Thursday, December 13, 2007

Two gang members get life for journalist’s murder, a third is acquitted

13 December 2007

Two gang members get life for journalist’s murder, a third is acquitted

(Read the original article here)

Reporters sans frontières

Reporters Without Borders hails the outcome of a two-day trial before a court of assizes in the southern town of Petit-Goâve in which two members of a local militia known as Domi nan Bwa were yesterday given life sentences for the murder of Radio Echo 2000 journalist Brignol Lindor on 3 December 2001.

Of the two other alleged militia members on trial, one was acquitted because of mistaken identity and the other got off on a technicality, because he was identified by the wrong first name. Reporters Without Borders regards this as an indication of shortcomings in the preparation of the trial. Six other members of the militia are due to be tried, but have not yet been arrested.

“The life sentences are proportionate to the particularly barbaric way Lindor was murdered,” the press freedom organisation said. “A trial, especially one of this importance, nonetheless needs a prosecution case that is complete and sound, and ensures that all those involved are present in the courtroom.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “We doubt that the order issued by the presiding judge regarding the six other militiamen charged in this case, who are still fugitives, will have a persuasive effect. They must be arrested quickly. We are still waiting to find out to what degree the former Petit-Goâve municipal authorities were involved in Lindor’s murder.”

The two defendants who received life sentences were Joubert Saint-Juste and Jean-Rémy Démosthène (see picture below). For the time being, they are still being held in Petit-Goâve, but they could be transferred to the national penitentiary in Port-au-Prince to serve their sentences.

Simon Cétoute, 56, was acquitted because witnesses failed to identify him and because the court acknowledged that he had been arrested instead of one of his sons who recently died in the nearby town of Léogâne.

The case was dismissed against a fourth defendant, known as Fritznel Doudoute, because the first name, “Fritznel,” by which he was referred in the indictment, was not his real name, which is Lionel. Nonetheless, he was formally identified in court by witnesses as one of the participants in Lindor’s murder, and he could still be tried. Petit-Goâve state prosecutor Kébreau Zamor announced that a new case would be opened against.

A case could also be opened against Bony Dumay, Petit-Goâve deputy at the time of the murder, who is alleged to have incited violence against Lindor. He was a witness during the trial but so far he has never been charged.

In a statement to the press at the end of the trial, judge Emmanuel Tataye gave the six other Domi nan Bwa members, who were charged in 2002 and for whom arrests warrants are still pending, until 16 December to surrender, failing which they would be declared “rebels against the law” and would have “their rights as citizens suspended and their property seized.”

Monday, December 10, 2007

La Fondation Héritage réclame une lutte contre la corruption impartiale

Lundi, 10 décembre 2007 12:12

La Fondation Héritage réclame une lutte contre la corruption impartiale

Radio Metropole

(Read the original article here.)

La directrice de la Fondation Héritage, branche haïtienne de Transparency International, Marilyn B. Allien, fait état d’avancées dans le cadre de la lutte contre la corruption, rappelant la ratification, en mai 2007, par le parlement de la convention de l’ONU contre la corruption.

En ce qui a trait aux poursuites contre l’ancien président Aristide , Marilyn Allien se déclare choquée par les dernières déclarations du président Préva,l soulignant que les deux déclarations du chef de l’état sur ce dossier sont contradictoires. " Lors de la première déclaration il avait dit que le gouvernement n’avait pas les moyens financiers pour honorer les engagements envers les cabinets d’avocats", rappelle Mme Allien.

Tout en souhaitant que la plainte contre Jean Bertrand Aristide soit relancée, la responsable de la Fondation Heritage soutient que les plus grands corrompus ont été des chefs d’état, pour qui le pouvoir est un gâteau a partager.

Mme Allien soutient que le gouvernement a réalisé des actions d’éclats mais pas d’actions conjuguées des différentes institutions étatiques. " Pour le moment la lutte est réalisée sans plan", dit-elle mettant l’accent sur l’absence de suivi de l’enquête de l’Unité Centrale de Lutte contre la Corruption (ULCC) sur la perception de la corruption.

L’étude nous permet de comprendre qu’il y a un vrai problème de corruption au niveau de la fonction publique", assure Mme Allien regrettant qu’il n’existe pas une stratégie nationale de lutte contre la corruption. Selon Marilyn B. Allien il faut plus que la lutte contre la corruption il faut une stratégie nationale pour l’intégrité.

Tout en refusant de qualifier la lutte réalisée par le gouvernement de combat ciblé madame Allien fait remarquer qu’il n’y a eu aucun membre du gouvernement ou de la présidence appréhendé dans le cadre de cette lutte. " Il semble que ce combat ne se fait pas de manière cohérente", lance t-elle.

En ce qui a trait aux poursuites contre l’ancien président Aristide , Marilyn Allien se déclare choquée par les dernières déclarations du président Préva,l soulignant que les deux déclarations du chef de l’état sur ce dossier sont contradictoires. " Lors de la première déclaration il avait dit que le gouvernement n’avait pas les moyens financiers pour honorer les engagements envers les cabinets d’avocats", rappelle Mme Allien.

Tout en souhaitant que la plainte contre Jean Bertrand Aristide soit relancée, la responsable de la Fondation Heritage soutient que les plus grands corrompus ont été des chefs d’état, pour qui le pouvoir est un gâteau a partager.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Only four of ten defendants will be in court for Brignol Lindor murder trial

Only four of ten defendants will be in court for Brignol Lindor murder trial

Read the original report here.)

