Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lincoln and Slavery

But the president resisted. In Lincoln’s view, the end of slavery was not a matter of if; it was a question of when, and how. Long before he became a national figure, he had predicted that the time would come when all Americans would be forced to choose sides over slavery, and he knew which side he would be on. Slavery was “a great and crying injustice,” he said, “an enormous national crime.” To one friend he said simply: “Slavery is doomed.” On another occasion he said: “I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.” Even so, he perceived a clear impediment: “And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling.”

Drehle, David Von (2012-10-30). Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America's Most Perilous Year

Friday, December 28, 2012

Haiti's General Hospital is Still Very Sick

The General Hospital in Port-au-Prince is still broken.  And so the patients remain broken. The political will is just not there to fix it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Medical Repatriation

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law Release Report Documenting Hundreds of Cases of Coerced Medical Repatriation of Undocumented Immigrants by U.S. Hospitals
Medical repatriations of undocumented immigrants likely to rise as result of federal funding reductions to safety net hospitals under Affordable Care Act

New York, NY, and Newark, New Jersey, December 17, 2012 − Today, the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) at Seton Hall University School of Law and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) released a report documenting an alarming number of cases in which U.S. hospitals have forcibly repatriated vulnerable undocumented patients, who are ineligible for public insurance as a result of their immigration status, in an effort to cut costs. This practice is inherently risky and often results in significant deterioration of a patient’s health, or even death.  The report asserts that such actions are in violation of basic human rights, in particular the right to due process and the right to life.

According to the report, the U.S. is responsible for this situation by failing to appropriately reform immigration and health care laws and protect those within its borders from human rights abuses. The report argues that medical deportations will likely increase as safety net hospitals, which provide the majority of care to undocumented and un- or underinsured patients, encounter tremendous financial pressure resulting from dramatic funding cutbacks under the Affordable Care Act.

The report cites more than 800 cases of attempted or actual medical deportations across the country in recent years, including: a nineteen-year-old girl who died shortly after being wheeled out of a hospital back entrance typically used for garbage disposal and transferred to Mexico; a car accident victim who died shortly after being left on the tarmac at an airport in Guatemala; and a young man with catastrophic brain injury who remains bed-ridden and suffering from constant seizures after being forcibly deported to his elderly mother’s hilltop home in Guatemala.

According to Lori A. Nessel, a Professor at Seton Hall University School of Law and Director of the School’s Center for Social Justice, “When immigrants are in need of ongoing medical care, they find themselves at the crossroads of two systems that are in dire need of reform—health care and immigration law. Aside from emergency care, hospitals are not reimbursed by the government for providing ongoing treatment for uninsured immigrant patients.  Therefore, many hospitals are engaging in de facto deportations of immigrant patients without any governmental oversight or accountability.  This type of situation is ripe for abuse.”
“Any efforts at comprehensive immigration reform must take into account the reality that there are millions of immigrants with long-standing ties to this country who are not eligible for health insurance.  Because health reform has excluded these immigrants from its reach, they remain uninsured and at a heightened risk of medical deportation,” added Shena Elrington, Director of the Health Justice Program at NYLPI. “Absent legislative or regulatory change, the number of forced or coerced medical repatriations is likely to grow as hospitals face mounting financial pressures and reduced Charity Care and federal contributions.”

Rachel Lopez, an Assistant Clinical Professor with CSJ stated, “The U.S. is bound to protect immigrants’ rights to due process under both international law and the U.S. Constitution.  Hospitals are becoming immigration agents and taking matters into their own hands.  It is incumbent on the government to stop the disturbing practice of medical deportation and to ensure that all persons within the country are treated with basic dignity.” 
More information about this issue can be found at, a NYLPI- and CSJ-run website that monitors news and advocacy developments on the topic of medical deportation.

About New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) advances equality and civil rights, with a focus on health justice, disability rights and environmental justice, through the power of community lawyering and partnerships with the private bar. Through community lawyering, NYLPI puts its legal, policy and community organizing expertise at the service of New York City communities and individuals.

About the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law
The Center for Social Justice (CSJ) is one of the nation’s strongest pro bono and clinical programs, empowering students to gain critical, hands-on experience by providing pro bono legal services for economically disadvantaged residents in the region. The cases on which students work span the range from the local to global. Providing educational equity for urban students, litigating on behalf of the victims of real estate fraud, protecting the human rights of immigrants, and obtaining asylum for those fleeing persecution are just some of the issues that CSJ faculty and students team up to address.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Haitian Attorney Mario Joseph (Posted by Roger Annis)

Presentation by Nicole Phillips of the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, of the College of Arts and Sciences, University of San Francisco, to Maître (Attorney) Mario Joseph on December 14, 2012.  Phillips is assistant director for Haiti programs and adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, and staff attorney with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).

This October, Amnesty International issued an urgent action alert in defense of today’s honoree, Mr. Mario Joseph, Haiti’s most prominent human rights attorney. Mr. Joseph has been subjected to an escalating series of death threats, harassment and intimidation for his tireless work to seek justice for the victims of the Duvalier dictatorship, shelter for the victims of government enforced evictions who were made homeless after thecatastrophic 2010 earthquake and to hold parties accountable for the ongoing cholera epidemic the United Nations troops allegedly brought to Haiti after the earthquake.  Because of his daily and heroic struggles on their behalf, it is no surprise Mr. Joseph’s clients proudly and affectionately refer to him as “met pa nou,” or “our lawyer.” 

The importance of the University’s support of Mr. Joseph must not be underestimated. Since 2006, the School ofLaw’s Center for Law and Global Justice has worked with Mr. Joseph and the Institute for Justice and Democracy to nurture human rights and the rule of law in Haiti. Moreover, the University’s conferral of an honorary doctorate to the late human rights activist Father Gerard Jean-Juste, Mr. Joseph’s client and friend, was instrumental in ending government harassment of Fr. Jean-Juste before his death.

For the last sixteen years, Mario Joseph has led the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Port-au-Prince as its managing attorney, representing political prisoners and victims of political violence. He is committed to makingHaiti’s justice system work for all of Haiti’s citizens. He believes a fair and equitable justice system is essential to the effective, non-violent resolution of societal conflicts that are too often marred by corruption and violence in Haiti.  

Every day, Mr. Joseph risks his life knowing that his work is dangerous, but he refuses to abandon his commitment to the defense of human rights, repairing the flawed justice system and ending the pervasive corruption in Haiti.  Most importantly, he refuses to abandon his commitment to his fellow citizens.  He continues to represent political prisoners and dissidents and to speak out against repression even though many of his friends, colleagues and clients have been jailed or killed.

