Thursday, October 29, 2015

Can Haiti’s Corrupt President Hold On to Power?

Michel Martelly is trying to impose a successor amid widespread public anger at government repression and failure to rebuild after the earthquake.

By James North (The Nation)

In another week or so, Haiti could explode, and the disastrous American policy of supporting the country’s violent and corrupt president will be a big part of the reason. Michel Martelly, prevented from continuing in office by term limits, is trying to impose a successor, and the United States has not spoken out against his ruthless, undemocratic strategy. On or after November 3, Haiti will announce the top two finishers in the first election round, held on October 25, and if Martelly’s man is one of them, thousands of enraged citizens will surge into the streets.

The United States is already widely blamed here for supporting Martelly, and the ambassador until recently, Pamela White, is singled out bitterly and publicly for her alleged closeness to him.

The mainstream US press, which was here en masse after the January 2010 earthquake, is ignoring this latest acute crisis. With few exceptions, the American media have also not reported on the nearly complete failure of the international rebuilding effort, a shameful record for which Bill and Hillary Clinton have considerable responsibility.

The Martelly regime’s combination of increasing violence and mega-corruption is clear here in Arcahaie, a simple fishing and farming area some 25 miles up the west coast from Port-au-Prince, the capital. President Martelly is using a dubious legal maneuver to try to grab stretches of the coastline. Local people fear he intends to expel them and build tourist resorts or private estates. They point out that he already owns a home farther up the coast that has been valued at $9 million (and they wonder how he bought it on his $60,000 presidential salary).

Over a day of interviews, fishermen and others here described a patient protest campaign, which started out with a petition, peaceful marches, and respectful requests to meet government officials. “We didn’t hear a word back in response,” said Jean-Max Vincent, the owner of a small shop. “That’s when people decided to block the national highway.”

The government sent in a recently formed paramilitary unit called BOID (Departmental Brigade of Operations and Interventions), which in a few months has already become notorious in Haiti. The special unit, which dresses in black, hit hard, killing several people, destroying property, and robbing small businesses. “We have never seen these BOID people before,” said Francois Bijoux, a fisherman who goes out daily with his neighbors in their wooden boats to catch red snapper. “We heard they are ex-prisoners that Martelly released to form the unit.”

The US embassy has said nothing about Martelly’s increasing violence, other than issuing vague general appeals for calm. The American refusal to speak out against human rights violations and undemocratic practice has become an established pattern. Elections for the national legislature are years late, and the president has been ruling by decree since January 2014, also without American protest.

Haitians also continue to be angry about the failure of the international rebuilding effort after the earthquake. Nearly six years have passed, and the only major changes in Port-au-Prince are the removal of most of the rubble and the disappearance of the tent cities that filled parks and plazas (many of their residents have been moved to a treeless camp north of the city, where opportunities for work are scarce).

International aid did not fund the cleanup. My great friend for more than 20 years, Milfort Bruno, used his own money to pay for the rubble to be removed from his badly damaged home, and then he paid again for the trucks to cart it away. Bruno, who is the proprietor of the Mahogany Craft Shop, across the street from the famous Oloffson Hotel, is also incensed that the National Hospital is as bad as ever. “It’s supposed to be a public hospital,” he told me, “but they make you pay for a bed. If you can’t pay, they leave you on the ground.”

The cleanup was actually funded by the more than 2 million Haitians who live in the diaspora, mainly in the United States and Canada, who continue to send home the astonishing sum of $1.6 billion a year.

One particularly telling failure is that the national Museum of Haitian Art is still closed, six years after the earthquake. Haiti’s bright paintings and innovative sculptures enjoy a worldwide reputation, and there is no reason the best of them should not be back on public display, both to inspire Haitians with their own cultural heritage and to start reviving tourism. Bill Clinton’s Haiti Reconstruction Commission got up to $2.5 billion in aid pledges and Clinton promised to “build back better,” but no one has even organized enough money to restore a modest museum on the central Champs Mars.

It is little wonder that Clinton, who basked in publicity after the earthquake, is nowhere to be seen in Haiti these days, and that Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state back then, does not mention Haiti in her campaign.

What has recently changed in Port-au-Prince is that the city is festooned with billboards and tens of thousands of campaign posters, nearly all of them promoting candidates who represent the elite. The bright pink, yellow, and green posters make a revealing contrast with the piles of uncollected trash and the potholes in even the major streets.

Before the election, President Martelly’s strategy was clear: frighten Haitians into letting his candidate win. His thugs violently disrupted voting in legislative elections back in August. The US embassy said nothing, aside from feeble admonitions. So before the next election round on October 25, several political movements decided that an active boycott was the only constructive step. In the days leading up to the vote, ordinary Haitians were fearful; many left for the countryside, where they felt safer, and others stocked up on provisions and planned to stay in their homes.

Then, two days before the vote, the former and still popular president Jean-Bertrand Aristide emerged from political seclusion to campaign for an opposition candidate, a woman physician named Maryse Narcisse. Hope rose in the poorer neighborhoods, as the Aristide/Narcisse election rallies started to awaken some genuine enthusiasm. (The rise in Dr. Narcisse’s prospects had an unexpected side benefit. Many Haitians played her ballot number in the daily lottery—and the number hit.)

Meanwhile, president Martelly’s hand-picked candidate, Jovenel Moise, was stumbling badly. His campaign described him as the “Banana Man” (he had managed a plantation), but people hated him for his ties to the president, and they turned the description into one of derision.

On election day, the new US ambassador, Peter Mulrean, issued an approving statement with unseemly haste just after the polls opened. Throughout the day, other elite figures echoed his optimistic view, insisting that the turnout was encouraging and the election clean.

What I saw was different, and raises considerable doubts. I witnessed open vote-buying at the Lycee Jean-Jacques Dessalines on Avenue Christophe, and I later listened to a young poll-watcher for Narcisse angrily denounce irregular vote-counting procedures in the Christ Roi neighborhood.

