I hope you are happy and well this Friday morning.
The sun is trying to come out here in Port-au-Prince.
Jonathan Katz's article this morning is here.
Please keep Haiti in your prayers today.
And for anyone researching Haiti's "situation", the following two articles are excellent:
Haiti's election chaos creates US dilemma
Thursday 9 December 2010
On 7 December, Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced the
deeply flawed 28 November general elections' "preliminary results". The top
three presidential candidates were former Senator Mirlande Manigat (31.37%),
ruling Unity party candidate Jude Célestin (22.48%), and former compas
performer Michel Martelly (21.84%). Abstentionist Haitians were the real
winners because only 1.087m, or 23% of Haiti's 4.7m registered voters,
The announcement ignited a violent response from supporters of "Sweet
Mickey" Martelly, who had widely asserted that he was the leading candidate,
having "as much as 47% of the vote". Demonstrations and burning-tyre
bonfires immediately erupted in Pétionville, Cap Haïtien and Aux Cayes,
where numerous government offices and Unity partisans' houses have been
Supporters of Jean Henry Céant, the leading Faux-Lavalas candidate with
supposedly 8.18% of the vote, and nine other candidates, who have banded
with Céant in an informal front, have also held large demonstrations in
recent days calling for the election's annulment, the CEP's replacement and
"The UN and the international community will never accept that a legitimate
Haitian president leaves under pressure from the street," responded UN
Mission to Stabilise Haiti (MINUSTAH) chief Edmond Mulet on 3 December. "It
would be a coup." Ironically, Mulet leads an occupation force that entered
Haiti following the February 2004 coup – backed by Washington, Paris and
Ottawa and involving "pressure from the street" – against "a legitimate
Haitian president" Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Over the past six years, MINUSTAH
has killed dozens of Haitians militating for Aristide's return. He remains
exiled in South Africa, and his Lavalas Family party, Haiti's largest, has
been barred from all post coup elections.
In fact, the current electoral fiasco is merely the 2004 coup's
continuation. Préval and Washington became bedfellows because both seek to
exclude Haiti's poor majority, who are overwhelmingly pro-Lavalas. But their
plot is failing, and, like thieves falling out, they increasingly distrust
each other, despite Mulet's profession of support.
Préval was one of the principal "enlightened bourgeois" to push Aristide
into the electoral ring 20 years ago, thereby becoming Aristide's first
prime minister. After Aristide's 2004 ousting, the US installed as de facto
prime minister Gérard Latortue, who, two years later, handed over to Préval,
a compromise candidate the Lavalas masses embraced because all their other
choices – like the late Reverend Gérard Jean-Juste – had been either jailed
This history is not lost on the US, as revealed in two confidential cables
from March 2007 and June 2009 just made public by WikiLeaks. As the then US
Ambassador to Haiti, Janet Sanderson, wrote:
"Despite his involvement in radical/communist circles as a student in
Belgium and his entrance into Haitian politics through a populist movement
deeply influenced by liberation theology, Préval's public and private
discourse is practically devoid of any notions reflecting that background."
She reassured Washington that Préval was "a neo-liberal", who "has embraced
free markets and foreign investment" and is "uninterested in ideology".
Nonetheless, Sanderson warned in 2009 that "Préval remains essentially a
nationalist politician … suspicious of outsiders' intentions and convinced
that no one understands Haiti like he does." Sometimes working "at cross
purposes with the US," riskily, he "believes that he can walk a fine line
without losing US or international community support."
This analysis is surely being re-read by current US Ambassador Kenneth
Merten, as Préval becomes more drag than lift to US policy in Haiti.
Last week, after three Haitian observer groups reported that Manigat and
Martelly were leading by 30% and 25%, respectively, to Célestin's 21%,
Préval's CEP told UN officials that it was considering a three-way second
round, according to a Haitian government source. UN officials vigorously
opposed the proposal and told Préval so. According to the source, a
high-stakes game of chicken then ensued, with Préval responding that, if
there could be no three-way runoff, then perhaps the election should be
annulled. (AP reports that bellwether OAS/Caricom mission head Colin
Granderson said a three-way runoff may be
case of a near-tie.)