The awarding of this honorary degree recognizes Mr. Joseph as a fearless and resolute defender of human rights and calls urgent and immediate attention to the human rights abuses in Haiti. The University does, therefore, proudly confer upon Mario Joseph, the degree of Doctor of Humane letters, honoris causa, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereunto, given this 14th day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand and twelve, and of the University, the hundred and fifty-seventh, in San Francisco, California.

Change the world from where you live

Speech by Maître (Attorney) Mario Joseph of Haiti to the winter graduation class of the College of Arts and Sciences, University of San Francisco on December 14, 2012. At the ceremony, Maître Joseph received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, from the University.

First I would like to say bonjou (greetings) and mesi (thank you) to Father Privett for the honor of this prestigious award. I would also like to say bonjou and mesi to Dean of Law Jeffrey Brand, Professor Dolores Donovan, and Assistant Dean Erin Dolly.

Bonjou to all the other distinguished faculty here.

To the graduates of the University of San Francisco College of Arts and Sciences class of 2012, bonjou, and congratulations. And last but not least, a big bonjou and a chapo ba–a tip of the hat--to all the parents, siblings, relatives and friends of the members of the class of 2012 .

In my country, we have a saying: men anpil chay pa lou: many hands make the load light. We know that it takes many hands to carry the load of building a road, a house, a school. But it also takes men anpil- many hands—to create a graduate of the University of San Francisco. So while we are celebrating the hard work, accomplishment, intelligence and promise of today’s graduates, let us take a minute to thank those who helped them get here. Chapo ba, again.

In my country, we have a lot of other sayings, but Father Privett has given me only 12 minutes. So I will get to the point. It is a great honor, for which I am deeply grateful, to have been invited to share this special day with you. Where I grew up, in a village in VerrettesHaiti, drinking water from an irrigation ditch, doing homework by candlelight, few of us even dreamed of graduating from high school. Most of us never even learned to read. To be someday honored by the graduates of a University as esteemed and historic as the University of San Francisco was beyond incomprehensible.

If I could not have imagined reaching out from Haiti to San Francisco, the University of San Francisco could imagine reaching out to Haiti, and it did it. USF law students and faculty have for seven years brought their education, their skills and their enthusiasm to the fight for human rights in Haiti, working from here in Californiaand in Haiti. In 2006, USF granted my client, Fatherr Gérard Jean-Juste, an honorary degree. Granting that degree was not only a generous act to honor the man considered by many the Martin Luther King of my country. It was also a courageous and concretely productive act that helped keep Father Gerry out of Haiti’s political prisons at a time when his speaking out for Haiti’s poor made him unpopular with governments in my country and in yours, and with some leaders of the Catholic Church.

Although life in Haiti has not always provided me with safety, stability, or electricity, it has provided some interesting perspectives on your mantra, Change the World from Here, that I would like to share with you. To start, it is worth asking “why change the world?” I will give you three reasons.

The first reason for why change the world is “because you can.” From some perspectives, you might be inexperienced young people, greatly in debt with school loans, thrown out into an uncertain and challenging economy. But from the perspective of a kid from a small town in Haiti, you are the privileged possessors of an education beyond the wildest dreams of most of the world. It is an education that will help you get a good job, eventually. But more importantly, it is an education that provides you the tools to learn about the world’s problems and to become part of the solution to them. Those tools are all the more valuable because you live here in the most powerful country on earth. And it is a country whose government listens to its citizens, when they organize enough, speak enough, and act enough.

The second reason for why change the world is “because you should.” Your USF education has gone beyond the important task of equipping you to participate economically in the existing society, it has equipped you to participate morally in a society that is improved by your participation. You have been involved in service learning that provided you opportunities not just to help people who needed it, but to learn more about where you yourself fit it. USF’s diverse curriculum exposed you to the wonders and challenges of communities far away and close to home. All this learning enhanced your ability to connect others’ needs with your skills, and more importantly, with your personal fulfillment. Today, we are not just celebrating your becoming bachelors of arts and sciences, we are celebrating your becoming women and men for others, in the Jesuit tradition.

The third reason for why change the world is “because we need you to.” The most powerful country in the world has an enormous influence on daily life in Haiti, and in so many places like it around the world. Much of this influence is positive, but too often your country’s policies in Haiti are not consistent with our best interests or your highest ideals. Your country has undermined and overthrown many of our Presidents and replaced them with tyrants who imprison people like Father Gerry for the crime of speaking up for the poor. Your food aid policies, as President Clinton has conceded, often help your farmers with their surplus but put Haiti’s farmers out of business, increasing our hunger.

These policies happen because the majority lets them happen by declining to stay informed and engaged and leaving foreign policy to people with a strong ideological or economic self-interest. Only an engaged, informedUS citizenry like you, with a strong moral interest, can save us from these policies.

Improving US foreign policy may seem like a heavy load to carry, but that is exactly why we need men anpil - many hands- including your hands, to carry it. Just this week, we saw proof that enough hands can carry the heaviest load. Two years ago, UN peacekeepers introduced cholera into Haiti, while we were still recovering from the devastating earthquake. We had never known cholera, so the disease quickly spread throughout the country. It has killed 8,000 people and sickened over 600,000. The UN has its strengths and weaknesses, like any organization, and one of its weaknesses is an inability to respond fairly to the harm its peacekeepers caused. The UN denies responsibility and hides behind its immunity, denying its victims their day in court. It even denies that it caused our cholera epidemic, despite a mountain of proof as well as admissions by UN investigators and President Clinton, UN Special Envoy to Haiti, that it was responsible.

One year ago, our office filed claims with the UN on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims. Our legal claim was strong, but we knew we needed many more hands- men anpil—to obtain justice for our clients. So we worked with solidarity, religious and human rights groups from all over the world, especially in the U.S., which pays the largest share of UN peacekeeping costs. Our friends helped us convince 105 members of the U.S. Congress, which appropriates the UN peacekeeping costs, to sign a letter urging the UN to respond justly. Four hundred thousand people viewed Baseball in the Time of Cholera, a movie about our fight, online. Over 7,000 people have signed an online petition by Avaaz launched last Friday. And on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon made the historic announcement that the UN would commit to a $2.2 billion response to preventing and eventually eradicating cholera by expanding health care, sanitation and clean water systems. There are still many question marks about this initiative, but if it succeeds, it will save an estimated 4,000 lives a year from cholera and other water-borne disease.

