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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Caracol's Industrial Park...Not so Risky (Posted by Roger Annis-CHAN)

SAE-E's "risky" play in Haiti (Caracol Industrial Park)
By CEPR, October 23, 2012
As both Clintons and a coterie of celebrities and foreign investors flew into northern Haiti yesterday, some took the opportunity to praise Sae-A, the giant Korean garment manufacturer that opened a factory in the new Caracol industrial park. Hillary Clinton, for one, told reporters: "And I too want to thank Sae-A, because Sae-A took a decision that was something of a risk, never having worked in Haiti before, after a tremendous natural disaster that was so devastating. But they brought their expertise and they brought their commitment. And Chairman Kim, we thank you for everything that you and the leadership of Sae-A is doing."
But Sae-A's decision to set up shop in Caracol could hardly be described as risky, as almost the entire cost of the project was borne by other actors. The New York Times, in an in-depth July investigation into the new park in July, 2012, reported that the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government, the physical infrastructure was provided by the Inter-American Development Bank for around $100 million, and the United States government chipped in $124 million for infrastructure, energy and housing services. The industrial park tenants are also granted significant tax-exemptions, and will only have to pay docking fees, which are estimated to be just $17,500 a year, hardly a boon to Haiti's coffers. Sae-A, which reported over $1.1 billion in export business last year, committed to spending just $39.2 million on the factory.
Additionally, U.S. legislation provides duty-free access to the U.S. market, which was used by Clinton to "woo" the apparel industry. Deborah Sontag of the Times sums it up: "In exchange, thanks to a deal that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped broker, Sae-A looked forward to tax exemptions, duty-free access to the United States, abundant cheap labor, factory sheds, a power plant, a new port and an expatriate residence outfitted with special kimchi refrigerators. "
Of course, it is also the case that if labor costs go up, subsidies end, or business doesn't boom, Sae-A can simply walk away. Though non-binding, a memorandum of understanding between the Haitian Ministry of Economy and Finance, the World Bank's International Finance Corporation, the IADB, and the United States Department of State includes the following provision: "It shall be acknowledged by the Participants that the continuation of participation under this MOU for Sae-A is contingent upon the existence of adequate infrastructure, labor force, labor policies, favorable access to export markets, access to sufficient funding and any other circumstances that affect the feasibility of investment by Sae-A."
Sae-A and other global apparel companies often compete in a race to the bottom, leaving countries in search of lower labor costs after wages rise. Due to rising expenses in Guatemala, Sae-A has closed their factory there. A local paper carried the story with the headline, "A Maquila Closes and Goes to Haiti." A Sae-A spokesperson also told the New York Times that once trade preferences for Nicaragua end in 2014, "a lot of product orders now going to factories in Nicaragua can go through the Haiti operation.? But what's preventing this from happening in Haiti down the road?"
Mr. Aguerre, of the IADB sums it up: "Yes, it's low-paying, yes, it's unstable, yes, maybe tomorrow there will a better opportunity for firms elsewhere and they will just leave. But everyone thought this was a risk worth taking."
So, though there may not be much risk for Sae-A, there is a definite risk for the people of Haiti. There's also conceivably a risk for the U.S. government, which is touting this as the "centerpiece" of their reconstruction efforts, as well as for the IADB, Haitian government and other entities that are providing financial backing for the project.

Two Years of Cholera...Posted by Roger Annis (CHAN)

Two years after the outbreak of cholera in Haiti, access to clean water and sanitation is desperately needed

Oct. 22, 2012, WashingtonD.C. – On the second anniversary of the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, human rights groups, faith-based organizations, policy institutes, and humanitarian organizations renew their call for the United Nations andU.S. government to help Haiti install the clean water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the ongoing epidemic.

The cholera epidemic in Haiti has received less U.S. attention during the presidential campaign season, but it remains a critical problem for this Caribbeanneighbor that is not being adequately addressed and is undermining broader aid efforts.  Last month, 260 new cholera cases were reported daily, and 2-3 children died a day.  Since the epidemic broke out in October 2010, 7,564 Haitians have reportedly died from cholera and some 600,000 persons (6% of the Haitian population) have been infected. The number is undoubtedly much higher, as cases in more remote areas are often unreported. As the World Health Organization has stated, those without access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation, and hygiene constitute the majority of cholera cases.