What’s more, the atmosphere in the streets was sour and angry. Bystanders, unprompted, spit out their rage at Martelly and his candidate. One young man walked through the Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood shouting, “If they try and tell us the Banana Man won, we’re going to break all the glass on the nice cars.”

The sullen mood contrasted with the festive air during the 2010 election, when the once popular Michel Martelly had inspired genuine enthusiasm. Claudy Dorsonne, an electrician in his 60s, observed, “If the people truly thought this election could bring an end to Martelly and the Banana Man, it would be like Carnival out here today.”

Even so, as the day continued without the expected government-sanctioned violence, hope started to outweigh fear, and people did come out to vote in larger numbers.

The day after the election, another element of Martelly’s election-rigging strategy became clearer. There were 53 different candidates for president, a fact that made giant colorful ballots necessary but which had already raised doubts about how each of the 53 could have amassed 6,000 party members, which was supposed to be the requirement for listing.

Each of the 53 parties merited a mandataire, or poll-watcher. Pierre Charles, the owner of a small restaurant and a man with his ear to the ground, told me they had a malign purpose. “It was all a plot,” Charles said. “Nearly all these so-called ‘poll-watchers’ were actually working for the power. They got into the voting places early in the morning, stuffed the ballot boxes, and then opened the doors for the real voters.” Independent radio stations denounced the maneuver. So far, the US embassy has said nothing.

In fairness, much more has gone terribly wrong in Haiti than Michel Martelly. All Haitians know that the international community promised their country several billion dollars after the earthquake, and they can look around and see that little of it actually arrived. They believe the small Haitian elite stole much of the help.

Their view is accurate, but only up to a point. Jonathan Katz, whose book The Big Truck That Went By is an indispensable guide to Haiti during and after the earthquake, points out that the vast majority of the promised aid was intercepted before it even got to the country. Katz writes, “Most of the money pledged by foreign governments had never been meant for Haitian consumption…in the end, at least 93 percent would go right back to the UN or NGOs to pay for supplies or personnel, or never leave the donor states at all.”

As the votes were being counted in the tropical dusk, I stopped by Cité Soleil, the sprawling poor neighborhood in northwest Port-au-Prince that is an opposition stronghold. I accompanied Daniel Morel, the great Haitian photographer whose striking, humane pictures of the 2010 earthquake are only part of the reason he is famous. He knows people everywhere, and a short, vigorous, white-haired woman ran over to hug him. “We all voted for Maryse Narcisse,” she said. “We will be out marching tomorrow. We must show them that we will not back down. As Martelly plans his schemes, we will be ready.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Other Refugee Crisis

By France François (originally for Ebony)

Yanique’s Dominican neighbors, the same people she had lived and worked side by side with for decades, pounded on her door in the middle of the night chanting violent demands for her to leave the country. Pregnant and terrified, Yanique grabbed all that she could carry as she ran out of the back door. She left town in the dead of the night, hidden in the back of a pickup truck. The following morning, she found herself standing amidst a dusty camp made up of makeshift tents cobbled together with tarp, plastic and tin. When all that she had lost suddenly hit her, she dissolved into a panic attack. Her twins were delivered stillborn three days later.
In the remote Haitian border town of Anse-à-Pitre, two of the many tent camps that have sprouted up since June hold almost 2,000 of the 63,000 Haitians and Dominicans who fled the Dominican Republic. Many left with only the clothes on their backs. The ongoing reports of human rights abuses, mob violence and discrimination against Black people in the Dominican Republic have fueled their fear of being persecuted based on race and ethnicity. Having fled the DR, these people can be considered refugees under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. An hour away from Florida, this is the other refugee crisis the world has forgotten.
For decades, the Dominican government and Dominican sugar plantations with ties to the U.S. systematically imported Haitians to work in the sugarcane plantations. These Haitian cane-cutters lived in remote areas called bateyes, often with no access to running water, electricity, social services or legal representation.
What should have been seasonal work turned into a permanent state of indentured servitude for many. Earning $3.34 for a 12-hour-day on the plantations, few were ever able to buy safe passage back to Haiti. Thus, many married and gave birth to children (and now grandchildren) in the Dominican Republic. Dominican hospitals would routinely refuse to issue them birth certificates. Thus, the remoteness of the bateyes, combined with the discrimination their descendants faced, ensured that few of those descendants possessed government IDs.
Prior to 2013, those children—born in the Dominican Republic—were simply considered Dominicans per the Dominican Constitution. But a court ruling by the DR’s court suddenly sent Dominicans of Haitian descent into limbo. The court ruled to retroactively strip Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship as far back as 1929. The DR had finished exploiting Haitians for cheap labor and now decided to cleanse the country of them and their descendants.
Making the situation even more dire, the Haitian Constitution did not allow for dual citizenship, making it impossible for a person who acquired Dominican nationality at birth to also be a Haitian citizen. With the stroke of a pen, over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent found themselves stateless.
The U.S. State Department’s 2014 Human Rights Report describes the consequences of being stateless in the DR: "Dominican-born persons of Haitian descent who lacked citizenship or identity documents faced obstacles traveling both within and outside the country… cannot obtain national identification cards (cedulas) or voting cards… had limited access to formal-sector jobs, public education, marriage and birth registration, formal economic services such as banks and loans, access to courts and judicial procedures, and ownership of land or property." Basically, a stateless person does not legally exist.
Armed with weapons and training by the United States, the Dominican military, border control and vigilante groups threaten, intimidate and round up anyone who “looks Haitian,” whether they have their documents or not. The government has even resorted to asking people to turn in their neighbors.  
Although the DR has not initiated the mass bombing campaigns of the Assad regime, its history of state-sponsored terror and genocide is no less grave. The people who have fled the DR have a well-founded fear of being persecuted based on their race or ethnicity; they have little recourse for help or protection. They are, by definition, refugees, and should have the same rights extended to them as other vulnerable people around the world.
As the Syrian refugee crisis has left us all grappling with our own humanity and capacity for charity, the plight of other marginalized people should not be ignored. “The [Syrian] refugee crisis is not just a European problem; it's a world problem, and we have obligations," President Barack Obama said Friday. Similarly, the crisis in the DR is not a solely the Dominican Republic’s problem, or even Haiti’s. These people are Black, poor and stateless.
They are the world's problem and we have an obligation to help them.
France François is the Co-Coordinator of @Rights4ALLinDR. Follow her on Twitter @Frenchieglobal.