The cholera case shows why it is so important to change the world from here. We love having USF students, alumni and faculty visit us in Haiti, but I have spent enough time in San Francisco to understand why you might never want to leave. And you don’t have to. There are plenty of borders erected between Haiti and San Francisco: immigration borders, language borders, economic borders, racial borders. But those borders do not really work unless we let them. They cannot stop computers carrying translatable text, videos, and pictures that convey our reality to yours, and yours to ours. They cannot stop you from inviting Haitians to speak at your schools, from your votes having an impact on policies in our country, or from events in Haiti having an influence in elections here.

The cholera case also shows that we need not just many hands, but many different types of hands. We needed lawyers, of course, but we also needed artists to create compelling videos, scientists and doctors to analyze the evidence, economists to weigh the costs, writers to write about it, and teachers to teach it. Most important, we needed critical consumers of media, discerning financial supporters, and educated and engaged citizens.

I would now ask all the members of the class of 2012 to raise your right hand. Good. Now please raise your left hand. Good. Now repeat after me: men anpil, chay pa lou (chorus). Again: men anpil, chay pa lou (chorus). How about everyone else, please join them and raise your hands: men anpil chay pa lou.(Chorus). Very good.

Now please answer the question: “How do we change the world from here?” Chorus: “Men anpil, chay pa lou!” How? Chorus: “Men anpil, chay pa lou!” Merci beacoup, thank you so much. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fatal Neglect

UN Web Broadcast on Cholera (from CHAN/Roger Annis)

December 11, 2012

Today at the United Nations in New York City was the launch of "The Secretary-General’s Initiative for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti." You can watch the 18-minute announcement on UN Web TV, consisting of remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, and the minister of health of the Dominican Republic (there is silence until the three-minute mark of the broadcast):

The Secretary-General said that $215 million in new funding is pledged to the Initiative. He also announced that Dr. Paul Farmer has accepted to serve as the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on cholera treatment and prevention.

No mention of the United Nations MINUSTAH military mission in Haiti as being the source of the cholera epidemic was made throughout the formal proceedings, nor was there any mention of the legal action against the UN demanding compensation for the victims of cholera and a rapid program to build clean water infrastructure throughout the country. Nospecific mention was made of the Haitian and international agencies that have been heroically battling the cholera epidemic over the past fourteen months, excepting a brief mention by the minister of health of the DR regarding Cuba's medical brigade in Haiti. The Secretary General spoke more of cholera vaccine than of clean water supply and sanitation systems in the fight against cholera.

Prime Minister Lamothe spoke for four minutes. He gave thanks to governments and agencies in Haiti assisting with cholera treatment. He said that his government has a two-year plan to fight cholera that it estimates to cost "about" $600 million. He said that the $215 million pledged by the Secretary-General plus another $23 million from an existing commitment is the financial head start of his government's plan. "We have to work together to bridge the remaining gap," he said.

statement by the Pan-American Health Organization on January 12, 2012, the two-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, said that improvements to sanitation and clean water supply in Haiti and the Dominican republic were "absolutely essential." It estimated those costs as "$746 million to $1.1 billion," citing as sources the Inter-American Development Bank, Office of the Haitian Primer Minister and World Bank).

PAHO statement on June 29, 2012 announced, "Representatives of international and civil society organizations today agreed to promote major investments in water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti and the Dominican Republic as the long-term solution to the cholera epidemic in those countries." No details nor fund amounts were reported.

There was no further detail today of the precise figures of expenditure in the two countries for cholera treatment and prevention, nor any explanation of why such an "absolutely essential" program of public health is being announced yet gain with incomplete details of funding pleges, amounts and overall strategy.

The prime minister said that his government's policy of encouraging foreign investment in factory investment is a key to improving Haiti's social and public health conditions. A cholera prevention program, he said, will be an important "job creation" program.

At the end of the 18-minute ceremony, it was announced that Nigel Fisher would speak to media in a separate room. There is apparently no webcast of this proceeding.

If you have not already done so, please sign the international petition on Avaaz, initiated by film director Oliver Stone and others, urging the UN Secretary-Generalto respond to Haitian calls, including legal action, for a robust program of cholera treatment and preventionand compensation for the victims of the epidemic. Read and sign the petition here.

--Roger Annis

UN launches new initiative to eliminate cholera in Haiti and Dominican Republic

UN News Center, December 11, 2012

11 December 2012 – The United Nations today announced a new initiative to help eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the two nations that make up the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

“The new initiative will invest in prevention, treatment, and education – it will take a holistic approach to tackling the cholera challenge,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the initiative’s launch. “The main focus is on the extension of clean drinking water and sanitation systems – but we are also determined to save lives now through the use of an oral cholera vaccine.”

“Because global vaccines are in short supply, we will first target high-risk areas: densely populated urban areas and rural areas far removed from health services,” he added. “As production increases, the vaccine effort will expand its reach.”

Launched at UN Headquarters in New York in the presence of government officials (sic) from the two countries, the new initiative will support an existing campaign – known as the Initiative for the Elimination of Cholera in the Island of Hispaniola – established almost a year ago by the Presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacterium known as vibrio cholerae. The disease has a short incubation period and produces a toxin that causes continuous watery diarrhoea, a condition that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not administered promptly.

In his remarks at the launch, the Secretary-General noted that in Haiti the disease has claimed the lives of more than 7,750 people, infected over 620,000, and added more suffering to a country already recovering from a major earthquake in 2010, the largest natural disaster in the history of the western hemisphere.

Ten months after the earthquake, the Caribbean nation experienced a major cholera outbreak.

The United Nations and its partners have been working with the Haitian authorities to respond to the outbreak, with a focus on water and sanitation facilities, as well as on training, logistics and early warning.

“Haiti has seen a dramatic fall in infection and fatality rates. But this will not be a short-term crisis,” Mr. Ban said. “Eliminating cholera from Haiti will continue to require the full cooperation and support of the international community.”

The UN chief said resources will be critical, with Haiti needing almost $500 million over the next two years to carry out its national implementation plan for the disease.

Noting that the relevant humanitarian appeals are less than half-funded, Mr. Ban said he will “use every opportunity” in the months ahead to mobilize more funding.

“Today I am pleased to announce that $215 million in existing funds from bilateral and multilateral donors will be used to support the initiative. I thank the donor community for this generous commitment,” Mr. Ban said. “The United Nations will do its part. We are committing $23.5 million, building on the $118 million the UN system has spent on the cholera response to date.”

