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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