Two years after the epidemic started, not enough action has been taken to assist the Government of Haiti in acquiring essential water and sanitation infrastructure.  A regional coalition that includes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization is developing a plan with the Government of Haiti to build water and sanitation systems that will cost $2.2 billion. Despite this encouraging progress, the plan still needs to be finalized and funded before implementation can begin.

The U.N. especially has a legal and moral responsibility to play a leadership role in helping end the epidemic. Independent scientific studies have established that cholera was brought to Haiti by troops from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and that the waste disposal practices at the UN base allowed the bacteria to contaminate Haiti’s largest river system.  The undersigned groups call on the U.N. to commit long-term resources to work with the Government of Haiti to build water and sanitation systems that are critical to halting the continued spread of the disease.

This July, 104 members of Congress sent a letter to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, requesting that she urge the world body to act decisively to addressHaiti’s cholera crisis. Congressional members Chris Smith and Albio Sires made a similar plea to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The undersigned groups urge Ambassador Rice and Secretary Clinton to fulfill these important appeals and to call on the UN to help Haiti acquire the necessary funding to develop the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to stop the epidemic.

Alternative Chance; American Jewish World Service; Canada Haiti Action Network; Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR); Center for Gender & Refugee Studies; Environmental Justice Initiative for Haiti; Grassroots International; Hastings to Haiti Partnership; Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti; Just Foreign Policy; li, li, li! Read; Mennonite Central Committee, U.S. Washington Office; New Media Advocacy Project; Other Worlds; The Haiti Support Group (UK); TransAfrica Forum

Press contact:: Nicole Phillips, staff attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Nicole@ijdh.org510.715.2855
Web source:
Recent BBC News report on cholera:

Partners in Health e-Advertisement Regarding Cholera

The numbers are staggering, John.

Since the epidemic began in Haiti two years ago, cholera has sickened more than 600,000 people and killed more than 7,500. Last year, Haiti logged more cases than all the rest of the world combined, according to the World Health Organization. 

This year the epidemic is on track to be among the world's worst again, with nearly 77,000 cases and 550 deaths, according to the Haitian Ministry of Health. We're continuing to see cases rise and fall with seasonal rains. Hurricane Sandy, which passed by Haiti last night, brought downpours that have swelled rivers and already contributed to an increase in cases.

There's another number I can't shake.


That's how many cholera deaths we should be willing to accept. Cholera is a preventable, treatable disease that has been eliminated in the wealthy world through access to clean water and decent sanitation.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Baseball in the Time of Cholera, Money, and Mud Pies in Roger Annis

