities, Miami is trying to ease the problem. Officials launched a foreclosure-prevention program to help homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage, with loans of up to $7,500 per household.
The city also recently passed an ordinance requiring owners of abandoned homes whether an individual or bank to register those properties with the city so police can better monitor them.
Elsewhere around the country, advocates in Cleveland are working with the city to allow homeless people to legally move into and repair empty, dilapidated houses. In Atlanta, some property owners pay homeless people to live in abandoned homes as a security measure.
In early November, Rameau drove a woman and her 18-month old daughter to a ranch home on a quiet street lined with swaying tropical foliage. Marie Nadine Pierre, 39, has been sleeping at a shelter with her toddler. She said she had been homeless off and on for a year, after losing various jobs and getting evicted from several apartments.
"My heart is heavy. I've lived in a lot of different shelters, a lot of bad situations," Pierre said. "In my own home, I'm free. I'm a human being now."
Rameau chose the house for Pierre, in part, because he knew its history. A man had bought the home in the city's predominantly Haitian neighborhood in 2006 for $430,000, then rented it to Rameau's friends. Those friends were evicted in October because the homeowner had stopped paying his mortgage and the property went into foreclosure.
Rameau, who makes his living as a computer consultant, said he is doing the owner a favor. Before Pierre moved in, someone stole the air conditioning unit from the backyard, and it was only a matter of time before thieves took the copper pipes and wiring, he said.
"Within a couple of months, this place would be stripped and drug dealers would be living here," he said, carrying a giant plastic garbage bag filled with Pierre's clothes into the home.
He said he is not scared of getting arrested.
"There's a real need here, and there's a disconnect between the need and the law," he said. "Being arrested is just one of the potential factors in doing this."
Miami spokeswoman Kelly Penton said city officials did not know Rameau was moving homeless into empty buildings but they are also not stopping him.
"There are no actions on the city's part to stop this," she said in an e-mail. "It is important to note that if people trespass into private property, it is up to the property owner to take action to remove those individuals."
Pierre herself could be charged with trespassing, vandalism or breaking and entering. Rameau assured her he has lawyers who will represent her free.
Two weeks after Pierre moved in, she came home to find the locks had been changed, probably by the property's manager. Everything inside her food, clothes and family photos was gone.
But late last month, with Rameau's help, she got back inside and has put Christmas decorations on the front door.
So far, police have not gotten involved.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Openly gay marchers debut at Haiti AIDS rally
By Jonathan M. Katz, Associated Press Writer
Sun Nov 30 2008, 8:13 pm ET
ST. MARC, Haiti – A dozen men in T-shirts declaring "I am gay" and "I am living with HIV/AIDS" marched with hundreds of other demonstrators through a Haitian city on Sunday in what organizers called the Caribbean nation's first openly gay march.
The march, held a day ahead of World AIDS Day in the western city of St. Marc, called for better prevention and treatment in a country long plagued by the virus.
Organizers said they hoped the march will break barriers to reach more HIV-positive people and gay men with programs that have helped decrease the country's infection rate by two-thirds in the last decade.
"They suffer double the stigma and double the discrimination," said Esther Boucicault Stanislas, a leading activist known as the first person in Haiti to publicly declare that she was HIV-positive after her husband died of AIDS in the early 1990s.
About 500 participants that included health ministry officials and workers with United Nations programs followed a speaker-truck through the dusty city, chanting and carrying banners en route to the mayor's office. No officials received them.
AIDS awareness marches have taken place before in Haiti, but Boucicault and organizers with New York-based AIDS service organization Housing Works called this one the first march to include an openly gay group in Haiti.
The nation of 9 million remains the most affected by HIV in the Caribbean, itself the region with the highest infection rate outside Sub-Saharan Africa.
Haiti has long fought stigmatization and discrimination after its migrants were some of the first AIDS cases identified in the United States. Unfounded beliefs that Haitians caused the epidemic helped decimate the country's tourism industry.
The country has since been a success story, with its HIV infection rate falling from 5.9 percent in 1996 to 2.2 percent today — due in part to programs like the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which has given Haiti more than $320 million since 2004. The deaths of people with HIV also contributed to the decline.
But gay men remain at risk because they hide from social programs due to prejudice and harassment, despite making up one-tenth of reported HIV cases in the Caribbean, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS reported.
In socially conservative Haiti, discrimination runs especially deep.
Debate over Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis' nomination earlier this year centered almost entirely on rumors that she was a lesbian, with lawmakers standing up one after another to denounce her as immoral. She was approved for the post only after agreeing to read a statement on Haitian radio that the rumors were defamatory and untrue.
On Sunday, opposition was muted to the small contingent wearing white T-shirts bearing the word "masisi" — a Haitian Creole slur for gay men that the marchers celebrated and chanted as their own.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
By Elana Schor in Washington
Friday November 21 2008
(Read the original article here)
Barack Obama is reported to have chosen Patrick Gaspard, who was registered as a labour union health lobbyist as recently as election day, as the next White House political director.
The Gaspard pick, first reported by the New York Daily News, elevates a skilled Democratic hand to a post made famous by hard-driving Karl Rove, who was political director during George W Bush's first term, and Rahm Emanuel, who held the slot under Bill Clinton.
Gaspard was the political director on Obama's presidential campaign and associate personnel director for the White House transition team, making the 41-year-old Haitian-American a powerful contact for anyone seeking a job in the new administration.
Gaspard's lobbying experience could draw further scrutiny to Obama's vow to prevent the Washington influence industry from infiltrating his administration. Some Democrats have suggested that Obama entirely abolish the political director position – created under Ronald Reagan – as a symbolic healing gesture after the partisan wounds Rove opened.
The most recent issue Gaspard lobbied on for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) healthcare workers arm was the US children's health insurance programme, which Democrats fought to expand before losing out to a Bush veto last year.
Gaspard played a crucial role in SEIU's decision to come out against New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg in his bid to overturn term-limits rules and run for re-election, according to the Daily News report.
In an interview with the New Yorker magazine this week, Gaspard related an instantly famous remark Obama made during his job interview with the president-elect.
After noting that he appreciated opinionated advisers, Obama told Gaspard: "I think that I'm a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I'll tell you right now that I'm gonna think I'm a better political director than my political director."
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
By Valeria Vilardo
Inter Press Service
(Read the original article here)
SANTO DOMINGO, Nov 10 (IPS) - "A group of Dominicans armed with pistols, machetes and knives came to take revenge on us. I broke my leg trying to escape from my house, which was on fire. It's not fair that all Haitians should have to pay for the crime of one," Elena Piti, a Haitian mother of seven who lives in the Dominican Republic, told IPS.
"I'm thinking of going back to Haiti, because I'm afraid that something might happen to me. Besides, I have nothing left here. I lost everything: my house, my money and my job," said Franklin Jean, who IPS found hiding out in a precarious shelter in the surrounding fields.
Jean and Piti lived in the "batey" (a shantytown of sugar workers) of El Cerro, near the town of Juan Gómez in the northwestern province of Montecristi, close to the border with Haiti.
They were fleeing a violent reprisal on Oct. 29 by a mob of Dominicans infuriated by the murder of an elderly local farmer, Alcibíades Jiménez, supposedly committed by a young Haitian man who was working for him. Twenty-five homes in El Cerro were set on fire, and eight were completely burnt down. The roughly 200 Haitians living there fled the shantytown.
In an unrelated incident in the town of Neyba in the southwestern province of Bahoruco, a mob of young men killed two Haitian immigrants and injured nine others on Oct. 28. The violence was triggered by the death of a Dominican man, allegedly killed by a Haitian who tried to steal his motorcycle.