Reporters sans frontières

While welcoming the trial of Radio Echo 2000 reporter Brignol Lindor’s alleged murders on principle, Reporters Without Borders said today it feared the course of justice could be perverted because six of the 10 defendants have not been arrested and will therefore not be in court. The trial is due to open on 10 December in Petit-Gôave, the southern town where Lindor lived and worked, and where he was murdered six years ago.

“The Lindor murder was a national trauma and has waited too long to come to trial,” the press freedom organisation said. “The fact that the trial is taking place at all reflects a real political will to put an end to a scandalous level of impunity. Nonetheless, we think a case such as this needs to be handled better. The trial is good for justice in principle, but may not be good for the search for the truth.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “The six being tried in absentia will, by definition, be unable to answer for their actions before the court. While the four who are present could try to put the blame on the other six, although they could themselves end up taking the entire rap. Bearing in mind, too, that threats have been made against the prosecutor, who is also concerned about the outcome of the case, we think the conditions for a satisfactory trial have not been met.”

The 10 defendants are members of a local armed militia called Domi Nan Bwa (Sleep in the Bush) that was particularly active during Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s second presidential term. They were charged with this particularly barbaric murder in 2002 at the end of a judicial investigation that failed to clearly identify all those involved.

Of the four defendants who will be in court, three were arrested earlier this year after warrants were issued by Petit-Goâve state prosecutor Kébreau Zamor. They are Joubert Saint-Juste (arrested on 28 March and held at the national penitentiary in Port-au-Prince), Simon Cétoute (arrested on 24 October and held in Petit-Goâve) and Jean-Rémy Démosthène (arrested on 26 October and also held in Petit-Goâve).

The fourth man is Fritznel Doudoute, who was arrested on 28 December 2005 in nearby Miragôane and is now being held in Carrefour prison, outside Port-au-Prince.

The trial was originally scheduled to start on 3 December, the sixth anniversary of Lindor’s murder. When the postponement was announced, Zamor told Reporters Without Borders he was concerned about the infrastructural problems in Petit-Goâve and the difficulty of preparing for the trial in the time available. He also said he and his family had received death threats.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

School for Success Paradis des Indiens, Abricots, wins second place in BBC World Challenge Competition

School for Success Paradis des Indiens, Abricots, Haiti, wins second place in the BBC World Challenge Competition.

Everyone at the Foundation Paradis des Indiens would like to thank you for voting and forwarding messages encouraging others to vote for School for Success/Paradis des Indiens, Abricots, Haiti. We appreciate the enthusiasm and the dedication you exhibited to make School for Success a winner in the competition.As a result of the large number of emails sent, Paradis des Indiens in Abricots, Haiti is a winner and now a project known worldwide. This week we received a letter from Australia asking for information about thework being donein Abricots. We anticipate receiving more letters of interest wanting to support Paradis des Indiens' projects in Abricots.

Michaelle (Mica) Moravia de Verteuil asked me to relay her warmest thanks to all of you. She greatly appreciates the support received. She wishes she could thank each one of you personally. Asthe result of the publicity generated, she says that the people of Abricots will benefit greatly.

The awards ceremony will be broadcast on BBC World on December 8 at 9:30 and 21:30 GMTand on December 9 at 3:30 and 13:30 GMT. As soon as we receive the DVD we will forward it to you.

On behalf of Mica, the people of Abricots and all of us at the Foundation we send you our warmest thanks.

Chantal Lebrun Bazelais, Mireille Lebrun Jeannopoulos, Mireille Gaetjens Cassagnol, Nicole Duvivier, Joelle Coriat, Guy Baron, Marie Therese Danies, Anthony DiMaria.

Foundation Paradis des Indiens, Davie, FL

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In Haiti, a Rare Leg Up

From the issue dated November 30, 2007


In Haiti, a Rare Leg Up


The Chronicle of Higher Education

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

(Read the original article here).

College students are rare here, in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, where residents live without running water and electricity, and barefoot children live alongside garbage-clogged open sewers.

But on a recent afternoon in one of the most-impoverished areas in Haiti's capital, Suzie Pascal, a third-year engineering student at the State University of Haiti who is at the top of her class, returned home. As she walked down the dusty path that leads to her family's small, cinderblock home, her mother, Marie-Rose Henriette Joint, stepped out to greet her.

"I'm so proud of her," says Ms. Henriette, wiping sweat from her forehead in the searing heat. She had had a long day during which she had earned about $6 by selling an assortment of basic goods — eggs, detergent, cooking oil, and matches — from her home. She made more money when she sold used clothing at a local market. But in 2004, a fire burned down the market and Ms. Henriette's stall. Soon, however, she managed to start the home business.

The mother's spirit is reflected in her daughter. "What keeps me motivated?" says Ms. Pascal, a slim, 25-year-old with rows of tight braids. "My mother and her hard work and determination to always manage to make a living and allow me to study. I can't fail."

Today, Ms. Pascal is one of 80 students supported by the Haitian Education & Leadership Program, Haiti's largest university-scholarship program, which provides merit scholarships to students in the top 10 percent of their high-school classes in the country's poorest areas. On average, the scholarships pay $4,100, which covers tuition, textbooks, and school supplies, basic living expenses, an internship program, and academic and social counseling.