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Militarized police & new army trained as protests grow in Haiti

Mounting protests against sham elections and corruption, newly trained paramilitary police units and the upcoming deployment of a new military force trained in Ecuador. Listen to the recent radio interview with Haiti Information Project's Kevin Pina.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Op-Ed: Thoughts on the Refugee Crisis on the Dominican-Haitian Border

John A. Carroll, MD --  HaitiHearts

As most of us know nothing is as simple as it seems. Everything is not
usually black or white. There is some gray and maybe even some blue.

But I want to be clear.  There is a huge “human rights violation” occurring
on the Haitian-Dominican border right now. People I have visited in the
camps just outside of Anse-a-Pitres are being treated like animals.  Many
of these folks have told me that no one cares about them. And they are
right. They are being treated like animals.

Their essential rights to protection, food, water, and medical care are not
being upheld. They are held captive to their daily need to survive and they
are not viable members of any society except their camp society where they
exist day-to-day.

This is all a man-made disaster and has been created on both sides of the
Haitian-Dominican border. Both Dominican and Haitian authorities are guilty
of these human rights violations.  And the deaths and the misery of the
people imprisoned in these camps are on their shoulders.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Anatomy of an Electoral Coup

Marred by outright fraud, massive voter suppression in the form of intimidation, and violence, the August 9th Haitian legislative election was rejected by the people of Haiti. Yet, in a cynical re-write of history, the OAS, United States, and European Union put their stamp of approval on the election as a “step forward” for democracy.
As usual, the Haitian people resist. They insist on their right to fair elections. Angry protests across Haiti demand that the August 9th election be annulled.  Haiti Action Committee fully supports this demand.
Fanmi Lavalas, the party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, immediately declared the sham election “an electoral coup,” calling for its annulment, and demanded that a commission be convened to investigate. Other political parties soon joined this call. Many candidates throughout the country have formed “candidates’ collectives” to defend the Haitian people’s right to free and fair elections. 
Below are some examples of the nation-wide pattern of disruption, voter suppression and terror that occurred during this sham election. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fraud, Violence, and Protests Cloud Results of Haitian Election

by Jake Johnston - source: CEPR  

On August 9, in the impoverished Cité Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, a man in plainclothes carrying an automatic weapon casually got into a crowded SUV and left the premises one of Haiti's largest voting centers. It wasn't yet noon on election day. Inside the center's gate, three Haitian National Police officers sat in the shade. All 51 voting booths had been destroyed. Thousands of ballots littered the courtyard. 

All across the country, the vote was held amid a climate of chaos and tension. In Chansolme, in Haiti's rural northwest, a polling place supervisor was forced to hide under a bed for hours after being threatened by armed bandits who needed his signature to officially endorse completed ballots that they had provided. In Nippes, another supervisor was held at gunpoint and forced to sign a document canceling the election for an entire voting center. In the commune of Desdunes in the Artibonite, all five voting centers were shut down by midday. 

Nationwide, turnout was estimated at 18 percent. In Haiti's most populous West department, where President Michel Martelly's approval rating is the lowest, that number fell to less than 10 percent of registered voters going to the polls. The final results of the first round of legislative elections will be announced on September 8, but protests have been held across the country denouncing what was seen as an unfair process. There have been calls for changes within the electoral council, and, in some cases, the outright annulment of the election. 

In January, Haiti was left without a functioning government when the terms of the entire lower house and one-third of the Senate expired. Another third of the Senate had already termed out previously in 2012. Without a functioning government, Martelly was left to rule by decree. He was constitutionally barred from running again for president this year. 

Altogether, 128 parties registered to participate in the August election, with 1,621 candidates competing for 119 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and 232 fighting for 20 seats in the Senate. Playing out across Haiti's 10 departments, it was the first election under Martelly, who came into office only after the international community intervened in the 2010 election. 

For the international community, once again the primary funders of the electoral process, the first round was seen largely as a test of the key presidential and second-round elections scheduled to be held in October. 

Local and international observers have offered drastically differing accounts of what occurred on election day. The Organization of American States (OAS), while acknowledging incidents of violence, proclaimed just a day after the vote that those issues "did not affect the overall voting process." The UN, US, Canada, and the European Union have all added their stamps of approval. For them, the act of simply holding elections signaled success. 

On the other hand, a local observation mission led by a network of human rights organizations (RNDDH), which had more than 15 times the number of observers as the OAS and the EU, denounced the process as an assault on democracy. They cited fraud, irregularities, and violence in 50 percent of voting centers across the country. 

"Be wary of anyone saying that everything went well," the group warned. 

The Provisional Electoral Council, or CEP — the nine-member institution responsible for organizing and carrying out elections — originally said only 4 percent of polling centers had been closed on election day, but when preliminary results were announced 11 days after the vote, they acknowledged the problems were worse than originally proclaimed. Elections will be re-held in 25 areas most impacted by irregularities. Across the country, nearly a quarter of all votes were never counted. 

Most political parties have pointed the blame at Martelly's political party, PHTK, as well as others close to the government. The CEP has reacted by excluding 16 candidates from continuing in the electoral process for their role in electoral violence; five are from PHTK. On August 24, the CEP issued a broader warning, calling out political parties whose candidates and supporters were involved in violence, suggesting they could face sanctions. Eight departments were listed; the two parties involved in the most incidents were PHTK and Bouclier, which was founded by a close advisor to the president. Overall, 16 different parties were cited. 

