Tuesday, 30 January 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.

Saturday, 27 January 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, 25 January 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 really ignoring Lame Ti Manchet as 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, 20 January 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.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Popdem in Ecuador? Correa Inaugurated

Green left reports "On January 15, Ecuador’s new president, Rafael Correa Delgado, was sworn in, promising to build 'socialism of the 21st century' to overcome the poverty and instability of the small Andean country." Correa has gained widespread support from Ecuador's poor and indigenous communities. Chavez and Morales were both present at the inauguration.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Beri-beri

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
HaitiAnalysis

Wednesday, 17 January 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.

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)

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Haiti Analysis 1.0

Here is a new internet publication that I am working on with Jeremy Dupin, Joe Emersberger, and Wadner Pierre. We launched Sunday, January 14, 2007; the two year anniversary of the killing of young Haitian journalist Abdias Jean.

In the next few weeks the website will have many more articles and a completely different look inspired by our sister publication VenezuelaAnalysis Thank you and we appreciate any Paypal donations to haitianalysis@gmail.com

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Jean Candio - Illegally jailed in Canada

Visit this website to hear a talk with Jean Candio, former deputy in the Aristide government - currently illegally jailed in Canada >>
(FRENCH) http://documents.amarc.org/files/2007-01-01/INtervue%20avec%20Jean%20Candio%20VA033_016KBPS_060215_064739.MP3


And go here to hear Canadian writer/activist Joe Emersberger speak about Haiti and the imprisonment of Jean Candio by the Canadian Government at the Windsor border Dec 2006 >> (ENGLISH) http://audios.amarc.org/ or at http://documents.amarc.org/files/2007-01-01/Emersberger%20on%20Jean%20Candio%20.MP3

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

AP runs false statements implying Aristide invovlement with Jean Dominique killing


On January 2nd, 2007 Justin Bergman, Associated Press writer, printed an erroneous statement in the Associated Press.


See the story here: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/24hour/world/story/3462054p-12671740c.html


He writes in regards to the murder of Haitian journalist Jean Dominique: "Dominique, the country's most prominent anti-government journalist, was assassinated in April 2000 after broadcasting increasingly strident criticisms of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government on his program."

Jean-Bertrand Aristide's second term in office did not begin until February of 2001. He ended his first term in Feb of 1996. Preval was President (1st administration) from Feb 1996 to Feb 2001. AP (like other newspapers and the film by Demme) imply Aristide's involvement in this killing when there is no evidence to back this up.

The man widely accused of the murder of Jean Dominique is Danny Toussaint, who was a high ranking police official under both Aristide and Preval administrations and was acknowledged as working for the CIA at various times. He also is widely seen as having narco trafficking ties and he was part of the former Haitian military (FAdH). He joined the opposition to Aristide in 2003 and called for the overthrow of Aristide and the elected government in late 2003 and early 2004. He ran a failed presidential candidacy in the recent 2006 elections in Haiti. Why does AP not mention this relevant and important information?