Thursday, March 31, 2011

Machines, Miracles and Man

Adams: What's good for business is not always good for workers - Peoria, IL - "'The society that performs miracles with machinery has the capacity to make some miracles for men - if it values men as highly as it values machines.'"

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Luke and Grant

Photo by John Carroll

Se Malere Mwen Ye

Photo by John Carroll

Lance Durban is a friend of ours in Port-au-Prince.

Please read Lance's post below regarding his thoughts why Haitians remain poor.

You may agree or disagree with Lance but he makes many salient points.

Lance Durban commenting on Pierre's "I got it off my chest" post.

Pierre writes:
My belief is that the poor Haitians are poor because
of the way they THINK. They think poor ( Se malere
mwen ye) so they stay poor.

Cause and effect may not be quite that simple, Pierre, but I do think you are onto something, and along the way you touch on why I got out of the NGO world many years ago. The difficulty of working with the Haitian government was another reason.

It's really a question of culture, and changing that through education is a long slow process that will encounter lots of resistance from people who feel it inappropriate to try. eg. anyone suggesting that maybe poor Haitians should be encouraged to practice birth control will likely face criticism, and not just from the Catholic church.

There is really no shortage of interesting work to be done in Haiti. Just this morning I visited the fish farm of Caribbean Harvest out near Croix de Bouquet... thousands upon thousands of tilapia raised from eggs to 16 oz fish ready for the barbeque. Needs someone to locally produce fish food (presently imported at great expense by container). Needs someone to process these fish into nice filets for sale to Costco, Wal-Mart, Publix and Safeway. I am not convinced that there is a shortage of financial capital. The more important shortage is human capital. That involves thinking, and attitude, and education (formal and informal), and other salient components of culture.

What percentage of Haitians would ship out tomorrow if they could but get a visa? How do you convince someone who wants to leave his country that there really are countless opportunities if you work hard and work smart? Why don't some of those young men who are sitting around doing nothing on streets with yawning potholes figure out a means of making some money by filling the potholes? I'm not talking about leaning on a shovel and begging for gourdes from passing drivers, but rather real people creating an entity to solve the problem.

Unfortunately, NGO's with the bulk of the "aid monies" are largely into relief efforts. Not that society shouldn't be caring for those who truly cannot care for themselves, but giving stuff away (health care, water, portapotties, new houses, etc) helps ensure that Haiti will remain a basket case.

To create something sustainable you first need to create sustainable employment, and right now there is very little incentive to create jobs in Haiti. One only needs to look at what the Haitian elite is investing in: Importing and distributing things to sell, local real estate, luxury goods for personal consumption, travel to Miami, etc. Very few give any thought about the impact their decisions have on job creation.

The Haitian government could help by adjusting incentives, but this calls for making a value judgement and then stepping in to alter the free market decisions of people with money to invest. Take the industrial park out near the airport; most of the buildings are now warehouses employing relatively few people. That's because the owners have done the math and come to realize that there is simply a better return on a warehouse that employs relatively few, than a factory that manufactures stuff and employs many. Less headache too, I might add.

If, however, government decided that it would be better to house a factory employing a few hundred people at $5 a day than a warehouse, it could simply alter the tax structure. Property tax on a warehouse might go way up, while building owners where the employee density per sq ft is particularly high might pay no property tax or even get a full or partial rent rebate.

So, while Pierre feels that Haitians are poor because of THE WAY THEY THINK, I would add that this poverty is aggravated by AN ALMOST TOTAL LACK OF THINKING, particularly by the policy-making segments of Haitian society. Social inclusion/social exclusion? I'll save that semantic debate for another day.

Lance Durban

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Photo by John Carroll

A Great Day in Haiti!


Photo by John Carroll
Posted by Picasa

Since the earthquake last year, I have been able to work about four months in hospitals and medical clinics in Haiti.

The majority of Haitian Hearts work in Haiti is spent examining common Haitian problems in Haitian medical centers staffed by Haitian doctors and nurses. These problems include malnutrition, parasitic infections, respiratory infections, diarrhea and dehydration, skin infections, malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, typhoid, and a wide variety of trauma.

During the course of a week it is not unusual to see a new pediatric heart patient.