The nonprofit organization, known by its acronym, HELP, is now based in New York, where a donor offered office space and the group's head of development, Rosemarie Stupel, lives. The organization started in 1997 when Isemonde Josephe, a straight-A high-school student from Port-au-Prince's notorious Cité Soleil slum, asked her teacher, Conor Bohan, for a $30 loan to attend secretarial school. Aware of Ms. Joseph's desire to become a doctor, not a secretary, Mr. Bohan offered to pay for her first year's medical-school tuition and textbooks. In 2005, Ms. Joseph received her M.D. and now practices at Port-au-Prince's Gheskio Center, Haiti's premier organization for AIDS research and treatment.

"We might think that $4,000 to cover a student's college education is damn cheap, but that might as well be $400,000 for these students," says Mr. Bohan, who sought out other donors soon after helping Ms. Joseph. Today money for the scholarships comes from individual donors, the London-based Rausing Trust, the U.S. embassy, and Yéle Haiti, a foundation led by the hip-hop star Wyclef Jean.

HELP recruits its scholarship students nationwide, with a focus on finding top students at schools in the hilly countryside or poor urban areas. "Our goal is to get to the most overlooked areas, no matter how remote," says Garry Delice, HELP's director and a former principal at the high school where Mr. Bohan once taught. "We depend a lot on four-wheel drive to get around."

The program is run from a converted house in a well-to-do Port-au-Prince neighborhood. In the reception area, two walls are crowded with framed diplomas and documents showing students' names on deans' lists. Further inside, ceiling fans keep students cool in a study hall, which features long, wooden desks and a small library stocked with basic textbooks. A computer lab has 12 desktop machines wired with satellite Internet, rare in a country where computers are scarce and electricity is often undependable. At the center, batteries and an AC/DC inverter store electricity when it is available from the grid, and then provide power when the grid is down

On a recent afternoon, Ms. Pascal busily tapped away at one of the lab's computers. "This is where you'll find me most days," she says.

Ms. Pascal's morning starts at dawn, when she draws several buckets of water from a small well for bathing. Her commute is an hourlong ride on a sweltering, packed "tap tap," the ubiquitous, run-down pickups that wind through the capital's congested streets to provide transportation for residents. After classes, Ms. Pascal goes straight to the HELP center. "Finding light to study by is not easy in Haiti," says Ms. Pascal.

One of Ms. Pascal's ideal postgraduation jobs would be as an engineer at a local telecommunications company. Although the chances of that are not certain, Ms. Pascal's confidence is unflinching, a trait shared by many of the scholarship students. The program's graduates are all employed, according to administrators, and earn an average annual salary of $8,000 — more than 17 times Haiti's $450 per capita income.

Poverty and decades of political instability have created a severe brain drain in Haiti, with many of the country's college-educated citizens leaving for better opportunities in wealthier countries. The exodus, says Mr. Delice, has Haiti desperate for professionals, with many local companies importing qualified workers from countries such as the Philippines. With HELP now established, companies get in touch with the program when they have jobs and internships. HELP does not put any limits on where graduates can go, but does try to connect them to local companies.

But more-developed countries hold the same allure for HELP graduates that they do for all Haitians. Says Smyrne Saintil, a scholarship student in her final year of law school in Port-au-Prince: "All you hear about is what's wrong with our country." But as yet, only two HELP graduates have left Haiti.

Another of the program's students is Daphné Charles, a second-year agronomy student at the top of her class, for the second time, at the University of Notre Dame of Haiti, in Les Cayes in southern Haiti. Immaculately dressed and articulate, Ms. Charles hopes to build up enough expertise to help start a series of sustainable farms, which would create cooperatives of small farmers so they could improve harvesting techniques. More than two-thirds of the Haitian population survive on agriculture, although just barely. The HELP center tries to set an example by using sustainable practices, recycling rainwater for toilets, for example.

"Our country is poor, but there are so many ways to change that," says Ms. Charles, standing in the open-air market in a suburb of Port-au-Prince where her mother sells smoked fish. She often visits her mother there on her way home from the HELP center.

As Ms. Charles spoke, her mother, Raymonde Benôit Charles, beamed. "We all live day to day, and I'm proud that my daughter is studying to help us," the elder Ms. Charles, who earns $5 on a good day, says. These days, with Ms. Charles's 76-year-old father too elderly to work, her mother is the family's sole breadwinner. Meanwhile, vendors, many of whom trek in daily from the countryside, walked by balancing cardboard boxes full of produce on their heads.

HELP's founder, Mr. Bohan, sees the program as a grassroots charity that works best on a small scale "We stumbled upon this idea and got lucky in that people were there to encourage us and help with the funding," he says. But he is curious if the idea will work elsewhere. In December, Mr. Bohan will leave Haiti to go to other developing countries, perhaps starting in Latin America. "Haiti doesn't have a monopoly on misery or merit," he says.
Section: Notes From Academe
Volume 54, Issue 14, Page A36

Monday, November 26, 2007

Arrests made in Radio-Télé Ginen attack

An employee of Haiti's Radio-Télé Ginen, Aguillard Jean Hughens Adoplh, and two other persons were arrested for allegedly planning and perpetrating the attack with firearms against that station on November 6th.

This gives a whole new meaning to "editorial differences."

A recent account of the arrests (in French) can be read on the Radio Kiskeya website here.

Taking Rapists to Court in Haiti

Taking Rapists to Court in Haiti


(Read the original article here.)

