Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Legacy of Haitian Feminist Paulette Poujol-Oriol

The Legacy of Haitian Feminist Paulette Poujol-Oriol

By Gina Ulysse

(Read the original article here)

Paulette Poujol-Oriol, who died March 11 at age 84, left her birth country, Haiti, a legacy that is immeasurable. She was one of Haiti’s most ardent feminist leaders, as well as an unmatched cultural producer and worker.

She was born in Port-au-Prince on May 12, 1926 to Joseph Poujol, founder of the Commercial Institute, and Augusta Auxila, a homemaker. The family migrated to France when she was eight months old. Poujol-Oriol spent six formative years in Paris, where her parents were engaged in the worlds of commerce, education and theater. She credited this time in Paris as instrumental to her development as a renaissance woman.

Poujol-Oriol began her school studies at the École Normale Supérieure in Port-au-Prince, then went on to Jamaica where she attended the London Institute of Commerce and Business Administration. She started to teach at her father’s institute at the age of 16. With additional studies in education, she dedicated herself to teaching, but never stopped her own learning. In addition to being fluent in French, Kreyol and Spanish, she eventually learned and mastered English, Italian and German.

But aside from teaching, Poujol-Oriol was writing. She published her first novel, Le Creuset (The Crucible) in 1980, winning the Prix Henri Deschamps–just the second woman to have ever received that prestigious Haitian literary award. Another work, La Fleur Rouge (The Red Flower) was awarded Radio France Internationale’s Best Novel award in 1988. Her novel Le Passage (Vale of Tears) was translated into English with a forward by well-known Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat.

And aside from teaching and writing, Poujol-Orio was an actress and playwright, as well as the director and founder of Haiti’s Piccolo Teatro, which introduced children to the theatre arts. Over the course of her life as a prolific writer, relentless artist and activist, she became one of Haiti’s most highly acclaimed women, a recipient of acknowledgements and awards too numerous to name.

As a staunch feminist activist, she battled for Haitian women’s causes and visibility in her writing as well as in practice. At a very young age, she defied gendered and classed restrictions, possessing a hunger for knowledge–encouraged by her parents–that surpassed social expectations of young women of her class. These made her a recognizable intellectual force. In an interview on Thomas Spear’s Ile en ile, Poujol-Oriol recalls being steered towards gentler literature by booksellers astonished by her ferocious passion for French classics. The sense that less is expected of women and that they should be invisible motivated many of her undertakings.

In many ways, Poujol-Oriol was both a product of her privileged socio-economic background as well as a challenge to its strictures. Highly visible and engaged in the world, she insisted on keeping her name when she married, bore two children, divorced and remarried–at a time when such practices (keeping your own name, divorcing, remarrying) were frowned upon in Haiti. All the while, she continued to pursue her art and social interests.

In 1950, she became a member of the Ligue Féminine d’Action Sociale (Women’s League for Social Action)- the organization founded in 1934 to advance women’s rights in Haiti. She served as president of the League from 1997 until her death. She was also a founding member of several women’s associations, including L’Alliance des Femmes Haitiennes (Alliance of Haitian Women), an umbrella organization that coordinates more than fifty women’s groups.

Baruch College professor and Haitian sociologist Carolle Charles met Poujol-Oriol in 2005 at the Caribbean and Latin American conference on women and citizenship. She remembers her “as a feminist organizer [who] also knew about the fragility of Haitian institutions, thus her strong support to newer feminist organizations.” That gathering was organized by Haiti’s only feminist research center, Enfofanm, directed by Myriam Merlet–one of the four well-known feminists who perished in the 2010 earthquake. At the conference, Poujol-Oriol, a member of the board of directors of Enfofanm, received a life achievement award for her contribution to the Haitian women’s movement. Her “level of commitment to the women movement,” says Charles, “was uncompromising.”

In Haiti these days, with the contested elections run-off and the return of exiled former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Paulette Poujol-Oriol’s passing has received less attention than it truly deserves. She was a much beloved intellectual mother to hundreds of students, who called her mommy. She is survived by her actual son, physician Georges Michel, who resides in Haiti, and her daughter, Claudine Michel a professor of education and black studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. In Haiti’s Le Nouvelliste, her son is quoted saying, “She had lots of projects (plays, novels) [in the works]. Even at her age, she continued to write.”

Poujol-Oriol inspired generations of Haitian writers, artists and feminist activists. Speaking of her loss, Charles paraphrases the popular Haitian saying, “she came from a small country, but a great nation.” Then she added what other obituaries consistently insist: “She stood against injustice and inequality. She was a “poto mitan”–a formidable central pillar.

The Joint OAS – CARICOM Mission continues its activities in Haiti

The Joint OAS – CARICOM Mission continues its activities in Haiti

March 29, 2011

(Read the original article here)

The Joint OAS-CARICOM Electoral Observation Mission (JEOM) will maintain its presence in the 11 electoral departments of Haiti until the proclamation of the final results on April 16, 2011, despite the departure of more than 160 observers.

The JEOM observers are present in the Vote Tabulation Centre (CTV) round-the-clock since this phase began on March 21, 2011. The observers are monitoring the new procedures put in place for the processing of the result sheets (“procès-verbaux”) and the application of criteria for verification to ensure the integrity and transparency of the tabulation process. The JEOM notes the strengthening of the capacity of the Legal Control Unit (UCL), which has now 16 lawyers whose task is to determine the validity of the result sheets brought to their attention. The Mission has noted that compared to the first round, a greater amount of result sheets were sent to the UCL. The Joint Mission reminds all actors involved in this process and the Haitian citizens that it is essential that a rigorous and consistent verification be done in strict compliance with the criteria established and published by the CEP. This will lead to the publication of reliable preliminary results.

The Mission is concerned about the statements made by presidential and legislative candidates campaign teams and allies on the voting trends of the March 20 election. Premature announcements of victory are harmful to public order and the smooth unfolding of the electoral process by creating expectations among their supporters that might not be founded.

The JEOM reminds all presidential and legislative candidates, and their campaign teams and allies, that any information available on the election outcome is partial and that the vote tabulation currently underway should lead to the publication of preliminary results on March 31. The Mission understands the candidates’ eagerness to know the results. However, it wishes to point out to the two presidential candidates in particular that one of them will be elected President of the Republic and, as such, will be responsible for the proper functioning of institutions and the maintenance of public order. They should therefore demonstrate as of now the sense of responsibility they will have to display when taking the helm of the affairs of the Republic by appealing to their teams and supporters to await the publication of the preliminary results to avoid creating false expectations and to respect the verdict of the ballot box.

