Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Jean-Juste is ½ free

Wadner snapped this photo of Father Gerard Jean-Juste at his recent hearing in front of a Haitian court. Jean-Juste was held as a political prisoner by the former interim government in Haiti and has recently been undergoing medical care in south florida. Pooja Bhatia, Esq, a lawyer and Harvard Law School Satter Human Rights Fellow, has an excellent piece here. Liz Pierre Pierre, a close friend of the former Minister of Justice Bernard Gousse under the unelected Boniface / Latorture government, is the presiding judge with
her assistant judge and the Commissaire of the Government (Government Prosecutor) in the Court d’Appel. When Judge Liz Pierre Pierre brought up one of the two bogus charges against Jean-Juste (that have never been presented with any evidence), he responded, "My Bible and my rosary are my guns." Both in the courtroom and outside crowds gathered to cheer the persecuted priest.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Who Is The Biggest Vulture In The Room?

As investigative reporter Greg Palast (Project Censored #10 for this year) showed in his two-part series for the BBC, vulture funds and the inability of poor governments to properly fund social programs for their citizenry are inextricably linked.

Vulture funds, as Meirion Jones observes, are defined by the IMF as companies which buy up the "debt of poor nations cheaply when it is about to be written off and then sue for the full value of the debt plus interest - which might be ten times what they paid for it". But similar types of predatory practices are not favored only by private companies such as Debt Advisory International (DAI), they have been utilized by the IFIs themselves - the IDB, IMF and World Bank - to destabilize out of power poor governments that engage in economically sovereign policies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Europe/Haiti: Singing for the Poor

By Jeb Sprague*

MANCHESTER, Nov 1, 2007 (IPS) - The Arcade Fire, a rock band based in Quebec in Canada, has made raising awareness and money for Haiti's most disadvantaged its top priority.

Last weekend the band played to the largest indoor audience of their career, estimated at over 14,000, at the Manchester Evening News Arena.

Concert-goers were provided leaflets titled 'Haïti mon pays. Wounded mother I'll never see' which detailed the group's support for the non-profit healthcare organisation Partners In Health (PIH) and its Zanmi Lasante healthcare centres in Haiti.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

We Miss You Lovinsky!

Haitian Human Rights leader Pierre-Antoine Lovinsky has gone missing now for nearly two months and is believed kidnapped. All of my thoughts right now are with his wife and children. We all miss you Lovinsky! Here is a photo I snapped of him with demonstrators in front of the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C. back in July 2005.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Haiti: Digging Through A History of Economic Violence

By Jeb Sprague

In mid-August 2007 Nazaire St. Fort and myself took a tap-tap transport heading out on Delmas toward downtown Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. We soon passed in front of the National Palace, the seat of so many past Haitian presidents and governments.

Crossing a street near the palace, we reached the Ministry of Planification and right next to it the Ministry of Finance. We visited two other government ministries soon after, spending the next few days traveling between them all, entering into rarely touched archives and in the process probably bugging quite a number of ministerial employees (although making friendly acquaintances along the way).

Economic Justice for Haiti

I will have published a rather long blog entry on the Jubilee USA blog for October 4th. They have titled the piece, "Haiti: Digging Through A History of Economic Violence." It is timed with the last day of Jubilee USA's fast as well as their long campaign to get Haiti's debt dropped.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

AUMOHD Human Rights Reports

AUMOHD has posted a new report looking at ex-military led violence in the Central Plateau: Mirebalais-Lascaobas-Belladère.

As readers may know, AUMOHD has also (along with the Grand Ravine Community Human Rights Council - CHRC-GR) been highly active in one of the most impoverished areas in Port-au-Prince, Gran Ravine and Martissant. Their reports have constantly pointed to the driving force of violence being a group known as Lame Ti Manchet. Even some other groups less active in the area have begun acknowledging Lame Ti Manchets involvement. Not to worry though, Michael Deibert still believes his blame-it-all-on-Aristide carefully crafted article is the true and "definitive" source on violence in these communities. He actually wrote recently that to the best of his knowledge his article is "the only authoritative English-language reporting on the conflict there." He must have never taken the time to read the translated reports of actual Haitian human rights workers that are in the communities daily. Earlier this year an organizer of HURAH gave him an ear full.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

MINUSTAH Hospitality

Wednesday/15 August 2007.
It is always amazing to see how hospitable and warm the Haitian people are, no matter where I go I am reminded of this. The people whose concrete apartment I am staying at now are so poor but they go out of their way continuously to make me feel at home. And I do. But today I received just the opposite impression from a Brazilian squad of MINUSTAH, the UN force garrisoned here in Haiti since 2004.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

At about 12 in the afternoon I went down with a friend from Delmas street to the National Palace, in downtown Port-au-Prince, to cover a demonstration called for by the Fondasyon 30 Septamn (the September 30th Foundation). The group was founded by

Lovinsky Pierre Antoinne
, a leading human rights and Fanmi Lavalas activist, who has gone missing and believed to be kidnapped. Lovinsky is a vocal advocate for the victims of both the 1991 and 2004 coups, both of which ousted Haiti's twice democratically elected
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
. A couple hundred members of the group were present. Many were lying on the ground and were visibly sad, others were standing crying out for the return of the deeply loved founder of their human rights organization.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
When we arrived at the National Palace we saw a dozen blue helmeted MINUSTAH soldiers standing in front, nearly all with machine guns drawn, along with two parked jeeps and one large tall APC with a mounted machine gun. Another large jeep showed up carrying four MINUSTAH soldiers, three wielding large machine guns.

I first snapped photos of the demonstration, then proceeded to snap photos of the heavily armed MINUSTAH contingent.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

After standing nearby the troops for a few seconds fiddling with my camera, I saw one motion to the others and I was immediately surrounded by three of the Brazilian blue helmets. In threatening tones and postures they demanded to know what I was doing in Port-au-Prince. I explained that I was a university student and that I was working as a journalist for the Inter Press Service (IPS) trying to cover the demonstration. One of the MINUSTAH troops then yanked down on the large press badge around my neck, inspecting it thoroughly. It was a press badge for IPS. Twice more I told them I was a member of the press.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
They then called over a fourth soldier with a camera. I protested. Next one of the soldiers, also holding a machine gun, swatted off my cap onto the ground. I repeated that this was a violation of my human rights. Two others put their arms on my shoulders and held me still near one of their vehicles. The 4th soldier meanwhile placed the camera close to my face and snapped a close up photo. They placed my press badge so my name would show clearly in the photo. The whole incident must have happened within a matter of fifteen seconds but it obviously felt intimidating.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The captain of the Brazilian MINUSTAH squad who directed the others to grab me had a walkie talkie in his vest, along with a headset and some sort of camera or night vision device mounted on his helmet. Evel Fanfan (a committed and well known human rights organizer of AUMOHD who has been threatened on numerous occasions) was nearby. He observed that this was a common practice for the UN troops. MINUSTAH regularly harasses Haitian journalists and poor people, forcing them to allow a MINUSTAH soldier with a camera to take a close-up photo of their face, a form of data collection for UNOPS intelligence, he explained. Two young Haitian journalists from Cité Soleil told me that MINUSTAH tightly censors those journalists they allow into UN gatherings in Port-au-Prince.
Poor Haitian journalists never paint the amiable picture of MINUSTAH that we hear so often from embedded journalists writing for many of the major US or European media outlets, who more common than one would expect wear-two-hats, working simultaneously for US government funded outlets like the Voice of America (VOA). One can easily be reminded by looking back at the
photographs and documentation of human rights reports of what impoverished Haitians have had to endure since Feb 2004.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The Brazilian army has a long and shady history. Early on it was used as a violent apparatus for repressing slave revolts. During the 20th century the army utilized
terror campaigns
to stamp out leftist and landless peasant movements.
19 September 2007 Update: Over one month later and Lovinsky Pierre Antoine is still missing. Back in December 2006 Lovinsky appeared on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Where is Lovinsky?

The radio here in Port-au-Prince is reporting that Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, a long time human rights activist and lavalas organizer, has disapeared. His car was found this morning and a police report has been filed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

ECONOMÍA-HAITÍ Despidos antes de privatizar

Por Jeb Sprague y Wadner Pierre*

PUERTO PRINCIPE, jul (IPS) - A fines de junio el presidente de Haití, René Préval, anunció que la empresa estatal de telefonía Téléco sería privatizada. Desde entonces, 2.800 empleados fueron despedidos.

Tras el anuncio, en una reunión con la Cámara de Comercio y con el senador del partido oficialista Jean Héctor Anacacis, el presidente terminó de dar forma a su plan para vender la obsoleta compañía.

El impulso privatizador comenzó de forma abrupta y con ello la andanada de despidos. Durante décadas, los prestamistas extranjeros y las firmas multinacionales presionaron a Haití para que adoptara un programa de privatizaciones.

Los despidos son vistos como el primer paso en esa dirección.

El número de teléfonos móviles ha crecido rápidamente y es común escuchar quejas sobre el pésimo servicio que Téléco ofrece a sus clientes de líneas fijas.

Una empresa de telefonía móvil, Digicel, ha estado creciendo a ritmo acelerado desde 2006 y posibilitó que muchos haitianos pobres tuvieran un aparato por primera vez en su vida.

Digicel ofrece a sus clientes un servicio gratuito por los llamados que reciben y equipos con planes prepagos que se pueden adquirir entre 15 y 25 dólares. La empresa así tomó ventaja frente a sus competidoras, Voila y Haïtel, que cobraban entre 50 y 100 dólares por el servicio básico.

Digicel también es muy popular por su presencia en espectáculos deportivos y publicidad en la vía pública, además de su asociación con fundaciones como Fonkoze, que ayuda a los pobres.

El problema es que después de comprar los teléfonos móviles baratos, muchos clientes pobres no pueden pagar el costo del servicio, a pesar de que algunas de las tarjetas para recargar minutos se venden a 1,5 dólares.

El gobierno justificó la privatización de la empresa estatal comparando el número de sus empleados con los de las compañías privadas de telefonía móvil, con el obvio mensaje de que la diferencia revelaba era prueba de la pésima administración de Téléco.

Préval explicó que "Haïtel tiene 500 empleados para atender a 350.000 clientes, Comcel 630 para 650.000 usuarios, Digicel 700 para 1,4 millones de suscriptores y Téléco emplea a 3.293 aunque sólo tiene 150.000 abonados".

En respuesta a los despidos, los trabajadores de Téléco realizaron protestas frente a la sede de la empresa en esta capital. Los críticos del presidente remarcaron que las compañías de telefonía móvil no necesitan tender cables en las calles ni realizar tareas de mantenimiento como las que se requieren en el caso de los teléfonos fijos.

