Sunday, August 30, 2009

Officials: 2 Haitian parents released from custody

Officials: 2 Haitian parents released from custody

Fri Aug 28, 2009

Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Officials say they have released two Haitian parents whose baby girl drowned when a boat carrying migrants capsized off South Florida's coast.

Dan Torchia of the U.S. Marshals Service says Chandeline Leonard and Lucsene Augustin have been released from custody.

They are two of 16 people who survived when the boat overturned. At least nine died, including their 8-month-old child, Luana.

Linda Osberg, the parents' attorney, said they are now arranging for the baby's funeral.

Osberg added that both of her clients now face the deportation process. But she said she "will strive for them to be able to stay here."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A response to Kim Ives

It is good that Haiti Liberté editor Kim Ives has not forgotten me since our spirited debate at Sander Hicks’ excellent Vox Pop bookstore in Brooklyn a few years back.

Ives, who used to edit the Brooklyn-based Haiti Progrès before departing amid
charges of financial irregularities and nepotism, appears not to have liked the criticism that I recently leveled at Jeb Sprague and Wadner Pierre. When the latter two wrote a recent article for the Inter Press Service seeking to deny the slaughter that the people of St. Marc had been subjected to at the hands of forces loyal to the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, they apparently did so without having ever bothered to interview a single survivor or relative of a victim of the violence, a practice that struck me as rather curious. Incidentally, some good reporting from St. Marc at the time was written by Marika Lynch for the Miami Herald and can be read here.

When the story also consisted of points and passages regurgitated nearly wholly from the writings and positions of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), bodies linked at the hip with grotesquely (given Haiti’s poverty) overpaid advocates for the Aristide government, and an organization that Wadner Pierre is identified in various places as having worked for, it only seemed natural to point that out, as it would were a journalist working for USAID, for example, to simultaneously spit out State Department talking points in print. Though I know Kim Ives has never allowed the facts to get in the way of his own attempts at journalism, for me, at least, individuals advocating their full-throated support for any political current then attempting to pass themselves off as objective journalists, investigating and allowing the facts to fall where they may, is problematic. When his connections with the IJDH/BAI were exposed, Wadner Pierre would later whine that he was being "censored."

Likewise, the unsolicited email photo of blood-spattered corpses sent to me by Jeb Sprague, an individual with a long history of harassing people and making up wild, outlandish claims that are then proven false (such as his attacks against the UK-based Haiti Support Group) did strike me as an attempt to intimidate me into silence, one which didn’t work. The full text of Sprague’s email to me can be read as part of a broader
discussion of press coverage of Haiti on my blog.

The attacks that Kim Ives repeats against me from academics like Peter Hallward and Justin Podur, andCenter for Economic and Policy Research co-director Mark Weisbrot, men ignorant of Haiti and its people and with only the most glancing knowledge of even the recent political history that they seek to fit into their unsophisticated binary worldview, were mostly responded to at the time, here, here and here. Likewise were the statements of Patrick Elie, a convicted perjurer with a long history of violent, erratic behaviour who somehow recently begged his way onto a presidential security commission, referred to by Ives as quoted by Justin Podur, a man one is to believe is so clueless about Haiti that while libeling me he confuses the Eglise Saint Pierre in Petionville with the National Cathedral, several miles away.

As to Amnesty International’s recent declaration regarding Ronald Dauphin, in my experience reporting from conflict areas around the globe, local groups such as RNDDH are almost always more reliable in their estimations and characterizations of violence than Amnesty International, which, unlike Human Rights Watch, does precious little on-the-ground research from conflict zones these days and instead is essentially run by bureaucrats filtering through press accounts and the emails they are flooded with by various advocacy groups.

Amnesty International has done almost no original research in Haiti since 2004. RNDDH, on the other hand, with its extensive research network in Haiti and defense of those regardless of political affiliation, seems to me to fit well into the proud tradition of such groups as the Centro para Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos in Guatemala, the Mouvement Ivoirien des Droits Humains in Cote d’Ivoire and the Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Whenever one goes and actually interviews the victims of human rights violations, as I did in
St. Marc this summer, in Port-au-Prince in 2006, in the Democratic Republic of Congo or in Indian-controlled Kashmir, there will always be those who, speaking for one political current or another with their hands soaked in blood, will seek to cast doubt on the validity or the worth of that suffering. But if verbal and written attacks are the price one must pay to draw attention to the suffering of people like Amazil Jean-Baptiste and the other survivors of political violence worldwide, it is a tax so relatively minor as to hardly merit mention.

Happy Ramadan from the banlieues,


Ben Dupuy's 2006 note about Kim Ives

Cc: ;

Subject: Letter to members of the International
Tribunal on Haiti.

Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2006 03:56:34 -0400


Dear members of the International Tribunal on Haiti,

Kim Ives the assistant prosecutor has called for a conference call for tomorrow the 20th of July at 11 AM. Kim Ives was appointed by me, the presiding judge, to moderate our conference calls. But, it has become clear that he has abused his role as adminitrator/moderator of the Tribunal list and the conference calls by inviting to participate whoever pleases him. The people concerned and authorized to organize and give directives for the different sessions of the Tribunal and therefore to participate in the conference calls are: the presiding judge,his two assistant judges, the chief prosecutor and her assistant, the investigating judge, and no one else. Any outside guest invited to participate in such conference calls should have the approbation of the presiding judge. On the other hand, all the records of the Tribunal are supposed to be deposited in the custody of the court, i.e.the three judges. So far, Kim Ives has retained all the audio-visual materials presented during the four sessions of the tribunal, apart from some overall sessions in Washington and Boston which the court has. It is becoming clear that Kim Ives thinks that he can manipulate the Tribunal for his personal ends.

By posing as the centuries-old "white do-gooder" and "benefactor" of poor underdeveloped Haitians, he hardly disguises his arrogance, hoping to relegate three Haitian presiding judges to mere figureheads (in the mode of Boniface and Latortue ). It is one thing to promote some interested, career-minded lobbyists and their own "expertise" on Haiti; it's another thing to use the victims of Empire for one's own unspoken ends. This Tribunal was originally conceived to bring its case to the International Criminal Court at the Hague, not to be a springboard to enhance one's notoriety or portfolio. As documented in the enclosed financial report, the three presiding judges and the chief prosecutor, Desiree Wayne, are the only ones who have not been reimbursed for their expenditures ( plane tickets, hotels, etc. ).

For a clear understanding on the part of the members of the Tribunal, it is necessary to know that financial contributions to the Tribunal have been solicited through Haiti Support Network (HSN), (see exhibit #1). HSN bank account was established about 10 years ago.The sole treasurer with signature on this account has been Kim Ives' wife, Elisa Chavez. Her interest in the work of HSN soon evaporated and all efforts during these years to have her relinquish her signature rights to Berthony Dupont, a member of HSN and presently the accountant and administrator of Haiti-Progres, have been in vain. Thus, contributions and expenditures for the Tribunal have been handled (de facto ) by Berthony Dupont ( see exhibit #2 ).Even though Berthony did not have signature rights on the account, he managed to deposit contributions and draw checks to pay expenses. (see exhibit #3) But after the 4th session of the Tribunal in Montreal, left unpaid were :1) Miami University Security : $ 240.00 and : 2) Dave Welsh expenses $ 733.74. But before Berthony had a chance to mail the two checks for paying those expenses, he was informed by Kim Ives that his wife, Elisa Chavez, had unilaterally withdrawn all the balance in HSN account ($2000.00). Curiously, the next day, Kim Ives, personally delivered to Berthony $2000.00 cash from an "anonymous" donor. This sum was not deposited in HSN account, including an other check made to the order of HSN. (see exhibit # 4) due to this ursurpation of HSN account.

In my capacity as presiding judge of the International Tribunal on Haiti, I will moderate the next conference call set up by Kim Ives for tomorrow, the 20th of July.Last week conference call was postponed unilaterally by Kim Ives, under the pretext of "conflicts of schedule." He was to have reported on the status of the audio-visual records of the court that he is still holding, and to have presented a financial report on the Tribunal's four sessions

The proposed agenda for tomorrow is :

1) : Financial report Prepared by Berthony Dupont for
the Tribunal.

2) : Review of the status of the audio-visual records
of the Tribunal.

3) : Review of a so-called request for a Tribunal
session in Haiti.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A note on Jeb Sprague and Wadner Pierre's reporting of the Ronald Dauphin case in Haiti

In an era during which, in my own country, right-wing groups such as FreedomWorks are advising opponents of healthcare reform on how best to disrupt public discussion of America’s appalling healthcare system, it is useful to cast a skeptical eye towards conflicts of interest among those reporting the news. Talking points created by political operatives are then parroted by a compliant media, reiterated by politically-sponsored, ostensibly “grassroots,” groups are then re-reported by sympathetic media outlets as news. It is an old and often surprisingly transparent trick.

Aside from the cable network rantings of Fox News and CNN’s immigrant-hating Lou Dobbs, it is hard for me to think of a more obvious example of the phenomenon of echo chamber news than a recent article on Haiti titled “Calls Mount to Free Lavalas Activist” written for the Inter Press Service by Wadner Pierre and Jeb Sprague.