In the hours before the CEP's announcement, there was a meeting at the
National Palace between Préval, the CEP, the UN and the US ambassador. It
may have been acrimonious, because the CEP's proclamation was delayed until
about 9pm, instead of 6pm, as foreseen.
As protests swept Haiti, Washington's embassy immediately issued a
disapproving statement that it would help "to thoroughly review
irregularities in support of electoral results that are consistent with the
will of the Haitian people". The US said it was "concerned" that the CEP's
results were "inconsistent" with those of the Haitian observers, among
So, here is Washington's dilemma. Does it heed Sanderson's 2009 conclusion
that "while we may argue with [Préval] about pace and priorities, we will
have to adapt to his rhythm" because he "remains Haiti's indispensable man"?
Or, now that his popularity has hit new lows following the 12 January
earthquake and the botched election, is he, in fact, dispensable?
As for Préval, Sanderson reported that "his overriding goal is to
orchestrate the 2011 presidential transition in such a way as to ensure that
whoever is elected will allow him to go home unimpeded," avoiding prison or
exile. Will he continue "stubbornly holding to ideas long past their shelf
life" and resist, "convinced that no one understands Haiti like he does"? Or
will he succumb to the pressures now sandwiching him from above and from the
Both parties will want a compromise, unless the uprising worsens. The UN may
rubberstamp a CEP rule change to hold the three-way runoff, thereby
appeasing Préval and, hopefully, Martelly's mobs (although "Mickey" has
vowed not to share any runoff with Célestin).
Ambassador Merten is undoubtedly pondering Sanderson's prophetic conclusion:
"Managing Préval will remain challenging during the remainder of his term,
yet doing so is key to our success and that of Haiti."
From: Rachel Wallis
THE BUSINESS OF DISASTER IN HAITI
By Beverly Bell and Tory Field
December 9, 2010
As we file this article, Port-au-Prince is thick with the smoke of burning
tires and with gunfire. Towns throughout the country, along with the
national airport, are shut down due to demonstrations. Many are angry over
the government’s announcement on Tuesday night of which two presidential
candidates made the run-offs: Jude Célestin from the widely hated ruling
party of President René Préval and the far-right Mirlande Manigat. This is
another obvious manipulation of what had already been a brazenly fraudulent
election. A democratic vote is one more thing that has been taken from the
marginalized Haitian majority, compounding their many losses since the
earthquake of January 12.
What is at stake in Haiti? What interests underlie the grab for power in the
country? One answer is the large amount of aid and development dollars that
are circulating. Among those benefiting handsomely from the disaster aid are
U.S. corporations who have accessed U.S. government contracts. Below is the
tale of one U.S. corporation and its subsidiaries, who have received
contracts which involve both a conflict of interest and harm to one of
Haiti’s largest and most vulnerable social sectors, small farmers.
“We were already in a black misery after the earthquake of January 12. But
the rice they’re dumping on us, it’s competing with ours and soon we’re
going to fall in a deep hole,” said Jonas Deronzil, who has farmed rice and
corn in Haiti’s fertile Artibonite Valley since 1974. “When they don’t give
it to us anymore, are we all going to die?”
Deronzil explained this in April inside a cinder-block warehouse, where
small farmers’ entire spring rice harvest had sat in burlap sacks since
March, unsold, because of USAID’s dumping of U.S. agribusiness-produced,
taxpayer-subsidized rice. The U.S. government and agricultural corporations,
which have been undermining Haitian peasant agriculture for three decades,
today threaten higher levels of unemployment for farmers and an aggravated
food crisis among the hemisphere’s hungriest population.
Two subsidiaries of the same corporation, ERLY Industries, are profiting
from different U.S. contracts whose interests conflict. The same company
that is being paid to monitor "food insecurity" is benefiting from policies
that increase food insecurity. American Rice makes money exporting rice to
Haiti, undercutting farmers’ livelihoods, national production, and food
security. Chemonics has received contracts to conduct hunger assessments
and, now, to distribute Monsanto seeds.
Haiti is the only country in the hemisphere which is still majority rural.