The Mission also deplores the acts of intimidation that have taken place since the elections and that are the result of tensions between the legislative candidates in some localities. The Mission calls on all political leaders, political groups and their supporters to contribute to the maintenance of a calm and peaceful atmosphere as they await the publication of the preliminary results of the presidential and legislative elections.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.

Reference: E-589/11

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Response to Tom Luce (second part)

(Note: Two initial responses to some of Tom Luce's rather deceptive contentions about Haiti on the can be read here and here. MD)

To many of us who have spent a bit of time in the country, one of the major flaws that is often to be found in the writing about Haiti done by foreigners over the years is that it all-too-often it presents Haiti in stark black and white terms in a seeming eternal search for victims and perpetrators. This approach, to me, seems woefully insufficient, and not reflective at all of the country's complex political history, where today's oppressed can (and has often been) tomorrow's oppressor.

In one of his notes, Tom Luce wrote that “there was no "popular uprising" of the people against Aristide. It was only a small band led by criminals armed from CIA depots in the DR. “ Luce then goes on to laud Haiti supposedly “lawful” 2000 elections.

This is a handy example of what I am talking about.

Haiti's 2000 elections

In the run-up to the May 200 and November 2000 ballots, Haiti experienced the following (just off the top of my head):

1. The March 2000 murder by a mob of, Legitime Athis, the Petite Goave campaign coordinator for the Mouvement Partiotique pour le Sauvetage National party of Hubert Deronceray, along with his wife.

2. The disruption of the 8 April 2000 funeral (with Mr. Aristide in attendance) of murdered Radio Haiti Inter director Jean Dominique (the investigation into whose killing Mr. Aristide undermined at every turn), by a crowd of young men began shouting “Viv Aristide,” charging out of the stadium and burning down the headquarters of Evans Paul’s Komite inite Demokratik political party. That same day Radio Vision 2000 was pelted with rocks and bottles by a crowd shouting pro-Aristide slogans and calling for the murder of journalists there, and a stone-throwing mob surrounded the house of mayoral candidate Micha Gaillard, forcing his wife and sons to flee over a back wall to a neighbor’s house

3. The 12 April 2000 murder of Merilus Deus, a Mouvement Chrétien pour une Nouvelle Haiti (MOCHRENA) candidate for the rural assembly in Savanette, who was shot and then hacked to death by a mob of attackers who also slashed his daughter for good measure.

4. The 18 April 2000 murder, also by machete, of 70 year-old Ducertain Armand, an advisor to the Parti Democratique Chretien Haitien of Marie-Denise Claude (whose on father, Pastor Sylvio Claude, an Aristide rival, was also killed by a mob in September 1991) in his Thomazeau home.

5. The 24 May 2000 murder by a mob of Lavalas partisans of mayoral candidate Jean-Michel Olophene, his skull cracked open by a hurled rock. This ghastly murder was actually captured on videotape, which I have seen, the assailants chanting pro-Aristide slogans. Incidentally, it was Cite Soleil gang leader Robinson “Labanye” Thomas’ support of this candidate against the official Lavalas slate that resulted in his being jailed for a few months before being released after he agreed to work for the Aristide government. He did so until the October 2003 murder of hsi friend Rodson “Kolobri” Lemaire. Labanye himself, of course, was also then slain in March 2005.

6. The quite notorious November 2000 attack on a meeting of the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP) in Hinche, led by Lavalas mayors Wilo Joseph (Maissade) and Dongo Joseph (Hinche), during which the Recif Night Club, where several hundred MPP activists were gathered, was first pelted with stones and then raked with automatic weapons fire. Dieugrand Jean-Baptiste, brother of MPP leader Chavennes Jean-Baptiste, was shot in the chest and nearly died, another MPP member was shot in the neck, a mechanic working nearby the scene was shot in the ankle and a merchant pushing a cart was shot in the back. A detailed account of the attack, gathered from those who were present, can be found in my 2005 book, Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti.

These incidents were all in addition to such moves as the arrests of such Organisation du peuple en lutte politicians Paul Denis, Vasco Thernelan and Mellius Hyppolite, and the claims on Haitian radio by Yvon Neptune and Rene Civil before the vote tally was even announced (in violation of electoral law) that Fanmi Lavalas had won a landslide, give on a flavour of what voting in Haiti was like at the time. In addition to all of this, or course, there was the corruption of the vote tabulating process itself, which is well outlined in this letter by Orlando Marville, the chief of mission OAS Electoral Mission in Haiti at the time.

The ouster of Jean-Bertrand Aristide

I can understand why, for someone like Tom Luce, it would be simpler to believe that Haitian history began on 29 February 2004 and to only focus on Guy Philippe and his cronies, but if there was no popular movement against the government, then how does one explain pictures such as this one, taken at a 26 December 2003 demonstration against the Aristide government (by no means the largest).

Here are some other photos of these supposedly non-existent demonstrations: http://www.alterpresse.org/spip.php?article1067 and http://www.alterpresse.org/spip.php?article1000.

It may be easy for people to forget that the serious armed challenge to the Aristide government began with a group - the Cannibal Army in Gonaives - that was heavily armed WHILE they were working for Mr. Aristide, and that they only turned against the president following the murder of their leader, Amiot “Cubain” Metayer (here and here), on what they believed were Aristide’s orders, but for those of us who saw the Cannibal Army savage anti-government marchers in Gonaives in 2001/2002, it is not easy to forget at all.

The absolute breaking point for the Aristide government - the moment from which it was irretrievably doomed - was the savage and stupid 5 December 2003 attack on protesting university students in Port-au-Prince, an attack during which rector Pierre Marie Paquiot was beaten with iron bars (leaving him permanently incapacitated), at least six people were shot, and a dozen more stabbed and beaten. The siege which was witnessed by those at the Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL) nearby, who wrote the following of it:

On December 5, 2003,...we were witness to, and at certain times lived, the terror and horror of that day...We saw groups of pro-governmental militia, called chimere or OP (Popular organization), regroup in front of our building, visibly preparing to attack the student demonstration scheduled for that day. We saw their arms displayed, ranging from fire arms, wooden and iron sticks, rocks and other objects capable of hurting and killing. We saw their chiefs, men and women, also armed, equipped with walkie-talkies and cellular phones, organize and give orders to the commandos that were to attack the students. We saw the police, not neutral as has been reported, but acting as accomplices to the militia. On several occasions, during that day of horror and shame, the police opened the way for the chimere’s attack and also covered their backs. We saw children aged between twelve and fifteen, some in school uniforms, used by the lavalas militia to throw rocks and attack the students with fire arms.