But the warning from the CEP offered another message: Parties performed extremely well in those departments where they were warned for violent actions. In Haitian elections, violence appears to pay off. 

* * * 

On the Saturday before the election, it was clear that problems would begin early in the voting. Just 12 hours before polls opened, the electoral council said that due to technical problems they would only be able to print a fraction of the passes needed for political party observers. 

After the election, the local group led by RNDDH noted that some parties had difficulty obtaining accreditations, while those "favored by electoral officials" had received theirs. 

On Sunday, in the Don Bosco polling center in Cité Soleil, with more than 15,000 registered voters, a group of officers from the Randevous party, a relatively small party running just 17 candidates for the lower house, milled about in the courtyard. Only officers from PHTK and Bouclier were allowed in, they were saying. "They have the money and the means to get the accreditation," one explained. "This came from the top." Party officers inside could not say what party they represented without first looking at their accreditation document. None mentioned either PHTK or Bouclier. 

'As the days pass, we're beginning to realize it's a larger mess than we first thought.' 
"There was an army of them," an international observation mission official, who asked not to be identified since the process is ongoing, told VICE News, adding that in some centers the ratio of officers to voters was as high as four to one. "For parties, it's a way to defend themselves, but also a way to intimidate." 

Every crisis needs its scapegoat. Explaining the lack of accreditations, the CEP announced on the night of the election that an employee, Joseph Hébert Lucien, had made off with sensitive documents in an attempt to sabotage the process. Lucien shot back on local radio, saying he left the night before the elections because he had been receiving threats from political parties and welcoming an investigation into what happened. 

"From my experience working with him, he was simply overwhelmed," a foreign diplomat who requested anonymity said in an interview. Still, it deflected criticism from the CEP and the United Nations Development Progamme (UNDP), which oversaw the election budget. Both groups have come under increasing scrutiny as the lack of preparation became clear. While the Haitian justice system is notoriously slow to act, the next day there was a press conference announcing a warrant for Lucien's arrest. 

Still, the foreign diplomat, who's been in country working almost exclusively on elections for two years in one of the largest foreign embassies in Haiti, remained optimistic. "Some parties had an organized strategy to take advantage of it, but the problem is still fixable," he told VICE News. The CEP has pledged to have all the accreditation passes for the next round available 15 days in advance, but after overselling its hand before the first round, the CEP has already lost the trust of many throughout Haiti. 

To anyone watching the run-up to the elections, it should have come as no surprise that election day itself was plagued by widespread irregularities. In its preliminary report, the EU observation mission noted that PHTK had "undoubtedly dominated the electoral scene," adding that 38 percent of election commercials were for PHTK. 

Though the Haitian government committed about $10 million for political parties, those funds weren't released until just a week before the vote, leaving little time to run an actual campaign. While smaller parties waited, PHTK and Martelly were canvassing the country. 

"We didn't use any state resources," Roudy Choute, a PHTK party representative, told VICE News. "The only thing we have is the president, and I'll keep using him." Both Choute and another PHTK insider, who requested anonymity, denied that PHTK had more funds than other parties. But the insider added, "What money does come, comes from the government, I'm not going to hide that." 

PHTK and Bouclier are also the two parties most staunchly defending the results. In an interview in the party's headquarters, presidential candidate Steeve Khawly of Bouclier indicated that since international observers had said the results were acceptable, they should stand. "Elections happened on Sunday like the CEP said they would happen," he added. Khawly denied any connection with PHTK. 

In a press conference the day after the vote, PHTK called the elections acceptable and denounced a "smear campaign" by its opponents. "Elections were good enough to move on," Choute later said. He blamed the opposition for intimidating potential voters to not go to the polls. "They forgot this is a democracy, even if there are three votes, the one with two goes on. You can't cancel the vote," he added. 

While few outright winners were declared in the preliminary results, PHTK appears to be the main beneficiary of the election. The party has 42 candidates moving on in the 94 deputy races that will stand, four of whom will be declared the winner in the first round. The party also leads the field with eight Senate candidates moving on to the second round. Together with Bouclier, the two will have candidates advancing to the second round or winning outright in the majority of deputy races that were validated by the CEP. 

* * * 

"The elections won't be perfect, but it'll be better than 2010," a high-level foreign official involved in the process said the day before the election. The first of three scheduled elections this year, the vote held on August 9 cost at least $25 million — in addition to the $10 million the Haitian government distributed to political parties — and was years in the making. 

In 2010, after initially being left out of the second round, Martelly supporters took to the streets, shutting down Haiti's capital. A mission from the OAS (also observing the current electoral process) came to Haiti and arbitrarily overturned the results, thrusting Martelly into the second round, and eventually the presidency. This time, even the head of the EU observation mission felt it necessary to give an interview to Haiti's leading newspaper,Le Nouvelliste,saying the mission would not interfere with the results of the election. 

"The international community has their own agenda, they see that the money was wasted [in the election], but they want to do what is good for Martelly," a high-level official in Vérité, a newly created party associated with former President René Preval, explained. It was Preval's handpicked successor, Jude Célestin, who was removed by the international community in 2010 to allow Martelly into the runoff. "It's 2010 all over again, but instead of against Preval, it's for Martelly," he added. 

The widespread knowledge that the international community would put their stamp of approval on the process, no matter how flawed, opened the door to the irregularities that plagued election day. "The sense is it was a 'check and move on,' but now we're realizing there are serious challenges on the horizon," the diplomat added. 

Over lunch at an upscale restaurant in Port-au-Prince's wealthy Petionville neighborhood, Jocelerme Privert, one of 10 remaining senators and a former minister of the interior, explained that in order to get back to work he "needs elections." But, he added, "I need fair elections, I need good legislators." A $25 million test of the election system is one thing, but when that test results in the election of both houses of parliament, the impact on Haitian democracy is massive. "How this crisis is managed will determine the success of the next round. But the process is essential to the future of the country," Privert added. 