Human rights violations against Haitians and their descendants, including lynchings, and mass deportations of migrants are longstanding problems in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola and a 380-km border with Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
The president of Haiti's lower house of parliament, Pierre Eric Jean-Jacques, announced early this month that he would suggest to his Dominican opposite number Julio Cesar Valentín the creation of a bilateral legislative committee to investigate the latest violent incidents.
Poverty affects both Dominicans and Haitians in the two provinces where the violence occurred. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 19 percent of people over 15 in Montecristi are illiterate, four percent of children under the age of four are malnourished, and 51 percent of the population of the province lacks access to clean water.
In Bahoruco, in the south, people stand a 14 percent chance of dying before the age of 40, and adult illiteracy stands at 30 percent -- the highest rate in any Dominican province. Furthermore, nearly 30 percent of people do not have steady water supplies, and 10 percent of children under five suffer from malnutrition, says the UNDP Human Development Report 2007-2008.
"Thugs took advantage of the situation to sack the homes of Haitians and flout their racist, xenophobic attitudes," activist Sonia Pierre, founder and director of the Movement of Dominican-Haitian Women (MUDHA), told IPS. "The authorities should control these groups of ruffians and uphold public safety."
Pierre, who has advocated for the human rights of Haitians for 21 years, has herself experienced discrimination and even death threats for speaking out about abuses.
The activist said the media in the Dominican Republic have the duty to provide balanced, accurate reporting on violence and discrimination against Haitians and to avoid encouraging acts of discrimination against Haitians or people of Haitian descent.
According to unofficial data, there are more than 800,000 Haitians living in this country of nine million people. Haiti, which occupies the smaller western portion of the island, has a population of 8.6 million, 80 percent of whom live in poverty, compared to the Dominican Republic's official poverty rate of 25 percent.
In Haiti, the huge majority of the population is black, while a small lighter-skinned mixed-race minority dominates the economy. In the Dominican Republic, meanwhile, although only a small proportion of the population is white while the rest are of mixed-race origin, most people do not identify themselves as black.
Skin colour prejudice is one of the motives for discrimination, according to a nationwide survey on Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic, "Encuesta sobre Inmigrantes Haitianos en República Dominicana", published in 2004 by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO).
In the survey, 71 percent of Haitians interviewed said they had been verbally abused by Dominicans because of their country of origin and skin colour, in their neighbourhoods as well as at their places of work. "Haitian devil," "Negro" (considered a derogatory term in the Dominican Republic), "sorcerer" and "get out of the country" were the most frequently mentioned insults.
Unlike in the 1980s, when immigration from Haiti was regulated by inter-governmental agreements to meet demand for cheap labour on the sugar plantations, today there is a large steady influx of undocumented Haitian migrants.
According to the IOM, 41 percent of Haitians work in agriculture, 38 percent in the construction industry, eight percent as vendors, and six percent in domestic service in Dominican homes.
The authorities have lost control over the influx of migrants, Bridget Wooding, an associate researcher on migration at FLACSO, told IPS.
She also said that despite the regular waves of deportations of Haitian migrants, there are no reliable figures on the number and location of Haitians living in the country.
The fact that there is no pathway for Haitian immigrants and their descendants to regularise their immigration status is a serious obstacle for access to education and health services. Without documents, it is very difficult for Haitians to have their labour rights respected, Wooding added.
Discrimination and mass expulsion of Haitians were the main concerns expressed by Amnesty International in its 2007 report on human rights in the Dominican Republic.
During the mass expulsions, which the London-based rights watchdog described as illegal, there were frequent complaints of mistreatment by migration officials and border guards, according to the report.
Deportations appear to be intensifying after the violence in Neyba and Juan Gómez.
The Dominican Republic's migration office said that 406 undocumented Haitians were repatriated in the last week of October. According to official figures, between 20,000 and 30,000 Haitians are deported each year.
"The deportation strategy is unjustified," Wooding maintained. "It is essential for the Dominican government to create an atmosphere of public safety, and to ensure that immigrants have the right to remain in the country."
Haitians often work in exploitative conditions in agriculture, the construction industry, and domestic service, according to human rights groups.
On Jan. 11, 2006, the bodies of 24 people were found near the northern border town of Dajabón. They had apparently suffocated in an attempt to smuggle them into the Dominican Republic in a sealed truck. According to the reports, the bodies were thrown out of the back of the vehicle, which was carrying over 60 Haitians.
On Nov. 2, migration authorities announced that fines are to be imposed on plantation owners and construction sites that employ undocumented Haitians, pay exploitative wages or mistreat them.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Michael Deibert interviews Chavannes Jean-Baptiste
Inter Press Service
NEW YORK, Sep 23, 2008 (IPS) - Peasant leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste has been at the forefront of the struggles of Haiti's peasants for over 35 years. Born in the village of Papay in Haiti's Plateau Central, Jean-Baptiste helped found the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP) peasant union as well as the Mouvman Peyizan Nasyonal Kongre Papay (MPNKP), the latter a 200,000-member national congress of peasant farmers and activists.Jean-Baptiste's role is an important one in a nation where, over the past 50 years, 90 percent of the tree cover has been destroyed for charcoal and to make room for farming, with resulting erosion destroying two-thirds of the country's arable farmland.
For his work on behalf of Haiti's peasantry, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste was awarded the 2005 Goldman Environmental Prize, sponsored by the Goldman Environmental Foundation, the world's largest prize for grassroots environmentalists.
In recent weeks, a series of hurricanes have struck Haiti, killing what is thought to be hundreds of people and devastating the country's already-decrepit infrastructure. The United Nations now estimates that 800,000 people are in need of emergency food aid. Haiti is currently the location of a U.N. peacekeeping force numbering over 9,000 uniformed personnel.
IPS correspondent Michael Deibert, who covered Haiti as a journalist from 2000 until 2006, sat down with Chavannes Jean-Baptiste during his recent visit to the United States. The interview was conducted in Haitian Kreyol in Brooklyn, New York, on Sep. 14, 2008.
Read the full interview here.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Par Gotson Pierre
15 septembre 2008
(Read the original article here)
P-au-P., 15 sept. 08 [AlterPresse] --- La ville des Gonaives (Nord), ravagée par les derniers cyclones qui ont frappé Haiti, est plongée dans la désolation, observe sur place AlterPresse.
La « cité de l’indépendance » d’Haiti est devenue la « cité de la mort », se lamente le maire des Gonaives, Stephen Moise qui ne cache pas sa « honte » de recevoir la première ministre Michèle Pierre-Louis, dans les conditions d’une ville totalement inondée.
C’est le 13 septembre dernier que le chef du gouvernement a dirigé une délégation aux Gonaives où elle a effectué une « visite de solidarité », à bord d’un hélicoptère des Nations Unies, en compagnie de plusieurs de ses ministres, du sénateur Youri Latortue et du député Arsène Dieujuste, deux parlementaires de la région.
Une ville ravagée dans ses entrailles
Inondée à 90%, Gonaives présente l’image d’une ville qui aurait subi les affres d’une guerre, relève le maire, incapable de contenir son émotion.
La ville est ravagée dans ses entrailles, souligne-t-il.
Prisonnière des eaux et des flots de boue qui se sont déversés sur elle entre le premier et le 7 septembre 2008, Gonaives peine à se relever. Le va et vient incessant des habitants de divers quartiers, circulant dans l’eau boueuse qui leur arrive jusqu’aux genoux, donne l’impression d’un grand mouvement d’exode.