1. Two years of the cholera epidemic in Haiti
October 18, 2012
Dear Reader,
Two years ago today, in the center of Haiti's verdant agricultural region, an innocent man fell victim to cholera; he was dead within hours from an illness never before known in Haiti’s history.  Over 7,500 deaths later, the epidemic, brought to Haiti by UN troops, continues to ravage Haiti's poor, killing hundreds each month and most recently re-surging in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaac.
Thanks to you, our committed supporters, IJDH and BAI continue fighting to end the epidemic by calling upon the UN to provide clean water and sanitation.  We also lead the fight for Haitians whose fundamental human rights have been violated as a result of rape, forced eviction, wrongful imprisonment, and other violations of their basic human rights.  We have been moved by your powerful response to the recent death threats against BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph and by your generous participation in the Giving Commons Challenge fundraiser.
To commemorate those who have lost their lives in this needless tragedy and to strengthen our mutual commitment to ending the epidemic, we invite you to watch (or watch again) the 29-minute, award-winning documentary Baseball in the Time of Cholera:
With your continued support, on the third anniversary of the epidemic, we hope to be celebrating the installation of water and sanitation systems and justice for the Haitian people.
In Solidarity,
Beatrice Lindstrom, Esq.
IJDH Staff Attorney
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
666 Dorchester Avenue Boston, MA 02127
(617) 652-0876 | |
2. Film Screening in Winnipeg: Haiti: Where Did The Money Go?
Panel discussion following the film, with activists enaged locally in Haiti solidarity
Date: Thursday, Nov 22, 2012, 7 pm to 9 pm
At: Winnipeg Cinematheque, 100 Albert St. #304
Presented by: Winnipeg Film Group and Winnipeg Haiti Solidarity Group. Part of the ongoing series We Rise Above, generously sponsored by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
In the United States alone, half of all households gave a total of $1.4 billion to charities, yet almost two years later more than half a million people in Haiti still live in squalid camps. Only a few have access to drinking water. Sanitation is woefully inadequate. Malnutrition and cholera are on the rise. What happened?
Haiti: Where Did The Money Go? asks the pivotal question: why did so much money buy so little relief? And why are so many still living in squalor? Cameras take viewers to crowded camps where thousands of families live under tattered tarps beside overflowing latrines, and then into the board rooms of relief organizations, where journalist Michele Mitchell asks the American Red Cross and others about why conditions in Haiti continue to deteriorate when people have donated billions of dollars for aid. By Director Michele Mitchell | 2012 | U.S. | 53 min.
“On Monday night I went to Goldcrest to finally view a screening of Haiti: Where Did the Money Go? What I saw filled me with anger, sympathy, and many, many questions.” - THE OBSERVER (UK) 
3. A State of Denial
By Dr. John Carroll, published on Dr. CArroll's blog on the Peoria Daily Star, Oct 16, 2012
In 2007, I posted that people in Soleil were so hungry they were eating mud. As people found out about this atrocity, I think they were in disbelief. One commenter wrote that maybe the lady who makes the mudpies in Soleil should "turn into a Mrs. Fields and export her mudpies to the States". *
In 2012 people in Soleil are still eating mudpies. Her "factory" is in the same location in an especially dangerous part of Soleil. And as you can see as of an hour ago [go to web link for photo] , she is still hard at work. She insists her dirt is special dirt from Hinche and she says she mixes it with butter, salt, and water. I think you can see the rivulet of toxic filthy water running beside her.
As a cigarette hangs from her lips, she slops the concoction together and forms saucer-sized circular mudpies that harden quickly in the Soleil sun.
Denial is good for us when it comes to thinking about this. It could not be happening, we tell ourselves. This can't be happening 90 minutes from Miami.
We need to make light of this. We need to deny.
* Mrs. Fields is a U.S. franchise that sells baked sweets.
4. Video of recent panel discussion on post-earthquake Haiti
October 17, 2012
A panel discussion on Haiti took place at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 42nd Annual Legislative Conference that took place Sept 19-22, 2012 in Washington DC. The panel featured remarks by Representatives John Conyers and Maxine Waters as well as speakers from the State Department, USAID, Haiti's International Lawyers' Office (Bureau des Avocats Internationaux), the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, TransAfrica, and Alexander Main of the Haiti Reconstruction Watch project of the CEPR.
The panelists focused on the challenges facing Haiti as it continues to recover from the effects of the 2010 earthquake and the ongoing cholera epidemic. Among the issues discussed were international aid accountability and transparency, cholera and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), access to affordable and sustainable housing and efforts to bring Jean Claude Duvalier to justice.
Panelists included:
Brian Concannon, Director, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
Ron Daniels,President, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century
Joel Danies, Deputy Special Haiti Coordinator for Political Affairs, US State Department
Elizabeth Hogan, Director, USAID’s Haiti Task Team
Mario Joseph, Director, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux
Alexander Main, Senior Associate for International Policy, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Melinda Miles, Director, Let Haiti Live/TransAfrica
Watch the video here:
5. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez played role in Colombia's peace talks with FARC
Meetings in Havana paved the way for negotiations that open in Oslo on Wednesday (Oct 17) on ending long-running civil war
Peter Beaumont, Foreign Affairs Editor, The Observer (UK, Guardian on Sunday), Sunday, October 14, 2012
The ailing former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, together with Venezuela's recently re-elected leader Hugo Chávez, played a critical role in bringing the Colombian government and the deadly Farc guerrilla group together for peace talks that could end one of Latin America's longest-running civil wars, the Observer has learned.