The article concerns Ronald Dauphin, a former customs worker in the central Haitian city of St. Marc and partisan of the Fanmi Lavalas political party of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,

Though Pierre and Sprague’s article describes Dauphin as “a Haitian political prisoner,” according to a St. Marc-based group, the Association des Victimes du Génocide de la Scierie (AVIGES), and a Haitian human rights group, the Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), Dauphin was also an enthusiastic participant in a massacre of Aristide opponents and civilians that took place in the town in February 2004.

During that time, Dauphin, who was known in St. Marc as Black Ronald, was affiliated with a pro-Aristide paramilitary group, Bale Wouze ("Clean Sweep"). According to local residents, Bale Wouze, working in tandem with the Police Nationale de Haiti (PNH) and the Unité de Sécurité de la Garde du Palais National (USGPN), a unit directly responsible for the president's personal security, swept through the neighborhood of La Scierie, killing political activists affiliated with an armed anti-government group, the Rassemblement des militants conséquents de Saint-Marc (Ramicos), as well as civilians, committing instances of gang rape, and looting and burning property.

When I visited St. Marc in February 2004, shortly after Bale Wouze's raid into La Scierie, I interviewed USGPN personnel and Bale Wouze members who were patrolling the city as a single armed unit in tandem the PNH. A local priest told me matter-of-factly at the time of Bale Wouze that, "These people don't make arrests, they kill." According to a member of a Human Rights Watch delegation that visited St. Marc a month after the killings, at least 27 people were murdered in St. Marc between Feb. 11 and Aristide's flight into exile on February 29.

On a return visit to St. Marc in June of this year, researching for my article "We Have Never Had Justice," I spoke with individuals such as 49-year old Amazil Jean-Baptiste, whose son, Kenol St. Gilles, was murdered, and 44 year-old Marc Ariel Narcisse, whose cousin, Bob Narcisse, was killed. It is difficult to spend a morning chatting with the people of La Scierie without concluding that something very awful happened to them in 2004, a trauma from which they have yet to recover and for which they still seek justice.

Following the massacre in St. Marc, Dauphin was arrested in 2004. He subsequently escaped from jail, was re-arrested during the course of an anti-kidnapping raid in July 2006, and, like 81 percent those in Haiti’s prisons, been held without trial ever since.

In their recent article, Pierre and Sprague take particular aim at Haiti’s RNDDH human rights group, deferring instead to the U.S-based Institute for Justice and Democracy (IJDH), a group that has been particularly vociferous in its denunciations of possible governmental culpability for the St. Marc killings, and which described Ronald Dauphin in a June 2009 press release as “a Haitian grassroots activist, customs worker and political prisoner,” language curiously mimicked in the Sprague/Pierre article, and which makes no mention of the testimonies of the people of St. Marc.

Though they are never mentioned in the article, the deep and ongoing links between Mr. Aristide, Fanmi Lavalas, IJDH, Wadner Pierre and Jeb Sprague - links of which the Inter Press Service is aware but has chosen to ignore - have effectively blurred the line between political advocacy, human rights work and journalism.

One needs only to look at the chairman of IJDH’s Board of Directors, Miami attorney Ira Kurzban - also one of the group’s founders - to realize the deeply compromised nature of the organization's work. According to U.S. Department of Justice filings, between 2001 and 2004 Mr. Kurzban’s law firm received $4,648,964 from the Aristide government on behalf of its lobbying efforts, gobbling up from Haiti’s near-bankrupt state more than 2,000 times the average yearly income of the more than 7 million people there who survive on less that $2 per day. Since Mr. Aristide’s subsequent exile, Mr. Kurzban has frequently identified himself as the former president’s personal attorney in the United States. In vintage FreedomWorks fashion, Mr. Kuzban also had to be calmed by security personnel when he hysterically and repeatedly interrupted a reading that I was giving at the 2005 Miami Book Fair.

In IJDH’s 2005 annual report, Mr. Kurzban’s firm is listed in the category reserved for those having contributed more than $5000 to the organization, while in the group’s 2006 report, the firm is listed under “Donations of Time and Talent.”. The American Immigration Lawyers Association, South Florida Chapter, for which Mr. Kurzban served as past national president and former general council, is listed in a section reserved for those having donated $10,000 or more

Though Wadner Pierre and Jeb Sprague’s elevation of IJDH to an undeserved legitimacy and slander of RNDDH (a group which, despite its advocacy on behalf of the St. Marc victims, has also defended the rights and advocated on behalf of members of the Fanmi Lavalas party) are distasteful, they don’t quite rise to the level of intentional duplicity that another bit of information suggests.