The diplomat acknowledged that they had not done nearly enough to vet candidates, as it was difficult to assess all 1,800 of them. "This is not a glorious roster of candidates," he said. Unfortunately, with election day marred by extremely low turnout, irregularities and fraud, it is naturally the "violent and corrupted" who will benefit, as one candidate explained. As the electoral process continues, the legitimacy of Haiti's next legislature hangs in the balance. 

* * * 

"As the days pass, we're beginning to realize it's a larger mess than we first thought. How will the government, CEP and international community get out of it?" the Vérité official posited during an interview. "The hope is that the CEP manages to explain carefully and transparently how its decisions are made," the observation official added. 

But the results posted by the CEP and the brief press conference on August 20 have failed to assuage the many doubts. Elections will be re-run in 25 towns where less than 70 percent of tally sheets were counted, either due to fraud, irregularities, or the fact that they simply never made it to the tabulation center. The senate race in Haiti's second most populous department, the Artibonite, will also have to be re-run. The CEP, however, failed to explain the criteria for dismissing votes and there is no indication of whether the 70 percent threshold was based on any sort of statistical analysis. 

Many towns and even entire departments will see the election results validated despite having just over 70 percent of the votes counted. Nationally, more than 23 percent of tally sheets were missing or excluded. 

On August 27, 12 political parties wrote to the head of the CEP, Pierre Louis Opont, accusing the organization of favoring those close to the government, refusing to recognize the results posted by the CEP, and calling for his resignation. 

"The credibility of the process and the honesty of the CEP will be tested," Privert said. Parties are now going through the results and filing complaints with the CEP. More than 200 complaints have been filed. 

Privert added that documenting abuses on election day and being able to follow up on them largely depends on local officials, who in many cases are directly appointed by the Haitian government, making contesting the results difficult. Of course, it does help to be a sitting senator: In his home town in the Nippes department, where a group threatened a poll supervisor with a gun to his head, the PHTK candidate who was allegedly behind the violent actions has been excluded from continuing in the election. But without that benefit, there is no action one can take against decisions of the CEP. "It is a state within the state," the senator said. 

The transparency, and the perceived fairness of how that unaccountable "state within a state" responds to these serious problems and deficiencies will determine if Haiti's electoral process continues with all parties still at the table, or if these elections will end up being another travesty in Haiti's ongoing struggle for democracy and national sovereignty. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

“A Political Coup” – Interview with Youseline Augustin Bell, Cap-Haïtien

By: Sokari Ekine -
Mdm Youseline Augustin Bell is an educator, psychologist, and attorney. In 1995 together with her husband Bell Angelot they opened the College Bell Angelot in Cap-Haïtien  which presently has 1,000 K-12 students. A well known human rights activist and a member of Fanmi Lavalas, Mdm Bell successfully ran for Senator of Haiti Nord in the 2000 elections.
For the past 11 years, Fanmi Lavalas have been prevented from participating in Haiti’s elections, so it was with great hope that Augustin Bell chose once again to run for Senator of Haiti Nord. However as she explains, the legislative elections of 9th August, 2015 were marred by excessive levels of fraud and violence committed in the main, by three parties: President Martelly’s PHTK; presidential candidate, Steeve Khawly’s Bouclier party with close links to Martelly; and  Vérité* which is backed by former President René Préval  In her words, there was a ‘political coup’.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Haiti for Whom?: Aid Accountability in Haiti

Following Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake, the international community announced around $10 billion in relief and reconstruction assistance. With limited tangible results on the ground, Haitian and U.S. civil society groups have been asking "where has the money gone?", prompting the U.S. Congress to pass the 2014 Assessing Progress in Haiti Act last year. This panel will look at how U.S. and other foreign assistance funding has been spent over the last five years and discuss improving transparency and accountability around the aid efforts of both Haitian and international entities.

 Prospery Raymond, Country Manager for Haiti and the Dominican Republic,

Christian Aid Prospere Charles, Social Scientist, former Haiti Representative for Project HOPE

 Jake Johnston, Research Associate, Center for Economic and Policy Research

 Moderator: Jasmine Huggins, Snr. Policy and Advocacy Officer for Haiti, Church World Service

Monday, July 13, 2015

Haiti Action Committee: Interview with Mildred Aristide, former First Lady of Haiti

Click here to read the latest issue of the Haiti Action Committee Newsletter which contains an interview with Mildred Aristide

Friday, June 26, 2015

How History Has Been Distorted to Justify the Dominican Deportations

by Anne Eller (Haiti Liberte)

Over the past two years, a legal nightmare has grown in the Dominican Republic. Taking aim at Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent, the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal issued a ruling in September 2013, made retroactive more than eighty years, stripping citizenship from anyone who cannot prove “regular” residency for at least one parent. Legislation passed in May 2014 allows for a limited and incomplete path to naturalization for some; it amounts to “citizenship by fiat.” The rulings mark a drastic setback for as many as several hundred thousand residents of the Dominican Republic, threatening them with expulsion, statelessness, detention, and abuse. Individuals have already suffered the impact of the new laws. With the rulings, larger-scale detentions might begin, overseen by the Dominican armed forces and the UN, among other groups.