He added that the United Nations will also continue to support the Government of Haiti in tracking cholera spending and ensure the effective use of resources.

“Today, as ever, we are in Haiti for one reason alone: to help the Haitian people make their great country all that it can be. We know the elimination of cholera is possible. Science tells us it can be done. It has happened in difficult environments around the world. It can and will happen in Haiti,” the Secretary-General added.

At the launch, the Secretary-General also announced that a world-renowned humanitarian, Dr. Paul Farmer, will serve as his Special Adviser focusing on community-based medicine and on drawing lessons from Haiti that can be applied to other places in need.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Haitian Hearts/Peoria

It's all the same.

Many good people on the ground that care.

Many good people who invoke Jesus's name all the time. Peoria version of "Si Bon Dieu vle".

Way more good here than bad.

It's all the same.

Young men smoking cigarettes talking through second floor open window of project housing to a woman that doesn't want to be bothered on sidewalk below.

United Against Violence on blue strap hanging from her neck.

John 3:16 carved in cement.

It's all the same.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Mike DeWine Attorney General of Ohio

The United States needs many more people in leadership roles like Mike DeWine.

Haitian Hearts is very grateful for all AG DeWine has done for us.

Please read this article

Sunday, December 02, 2012

What about the Restaveks? Restavek Hotline? Let's Get Real....

Back to previous page

Haiti to overhaul adoption laws to protect its children, curb child trafficking and neglect

By Associated Press, Published: November 30

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti is overhauling its adoption laws for the first time in nearly 40 years in an attempt to end practices that have allowed thousands of children to be trafficked out of the country or suffer from neglect as they languish in squalid orphanages.

The proposed legislation is meant to bring Haiti in line with international laws that seek to protect children under consideration for overseas adoptions, said Arielle Jeanty Villedrouin, general director of the government’s social welfare agency. The legislation has gone before the Senate for review and awaits approval from both houses of Parliament.

The proposal includes a requirement that both biological parents give informed consent for adoptions. It also establishes Villedrouin’s office as the “central authority” for all overseas adoptions, which is a requirement of the Hague Adoption Convention, and prohibits adoptions that aren’t authorized by the government.

“A parent who wants to adopt a child can’t just go to a website and say, ‘This is a child I want.’ The children aren’t merchandise or cars,” Villedrouin said in an interview.

Other reforms hope to help the child land in a stable home, including requirements that couples adopting a child must be married for five years, with one spouse at least 30 years old. A single person filing for adoption must be at least 35.

Adoptions will also only be permitted once all other forms of support for the child have been exhausted.
Ann Linnarsson, a Haiti-based child protection specialist with the UN children’s agency UNICEF, welcomed the proposed changes.

“It will mean that the child being adopted needs a new family and that you will know this child has been screened,” Linnarsson said. “There will be some accountability. ... The adopting parents will know that their child has not been trafficked or stolen.”

The need for new legislation is acute in Haiti, where an estimated 50,000 children live in orphanages in part because many parents give up their children because they can’t afford to take care of them.
Many orphanages are poorly run and have little oversight. U.S. missionaries managed to get the government to close one home last year in Carrefour, one of the cities that make up the Haitian capital region, after they noted that several children disappeared and the operators didn’t offer credible explanations for what happened.

It’s not entirely known how many Haitian children are trafficked into neighboring Dominican Republic or elsewhere. But UNICEF recently estimated that at least 2,000 children were smuggled across the border in 2009.

The changes were welcome news to Shasta Grimes and her husband, who have been waiting for more than two years to adopt a Haitian boy who’s 5 years old.

“The laws they’ve had — they’ve been up to interpretation,” the 32-year-old woman said by phone from her home in Arcadia, Florida. “It’s been really difficult for anyone to know what the standard is or the correct procedure is. With legislation in place it’s going to really set in place an international standard.”

The vulnerability of Haiti’s children was dramatized in the weeks after the January 2010 earthquake when Baptist missionaries from Idaho tried to take 33 children they believed were orphans to the Dominican Republic. Police arrested the Americans for lacking the proper documents to take the kids, all of whom turned out had living parents and had been voluntarily turned over to the missionaries.
Even if the new legislation passes, enforcement may prove tricky. Officials have long complained that child welfare workers lack the resources and training to investigate allegations of criminal behavior.
Over the past year, Villedrouin said, the government has closed 26 orphanages for operating in substandard conditions. She said under the new law, more “sanctions will be taken.”

Absent from the legislation is any reference to Haiti’s informal internal adoption system, in which parents hand over their children to other families to clean homes and do other chores in exchange for money or school tuition. Between 250,000 and 500,000 children in Haiti are forced to work as domestic servants known as “restaveks,” Haitian Creole for “stay with,” according to the International Organization for Migration.

The government has created a “restavek” hotline for people to call and report cases of abuse, Villedrouin said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Desperate Haitian Farmers by Randal C. Archibold