Actual footage of the attack, as well as of the 2003/2004 demonstrations, can be seen in Haitian director Arnold Antonin's very interesting film GNB Kont Atilla, which someone (not me) has uploaded to You Tube in several sections, the first of which can be seen here.

After the attack, Minister of Education Marie-Carmel Paul Austin, Minister of the Environment Webster Pierre, Minister of Tourism Martine Deverson, Secretary of State for Public Health Pierre-Emile Charles and Haiti’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic Guy Alexandre all resigned from the Aristide government in protest.

I wonder if Mr. Luce condemned any of this at the time? Or the 2003 killings by government forces in Gonaives? Or the 2004 massacre by government forces in St. Marc? Or the 2005 killing of the great Haitian poet and journalist Jacques Roche? Or the 2004 decapitation of Weber Adrien? Would be interesting to know...

[Btw, for a more realistic and authoritative picture of late 2004/early 2005 era of Haiti than the one Tom Luce paints, I point readers to Jane Regan's excellent article "Haiti: In Bondage to History?" published by NACLA in Jan/Feb2005]

The chimere and their antecedents

For those of us who actually bothered to get to know the young men who would come to be called chimere - that is, for those of us, who viewed these young men as more than useful political pawns to be either lionized or condemned - we saw vividly how so many of them were born into an economic and political system that refused to make any use of them except as cannon fodder. When one sat and talked with them they spoke quite movingly of being caught up when they were young in an atmosphere of hope and possibility and then cynically sent down a road that proved not at all to be what they had envisioned.

In a review of my book once, someone wrote the it reminded him that, in its depiction of those who would be labeled chimere, one could find humanity even in those regarded as the most violent of street hoodlums. Not a message, he added, that many Haitians would embrace willingly but perhaps Haiti must learn this type of reconciliation before it can turn the corner and make tangible progress toward rebuilding society. As I also wrote in my November 2005 editorial for Newsday, "Ballots instead of bullets," about Jacques Roche's murder, some of those who were called chimere, far from being the simple thugs they were often depicted as, could have represented a youth movement to help turn Haiti around But their legions were blurred with those of hard-core criminals, some of whom wore nice suits, some of whom boasted foreign visas and they, and Haiti, paid the price.

Did the people of Jean Rabel, Piatre, St. Marc, Grand Ravine, Ti Bois and Descartes bleed and die any differently depending on which political current slaughtered them? In my experience, no they did not.

Conclusion and a bit of history

Foreigners with a stake in the triumph of one or the other of Haiti's discredited political currents can shout, threaten, cajole, defame, libel and repeat the same talking points over and over again as endlessly as they wish to, but it doesn't make what they are saying any more true, and whitewashing or papering over Haiti's recent history makes peace and reconciliation less, not more, likely for a country that has already suffered far more than its lovely, generous, gentle industrious people could have ever deserved.

Many of Mr. Aristide's detractors and advocates act as if the man appeared in a puff of smoke in 1990, when in fact he is part of the tradition of noiriste populist leaders in Haiti stretching at least back to Francois Duvalier and Dumarsais Estime and arguably to Lysius Salomon and even before.

Though I believe that he exacerbated them terribly with a style of governance that was built on little more than cult of personality, corruption, nepotism and wanton violence, Mr. Aristide was not the sole cause of Haiti's problems but rather, like many dictators and demagogues in other countries I have reported on, a symptom of the larger national malaise. As long as Haiti exists with such an unequal economic system based on the upside-down logic of sucking workers from a once-rice agricultural tradition in the countryside to Port-au-Prince for jobs that do not exist there, the tensions that helped bring Mr. Aristide to power - rich vs. poor, black vs. mulatto, urban vs. rural - will also continue to exist and will give rise to more Duvaliers and more Aristides. And more of their easily-expendable (to them) henchmen - whether they be called macoutes or attache or chimere - will be there, desperate to believe that the political current they are hitching their fortunes to is the only one that will possibly bring the country out of its mess.

As I have written before, though they are so rarely included in the international dialogue on their country's fate, I believe that Haiti's peasantry are indeed the key to its reconstruction, and that a total approach to not only urban economic development but also to sustainable rural agriculture is the only thing that would be cause for any hope at all looking forward.

Likewise the reform of the Police Nationale d'Haiti (PNH), which has made such great strides under the leadership of Mario Andresol - quite different to the 2001-2004 era, as the resignation letter of former PNH head Jean-Robert Faveur makes clear - must be joined by a reform of Haiti's broken judiciary which, as Pierre Esperance noted, is so broken that in it the criminal also becomes a victim.

These are all serious, on-the-ground issues and concerns which I understand are perhaps not as immediately attractive to tackle as simply shouting political slogans or sticking one's fingers in one's ears when someone of a different viewpoint expresses their opinions. But if we as foreigners interested in Haiti cannot do better than we have done thus far, and cannot tackle these tough issues head-on, all of this discourse is simply so much meaningless blah-blah-blah of outsiders, well-intentioned or not, commenting on a country they are ultimately not all that interested in coming to understand.

All best,


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Friday, March 25, 2011

In Defense of Michael Deibert

(In response to a February 2007 article about me in the publication Counterpunch, Gerry Hadden, a former National Public Radio correspondent with extensive experience covering Haiti and author of the excellent forthcoming book Never the Hope Itself: Love and Ghosts in Latin America and Haiti, penned the following discourse on my work in Haiti. Counterpunch's editors, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, evidently not very interested in presenting a diversity of views, did not publish it. But, stumbling across it again recently, I felt that it might be a useful piece for the public record, and as such print if for the first time with Mr. Hadden's permission here. MD)

For a few years now, from time to time, I have been coming across attacks against former Reuters reporter Michael Deibert. I have read that Deibert is biased, possibly a CIA operative and/or part of a conspiracy to drive and keep Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of power. Based on experience, I can say that none of these accusations is true.