According to sources closely involved in the peace process, which sees historic talks opening in Oslo on Wednesday, the key breakthrough after almost four years of back-channel talks between the two sides came during a visit earlier this year by Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, to Cuba, where he met both Castro and Chávez, who was in Cuba being treated for cancer.
That meeting was the first of many in Havana between the two sides, facilitated primarily by Cuba and Norway with the backing of Venezuela, which saw agreement on the detailed agenda for the first round of talks this week. "Officially President Santos went to Cuba to discuss the Americas summit," said a source intimately involved in the peace negotiations. "But the purpose of that trip was to discuss the peace initiative."
The meetings earlier this year followed the decision last year by Santos to take the step of recognising that an "armed conflict" existed in his country, an initiative encouraged by Chávez since 2008. Those contacts also came in the same period that Farc announced it was ending kidnapping, one of five preconditions for talks that had been set down by Santos as a gesture of goodwill.
Farc and the government have been at war since 1964, with the group more recently accused of having taken a directing role in coca production in areas it controls, an issue that will be on the agenda for the talks. But in what is being billed as the best chance to bring about a negotiated end to the long-running conflict, the Colombian government delegation will sit down with Farc leaders whose Interpol arrest warrants have been suspended to allow them to travel to Oslo without fear of arrest.
The government delegation, for the first time ever, will include retired generals with the trust of the country's military and representatives of Colombia's business elite, whose presence, it is hoped, will help sell any peace deal that emerges to those hostile to the process.
After the failure of the last round of peace negotiations, which foundered 12 years ago, top of the agenda will be the issues of land reform – Farc's key demand – political participation, the disarmament of the guerrilla group and the issue of paramilitaries who have in the past sought to torpedo any deal.
The disclosure of the key role of Cuba in organising support for the peace process marked the culmination of a long period of back-channel talks first initiated by Santos's predecessor as president, Alvaro Uribe, under whom Santos served as minister of defence. During those four years contacts continued despite the death during an army operation of Farc's leader, Alfonso Cano, last year.
Others credited with having created the conditions for the talks in Norway are unnamed former participants in the Northern Ireland peace process.
The talks are due to begin amid warnings from both sides, as well as observers, that a serious threat exists from those on both sides of Colombia's political divide who might attempt to use violence to derail the process. The attempt to reach a negotiated peace settlement foundered over a decade ago as both sides accused the other of stalling and rebuilding their forces, a period, observers say, that saw a doubling of anti-Farc paramilitaries.
A senior Colombian government source, who briefed the Observer on condition of anonymity, described the chances for talks as the best ever, adding that the Santos government had already enacted a new law for land reform and victim restitution. "President Santos is a pragmatist. He has already presented to congress a framework for an agreement. Colombia was already moving into a post-conflict phase, in some respects, even as the conflict continues. It is the right moment. Farc have a historic opportunity – probably the last – to find a solution to this conflict with dignity. To go into history and say they fought for social justice. To say they fought for land reform.
"We want to see 'Timochenko' [Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, who took over command of Farc after Cano's death in 2011] in Colombia's congress just as we have seen Gerry Adams in the Northern Ireland assembly."
The sense of a guarded new optimism is shared by outside observers, including Marc Chernick, a US academic who has followed the history of Colombian peace negotiations and written The Farc at the Negotiating Table. Speaking from Colombia on Friday, Chernick said: "I've observed all the previous negotiations and I have been optimistic before, but this time I believe there is a real seriousness on both sides that has not been shown before.
"In the past Farc has always asked for a demilitarised zone as a precondition and this time it has not pressed for that. Four years ago it started to release prisoners, first civilians then military, and then renounced kidnapping.
"Clearly they want to talk. And they stayed at the table for the pre-negotiations even though three senior leaders were killed, including Alfonso Cano.
"Santos is clear, too. He was former minister of defence under President Uribe. They pushed the war as hard as they could and killed leaders. Now he has recognised that it will go on indefinitely. So Santos has come to the conclusion that only a negotiated solution is possible."
Chernick – like the senior government source – warned of the risk of violence during the peace talks from those, particularly on the right, opposed to peace with Farc, not least, he says, from paramilitaries who, although officially "disbanded", are still active and supported by elite sectors of society. "What is different this time," added Chernick, "is that both sides have signed up to the idea that the intended end of the peace talks is the end of the conflict."
A losing battle
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) has been fighting a guerrilla conflict since 1964. Formed by Marxist-Leninist intellectuals, it claimed to represent the poor against the ruling elite and the stranglehold of the US.
By the 1990s it had become one of the richest guerrilla armies in the world, financed through kidnapping, drugs and illegal gold mines. In 2008 several Farc leaders, including Alfonso Cano were killed, weakening the group, which is now led by Rodrigo Londoño, better known as Timochenko. The Colombian military says the rebels' strength is down from 16,000 fighters in 2001, when they controlled nearly a third of the country, to about 8,000 in rural areas.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Attorney Mario Joseph in Haiti....from Roger Annis

