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.