Où vont-ils ?, se demande-t-on, lorsqu’on voit femmes et hommes avançant dans cette eau infecte qui dégage, par endroit, une odeur de cadavres en putréfaction.
Transportant leurs effets personnels et parfois des enfants sur les bras, ils déambulent au milieu des carcasses de véhicules et de toutes sortes de débris abandonnés par les eaux en furie.
« Jai honte. J’ai demandé de désinfecter la ville pour pouvoir vous recevoir », laisse tomber le chef de la municipalité, qui salue la présence de la première ministre aux Gonaives, dans le cadre d’une démarche d’évaluation des dégâts en vue « d’apporter des réponses aux souffrances de la population » et de prendre des dispositions pour la « reconstruction » .
Stephen Moise dit croire en la bonne foi du gouvernement et de la communauté internationale, grâce auxquels le manque d’eau potable a été atténué, tandis que la question alimentaire demeure encore un casse-tête.
Ne pas sombrer dans la résignation
« Il ne faut pas sombrer dans la résignation », préconise Michèle Pierre-Louis, en présence d’une assistance composée d’élus locaux, de notables, de journalistes et des membres de la délégation venue de Port-au-Prince.
« Il nous faut prendre notre courage à deux mains pour reconstruire » la ville, ajoute-t-elle.
Elle assure que le gouvernement va faire tout ce qui est en son pouvoir pour apporter des secours aux populations sinistrées et pour qu’un tel « malheur ne se reproduise pas ».
Mais, la première ministre n’entend pas verser dans les promesses.
Elle le dit tout haut lorsque, juchée sur un camion de la Mission des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation d’Haiti (MINUSTAH), elle s’adresse à quelques centaines de personnes réunies en face de la mairie.
« Vous devez vous mobiliser et être solidaires, parce qu’il nous faut reconstruire cette ville », lance Michèle Pierre-Louis, à travers un mégaphone que lui tend un agent de la police nationale.
« Même quand vous êtes en train de souffrir, chacun doit se sentir responsable et doit mettre la main à la pate pour sortir la ville de ce malheur », poursuit-elle.
Selon Michèle Pierre-Louis, le gouvernement va tenter de créer des emplois et prendre des dispositions urgentes pour libérer la ville des eaux assassines dont elle est encore l’otage.
Remettre la rivière La Quinte dans son lit
Plus tôt, prenant la parole à la mairie des Gonaives, le sénateur Youri Latortue, originaire de cette ville, explique comment la rivière La Quinte a abandonné son lit pour s’emparer de la cité. Pour lui, il est urgent que des travaux soient entrepris pour remettre cette rivière dans « son lit normal ».
D’autre part, Latortue constate que l’ensemble de la population est décapitalisée et que l’État doit prendre en main les besoins de cette dernière en matière de nourriture. Il suggère, en ce sens, que l’assistance humanitaire soit plus massive et que les rations alimentaires couvrent une durée de huit jours au lieu d’être quotidiennes.
Parallèlement, selon le sénateur, il faut prévoir les interventions nécessaires pour réaménager les bassins versants et curer les rivières.
En fait, selon l’ingénieur Gary Dupiton, un spécialiste qui a assisté aux échanges, les travaux à entreprendre sont immenses. Il faudrait, dit-il, reprofiler 800 km2 de montagne et entreprendre une opération intense de reboisement.
« Il n’y a pas deux solutions », prévient-il. Sinon, il va falloir évacuer la ville.
Faire face à ses responsabilités
Lourdes responsabilités, s’il en est !
Pourtant les acteurs politiques n’ont pas le choix. Il faudra éviter, à tout prix, qu’une troisième catastrophe de ce genre se répète, approuve le député Arsène Dieujuste, rappelant que le cyclone Jeanne avait fait, en 2004, plus de 3000 morts et disparus aux Gonaives.
« Il est venu le temps de l’action », souligne le député, qui invite le gouvernement à faire bon usage d’une récente loi sur l’État d’urgence votée par les deux chambres.
C’est dans ce cadre que le gouvernement projette de débloquer 600 millions de gourdes dans les prochains jours après les 51 millions, alloués à l’assistance aux communautés en difficulté.
Selon un dernier bilan provisoire, 326 personnes ont été tuées, 50 portées disparues, 186 blessées, tandis que 1 million de personnes sont sinistrées.
Haiti se relèvera difficilement de cette épreuve et les perspectives économiques sont sombres. On s’attend à une flambée des prix des produits de consommation courante, qui aggravera la crise alimentaire éclatée en avril 2008.
De vastes régions de culture vivrière sont rendues momentanément inutilisables, à cause des inondations qui les ont inondées et emporté des récoltes entières, alors que les infrastructures routières ont été fortement endommagées, laissant de nombreuses zones dans l’isolement.
Dans l’Artibonite, ou 10,000 hectares de terres cultivables sont sous les eaux, le constat est impressionnant. Les rivières sont partout dans le désordre le plus complet.
A perte de vue : des traces de plantations ravagées par la violence des vents et des eaux, des arbres géants mis par terre, de grands cocotiers gisant dans des cours d’eau et ce qui reste de quelques villages sèche au soleil après avoir été pris au piège des bourrasques.
Dix jours après les premières inondations, les riverains, qui contemplent encore avec étonnement la destruction de pans importants de la route du Nord (entre Ennery et Gonaives), ne peuvent pas croire qu’en l’espace d’une nuit, la chaussée soit devenue un énorme précipice et le pont jeté à la dérive dans le lit de La Quinte.
Faire renaitre l’espoir
Le premier défi est simplement, parait-il, de faire renaitre l’espoir, quand toute une population se retrouve brusquement sinistrée.
« Même l’archevêque est dans le besoin », déclare le docteur Yolène Suréna qui coordonne les activités de la Protection Civile aux Gonaives.
« Nous avons faim, nous avons soif, nous n’en pouvons plus », crient les riverains que croise ou que dépasse le cortège de Michèle Pierre-Louis.
« On a pu distribuer de la nourriture à 20 000 personnes », informe Joel Boutroue, représentant résident du Programme des Nations Unies pour le Développement (PNUD), qui salue l’effort de la communauté internationale. Mais, les sinistrés ne sont pas moins de 200,000 à 250,000 aux Gonaives, selon le sénateur Latortue.
« Ce qu’il faut, c’est remettre la population debout », admet le fonctionnaire onusien, coordonnateur de l’aide humanitaire en Haiti, dont les besoins immédiats sont estimés à 108 millions de dollars, suivant un appel a l’aide lancé par l’ONU.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Matt Damon, Wyclef Jean visit Haiti city in ruins
By ALEXANDRA OLSON, Associated Press
14 September 2008
GONAIVES, Haiti (AP) — Cries of adulation — and hunger — followed Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean and actor Matt Damon as they toured flood-ravaged Gonaives on Sunday to call attention to widespread suffering in the marooned city.
Tropical Storm Hanna and Hurricane Ike submerged the Haitian city and cut off roadways. Where waters have receded, streets remain a stinking mud bath and homes are carpeted with muck and encrusted pots, pans and laundry.
"I'm speechless, I can't believe it," said Damon, looking down from a U.N. helicopter at people living on the rooftops of flooded homes.
The four-hour visit passed in a blur of stenches, colors and noise. A man on a bicycle tried to keep up with Damon and Jean's truck, shouting, "I love you, Wyclef." Jean raised his hand, but couldn't smile back.
"It's inhumane. I wish there was a word in the dictionary. No human should be living like this," said Jean, who became famous through his Grammy-winning band, The Fugees, and later emerged as a solo artist.