Public support grows for threatened human rights attorney Mario Joseph in Haiti

Published on CEPR's Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog, Wed. October 17, 2012
[Please refer to the original article for complete links to sources and related documents.]

Haiti’s leading human rights attorney Mario Joseph has been the subject of death threats and police surveillance and harassment in the past several months, along with other lawyers. As the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) reports, Joseph, IJDH Managing Attorney and the director of its Haitian affiliate Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), has received as many as 3-4 death threats a day, while police in vehicles with tinted windows have monitored the BAI office in Port-au-Prince and harassed and searched people leaving.

Threats against BAI and Mario have also been spray painted on walls nearby. While IJDH notes that Joseph has been the targets of threats in the past, it says “the current intimidation appears more organized, more persistent and more closely linked to the Haitian government than previous incidents.”

U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D – MI), the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, condemned the threats this week, saying: "As a long-time supporter of Haiti in the United States Congress, I am concerned by recent reports that suggest that Haitian attorneys and human rights advocates, including prominent attorney Mario Joesph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), are being targeted with political intimidation and threats of physical harm as a result of their legal representation of politically vulnerable individuals and groups."

"The ability of an attorney to provide legal assistance free of harassment to any client is a critically important component of a well-functioning justice system. All necessary steps should be taken to protect these attorneys and advocates, who help ensure that all Haitians have equitable access to justice and due process. My office has contacted the State Department to express my concern about these recent reports."

As the Miami Herald reported earlier this month, "Joseph and other lawyers may be the targets of political persecution by the Martelly government. Chief Prosecutor of Port-au-Prince Jean Renel Sénatus claims Haiti's Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon fired him after he refused to issue an arrest warrant for Joseph and 35 other 'political opponents.' "

The Herald also reported, "Senatus also said that Josue Pierre-Louis, a presidential legal advisor and head of the six-member electoral council, asked him to serve warrants against two attorneys — Newton St. Juste and Andre Michel — who have brought corruption complaints against the presidential family and members of Haiti’s government."

Sanon, Sénatus claims, said the arrest warrants “would make the President very happy.” The reported arrest warrants followed Joseph’s summoning by Investigating Judge Jean Wilner Morin of the Port-au-Prince Trial Court in September to appear for questioning in what appears to have been another effort at harassment and intimidation.

Amnesty International issued an October 4 alert about the attorneys, "Urging authorities to immediately and independently investigate the accusation of threats and intimidation towards the lawyers – ensuring that those responsible are brought to justice – and providing effective protection to the lawyers according to their wishes; asking the Haitian authorities to clarify why the arrest of the 36 political opponents is being sought and insist that any accusation must be carried out under internationally recognizable criminal offences; asking authorities to ensure that anyone charged is given a fair trial in compliance with international standards. "

The National Lawyers Guild and a number of other organizations have also condemned the threats and intimidation against Joseph and the other attorneys.

Joseph and BAI have taken on a number of politically sensitive cases, including efforts to prosecute former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier – whom the Martelly administration has been reluctant to pursue, the defense of government critics, and of course the claim against the United Nations on behalf of thousands of cholera victims. Joseph has also helped impede the forced evictions of internally displaced persons from camps, and has pursued rape and gender based violence (GBV) cases on behalf of women and children living in the camps, among other cases.

Joseph said in an interview this week with the Pacifica Evening News that the threats and intimidation began after a judge dismissed political violence charges against Duvalier in January 2012, and intensified soon after Joseph filed a request for an investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) into what he termed “the deterioration and contempt for human rights in Haiti” under the Martelly government. IJDH also recently released a report on the Martelly administration’s intimidation and “stonewalling” of the media, one of the concerns Joseph highlighted in his appeal to the IACHR.

It would be difficult to overstate Joseph’s importance in confronting the powerful and the work that he, BAI and IJDH have done to bring rule of law and justice to Haiti. Joseph and IJDH Director Brian Concannon were responsible for the convictions of 53 soldiers and death squad members in Haiti’s landmark Raboteau Massacre trial. Martelly provoked outrage early in his term when he nominated Bernard Gousse to be Prime Minister, since Gousse had shown sympathy for Louis Jodel Chamblain, Jean Tatoune, and others convicted for their crimes in the massacre and had previously served as Justice Minister during the unelected interim regime following the 2004 coup d’etat, in which Haiti experienced some of the worst political violence in the hemisphere.
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Haitian Medical Team to Work in Peoria

It was recently announced that a Haitian medical team will be working in Peoria in mid-January 2013. The team will include 17 people including nurses, doctors, cooks, a big crowd-control-man, a podiatrist, and a “leaf doctor” who is described as an "absolute riot".