The New York Times

November 17, 2012

Already Desperate, Haitian Farmers Are Left Hopeless After Storm

FAUCHÉ, Haiti — A woman who lost just about everything now gives her children coffee for meals because it quiets their stomachs a bit. Another despondent mother relives the awful moment when her 18-month-old baby was swept from her arms by a flash food. The bodies of a family of five killed in a mudslide still sit in a morgue unclaimed.
Haitians, who know well the death and despair natural disasters can cause, suffered mightily fromHurricane Sandy, which bashed the country’s rural areas and killed at least 54 people.
Three weeks after the hurricane’s deluge, Haiti, still struggling to recover from the earthquake in January 2010, is facing its biggest blow to reconstruction and slipping deeper into crisis, United Nations and government officials say, with hundreds of thousands of others at risk of hunger or malnutrition.
All around this hamlet and others nearby, the men and women who farmed bananas, plantains, sugar cane, beans and breadfruit stare at fields swept of trees, still flooded or coated with river muck that will probably kill off whatever plants are left. They had little, have endured much, and now need more. Hardened by past disasters, they still fear the days and weeks ahead.
“I do not know where we will find money for food and school now,” said Olibrun Hilaire, 61, surveying his wrecked plantain and sugar cane farm in Petit-Goâve that supported his family of 10 children and grandchildren.
As if the quake were not enough, Haiti is now suffering the combined onslaught of storms and, before that, drought, imperiling its food supply, causing $254 million in agricultural losses and throwing 1.6 million people — about 16 percent of the population — into dire straits.
Tropical Storm Isaac in August destroyed farms in the north, preceded by a spring drought that devastated farms there. Then came Hurricane Sandy, which passed west of Hispaniola and over Jamaica but was large enough to send 20 inches of rain over southern Haiti.
Last week, as the government and the United Nations took stock of the storm and grappled with flooding in the north from a fresh cloudburst that left 10 people dead, they issued an emergency appeal for $39 million in humanitarian aid to a world weary of its recurrent disasters. United Nations officials said they had received pledges for about $8 million, and the Haitian government said it was in talks with donors to raise at least half the requested amount.
“This is a major blow to Haiti’s reconstruction efforts, making life for most vulnerable Haitians even more precarious,” said the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, Nigel Fisher. “International partners’ ability to respond has been reduced by dwindling donor support,” he added.
The recent storms have damaged or destroyed 61 cholera treatment centers, leading to fears that there may be fresh outbreaks of an epidemic that has already killed more than 7,500 people since 2010.
The storm’s rare direct strike on the New York metropolitan area was devastating, but the heartache here, too, is wrenching and the recovery years off, if it happens at all.
Residents of Petit-Goâve, all of them quake victims who resettled in a plantain grove near a river, swam and climbed over tents and tombs in a nearby cemetery to escape the rising water. But Marie Helene Aristil lost her grip on her infant daughter, Juliana, whose lifeless body was found a mile away.
“It should have taken me, too,” Ms. Aristil, 25, said softly.
Jacqueline Sataille and her four children ignored warnings to evacuate their hillside hovel in Grand Goâve near here because they did not want to leave their possessions behind, friends said. Ms. Sataille and the children, ages 3 to 18, died when a section of the hill, denuded of trees, buried them.
A friend, Dornelia Raton, who lost her corn and bean crops and resorted to feeding her children just coffee for the day, said nobody had claimed the bodies for a funeral.
She looked to the heavens, humming a Creole gospel song with the refrain, “Jesus, this is my burden, please help me,” in answer to questions of how she would manage, with food as well as seed, fertilizer and other materials to replant her crops.
The hurricane took aim largely at agriculture, a quarter of Haiti’s economy. After the quake in 2010, there were promises, never fully met, of revitalization — things like new irrigation ditches and canals, river dredging and reforestation.
Though government officials have blamed unfulfilled aid pledges, international donors blame political uncertainty for the lack of progress. President Michel Martelly is on his second prime minister in a year and a half in office amid squabbles with Parliament.
“Donors don’t contribute if there is no government,” said Myrta Kaulard, the country director of the United Nations World Food Program, one of the agencies rallying aid to help 20,000 families make it through the winter.
The government estimates it will take $1.5 billion to modernize domestic agriculture and reverse decades of ill-conceived policies — including a reliance on cheap, subsidized American rice and Dominican poultry — that have left Haiti importing more than half of its food.
Farming has never been easy here, despite rich soil, regular rain and blasting sunshine. There is little irrigation to control the water, roads are so shot that produce spoils or is damaged before it reaches urban markets, and a good crop could yield about $1,000 for the year.
A number of initiatives have produced modest results in improving production and efficiency in farming, which 60 percent of Haitians, mostly tenant farmers on small plots, rely on to feed their families. But areport last month by Oxfam, an international aid agency, said there was no coordinated strategy to avert widespread crisis and neglect.
“The government and the international community must put greater emphasis on coherent agricultural policies to revitalize production and create value to help Haitians get back on their feet and improve their living conditions,” Oxfam said.
Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said in an interview this month that the government would focus more on shorter-term goals like dredging riverbeds and repairing bridges and roads, and less on “big studies” that never seem to go anywhere.
“We have limited means, and the devastation is huge,” he said, looking weary after having just received pictures of fresh flooding and casualties. “We are going to use this tragedy to invest in prevention.”
The government, Mr. Lamothe said, was working on plans to provide farmers with cash assistance and seeds and to use locally grown products in emergency food kits, to support farms that can still produce.
Economic distress in the countryside could undermine the government’s goal of halting migration to teeming big cities like Port-au-Prince, where severe overcrowding contributed to the high death toll in the earthquake.
“We are a fragile state and can only do what we have the financial means for,” Mr. Lamothe said.
But patience is wearing thin. There have been demonstrations in rural communities demanding more government help.
In Fauché, a name that can mean penniless or a scythe, protesting farmers blocked the main coastal highway this month for a couple of hours, after food handouts quickly ran out and other promised relief never arrived.
The devastation was pronounced, with trees snapped in half by winds and banana and plantain groves destroyed by rushing water. A 30-year-old man was missing, presumed swept into the sea, residents said.
Several residents blamed deforested hilltops — the trees were cut to make charcoal to sell — for the avalanche of water. They sounded skeptical that much would be done and knew from experience of past floods that the silt smothering good soil would take years to overcome naturally.
Brunel Casimir lost some of his plantain crop after Tropical Storm Isaac, but he had salvaged some saplings and had replanted them only to see Hurricane Sandy wipe out what had remained. Food prices at the roadside markets have already doubled this year; the $20 a week it costs now to feed his family of eight is out of reach.
“At night I pray to God,” he said, “and ask what can I do?”


2nd Tunisian Man Held in Embassy Attack Dies

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In a Dark Time....

Photo by John Carroll

In a dark time, the eye begins to see. — Theodore Roethke

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

UN Must Make Amends for Cholera (Posted by Roger Annis)

UN must make amends for cholera that organization brought to Haiti
When the international aid community descends on a vulnerable place, the first objective must be to do no harm. But all too often, good intentions make a bad situation even worse. That’s what happened two years ago, when United Nations peacekeepers arrived in Haiti in the wake of a devastating earthquake, bringing the deadly disease cholera with them.
Last year, a panel of UN experts concluded that poor sanitation at the peacekeepers’ camp was the likely cause of a terrible cholera outbreak that has so far killed 7,000 people and sickened 500,000. Their report declined to say whether the peacekeepers, the sanitation contractor, or the UN’s own inadequate health protocols were to blame for human waste getting into Haiti’s water supply. But as cholera deaths continue, new scientific evidence removes all doubt about the source of the disease: The strain of cholera that exploded in Haiti is an exact match to the cholera that exists in Nepal, the UN peacekeepers’ native country.
So far, the United Nations has declined to apologize for its role, or even admit it — perhaps because it is facing a deluge of expensive legal claims brought by the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti on behalf of the victim’s families. The United Nations legal department has sat on the group’s complaint for nearly a year. The UN says it is still studying the claims.
But foot-dragging is the wrong response. The institute’s foremost demand is not monetary compensation for cholera victims, but UN action to stop the disease from spreading; this would involve a massive investment in clean water and sanitation infrastructure. Such an effort would not just wipe out cholera, but also a host of other water-borne illnesses. Rather than merely get Haiti back to where it was before the outbreak, this effort would push the country ahead.
It is true that such an effort would be expensive; the Institute estimates the cost at about $1.2 billion — about twice what the UN spends on peacekeepers in Haiti each year. Sending UN peacekeepers home ahead of schedule could generate the savings to do this. The UN has a moral responsibility to correct its mistakes in Haiti and to institute simple public health protocols to ensure that peacekeepers who hail from cholera-infected areas never spread the disease again.
[The Boston Globe is a print daily and has been owned by the New York Times since 1993. The paper has won 21 Pulitzer prizes.]