La instalación de las antenas que permiten que los teléfonos móviles tengan señal es realizada por unos pocos técnicos, altamente calificados y bien pagados, frecuentemente extranjeros, mientras que el mantenimiento del cableado de las línea de tierra corre por cuenta de una mal remunerada y poco preparada dotación de trabajadores.

Aunque el costo de una llamada utilizando un teléfono móvil es más caro que el de Téléco, es muy difícil conseguir la instalación de una línea de la compañía estatal. Más de 90 por ciento de los usuarios utilizan los servicios de las empresas privadas, una gran diferencia respecto del panorama de una década atrás.

Las ganancias de Téléco provienen de un pequeño porcentaje que recauda por cada llamada que se realiza dentro del país o desde el exterior hacia Haití, lo cual incluye tanto a las líneas fijas como a las móviles. La empresa cuenta con el potencial para ser financieramente viable, pero requiere que muchos empleados trabajen en sus distintos sectores con oficinas en toda la nación.

Préval se comprometió a pagar el equivalente a un año de salarios a los empleados despedidos.

Los delegados sindicales de Téléco, sin embargo, hablan de una silenciosa campaña de largo plazo para desprestigiar a las empresas estatales. Afirman que ejecutivos que apoyan la privatización, nombrados por funcionarios del gobierno, hacen una deliberada mala administración de la compañía. También denuncian casos de corrupción.

Préval vendió, durante su primer mandato de gobierno (1996-2001), un molino harinero y una compañía de cemento estatales. Los defensores de la privatización dicen que ahora la empresa cementera aporta al Estado importantes ingresos en concepto de impuestos.

Pero muchos pequeños contratistas y sus clientes deben hacer frente a costos del cemento fuera del alcance para quienes aspiran a vivir en una casa de una sola habitación. Donaciones de cemento de Venezuela han otorgado un respiro a los planes de obras públicas en este país.

Brian Concannon, del Instituto para la Justicia y la Democracia en Haití, recuerda que para aliviar la presión de las instituciones financieras internacionales Préval, durante su primera presidencia, privatizó "algunas de las más pequeñas y menos estratégicas empresas estatales". Pero hacia el fin de su mandato la ayuda financiera para Haití ya había comenzado a desaparecer.

Cuando asumió en 2001 el luego derrocado presidente Jean-Bertrand Aristide, quien se oponía a las privatizaciones masivas, los donantes del exterior reaccionaron cortando prácticamente todo el flujo de fondos hacia Haití, un país dependiente de los fondos del exterior aunque reacio a la venta de activos del Estado. Esto complicó aún más a las empresas públicas.

Un trabajador despedido por Téléco, mientras hacía fila para cobrar su indemnización, cuestionó la política de privatizaciones de Préval.

Recordó que antes de la venta de la empresa estatal de cemento una bolsa de ese material costaba entre 0,75 y 1,25 dólares, mientras que el precio ahora excede los cinco dólares. La devaluación de la moneda local, el gourde, es en parte responsable del aumento.

Desde el golpe de Estado que derrocó a Aristide en febrero de 2004, los defensores de la privatización se han fortalecido.

Un gobierno interino, con apoyo del exterior, formuló una estrategia de privatización y despidió al menos 2.000 trabajadores de Téléco junto con otros miles de diversas empresas estatales.

La mayoría de ellos eran pobres y simpatizaban con el gobierno constitucional que había sido derrocado.

En 2006, Préval fue elegido por el voto popular y reemplazó al desprestigiado gobierno interino.

Dirigentes sindicales señalan que las condiciones mejoraron durante la gestión de Préval y que tuvieron conversaciones con el gobierno, pero en las últimas semanas la tensión ha ido en aumento a causa de los planes de privatización del gobierno.

Una de las mayores centrales del país, la Confederación de los Trabajadores Haitianos (CTH, por su sigla en francés), realizó protestas contra las privatizaciones y los despidos en Téléco.

Dirigentes de la CTH indicaron a IPS que, aunque están dispuestos a dialogar con el gobierno, se oponen a las privatizaciones que cuestan puestos de trabajo.

Préval debería buscar, en cambio, alternativas para modernizar la obsoleta telefónica estatal, dado que existe una demanda desatendida de líneas fijas. Enfatizaron que las "políticas neoliberales de privatización" provocaron desastres en toda América Latina.

Los trabajadores despedidos de Téléco que manifestaron durante los últimos días frente a la sede de la empresa ofrecieron, irónicamente, trabajo a las tropas de la fuerza de paz de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas y a la policía haitiana, que fueron estacionadas en la zona en caso de que estallaran disturbios.

El director general de Téléco, Michel Présumé, argumentó que la privatización es una necesidad urgente e indicó que puede ser realizada en forma inteligente. "Los dividendos del molino harinero privatizado llegan, aproximadamente, a los 13 millones de dólares", dijo.

El presidente del sindicato telefónico, Jean Mabou, quien fue despedido, acusó al director general de la empresa de dejar sin trabajo a personas de manera arbitraria e ilegal. Según empleados, hubo muchos casos de despidos para ajustar cuentas políticas.

Présumé dijo que el número de trabajadores de Téléco se reducirá a 1.200 en todo el país, pero los medios de prensa dicen que sólo quedarán 800.

Préval designó una comisión para estudiar la privatización de otras empresas estatales. La Autoridad Nacional Portuaria y la Oficina de Seguro Laboral y de Salud aparecen como las candidatas más probables.

*Jeb Sprague y Wadner Pierre colaboran con HaitiAnalysis.com

(FIN/IPS/traen-jsp/js wp/ca/if lb ic/07)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Haiti: Workers Protest Privatisation Layoffs

By Jeb Sprague and Wadner Pierre*

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jul 24, 2007 (IPS) - Late last month, President René Préval announced that Haiti's public telephone company, Téléco, would be privatised. Meeting recently with the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Senator Jean Hector Anacacis of Preval's Lespwa political party, the president finalised plans to sell off the aging enterprise.

The move toward privatisation began abruptly, and according to Téléco, 2,800 employees have been terminated thus far. For decades foreign lenders and multinational corporations have pressured the Haitian state toward privatisation; layoffs are seen as the first step.

Cellular phones have spread rapidly across the country and it is common to hear complaints about Téléco's poor landline service.

One cellular company, Digicel, has grown at a fast pace since 2006, allowing many poor Haitians to own a phone for the first time. By offering incoming calls for free and pre-programmed phones for 15 to 25 dollars, Digicel initially outpaced Voilà and Haïtel, which were charging 50 to 150 dollars for basic phones.

Digicel is also widely popular because of its investment in civic institutions such as sporting events and street signs, and its partnerships with foundations such as Fonkoze, a microfinancer for the poor.

The problem is that after getting the cheap phones, many poor subscribers cannot afford the balance on their phones, despite some of the lowest-priced recharge phone cards selling for about 1.5 dollars.

Haiti's government has justified the privatisation of Téléco by comparing its employment levels with those of the private cell phone companies, adamant that the difference in employee figures reveals gross mismanagement of Téléco.

Préval explained that, "Haïtel S.A., has 500 employees for 350,000 subscribers, Comcel, 630 employees for 650,000 subscribers, Digicel 700 employees for 1.4 million subscribers, Téléco has 3,293 employees for only 150,000 subscribers".

In response to the layoffs, Téléco workers launched protests around the company's Port-au-Prince headquarters. Critics point out that cell phone companies don't require wires being strung in the streets or to perform wire maintenance as do companies using land lines.

Cell tower installation is done by a few highly skilled and paid, often foreign technicians, whereas wire line maintenance is done by a larger and often lower paid, lower skilled work force.

While calls made from cells are more expensive than most Téléco calls, it is extremely difficult to procure a Téléco line. Over 90 percent of phone subscribers use private companies, a vast difference from a decade ago.

Téléco profits from a small fee on every communications transaction with Haiti, whether it originates inside of Haiti or from outside of the country. This includes regular land-lines and all cell phone and calling card communications. Therefore Téléco does have the potential to be financially healthy but it requires many employees to work its various departments, with offices throughout the country.

Préval has committed to paying a year's salary to Téléco employees who are being laid off, as well as those from across much of the civil sector who were illegally fired by the previous interim government.

But labour organisers at Téléco speak of a long-term, quiet campaign to undermine state enterprises. They say managers appointed by officials backing privatisation purposely mismanaged the company in order to justify its break-up, as well as corruption and the use of its infrastructure by competitors as undermining forces.

During his first term in 1996-2001, Préval sold off the Minoterie flour mill and Haiti's public cement company. Supporters of privatisation note that the cement company now provides large tax revenues for the state.

But many small contractors and their clients face cement costs out of reach for those aspiring to live in one-room homes. Cement donations from Venezuela have provided some respite for Haiti's public works.

Brian Concannon, of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, recalls that in order to stave off pressure from international financial institutions, Préval, during his first term, dragged his feet and only "let go two of the smallest and least strategic state enterprises." But by the end of his term donors had begun to disengage from providing aid to the state.

With the inauguration in early 2001 of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who refused untrammeled privatisation, donors reacted further by cutting off nearly all support to the aid-dependent but privatisation-weary state, placing a further pinch on the civil enterprises.

One recently laid off Téléco worker, while waiting in line to receive his severance pay, challenged Préval's policy of privatisation. He recalled to journalists that prior to Préval's selling off the cement company during his first administration, a bag of cement was 30 to 50 gourdes but now exceeds 200 gourdes - about 5 dollars. However, part of this is due to the devaluation of the gourde.

Since the ouster of Aristide in a U.S.-backed 2004 coup d'état, the advocates of privatisation have become emboldened.

A donor-sponsored interim government helped formulate a privatisation strategy and fired at least 2,000 workers from Téléco and thousands more from other state jobs, most from poor backgrounds who sympathised with the overthrown constitutional government.

In 2006, Préval was popularly elected to office and the widely disliked interim government stepped down.

Labour organisers explain that conditions have improved under Préval and they take part in talks with the government, but in recent weeks tension has grown with the government's move toward privatisation.

One of Haiti's largest labour confederations, the Confédération des Travailleurs Haitiens (CTH), has protested the government's privatisation plan and the layoffs at Téléco.

In a joint statement CTH Secretary-General Paul Loulou Chéry and his deputy, Hubert Jean, pointed out that Haiti's Commission for the Modernisation of Public Enterprises (CMEP) is "very specific on the way the state should proceed, regarding their modernisation; that is, by management contract, concession or capitalisation."