I was National Public Radio's correspondent in the region from 2000 until 2004. During those years I traveled to Haiti about 10 times. I first arrived there on the eve of the May 2000 legislative elections and last went in June of 2004 as United Nations troops were taking over control of the country from the U.S. Marines. In between I covered the presidential elections that brought Aristide back into office and various events during his truncated tenure, including the unrest that led to his flight from the country on February 29th 2004. I saw a lot of Haiti in good times and bad, but I did not become an expert on Haiti. It goes without saying that to be an expert on Haiti, or on any country for that matter, you have to live there.

That said, I tried to report fairly on Haitians and their struggles. Often during that reporting I worked alongside Michael Deibert, then a Reuters' reporter based in Port-au-Prince. We travelled together on more than one occasion to Gonaives - once to interview members of the Cannibal Army shortly after members had sprung their leader Amiot “Cubain” Metayer from the local jail. We also visited the Plateau Central together, interviewing everyday Haitians about their lives and their government. On one trip we sought out members of the so-called 'rebel' army as it advanced towards Port-au-Prince in early 2004. We worked together on countless occasions in the capital and made trips down to Jacmel and other areas.

What I admired about Michael's work in Haitii was his utterly normal way of living and working. He tended to stay away from the luxury hotels where other journalists hung out. He lived in a modest house in a neighborhood that could not be described as exclusive. He walked everywhere downtown, he learned to speak Kreyol, he made many Haitian friends - I'm not talking about government ministers or business leaders but just normal Haitians. He became carried away by Haiti (who among her visitors isn't?) and always had the country's best interests in mind as a reporter. He longed to see strong institutions take root, to see corruption curbed, international bullying and realpolitik checked and real economic growth established.

There seems at times to be some confusion as to what a reporter's job is. It is not to take a side in the internal political struggles of a nation. That's the job of the local citizenry. A reporter's job is to report as fairly and accurately as possible on what's going on. As Haitian history evolved so did the stories that Deibert wrote. That is normal and natural. In 2000 we were all writing stories that portrayed the hope of Haitians with 'Titid' back in the national palace. That hope was palpable, citizens expressed it with dizzying joy. Then things began to change. There are many interpretations of just what happened and why. It is not my intent here to explain the tangled events that led to the fall of Aristide's government.

What I want to say is this: Michael Deibert is not and never was an enemy of Haiti. He shed a lot of sweat walking around the capital and countryside, from Cite Soleil to Cap Haitien, and he wrote about what he saw and what people told him and what he could learn via investigations. He helped a lot of people too, with small gestures, with food, with money, and most of all with the kinds of favors that neighbors do for each other and which never get recorded in history. To my mind he never took a side. As time went on the voices critical of Aristide began to grow louder. Deibert reported on that, and investigated their claims. And he tested the claims of Aristide's supporters.

During the last two years of Aristide's presidency, both Michael and I witnessed many acts of intimidation and violence against carried out by people claiming to be acting on Aristide's behalf. I personally knew young men from the slums who were armed and on the payroll of police leaders close to the National Palace; these young men were on call to defend the palace against protesters. During the marches against the government in the weeks before Aristide fled, these young men stated that they were paid to attack the anti-Aristide protesters. Later they were abandoned by the government or killed in what appeared to be an attempt to silence them.

The Cannibal Army itself was initially a self-proclaimed pro-Aristide gang. Its leaders only turned on the president after leader Cubain's heart and eyes were cut out. The Cannibal Army had big guns before they switched sides.

In St. Marc one afternoon during those final days I interviewed bands of Aristide supporters also armed to the teeth with heavy guns - and even grenades. They were trying to 'root out' his opponents. Later that afternoon they carried out a massacre; other foreign journalists and photographers reported that they did so side by side with member of the Haitian National Police.

Several local journalists also told me their stories about being threatened or attacked for being critical of Aristide during those final two years or so. As time went on reporters based in and outside of Haiti began to realize that the situation was growing unbearable on the ground. Whether or not President Aristide was directly responsible for the rising chaos and the atmosphere of intimidation is a matter of debate about which I am not qualified to argue.

There were countless wrongs committed on the other side too. A strong argument has been made by many that without U.S. and international support Aristide never had a chance to turn his country around. With aid suspended an institutionally weak country only unraveled further, with corruption and drug smuggling flourishing. Seeing no way out, Aristide may have been driven to seek support from less than honorable people. Again, there were many such characters who acted in Aristide's name and contributed to the sense that his government was not following the rules of democracy.

Deibert wrote about all of the events and injustices that were taking place, not just those that hurt Aristide's cause. To do otherwise would have been a violation of journalistic principals.

It's unfair to suggest that he was a stooge for those members of the international community who stood against Aristide. It is even worse to imply that he somehow has contributed to Haiti's suffering via his writings.

Everyone who cares about Haiti shares the same goal, to see the situation there improve. We can tone down the debate a little without losing critical judgment. Thank you.

Gerry Hadden

Friday, March 18, 2011

Note on Jean-Bertrand Aristide's return to Haiti

As questionable friends of Haiti such as Amy Goodman, Danny Glover and others celebrate the return to Haiti of a man as politically and personally corrupt and ruthless as any that I have ever reported on, it seems only fitting that, if they don't have the dignity or respect to do so, some foreigner should write a note of apology to the many Haitians who fell opposing the man's rancid and despotic regime, or for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So here it goes.