During these four months I accumulated eight new heart patients with a wide variety of congenital and acquired cardiac defects who I considered reasonable candidates for evaluation for operative repair.

The kids are from Port-au-Prince and southern Haiti.

Their faces, their mom's faces, their exams, and their echocardiograms always haunt me as the days and weeks go by when Maria and I cannot find a medical center in the United States to accept them for surgery. I think I am on a chronic guilt trip when I know that most of these kids could easily be "cured" in the hands of a skilled and gentle heart surgeon.

Several months ago an organization e mailed Haitian Hearts and told us that they have a grant to operate on 400 Haitian and Dominican children's' hearts during the next five years. The surgeries will be performed by American and Dominican teams in the Dominican Republic.

And this organization wanted to know if I had any kids that needed surgery!

I answered back immediately and sent a clinical vignette of these eight Haitian Hearts patients. I also sent their VHS echocardiograms to this organization's cardiologist in the States.

I will call their cardiologist Dr. C.

Dr. C reviewed the echocardiograms and then flew to Haiti. He was in Haiti right after the return of President Aristide and during the weekend of the presidential elections (March 20, 2011).

To make it easier on the kids mothers, he rented a little plane and flew south from Port-au-Prince to Cayes and examined the kids that we had lined up to see him. ALL the kids were accepted by Dr. C to go to the Dominican Republic for heart surgery in early May!!

Thus, eight of the kids were accepted for heart surgery and when Dr. C arrived back in Port-au-Prince, he travelled to Cite Soleil and examined yet another Haitian Hearts patient, Dusousa.

Dusousa is the 17 month old toddler who is blind from cataracts and is in the malnutrition program in the back part of Soleil. Dr. C and an ophthalmologist examined Dusousa and, believe it or not, Dr. C's daughter who is an ophthalmologist, will operate Dusousa in the States!!

This is what I would call a gran coup d'etat in Haiti.

Thank you, Dr. C., for all of your efforts for these Haitian children.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cholera in Haiti, March 2011

Photo by John Carroll

Haiti cholera 'far worse than expected', experts fear
BBC News - By Michelle Roberts - March 16, 2011

The cholera epidemic affecting Haiti looks set to be far worse than
officials had thought, experts fear.

Rather than affecting a predicted 400,000 people, the diarrhoeal disease
could strike nearly twice as many as this, latest estimates suggest.

Aid efforts will need ramping up, US researchers told The Lancet journal.

The World Health Organization says everything possible is being done to
contain the disease and warns that modelling estimates can be inaccurate.

Before last year's devastating earthquake in the Caribbean nation, no cases
of cholera had been seen on Haiti for more than a century.

The bacterial disease is spread from person-to-person through contaminated
food and water.

It causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting, and patients, particularly children
and the elderly, are vulnerable to dangerous dehydration as a result.
Gross underestimate

In the three months between October and December 2010, about 150,000 people
in Haiti contracted cholera and about 3,500 died.

Around this time, the United Nations projected that the total number
infected would likely rise to 400,000.

But researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, say this is
a gross underestimate.

They believe the toll could reach 779,000, with 11,100 deaths by the end of
November 2011.

Dr Sanjay Basu and colleagues reached their figures using data from Haiti's
ministry of health.

They say the UN estimates were "crude" and based on "a simple assumption"
that the disease would infect a set portion (2-4%) of Haiti's 10 million

Dr Basu's calculations take into account factors like which water supplies
have been contaminated and how much immunity the population has to the

They predict the number of cholera cases will be substantially higher than
official estimates.

"The epidemic is not likely to be short-term," said Dr Basu. "It is going to
be larger than predicted in terms of sheer numbers and will last far longer
than the initial projections."

But the researchers say thousands of lives could be saved by provision of
clean water, vaccination and expanded access to antibiotics.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization said: "We have to be cautious
because modelling does not necessarily reflect what's seen on the ground.

"Latest figures show there have been 252,640 cases and 4,672 deaths as of 10
March 2011.

"We really need to reconstruct water and sanitation systems for the cholera
epidemic to go away completely.

"It's a long-term process and cholera is going to be around for a number of
years yet."