The labour organisers told IPS that while they support talks with the government, they oppose privatisation that costs jobs and believe the government should instead focus on alternatives to fix the aging state telephone enterprise, as there remains an unmet need for landline services. They point out that neoliberal privatisation policies have led to disaster across Latin America.

In recent days, hundreds of dismissed workers have stood in line at the Téléco headquarters in Port-au-Prince, ironically providing work for U.N. troops stationed in Haiti and the Haitian National Police, who were posted nearby in case protests erupted. Several workers said they felt humiliated - "as if we were not worthy to be inside," one former employee told journalists.

The director general of Téléco, Michel Présumé, who recently appeared in a debate on Haiti's National Television, argued that privatisation is urgently needed and stressed it could be done in an intelligent manner. "The dividends of the [privatised] flour mill are about 500 million gourdes [13 million dollars]," he observed.

But negligible dialogue is said to have taken place between the employees of Téléco and the director general. The president of the Télécommunications trade union - who has been fired - Jean Mabou, has accused the director general of illegally and arbitrarily dismissing people. According to many employees there were numerous instances of employees being fired in order to settle political scores.

Présumé says the number of workers at Téléco will be reduced to 1,200 for the whole of the country, but local press reports put the number at 800.

Préval has appointed a commission to study the privatisation of more state enterprises. The National Port Authority and the Office of Insurance Work and Disease are both likely targets.

*Jeb Sprague and Wadner Pierre contribute to HaitiAnalysis.com


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Monday, July 9, 2007

Michael Manley on food production and ability of a small island country to survive economically

The film "Life and Debt" provides some excellent words from former Jamaican President Michael Manley on the tribulations that a small resource poor country must go through to survive in the 'era of globalization'.

Michael Norman Manley (December 10, 1924 – March 6, 1997) was the fifth Prime Minister of Jamaica (1972 – 1980, 1989 – 1992). Every game in the book was used to undermine his elected government: U.S.eEmbassy financing of opposition civil society, media heads working together to undermine his government, IFI/loan destabilization, breakdown of security into use of gangs, et cetera. See: The film "Life and Debt"

Monday, June 18, 2007

Haiti: Pain at the Pump Spurs Strike Actions

By Jeb Sprague and Wadner Pierre

A normally bustling street in Port-au-Prince on Jun. 13, 2007 during the two-day transport strike.

Credit:Wadner Pierre

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jun 19, 2007 (IPS) - A two-day transport strike last week gripped Haiti's major cities and underscored a mounting crisis over fuel prices, which rose nearly 20 percent in just two weeks.

On Jun. 12 and 13, transport workers shut off their engines, leaving residents of Port-au-Prince and other urban centres largely without the services of taxis or the colourful buses and pick-up trucks known as tap-taps.

A spokesperson for the Initiative de Secteur de Transport, an ad hoc strike committee representing 18 transport unions, Benissoit Duclos, said the action was driven by three pressing issues.

First, the government "has increased traffic fines so that what was a 50-gourde fine is now 1,000 gourdes and what was a 500 gourd fine is now 10,000 gourdes," he said.

"Second, over the last three to four years, the government has not charged for nor distributed registration stickers for vehicles. They are now distributing these but ordering a lump sum payment of 4,000 gourdes for all the years that these were not distributed," Duclos told IPS.

Lastly, the price of gasoline has become unaffordable for most drivers, rising by 34 gourdes to 207 gourdes per gallon this month. Many workers, with a salary that hovers around 70 gourdes a day, must spend 20 to 40 gourdes on transportation (35.4 gourdes equal one U.S. dollar).

The striking workers drive cars and buses, which the working poor depend on for transportation. While some drivers use company cars, many cars are independently owned.

"Poor people, the majority working in the informal economy or assembly industry, cannot afford the higher costs of transportation that these measures would force upon us," said Changeux Méhu, president of ATCH, a union of bus drivers.

"The people don't feel they have a say in government policy," he told IPS.

The strikers appear to enjoy broad national support with a coalition including the Fédération des Transporteurs du Nord, the Fédération des Transporteurs de l'Artibonite and the south based Association des Propriétaires de Conducteurs du Haïti.

On the first day of the strike, Rétes Réjouis, a coordinator of the Fédération des Transporteurs Publics Haïtiens, a well organised transport co-op, declared support for the strike.

"It is a nationwide strike from the grassroots," one transport worker told IPS. A roster of the unions does not include the numerous small but heavily foreign donor-backed labour groups often held up in the international media as "independent".

Haiti's Minister for Social Affairs and Work, Gerald German, voiced surprise that the workers would launch a strike. But Duclos argues that the Rene Preval government has become too close with big business and "the people that supported the de facto government and 2004 coup" - referring to the overthrow of the elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide government and the creation of an interim government.

Interim appointees backed by the United States, including President Boniface Alexander and Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, discharged Haiti's large businesses from paying many of their taxes. Trade unionists interviewed noted with irony that poor vehicle owners are now being forced to pay back registration fees.

Interim authorities also launched the Cadre de Coopération Intérimaire (CCI), a macro-economic adjustment programme largely formulated by international donor institutions and the local groups they back.

Thousands of public sector workers were laid off and government ministries were placed under foreign financial supervision. Mark Schueller at the University of California, Santa Barbara who has studied the CCI, says that it also "promoted high-value crops for exports, benefiting few Haitian farmers" while strengthening the "importation of subsidised or monetised rice, draining Haitian peasants' productive capacity to feed Haiti."

In 2006, after a heated election, René Garcia Préval won the presidency with wide popular support. More than a year later, appointees from the interim government remain in numerous high-level posts and a large U.N. force is deployed in the country.

With the fanfare surrounding Preval's inauguration and good relations with Venezuela, many believed that Haiti's entry into PetroCaribe, a Venezuelan-backed programme offering oil at preferential rates to Caribbean countries, would alleviate high gasoline costs.

Rather than selling oil directly to the companies active in Haiti, such as Esso/Exxon Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, Total and Dynasa, Venezuela's state oil corporation, PdVSA, will sell it to the Preval government, which will in turn sell to the companies at the same price.

The government profits by purchasing a large part on credit with low interest rates and a long grace period. Preval has indicated that the government will then bank the money, gathering interest.

This is especially helpful as Haiti's government has long been susceptible to foreign pressure through its financial dependency on donors. Haiti's meagre tax revenues have left it unable to fund its own national investment budget.

A symbolic shipment of oil from Venezuela arrived on Preval's inauguration in May 2006, but in recent months, PetroCaribe has stalled. Terms were signed on Mar. 12, 2007 during Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's visit to Haiti, and shipments were supposed to begin in July. But the two large U.S. oil companies that export to Haiti are said to have stonewalled negotiations.

Leaders of the transport unions told IPS that they hoped PetroCaribe would directly benefit the poor, lowering prices at the pump. But under the Preval government's plan, this will not happen. PetroCaribe has nothing to do with the cost of fuel, Preval says, insisting he will not subsidise the cost of fuel, which is determined by market prices.

Hyppolite Pierre, a Haitian author and a professor at the Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland, observes that "international lenders such as the IMF, the World Bank and the IDB [Inter-American Development Bank] consider such subsidies as a waste and therefore strongly discourage those practices."

The influential U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince has long pushed for a non-subsidised floating fuel price.

In 2002, a document purported to have originated from the U.S. government or international financial institutions threatened that major petroleum companies would cut off their exports to Haiti if the government did not end its subsidisation of oil. Haiti, with no alternative source of petroleum, was pressured to comply.

But Haiti's Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis insists that even with PetroCaribe in place, "The government cannot subsidise the price of oil, because Haiti does not produce oil."

Transport workers, now in talks with the government, say it is essential the government subsidise fuel or they will simply be unable to operate. For many workers in the informal economy and garment sector, half their wages are spent on transportation.

Dozens of community schools and a slew of literacy centres, once subsidised by the Aristide government, are now cut off from government funds and suffering from rising fuel prices, since they often rely on generators for electricity.

In the Petion-ville district of Port-au-Prince, one community school, SOPUDEP, has come under pressure. The mayor of Petion-ville has attempted to get the school closed down, say school employees.

Rea Dol, head of SOPUDEP, said, "The situation requires prompt intervention by the state. After all people went through to vote for President Preval, he must respond to the population."

Because of this, "we support the strike," she said, "so that it puts pressure on the government to see that people are suffering."

*Jeb Sprague and Wadner Pierre contribute to Haitianalysis.com. (END)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ankie Hoogvelt

I highly recommend this book, first published in 1997 and then again in 2001. Her analysis on how world trade has developed over the last 150 years is especially important. I am reading it again right now for the second time.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Partners in Health in Rwanda

Partners in Health (PIH) is still doing excellent work in Haiti and now in Rwanda. They have launched a major new program
in Rwanda, helping to upgrade and improve health care programs across the country. I am told that the skills and experiences they have gained in Haiti have played a major role in how they are developing the projects in Rwanda. Also, view the newest edition of Uses of Haiti, in which Dr. Farmer has some description on the 2001-2004 embargo on aid to Haiti's government and its harmful effects on the countries health care infrastructure.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

HAITÍ ONU acusada de matar civiles

Por Wadner Pierre y Jeb Sprague

PUERTO PRÍNCIPE, 1 mar (IPS) - La tensión y el miedo persisten en la capital de Haití tras una serie de ataques lanzados por soldados de la ONU contra bandas armadas en los barrios más pobres. Residentes acusan a las fuerzas del foro mundial de matar a civiles.

Mercius Lubin, del tugurio capitalino de Cité Soleil, dijo a IPS que en uno de los ataques, el 1 de febrero, murieron sus dos hijas.

A eso de las 11 de la noche, él y su familia dormían en el suelo por indicación de los soldados de la Misión de las Naciones Unidas para la Estabilización de Haití (Minustah, por su acrónimo en francés) y "entonces comenzaron a disparar".

"Me di cuenta de que estaba herido en un brazo, mi esposa en un pie y mis dos niñas estaban bañadas en sangre", recordó.

La Minustah fue creada por el Consejo de Seguridad en abril de 2004, por medio de la resolución 1542.

Lubin responsabilizó a esa misión de acribillar su casa y matar a sus hijas. IPS pudo ver los cuerpos de ellas, Stephanie, de 7 años, y Alexandra, de 4.

Un importante comandante de la Minustah reconoció que la fuerza de paz lanzó un operativo ese día.

Por su parte, residentes de la zona también declararon que soldados de la ONU (Organización de las Naciones Unidas) habían disparado desde sus vehículos al pasar por la calle donde se encuentra la vivienda de Lubin.