On behalf of all the misguided and ignorant foreigners who still act as apologists for a man who did as much to impoverish Haiti and destroy its fragile institutions as any ruler in its history (and this is by no means a complete list), I would like to apologize
  • To Marie Christine Jeune, the courageous young female Police Nationale d'Haïti (PNH) officer who had publicly criticized Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s attempts to link the police force with armed gangs and was found, raped and mutilated in March 1995
  • To Yvon Toussaint, opposition senator for the Organisation du Peuple en Lutte (OPL) party, gunned down in March 1999
  • To the thirteen people murdered in the Fort Mercredi slum in June 2001 by the forces of gang leader Felix “Don Fefe” Bien-Aimé, whom Jean-Bertrand Aristide had appointed as director of the Port-au-Prince cemetery as a reward for his loyalty
  • To Brignol Lindor, the journalist murdered by the pro-Aristide Domi Nan Bwa gang in Petit-Goâve on 3 December 2001
  • To Ramy Daran, assistant to the Mouvement Chrétien Pour une Nouvelle Haiti's Luc Mesadieu, burned alive by a pro-Aristide gang in Gonaives on 17 December 2001
  • To Eric Pierre, the 27-year-old medical student from Jacmel, was was shot and killed while leaving the Haiti’s Faculté de Medicine in January 2003 on a day of planned anti- government demonstrations, with witnesses saying attackers fled the scene in a car with official TELECO plates and even providing license numbers
  • To 25-year-old Saurel Volny, shot and killed by police during an anti-government demonstration in Gonaives in January 2003.
  • To Ronald Cadet, a student activist who was shot and killed in Haiti's capital in February 2003 after being forced to live in hiding since November 2002
  • To the eleven people, including Michelet Lozier, mother of five, killed by Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s security forces as they raided the Gonaives slum of Raboteau in the early morning hours of 2 October 2003
  • To the fourteen people, including seventeen-year-old Josline Michel and the month old baby girl of Micheline Limay, also killed by Jean-Betrand Aristide’s security forces when they again raided Raboteau on 27 October 2003
  • To Danielle Lustin, the university professor, feminist activist and expert in microfinancing murdered on 22 October 2003 and whose memorial mass at Sacre-Coeur was interrupted by a gang of young mean descending from a white pickup bearing “Officielle” license plates, who pummeled them with rocks and bottles, crying “Viv Aristide” and threatening them in the most base, misogynistic terms
  • To Maxime Desulmond, the well-known student leader from Jacmel, killed when pro-Aristide gangs fired upon an anti-govenrment demonstration in Port-au-Prince on 7 January 2004
  • To Leroy Joseph, Kenol St. Gilles, Yveto Morancy and the rest of the at least 27 people who were murdered and the women raped by a combination of PNH, Unite de Securite de la Garde du Palais National d’Haiti and Bale Wouze forces in Saint Marc between 11 February and 29 February 2004.
  • To my dear friend James "Billy" Petit-Frere, and his brother Winston "Tupac" Jean-Bart, and all the other young men used as cannon fodder by Aristide and then abandoned to their fates or their lives extinguished (such as Roland François) when they were no longer of use
Also on behalf of we foreigners, I would like to apologize to the Haitian constitution, shredded like Lyonel Trouillot's "faded piece of cloth fought over by dogs" by Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the following manner:
  • By a demobilization of the Haitian army in April 1995, which was illegal without a constitutional amendment, as the army was still enshrined in Article 263 of the Haitian constitution.
  • By his violation of Article 7 of Haiti's constitution, which states that "the cult of personality is categorically forbidden. Effigies and names of living personages may not appear on the currency, stamps, seals, public buildings, streets or works of art." Jean-Bertrand Aristide placed hagiographic billboards bearing his image throughout the country, and the state television station TNH showed ceaseless homages to the president.
  • By personally and directly blocking the investigation into the murder of Haiti's foremost journalist, Radio Haiti Inter owner Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint - as attested to by the staff of Radio Haiti Inter, investigating magistrate Claudy Gassant and now-PNH chief Mario Andresol - and and by pressuring Justice Henry Kesner Noel, to sign a re-arrest warrant for Prosper Avril in April 2002, among other acts, Jean-Bertrand Aristide violated Article 60 of Haiti's constitution, which delegated firmly the independence of the executive and judicial branches of government.
  • By attempting in September 2003 revive a presidential decree passed by Jean-Claude Duvalier on October 12, 1977 ("broadcast information must be precise, objective and impartial, and must come from authorized sources which are to be mentioned when broadcasting. Those who are responsible for the broadcasts have to control the programs to ensure that the information "even when it is correct ”cannot harm or alarm the population by its form, presentation or timing. The broadcast stations will provide a channel for the broadcasting of official programs, if so required by the public powers .") which was a naked assault on articles 28-1, 28-2 and 245 of Haiti's constitution, which forbids censorship and protects free speech and journalistic practices.
  • To say nothing of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's arming of a generation of desperately poor street children which violated Article 268 of the Haitian constitution whereby the PNH were to be the only body with the right to distribute and circulate weapons in the country.
Haitian people, you deserve better foreign friends than those who touch your soil today with the man who victimized you so. Perhaps some day you will have the foreign friends that you deserve. Until then, I know you will persevere. You are the children of heroes, after all.

Kenbe fem,


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Un meeting de Mirlande Manigat à Mirebalais tourne à l’affrontement : Plusieurs blessés


Un meeting de Mirlande Manigat à Mirebalais tourne à l’affrontement : Plusieurs blessés

Contrainte de renoncer à s’adresser à ses partisans et d’abandonner précipitamment la ville, théâtre de tirs nourris et de jets de pierre, la candidate démocrate-chrétienne dénonce l’attitude, une fois de plus, violente des supporters de son rival, Michel Martelly, et s’apprête à protester officiellement auprès de l’institution électorale

mercredi 16 mars 2011

(Read the original article here)

Des affrontements à coups de pierre ayant opposé, au milieu de tirs nourris, des partisans de Michel Martelly et de Mirlande Manigat, ont fait plusieurs blessés légers, lors d’un meeting de la candidate démocrate-chrétienne qui a dû être annulé mardi après-midi à Mirebalais (Bas-Plateau Central, centre), un nouvel épisode de violence qui marque la campagne électorale entrée dans sa dernière ligne droite.

Evacuée d’urgence par les membres de sa sécurité rapprochée avec le soutien des agents de l’Unité départementale de maintien d’ordre (UDMO), Mme Manigat a sévèrement condamné ces "nouvelles provocations" des partisans de "Sweet Micky" et annoncé son intention d’adresser dès mercredi une "protestation formelle" au Conseil électoral provisoire.

Suite à des jets de pierre, de nombreux coups de feu ont retenti provoquant des scènes de panique au moment où le service d’ordre tentait de maîtriser des individus chauffés à blanc qui avaient investi la foule avec des posters de Michel Martelly.

Parmi les blessés que le correspondant local de Radio Kiskeya a pu remarquer figurait un des musiciens du groupe rap vedette Barikad Crew (BC) ayant endossé la candidature de la professeure Manigat.

Sans avoir eu le temps de s’exprimer devant de nombreux supporters qui l’attendaient, l’aspirante à la Présidence a été contrainte de quitter précipitamment la place publique de Mirebalais où devait se tenir le rassemblement.