25 November 2007

Port-au-Prince, Haiti— Two 14 year-old cousins from the simmering hot slums of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, have just been escorted by police to a health centre for HIV testing. Nathalie (names have been changed to protect the identity of the girls) was raped by two boys near the waterfront that morning.

Nathalie’s brother immediately called the police. Frightened and anxious, she explains what happened: “I went to take a bath and as I was coming out, two men raped me.”

After reporting the crime, two officers accompanied the girls to Gheskio, a privately run health centre supported by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. The centre offers free HIV testing, counselling, legal assistance and other services for victims of violence.

The other cousin, Laure was raped the week before, following a sleepover at a friend’s house. At about 10 o’clock in the morning, two young men grabbed and raped her as she came out from the public bathroom near her friend’s house. Peacekeepers brought her to Gheskio for medical examination the same day.

“The fact that the girls went to report the rapes and the fact that they were accompanied by police officers to a health clinic for testing and counselling may not seem that important, but for us it is a huge sign of progress,” says Barbara Laurenceau, the Deputy Representative for UNFPA in Haiti.

Teaming Up to Provide Post-Rape Care

UNFPA, together with several other UN bodies are supporting organizations which provide care for female victims of violence, including Gheskio, Kay Fanm (Women’s House in creole), Sofa (solidarity among Haitian women) and URAMEL, an organization that provides legal and forensic support for rape victims.

Concretely, UNFPA support has helped organize violence prevention activities for young people in schools and during sports activities, develop training materials for police officers, establish special units for female victims of violence at police stations, and a hotline for victims of violence. Perhaps most significantly, UNFPA support has enabled the establishment of the ‘National Coalition Against Gender-Based Violence’, an umbrella organization comprising several public and private institutions, both national and international, to support the implementation of the national action plan against gender-based violence.

Danger in the ‘Red Zones’

The two girls live with Nathalie’s brother in Ti Bwa, a rundown and violent slum located on a hillside in Port-au-Prince. Residents of Ti Bwa are often caught in the middle of gang fights with the neighbouring Grand Ravine and Ti Machète gangs. Because of frequent incidents of violence, these areas are designated as ‘red zones’ by MINUSTAH , the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

Raw sewage trickles down the steep hillsides where houses are built so close that passage by foot is the only possible means of transportation.

The slums are surrounded by heavily armed peacekeepers in armored vehicles, but neither they nor the vehicles of the National Haitian Police can enter the maze of narrow, winding trails that ties Ti Bwa together. Streets are unnamed, house numbering is erratic and the inhabitants move frequently. When seasonal rains strike, the trails are converted into streams, which leave behind a mix of dirty clothing and garbage as the hot morning sun dries the debris.

In this environment, crime can be a daily occurrence and impunity is widespread.

Half of survivors are minors

Statistics on rape and other sexual violence are often unavailable or unreliable due to spotty reporting and faulty mechanisms for registering these crimes. However, data from the National Coalition Against Gender-Based Violence provide alarming insights into this murky world: Almost half of rape survivors in Haiti are minors younger than 18, some are barely toddlers. The youngest rape case registered by Gheskio was a two-year-old. In 2005, three major organizations in Haiti offering assistance to rape victims took on a total of 951 cases. (Some double reporting is possible, since most victims are referred to Gheskio for medical examinations and may be registered as separate cases by several organizations.)

Dr. Marie Marcelle Deschamps, the Deputy Director of Gheskio, says there are two different categories of rape victims who come to her clinic for help: victims of gang rape, mostly adults; and adolescents, who are typically raped by somebody they know.

Gheskio alone cares for about 40 rape survivors per month, 70 per cent of them are adult women, while about 30 per cent are adolescents.

On average, gang rapes account for nearly half of all rape cases registered, though most people in the Haitian capital sense that there has been a relatively sharp decrease in organized violence in the past six months.

Working to End Impunity

Rape became a crime punishable by 10 years to life in prison in July 2005 through a decree pushed through by the then Minister of Women’s Affairs, Adeline Chancy. “Rape was considered a crime against custom, a moral crime, but not a crime against the individual,” says Chancy, “so our first task was to define rape as a physical and mental aggression against the integrity of a person.”

Dr. Marjorie Joseph, head of URAMEL, says that there are several reasons behind the violence against women in Haiti. The economy is one; about 47 percent of the population lives on less than two dollars a day. “But then there is also the cultural part of the upbringing. Women are taught to be subservient to men. We bring up roosters and hens,” said Joseph.

But even though impunity perhaps can be characterized as one of Haiti’s biggest problems in the context of violence, kidnapping and rape, some offenders do get caught.

Brutal Crimes and Punishment

‘Paul’ is one of them. He is an inmate at the national penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, serving a seven-year sentence. He fiddles continuously with a small hand-towel as he explains how he and two friends kidnapped, raped and killed a young girl. His eyes are fixated on the towel and then on the floor.

The air is thick with heat, humidity and a faint smell of sewage. Paul now regrets what he did: “The situation I am going through is no good for me. I am in the penitentiary. I have no job. I am not learning anything, I am not in school. I am not doing anything,” he says.

“These guys have no education, no future, no hope. If they see an opportunity, they go for it,” said Robinson Cadet, a United Nations-employed adviser working at the prison.