Funcionarios de la Minustah, encabezada por Brasil, admitieron "daños colaterales", pero subrayaron que su presencia obedece a un pedido del gobierno del presidente René Préval para luchar contra las bandas armadas.

Por su parte, el vicerrepresentante especial de la ONU para Haití, el francés Joel Boutroue, responsabilizó el miércoles a los pandilleros por la muerte de las dos niñas.

No obstante, reconoció que, cuando el foro mundial investiga y trata de llevar la cuenta de las víctimas luego de los grandes operativos militares, no puede determinar si las personas fueron heridas por pandilleros o por la propia Minustah. "Es imposible de saber", admitió.

En particular, la ONU y del gobierno haitiano están detrás de uno de los líderes de las pandillas conocido como Evan. En las últimas semanas detuvieron a varios integrantes de su grupo.

Pero residentes y activistas de derechos humanos aseguran que muchas personas sin vínculo alguno con las bandas armadas son asesinadas, heridas o detenidas durante las redadas de la Minustah y de la policía haitiana.

En la mayor parte de Cité Soleil persiste un clima de temor. IPS pudo constatar que muchas de las casas están agujereadas, la mayoría de ellas por artillería de la Minustah, según residentes. Además, el sistema sanitario está en su gran parte destruido.

Un documento desclasificado por la embajada de Estados Unidos en Puerto Príncipe reveló que, durante una operación llevada a cabo en julio de 2005, la Minustah disparó 22.000 municiones en varias horas.

Según el informe, un oficial de esa fuerza de paz reconoció que "dada la endeble construcción de las viviendas en Cité Soleil y la gran cantidad de disparos, es posible que las balas hayan penetrado los edificios, golpeando objetivos no planeados".

Mientras, la organización religiosa Coalición Haitiana No Violenta y No Partidaria pretende reactivar el proceso de paz.

"Nos vimos impulsados por la desesperación de las víctimas y de los líderes en los campos de batalla de Cité Soleil", señaló Evel Fanfan, portavoz del grupo, al tiempo que reclamó "un inmediato cese del fuego".

La organización se propone trabajar junto a la Comisión Nacional de Desarme, Desmovilización y Reinserción, del gobierno de Préval, presidida por Alix Fils Aimé, para tratar de reinstaurar un ambiente de diálogo.

Una de las pandillas ya declaró su disposición a entregar las armas a cambio de una amnistía e inversiones en la comunidad.

Desde las vísperas de Navidad fue evidente que la Minustah había adoptado una postura más severa contra las bandas armadas. Algunos funcionarios señalaron que ingresaban a Cité Soleil para detener, y si era necesario matar, a pandilleros y secuestradores en el distrito Bois Neuf de ese tugurio.

Las fuerzas de la ONU lanzaron un ataque el 22 de diciembre que pasó a ser conocido como "Sin Piedad por Cité Soleil". El estruendo de las ametralladoras de la Minustah se pudieron escuchar a kilómetros de distancia, aseguraron residentes.

Cinco días después, los habitantes de Bois Neuf enterraron a 11 jóvenes que, según ellos, habían sido asesinados por la Minustah. Una gran multitud se congregó frente a los ataúdes.

Tras el derrocamiento del gobierno electo de Jean-Bertrand Aristide en 2004, cientos de activistas del Fanmi Lavalas, el partido político del ex mandatario, fueron detenidos por la administración interina, apoyada por Estados Unidos, según una investigación de la Universidad de Miami.

El último gobierno de Aristide (2001-2004), que se negó a privatizar las empresas estatales, fue objeto de un embargo por parte de las instituciones financieras internacionales a causa de sus deudas pendientes, lo que aceleró el declive económico y político del país.

Tras la expulsión del presidente, provocada por la invasión de ex integrantes del ejército desde República Dominicana, se elaboró un plan de reactivación provisional con asesoramiento del Fondo Monetario Internacional.

Pero los potenciales estímulos económicos, que aparecieron recién con la llegada al poder de Préval en 2006, se enfrentan ahora a una fuerza contraria que parece incontrolable: las bandas armadas.

"Es difícil para mí explicarles lo vivido por los residentes de Bois Neuf el 22 de diciembre, es casi inexplicable. Fue una verdadera masacre. Contabilizamos más de 60 heridos y más de 25 muertos entre bebés, niños y niñas y jóvenes", aseguró Frantz Michel Guerrier, portavoz del Comité de Notables para el Desarrollo de Cité Soleil.

Residentes y partidarios de Lavalas se mostraron contrarios a todo tipo de violencia y manifestaron sus deseos de paz. Pero fuentes cercanas al gobierno denuncian fuertes presiones para intervenir con mano dura en Cité Soleil y desalojar a los grupos armados.

La oposición a la estrategia adoptada por la Minustah en los barrios densamente poblados sigue siendo fuerte.

El 7 de febrero, con motivo del 21 aniversario de la caída de la dictadura de François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, que gobernó entre 1957 y 1971, se organizó una gran manifestación en Puerto Príncipe y otras más pequeñas en otras ciudades, todas reclamando el fin de la violencia y pidiendo se permita regresar al país a Aristide.

* Wadner Pierre y Jeb Sprague son importantes colaboradores del sitio web Haitianalisis.com

***** + Minustah (http://www.un.org/spanish/Depts/dpko/minustah/)

(FIN/IPS/traen-vf/js/ks/ca hd ip pr ha/07)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Haiti: Poor Residents of Capital Describe a State of Siege

By: Wadner Pierre and Jeb Sprague

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 28, 2007 (IPS) - Nearly two months since U.N. troops began launching heavy attacks that they say are aimed against gang members in poor neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, roadblocks and barbed wire remain in place and the atmosphere is grim.

Mercius Lubin of the Boston district of Cité Soleil told IPS that an assault earlier this month left his only two children dead. "It is the noise of MINUSTAH's (the U.N. peacekeeping force) fire that awoke us."

It was about 11 p.m. on Feb. 1, he said, and the family was sleeping on the floor because U.N. soldiers had advised everyone in the area to do so. "Then they started shooting... I saw that I was wounded in one of my arms, my wife in one of her feet and my two young girls were bathed in their own blood."

He said it was MINUSTAH bullets that had sprayed across his home killing his daughters. IPS viewed the corpses of Stephanie, 7, and Alexandra Lubin, 4. A top MINUSTAH military commander acknowledges the U.N. fired shots that day. Residents also state that U.N. vehicles fired heavily down the road which the Lubin home sits along.

Officials of MINUSTAH, whose military contingent is headed by Brazil, have admitted to "collateral damage" but say they are there to fight gangsters at the request of the René Préval government.

Speaking at a press conference at U.N. headquarters Wednesday, Joel Boutroue, deputy special representative of the secretary-general for Haiti, referred to the allegation that MINUSTAH soldiers had shot "two little girls", but said that gang members were responsible for the killings.

"[The U.N. soldiers] are taking extra care in minimising the number of civilian casualties," he said. "The rules of engagement are very clear - they only shoot when shot at...The number of casualties has been very limited."

However, Boutroue acknowledged that while the U.N. does investigate some specific cases and attempts to tally casualties in local clinics after large operations, they do not determine whether people have been hit by MINUSTAH or other weapons. "That's impossible to know," he said.

U.N. and government officials have pointed to one gang leader in particular named Evens. In recent weeks they have arrested a number of men from his group.

But many residents and local human rights activists say that scores of people who have no involvement with gangs have been killed, wounded and arrested in the raids and fighting. A climate of fear persists in much of Cite Soleil.

IPS observed that buildings throughout Cité Soleil were pockmarked by bullets; many showing huge holes made by heavy calibre U.N. weapons, as residents attest. Often pipes that brought in water to the slum community now lay shattered.

A recently declassified document from the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince revealed that during an operation carried out in July 2005, MINUSTAH expended 22,000 bullets over several hours. In the report, an official from MINUSTAH acknowledged that "given the flimsy construction of homes in Cité Soleil and the large quantity of ammunition expended, it is likely that rounds penetrated many buildings, striking unintended targets".

A group of religious and human rights groups active within Cité Soleil, the Haitian Nonviolent, Nonpartisan Coalition (HNVNPC), is attempting to revive a peace process. A spokesman for the group, Evel Fanfan, declared we were "forged out of the desperation of victims and leaders in the battlefields of Cité Soleil" and call "immediately for a ceasefire".

The group is attempting to work with the Préval government's National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reinsertion, headed up by Alix Fils Aimé, to renew the possibility for a peace process. Already one armed group has offered to turn in their weapons for amnesty and government investment in the community.

A hardened U.N. strategy became apparent just days before Christmas, when U.N. officials stated they were entering Cité Soleil to capture or kill gangsters and kidnappers in the Bois Neuf zone.

According to some residents, the Dec. 22 assault became known as Operation "Without Pity for Cité Soleil" as the noise of the 50-mm MINUSTAH machine guns could be heard echoing for miles.

Five days later, the people of Bois Neuf buried 11 young people that they say were among those killed by MINUSTAH. A huge crowd gathered in front of the caskets.

Ronald Saint-Jean of the Group for the Defence of the Rights of the Political prisoners (GDP) was one of the few representatives of a human rights group to attend the funeral.

The GDP is part of a newly founded grassroots human rights coalition called the National Coordination of Organisations Defending Human Rights (CONODDH).

Following the overthrow of Haiti's elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide government, hundreds, possibly up to a thousand, Fanmi Lavalas political activists were imprisoned under the U.S. backed interim government, according to a Miami University Human rights study.

Another study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, estimated that 8,000 had been killed and 35,000 sexually assaulted in the greater Port-au-Prince area during the time of the interim government (2004-2006). In the second half of the study presented in January at the American Public Health Association conference in Boston, the study identified 57 percent of the victims as Lavalas and 30 percent as belonging to Lespwa - the parties of Aristide and Preval.

The Aristide administration (2001-2004), financially embargoed by international financial institutions, had refused to privatise state enterprises. The embargo lost the government much needed aid, contributing to economic decline and destabilisation. Following Aristide's ouster, after members of Haiti's former military invaded from the Dominican Republic, an interim framework was set into motion under International Monetary Fund advisement.

According to some Haitian labour leaders, it laid off between eight and ten thousand civil sector workers, many from the poorest slums of Port-au-Prince.

Other programmes under the Aristide government, such as subsidised rice for the poor, literacy centres and water supply projects, came to a halt following the 2004 coup d'etat. A medical university, a first of its kind for Haiti, constructed by the Aristide government was taken over by MINUSTAH forces.