Les incidents ont touché d’autres secteurs de la ville et l’Hôtel Mirage, un établissement appartenant à un partisan de Michel Martelly, a essuyé des jets de pierre.

Intervenant en direct sur les ondes de Radio Kiskeya au "Jounal 4è" (l’édition de 16 heures), Mirlande Manigat a dénoncé les "attaques systématiques" des partisans de son rival dans ses différents déplacements électoraux.

Une situation qu’elle qualifie d’inadmissible en soulignant qu’à Mirebalais des hurleurs ont causé un vacarme insupportable pendant trois quarts d’heure.

Elle s’est, par ailleurs, plainte de la passivité de la police qui n’aurait rien fait contre les agresseurs.

La candidate entend aller jusqu’au bout de sa campagne après avoir effectué une tournée globalement satisfaisante dans le département du Centre qui l’a aussi conduite à Hinche, Cerca Carvajal et Boucan Carré.

A cinq jours d’un deuxième tour historique, l’intolérance et la tension semblent gagner nettement du terrain après déjà de graves incidents qui avaient fait plusieurs blessés lors d’un autre meeting de Mirlande Manigat, la semaine dernière au Cap-Haïtien (nord).

L’Organisation des Etats américains a condamné lundi ces violences électorales et exhorté les deux camps à calmer leurs partisans en vue de rendre le scrutin de dimanche pacifique.

La démocrate-chrétienne a notamment reçu au cours des dernières 24 heures le soutien de la ministre de la culture, Marie Laurence Jocelyn Lassègue, qui a obtenu une mise en disponibilité, et de quatre syndicats d’enseignant. spp/Radio Kiskeya

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vidéo avec Gotson Pierre

Entretien vidéo avec Gotson Pierre, initiateur du Télécentre mobile pour les déplacés du séisme.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Note to the Corbett List

I confess some surprise that a single article of mine on Haiti’s former president has sparked such debate as the country confronts its first presidential vote in five years, a vote during which neither Mr. Aristide or any member of the interim government that followed him are candidates. But perhaps in the long run it is useful as it seems to be sparking a needed re-examination on some important aspects of Haiti’s recent history. If such examination would help even in the smallest way for the people of St. Marc who still wait for justice to achieve their aim, then it will have been mightily worth it.

1. Further on St. Marc

It is easy for those who were not in Haiti at the time to mock and dismiss the wrenching first-hand accounts of the survivors of the February 2004 Aristide government assault on St. Marc, or the first-hand accounts of journalists such as myself and the Miami Herald’s Marika Lynch who visited the town shortly thereafter. But one is reminded one of the sage words of the British academic Stephen Ellis who, when describing the incredulity that some ascribed to accounts of Liberia's civil war, wrote that "while descriptions (of the civil war) are routinely dismissed as sensational journalism by high-minded academics, it would be foolish simply to scoff at the opinions of correspondents who glean their impressions at first hand. Journalists acquire detailed knowledge, and an appreciation for the flavor of events, which can escape distant observers."

Simply put, the hypothesis that the reporting of many journalists, local and foreign, in Haiti at the time, the testimony of dozens of witnesses, the research of both Human Rights Watch and the Reseau National de Defense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), all working autonomously, is all part of a seamless, coordinated conspiracy is not a hypothesis that can be accepted by any rational person.

The best quote I’ve ever heard about Haiti’s justice system came from RNDDH’s director Pierre Esperance, who said to me, in connection that the to St. Marc case, that “in our system, the criminal becomes a victim because the system doesn't work.” That is what we saw with relation to the St. Marc massacre. Rather than having a transparent trial to hold the perpetrators accountable, they were sent to sit in jail without any conclusion to the official investigation, like almost every other high-profile case in the country’s history.

A word in defense of the RNDDH, an organization that I have seen do the most important human rights advocacy in Haiti, both in its present incarnation and as the Haiti-branch of the NCHR, since I first began visiting Haiti now nearly 15 years ago.

Though their critics like to bray about RNDDH’s 2004 award of C$100,000 (US$85,382) from the Canadian International Development Agency, most of the group’s funding in fact comes from organizations such as Christian Aid, the Mennonite Central Committee and the Lutheran World Federation. As part of its vitally important work, since that grant, RNDDH has consistently advocated for justice on behalf of a number of Fanmi Lavalas members who it says were victimized under Haiti’s 2004-2006 interim government, including Jean Maxon Guerrier, Yvon Feuille, Gerald Gilles, and Rudy Heriveaux.

RNDDH has shown a commitment to a non-political defense of human rights that a group like the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), under the sway as it is of Mr. Aristide's Miami attorney Ira Kurzban (one of the IJDH’s founders and chairman of its board of directors), or the IJDH’s Haiti partner, the the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which receives “most of its support from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti,” have never risen to.

[With the IJDH’s 2005 annual report listing Mr. Kurzban’s law firm in the category reserved for those having contributed more than $5000 to the organization, the group’s 2006 report lists the firm under “Donations of Time and Talent,” and the American Immigration Lawyers Association South Florida Chapter (for which Mr. Kurzban served as past national president and former general council) in a section reserved for those having donated $10,000 or more. Simply put, the IJDH is a creature of Mr. Aristide’s attorney, a man who has a financial stake in rehabilitating the former president. Their work in Haiti should be seen in this context.]

I would like to give the last word on the St. Marc killings to Charlienor Thompson, the coordinator of the Association des Victimes du Genocide de la Scierie (AVIGES), whose feelings of abandonment by the international community in general and the United Nations in particular were summed-up in a heart-rending 2007 open letter to Louis Joinet, the United Nations' independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti at the time. In that letter, Thompson wrote of how “we, the victims, who live in Haiti and who have lodged a complaint with the judicial system of our country for more than three years, remain confused and ask ourselves who cares about our case?"

Thompson goes on to ask:

How can we expect justice? Who can testify freely while murderers are free and move with impunity? The majority of people in Saint Marc are afraid. Even those who were direct victims of the acts mentioned above are frightened. The victims are eager to flee the city and witnesses to hide. When will we enjoy the benefits of justice that we demand? In the present circumstances, in what form will it come?

2. Further on Martissant

As happened with regards to the killing of St. Marc, a handful of advocates for Haiti’s former president living in North America have made it their goal to attempt to deceive people that violence in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Martissant came only from one side, that of forces hostile to Haiti’s former president. They seek to convince people, despite the evidence gathered by Haiti’s own journalists and foreign reporters such as myself, that gangs formerly allied to Haiti’s former president did not play an enthusiastic and blood-soaked role in the killings there. Put simply, this is false.