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Return off Lazarus

(I found this photo of Haiti's shoreline on the web. Unfortunately, I do not know who took this picture. I wish I could claim credit, but I can't. If I find out who took it, I will give the credit.)

Below is an article by Amy Wilentz. I think she is a great writer even if I don't agree with EVERY word she writes. And I doubt if Amy cares if I agree with EVERY word that she writes.

In the article she posits that President Aristide did not deliver on his dreams for Haitians. However, she fairly clearly states that he was exiled from his democratically elected position as president of Haiti, not once, but twice.

And "dreams" such as President Aristide's can take time to become reality, can't they? They don't happen over night anywhere in the world.

No "leader" in the world is perfect. But when President Aristide was elected by his people to serve as President of Haiti two times, we should have respected the Haitian's people decision. But I don't think we did.

And as far as I know, the previous 200 years of Haitian presidents (along with their support by the international community) has not been an exemplary lesson in civics. But that seems to be forgotten when President Artistide is seemingly blamed for all of Haiti's problems.

Should President Aristide be allowed to return to Haiti? Sure. Should he return this week? Probably not, but he didn't ask me.

The world better hope and pray for the best for the nine million Haitians that don't have a say in anything at all.

Here is Amy's article below:

March 15, 2011
The Haitian Lazarus
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

SAY the name Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti this week, and it’s as if the revolutionary slave leaders Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines were still riding over the plains and mountains here, astride Delacroix-worthy steeds, making their descent with sabers drawn upon the vast plantations of the French masters.

The Haitians one meets on the street or in their little shops or in the market or on the byways of the countryside and in the shantytowns of the provincial capitals are for the most part pleased at the prospect of former President Aristide’s return this week from seven years’ exile in South Africa. But when members of Haiti’s tiny elite, small middle class and growing international community here discuss Mr. Aristide, they look over their shoulders, shake their heads, raise their eyebrows. They speak in whispers or in great gulps of nervousness.

Cut off their heads and burn down their houses, Dessalines told his troops, who went on to win a historic and singular victory over the French Army in 1804. Two centuries later, the elite, some of whom are descendants of the French colonists, still have a profound fear of the poverty-stricken general population. They understand fully that the triumph of the slaves never brought about the structural changes in Haitian society for which those early, bloody battles were fought. The ruling class still fears the overturning of the customary order. Revolution is a scary thing.

When the slaves gathered in 1791 to plot the end of French rule, there were about 500,000 of them on the island, and some 40,000 French colonists. Today the demographics are even more skewed, with about nine million people living in unimaginable poverty, while a microscopic elite guards among themselves whatever wealth is to be had here. Among all this flits the aid and development community, who have arrived in droves since the January 2010 earthquake, with their airy expensive apartments, S.U.V.’s, vans and pickup trucks, and packets of money to hand out.

In some places, the schism between haves and have-nots is almost farcical. Around the Place Boyer in Pétionville, the wealthy town above Port-au-Prince, clubs and restaurants with security guards cater to the elite and to foreigners, while across the street, in a refugee camp, hundreds of Haitians huddle under tarps and in tents in the mud and wind of the season’s unpredictable rains.

It’s perfect volatile tinder in which to toss the match of Mr. Aristide’s return. Plunk a three-cornered hat on Mr. Aristide’s head and sit him on a horse, and he is another revolutionary leader. The people in those camps are his people — though not, by far, his only people.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide has a complicated history. During the troubled times after the ouster of the dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, he repeatedly confronted the interim junta with enormous, even foolhardy, personal courage. A Roman Catholic priest from a shantytown parish, Father Aristide gave sermons in those days that were biting and vituperative, intended both to enrage the country’s rulers and make the people laugh at power. His amazing escapes from the many assassination attempts against him made him a kind of folk hero, a Lazarus who could not be eliminated. I knew him then, and remember him rising from these attacks, each time with a greater following.

For a long time, Mr. Aristide had no money; he had no social standing; he had no political party; he had no powerful foreign friends; his own church reviled him. These were all points in his favor among the Haitian people. For a long time, the people were his only power. While all other politicians (except for those whom he has supported) have had to rush around stuffing ballot boxes, altering counts and paying for votes, Mr. Aristide has twice been elected in clean balloting.