Frantz Michel Guerrier, a young man who is the spokesman of the Committee of Notables for the Development of Cité Soleil and based in the Bois Neuf zone, said "It is very difficult for me to explain to you what the people of Bois Neuf went through on Dec. 22, 2006 - almost unexplainable. It was a true massacre. We counted more than sixty wounded and more than 25 dead among [them] infants, children and young people".

"We saw helicopters shoot at us, our houses broken by the tanks," Guerrier told IPS. "We heard detonations of the heavy weapons. Many of the dead and wounded were found inside their houses. I must tell you that nobody had been saved, not even the babies. The Red Cross was not allowed to help people. The soldiers had refused to let the Red Cross in categorically, in violation of the Geneva Convention."

The U.N. denies that it blocked ambulances from entering the slum but acknowledges that a peacekeeper did shoot out an ambulance tire in Port-au-Prince that day. Multiple residents told IPS that MINUSTAH, after conducting its operations, evacuated without checking for wounded. U.N. sources say gang members shoot with small arms at their detachments.

Residents and Lavalas officials explain they oppose all violence and want peace. But sources close to the National Palace speak of immense pressure to toughen its stance on Cité Soleil to dislodge armed groups.

Opposition remains strong against MINUSTAH's military style tactics in the densely populated neighbourhoods. On Feb. 7, the 21st anniversary of the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, a huge march took place in Port-au-Prince with smaller demonstrations in Cap-Haïtien, Saint-Marc, Miragoâne, Jacmel, Léogâne and Gonaïves, all calling for an end to the violence and that Aristide be allowed to return to the country.

*Wadner Pierre and Jeb Sprague contribute to HaitiAnalysis.com. (END)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Unmarked graves where flowers grow

This wonderful band The Arcade Fire (from Canada) spoke out against the 2004 coup and right now they are raising money for Partners in Health (PIH). Arcade Fire’s lead singer Régine Chassagne was born in Haiti, but her family emigrated to Canada to escape the terror of the Duvalier regime. Here they are performing their hit-song "Haiti":

Haïti, mon pays,
wounded mother I'll never see.
Ma famille set me free.
Throw my ashes into the sea.

Mes cousins jamais nés
hantent les nuits de Duvalier.
Rien n'arrete nos esprits.
Guns can't kill what soldiers can't see.

In the forest we are hiding,
unmarked graves where flowers grow.
Hear the soldiers angry yelling,
in the river we will go.

Tous les morts-nés forment une armée,
soon we will reclaim the earth.
All the tears and all the bodies
bring about our second birth.

Haïti, never free,
n'aie pas peur de sonner l'alarme.
Tes enfants sont partis,
In those days their blood was still warm

See this http://www.youtube.com/v/RuBLzbzwsYc

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Grassroots human rights workers ignored

I was just forwarded this compiled list of attacks on Martissant and Gran Ravine that Lame Ti Manchet are charged with. The facts behind all of these violent attacks were ignored in a recent AlterPresse article. Similarly an IPS article last year by the same author was also carefully crafted to essentially manipulate the discussion on human rights in Gran Ravine and Martissant, almost totally ignoring the role of the largest and most violent armed group. Grassroots human rights workers have been consistently reporting on the killings carried out by Lame Ti Manchet. See a response at HaitiAnalysis that was recently posted on the Haiti Corbett list. The Komisyon Episkopal Nasyonal Jistis ak Lapè has also compiled a detailed statistical analysis of violence in the area.

-20 August 2005: Massacre at Bernadette soccer field in Martissant
conducted by Haitian police and Lame Ti Manchet.
-21 August 2005: House torchings in Gran Ravine conducted by Haitian
police and Lame Ti Manchet.
-7 July 2006: Twenty innocent men, women and children massacred plus
three hundred+ torched homes in Gran Ravine conducted by Lame Ti Manchet.

-28 September 2006: Human Rights coordinator Esterne Bruner assassinated
in Gran Ravine after returning from AUMOHD's office. Lame Ti Manchet is
-19 January 2007: Photojournalist Jean-Remy Badio assassinated in
Martissant. Lame Ti Manchet is suspected (friends, family, AHP and Le
Nouvelliste). Deibert (and RSF likewise) shamefully fail to properly attribute the charges.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Manipulating Death in Martissant and Gran Ravine

A freelance photojournalist Jean Rémy Badiau was killed on January 19 2007 in the Port-au-Prince district of Martissant. AHP interviewed family and friends that claimed his murder was connected to the vigilante group Lame Ti Manchet. The Haitian newspaper Nouvelliste made a similar report on February 13.

In an earlier report the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières placed equal blame for violence in Martissant on another group known as Baz Gran Ravine. The report provided no proof to back up the statement. A recent article for AlterPresse by Michael Deibert states that Badio was "murdered in his home, evidently by gang-affiliated gunmen from the area, last month". The article made no mention of the widespread charges against Lame Ti Manchet for having involvement in the killing of Badio and scores of other people in Martissant.

A previous article (August 2 2006) by Deibert on the violence in Martissant also ignored the numerous documented attacks and killings carried out by the group, acknowledging only the charges that "a former police official" was accused of "financing and organizing a gang known as Lamè Ti Machet". He makes no mention of the numerous and well recorded Lame Ti Manchet attacks.
According to human rights workers active consistently in Martissant, such as those within AUMOHD and the Community Human Rights Councils (CHRC), it is the Lame Ti Manchet that has been responsible for the vast amount of reported attacks over the last few years and is the driving force behind violence in the area. Also the Komisyon Episkopal Nasyonal Jistis ak Lapè has gathered statistics over the last few years that also show the Lame Ti Manchet was the main perpetrator of violence in the area. This does not mean that Baz Gran Ravine and armed groups committed no violence, but it does mean that according to human rights workers and community groups in Martissant the vigilante group known as Lame Ti Manchet conducted the huge majority of recorded violence and was really a driving force for killings in the area. Disturbingly Lame Ti Manchest was also documented to have had connections with the police force during the interim government.

AUMOHD observed that the 2006 massacre conducted by Lame Ti Manchèt "was meant as a smoke screen to provoke Baz Gran Ravine into a retaliation and thereby distract from the push to get police and civilians involved with Lame Ti Manchèt into jail. AUMOHD'S community human rights council (CHRC) coordinator, Esterne Bruner, was assassinated by Lame Ti Manchèt 9/21/06. But there has not been any retaliation reported. Instead the CHRC, non-violent and non-partisan, continues to prosecute all the killings".

Other attacks conducted by Lame Ti Manchet which is also ignored by Deibert include a massacre of 21 people, the burning down of 300 homes 7/9/06, and a massacre carried out jointly with the Haitian police at a USAID sponsored soccer tournament 8/20/05. The attempts at transference and manipulation are important to document because they show how scientific human rights studies (Lancet, Miami University Griffin report, etc) and testimony collected by human rights workers (AUMOHD, CHRC, IJDH) from poor victims of violence is ignored. Many of the same authors/groups that ignore the reports coming from Martissant also ignored the half dozen human rights reports that came out during the 04-06 period showing the interim government's role in violence against slum dwellers, such as the extrajudicial killing of young journalist Abdias Jean.

Human rights workers on the ground in Martissant now report that the wife of Rudy Kernizan has been apprehended. Rudy himself - chief of the vigilante Lame Ti Manchet - has escaped reportedly to the Dominican Republic. In early February human rights workers reported that several (3-4) Lame Ti Manchet people were arrested by MINUSTAH and the Haitian police. Another 31 individuals were arrested days ago in Martissant.

Funeral of Jean Rémy Badiau
(Photo: Guyvard Alexis/APH)

Young victim of Lame Ti Manchet (Photo: AUMOHD)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Letter to Amnesty International

I recently sent this email to Amnesty International.

Dear Amnesty International,

I am concerned that your recent public statement on Jean-Rémy Badio missed some important issues.

Your post came soon after a statement by RSF and you stated "On 19 January, he was reportedly shot at his home in Martissant where gang warfare has been spiraling for more than two years."

This statement appears to agree with RSF’s Canadian Director Générale's recent statement that “Two armed gangs – Lame Ti Manchèt (Little Machete Army) and Baz Gran Ravin (Big Ravine Base) – have been fighting for the control of Martissant for the past two years.”

This assessment is far from the truth according to those living on the ground and human rights workers who are active daily in Martissant. I point you to an article I recently published at http://www.narconews.com/Issue44/article2517.html

Both family and friends of the victim, Jean-Rémy Badio, accuse lame Ti Manchèt of having a role in the killing. While RSF included Big Ravine Base in its press statement there has been no reports of any alleged involvement on their part. Press reports also indicate that it is the Lame Ti Manchèt and segments of the PNH that have done nearly all of the violence in Martissant.

Furthermore a human rights group that has focused its attention on Martissant, AUMOHD, states that the 2006 massacre conducted by Lame Ti Manchèt “was meant as a smoke screen to provoke Baz Gran Ravine into a retaliation and thereby distract from the push to get police and civilians involved with Lame Ti Manchèt into jail. AUMOHD’S community human rights council (CHRC) coordinator, Esterne Bruner, was assassinated by Lame Ti Manchèt 9/21/06."

AUMOHD reports that there has not been any reported retaliation on the part of the Baz Gran Ravine but that "Instead the CHRC, non-violent and non-partisan, continues to prosecute all the killings.”

I am concerned that your organization is being led away from the facts to appear to take a "neutral" position that is in fact a partisan position promoted by RSF that for them is politically expedient and exploitative. RSF helped propel a destabilization campaign against Haiti's elected government for example when its secretary general in 2002 called on the U.S. Congress and the EU to take "individual sanctions" against Aristide and Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, including "the refusal of entry and transit visas" and "the freezing of any foreign bank accounts they have". Following the illegal ouster of Haiti’s elected government RSF went silent on numerous abuses against the press and failed to denounce various assaults on journalists including the murder of grassroots journalist Abdias Jean.