Thursday, November 08, 2012

PAC Money for Negative Advertising Could Have Helped Haiti

Photo by John Carroll

From the New York Times today--November 8, 2012:

"Mr. Obama faced at least $386 million in negative advertising from super PACs and other outside spenders, more than double what the groups supporting him spent on the airwaves." 

If one divides $386 million by 10 million (Haiti population), the answer is $38.60 for each Haitian. 

If one Haitian family has a mother, father, and five kids,  one then take $38.60 times 7 which equals $270.20 per family.

Then take $270.20 times 8.4 (Haitian dollars per US dollar) and the answer is $2,270 Haitian dollars per family.

This would buy a lot of rice and brown beans and some vegetables and chicken for many families who are literally starving to death as I type this post.

John A. Carroll, MD

Friday, October 26, 2012

Assault on Democracy in Haiti from Counterpunch

An Interview with Jeb Sprague

The Assault on Democracy in Haiti

Jeb Sprague is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where his research is focused on Haiti. He has written for numerous publications including Al Jazeera, the Miami Herald, Inter Press Service, and many others. He received a Project Censored Award in 2008 for an article coauthored with Haitian journalist Wadner Pierre. Sprague just released his first book, Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti, the subject of this interview.
David Zlutnick interviewed Sprague when he passed through San Francisco on a book tour. The conversation focuses on paramilitarism and its consequences in Haiti, but also touches on the roles of outside powers and their influence, Haiti’s vibrant social movements, and the country’s most recent developments. What follows is an edited transcript of the full interview. To view an ten-minute editedselection of the video, please click here.
San Francisco, CA. September 10, 2012—
DZ: While much of your new book focuses on the recent past, you describe Haiti’s paramilitary history in four waves. Could you begin by giving a bit of this history, going back to the US occupation and subsequent dictatorships?
JS: So my book, the recent part really relies on interviews and Freedom of Information Act request documents that show what elites talk about behind closed doors and to try and get at the roots of paramilitary violence. But before that I try to give the larger context of contemporary paramilitary violence in Haiti. And my basic argument is that there have been four contemporary waves of paramilitarism in Haiti. The first wave, which is basically the Tonton Macoutes, which was institutionalized under Duvalier—François “Papa Doc” Duvalier [Haitian president, 1957-1971]. And right when this was started as sort of a Cold War, right-wing project in the early ‘60s, the CIA threw Marines at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, basically trained the Tonton Macoutes—a Marine force in Port-au-Prince. And so the Tonton Macoutes lasted all the way up until the mid-1980s when Papa Doc’s son, “Baby Doc,” was forced out of office.
And the Tonton Macoutes—it became this very much pervasive force around the country, really leaching off the poor, sucking the resources of the state, killing tens of thousands of people, and also creating a symbiotic relationship with the military and with the rural sheriffs, called the “Section Chiefs,” which had been set up before [Papa Doc]. But this whole sort of military-security-paramilitary apparatus came together to secure this regime—this Cold War, repressive regime. Because there was also this miniature Cold War going on in the Caribbean, especially after the Cuban Revolution [in 1958]. And then across the [Hispaniola island] border in the Dominican Republic there was a similar repressive regime.
So that’s what I argue is really the first wave of paramilitarism. And then the second wave of paramilitarism comes about after the fall of Baby Doc. Elites try to control a transition to a more palatable kind of regime that the West can accept. And so what happens is basically the Tonton Macoutes take off their blue uniforms and some of them are sort of repositioned in other places around the country where the local people don’t see them. And they do all these things to maintain this paramilitary apparatus, but to make surface-level changes. And they become what is called the “attaches,” where they work alongside the military as these “military attaches” where the can carry out brutal massacres, targeted assassinations, targeting people from the pro-democracy movement from below, which has been around since forever in Haiti.
And what about more recently, in the past couple decades?
And so once democracy finally came about in Haiti in the early-1990s, after this huge struggle from the popular movement, the Ti Legliz—the small church, liberation theologians—finally you had a popularly elected government in 1990 [under President Jean-Bertrand Aristide], taking office in February of 1991. And soon thereafter, about seven months into this first democratically elected government, you had a coup d’état where sectors of what they call “the families”—Haiti has an extremely unequal society and there are these families that live—a lot of them live in Port au Prince in neighborhoods like Petionville—and these families supported—a number of the families supported this coup. The top echelons of the military were not happy with the progressive reforms that were being carried out. So after the coup there was really the third wave of paramilitarism, what they call the FRAPH [Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti], which actually it’s well-documented the CIA station chief was coordinating with them their wave of terror. They killed thousands. Human Rights Watch claimed that they killed 4,000 but it’s probably a lot higher than that. And they would target progressive business people that were against the coup, priests, young activists protesting—this was happening basically between ’91 and ’94, this paramilitary group.
And then ultimately this post-coup military dictatorship that had come to power, it became such an embarrassment for its international backers, it was such a narco-corrupt state of brutality that by late-1994 the US with UN support acted to bring down the regime. A lot of the top military guys in the regime left the country to mansions in Central America or some went to New York and the US, and the US would even rent or pay them for some of their property in Haiti when they left. And so the US did everything they could to try and buy these guys off so they wouldn’t see justice. The elected [Aristide] government was reinstalled in 1994 but it had to sort of accept these deals with the US and the so-called “international community” to bring down tariffs and allow a certain number of the old military to go into a new police force. And that really laid a seed for a lot of problems in the future.
But at the same time the return of the government allowed restarting a lot of the progressive projects that it had initially started in ’91 when it was first elected. One of the most popular things was that Aristide disbanded—his government disbanded the military, disbanded the rural section chiefs, and the paramilitary forces had to go underground or flee the country. It also started these judicial processes to hold accountable gunmen in some of the larger massacres; and not only the gunmen but started going after the financial and intellectual authors of these massacres—something that’s almost never done. It was a pretty strong justice process that hasn’t really been looked at. One of the more famous trials is the Raboteau Massacre trial in Gonaives where there were dozens of military and paramilitary men that were found guilty and put in jail. This was the first time in Haitian history that this was ever done, so this was a really big deal.