The first time was in 1990, in the first successful election after 29 years of dictatorship by Mr. Duvalier and his father, François. He won handily, but, with his leftist rhetoric and his huge support from the poorest sectors, he was not exactly the leader that the international community had envisioned when they promoted democracy and elections in Haiti. Reluctantly, international monitors certified his election.

Finding himself alone in a political sea of the entitled and the empowered, Mr. Aristide believed that all he could trust in the end was the brute power of the street — the “rouleau compresseur,” as it is called in Haitian politics, or the steamroller.

He was almost pathologically reluctant to work toward agreement among his advisers, among equals. He shares this distaste with many Haitians, who believe that theirs is a fatally polarized society and that consensus-building here almost inevitably leads to capitulation to the elite, and by extension to the international community.

Seven months after he took office, Mr. Aristide was overthrown by the Haitian Army with the tacit approval of the United States and the international community. The steamroller did not save him, and he was sent into exile. His second term was much more violent, with supporters repulsing perceived conspirators with guns and machetes. There were also allegations of human-rights abuses and corruption.

It ended with another coup, in 2004, that was again supported by members of Haiti’s business elite and tolerated, at least, by Haiti’s international allies, putting an end to the people’s flailing baby steps toward power.

Mr. Aristide gave the Haitian people two invaluable things: self-confidence and a voice, and thereby earned their lasting loyalty. That’s not nothing, after 200 years of repression, but it is perhaps his only positive legacy.

During his first exile, in Washington, Mr. Aristide agreed to make compromises and concessions that were entirely the opposite of what he’d always stood for. Like a kidnapping victim negotiating his own ransom, he was willing to accept any demand in order to be allowed to return to Haiti.

Here was a people’s president who, from a comfortable banishment, lobbied successfully for a brutal embargo against his own country, and who, returning to power in 1994, accepted international demands for a rapacious end to Haiti’s import bans. Here was a Haitian patriot and intransigent denouncer of all collaboration with “imperialists” who was brought back to Haiti on the shoulders of an international military intervention led by the United States, and who countenanced the establishment afterward of what was essentially an international occupation force run by the United Nations, which controls the forces of order in Haiti to this day, Mr. Aristide having disbanded the army that helped oust him.

Mr. Aristide, of course, did not see this as hypocrisy. Above all, he felt, the people wanted him to return. And he was right the first time he returned, and he’ll be right the second time. The Haitian people want justice and a decent life, and they think he’s the man to give that to them. Yet they have already poured their love onto him and he has repaid them with nothing but dreams.

By the end of Mr. Aristide’s two abortive terms, the Haitian revolution had once again failed. The only Haitians whose lives he improved were those to whom he personally gave jobs or for whose communities he personally — for reasons of political loyalty or old connection — provided housing or schools. He changed nothing structurally; he put in place only one institution, his own Aristide Foundation for Democracy, which runs a small university, mobile schools in five earthquake camps and many youth and women’s groups.

In the past weeks, as Mr. Aristide plans his return, the United States has been putting pressure on the South African government to prevent him from coming back to Haiti at such a fraught political moment. Jean-Claude Duvalier, the ousted scion of the old dictatorship, has just come back to Haiti himself in a surprise move, and can be seen here and there, dining in expensive restaurants like the ones in Place Boyer, and moving around the city in big, rich-man’s cars.

MR. DUVALIER’S appearance provided further justification for Mr. Aristide’s return, for if the former reviled dictator can come back, how about the first democratically elected president? Haitians are preparing to vote (or not to vote) on Sunday in a contested runoff presidential election. The sudden entrance onto the proscenium of both controversial former leaders — one stage right, the other stage left — has highlighted the unreality of the current campaign, which pits a constitutional scholar against a popular musician.

Mr. Duvalier is unlikely to be permitted to run for office. And Mr. Aristide has said that he wants to return as a simple educator and to open a medical school. Having technically served his constitutionally allotted two terms, he could come to power now only if he were to pull off some Machiavellian scheme.

Whatever Mr. Aristide chooses to do in Haiti, his voice is likely to be very powerful, as long as he can avoid assassination. Given his popularity, he should be able to influence election results far into the future, if not the one immediately upon us. As always at election time, violence simmers just below the surface, and has exploded once already in this voting season because of anger over fraud.