I congratulate you on mentioning Abdias Jean in your recent report. I hope you will investigate the facts on the ground in Martissant. The voices of the family and friends of Badio should be heard.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Haïti : Lame Ti Machèt accusée d’avoir joué un rôle dans l’assassinat d’un photojournaliste

Reporters Sans Frontières ne rapporte pas toute la vérité, même avec un nombre accablant d’assassinats avérés attribués au groupe de vigiles

Par Jeb Sprague
Spécial pour Narco News Bulletin
25 janvier 2007

Des résidents de Martissant, un quartier pauvre et tentaculaire du Sud de Port-au-Prince, ont accusé Lame Ti Machèt (L’armée des Petites Machettes), un groupe civil de vigilance, d’avoir joué un rôle dans l’assassinat du photojournaliste indépendant Jean-Rémy Badio le 19 janvier 2006. Selon SOS Journalistes, dont Badio était membre, il a été assassiné après avoir pris des photos des tueurs. Ils affirment que sa famille a reçu de nombreuses menaces de mort. L’Agence Haïtienne de Presse (AHP) a rapporté que, selon de proches amis de Badio, la victime a été l’objet de menaces de mort de la part de membres du groupe de vigiles L’Armée des Petites Machettes et que « des résidents de Martissant accusent L’Armée des Petites Machettes d’avoir commis la plupart des assassinats dans la zone ».

Un premier communiqué de presse émanant de Reporters Sans Frontières, organisation basée à Paris, tentait de rejeter la responsabilité du meurtre non seulement sur Lame Ti Machèt mais aussi sur un autre groupe connu sous le nom de Baz Gran Ravin (La Base du Grand Ravin) qui n’a aucune implication avérée dans le meurtre. La directrice générale de RSF au Canada, Emily Jacquard, a écrit : « Deux gangs armés – Lame Ti Machèt et Baz Grand Ravin – se sont disputés le contrôle de Martissant ces deux dernières années. »

Le communiqué, qui ne mentionne pas l’accusation des résidents contre Lame Ti Machèt d’avoir joué un rôle dans le meurtre de Badio, ne mentionne pas non plus que le nombre accablant d’assassinats politiques documentés à Martissant ces deux dernières années ont conduit à Lame Ti Machèt, ceci inclut le massacre de 21 personnes, l’incendie de 300 foyers le 9 juillet 2006 et le massacre réalisé conjointement avec la police haïtienne le 20 août 2006 lors d’un tournoi de football sponsorisé par US AID. Contrairement aux preuves massives qui démontrent les violents saccages de Lame Ti Machèt, les gens de Martissant expliquent systématiquement que depuis 2004, la Baz Gran Ravin a servi comme groupe d’autodéfense.

On pense que Lame Ti Machèt est née peu après le putsch de 2004, sous la tutelle du régime illégal de Latortue avec pour mission « d’éliminer les gens hostiles au régime par intérim » (AHP, 23/01/07). Un jeune journaliste, Jean Abdias, a été exécuté d’une balle dans la tête par la police du gouvernement par intérim en janvier 2005. RSF et d’autres groupes perçus comme étant partiaux envers les autorités haïtiennes par intérim n’ont pas rapporté l’assassinat.

Selon des rapports de AUMOHD, une organisation de défense des droits humains qui opère à Martissant, le massacre de 2006 perpétré par Lame Ti Machèt « était conçu comme un écran de fumée destiné à provoquer la vengeance de Baz Gran Ravin et ainsi, faire diversion pour éviter la pression de la police et des citoyens pour mettre Lame Ti Machèt en prison. Le coordinateur du conseil communautaire des droits humains (CHCR) d’AUMOHD, Esterne Bruner, a été assassiné par Lame Ti Machèt le 21 septembre 2006. Mais aucune vengeance n’a été rapportée. Au lieu de cela, le CHCR, non violent et non partisan, continue de poursuivre en justice tous les assassinats. »

L’Institut pour la Justice et la Démocratie à Haïti (IJDH) observe que : « L’Armée des Petites Machettes va continuer jusqu’à ce que quelqu’un les arrête. Ils ont perpétré le massacre du match de football d’août 2005 avec l’aide de la police et tout à côté d’un poste d’observation de la MINUSTAH (Mission des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation à Haïti). Ils ont frappé à nouveau le jour suivant, incendiant maison après maison. Ils ont réalisé une série d’attaques à l’été 2006. Mais ni la MINUSTAH ni la PNH (Police Nationale d’Haïti) n’arrêtera les leaders. »

Des images du massacre du match de football d’août 2005 sont parues dans le documentaire « Haïti : la démocratie inachevée » de Walt Bogdanich, auteur pour le New York Times. Elles montrent les policiers bien équipés avec des membres de Lame Ti Machèt officiant comme adjoints de la police, courant vers la foule qui crie.

Sous la pression internationale des groupes de défense des droits humains, la PNH, avec l’aide des troupes srilankaises de la MINUSTAH, ont arrêté et emprisonné quinze membres de la police haïtienne cités dans l’enquête de police officielle comme travaillant pour Lame Ti Machèt. Mais les individus arrêtés ont été libérés sous caution en février 2006. Le 19 octobre 2006, le juge Paul Peres a rendu son jugement final en libérant tous les policiers de toute responsabilité mais il a cité des civils dans le cas qu’il a renvoyé devant la cour criminelle.

Les organisations de défense des droits humains ont condamné le juge Peres qui, en tant que partisan du gouvernement par intérim, a libéré les policiers dont la collaboration avec Lame Ti Machèt était notoirement connue. La chef de la PNH, Mario Andersol, a ensuite critiqué la corruption parmi la police judiciaire ; en réponse à cela, certains d’entre eux se sont mis en grève. Les civils cités à la cour criminelle par le juge Peres sont Marck alias Ti Ink, Tél Kale, Kiki Ainsi Connu, Roland Toussaint, Frantz alias Gérald Gwo Lombrit, Roudy Kernisan alias commandant Roudy (chef de Lame Ti Machèt), Carlos, alias Choupit et Jean-Yves alias Brown.

Guyler Delva, de l’Association des Journalistes Haïtiens (AJH), a dénoncé l’assassinat de Badio dans plusieurs médias haïtiens. Amnesty International a également sorti un communiqué de presse pour dénoncer l’assassinat de Badio. L’Associated Press rapporte que Fred Blaise, porte-parole de la police de l’ONU, a expliqué que des membres de gang étaient suspectés dans la fusillade mais qu’aucune arrestation n’avait été effectuée. Suite au récent meurtre de Badio, le Premier ministre haïtien, Jacques Edouard Alexis, a autorisé les soldats de la MINUSTAH à accroître leurs patrouilles à Martissant.

Des milliers de personnes ont été tuées à Haïti depuis le renversement anticonstitutionnel du gouvernement élu en février 2004. Une étude scientifique effectuée auprès d’un échantillonnage spatial aléatoire et publiée dans le journal médical britannique, The Lancet, a révélé qu’entre début 2004 et mi-2006, 4000 personnes ont été tuées par les forces du gouvernement par intérim et ses partisans armés dans la zone du grand Port-au-Prince. La seconde moitié de l’étude présentée ce mois-ci par ses auteurs, montre que la grande majorité de ceux qui étaient visés sont partisans de Lavalas et Lespwa.

Haití: Lame Ti Manchèt Acusado de Haber Jugado un Papel en la Matanza de un Fotoperiodista

Reporteros Sin Fronteras no reportó toda la verdad, aún cuando se le han atribuido al grupo vigilante una cantidad abrumadora de asesinatos documentados

Por Jeb Sprague
Especial para The Narco News Bulletin
27 de enero 2007

Habitantes de Martissant, una sección pobre que se extiende a lo largo de la parte sur de Port-au-Prince, han acusado a Lame Ti Manchèt (el Ejército de los Machetes Pequeños), un grupo civil vigilante, de haber jugado un papel en el asesinato del fotoperiodista independiente Jean-Rémy Badio el 19 de enero del 2006. Según SOS Journalistes, de los que Badio era miembro, él fue asesinado después de tomar fotos de los asesinos. Afirman que su familia recibió múltiples amenazas de muerte. La Agence Haitïenne de Presse (AHP) reporta que, según amigos cercanos de Badio, la víctima había sido objeto de amenazas de muerte por parte de los miembros del grupo vigilante “el Ejército de los Machetes Pequeños” y que “habitantes de Martissant acusan a dicho ejército de cometer la mayoría de los asesinatos en el área.”

Un comunicado de prensa emitido por los Reporteros Sin Fronteras (RSF) de París intentó culpar no sólo a Lame Ti Manchèt del asesinato, sino también a otro grupo conocido como Baz Gran Ravine, que no tiene un involucramiento comprobado en el asesinato. La Directrice générale de RSF en Canadá, Emily Jacquard, escribió: “Dos bandas armadas -Lame Ti Manchèt (el Ejército de los Machetes Pequeños) y Baz Gran Ravin (Base del Gran Torrente)- han estado luchando por el control de Martissant durante los dos últimos años.”

El reporte, que no mencionó los cargos que los habitantes presentaron en contra de Lame Ti Manchèt, por haber jugado un papel en el asesinato de Badio, tampoco señaló que la abrumadora cantidad de asesinatos políticos documentados en Martissant durante los dos últimos años han sido ejecutados por Lame Ti Manchèt. Esto incluye la masacre de 21 personas, la quema de 300 casas el 7 de septiembre del 2006, y una masacre llevada a cabo junto con la policía haitiana en un torneo de fútbol patrocinado por USAID el 20 de agosto del 2005. A diferencia de la evidencia masiva que demuestra los destrozos competidos por Lame Ti Manchèt, la gente de Martissant explica de manera consistente que, desde el 2004, Baz Gran Ravin ha actuado como una agrupación de defensa propia.

Poco después del golpe del 2004, se cree que Lame Ti Manchèt surgió bajo la tutela del régimen ilegal de Latortue, cuya misión era “eliminar a la gente hostil al régimen interino” (AHP 1/23/07). Un joven periodista Abdias Jean, fue ejecutado por la policía del régimen interino con una bala en la cabeza en enero del 2005. RSF y otros grupos considerados como partidarios de las autoridades del interinato de Haití no reportaron el asesinato.

Según reportes de AUMOHD, un grupo de los derechos humanos que opera en Martisant, la masacre ejecutada por Lame Ti Manchèt, “buscaba servir como pantalla de humo para incitar a Baz Gran Ravine a tomar represalias y, así, distraer de la presión para meter a la cárcel a policías y civiles involucrados con Lame Ti Manchèt. El coordinador del consejo comunitario de derechos humanos (CHRC) de AUMOHD, Esterne Bruner, fue asesinado por Lame Ti Manchèt el 21 de septiembre del 2006. Pero no se ha reportado ninguna toma de represalias. En lugar de eso, la CHRC no-violenta y no-partidaria, sigue investigando todos los asesinatos”.