So flash-forward into 2000. The democratic forces in Haiti are just starting to try to get things back together. I mean [there were] a lot of problems and contradictions, but Haiti is slowly progressing. So then what happens, what I argue, is there is a fourth wave of paramilitarism. What happens is that a group of these police and military that were connected with the US—they had actually been trained in Quito, Ecuador with support from the US, and in Haiti they call them the “Ecuadorians”—this group, they basically formed the core of the new paramilitary force. They often called themselves the “New Army;” their acronym was the FLRN [National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation and Reconstruction of Haiti]. And they based themselves out of the Dominican Republic and what happened was all throughout 2001—or towards the end of 2001, then 2002, 2003, they carried out this war of attrition where they would run raids, attack the National Palace. They tried to carry out a coup but they didn’t have sufficient forces. But they were carrying out these assassinations of Fanmi Lavalas activists and supporters in the center of Haiti, in the Hinterland, where a lot of the agriculture is based. Fanmi Lavalas was the party of Aristide, the most popular political party in the country, especially among the poor.
And so eventually this fourth wave of paramilitarism started to wear down on the government. And there was also a fifth column within the government of ex-military, some of which even claimed to be Lavalas but they were—but what I’ve been able to get at through my research, these Freedom of Information Act documents, I show that this fifth column was actively plotting against the government from within the government. That’s something the book really looks at, the different sectors that were behind these paramilitaries: a wing of the Dominican government, the foreign ministry and the military; a wing of local bourgeoisie, some of which are neo-Duvalierists; some of what I call “transnationally-oriented capitalists,” who are, you know, primarily concerned with the global economy—textiles, sweatshop owners; and then there’s also connections to French and US intelligence. More work needs to be done on that [latter point], but it’s very hard to uncover that linkage. So this is that fourth wave of paramilitarism, which eventually led up to the 2004 coup in which the Bush Administration—George W. Bush—I think with a US Navy SEAL team, took him from his house, took him on an unmarked plane—like all those rendition planes—and flew him to the Central African Republic. I think a lot of people know about that through Democracy Now! and all the coverage that was given to that.
Wasn’t there a US private security company that was also linked up in the 2004 coup? I used to write about these military contractors and I recall coming across the Haitian coup in my research. A group similar to Blackwater or Triple Canopy or one of those, although I forget which one.
Yeah, there was US private security that the Haitian government had actually been using for years prior, that had actually been working for the Haitian government to do security for top officials in the government. Because one of the problems was there was this infiltrated fifth column, so they would actually—it’s kind of ironic they would hire this private company from the US, but Haiti is such a donor-dependent country, even with a progressive, left-leaning government there’s so many contradictions and it’s so hard to avoid these things. But what happened was when this paramilitary campaign ramped up and got more and more widespread, there was this private security firm—and it was very controversial because I think the US embassy and State Department intervened with this corporation—I think they might actually be based out of San Francisco—and they got their teams to stand down when the US Navy SEALs went in to take Aristide out of the country.
[Note: The military contractor protecting Aristide was the Steele Foundation, based in San Francisco as Sprague said. It is made up of former US special forces, intelligence agents, and other security experts. It has been reported that the Bush Administration blocked the Steele Foundation from sending reinforcements to Haiti to protect the Aristide government as rebel attacks escalated immediately preceding the coup.]
You began to talk about who is supporting these paramilitaries. Could you speak a bit more about whose interests are being served by these groups? And why are these backers prone to using such massive and decimating violence for their advantage instead of other less physically destructive types of social coercion we may see in other states?
Well, there’s this idea of “polyarchy,” right? Over the last few decades, through globalization, with the winding down of the cold war, dominant groups have tried to transition away from more violent forms of coercion and oppression that are very embarrassing for them when it gets out in the media and things like this. And they’ve tried to transition away from that to sort of more controlled, “democratic” processes—like in the US, or a lot of western countries—where there’s sort of a small sliver of society that is able to participate in politics, and whatever party you choose, there may be slight differences but the overarching things that they do are beneficial for the global economy and the class system. So what happened it Haiti really is that that sort of polyarchic strategy wasn’t able to succeed. Because the movement-from-below groups in Haiti that were advocating for an alternative path toward development where the poor would be included in the political process, they were able to mobilize successfully election after election, even with all the problems they faced outside and inside of their movement. And so paramilitary violence, for not all dominant groups but for sectors of dominant groups—the upper class, different states—this became a viable strategy and you see this playing out…
Whereas what’s interesting that we now know through Wikileaks—through cables released through Wikileaks—that around 400 of these paramilitaries were integrated into the police force in Haiti after the coup. And we see cables from the US embassy talking about OAS [Organization of American States], UN, US officials, technocrats about how they oversaw this process of integrating paramilitaries into the police. And it’s interesting because they never talk about—they never question the problem of integrating people into the police that were criminals, that were killing civilians, and brought down a legitimately-elected government. It’s fascinating to see what these elites say behind closed doors that never appeared in the media at the time.
What is the role of foreign states in the support of paramilitary organizations in Haiti? You’ve mentioned some direct training by the United States, for example.
Well, earlier in Haiti’s history there’s been different militias and a long history of local elites having different militias, and US intervention and foreign states intervening and having different groups that they’re allied with on the ground in Haiti. But really during the US occupation—and there’s some interesting books and work done on this—the US occupation in the early 20th century, they formed a sort of modern institutionalized army in Haiti. And they did the same thing in the Dominican Republic at the same time and the US worked to build relationships between the two militaries. In Haiti they call it the “poison gift” because even after the US occupation ended, this proxy force was still there to maintain the system that the US helped set up, where they had big banks there and very pro-US governments. But what happened was as, you know, as the pendulum goes back and forth and popular movements are coming about in the region—very vibrant labor movements fighting for just basic things: child safety, minimum hours of work for a day—I mean just the different demands and things that they were fighting for it became this very vibrant movement across the island of Hispaniola and the Caribbean. In Haiti it was called the Movement of ’46—1946. And so the Duvalier regime was really a response to that, to set up a really strong system in the country that could hold off the movement from below. And right from the start the US was supporting the paramilitaries. And that support continued. During certain periods it was more heightened and then it would go down, but it was there pretty much the whole time.