Meanwhile, those who helped to overthrow Mr. Aristide or who thwarted his ambitions or who disagreed with him are worried for their own security after he returns. “Aristide does not have to open his mouth for his vengeance to be done,” one young man said to me last week, with admiration. There is a perception of an impending payback time.

The incredible thing is that a narrative most Haitians thought was over is now to begin again. Because he is such a potent symbol of democracy for a huge number of people here, Mr. Aristide keeps popping up in Haitian history like a return of the repressed. In traditional Haitian belief, a person’s soul goes back to Africa, or lan guinée, when he dies. For Jean-Bertrand Aristide to reappear in Haiti from his African exile would be a real resurrection.

Amy Wilentz is the author of “The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier.”

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Eight Kids

Haitian Hearts' patient heart surgery at Sutter Children's Center in Sacramento, January 2011.

Photo by Douglas Crockett, MD

I have eight children that need to leave Haiti for surgery.

Seven of the eight need heart surgery and have been accepted in the Dominican Republic.

The eighth child is 16 month old Dosousa who is blind because of cataracts. He has been accepted in the United States for eye surgery.

However, all of the children need to meet in one place in Port-au-Prince during the next 10 days for "screening" and I am worried about their travel on the roads and in the capital.

Will Haiti close down again like after the November 28 presidential and parliamentary elections? That disaster cost lives as cholera treatment centers were without supplies and medical personnel during the shutdown. Even Haiti's international airport closed during those dark days.

With the imminent return of President Aristide described here before the elections, I worry all the more for my eight kids. Selfish reasons, but I worry about their safety. And if they don't get screened properly by the right medical people, their chances of leaving for the Dominican Republic and for the States diminish significantly.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Photo by John Carroll
Twa Men

3/11/11 9:49 PM

Aristide returning to Haiti in days
Associated Press

Posted on March 11, 2011 at 9:03 AM Updated today at 3:36 PM

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide will return within days to his homeland, ending seven years in exile, a South African official said Friday. The former slum priest remains hugely popular and his return could disrupt an election this month in his earthquake-ravaged country.

In Haiti, an official with Aristide's Lavalas Party confirmed that his "return is imminent," but declined to say how or when he's coming back.

"It's an important event for the people in Haiti because they have waited so long for this," said Maryse Narcisse, the head of Lavalas' executive council. "He will not be traveling incognito. People will know he is coming."

The party has been barred from taking part in the vote, and thousands of his supporters marched last month, threatening to disrupt the election if he is not allowed to return. Many said they would boycott the March 20 runoff to a disputed presidential vote because any election excluding Lavalas is not valid.

The U.S. has said Aristide's presence "would prove to be an unfortunate distraction to the people of Haiti," amid fears it could change the course of the race by causing unrest.

On Friday, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner told The Associated Press "this is a matter for the government of Haiti."

"The U.S. remains focused on helping ensure a peaceful and democratic transition of power in Haiti, and that the second round of elections, scheduled for March 20, accurately reflect the will of the Haitian people," he said.

A South African Foreign Ministry official told the AP that Aristide would return in the coming days, before March 20. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make the official announcement.

Souh Africa's government had been negotiating with interested countries about Aristide's return, the official said, but would not say if those included the United States or Brazil, which leads the U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti.

Prominent Americans have campaigned for Aristide's return from exile in South Africa.

In January, a full-page ad in The Miami Herald calling for his immediate return carried 190 signatures, including those of social organizations, political figures such as Jesse Jackson and deputy U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti Paul Farmer, entertainer Harry Belafonte and actor Danny Glover. Jackson, Glover and nine others also wrote a letter to South African President Jacob Zuma urging him to "assist the Aristides in making their transition as soon as possible" since "all the last remaining obstacles to the Aristides' return have been removed."

Ansyto Felix, an official in Aristide's party, said supporters were planning to clean the streets of Port-au-Prince in anticipation of Aristide's return and predicted thousands of people would greet him at the airport.

"The Haitian people are more in love with Titid than ever," Felix said, using a common nickname for the former leader.

The Associated Press observed more than a dozen workers cleaning up Aristide's house in the Tabarre neighborhood near the airport. Some swept the entrance while others dug a well and engineers with equipment did restoration work on the gated house, which was looted when Aristide was forced out of Haiti seven years ago.