As they turned onto the flooded Rue Christophe, another pickup packed with women sloshed within arm's reach. Face-to-face with the celebrities, the women cried, "We're hungry!" A young man calf-deep in water raised both arms and shouted, "Fix our roads. Fix our city!"
Damon and Jean encouraged help for the United Nations to raise more than US$100 million for 800,000 Haitians in need after four tropical storms and hurricanes have struck the country since mid-August.
Jean's Yele Haiti charity is helping the World Food Program and the Organization of American States-affiliated Pan American Development Foundation distribute food to 3,000 families. The convoy visited a school shelter Sunday to hand out cooking oil and bags of beans.
Proud and tumultuous Gonaives is where Haiti declared independence from France in 1804 as the world's first black republic. Bloody 1985 protests led to the downfall of the father-son Duvalier dictatorship and in 2004 a deadly march fomented the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Fears that unrest is simmering here has led U.N. officials to distribute food at night under Argentine soldiers' guard. Haitian officials have discussed building new settlements for vulnerable residents above the current city.
Once emergency aid started arriving four days after the storm, the U.N. agencies began ratcheting up food distributions to reach as many as 12,000 people a day. More than 120,000 people are in shelters in the Artibonite region, which includes Gonaives, desperate for water and food, the Haitian government reported.
Damon and Jean waded through knee-deep floodwaters and climbed a stage outside the Gonaives cathedral, where 500 people have taken refuge in the choir gallery.
The pair did not go into the cathedral, but Jean sang for a few minutes to a crowd outside. When he later tried to leave, people swept him into the streets. Admirers, some asking for money, clung to U.N. trucks as they drove away.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
Aristide's American Profiteers
Wall Street Journal
July 28, 2008; Page A13
(Read the original article here)
This column has long followed the story of Jean Bertrand Aristide's Haiti, two U.S. telephone companies and a few American political insiders. Many questions remain unanswered and now both companies are back in the news.
On July 10 the Federal Communications Commission hit IDT Corp. with a $1.3 million fine for "willfully and repeatedly failing to file with the commission" its contracts with Haiti's telecom monopoly, Teleco Haiti, in 2003 and 2004.
Not only should those contracts have been filed, they should have been made public. Now that they have been made public, we learn that Teleco Haiti granted IDT the right to terminate calls in Haiti at less than half the official settlement rate, and that IDT agreed to deposit all payments not at Teleco Haiti, but in an offshore account in the Turks and Caicos managed by a company called Mont Salem.
Long-distance revenues were one of Haiti's few sources of hard currency. Yet after President Aristide left office in 2004, Teleco Haiti's coffers were found to be empty. Still, IDT may have played only a small role in the alleged looting of Teleco Haiti.
A far more interesting actor is Fusion Telecommunications. It may have been terminating traffic in the country as far back as the mid-1990s, not long after Bill Clinton used the U.S. military to restore the coup-deposed Mr. Aristide to power. But we don't know if this is true because Fusion's contracts, which should also be public under FCC rules, have been shrouded in secrecy.
The FCC decision against IDT is a victory for former IDT employee Michael Jewett. He filed suit in federal court in Newark, N.J., in 2004, alleging that the company fired him because he objected to an illegal deal between it and Teleco Haiti.
Much of what Mr. Jewett described in his complaint turned out to be in the contract. But there's more. He also alleged in court documents that he was told that the Mont Salem account belonged to Mr. Aristide. IDT denies this.
Mr. Aristide's Haitian critics have long alleged that Fusion was getting a preferred connection rate in return for kickbacks to the strongman. This, they say, allowed Fusion to dominate the U.S.-Haiti route, something that would have made company insiders rich. Haitians told me in 2001 that Fusion even had an office inside Haiti Teleco.
The chairman of Fusion's board was and still is Marvin Rosen, who was the finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 1996 Clinton fund-raising scandals. During the late 1990s, Joseph P. Kennedy II and Thomas "Mack" McLarty, both prominent Democrats, were on the board. Fusion has previously denied any wrongdoing.
In February 2007, the FCC told me that its "Haiti file," containing contracts, had vanished from its records room. To re-create the missing file, it asked IDT, Fusion and other companies for copies. Fusion produced one, from 1999, that it says matched the one it had filed.
In December, I filed an application to see that contract under the Freedom of Information Act. Eight months later the company is still blocking my request. Company lawyers have met with the FCC to argue for confidentiality.
Why Fusion would fight so hard to keep what is supposed to be a public contract out of the public's view is a good question. Here's one possible reason: A civil action filed by the Republic of Haiti in November 2005 in Florida charged that Aristide operatives gave "rate concessions" to various telephone companies, and these "included Fusion Telecommunications." The suit also charged that Teleco "allow[ed] certain carriers to 'settle' allegedly disputed Teleco billings on favorable terms," and that Fusion was one of them. These, the civil action notes, "were not in Teleco's interest" and "violated U.S. law."
The Florida suit -- which was withdrawn after a change of government in 2006 but can be reinstated if the plaintiff desires -- also alleges that "the fraudulent scheme to steal Teleco revenues was carried out in part through defendant Mont Salem," which "serve[d] as a front for the interests of the Aristide Group." It says that "at Aristide's direction," two carriers were instructed to make payments to Mont Salem. One was a Canadian company. The other was IDT. And further: "At Aristide's direction Teleco's then-counsel also caused Teleco to request at least one other carrier, Fusion, to make payments through Mont Salem."
The FCC is set to decide by Sept. 26 on whether the Fusion contract should be public. Its IDT decision sets a precedent, and Americans deserve to know what happened between the Clintonistas and Mr. Aristide. Haitians also deserve accountability. Mr. Aristide, who fled Haiti in 2004 under a cloud of corruption charges, is living in South Africa but trying to make a return to power in Haiti. If he succeeds, Haiti's future will remain as dim as its past. The FCC should give a full accounting on whether some of his past enablers were high-ranking American politicians.
Write to O'Grady@wsj.com
Thursday, July 17, 2008
McCain 'Trailblazer' Burned
(Read the original article here)
IDT, the New Jersey telecommunications outfit run by one of John McCain's top fundraisers, Jim Courter, was fined $1.3 million by the Federal Communications Commission for failing to file a contract for telephone service to Haiti in 2004.
Its work with Haiti has been put under scrutiny since a former employee, Michael Jewett, then IDT's manager for the Caribbean, sued the company. His suit claims he was fired when he balked at negotiating a scheme that routed a portion of the company's long distance revenue from Haiti calls to a shell company owned by then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Jewett's suit alleges that the deal cut IDT's long-distance payments to Haiti to 8.75 cents a minute, from 23 cents, the legal tariff, which mainline U.S. carriers such as AT&T were paying.
Payments went to an offshore shell company, Mount Salem in the Turks & Caicos, which sent 3 cents to Aristide and the rest to the Haiti telecommunications company.
Courter, a former New Jersey Republican congressman, is one of 20 McCain national finance co-chairs, and joined the campaign in February 2007. He's a "Trailblazer" for McCain, meaning he raised at least $100,000. The IDT PAC has contributed $84,850 in 2008.
The F.C.C. said IDT had violated the law by "willfully and repeatedly" failing to file its Haiti agreements regarding rates and other matters.
The filings were required under the commission's International Settlements Policy, which called for the same best rates for all U.S. carriers. The goal was to ensure "a competitive playing field" and prevent dominant carriers on the foreign end of a U.S.-international route from leveraging their market power to the detriment of U.S. carriers and consumers.
IDT had had its share of run-ins with regulators even before the F.C.C. fine handed down Wednesday. Jewett's allegations are also being investigated by the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the company's filings with the S.E.C. The I.R.S. is also reportedly looking at the company, according to published reports.