Dr. Jean-Maxmillian Beauvoir St. Volel ("Dr. Max") is the leader of the team. He sat down with me in Port-au-Prince today which marks the anniversary of the death of the leader of Haiti's revolution for independence, Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

Dr. John: Dr. Max it is nice to see you. Please tell us about yourself.
Dr. Max: Bonjour, Dr. John. I am pleased to tell you that I am a physician here in Haiti having trained at the Papa Doc School of Medicine here in downtown Port-au-Prince. My speciality is Internal Medicine and Tropical Diseases.

Dr. John: How nice. Why did you organize this trip to Peoria? This seems to be unprededented.
Dr. Max: (Shifting in his chair) We quite frankly just love the people of the United States. You have helped my country so much during the last two hundred years. You even wrote our Constitution for some unknown reason after your army occupied us in the early 1900’s. And your State Department is extremely efficient at getting rid of our Presidents as necessary and replacing them with people from Boca Raton or somewhere.  

Dr. John: I sense you feel sorry for us or something?
Dr. Max: We don’t exactly feel sorry for you, Dr. John. We just worry about you. There is a difference. Let me explain. We know that you have a high pain threshold, but your health indices as a developed country just aren’t that good. 45 million Americans have no health insurance and one American dies every 12 minutes because of that. Did you know that, Dr. John?

Dr. John: Please don’t confuse me with facts. So where do you plan on working in Peoria?
Dr. Max: We will set up in a parking lot somewhere near Taft Homes.

Dr. John: You know that is kinda dangerous there, right?
Dr. Max: (Eyes become slits and moisten with tears, starts to laugh, and his stomach adiposity shakes every which way) Yes, we know, but we are use to these conditions. We will have our machetes with us and I will ask your mayor to tell all Peorians visiting us to leave their guns at home...just like Haiti. I can’t imagine any real problems.

Dr. John: What kind of facility will you work out of in the parking lot?
Dr. Max: We will bring one huge tent, we will have our own cooks, a portable outhouse, and a goat or two.

Dr. John: Well what about the language barrier? You guys speak French and Creole and we barely speak English.
Dr. Max: No pwoblem. We are bringing some interpreters with us who have a very good medical vocabulary. Like you should hear them say: “When was the last time you had dengue fever?” or "When was your last attack of malnutrition?" Stuff like that.

Dr. John: I would expect massive crowds to visit you each morning. How will you manage the crowd waiting to be seen and examined by the Haitian doctors and nurses? Our crowds can get unruly.
Dr. Max: Good question, Dr. John. But we are ready. We have already cut some wicked branches off of Haiti’s ten remaining trees and will use them on the backs of Peorians as necessary to keep control. This technique in Haiti works extremely well. Actually, you all taught us how well this works. Should not be a big deal...

Dr. John: You know, Dr. Max, it is going to be cold in Peoria in January. At least I think it is. Are you ready for that?
Dr. Max: How cold? We brought sweaters.

Dr. John: What kind of medicine are you bringing the needy people of Taft Homes?
Dr. Max: We have 13 large green army bags of medicine that we are packing right now. They are full of very helpful things like cough and cold medications for babies, tons of tylenol, two types of worm medication, chloroquine for malaria, gallons of antacids, and if anyone has hypertension, I think we have some blood pressure medication. Should be good to go.

Dr. John: Dr. Max, what will you do if you examine someone and they obviously have problems that need inpatient care in a hospital?
Dr. Max: We have that covered too. We have a grant to purchase three large green wheelbarrows from Nena True Value in Peoria.

Dr. John: Why the wheelbarrows?
Dr. Max: Good question. If the patient is too sick to walk to one of your three fine medical centers, we will plop the patient in one of the wheelbarrows and convince some of your young strong men to push them to the hospital. This seems to work in Haiti just fine.

Dr. John: This is kind of a personal question. But none of your team would think about defecting would they?
Dr. Max: Let me be very clear here: I just don’t know.

Dr. John: Dr. Max, we can hardly wait for your arrival in Peoria.
Dr. Max: It is our pleasure. (Laughing) As you would say, “It is the least we can do”.

John A. Carroll, MD

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sarah from Soleil Returns (Dedicated to Augusta Dwyer)

Sarah from Soleil
St. Catherine's Hospital
October 16, 2012
(Photo by John Carroll)

A few months ago I wrote this post about an infant girl named Sarah from Soleil.