The prison is flanked by Peruvian peacekeepers in armored vehicles. With more than 2,700 inmates, it operates far above capacity, even though a space for an additional 200 inmates was recently added. According to Cadet, each inmate has on average 0.6 square meters—in practical terms, barely standing room. They have to sleep in shifts.

But rape doesn’t only happen in the slums. Therese, a 33 year-old office administrator was raped by a gynaecologist, and has since received death threats from him and his lawyers. She is now receiving legal assistance and protection through Kay Fanm. “Many women are afraid, but I will pursue this to the end. People in positions of power think they are above the law. It must come to an end,” she says.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Haiti Makes Real Progress

Monday, November 19, 2007

Haiti Makes Real Progress

Haiti's economy appears to be stabilizing after years of stagnation and decline.


FOCAL/Inter-American Dialogue

(Read the original article here.)

Haitian President René Préval says that his country no longer deserves its "failed state" stigma, and he is right. Haiti's recent progress is real and profound, but it is jeopardized by continued institutional dysfunction, including the government's inexperience in working with Parliament. There is an urgent need to create jobs, attract investment, overhaul and expand access to basic social services, and achieve tangible signs of economic recovery. Now that the United Nations has extended its peacekeeping mandate until October 2008, the international community must seek ways to expand the Haitian state's capacity to absorb development aid and improve the welfare of the population. The alternative could be dangerous backsliding.


Haiti is beginning to emerge from the chaos that engulfed it in recent years. This is a moment of relative stability that presents a window of opportunity for Haiti to move towards a more sustainable path of economic growth, political development, and poverty reduction. But this is also a period of fragility and continued vulnerability, and further advancement is by no means assured.

In February 2006, Haiti held its first elections in five years, which brought to power former President René Préval and restored elected rule for the first time since the ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide two years earlier. Over the past eighteen months, the Haitian government, working with the United Nations and other international partners – including a core group of Latin American countries, the United States and Canada – has achieved modest but discernible progress in improving security and establishing, at least minimally, a democratic governing structure. But institutions, both public and private, are woefully weak, and there has not been significant economic advancement. Unemployment remains dangerously high and a majority of the population lives in extreme poverty. Still, Haiti should be viewed today with guarded optimism. There is a real possibility for the country to build towards a better future. (...)


During his first year in office, President Préval, in his quiet and self-effacing way, has proven to be an effective leader. He has appointed competent ministers to critical posts, and reached across party lines to bridge Haiti's historic political polarization. Préval has forged alliances with moderate elements within Haiti's civil society, political parties, and business sectors, while holding onto support from the Haitian poor, and maintaining the backing of the international community. To date, Préval's instincts have generally been democratic and inclusive, and he has made tough choices, including the decision to confront the criminal gangs in Port-au-Prince. The government is still weak, however, and has limited capacity to set internal priorities and implement decisions and policies. The government has little evident experience in working with Parliament, and the Parliament itself remains poorly organized and under-resourced. It has not adequately contributed to the governing process. (...)

Haiti's economy appears to be stabilizing after years of stagnation and decline. Haiti achieved a GDP growth rate of more than 2 percent last year, even though per capita growth remained negative. This year the country's growth rate will be more than 4 percent – barely above the rate of population increase but a move in the right direction. The uptick has been driven by an increase in foreign aid and remittances, and new U.S. trade preferences passed last year may help to sustain it. Haiti's manufacturing sector is showing glimmers of revival. Haitian economic officials have established a favourable macroeconomic climate, cutting the inflation from above 40 percent to below 10 percent and stabilizing Haiti's currency. Despite these gains, Haiti's economy remains virtually stagnant on most fronts and plagued by widespread joblessness. Even with sustained domestic leadership, it will take many years of foreign assistance before Haiti can make its own economic way. (...)


Haiti's substantive problems are compounded by the fact that its reputation lags behind the real progress that has been made, and discourages investment, tourism, and support for new initiatives. International rating agencies should thoroughly review and revise their data on Haiti to ensure their judgments reflect the current reality and are not grounded in information that is now outdated. (...)

Rampant unemployment is one of the 9. top challenges facing the country today. Having increased security, the government and international community must now demonstrate tangible evidence that lives are improving by focusing on jobs, investment, and infrastructure. While some job creation programs have been implemented, clearly more effort is required to generate employment that will help Haitians to take care of their basic needs and provide the basis for greater social stability. Many of Haiti's important challenges, including sanitation, waste removal, and the development of basic infrastructure, can be achieved using Haiti's vast unskilled and semi-skilled labor pool. Innovative approaches to job creation must be a top priority.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Haiti is open for business

Commentary: Haiti is open for business - Bahamas is first to knock at the door

Published on Tuesday, November 13, 2007

By Jean H Charles

Caribbean Net News

(Read the original article here.)

The Republic of Haiti has been ostracised for the past fifty years (1957- 2007). In spite of its splendour it is not listed in the traditional brochures depicting the magic of the Caribbean. This ostracism is to the point of coming to an end. Haiti is now open for business and the Bahamas has been the first to knock at its door to transact business.

Indeed, under the peaceful governance provided by the team Preval-Alexis, Haiti has been recognised as a legitimate trading partner. The Minister of Commerce and Industry Magui Durcé, who shines with a brilliant mind and an attractive look, has chosen Mr Guy Lamothe, an energetic young expert, to lead the office of the Centre for the Facilitations of Investments. (CFI) He has put together a team of young lions with the credential style of Silicon Valley professionals to guide the potential investors.