An IDT spokesperson declined to comment.
Adrian Corr, a Turks & Caicos lawyer who was legal counsel for Aristide at Miller Simons O'Sullivan and who ran Mount Salem, confirmed that Aristide owned the shell.
Jewett's lawyer, seeking to read the Haiti contracts at the Federal Communications Commission, discovered that the entire file had disappeared. The F.C.C. directed IDT and other carriers to refile their contracts. IDT's showed payments to the Turks & Caicos shell company.
Jewett's suit charges that IDT evaded the rules and kept competitors in the dark. Documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests this year also revealed that IDT failed to file contracts with dozens of other telecoms around the world.
The S.E.C. and I.R.S. are looking into IDT's tax returns for 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. Any discount or ill-gotten gain, such as the difference between 8.75 and 23 cents, is taxable.
In a quarterly S.E.C. report filed June 6, IDT's balance sheet shows $365 million "income taxes payable," meaning the sum is put aside for back taxes. The figure was zero last year.
All the executives below Courter involved with the Haiti deal are gone. The June report announced the "involuntary" departure of the chief legal officer.
Top-tier Republicans have also bailed out.
William Weld, former G.O.P. governor of Massachusetts, was head of corporate governance at IDT but resigned after the Jewett complaint was unsealed in July 2005.
IDT announced in October 2006 that its entire board would not seek reelection, including former congressman and vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Jeane Kirkpatrick, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, former Minnesota Senator Rudy Boschwitz, and former Washington Senator Slade Gorton.
"Why do you put very powerful politicians on your board. Because you like them, you think they’re capable and they buy you protection," said Herbert Denton, president of the New York investment firm Providence Capital, which owned IDT stock. "Why do they leave at the same time? I speculate there’s something rotten in Denmark."
Sunday, June 15, 2008
By PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writer
15 June 2008
Michael Norton — who spent nearly two decades covering Haiti's coups, rebellions and disasters for The Associated Press — died Sunday after a long battle with cancer. He was 66.
Norton chronicled the turmoil that followed former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier's ouster, spent almost a decade watching the rise and fall of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and wrote compelling accounts of Haiti's crushing poverty that has created a cycle of despair in the country.
His wife said he died in Caguas, Puerto Rico, where they lived.
Born in Minneapolis, Norton left the United States in 1969 for Ireland, but soon moved to Paris, where he found work as an English teacher and fell in love with Haitian singer and activist, Toto Bissainthe.
The couple moved to Haiti in 1986, just months after "Baby Doc" Duvalier was forced into exile following a popular uprising. Bissainthe died in 1994.
Known for his trademark ponytail and corncob pipe, Norton began working for the AP in 1988 after hosting a series of local radio shows in English, French and Haitian Creole.
For many journalists who covered Haiti, a visit to Norton's house on the outskirts of Petionville was one of the first steps toward understanding Haiti's turbulent undercurrent.
Unlike many who covered Haiti from hotels, Norton lived like many Haitians — struggling through power cuts, water shortages, street violence and constant political upheaval.
"I swore I would never sacrifice the truth to any cause, no matter how good," Norton recently recalled of his time in Haiti.
It was this conviction that often enraged Haiti's power brokers.
In 2004, when anti-Aristide groups reported a turnout of 60,000 people at a protest in Port-au-Prince, the capital, Norton stuck to his principles.
Using police standards for counting crowds, he reported a far lower number. The result: death threats, angry mobs and Norton's name singled out on opposition radio programs.
David Beard, who was the AP's Caribbean news editor from 1992 to 1995, said Norton "helped a generation of readers worldwide understand the despair, joy, and mysteries" of Haiti.
"His diligence and respect for the nation translated as well for writers, reporters, and policymakers who followed his path," Beard said in an e-mail from Boston, where he works as editor of The Boston Globe's Web site.
Norton tirelessly covered Haiti until the end, leaving with a final scoop.
Through sources he had built over 20 years, Norton was the first journalist to report that Aristide was ousted Feb. 29, 2004, after a three-week revolt led by gangs and former soldiers.
He left soon after to seek medical attention for a melanoma that had returned.
"He sustained me through difficult times with unconditional friendship," said Dan Whitman, a friend of Norton's who worked at the U.S. Embassy in 1999-2001. "Though our professions put information to somewhat different purposes, we had an identical interest in accuracy."
Norton's most colorful stories came from covering Haiti's regular Voodoo pilgrimages. The religion was officially sanctioned during his time in the country.
"We just lost a Haitian journalist, someone who belonged to us," said Joseph Guyler Delva, a Haitian reporter who heads an association of local journalists and recalled Norton's fluency in Haitian Creole, a blend of French and African words and syntax.
He said Norton, who was white, was never considered a "foreign" correspondent by Haitians.
Norton joined the AP's San Juan bureau in 2004, returning to Haiti briefly in 2006, to cover the election of Rene Preval as president.
He retired months later, listening to jazz and writing poetry until the end.
He penned several books, including "And When the Weeds Began to Grow," and his latest, "Eschatology," which was published this year. Another book, written in Spanish, was titled, "A quien pueda interesar" or "To Whom It May Concern."
He often said two books that captured Haiti best were "Alice in Wonderland" and "Exodus."
"You can't piece together points of view," Norton said in 2007 of writing about Haiti.
"You can stack them or align them. But that is like bringing together all the trees in the forest, which becomes impenetrable, like forging a fence from wooden planks. You have to depend on your own intuition, your own capacity to enter into another world, to fall with Alice (in Wonderland) down the hole and subsequently not to lose your sanity or be persnickety about the incomprehensible."
Norton is survived by his wife, Domnina Alcantara de los Santos.
Paisley Dodds was the AP's Caribbean news editor from 2000 to 2005.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
On my blog last month, I posted a lengthy review of the book Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment, written by Middlesex University Professor Peter Hallward .
As I noted at the time, the work - composed chiefly of interviews with supporters of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and often unreliably-referenced secondary source material - appeared to represent an attempt by Hallward, who had visited Haiti only twice during its writing and never bothered to learn to speak its poetic native Kreyol language, to excuse the excesses of Aristide’s 2001-2004 second mandate and argue that the president, far from being an exacerbating force in Haiti’s multitude of problems, was instead the hapless victim of a vast plot by local and foreign adversaries. Having first visited Haiti in 1997, and reported on the country for a variety of media outlets from 2000 until 2006, I knew Hallward’s thesis to be an incorrect one, and set about outlining what I found to be some of the more pernicious falsehoods with which he attempted to back it up.
This month, Peter Hallward, writing on the website Haiti Analysis , itself a veritable font of fanatical pro-Aristide propaganda, chose to respond to my critique of his book in an article that was subsequently reprinted on the website of MRZine.
Preoccupied as I am with reporting on the struggles of disenfranchised and disadvantaged peoples from often remote and violent locations (Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, India-administered Kashmir, Haiti itself), I confess that I haven’t had the time or inclination to keep up with every self-justifying bit of moral and intellectual acrobatics performed by the affluent foreign commentators that have comprised the bulk of support for Haiti’s disgraced former president since his ouster in February 2004. Given the array of very serious problems that confront Haiti these days - a dysfunctional parliament, spiraling food costs and attendant demonstrations, rampant deforestation and environmental degradation - the attention of those concerned with the country’s fate may indeed also be better focused elsewhere rather than on a protracted back-and-forth between two foreign intellectuals over a book of negligible interest or value to alleviating those ills.
However, briefly, in the interest of correcting the historical record which he seems content to muddy, I will respond to Peter Hallward’s response of my review of his book here.