Estimates of the percentage of Haiti’s citizens who remain small farmers –
or peasants, as they call themselves - are 66% to 80%. Despite that, food
imports constitute upwards of 50% of what Haitians consume. And still the
nation suffers under a dire food crisis, with more than 2.4 million of 9
million Haitians estimated to be food-insecure. Acute malnutrition among
children under the age 5 is 9%, and chronic undernutrition for that age
group is 24%.
It didn’t used to be this way. In the early 1980s, Haiti was largely
self-sufficient in food consumption and was even an exporter nation. The
destruction of agriculture and food security came through policy choices. In
1986 and again in 1995, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave loans to
Haiti with the condition that the government reduce tariffs on goods
imported into the country. While previous tariffs on some staple foods had
been as high as 150%, by 1995 the Haitian government, under pressure
primarily from the IMF and U.S. government, cut import tariffs on food
basics to as low as 3%.
Unable to compete with imported goods and thus unable to survive, Haitian
farmers have flocked into the overcrowded capital in search of a living.
They have joined the ranks of the underemployed or been welcomed by
sweatshops. And they have taken up residence in shoddily constructed housing
built on insecure lands, like ravines and the sides of steep mountains. The
devastating toll from the earthquake, with anywhere from 250,000 – 300,000
killed in and around Port-au-Prince, is in part due to farmers’ inability to
remain in their rural homes.
Rice is among the five most heavily subsidized crops in the U.S., with rice
growers receiving $12.5 billion in subsidies between 1995 and 2009. The
subsidized production and the industrial scale, on top of the lowering of
import tariffs in Haiti, combined to become a money maker: beginning in the
early 1980s, rice grown in such places as Arkansas and California and
shipped by boat to Haiti could be sold cheaper than rice grown in a
neighboring field in the Artibonite Valley. With the U.S. television show
Miami Vice in high popularity during the time the threat to local producers
unfolded, Haitians named the imports ‘Miami rice.’
Between 1992 and 2003, rice imported into Haiti increased by more that 150%,
with 95% of the imports coming from the U.S. The USA Rice Federation
claims on its website that 90% of the rice currently eaten in Haiti is from
The flood of imported rice has shot up since the earthquake. In the
immediate aftermath of the disaster, USDA purchased 13,045 metric tons of
rice for Haiti. In such a dire humanitarian crisis, even Haitian peasant
organizations who normally oppose food aid agreed that short-term assistance
At the same time, however, locally grown food was and is available. “If the
foreigners want to give aid, it shouldn’t be food. We have the capacity to
produce. They should give us a chance to grow our own food so agriculture
can survive,” said Rony Charles, a farmer and member of the Agricultural
Producer Cooperative of Verrettes. But a supplemental aid bill in the U.S.
Congress – the Haiti Empowerment, Assistance and Rebuilding (HEAR) Act -
which, among other things, would have increased the percentage of food aid
purchased from Haitian producers, seems doomed because of Republican
opposition. Advocacy groups in Washington such as Haiti Reborn will work to
get the bill reintroduced in January, but it is unlikely that any local
procurement will happen for several years.
ERLY Industries is one U.S. corporation that amply benefits from aid and
trade opportunities in Haiti. ERLY is the parent company of American Rice,
which has been selling rice in Haiti since 1986 via its Haitian subsidiary,
the Rice Corporation of Haiti. By the mid-nineties, American Rice was
importing 40-50% of all rice eaten in Haiti. A press release by the USA
Rice Federation, of which American Rice is a member, referred to the
federation’s “collaboration” and “proactive efforts” with USDA and USAID in
getting rice to Haiti just after the earthquake.
Chemonics, another subsidiary of ERLY Industries, has been running two
USAID-funded projects since before the earthquake and received one of the
first post-disaster contracts in Haiti, for $50 million from USAID. Chemonics
gets 90% of its funding from USAID and works in more than 75 countries.
One of Chemonics’ focus areas is agricultural work, with many projects aimed
at developing international trade opportunities. Chemonics has also been a
large beneficiary of USAID contracts in the wars in Iraq and
One of Chemonics’ pre-earthquake contracts in Haiti, as in other countries
around the world, (2006-2010) is the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning
Systems Network. FEWS NET II, as it is known, monitors food security and
reports on such issues as food prices, climate, and market flows.