Aristide's push to come back from exile follows the stunning return of former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier in January. Duvalier said he wanted to help reconstruct the country shattered in last year's massive quake, but there is speculation he also hoped to unlock millions of dollars frozen in Swiss bank accounts.

Aristide emerged as a leading voice for Haiti's poor and helped lead a popular revolt that forced an end to the Duvalier family's 29-year dictatorship. Aristide became the country's first democratically elected president, despite opposition from the army and Haiti's elite.

During his exile, Aristide has said many times that he wants to return home as a private citizen and work as an educator.
After Duvalier's return, it emerged that Haitian officials had ignored Aristide's request for a passport, preventing his return. That passport, a diplomatic one, was delivered last month in the last days of the administration of President Rene Preval, Aristide's one- time protege.

Duvalier now faces an investigation into allegations of corruption and human rights abuses dating to the dictatorship era.
It is not clear whether charges could be brought against Aristide, whose party was accused of killing opponents and getting rich off drug money in the final year of his government.

It would be the second return from exile for Aristide, who is both loved and reviled. He first was ousted by a military coup in 1991. U.S. President Bill Clinton returned him to power in 1994 following a U.S. military intervention that forced out the military regime. Then tens of thousands of his supporters gathered around the National Palace to watch U.S. Marines fly him in on a helicopter.

Aristide later fled Haiti again on Feb. 29, 2004, leaving before dawn on a U.S. plane as rebels approached the capital. He accused American diplomats of having kidnapped him — charges Washington denied.

In South Africa, Aristide has lived a quiet life with his wife Mildred and two daughters in a government-guarded mansion in the capital, Pretoria. Along with a chauffeured Mercedes Benz limousines, it all was paid for by South African taxpayers.
Aristide was offered a position as researcher at the human sciences faculty while his wife studied at the same university's Center for African Renaissance Studies. Neither drew a salary.

Aristide, who speaks several languages, studied Zulu and wrote a comparative study of Haitian Creole and Zulu called Umoya Wamagama, or The Spirit of the Word.
Associated Press writers Ben Fox in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Today Show, Widnerlande, and Haitian Hearts

Jenna Wolfe and Dana Roecker of the Today Show aired a segment on Widnerlande's long saga to come to the United States for heart surgery. Jenna and Dana are professional and did a wonderful job.

The Today Show segment aired on February 22, 2011.

You can see it here on the Haitian Hearts website.

Maria also posted an interesting article which describes what happened "behind the scenes" regarding the Today Show.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Haitian Deportees

Photo by John Carroll
February, 2011

With his gold teeth, shiny earrings and a life spent mostly in Florida, Serge Michel Dorval is afraid he looks like a rich American to some of the desperate Haitians who live near him in a shantytown alongside a trash-clogged drainage ditch.
It's a fear that keeps him up at night.

But the 25-year-old is not an American, at least not to the U.S. government, which deported him and 26 others back to the country of their birth in January in the first wave of forced removals since an earthquake last year destroyed much of the Haitian capital. Twenty-six of the deportees were convicted of crimes and one was judged a national security threat.

Dorval speaks passable Creole, but he left Haiti as an infant and still is learning how to make his way in a devastated country where the vast majority of people have no job nor prospects of finding one. Living in a tent, he misses hot showers and air conditioning. He misses his young son back in Fort Myers, Florida. He worries that his status as a deported criminal, imprisoned two years for cocaine possession, will make him a target of the police. And he wonders how he will survive.

"I wouldn't wish Haiti on my worst enemy," Dorval said outside the tent he shares with two others in a Port-au-Prince camp populated by thousands left homeless by last year's cataclysmic earthquake. "I'm used to being treated like a human being, but a human life has absolutely zero value in Haiti."

Dorval's misery will soon have company. The U.S. government, which halted deportations to Haiti for a year following the earthquake, plans to deport another 700 people convicted of crimes back to the country this year, said Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She declined to say when they would be deported, citing security rules.

Hundreds of thousands of people from Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Jamaica, and other nations have been deported to homelands they barely knew since 1996, when Congress mandated that every non-citizen sentenced to a year or more in prison be booted from the country upon release.