I paid a surprise visit to the CFI office to test the welcome mat. I found a hospitable environment decorated with the touch of the Haitian artistry, inviting and attractive. I was surprised, though, to see the big sticker (gift of the USAID) on the computer of the receptionist. A nice honour roll on a golden plaque on the wall, mentioning that the funding of the office was facilitated by the USAID would have been a more elegant vista and more in tune with the décor.

Indeed, the United States under the leadership of Paul Tuebner, the USAID Haiti Director, has been a moving force towards the creation of the office. It takes three days to register a corporation in the United States. It used to take 263 days in Haiti, with the guidance of the CFI; it takes now 30 days to register a new business in Haiti.

The CFI is a public private entity funded to the scale of $250,000 per year. To reach its full zenith operation it needs a budget of US$2 million. There is still more room on the honour rolls for the other friends of Haiti to help this most important agency, the incubator of job creation for the million unemployed Haitians.

Last October, a group of businessman from the Bahamas, led by the Chamber of Commerce and the former Bahamas Ambassador Dr Eugene Newry, were hosted by the CFI office and the Haitian Government. They came to Haiti to explore the business potential of the country. Using the terms of one of the members of the delegation: “one needs to go to Haiti and see for themselves…. they would get the rude awakening of the boundless of opportunities in Haiti.”

Dr Newry commented further that Haiti is “a sleeping giant”. Like China some twenty years ago, Haiti represents for the Caribbean and for the rest of the world this huge manpower close to the largest market of the universe: the United States. A businessman with a good acumen should seek no further location to open his business: the Haitian worker is industrious, creative and not expensive. The President of the delegation, Dionisio D’Aguilar on his last day in Haiti said:

“I can say without fear of exaggeration that the opportunities are boundless with the means and the imagination to make them happen…. The private sector in Haiti is ready to do business and the government has put its full weight and influence behind, the incentives are in place and its officials motivated to expedite business proposals.”

There are certainly some drawbacks; the sound of alarm has been raised by the Deputy Prime Minister of Bahamas, Brent Symonette. He warned that Haiti has some structural deficits in infrastructure such as good roads, electricity, and telecommunication. But here again, these deficits constitute opportunities for the savvy businessman. Digicel has demonstrated that Haiti is a hot market for services. In less than two years, it has reached a market of 2 million customers. Haiti is one of the best examples that the country with its 8.5 million people at home and 1.5 million in the Diaspora, is hungry for the services that the people of the other Caribbean countries take for granted.

Haiti's main export commodity has been its agricultural products. Its mangoes, the Francis brand, are the best that this world has to offer. According to a big produce wholesaler in the United States, there are two types of mangoes in the world, there are mangoes from Haiti and there are mangoes from the rest of the world. (India, eat your heart out!). The Haitian coffee, the St Marc brand has an historical reputation; it used to be mixed with coffee from other parts of the world to give them the exotic Haitian taste. The Haitian cotton is the second best after the Egyptian brand. The Haitian orange from Grand River (Bonamy) might be the most succulent in this world. In a universe, where organic is king, the Haitian soil is fertilizer free.

The visit of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce has resulted in a signed cooperation agreement with the Haitian Chamber of Commerce, extending commercial links to tourism, fisheries, construction, financial services, agriculture, technology, souvenir manufacturing, textiles and clothing.

Bahamas is calling on the sister states of the Caribbean to follow its lead, as stated by Mr Lamothe, CFI Executive Director, “It is time to reinvent the traditional road of commerce that use to go directly from the Metropolis to the Colony, the islands of the Tropics must start to use the leverage of each other for the benefit of their people.”

My first wish for CFI is to see the Institution upgraded to the level where it becomes the Haitian Business Development Corporation. Imagine that Digicel in knocking at the door in Haiti was received with the proposal that the Haitian Government through TELECO would become a partner of the company. The people of Haiti and the Haitian government would benefit part of the immense return enjoyed by Digicel in Haiti. It is a win-win proposal, used by Jamaica, China, Malaysia and several emerging countries.

My second wish is to see that CFI becomes a broker, incubator and facilitator for the export of Haitian products (fruit and produce) towards Europe and the United States.

It is a mighty feat for a young institution. Mr Guy Lamothe has already proven that he is up to the task. Indeed Haiti is open for business. The first investors will get the best deal.

Peacekeepers must remain in Haiti

Peacekeepers must remain in Haiti

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

(Read the original article here.)

November 15, 2007

ISSUE: U.N. peacekeepers to stay in Haiti.

United Nations peacekeepers will stay in Haiti for several more years, according to the man overseeing that mission. Hedi Annabi, the U.N. envoy recently assigned to Haiti, offered that blunt assessment less than a week into the job.

The comment reflects no disrespect to the island nation, or to Haitians here in South Florida. The country's security situation is fragile at best, and the last thing Haiti or its Caribbean neighbors need is for Haiti to fall into more social and political turmoil.

Unfortunately, turmoil has been a part of life in Haiti's capital ever since a revolt in 2004 prompted the departure of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The uprising prompted the U.N. to send in a peacekeeping force, which today numbers over 7,800 currently stationed on the island.

The force has stemmed some of the violence in Port-Au-Prince's slums. More recently, the peacekeepers helped set up and man shelters for displaced Haitians after Tropical Storm Noel ravaged the island.