El Instituto para la Justicia y la Democracia (IJDH) en Haití observa que “el Ejército de los Machetes Pequeños va a seguir hasta que alguien los detenga. Ellos ejecutaron la masacre en el partido de fútbol en agosto del 2005 con ayuda de la policía, y cerca de un puesto de observación de la MINUSTAH (Misión de Estabilización de las Naciones Unidas en Haití). Después, volvieron a atacar al día siguiente, quemando casa tras casa. También llevaron a cabo una serie de ataques en el verano del 2006. Pero no MINUSTAH ni PNH van a arrestar a los líderes.”

Imágenes de la masacre del juego de fútbol en agosto del 2005 aparecieron en el documental de Walt Bogdanich’s, autor del New York Times, “Haiti: Democracia Inacabada”. En él, muestra a los policías bien equipados y a los de Lame Ti Manchèt actuando como débiles adjuntos de la policía, corriendo hacia la multitud que gritaba.

Bajo la presión internacional de grupos de derechos humanos, el PNH, con ayuda de las tropas de MINUSTAH de Sri Lanka, arrestaron y encarcelaron con éxito a quince miembros del departamento de policía haitiano, partido que trabajaba con Lame Ti Manchèt, de acuerdo con lo citado en las investigaciones policíacas. Sin embargo, los individuos arrestados fueron puestos en libertad bajo fianza en febrero del 2006. El 19 de octubre del 2006, el juez Peres Paul emitió su juicio final liberando a todos los policías de cualquier responsabilidad, pero nombró a los civiles en el caso que refirió a la corte criminal.

Organizaciones de los derechos humanos han criticado al juez Peres Paul, quien, en tanto seguidor del gobierno interino, liberó a los policías que trabajaban con Lame Ti Manchèt. El jefe del PNH, Mario Andersol, criticó la corrupción que existe entre los judiciales; en respuesta a esto, un grupo de ellos se puso en huelga. Los civiles que fueron referidos a la corte criminal por el juez Peres Paul fueron Marck alias Ti Ink, Tél Kale, Kiki Ainsi Connu, Roland Toussaint, Frantz alias Gerald Gwo Lombrit, Roudy Kernisan alias comandante Roudy (cabeza del Lame Ti Manchèt), Carlo alias Choupit, y Jean Yves alias Brown.

Guyler Delva, de la Asociación de Periodistas Haitianos (AJH) ha denunciado el asesinato de Badio en numerosos medios haitianos. Amnistía Internacional también ha emitido un comunicado de prensa condenando el asesinato de Badio. Los reportes de la Associate Press que Fred Blaise, un portavoz de la policía de la ONU, explicaron los miembros de las bandas eran sospechosos del asesinato, pero no se había hecho ningún arresto. Después del reciente asesinato de Badio, el primer ministro haitiano, Jacques Edouard Alexis, autorizó a soldados de MINUSTAH a incrementar los patrullajes en Martissant.

Miles de personas han sido asesinadas en Haití desde el derrocamiento inconstitucional de su gobierno electo en febrero del 2004. Un estudio científico realizado mediante una muestra espacial aleatoria y publicado en la revista médica británica, The Lancet, encontró que, desde principios del 2004 hasta mediados del 2006, 4,000 personas fueron asesinadas por las fuerzas del gobierno interino y sus seguidores armados en el área de Port-au-Prince. La segunda mitad del estudio, cuyos autores presentaron este mes, demuestra que la mayoría de los blancos eran seguidores de Lavalas y Lespwa.

Haiti: Lame Ti Manchèt Accused of Role in Killing of Photojournalist

Reporters Without Borders Fails to Report the Entire Truth, Even with an Overwhelming Amount of Documented Killings Attributed to Vigilante Group

By Jeb Sprague
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
January 25, 2007

Residents of Martissant, a sprawling poor section along the southern part of Port-au-Prince, have accused Lame Ti Manchèt (the Little Machete Army), a civilian vigilante group, of having a role in the killing of freelance photojournalist Jean-Rémy Badio on January 19 2006. According to SOS Journalistes, of which Badio was a member, he was assassinated after taking photos of the killers. They state that his family received multiple death threats. Agence Haitïenne de Presse (AHP) reports that according to Badio’s close friends the victim had been the object of death threats from members of the vigilante group “the Little Machete Army” and that “residents of Martissant accuse the Little Machete Army of committing most of the killings in the area.”

An early press release put out by the Paris based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) attempted to place the blame for the murder on not only Lame Ti Manchèt but also another group known as Baz Gran Ravine which has no reported involvement in the killing. RSF’s Directrice générale in Canada Emily Jacquard wrote, “Two armed gangs – Lame Ti Manchèt (Little Machete Army) and Baz Gran Ravin (Big Ravine Base) – have been fighting for the control of Martissant for the past two years.”

The report, without mentioning the resident’s charges against Lame Ti Manchèt for having a role in the murder of Badio, also failed to mention that the overwhelming amount of documented political killings in Martissant over the last two years have been conducted by Lame Ti Manchèt, this includes a massacre of 21 people, the burning down of 300 homes 7/9/06, and a massacre carried out jointly with the Haitian police at a USAID sponsored soccer tournament 8/20/05. In contrast to massive evidence showing violent rampages by Lame Ti Manchèt, people on the ground in Martissant consistently explain that since 2004 the Baz Gran Ravin has served as a self-defense grouping.

Soon after the 2004 coup it is believed that Lame Ti Manchèt came into existence under the tutelage of the illegal Latortue regime whose mission was to “eliminate people hostile to the interim regime.” (AHP 1/23/07) A young journalist Abdias Jean was executed, with a bullet in his head, by police of the interim government in January of 2005. RSF and other groups seen as partial to Haiti’s interim authorities failed to report on the killing.

According to reports from AUMOHD, a human rights group active in Martisant, the 2006 massacre conducted by Lame Ti Manchèt “was meant as a smoke screen to provoke Baz Gran Ravine into a retaliation and thereby distract from the push to get police and civilians involved with Lame Ti Manchèt into jail. AUMOHD’S community human rights council (CHRC) coordinator, Esterne Bruner, was assassinated by Lame Ti Manchèt 9/21/06. But there has not been any retaliation reported. Instead the CHRC, non-violent and non-partisan, continues to prosecute all the killings.”

The Institute for Justice and Democracy (IJDH) in Haiti observes, “The Little Machete Army will keep going until someone stops them. They carried out the August 2005 soccer game massacre with the help of police, and right near a MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) observation post. Then they struck again the next day, burning house after house. They did a series of attacks in the summer of 2006. But neither MINUSTAH nor the PNH will go in and arrest the leaders.”

Footage from the August 2005 soccer game massacre appeared in New York Times author Walt Bogdanich’s documentary “Haiti: Democracy Undone”. It shows well equiped police officers, with Lame Ti Manchèt serving as police attaches, running into a screaming crowd.

Under international pressure from human rights groups, the PNH with the assistance of Sri Lankan MINUSTAH troop succesfully arrested and jailed fifteen members of the Haitian police department cited in the official police investigation as working with Lame Ti Manchèt. But the arrested individuals were released on personal recognizance in February of 2006. On October 19 2006 Judge Peres Paul issued his final judgment releasing all the police officers from any responsibility but named civilians in the case who he referred to criminal court.

Human rights organizations have decried Judge Peres Paul, who as a supporter of the interim government, released police officers that were known to be working with Lame Ti Manchèt. PNH chief Mario Andersol later criticized corruption among the judiciary, a group of whom went on strike in response. The civilians referred to criminal court by Judge Peres Paul were Marck alias Ti Ink, Tél Kale, Kiki Ainsi Connu, Roland Toussaint, Frantz alias Gerald Gwo Lombrit, Roudy Kernisan alias commandante Roudy (head of Lame Ti Manchèt), Carlo alias Choupit, and Jean Yves alias Brown.

Guyler Delva of the Haitian Associaon of Journalists (AJH) has denounced the killing of Badio on numerous Haitian media outlets. Amnesty International has also issued a press release denouncing the killing of Badio. The Associate Press reports that Fred Blaise, a U.N. police spokesman, explained that gang members were suspected in the shooting but no arrests have been made. Following the recent murder of Badio, Haitain Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis authorized MINUSTAH soldiers to increase patrols in Martissant.

Thousands have been killed in Haiti since the unconstitutional overthrow of its elected government in February 2004. A scientific study done through random spatial sampling and published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, found that between early 2004 to mid 2006, 4,000 people were killed by the interim government’s forces and its armed supporters in the greater Port-au-Prince area. The second half of the study which its authors presented this month shows that the vast majority of those targeted were supporters of Lavalas and Lespwa.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lame Ti Manchèt Accused of Role in Killing of Photojournalist

I have a new article posted on Narco News that discusses the recent killing of freelance photographer Jean-Rémy Badio. Family and friends of the victim have accused the Little Machete Army, a vigilante group which worked closely with police under the Latortue government, of being involved with the killing. One journalist covering Haiti, Michael Deibert, has made a tremendous effort at  covering up the fact that Lame Ti Manchet is the driving force/ and primary perpetrator of violence in these neighborhoods. (this accord to all human rights groups constantly in the area: AUMOHD, CHRC and the Komisyon Episkopal Nasyonal Jistis ak Lapè).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Renew the Rice Fields

I have been receiving a number of comments and questions in regards to my Beri-beri story in HAITI: Mysterious Prison Ailment Traced to U.S. Rice
By Jeb Sprague and Eunida Alexandra*
. The E-mails have topically discussed everything from the health problems caused by Beri-beri to disgust over the U.S. and multinational corporations’ role in blocking cheap generic drugs from wide-scale consumption to impoverished populations while forcing down tariffs. The study by Griffin and Dr. Morgan has numerous implications: for the prisoners, for U.S. rice/trade policies, and for Haiti. It exposes on a local level the murky underbelly of corporate globalization with deadly results for the most vulnerable.

One reader wrote that Beri-beri

is merely malnutrition at the metabolic level. It was once rampant in prisons with deplorable conditions. Give them whole brown rice and they will likely recover. ALL white rice is essentially poison. It is fortified in processing where they add vitamins. Why not just eat brown rice?

Chomsky's chapter "The Tragedy of Haiti" in Year 501: The Conquest Continues (1993) does an excellent job at discussing how the World Bank and other IFIs pressured Haiti to allow the cheap importation of rice in the early 1980's. This continued throughout that decade and with the resumption of post-de facto democracy in 1994, the US and IFIs once again pressured the lowering of tariffs but this time through the Paris Accords negotiated with a democratically elected government (although still dependent). The Accords also pressured privatization that Aristide opposed once he was returned. The founding of the Fanmi Lavalas (FL) grouping, if you read the few press reports from late 1996 that discuss it (available on LEXUS), was based on opposition to the foreign/elite pressured privatization. This made FL enemy number one for national and transnational elites operating in Haiti. Preval and the neo-liberal OPL privatized two civil enterprises but when OPL lost out in the 1997 elections to FL this ended the move towards privatizations.