In a stark conflict of interest, Wadner Pierre was once employed by a Haitian legal organization, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, which, according to the IJDH’s own website, received “most of its support from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.” Pierre has also previously contributed text and photographs to the IJDH website lauding the April 2007 release of Amanus Mayette, another suspect of the St. Marc massacre.

Put simply, when writing about the IJDH, Wadner Pierre is quoting his former employer without acknowledging it as such, a sleight of hand that opponents of health reform in my own country, for example, would recognize immediately.

For his part, Jeb Sprague, the article’s other author, first made himself known to me in November 2005, when he emailed me, unsolicited, a graphic picture of the bullet-riddled, blood-soaked bodies of a Haitian mother and her children along with a smiley-face emoticon and a semi-coherent tirade against the the World Bank and the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington, DC think tank.

Intimations of violence against my person aside, such a display struck me as less than a class act in giving those sacrificed on the altar of Haiti's fratricidal political violence the respect they deserve. Since then, Sprague has graduated to obsessively slandering progressive elements deemed insufficiently loyal to Haiti’s disgraced former president, such as the U.K.-based Haiti Support Group, and now works as a teaching assistant at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Sociology Department, focusing on crime and delinquency, subjects with which his past behavior no doubt gives him a close familiarity.

Taken in total, it is unfortunate that the Inter Press Service, an organization that promotes itself as “civil society's leading news agency,” would allow itself to be used as a front for such propaganda, and throw its weight behind the paid political hacks and human rights abusers who have for too long dominated politics in Haiti. As a fairly legitimate news source, as opposed to, say, the red-faced shouting of Fox News, the Inter Press Service owes its readers, and the people of Haiti, better.

Les jeunes de Martissant projettent leur vision du quartier

Les jeunes de Martissant projettent leur vision du quartier

lundi 17 août 2009

(Read the original article here)

P-au-P, 17 août 09 [AlterPresse] --- Ce lundi 17 août à 18 heures, sept court-métrages réalisés par 20 jeunes de Martissant seront projetés à la résidence de Catherine Dunham, au Parc de Martissant, a pris connaissance Alterpresse.

Cette projection sera l’occasion de découvrir le travail collectif que ces jeunes résidents du quartier ont réalisés durant quatre semaines dans le cadre d’un atelier intitulé « Mon regard sur Martissant », dirigé par le cinéaste Richard Sénécal [Cousines, I love you Anne ] et soutenu par la Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (Fokal).

Les sept petits films réalisés sont des documentaires qui traitent notamment de l’environnement du quartier et de ses constructions anarchiques, de la grossesse précoce, du chômage des jeunes, autant de réalités sur lesquelles les jeunes ont choisi de partager leur point de vue par le biais de l’image.

« J’espère que les gens apprécieront notre film », se réjouit Linda Felix, une jeune femme de 20 ans qui a réalisé un film sur les jeunes qui collectent des objets métalliques dans le quartier pour les revendre.

Richard Sénécal s’est dit agréablement surpris du résultat de l’atelier, qui augure selon lui d’une carrière dans les métiers de l’audiovisuel pour certains jeunes.

Ces réalisateurs en herbe avaient été sélectionnés avec le concours des associations du quartier.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Advocates: Release 2 Haitians To Bury Daughter

Aug 11, 2009 3:03 pm US/Eastern

Advocates: Release 2 Haitians To Bury Daughter

CBS 4 - Miami

(Read the original article here)

MIAMI (CBS4) ―Marleine Bastien, head of the nonprofit Haitian Women of Miami, and other Haitian community leaders made a plea to President Barack Obama and Homeland Security officials on Tuesday to release a Haitian couple who have been detained for nearly three months.

Chandeline Leonard and Lucsene Augustine have been detained since May 14 when their boat capsized and sank off Boynton Beach. They were among 16 survivors. Their 8-month-old daughter, Luana Augustin, drowned. The baby's body was among nine recovered.

Her body remains at a Palm Beach County morgue. Haitian community leaders in Miami are asking the federal government for the release of the girl's parents from federal custody so they can bury their child.

"Think about it, that child who's in a morgue and those parents who are behind bars and only by the strike of a pen we can address that situation. So today, we're asking for compassion," said state representative Ronald Brise.

"These parents are in need of immediate intervention in order to deal with the trauma of losing their baby girl," exclaimed Marleine Bastien. "Thus, as a matter of human decency, they should have been released in order to bury their little baby girl, to deal with their immigration cases, and in order to be with their family and friends who are prepared to support them as they begin the necessary healing process," said Bastien.

The bodies of three other victims remain unidentified. As many as 35 people were on the boat. Two people, Jean Monique Nelson and Jimmy Metellus, have been charged with alien smuggling resulting in death.