Lil Wayne and Chris Brown in Haiti: Another Expensive Martelly Spectacle Sparks Outrage

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

Around 100 A.D., the Roman poet Juvenal remarked that Rome, its empire rapidly declining, was suppressing revolt through “bread and circuses.” President Michel Martelly, during his four years in office, has borrowed the Roman tactic, except without the bread.
            Martelly, who as the musician “Sweet Micky” often dubbed himself the “President of Konpa” in Haiti’s famous Lenten Carnival, has organized three carnivals a year during his time in office. But with Haiti now in a full-blown electoral crisis and bracing to receive thousands of deportees from the Dominican Republic, this year, his son Olivier has taken over, or at least that’s how it appears.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Opinions Differ on Changing the Electoral Schedule

by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

Last week, in a conversation with Haitian journalists in Washington, D.C., Thomas Adams, the Haiti special coordinator at the State Department, said the U.S. would be in favor of Haiti holding two elections this year instead of the planned three. The electoral timetable announced in March by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) called for the first round of legislative elections to be held Aug. 9, followed by a first-round presidential election and second round of legislative elections on Oct. 25. Finally, the second round of the presidential election and local elections would be held in late December.
            In an interview this past weekend with Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, Adams explained: “there’s some discussion about going to two rounds of elections instead of three. The pros and cons of that, I think they’ll decide fairly soon whether they want to do that. That would give a little more time to the CEP and it would also save some money if they want to go that route. That is an option.”

Haiti Cholera Plaintiffs Appeal Ruling

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

On May 27, lawyers representing thousands of Haitian cholera victims filed an appeal against Federal Judge J. Paul Oetken’s Jan. 9, 2015 decision that the United Nations is legally immune from prosecution for importing cholera into Haiti and unleashing an epidemic which has killed about 9,000.
            Lawyers from the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), the San Francisco-based Center for Law and Global Justice, and the Miami-based firm of famed immigration lawyer Ira Kurzban filed a 62-page brief which argued that Judge Oetken erred in ruling that the UN and its military force, the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), were immune “despite having violated their treaty obligation to provide a mode to settle private law claims,” and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and former MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet “are entitled to immunity in this case simply because they ‘hold diplomatic positions.’” The lawyers also argued that, by granting these immunities, Judge Oetken was violating the plaintiffs’ “constitutional rights to access the federal courts.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

CEP Releases Final List of Candidates for Legislative Elections

by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

Early on the morning of May 15, Haiti’s electoral authority posted online the final list of approved candidates for legislative elections scheduled to be held in August. Over 2,000 candidates registered, representing some 98 different political parties. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) rejected 522 candidates – 76 for the Senate and 446 for the lower house – leaving 1,515 candidates to compete for 138 open seats.

Candidate senate deputy

The CEP, in announcing the rejection of over one-quarter of registered candidates, provided no rationale for individual cases. CEP member Lucie Marie Carmelle Paul Austin told Le Nouvelliste that the list is final: “The CEP did its work in a completely equitable manner and in compliance with the law.” She added that in many cases candidates were rejected because they did not have proper paper work proving their Haitian nationality.
            All the leading parties saw a significant number of candidates rejected, with Martelly’s Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK) having the most rejected: 31. Still, PHTK had registered the most candidates, and other parties had a higher percentage of their candidates rejected, such as Platfòm Pitit Dessalines and Renmen Ayiti. After the CEP’s rejections, VERITE, the new party created by former president René Préval and former prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive, has the most candidates in the upcoming election, with 97 followed by PHTK with 94.

candidates byparty

Although the CEP has said the decisions are final, political parties have expressed their frustration with the lack of transparency in the process. The coordinator of Fanmi Lavalas, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, told the press that the party had requested an explanation from the CEP, adding, “I think the right of all has to be respected and if there are people who have been unfairly rejected, we will present ourselves to the CEP, we will begin a legal process so that they do justice to those they unjustly rejected,” according to Haiti Libre.

Maryse Narcisse Registers as the Presidential Candidate of the Lavalas Family Party

by Daniel Tercier (Haiti Liberte)

With great fanfare, on May 19, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the coordinator of the Lavalas Family Political Organization (FL), registered as that party’s candidate for presidential elections scheduled for October and December.
            With over 150 motorcycles, 10 school buses, and 40 private cars, thousands of FL partisans clogged the streets of Tabarre in anticipation of the event. Dr. Narcisse arrived at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy around 9:30 a.m.. After a rally there, she drove through the multitude to the home of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, about a half mile away. After about 15 minutes, two vehicles with tinted windows emerged. The crowd went wild, thinking that Dr. Aristide was in one of the vehicles. But when the cars arrived at the West Department’s Electoral Bureau (BED), it turned out Dr. Narcisse was accompanied by Mildred Trouillot Aristide, the former president’s wife.

            The FL has been excluded from all Haitian elections for over a decade, since the U.S.-backed coup d’état against Aristide in February 2004.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Presidents Hollande and Martelly Obfuscate France’s Debt to Haiti

by Isabelle L. Papillon (Haiti Liberte)
It was to cries of "Long Live Dessalines, Down with Hollande!" that Haitian protesters welcomed French President François Hollande during his visit to Haiti on May 12, the last stop of several he made in the Caribbean over the past week.
            Haitian President Michel Martelly and his de facto Prime Minister Evans Paul greeted President Hollande with a red carpet at the Port-au-Prince airport. The French delegation was made up of some 300 people: members of the government and Parliament, representatives of five French overseas territories, university officials, cultural figures, businessmen, and 60 journalists.
            Hollande’s visit to Haiti of less than 24 hours was his first and reflected the domination which France still exerts over its former colony. The visit comes five years after former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Haiti shortly after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Martelly Thugs Attack KOD Militants at May Day Demonstration

by Berthony Dupont (Haiti Liberte)

Hooligans attached to the regime of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Evans Paul attacked about 30 militants from the Dessalines Coordination (KOD) party as they loudly demonstrated at an official event for International Workers Day in front of Haiti’s National Palace.
            The KOD militants had marched about three miles from the Industrial Park with hundreds representing unions, popular organizations, and student groups. The demonstrators loudly shouted their demands for a 500 gourdes ($10.57) a day minimum wage. Many marchers affiliated with KOD also called for an end to the United Nations military occupation of Haiti and the resignation of President Martelly before the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections, now scheduled for August, October, and December 2015.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