Though Hallward writes that my 2005 book, Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti (Seven Stories Press) was “applauding the overthrow” of the second Aristide government, a more accurate characterization might be that it was mourning the fraying of the broad social-democratic coalition that ousted the Duvalier dictatorship for power in 1986 and first brought Aristide to office in 1990, along with criticizing Aristide’s own role in that collapse. Having seen first hand the hopes that Haiti’s poor majority had invested in Aristide, and the way those hopes were cynically betrayed, far from glee and joy at the events of the president’s second mandate, to me the only appropriate response seemed to be sadness and regret at the waste of opportunity and human potential. Writers like Peter Hallward don’t seem to give much credence to emotions such as those when strident sloganeering will do, but I have found in my years in Haiti that political life there exists, not in black and white, but in varying shades of grey, where today’s democrat can be tomorrow’s despot and yesterday’s oppressor can be viewed as today’s unlikely liberator.
Hallward states in his response that I suggested that he deliberately misquoted Anne Hastings, the director of Haiti's lauded micro-credit institution Fonkoze, as coming out in full-throated defense of the Aristide government in his interview with her. Though Hallward may be bothered by a guilty conscience at this point, I said nothing of the sort. Writing to Hasting, who I have known for the better part of the decade as someone who stayed above the fray of Haitian politics to better continue Fonkoze‘s work of aiding Haiti‘s poor, I simply asked whether or not Hallward’s quotation of her was accurate. She responded in a 27 January 2008 email as follows :
I don't think I have ever said or ever would say that. I am always very careful to say I don't know whether there is substance or not. It is up to the Haitian people to make their decision.
In his response to my review, Peter Hallward confirms that his quotation of Anne Hastings was erroneous. Whether it was intentional or not, I have no idea, but it does point to what, in my view, is a troubling pattern in Hallward’s work. Though I can’t claim omniscience in decoding Peter Hallward’s intentions when it comes to presenting such a curiously selected litany of false information as objective history, I do find, given his stated sympathies to the Aristide government and the Fanmi Lavalas party before starting his book or even visiting Haiti, that all of his “errors” should conveniently support his erroneous thesis rather suggestive. Nearly every one of the main claims in Damming the Flood - that the 2000 elections that returned Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power were free and fair, that the Aristide government was not actively involved in arming and organizing street gangs to crush its political opposition, that the government still retained a great deal of popular support in late 2003/early 2004 - are false, and demonstrably so, by the historical record as I laid out in my original review.
When Hallward, writes, for instance, that the Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH) Haitian human rights organization was part of "a very partial list of the recipients of USAID, IFES and/or IRI support" during the years leading up to the 2004 overthrow of Aristide, that is false. In his response to my review, Hallward tries to wriggle out of being caught in this obvious inaccuracy by writing that “NCHR’s receipt of USAID money… (is) a matter of the US Congressional record.” In my reviews of the sources of funding for NCHR Haiti (which later became RNDDH), I have found no evidence of money distributed to the group’s Port-au-Prince office by USAID. Seeking further confirmation, I wrote to Pierre Esperance, the group’s director, and he responded on 10 April 2008 with the following email :
RNDDH has never and will not accepted funds from US government.
Though RNDDH/NCHR did receive funding from organziations such as Christian Aid, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Lutheran World Federation and a one-time grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), I still have found no eveidence of the group receiving funding from the United States government.
As to the Hallward’s characterization the massacre of anti-government militants in the northern city of Saint-Marc in February 2004 (along with innocent civilians), as always with Peter Hallward, any vile attack carried out by forces loyal to Jean-Bertrand Aristide was a “clash,” much as the vicious attack on protesting university students on 5 December 2003 (one of the defining moments in the end of Aristide’s second government) was “a brawl.” If Hallward doesn’t view the massacre at least 27 human beings and attendant atrocities such as gang rape which, given the presence of Unite de Securite de la Garde du Palais National d’Haiti personnel and gang members from the capital dressed in police uniforms, was certainly carried out with government knowledge, as a “crime against humanity,” it is hard to know what would qualify as such.
Peter Hallward could have written a perfectly reasonable, factual book outlining why he thought the second Aristide government as it existed deserved to be allowed to finish its mandate, however appalling its excesses, and why the convergence of forces against the president and his political party (many of them thrown together by Aristide’s own actions) would, in the long run, cause even greater harm to Haiti’s poor majority than the violent, corrupt and despotic actors who ruled Haiti from 2001 until 2004.
That is not, however, what Hallward did.
Based on a review of his secondary source material and discussions with some of his primary sources, I have concluded that Hallward, either through intention or through a series of extraordinarily ideologically fortuitous mistakes, time and again printed false information that flies in the face of the documented record and, indeed, the transcripts of his own interviews.
As for Peter Hallward’s statement that I view his book as being written by “an ignorant outsider,” I will simply say this: We are all, those of us of foreign birth who write on Haiti, outsiders to one degree or another. The question is whether or not, that being the case, we operate in good faith when chronicling events in this small, impoverished country. Over the better part of a decade, encouraged by the example of many brave Haitian journalists, I did my best to act in good faith while reporting from a vast array of locales around Haiti about the desire of the Haitian people for a responsive and responsible government to address their legitimate grievances and historic disenfranchisement. I did so often at considerable personal risk and for little or no financial reward. It was the least I owed the long-suffering people there who entrust outsiders such as myself with trying to help the world understand their story.
Finishing Damming the Flood, I believe knowing whether or not Peter Hallward operated in similar good faith is open to debate, but the evidence is not encouraging.
Michael Deibert is the author of Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti (Seven Stories Press).
1. A Review of Peter Hallward’s Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment , March 16, 2008.
2. One of the “editors” of Haiti Analysis, a seemingly-eternal graduate student named Jeb Sprague, first announced his presence to me by emailing me (unsolicited) a graphic photo of the bullet-riddled, blood-soaked bodies of a Haitian mother and her children along with a smiley-face emoticon. I was left shrugging that perhaps Sprague suffered from some sort of mental illness, as he viewed the dead mother and her toddlers appropriate material for some sort of cheap joke.
3. Email from Anne Hastings, 27 Janaury 2008
4. Email from Pierre Esperance, 10 April 2008.
(Author's note: This response was submitted to MRZine editor Yoshie Furuhashi who, apparently in the interest of stifling and obscuring discussion on the subject of Haiti, refused to print it. So much for free debate.)
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
(Read the original article here)
PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) — Blue-helmet UN peacekeepers were called in Tuesday to protect Haiti's presidential palace after violent demonstrations against high food and fuel prices broke out in the capital.
At least five people have been killed by gunfire since the protests erupted last week, according to an unofficial count. On Tuesday at least 14 people were rushed to the city's public hospital with bullet wounds, medical sources told AFP.
"This is a provisional injury toll. We're getting a lot of conflicting information," Association of Haitian Doctors president Claude Surena told AFP.
Haitian police clashed with protesters Tuesday and fired in the air to prevent them from breaking into the presidential palace building, witnesses said.
By midday a dozen armored vehicles manned by Brazilian soldiers under the United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) took position around the whitewashed palace, firing in the air and hurling tear gas canisters to keep the protesters at bay, witnesses said.
President Rene Preval asked UN peacekeepers to shore up security around the palace, MINUSTAH spokeswoman Sophie Boutaud de la Combe told AFP.
The UN peacekeepers also beat back protesters who were heading to the city's international airport.
The protests began last week after a sudden jump in fuel and basic food commodity prices in the poor country of 8.5 million.
The rice price has doubled from 35 dollars to 70 dollars for a 120-pound sack, and gasoline has seen its third price hike in less than two months.