Consider the following:

- A 23 August 2005 broadcast from the capital’s Radio Kiskeya stated "inhabitants of various districts of Martissant (a southern slum of Port-au-Prince) launched an S.O.S to the authorities on Monday so that they would forcefully intervene in a zone infested with heavily-armed gangsters. These inhabitants, the majority of them young people coming from 4th and the 5th Avenue Bolosse, describe the reactivation in the district of groups armed under the regime of Jean Bertrand Aristide which have made their residence in the Grand Ravine zone of Martissant."

- The 19 November 2005 article "Nouvelle montee de tension a Martissant" from the Haitian media outlet AlterPresse stated "The tension went up of a notch these last days within Martissant, in the southern sector of the capital, where confrontations have occurred between rival bands, residents told AlterPresse. Clashes have occurred on several occasions during the last 8 days between the armed bands from Grande Ravine and the Lame Ti Manchet, leaving at least 2 dead and several casualties by bullets."

- A 6 November 2006 statement by the president of Haiti’s senate, Joseph Lambert, himself a member of the Lespwa party of Haitian president Rene Preval, where Lambert directly referred to the violence in Martissant as being part of "Operation Baghdad II," in reference to a fall 2004 explosion of violence by Aristide partisans, and went on to say that "Operation Baghdad 2 takes the form of a means for a sector to politically pressure the executive (branch) in order to find employment." [Note: Despite statements to the contrary, Operation Baghdad was called just that by those carrying it out, as can be heard in this 2004 report from National Public Radio's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro]

- A 4 December 2006 broadcast from Radio Kiskeya which stated that "according to residents (of Martissant) a local gang called Base Pilate was responsible for four murders. The leaders of this armed group are insane with rage after the death of a police officer considered to be one of their allies...The Base Pilate is committed, under the umbrella of the armed gangs of Grand Ravine, to fight without mercy against the Lame Ti Manchet, another rival band based within Sainte-Bernadette lane."

- An 8 December 2006 broadcast, again recorded on the ground in Martissant, from Radio Metropole, stated "Heavy shooting was recorded in the zone of Martissant yesterday ; witnesses confirm that gangsters of Grand Ravine associated with the gang Base Pilate tried to launch an attack against the districts of Descartes and Martissant 1. Residents of Descartes and Martissant 1 affirm that 2 people were killed and several others wounded yesterday evening. "

- A 19 January 2007 broadcast from Radio Kiskeya, which stated that "A wild war has been underway for several months among gangs called Base Pilate and Lame Ti Manchet, which imposes the law of the jungle on Bolosse, Grand Ravine and Ste-Bernadette."

3. Further on Nanoune Myrthil’s infant

Like any other observer, I do not feel that I yet know the full story of the fate of Nanoune Myrthil’s infant, nor have I ever stated otherwise. However, given the statements of Nanoune Myrthil herself, the focus on the case by Radio Haiti Inter (arguably Haiti’s most independent and respected radio station when it was still broadcasting) and Radio Metropole during 2000/2001, and the separate (yet highly similar) declarations of Johnny Occilius, Jean-Michard Mercier and Sonia Desrosiers, it certainly, to me, seems a case worth investigating and by any standard rises to the level of something that is newsworthy. Can one imagine such a case in the United States or Europe, with individuals similarly close to the seat of power making such declarations and the charges not receiving media attention or a thorough investigation? I certainly cannot.

4. Reporting ethically from Haiti

Most journalists I know, whatever other criticisms I may have of them, would never knowingly print information that they knew to be false. This cannot be said for those seeking to deny justice to the victims of St. Marc and Martissant today.

In 2006, Jeb Sprague and Diana Barhona attacked the press solidarity group Reporters sans frontières (RSF), for supposedly receiving money from the International Republican Institute (IRI). When Sprague and Barhona were unable to produce proof of this claim, RSF News Editor Jean-François Julliard responded succinctly "We do not receive any funding from the International Republican Institute. This is a pure figment of the authors' imagination. Your readers can check our certified accounts on our website, rsf.org. "

Also, in 2006, Jeb Sprague attacked the Haiti Support Group, a London-based solidarity organization that has been working at a grassroots level in Haiti since 1992. In an article co-authored with Joe Emersberger and which appeared in the magazine Counterpunch, Sprague claimed that Haiti Support Group head Charles Arthur encouraged people to harass a researcher who had published highly controversial human rights study in the British medical journal, The Lancet (link). Arthur later wrote that "The statements about me in the Counterpunch piece are pure fiction. " Arthur’s full response to Sprague’s allegations can be read here.

In his 2009 article, “Calls Mount to Free Lavalas Activist," Wadner Pierre (along with Sprague one of the co-editors of the Haiti Analysis website) described Ronald “Black Ronald” Dauphin - a man identified by survivors of the February 2004 pogrom as one of the chief members of the group that carried out the massacre - as “a Haitian political prisoner,” attacked the RNDDH and quoted the IJDH which also, curiously, described Ronald Dauphin in a June 2009 press release as “a Haitian grassroots activist, customs worker and political prisoner,” language mimicked closely in the Sprague/Pierre article.

Wadner Pierre, who recently wrote a rather un-gentlemanly piece mocking Haitian presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat on the basis of here age wrote his laudatory article about those accused in the St. Marc killings having never mentioned that he had been described as working for the IJDH’s Haiti affiliated, the BAI , or that he had previously contributed text and photographs to the IJDH website lauding the April 2007 release of Amanus Mayette, another suspect of the St. Marc massacre, a photo essay that since appears to have been removed from the IJDH site.

Given such a record, I am not surprised that Sprague, Pierre, etc would continue their rather fevered attacks against reporters against myself (which I largely responded to in a blog posting here) and against the victims in Martissant and St. Marc.

Our first and only duty as reporters is not to those abroad who have profited from Haiti’s ongoing misery, it is to the suffering in Haiti themselves. Whatever discomfort that causes in powerful circles beyond Haiti is not only deserved, but welcome and necessary if the cycle of impunity that is killing the country is ever to be ended.

With my best regards and hopes for a peaceful election,


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Response regarding a few points

Recently, several friends forwarded me some of the exchanges that have been taking place about me on the Corbett list. I wanted to take a moment to respond to a few points.