HBO’s Vice Follows the Money in Haiti

by Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

Vikram Gandhi, VICE on HBO correspondent traveled to Haiti to see just what happened with the $10 billion in aid pledged after the earthquake that occurred more than five years ago. The episode aired at 11 PM EST on Apr. 24.
            In a sneak peek, Gandhi goes to the site of a housing expo held in 2011. Organized by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission led by Bill Clinton, the expo was meant to showcase model homes that could be built across the country. With more than a million made homeless, and hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, providing new housing was seen as key to “building back better.”
            “If we do this housing properly, it will lead to whole new industries being started in Haiti, creating thousands and thousands of new jobs and permanent housing,” Clinton stated after the earthquake.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

25 Years After April 20, 1990: As the Empire Adapts, So Must We

by Berthony Dupont (Haiti Liberte)

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the historic Apr. 20, 1990 march by over 150,000 Haitians across the Brooklyn Bridge (literally shaking it) into downtown Manhattan.  The demonstration, which surrounded the Federal Building on lower Broadway, completely overwhelmed the New York City police, shutting down Wall Street and most other businesses in lower Manhattan. The size, militancy, and unexpectedness of the massive outpouring sent shockwaves through the U.S. political establishment.
            The march was a protest against the Federal Drug Administration’s February 1990 recommendation that Haitians be restricted from donating blood because they were supposedly a high-risk group for AIDS. In 1983, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) unscientifically grouped Haitians with homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and hypodermic-needle users to create the infamous “4H” risk group. Backed by many doctors and scientists, the Haitian community, already politically active from anti-Duvalierist mobilizations, rose up to demand that the CDC rescind the designation. Thousands marched throughout 1983 and 1984, and in April 1985, the CDC removed Haitians from the AIDS high-risk list.

Monday, April 20, 2015

HAITI SOLIDARITY, newsletter of Haiti Action Committee

See the new issue of HAITI SOLIDARITY here.

This new issue of Haiti Solidarity features: 
Cover Art - "Dechoukaj" - Nia Imara
Evolution of a Revolution - Charlie Hinton
Interview with Pierre Labossiere on the Tavis Smiley show
Combat Genocide - Akinyele Omowale Umoja
Interview with Mildred Aristide, former First Lady of Haiti

Dechoukaj - poem by Carolyn Scarr


Mildred Aristide is an attorney, who as former First Lady of Haiti, headed the country’s National AIDS Commission and authored a book on the root causes of child domestic service.  Since her family’s return home from forced exile in 2011, Ms. Aristide and her husband, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (known throughout Haiti as Titide) have focused their efforts on developing the University of the Aristide Foundation.

The work to build UNIFA, has taken place in the midst of growing repression within the country. Long overdue elections have not taken place. Police and UN troops using live ammunition, chemical agents and clubs have attacked demonstrators protesting against the Martelly government. President Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president, has been threatened repeatedly with arrest, with heavily armed police surrounding the Aristides’ home.

Yet UNIFA has persevered.  In this new interview, Ms. Aristide details progress made by this groundbreaking university over the last few years. Forged in the fight for democracy and inclusion, UNIFA is a true example of popular education in action.

Haiti Solidarity: First of all, thank you so much for your time. It is an honor for us at Haiti Solidarity to be conducting this interview. Looking back four years ago, to March 18, 2011, the date of your family’s return from exile in South Africa, what do you remember about that moment?

Ms. Aristide: Without a doubt, our accompaniment home from the airport to the front door of the house – where we sat in the car for 15 minutes until a passage could be cleared through the crowd to get inside!  It is a moment and a feeling that I’ll never forget.  The four of us like to refer to it as a "tsunami of love."

Dominican Campesinos Accuse Military Brass of Land Grab


Top military officials have been accused of seizing land from some of the Dominican Republic's poorest people. A campesino advocacy organization in the Dominican Republic accused the military on Friday of carrying out forced land dispossessions. 

The Campesino Movement of United Communities (MCCU) alleged top military officials have ordered troops to force small farmers off their land in eastern provinces including Monte Plata. The MCCU claimed “generals and colonels” have seized swathes of land for their own personal use. 

The campesino group argued much of the land taken was used by subsistence farmers. Around half of the Dominican Republic's rural population live in poverty, and many families survive by growing food crops on small plots of land. 

The allegations of illicit land expropriations are the latest in a series of high profile corruption accusations leveled at the military in recent years. Between 2009 and 2011 over 5,000 soldiers and police officers were fired amid allegations of widespread corruption, mostly in relation to links to drug cartels. 

The government has vowed to crack down on corruption, though in March Santo Domingo's prosecutor Yeni Berenice said state security forces are still complicit in more than 90 percent of crimes. “It's alarming and very concerning that the people taking part in crimes are the same people called to investigate (these same crimes),” she stated.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Eduardo Galeano on Haiti

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

On Apr. 13, 2015, the influential Uruguayan writer and journalist Eduardo Galeano, 74, died of lung cancer in Montevideo. He wrote over 30 books, including the seminal “Open Veins of Latin America” (1971) and the“Memory of Fire” trilogy, composed of “Genesis” (1982), “Faces and Masks” (1984), and “Century of the Wind” (1986).
            Haiti was a regular theme in Galeano’s work, and he wrote an exceptional speech, Haiti, Occupied Country, which he delivered at Uruguay’s National Library in Montevideo on Sep. 27, 2011.
            This week, we present a few excerpts of Galeano’s writings on Haiti.
From “The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