Two reporters as well as a photographer and a cameraman were wounded by rubber bullets fired by MINUSTAH forces, the sources told AFP.
One journalist had his car's windows shattered and was attacked by a mob of youths that sacked an Air France office, an AFP reporter said.
"People can keep protesting but they have to respect the property of others," Public Security Secretary Luc Euchere told reporters.
Protests also broke out in the Carrefour quarter on the south side of the capital.
"Living conditions are horrible. We are tired of hearing promises, we want fast action," said a protester named Wilson, 25.
Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis condemned the protests while acknowledging the source of the discontent.
On Monday Alexis announced a 42-million-dollar program to ease the situation, including the creation of thousands of jobs for youth and small business grants.
"These measures take time. We need to have patience," he said on a radio station in the capital.
In the city of Cayes on Monday, thousands of protesters attacked the home of legislator Gabriel Fortune, who was rescued by UN troops and evacuated to the capital.
Fortune said the protesters were "manipulated by drug deals and the Lavalas party" of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who has lived in exile in South Africa since 2004.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Eight years of inexplicable impunity in the murder of Jean Dominique
Reporters sans frontières
(Read the original article here)
On the eve of the eighth anniversary of radio Haïti Inter director Jean Dominique’s murder, Reporters Without Borders today said it was baffled by the failure to render justice in this case, especially as the existence of a clear political and judicial will to combat impunity in the past two years has resulted in convictions in two other cases of murders of journalists.
Dominique and Haïti Inter’s caretaker, Jean-Claude Louissaint, were gunned down in the courtyard of the station on 3 April 2000.
“In the course of 2007, there were two convictions in the case of Brignol Lindor, the Radio Echo 2000 journalist who was murdered in Petit-Goâve in 2001, and one conviction in the case of Jacques Roche, the editor of the cultural section of the daily Le Matin, who was kidnapped and murdered in Port-au-Prince in 2005,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“At the same time, investigations into more recent cases led to quick arrests,” the press freedom organisation continued. “And on 10 August 2007, President René Préval, a friend of Dominique’s, installed an Independent Commission to Support Investigations into Murders of Journalists (CIAPEAJ) in the presence of his widow, Michèle Montas. The political and judicial will is there, and we now have proof that impunity is not inevitable.”
The organisation added: “This makes it all the harder to explain why the Dominique case is alone in going nowhere, eight years after his murder. Political factors may have had an impact but they offer no justification for the failure to ever solve this case.”
The investigation into the murder of Dominique and Louissaint concluded on 21 March 2003. It resulted in six men being charged and arrested: Dymsley “Ti Lou” Milien, Jeudi “Guimy” Jean-Daniel, Philippe Markington, Ralph Léger, Freud Junior Demarattes and Ralph Joseph. The charges against the last three were dismissed on 4 August 2003, after they appealed against the indictment.
Ti Lou, Guimy and Markington managed to escape during a prison mutiny in February 2005. Markington fled to Argentina, from where he contacted Reporters Without Borders to insist on his innocence. Ti Lou and Guimy went back to being gang leaders in the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Martissant. Ti Lou is now dead.
Former Port-au-Prince deputy mayor Harold Sévère (now in self-imposed exile) and Ostide “Douze” Pétion were arrested on 14 March 2004 as the suspected instigators of the murder. Annette Auguste, who was already being held in connection with other criminal activity, was also accused of involvement on 10 May 2005.
But none of these three has ever been interrogated. There has never been any attempt to verify presumed hit-man Ti Lou’s statement that he was paid 10,000 dollars to murder Dominique. And the death of two witnesses in suspicious circumstances has never been explained.
The supreme court ordered the case reopened on 29 June 2004. But it took nearly a year for a new investigating judge to be appointed, on 3 April 2005, exactly five years after the murder, and the new judge has not had access to the files and has not been given the necessary resources. In all, six judges have been in charge of the investigation, one after another.
The case suffered another setback on 4 April 2007 with the murder of Robert Lecorps, a businessman who was also suspected of involvement in Dominique’s murder. Police superintendent Daniel Ulysse, who was head of the judicial police at the time of Dominique’s murder, was arrested on 10 December 2007 on suspicion of having obstructed the investigation. But the police took nearly a month to execute the warrant for his arrest that was issued by judge Fritzner Fils-Aimé, now in charge of the case.
It has never been possible to corroborate the statements of former senator Dany Toussaint, who has often been cited as a suspect in the case. And since the start of this year, Judge Fils-Aimé has been trying to obtain a statement from senate vice-president Rudolph Boulos, the owner of the pharmaceutical company Pharval.
Shortly before his murder, Dominique spoke on the air about Afébril, a contaminated cough mixture produced and distributed by Pharval that allegedly caused the death of about 100 children in 1996. The CIAPEAJ, the commission created by President Préval, wrote to the senate president on 17 February calling for Senator Boulos to respond to the summonses issued by Fils-Aimé. In a reply one week later, Boulos refused on the grounds of “parliamentary immunity.”
Monday, March 17, 2008
lundi 17 mars 2008
par Ronald Colbert
(Read the original article here)
Papaye (Hinche/Haïti), 17 mars 08 [AlterPresse] --- Le Mouvement paysan de Papaye, localité de Hinche (Plateau Central), à plus de 128 kilomètres au nord-est de Port-au-Prin,ce, débute officiellement, ce lundi 17 mars 2008, les travaux du 35 e anniversaire du mouvement autour du thème « 35 ane lit pou on Ayiti granmoun » (35 années de lutte pour une Haïti souveraine).
Plus de 750 personnes, venant des dix départements géographiques d’Haïti, sont arrivées depuis dimanche soir 16 mars au Sant Lakay, lieu de rassemblement du Mouvement Paysan de Papaye (Mpp), selon les informations obtenues sur place par l’agence en ligne AlterPresse.
En plus des délégués, femmes et hommes, du Mpp, de nombreux invités, dont des militantes et militants du pays, ainsi que d’autres de la République dominicaine, des Etats-Unis d’Amérique et de la France, de même que des membres de différentes organisations et des représentants de médias ont fait le déplacement vers Papaye afin de participer au congrès du 35 e anniversaire.
Le dimanche 16 mars, les femmes et hommes délégués paysans, dont une partie se trouve au Sant Lakay depuis le jeudi 13 mars pour prendre part à une rencontre du Mouvement paysan national du congrès de Papaye (Mpnkp), ont pu s’inscrire et recevoir leurs badges d’identification, des cartes leur donnant droit aux repas pendant le congrès, du matériel de travail ainsi que l’agenda du congrès du 35e anniversaire du Mpp.
La souveraineté alimentaire, la problématique de l’environnement, la participation des femmes et des jeunes dans le combat pour une république haïtienne souveraine, feront l’objet de conférences, d’ateliers-débats du 18 au 20 mars.
Entre-temps, ce lundi 17 mars, après les cérémonies officielles d’ouverture par un acte « mystique » spécifique au Mpp, une foire gastronomique (où seront exposés des produits agricoles biologiques du terroir) aura lieu au Sant Lakay, suivie d’une séance portes ouvertes sur les actions mises en oeuvre par le mouvement paysan de Papaye depuis 35 ans, comme : cassaverie, transformation de fruits, activités agrosylvicoles, production de miel, etc.
Le congrès du 35 e anniversaire du Mpp sera clôturé le jeudi 20 mars 2008 par une marche contre la faim, contre la misère, contre l’injustice sociale, contre l’impunité et contre le programme d’agrocarburants envisagé par le gouvernement du Premier ministre Jacques Edouard Alexis.