In regards to Beri-beri. It has been researched in prison studies for many years now. A study that took place in the Dutch East Indies one hundred and ten years ago has fascinating similarities with the Griffin/Morgan study. See
Vandenbroucke JP. Adolphe Vorderman's 1897 study of beriberi among prison inmates in the Dutch East Indies: an exemplar of scrupulous efforts to avoid bias
. Vorderman went personally to the food supply of prisons and collected samples, similar to Morgan/Griffin. The Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, was also a colonial outpost and throughout the history of Indonesia its people have struggled under the rigors of foreign and elite imposed systems.

But today Indonesia is one of the world's leading rice producers, "with paddy production in 2003 of more than 50 million tones and a cultivated area of more than 11.5 million ha" But in Haiti rice has grown in cost and farmers have been pushed out of business. National elites have gained a monopoly on the disbursement of rice imports. When the Aristide government distributed cheap imported rice to the most impoverished (which was only a temporary solution for starvation), the same national elites who profited from the trade imbalance saw the government as a threat (some financed X-FAdH rebels. Aristide's effort to provide affordable rice while it was a humanitarian gesture could not solve the problem. But Haitian elites denounced the program because it cut into their profits of selling highly priced foreign imported rice to the masses. We can be sure from that experience, that if rice tariffs were raised to renew Haitian domestic rice productivity this would insure a deadly response from elites who profit from the trade imbalance. So if small steps are attacked before they can become big steps, what is the solution?

A recent article False H.O.P.E. For Haiti, by Tom Ricter, criticizes the new HOPE legislation meant to promote more garment industry jobs for Haiti. It also brings up the issue of the rural economy, a discussion that is often lacking and underreported. Ricter writes:

The single greatest generator of unemployment in Haiti over the past twenty years has been the destruction of the rural economy. The loss of economic opportunity in the countryside has translated into a wholly unsustainable urban migration. Urban communities in Port-au-Prince, Gonaives, Port de Paix and elsewhere are straining unsuccessfully to absorb dislocated peasants and their families into the blossoming slums, that lack the housing, water, schools and jobs the migrants need...Another approach a new HOPE could take would be to shift funds for development away from project based grants and loans, delivered primarily through the non-governmental sector, to direct support for government ministries in Haiti.

He argues for an alternative H.O.P.E., one that would promote a rural economy and reinvestment in a public workforce (health, literacy, etc)- both which would work to build a sustainable economy. He argues the low tariffs encourage investment but in a vacuum where a country like Haiti serves as basically a quick stop over. Its schools run by foreign donations and NGOs, its government sector gutted, and its rural economy destroyed.

Peasant leaders in Haiti, such as Bolivar Romulus and Moise Jean-Charles, organized under the democratically elected Haitian governments to promote pro-agricultural policies. Both were targeted by the ex-military opposition for death and persecution following the events of February 2004. Others, such as Chavannes Jean Baptiste and his political party MPP, were essentially co-opted into the foreign financed plan for Haiti. In our new publication HaitiAnalysis (with writers in Haiti, Canada, and the US) we will make a real effort to cover organizing for expanded rice productivity over cheap US rice imports. Could a domestic based rice economy be the future for Haiti's rebound? How could it function? The Preval government’s national road construction plan is one promising sign, which could drastically lower transportation costs for country rice getting to urban markets.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Medical examination charts for one of the investigations, carried out by the Lamp for Haiti Foundation's Philadelphia-based non-profit team (Staff attorney Thomas Griffin and staff physician James Morgan) show some startling results. According to new testimony Beri Beri has decreased recently at the prison but its prevalence is now increasing once again at the National Penitentiary. You can view the Beri-beri charts beneath the IPS article on

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mysterious Prison Ailment Traced to U.S. Rice

I have a new article with Eunida Alexandra
titled HAITI: Mysterious Prison Ailment Traced to U.S. Rice
By Jeb Sprague and Eunida Alexandra*
up on the Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS). Haitianalysis has up some new stories as well.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Haiti: Mysterious Prison Ailment Traced to U.S. Rice

By Jeb Sprague and Eunida Alexandra*

NEW YORK, Jan 17, 2007 (IPS) - A newly released investigation into the deadly scourge of Beri-beri in Haiti's National Penitentiary uncovered evidence that the clash between the manufacturing process used in U.S. processed rice and the traditional Haitian rice cooking method has been killing poor young men behind bars and leaving others morbidly ill.

By early 2006, firefights brought on by Haitian National Police and United Nations incursions into the capital's poorest neighborhoods had become commonplace. The raids, deemed "operations" by authorities, and reportedly designed to flush out criminal gangs, often resulted in high civilian causalities.

In a recent scientific study in the British medical journal The Lancet, done through random spatial sampling, it was estimated that 8,000 people were killed in the greater Port-au-Prince area from March 2004 through early 2006 after Haiti's elected government was ousted.

Already overcrowded and antiquated Haitian prisons quickly became packed with poor young men, drastically worsening the health conditions inside. The national penitentiary in Port-au-Prince built for a capacity of 800 today holds over 2,000 prisoners.

Last April, the Lamp for Haiti Foundation, a Philadelphia-based non-profit organisation created to address both the health care and the human rights needs of Haiti's poor, commissioned an investigation into the mysterious Beri-beri deaths of otherwise young, healthy prisoners in the Haitian National Penitentiary.

Staff attorney Thomas Griffin and staff physician James Morgan were given access by the national director of prisons, Wilkens Jean, to the sickest prisoners to search for clues to the source of the outbreak.

Griffin, a Philadelphia-based immigration lawyer and human rights investigator, had repeatedly visited the Haitian National Penitentiary since February 2002. In November of 2004, taking part in a Miami University human rights delegation, he found that poor supporters of the elected Aristide government had come under severe repression, showing up in "mass graves, cramped prisons, no-medicine hospitals, corpse-strewn streets and maggot-infested morgues".

In an October 2005 investigation, Griffin met with over 80 U.S. deportees. While conducting a follow-up investigation in March 2006, he found that a deportee from the United States he had met in October, Jackson Thermidor, had just died of congestive heart failure brought on by Beri-beri. Further, based upon reports from prison officials as well as prisoners, Beri-beri appeared to be devastating the overcrowded prison population.

If left untreated, Beri-beri slowly attacks its victims' nervous systems, eventually causing congestive heart failure. Treatment, which is almost always successful, consists simply of the correct administration of a multivitamin supplement.

Morgan and Griffin observed that many of those arrested during the administration of the post-coup, foreign-appointed government started to suffer from weight loss, emotional disturbances, impaired sensory perception, weakness, pain in the limbs, and periods of rapid and irregular heartbeat - all direct symptoms of Beri-beri.

Packed together in squalid conditions and provided meager, irregular meals, Haitian prisoners were fed a diet of rice that Griffin and Morgan discovered had lost its natural B1 vitamin/thiamin content, leading to the ultimately harmful effects. Griffin explained, "We found out that the little food they do give to prisoners is U.S.-processed rice."

All the Haitian rice production, which Haitians traditionally grew and consumed as a staple, was a healthy, whole-grain, vitamin B-packed, and native crop. But, due to U.S. policies since the early 1980's preferring U.S. rice producers over Haitians' own sustainable agriculture, tariffs were forced to drop, and U.S. rice flooded the Haitian market.

It not only destroyed much of traditional Haitian farm life that was the soul and lifeblood of the nation, but it pushed farmers off their land and into the city slums in Port-au-Prince. The prisoners, Griffin observed, who must eat the U.S. rice come from those slums, and are now dying of Beri-beri.

Griffin and Morgan gained access to all 21 of the prisoners then housed in the prison infirmary. Dr. Morgan made physical examinations as Griffin questioned the prisoners on the conditions of their confinement and their backgrounds.

Among other findings, only two of the prisoners had been convicted and were serving sentences. The others were legally innocent, pending trial or release. Only eight had ever been brought before a magistrate for a hearing, despite the Haitian Constitution's requirement of hearing within 48 hours of any arrest.

The average length of time prisoners had been detained as of the April investigation was 13 months, and one prisoner had already been locked up for two full years without ever being taken before a court. Nine of the 21 prisoners were suffering in the deep stages of Beri-beri, hardly able to talk due to chest congestion and fatigue from overworked hearts.

"None had lawyers," Morgan observed, "they all had sunken empty unfocused eyes, the trailing step and the air of used old men awaiting death, yet they were hardly in their twenties."

Most telling to the investigators, however, was that all the sick had depended on the prison's "twice a day meals from a large communal bowl, rather than, like most of the more healthy prisoners, on food prepared and delivered daily from outside by family members."

At the request of investigators, Wilkins Jean took them to the prison warehouse, where 50-lb sacks of imported U.S. rice made up almost the entirety of the food stores. Griffin explains, "On each one of these bags was written, in English: 'Extra Fancy Long Grain Enriched USA,' and 'Do Not Rinse Before or After Cooking.'"

Like most mass-produced rice in the U.S., it had been polished and bleached to make it more appealing to the consumer's eye. The process, however, removes key nutrients, including vitamin B1/thiamine, from the grain.

To restore some of the nutrients, many U.S. rice mills routinely "enrich" the processed rice by adding back nutrients. The problem for Haitians, however, is that the nutrients are returned by merely coating the exterior of the rice grain with the mixture. Haitians, Griffin and Morgan would learn, have always scrubbed their rice before cooking it - which, according to Griffin, at the prison resulted in a meal "that had about as much nutritional value as cardboard.''

The Lamp Foundation is now embarked on an ambitious education campaign at the prison and with the national prison directorate, and plans to open an office in Cite Soleil, the poorest community in Port-au-Prince, later this month.

"The only reason the general population of Haiti that eats U.S. processed rice is not also suffering from Beri-beri to the same degree is that they must get vitamin B/thiamin from other sources. The prisoners, on the other hand, get no other food," Morgan said. "We told Mr. Wilkens Jean this: if you are going to serve American rice, cook it like an American - don't rinse it before you cook it.''

According to Prison Director Jean, prison authorities had tried to distribute vitamin B supplements because they already knew that the lack of it was underlying the Beri-beri epidemic. But, said Jean, the prison administration never had enough for all prisoners on any kind of regular basis.

*Eunida Alexandra is a Haitian immigrant living and working in Brooklyn who hosts the television cultural awareness show "Voices of Haiti" in New York. Jeb Sprague contributes to Haitianalysis.com (END)