1. The disappearance of the Nanoune Myrthil’s infant

For my part, I first heard about the 29 February 2000 disappearance of Nanoune Myrthil's baby from the General Hospital when Radio Haiti Inter reported on it on 21 June 2001. In a report by Jean-Delec Mezy, the station recounted how a nurse, Yanick Augustin, had been accused of being involved in the disappearance and was slated to appear before a judge that month. I recall that this appearance was postponed several times, and that there were several emotional public appeals by Nanoune Myrthil herself that she and her missing child be given justice. At the time, there much controversy of what exactly had happened to the child and whether or not official pressure was being brought to bear - as it was in the investigation of the slaying of prominent journalist Jean Dominique - to keep the inquiry from reaching some sort of resolution. Some of the transcript of that broadcast can be read here.

Apropos of that, on 3 March 2002, in her editorial, “Is Another Assassination of Jean Dominique about to Take Place?” also on Radio Haiti Inter, Dominique's widow, Michele Montas, bemoaned the fact that “all the resources, i.e. logistical, technical, and financial” made available in the Dominique investigation by the Preval government had been cancelled by the Aristide government, and that “ so were the resources made available for other investigations such as those about the poisoning of children with diethyl glycol or the kidnapping of baby Nanoune Myrtil at the General Hospital.”

During the same address, the full text of which can be read here, Montas said of the Aristide government the following:

The regime is affected with a dangerous gangrene. Principles and moral guidelines are compromised every day by political opportunism. Those ideals shared by Jean (Dominique), including a generous but rigorous socialism, respect for liberties within the framework of democracy, nationalist independence, based on a long history of resistance, those ideals that Jean used to call ‘Lavalas’ are trampled every day in this balkanized State where weapons make right, and where hunger for power and money takes precedence over the general welfare, causing havoc on a party which, paradoxically, controls all the institutional levers of the country. Our concerns run deep, since the cracks are widening and the building will eventually collapse over all of us.

How right she was, it turned out.

In July 2003, Johnny Occilius made his now-famous declaration on Radio Kiskeya of So Anne’s alleged-involvement with the baby’s disappearance and death, followed one month later by former Lavalas deputy mayor of Port-au-Prince Jean-Michard Mercier, who supported in every detail Occilius’ account and expanded upon it. Sonia Desrosiers, the widow of Roland Francois - the Port-au-Prince gang leader who was kidnapped and killed in July 2003 - then gave her own account to Radio Vision 2000. Readers and listeners are free to make up their own minds about the veracity or not of the various explanations of the child's disappearance.

In my view, at least, the episode in no way reflects upon vodou, Haiti’s poignant spiritual blend of its African and European heritage, as a whole. I have enjoyed attendance at many vodou ceremonies around the country since 1997, and urge other journalists to treat the belief system with interest and respect given its political significance to the country.

2. The violence in Martissant/Grand Ravine

Jeb Sprague, whom I have never met or spoken to, first made himself known to me in November 2005, when he emailed to 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 myself, the World Bank and the Inter-American Dialogue.

When Sprague writes of the 2006 violence in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Martissant that I "essentially ignored the role of the largest and most violent armed group in the area at that time: Lame Ti Manchet,” this is false in several aspects.

As I wrote in an extensively sourced February 2007 article for AlterPresse "The terrible truth about Martissant," the chain of events that Sprague describes bears no resemblance at all to the reality of what journalists such as myself and the reporters of Haiti’s radio stations witnessed on the ground there in the neighborhoods of Grand Ravine, Ti Bois and Descartes during the summer of 2006.

Nevertheless, in both that article and my August 2006 report "Storm of Killing in Neighbourhood Has Wide Implications for Nation," there is in-depth description and analysis of the significant role of the Lame Ti Manchet in the violence.

I understand that on-the-ground reportage may be more time-consuming and at times put one at greater personal risk than simply commenting upon issues from the safety of academia in the United States and Europe, but I really urge Sprague to arise from his desk and spend a bit of time on the ground in Haiti, learning the language, speaking with and traveling among its people. I think it would do wonders towards educating him from having a less internet-based knowledge of the daily lives of the country’s people.

3. Jean-Remy Badio

When Sprague writes, in regards to the killing of Jean-Remy Badio that I "(and Reporters Without Borders likewise) failed to properly attribute the major suspects of this assassination,” this is also false.

I was very happy and proud to lend my voice in solidarity with my courageous Haitian and Caribbean colleagues in aiding in the drafting the Association of Caribbean Media’s “ACM calls for action on Badio killing” on 30 January 2007, the text of which can be read here. The press release read in part as follows:

The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) is calling on Haitian authorities to move swiftly to bring the killers of Jean-Remy Badio to justice and wants the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to do more to end the isolation of this Member State... It is especially distressing to note that that Mr. Badio’s murder results from his work in reporting on the operations of organized gangs in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Martissant.

4. Evel Fanfan and AUMOHD

When Sprague writes that I have critizied the work of Evel Fanfan and his organization, the Association des Universitaires Motivés pour une Haiti de Droits (AUMOHD), this is also false. I have never written a line, positive or negative, in reference Fanfan or AUMOHD.

5. Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Regarding Jean-Bertrand Aristide: Though I believe his government exacerbated many of the problems confronting Haiti and lost a golden chance to help move the country forward, he was a symptom, rather than the sole cause, of Haiti’s greater malaise. Impunity, corruption, environmental degradation and an upside-down economic system are the true plagues that are killing Haiti as a state, plagues that many in my own country have unfortunately been all-too-happy to cast their lot in with for a few pieces of gold. Until these corrosive elements in Haiti are definitively addressed and the malefactors both Haitian and foreign prosecuted and made to answer for their crimes, there will be more Duvaliers, Aristides and others like them, and whether called macoute or attache or chimere, their economically desperate and easily-disposable (in their eyes) enforces will continue to operate with the same modus operandi.

Every time I visit Haiti, I see thousands of decent, dedicated people - part of grassroots organizations such as Fonkoze, the Mouvman Peyizan Nasyonal Kongre Papay and others - working towards their country’s reconstruction. A handful of of self-appointed American and European activists can continue to rage all they want on the interent in support of the work of Mr. Aristide’s fabulously compensated American lobbyists, but the violence and vehemence of their rhetoric doesn’t make what they have to say say any more true.

Best regards from Mardi Gras,