A cette marche, où les organisateurs attendent environ 5 milliers de personnes de Papaye à la place Charlemagne Péralte [du nom de l’un des révolutionnaires haïtiens qui ont combattu la première occupation étatsunienne de 1915 à 1934] de Hinche, seront rendues publiques les résolutions issues du congrès du 35 e anniversaire, d’après les informations fournies à AlterPresse.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Le responsable du Parc La Visite, Jean Marie Romain, abattu par balle à Pèlerin 3 (Pétion Ville)
Romain faisait face à beaucoup de difficultés dans l’exercice de sa fonction, selon son frère, le sénateur Jean Hector Anacacis
samedi 15 mars 2008,
(Read the original article here)
Le responsable de la protection du Parc National La Visite, Jean Marie Romain (42 ans), a été abattu d’une balle au cou vendredi soir par des individus non identifiés sur la route de Kenscoff, à hauteur de Pèlerin 3 (Est de Port-au-Prince), alors qu’il revenait du Sud-Est, a appris Radio Kiskeya.
Frère du 1er sénateur de l’Ouest, Jean Hector Anacacis, Jean Marie-Romain avait eu à faire face à beaucoup de difficultés dans l’accomplissement de sa mission de protection du Parc La Visite, a confié le parlementaire à un journaliste de Radio Kiskeya. Il a toutefois estimé qu’il revient aux enquêteurs de déterminer les motifs exacts des agresseurs.
En novembre 2007, un garde forestier avait été blessé à coups de pierres par des individus qui abattaient des arbres au parc Deux autres agents qui étaient alors portés disparus, s’étaient en fait enfuis pour échapper à la colère d’une foule d’agresseurs vraisemblablement soudoyés par de puissants entrepreneurs du bois opérant dans la région.
Père de deux enfants et marié à une ressortissante du Royaume-Uni, Jean Marie Romain avait réalisé des études en environnement à Cuba et en Belgique.
Le Parc National La Visite dont il assurait la protection, est l’une des dernières réserves forestières d’Haïti dont la couverture végétale demeure la plus insignifiante de la Caraïbe. A cheval sur les départements du Sud-Est et de l’Ouest, le parc est considéré comme zone protégée depuis 1983. Cependant, de ses 2000 hectares de forêt, il en reste moins de 900. Grande réserve de faune et de plantes médicinales, abritant d’importantes nappes phréatiques, le parc est soumis à une exploitation anarchique à outrance qui menace son existence et celle des gens vivant en amont dans les deux départements.
Ce parc représente, avec le parc Macaya dans le Sud et Marmelade, dans l’Artibonite, l’un des trois principaux châteaux d’eau du pays. Outre son poids hydrographique, le Parc La visite constitue une réserve de plantes médicinales et de faune n’existant nulle part ailleurs en Haïti.
As Mr. Elie, a violent and erratic individual with a history of perjury and other unsavoury activities , is such a marginal figure in Haiti's political landscape (despite his desperate courting of foreign journalists) and as Haiti has such genuinely serious problems facing it, save for two paragraphs in an article I wrote in 2006, I thought it best to just to let the matter lie. However, these years later, at the urging of some friends who continue to be concerned about the words of someone as nefarious as Mr. Elie taking root, I will take a moment here to respond in detail as I have not before.
On December 3, 2002, the first anniversary of the murder of the journalist Brignol Lindor, I attended a mass at Petionville's Église Saint Pierre in his honor and the honor of all the other journalists who had died, been attacked or been forced into exile, including Jean Léopold Dominique, the director of Radio Haiti Inter slain in April 2000. At the receiption that morning were Radio Metropole owner Richard Widmayer, Radio Kiskeya programme director Lilianne Pierre-Paul, U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean Curran, then-Haitian Senate President (and future convinced drug trafficker) Fourel Celestin, Radio Haiti Inter's director (and Dominique widow) Michèle Montas and Patrick Elie himself. I briefly alluded to the presence of all of the above in my 2005 book Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti. On that day, I addressed Mr. Elie - whom I had met several times previously - by name and in English on the steps of the Église Saint Pierre.
In a 2006 article on my book, a Canadian writer named Justin Podur, who had visited Haiti only once and spoke no Kreyol, made the use of an expletive-laden diatribe by Mr. Elie to claim that I had falsely stated that Mr. Elie was at Haiti’s Cathedral National that day when he was not.
Simply put, this was a lie.
Mr. Podur, perhaps understandably given his unfamiliarity with Haiti, had confused the Église Saint Pierre with Haiti's National Cathedral, several miles downtown, claiming that was where I had place Mr. Elie, even though my text clearly and repeatedly specified the Église Saint Pierre. Faced with their error, neither Mr. Podur nor Mr. Elie nor Mr. Albert nor Mr. Ives retreated from their libelous claim, perhaps not surprising given their respective characters and the ease with which Mr. Elie, in far graver matters, had previously veered from the truth.
Though I have not wanted to bother her by bringing her into such trivialities, writing to Michele Montas about the incident in question, she responded simply, in a February 17, 2006 email as follows:
I don’t really remember if Patrick was on the steps but he must have been at the Eglise Saint Pierre that day.
Ms. Montas never went public about the incident, nor did I ever ask her to. However, Mr. Elie still trying to pass himself off as anything but the dangerous prevaricator that he is simply won't do, I'm afraid.
Had I enough money, I might indeed have considered hauling Messrs. Podur, Elie, Albert and Ives to court [these people generally attack those without the means to fight back] but, then again, if I had that kind of money it would not doubt be better spent investing in something that actually improves the lives of Haitians, such as the micro-credit institutions FONKOZE, rather than settling scores with dilettantes and political opportunists who discredited themselves long ago.
Attempting to smear someone’s reputation when they threaten powerful forces - in this case former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his lavishly-funded propaganda machine in the United States - is a very standard trick, one which Mr. Aristide used himself against opponents as diverse as former Port-au-Prince mayor Evans Paul and peasant leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste. I have watched the endless attacks against journalists whom I much admire in countries where I work such as Haiti and Guatemala and, quite honestly, in an odd way, I feel somewhat honored to be considered important enough to be in their company.
By using Mr. Elie - a man with a documented record for rather creepy and potentially lethal plotting - to attack me, people like Justin Podur, Michael Albert and Kim Ives no doubt believed that they would succeed in intimidating into silence my voice in the debate on the fate of Haiti and it’s long-suffering 9 million people.
In this, as in engaging in a meaningful debate on issues such as how we restore Haiti’s peasant agriculture, fix its school system and provide it with a responsive political culture, they failed.
But, anyway, for the record, there it is, the brief and rather boring story. I think that's about all the mention it deserves going forward.
1. Mr. Elie was arrested outside of Washington, DC in April 1996 and jailed in the United States for, among other offences, apparently threatening the life of Haiti's ambassador to the United States at the time, Jean Casimir. Subsequently convicted for falsely claiming to be a diplomat and for using a false address on a federal firearms transaction, court documents (from the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit) show that US diplomatic security and police inventoried from Mr. Elie's hotel room at the time of his arrest a Colt .223 semi- automatic assault rifle with a round in the chamber and six magazines loaded with armour-piercing ammunition, a Remington .22 calibre bolt action rifle equipped with a telescopic sight, a loaded Steyr 9mm semi-automatic pistol with 264 9mm rounds (including 180 rounds of hollow-point ammunition), night vision equipment, two knives, approximately $4,800 in cash, purchase receipts for three additional firearms and documents relating to the activities of Mr. Casimir. Mr. Elie's connections among Haiti's elite economic and political class saved him on that occasion, but one cannot help but to speculate as to what exactly was being planned.