Chemonics also holds a $126 million USAID contract for 2009 through 2014 for
its Haiti-based Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental
Resources (WINNER). Some of WINNER’s stated contract goals include increased
agricultural productivity, strengthened watershed governance, and reduced
threat of flooding.
WINNER now has a new role of distributing Monsanto’s recent donation of 475
tons of hybrid corn and other vegetable seeds throughout Haiti. While this
year’s seeds were free of charge, farming advocates familiar with Monsanto’s
history around the world consider the donation a Trojan horse, with Monsanto
seeking to gain a foothold in the Haitian market. The full extent to which
Monsanto will now join Chemonics and American Rice as economic beneficiaries
of the earthquake remains to be seen. Elizabeth Vancil of Monsanto gave
“special thanks to USAID and USDA, who connected us to be able to secure
Meanwhile, Haitian peasant groups have declared this donation an affront to
their seed sovereignty, which they refer to as “the patrimony of
humanity.” Among other problems, they point to the Calypso tomato seeds
being treated with Thiram, a pesticide additive so toxic that the EPA
has banned its use for home gardeners in the U.S. On June 4 for World
Environment Day, more than 12,000 Haitian farmers and allies marched in a
rural town and burned Monsanto seeds. In the U.S., solidarity groups from
Chicago to Seattle did the same. Doudou Pierre, a leading food
sovereignty advocate, said that the June 4 action was “a declaration of
In March, Bill Clinton formally apologized for his role in having promoted
the import of U.S. rice into Haiti at the expense of Haitian farmers. "It
may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not
worked. It was a mistake… I had to live everyday with the consequences of
the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people
because of what I did; nobody else." Mea culpa notwithstanding, nothing
has changed in U.S. foreign aid and trade policies.
As for the March rice harvest grown by Jonas Deronzil, Rony Charles, and
other producers in the Artibonite, it finally sold in June for almost
exactly two-thirds of what it would have brought in before the earthquake:
US$13.27 a sack versus US$20.77.
“It’s not houses which will rebuild Haiti.” said Rosnel Jean-Baptiste of the
national organization Heads Together Small Peasants of Haiti. “It’s
investing in the agricultural sector.”
*Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30 years.
She is also author of the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of
Survival and Resistance. She coordinates Other Worlds,
www.otherworldsarepossible.org, which promotes social and economic
alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy
*Tory Field is an organizer, farmer, and Program Associate at Other Worlds*
* The CIA claims 66% (CIA Factbook, 2010,
while Haitian peasant farmer organizations typically use a figure of 80%.
 A recent Associated Press article cited a 2005 government needs assessment
which put the figure at 51% (Jonathan Katz, “With cheap imports, Haiti can’t
feed itself,” Associated Press, March 20, 2010).
 World Food Program, 2010, http://www.wfp.org/countries/haiti
 Oxfam International, “Kicking Down the Door: How Upcoming WTO Talks
Threaten Farmers in Poor Countries”, April 2005, p. 26.
 Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidy Database, http://farm.ewg.org
 Oxfam International, Op. Cit., p. 26.
 USA Rice Federation, “USA Rice Efforts Result in Rice Food-Aid for
Haiti,” January 20, 2010.
 Lisa McGowan, “Democracy Undermined, Economic Justice Denied: Structural
Adjustment and the Aid Juggernaut in Haiti,” Development Group for
Alternative Policies (The Development GAP), January 1997.
 USA Rice Federation, Op. Cit.
 Center for Public Integrity,
 Email from Elizabeth Vancil, Op. Cit.
 See, for example, the declaration of Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, director
of the Peasant Movement of Papay, “Monsanto in Haiti?”, distributed by email
on May 14, 2010.
 Email from Elizabeth Vancil to Emmanuel Prophete, Director of Seeds at
the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture, and others; released by the Haitian
Ministry of Agriculture, date unavailable.
 Extension Toxicology Network, Pesticide Information Project of
Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon
State University, and University of California at Davis,
 Beverly Bell, “Groups Around the U.S. Join Haitian Farmers in
Protesting ‘Donation’ of Monsanto Seeds,” June 4, 2010,
 From a statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March
10th, 2010. Jonathan M. Katz, “With cheap food imports, Haiti can't feed
itself,” Associated Press, March 20, 2010.*
Media and Education Coordinator