And one aspect of the book that I think is real interesting that hasn’t really been discussed is the role of the Dominican Republic, Dominican elites and their military support for paramilitaries. And so I did a lot of interviews in Santo Domingo with people in the foreign ministry that acknowledged that Guy Phillipe, one of the main [leaders of the] paramilitaries, and other guys had lived at their house for a time and they worked really closely with them. And the OAS and the regional groups never did anything to pressure the Dominican Republic to hand these paramilitaries over to see justice in Haiti. I mean, these are really just shocking things with all the attention now that we have on Haiti with the earthquake [in 2010]. It’s interesting to know historically how this has been shaped.
I have a lot of Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] documents that show the US embassy talking about different connections to the paramilitaries. Like there’s one document when they talk about France. They believed that France was sending money to the paramilitaries. And the US definitely had communication with them for years. It knew what they were doing, it had sent people to different base camps—illegal base camps [from] where they were running these sort of insurgent raids in the early-2000s…
What affects have the 2010 earthquake had on Haiti’s internal politics and some of these issues regarding the more violent aspects of politics in Haiti?
Yeah, I think it’s helpful to think of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine in thinking about the earthquake in Haiti. And there are other people working on that, the idea of “disaster capitalism” and how the earthquake has— They already had a tough situation with the UN occupation and the [René] Préval government, which was really working tightly with this transnational policy network and these elites that are geared towards the global economy. So they already had a system that was not focused on national development or developing for the majority of the population. But what the earthquake has done, it’s thrown everything into disarray and the right-wing was really able to take advantage of this, because these guys, they’re all—after the 2004 coup the guys that were in jail are out of jail, the other ones don’t face any kind of being brought [to] justice. So like [current Haitian President Michel] Martelly who was a major backer of the ’91 and 2004 coup—he was a musician and very controversial in his connection to the Duvalierists—goes back decades.
Actually I can explain it this way: In March of 2011 when the elections happened, I was in Haiti and I visited with a few others an ex-military training camp about ten minutes outside of Port au Prince and there they train guys for what they call “private security”—where they’re going to go work for private security firms because there’s a lot of elites and foreign embassies and NGOs, they hire local private security. But they were training under the Duvalierist banner, the black and red flag of Duvalier. And so it’s a scary situation and they have these camps set up across the country that came about after the [2004] coup. Now what’s happening is they’re advocating for the return of the military [officially disbanded by Aristide in 1995], to rebuild the old military, of course under a different name and they try to say it’s something else, but it’s really the same old crowd. The main reason they want to do that is they want a sufficient “security,” military force there to put down any protests or resistance to the larger economic processes that are going on in Haiti.
They have extremely cheap mining concessions—some of the cheapest that are being doled out in Haiti where vast swaths of the country are being opened up to these transnational mining firms. There’s a lot of mineral resources that these extractive industries are going in for. And also, of course, the cheapest labor in the whole Western Hemisphere. So while textile companies have been shutting down in other parts of the Caribbean, Haiti is a place where they want to set up shop. Textile industries can come in with very light manufacturing lines and it’s easy to move them and so it’s this sort of downward spiral where they can go to whatever country has the fewest labor standards and a non-unionized workforce and they can really profit off that. And if there’s problems they can shut down shop and leave real quickly. But the biggest problem is really that the rural economy is really what needs to be rebuilt and it’s really difficult because there’s a dominant developmental strategy of these big transnational capitalists, these big corporations.
As you mentioned there is currently an attempt to reconstitute Haiti’s military, which was disbanded in 1995. Why and how is this taking place? Is this a formal institutionalization of the existing paramilitaries, or their remnants?
Right now the right-wing is in power in Haiti, so there’s been a few targeted assassinations that people believe are connected to these ex-military and paramilitary forces, and they’ve had a few marches, but for the most part it’s not like the old age of the Tonton Macoutes where you have the Tonton Macoutes station in every neighborhood, with the blue-uniform guys with the machetes and Uzis patrolling the neighborhoods. But they have these camps, and they’re sort of there in reserve. They know from history they can’t go back to the exact model they had in the past, this very blatant paramilitary force. And this is, I think, similar to what’s going on in other countries and regions where they need to secure a more palatable, a more—a force that’s seen as more acceptable. And so that’s why they want to bring back the military.
But the problem is historically this military is interconnected with the paramilitary forces. The guys go back and forth to the same jobs. And the people who want to set up this military are historically tied to the Duvaliers, the Duvalierist regime. So it’s very important for solidarity activists in North America to link up with the Haitian grassroots and grassroots human rights groups, grassroots media—anti-coup media—to really build up pressure for this not to happen and for the Haitian people to be allowed to take part in the political process. Because what happened in the last election, in 2011, I mean Martelly only received something like a little over 16% of the registered voters actually voted for him, so an extremely low turnout. And with all the focus on the earthquake and helping people, which is really important, we also need to pay attention to these on-the-ground dynamics and really not be fooled…
What hopes are there for a resurgence of popular, democratic movements in Haiti? Where do you see reasons for optimism in the near future?
The optimism, I think if we look at the history, the unending struggle and the vitality, persistence, and the inspirational things that the movement from below in Haiti has done. I mean there have been so many important voices that have been silenced by paramilitaries, like [human rights activist] Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine who disappeared in August of 2007 and still to this day we’re waiting to hear news about him. Where is he? What has happened to him? These voices that have been silenced— That’s another part of the book, to document this history and to have this long memory. And if you go to Haiti and you talk to people from the popular neighborhoods and the countryside, people—the history is passed down through the generations, through talking, a lot through the radio. And so people know what’s going on. But it’s real important to build up transnational forms of solidarity where groups are working together across borders. Because if we look at dominant groups, states, corporations, they’re more and more interfused, working together across borders, especially with finance and production being more and more functionally integrated across borders. We see them really working together in that manner. So if we want a better world, then we also need to work together.
David Zlutnick is a documentary filmmaker living and working in San Francisco. His latest film is Occupation Has No Future: Militarism + Resistance in Israel/Palestine (2010), a feature documentary that studies Israeli militarism, examines the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, and explores the work of Israelis and Palestinians organizing against militarism and occupation. You can view his work at