The troops are needed if Haiti ever hopes to provide the one thing businesses, foreign governments and international aid agencies want most — stability. For example, Congress passed and President Bush signed legislation designed to increase Haiti's textile trade with the U.S. In exchange, the Haitian government will take steps to develop policies to reduce poverty and hunger, establish a strong rule of law and develop a market-based economy.

The measure is a badly needed shot in the arm for Haiti's textile industry. Congress is considering further legislation that will increase the impact of the original HOPE act. Still, the bill, along with other initiatives that would help boost economic development in Haiti, will need time, and that's where the peacekeepers come in.

Annabi has a tough task. Haiti's long-standing poverty and other challenges to the government of René Préval remain major impediments to the island nation's hope of a rebirth. Fortunately, the U.N. envoy is making some progress, and his honest assessment of Haiti's challenges can only be described as a plus.

BOTTOM LINE: U.N. peacekeepers must remain to allow other efforts to help Haiti take hold.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Democracy returns, but media continues to be under threat in Haiti

I have a fairly extensive response to some of the tumult in Haiti surrounding Radio-Tele Ginen and Reuters correspondent Joseph Guyler “Guy” Delva on my regular blog, which can be read here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Declaration of the Haitian "Block the EPA" coalition

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

Declaration of the Haitian coalition, ‘Block the EPA’

Port-au-Prince, 17 October 2007.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. The reality of the EPAs

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

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

2. The consequences of the EPAs for the poor

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

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

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

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

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

3. Ten reasons why we must reject the EPAs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the mobilization continues...

Members of ‘Block the EPA’ coalition:

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Haiti’s constitution: Préval’s white elephant?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mica de Verteuil: A sign of Hope for Haiti

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

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

Inter Press Service led astray in Haiti?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Haiti's Preval Seeks to Amend Term Limit

Haiti's Preval Seeks to Amend Term Limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Memorandum pour Brignol Linsdor


4 octobre 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pour la CCAJ,

Jean-Claude Bajeux, coordonateur

Thursday, September 27, 2007

René Préval at the United Nations

I speak on behalf of a country which analysts often hastily describe as a failed state. Haiti is in the process of saying goodbye to that state - slowly, patiently, but with determination.

-Haitian President René Préval at the United Nations

Listen to part of Préval's speech here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On the 50th anniversary of the "election" of François Duvalier as Haiti's president

Lettre de Jacques Stephen Alexis à François Duvalier

Pétion Ville, le 2 juin 1960

À son Excellence

Monsieur le Docteur François Duvalier

Président de la République

Palais National

Monsieur le Président,

Dans quelque pays civilisé qu’il me plairait de vivre, je crois pouvoir dire que je serais accueilli à bras ouverts : ce n’est un secret pour personne. Mais mes morts dorment dans cette terre ; ce sol est rouge du sang de générations d’hommes qui portent mon nom ; je descends par deux fois, en lignée directe, de l’homme qui fonda cette patrie, aussi j’ai décidé de vivre ici et peut-être d’y mourir. Sur ma promotion de vingt-deux médecins, dix-neuf vivent en terre étrangère. Moi, je reste, en dépit des offres qui m’ont été et me sont faites. Dans bien des pays bien plus agréables que celui-ci, dans bien des pays où je serais plus estimé et honoré que je ne le suis en Haïti, il me serait fait un pont d’or, si je consentais à y résider. Je reste néanmoins.

Ce n’est certainement pas par vaine forfanterie que je commence ma lettre ainsi, Monsieur le Président, mais je tiens à savoir si je suis ou non indésirable dans mon pays. Je n’ai jamais, Dieu merci, prêté attention aux petits inconvénients de la vie en Haïti, certaines filatures trop ostensibles, maintes tracasseries, si ce n’est les dérisoires avanies qui sont le fait des nouveaux messieurs de tous les pays sous-développés. Il est néanmoins naturel que je veuille être fixé sur l’essentiel.

Bref, Monsieur le Président, je viens au fait. Le 31 mai, soit avant-hier soir, au vu et au su de tout le monde, je déménageais de mon domicile de la ruelle Rivière, à Bourdon, pour aller m’installer à Pétion Ville. Quelle ne fut pas ma stupéfaction d’apprendre que le lendemain de mon départ, soit hier soir, mon ex-domicile avait été cerné par des policiers qui me réclamaient, à l’émoi du quartier. Je ne sache pas avoir des démêlés avec votre Police et de toutes façons, j’en ai tranquillement attendu les mandataires à mon nouveau domicile. Je les attends encore après avoir d’ailleurs vaqué en ville à mes occupations ordinaires, toute la matinée de ce jourd’hui 2 juin.

Si les faits se révélaient exacts, je suis assez au courant des classiques méthodes policières pour savoir que cela s’appelle une manœuvre d’intimidation. En effet, j’habite à Pétion Ville, à proximité du domicile de Monsieur le Préfet Chauvet. On sait donc vraisemblablement où me trouver, si besoin réel en était. Aussi si cette manœuvre d’intimidation, j’ai coutume d’appeler un chat un chat, n’était que le fait de la Police subalterne, il n’est pas inutile que vous soyez informé de certains de ces procédés. Il est enseigné à l’Université Svorolovak dans les cours de technique anti-policière, que quand les Polices des pays bourgeois sont surchargées ou inquiètes, elles frappent au hasard, alors qu’en période ordinaire, elles choisissent les objectifs de leurs coups. Peut-être dans cette affaire ce principe classique s’applique-t-il, mais Police inquiète ou non, débordée ou non, je dois chercher à comprendre l’objectif réel de cette manœuvre d’intimidation.