Immigration advocates have pleaded for a halt to the Haiti deportations, citing "inhumane conditions" in the country, where a cholera epidemic has killed more than 4,000 people since October.

Immigration officials say they have no choice under the law: They must release criminal aliens to their countries of origin unless that would be unreasonable. But since they believe Haiti has improved, deportations are now possible.

Even so, conditions are grim for the new arrivals.

One recent deportee has already died, possibly from cholera. All 27 so far have been detained on arrival by Haitian police. Most were held in dungeon-like cells for about 10 days.

"It was a nightmare, with just a bucket ... and no beds, just a dirty floor," said 24-year-old deportee Jean Daniel Maurice, who lived in Spring Valley, New York, and was convicted at 18 for second-degree burglary. "And if you don't have no family bringing food you're not going to eat."

Thirty-four-year-old deportee Wildrick Guerrier, became severely ill while detained at a Port-au-Prince police station with more than a dozen other deportees and various criminal suspects. Dorval, who was detained with him, said Guerrier displayed cholera-like symptoms of diarrhea, weakness and vomiting after tending to other sick and wounded detainees, including a brutally beaten suspect who had defecated on himself.

The detainees begged the police to seek medical care for the visibly ill Guerrier, who was nicknamed "Black Jesus" for his efforts to assist other struggling inmates, according to Dorval. No medical help came. Several deportees interviewed by The Associated Press said police told them: "This is what you came here for: to suffer."

Guerrier, who had participated in a hunger strike while detained in the U.S. to protest his imminent deportation to Haiti, was finally released to an aunt. But he died two days later, according to legal and immigrant rights groups.

"He was goodhearted and the cops let him die," Dorval said. Guerrier, who had earlier served probation for battery on a law enforcement officer, was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm while working as an armed security guard.

No official cause of death was ever announced and Haiti Police Chief Mario Andersol declined to respond to several phone calls seeking comment.

Michelle Karshan, director of Alternative Chance, which has been working with criminal deportees in Haiti for more than a decade, insisted that President Barack Obama's administration is knowingly sending Haitians to their deaths.

"The U.S. State Department's most recent human rights report acknowledged the extent of the horrific and unlawful conditions in Haiti's detention facilities and their most recent travel advisories were clear on the risks of contracting cholera," Karshan said.

Some U.S. backers of tougher immigration enforcement have little sympathy for the ex-cons.

"Advocates for the immigrants, even criminal aliens, never seem to think that conditions are right for their return," said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "There is no reason why the United States should be forced to release deportable criminals onto the streets."

Haiti's government doesn't track how many crimes are committed by deportees or how many relapse into crime and there is no hard evidence about whether they significantly affect crime in the country, which has an overwhelmed and ineffective police force.

The first 27 deportees arrived in Haiti before dawn on Jan. 20. All had been convicted of a crime in the U.S. except for Lyglenson Lemorin, who was acquitted in a 2007 terror plot to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago. While he was a lawful U.S. resident, federal officials said he remained a national security threat. He lost an appeal in January to reverse his deportation.

"It really feels bad knowing that I have no type of justice. It's stressful being here and leaving my sick wife and three kids," Lemorin said during a phone interview from his aunt's home outside Port-au-Prince.

Most of the deportees' future plans are murky. But Maurice insists his terrifying new neighborhood in Haiti's capital will keep him from a life of crime.

"They took us and put us in the middle of a war zone. It's like the country is upside down," said the bespectacled Maurice, who is staying with relatives in a rough ghetto with trigger-happy gangsters. "Every night, every day there's shooting."

He said when shooting starts nearby, he runs in a panic like nearly everyone else, but has no idea where he's going.

Maurice says he is determined to make it without turning to crime. "I know it's gonna be hell to get on my feet in Haiti," he said, "but I will get on my feet."

Others have lost hope.

"I see death for me. I don't even think I'm going to make it a year here," said Pierre Beauduy, a 28-year-old deportee living in a hilly encampment of tents, tarps and bed sheets. The former Brockton, Massachusetts, resident has no relatives in Haiti and mostly stays inside his darkened tent, staring blankly at the flapping walls as they bake in the sun or soak in the rain.