Please read this post while I wait. Go ahead and take your time. I am in no hurry.

Good. You are back.

Well, during the last few months I had concluded that Sarah most likely died. No one had any definite news on her. I did not think her mom had breast fed her adequately. She lived in Wharf Soleil, just a few blocks from this pediatric clinic, which is the worst place on the face of the earth.

In July I worked at We Advance at Wharf Jeremy which is another pathetic slum near Soleil. The staff  at We Advance told me that said they had not seen Sarah or her mother to offer her free powdered milk.

Today, out of the blue, Sarah was carried into our clinic in Soleil by her mother. She is alive and looks much better but she is quite ill with fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. (Surprise.)

But Sarah is alive and is seven months old. She weighs 5.7 kg which is 12. 5 pounds! And the only reason she survived is her mother breast fed her.

Success for Sarah. Success for Soleil. Success for all of us.

We admitted Sarah to St. Catherine's Hospital this morning, started and IV, and she is on ampicillin and gentamycin. I watched through the slats in the window as her mother breast fed Sarah.

This is much better than I ever dreamed.

John A. Carroll, MD

Another Stupid Disease

Neonatal Tetanus
Cite Soleil
October 16, 2012
(Photo by John Carroll)
Why does this 12 day old infant boy have tetanus? Because his mother was not fully immunized against tetanus while she was pregnant with him. That would not have cost much money. Five billion dollars was pledged to Haiti post earthquake. However, none of these funds helped this little dude.

Thus, this guy has a very stupid disease that could and should have been prevented. His back is arched and he has seizures. He stands about a 20% chance of surviving. This boy needs a good pediatric intensive care unit. Soleil doesn't have one. Soleil doesn't have much of anything except good people and misery everywhere you look.

There are about one million cases of tetanus in the world each year. Most cases occur in the developing world. And about 40% of these people die. Neonates have the highest mortality rate.

Stupidity in systems breeds catastrophes like this one.

John A. Carroll, MD

A State of Denial

Mudpie Factory--Cite Soleil
October 16, 2012
Photo by John Carroll

In 2007 I posted that people in Soleil were so hungry they were eating mudpies.

As people found out about this atrocity I think they were in disbelief. One commenter wrote that maybe the lady who makes the mudpies in Soleil should turn into a Mrs. Fields and export her mudpies to the States.

In 2012 people in Soleil are still eating mudpies.

Her "factory" is in the same location in an especially dangerous part of Soleil. And as you can see, as of an hour ago, she is still hard at work. She insists her dirt is special dirt from Hinche and she adds butter, salt, and water. I think you can see the rivulet of toxic filthy water running besides her.

She slops the concoction together and forms saucer-sized circular mudpies that harden quickly in the Soleil sun.

Denial is good for us when it comes to thinking about this. It could not be happening we tell ourselves. This can't be happening 90 minutes from Miami.

We need to make light of this.

We need to deny.

(Photo by John Carroll)

John A. Carroll, MD

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Photo by John Carroll

Sorry, my dear, but we just didn’t care. You probably realize that by now.

You appeared with a tense, distended, and painful abdomen. For the previous four days you hadn’t been able to relieve yourself nor even sleep due to horrible visceral pain that distended lumens cause.

You winced as we poked and prodded your silent belly. And we used those big words as we concluded that you had a bowel obstruction.

Your eyes searched our eyes. You looked but we couldn’t. 

But what did we do with the gift of our knowledge about your condition? Our minds and hands could not be pushed into action for you.

My dear, you know why you got into this mess in the first place? It was us. We are corrupt. And we steal lives.

And people like you don’t count ESPECIALLY when you are sick. Your lives mean nothing to us. You knew that, right?

But you were generous and gave us one last chance at redemption.  Why did you think we would care now when you neared the end when we didn't care in the beginning?

Something for pain for you? Pain control for the poor? I don’t think so. No morphine, no dilaudid, no fentanyl patches for you. There aren't any here. You need to groan and roll slowly from side-to-side... waiting for sleep.

Well, your bed was empty this morning. Thank God. He took you. Your celestial discharge has happened and you got your wish for sleep. 

But make no mistakes...we don’t really care one way or the other.

You paid the big price for our corruption.

And we will too. 

(Photo by John Carroll)

John A. Carroll, MD

Two Years of Crof

Please read this excellent summary of the two year anniversary of cholera in Haiti by Crof.