Je me suis d’abord demandé si l’on ne visait pas à me faire quitter le pays en créant autour de moi une atmosphère d’insécurité. Je ne me suis pas arrêté à cette interprétation, car peut-être sait-on que je ne suis pas jusqu’ici accessible à ce sentiment qui s’appelle la peur, ayant sans sourciller plusieurs fois regardé la mort en face. Je n’ai pas non plus retenu l’hypothèse que le mobile de la manœuvre policière en question est de me porter à me mettre à couvert. J’ai en effet également appris dans quelles conditions prendre le maquis est une entreprise rentable pour celui qui le décide ou pour ceux qui le portent à le faire. Il ne restait plus à retenir comme explication que l’intimidation projetée visant à m’amener moi-même à restreindre ma liberté de mouvement. Dans ce cas encore, ce serait mal me connaître.

Tout le monde sait que pour qu’une plante produise à plein rendement, il lui faut les sèves de son terroir natif. Un romancier qui respecte son art ne peut être un homme de nulle part, une véritable création ne peut non plus se concevoir en cabinet, mais en plongeant dans les tréfonds de la vie de son peuple. L’écrivain authentique ne peut se passer du contact journalier des gens aux mains dures – les seuls qui valent d’ailleurs la peine qu’on se donne – c’est de cet univers que procède le grand œuvre, univers sordide peut-être mais tant lumineux et tellement humain que lui seul permet de transcender les humanités ordinaires. Cette connaissance intime des pulasations de la vie quotidienne de notre peuple ne peut s’acquérir sans la plongée directe dans les couches profondes des masses. C’est là la leçon première de la vie et de l’œuvre de Frédéric Marcelin, de Hibbert, de Lhérisson ou de Roumain. Chez eux, les gens simples avaient accès à toute heure comme des amis, de même que ces vrais mainteneurs de l’haïtianité étaient chez eux dans les moindres locatis des quartiers de la plèbe. Mes nombreux amis de par le vaste monde ont beau s’inquiéter des conditions de travail qui me sont faites en Haïti, je ne peux renoncer à ce terroir.

Egalement, en tant que médecin de la douleur, je ne peux pas renoncer à la clientèle populaire, celle des faubourgs et des campagnes, la seule payante au fait, dans ce pays qu’abandonnent presque tous nos bons spécialistes. Enfin, en tant qu’homme et en tant que citoyen, il m’est indispensable de sentir la marche inexorable de la terrible maladie, cette mort lente, qui chaque jour conduit notre peuple au cimetière des nations comme les pachydermes blessés à la nécropole des éléphants. Je connais mon devoir envers la jeunesse de mon pays et envers notre peuple travailleur. Là non plus, je n’abdiquerai pas. Goering disait une fois quand on cite devant lui le mot culture, il tire son révolver ; nous savons où cela a conduit l’Allemagne et l’exode mémorable de la masse des hommes de culture du pays des Niebelungen. Mais nous sommes dans la deuxième moitié du XXème siècle qui sera quoiqu’on fasse le siècle du peuple roi. Je ne peux m’empêcher de rappeler cette parole fameuse du grand patriote qui s’appelle le Sultan Sidi Mohamer Ben Youssef, parole qui illumine les combats libérateurs de ce siècle des nationalités malheureuses. " Nous sommes les enfants de l’avenir !", disait-il de retour de son exil en relevant son pitoyable ennemi, le Pacha de Marrakech effondré à ses pieds. Je crois avoir prouvé que je suis un enfant de l’avenir.

La limitation de mes mouvements, de mes travaux, de mes occupations, de mes démarches ou de mes relations en ville ou à la campagne n’est pas pour moi une perspective acceptable. Je tenais à le dire. C’est ce qui vaut encore cette lettre. J’en ai pris mon parti, car la Police, si elle veut, peut très bien se rendre compte que la politique des candidats ne m’intéresse pas. La désolente et pitoyable vie politicienne qui maintient ce pays dans l’arriération et le conduit à la faillite depuis cent cinquante ans, n’est pas mon fait. J’en ai le plus profond dégoût, ainsi que je l’écrivais, il y a déjà près de trois ans.

D’aventure, si, comme en décembre dernier, la douane refuse de me livrer un colis – un appareil de projection d’art que m’envoyait l’Union des Ecrivais Chinois et qu’un des nouveaux messieurs a probablement accaparé pour son usage personnel -, j’en sourirai. Si je remarque le visage trop reconnaissable d’un ange gardien veillant à ma porte, j’en sourirai encore. Si un de ces nouveaux messieurs heurte ma voiture et que je doive l’en remercier, j’en sourirai derechef. Toutefois, Monsieur le Président, que je tiens à savoir si oui ou non on me refuse le droit de vivre dans mon pays, comme je l’entends. Je suis sûr qu’après cette lettre, j’aurai le moyen de m’en faire une idée. Dans ce cas, je prendrai beaucoup mieux les décisions qui s’imposent à moi à la fois en tant que créateur, que médecin, qu’homme et que citoyen.

Veuillez agréer, Monsieur le Président, l’expression de mes salutations patriotiques et de mes sentiments distingués.

Jacques Stephen Alexis