Three years after the discovery, Columbus personally directed the military campaign against the natives of Haiti, which he called Española.
            A handful of cavalry, 200 foot soldiers, and a few specially trained dogs decimated the Indians. More than 500, shipped to Spain, were sold as slaves in Seville and died miserably. Some theologians protested and the enslavement of Indians was formally banned at the beginning of the 16th century.
            Actually it was not banned but blessed: before each military action the captains of the conquest were required to read to the Indians, without an interpreter but before a notary public, a long and rhetorical Requerimiento exhorting them to adopt the holy Catholic faith: “If you do not, or if you maliciously delay in so doing, I certify that with God's help I will advance powerfully against you and make war on you wherever and however I am able, and will subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their majesties and take your women and children to be slaves, and as such I will sell and dispose of them as their majesties may order, and I will take your possessions and do you all the harm and damage that I can.”
In the second half of the [18th] century the world's best sugar was being raised on the spongy coastal plains of Haiti, a French colony then known as Saint Domingue. Northern and western Haiti became a human antheap: sugar needed hands and more hands. In 1786 the colony brought in 27,000 slaves; in the following year, 40,000. Revolution broke out in the fall of 1791 and in one month, September, 200 sugar plantations went up in flames; fires and battles were continuous as the rebel slaves pushed France's armies to the sea. Ships sailed containing ever more Frenchmen and ever less sugar. The war spilt rivers of blood, wrecked the plantations, and paralyzed the country, and by the end of the century production had fallen to almost nothing. By
November 1803, almost all of the once flourishing colony was in ashes and ruins. The Haitian revolution had coincided – and not only in time – with the French Revolution, and Haiti bore its share of the international coalition's blockade against France: England controlled the seas. Later, as its independence became inevitable, Haiti also had to suffer blockade by France.
            The U.S. Congress, yielding to French pressure, banned trade with Haiti in 1806. In 1825 France recognized its former colony's independence, but only in exchange for a huge cash indemnity. General Leclerc had written to his brother-in-law Napoleon in 1802, soon after taking prisoner the slave armies' leader Toussaint L'Ouverture, "Here is my opinion about this country: all the blacks in the mountains, men and women, must be suppressed, keeping only the children under twelve; half the blacks in the plains must be exterminated, and not a single mulatto with epaulets must be left in the colony." 
            The tropics took their revenge on Leclerc: "Gripped by the black vomit," and despite the magical incantations of [Napoleon’s sister] Pauline Bonaparte, he died without carrying out his plan.... But the cash indemnity was a millstone around the necks of those independent Haitians who survived the bloodbaths of the successive military expeditions against them. The country was born in ruins and never recovered: today it is the poorest in Latin America.
In the first years of our [20th] century the philosopher William James passed the little-known judgment that the country had finally vomited the Declaration of Independence. To cite but one example: the United States occupied Haiti for twenty years and, in that black country that had been the scene of the first victorious slave revolt, introduced racial segregation and forced labor, killed 1,500 workers in one of its repressive operations (according to a U.S. Senate investigation in 1922), and when the local government refused to turn the Banque Nationale into a branch of New York's National City Bank, suspended the salaries of the president and his ministers so that they might think again. Alternating the "big stick" with "dollar diplomacy," similar actions were
carried out in the other Caribbean islands and in all of Central America, the geopolitical space of the imperial mare nostrum.

From Memory of Fire: Genesis

1459: La Isabela

Detached, aloof, the prisoner sits at the entrance of Christopher Columbus's house. He has iron shackles on his ankles, and handcuffs trap his wrists.
            Caonabó was the one who burned to ashes the Navidad fort that the admiral had built when he discovered this island of Haiti. He burned the fort and killed its occupants. And not only them: In these two long years he has castigated with arrows any Spaniards he came across in Cibao, his mountain territory, for their hunting of gold and people.
            Alonso de Ojeda, veteran of the wars against the Moors, paid him a visit on the pretext of peace. He invited him to mount his horse, and put on him these handcuffs of burnished metal that tie his hands, saying that they were jewels worn by the monarchs of Castile in their balls and festivities.
            Now Chief Caonabó spends the days sitting beside the door, his eyes fixed on the tongue of light that invades the earth floor at dawn and slowly retreats in the evening. He doesn't move an eyelash when Columbus comes around. On the other hand, when Ojeda appears, he manages to stand up and salute with a bow the only man who has defeated him.

1496: La Concepcion

Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher's brother and lieutenant, attends an incineration of human flesh.
            Six men play the leads in the grand opening of Haiti's incinerator. The smoke makes everyone cough. The six are burning as a punishment and as a lesson: They have buried the images of Christ and the Virgin that Fray Ramon Pane left with them for protection and consolation. Fray Ramon taught them to pray on their knees, to say the Ave Maria and Paternoster and to invoke the name of Jesus in the face of temptation, injury, and death.
            No one has asked them why they buried the images. They were hoping that the new gods would fertilize their fields of corn, cassava, boniato, and beans.
            The fire adds warmth to the humid, sticky heat that foreshadows heavy rain.

From “Memory of Fire: Faces and Masks

1758: The Plains of Northern Haiti

Before a large assembly of runaway slaves, François Makandal pulls a yellow handkerchief out of a glass of water.
            "First it was the Indians."
            Then a white handkerchief.
            "Now, whites are the masters."
            He shakes a black handkerchief before the maroons' eyes. The hour of those who came from Africa has arrived, he announces. He shakes the handkerchief with his only hand, because he has left the other between the iron teeth of the sugar mill.
            On the plains of Northern Haiti, one-handed Makandal is the master of fire and poison. At his order cane fields burn, and by his spells the lords of sugar collapse in the middle of supper, drooling spit and blood.
            He knows how to turn himself into an iguana, an ant, or a fly, equipped with gills, antennae, or wings; but they catch him anyway, and condemn him; and now they are burning him alive. Through the flames the multitude see his body twist and shake. All of a sudden, a shriek splits the ground, a fierce cry of pain and exultation, and Makandal breaks free of the stake and of death: howling, flaming, he pierces the smoke and is lost in the air.
            For the slaves, it is no cause for wonder. They knew he would remain in Haiti, the color of all shadows, the prowler of the night.

1772: Léogane

Ever since she learned to walk she was in flight. They tied a heavy chain to her ankles, and chained, she grew up; but a thousand times she jumped over the fence and a thousand times the dogs caught her in the mountains of Haiti.
            They stamped the fleur-de-lis on her cheek with a hot iron. They put an iron collar and iron shackles on her and shut her up in the sugar mill, where she stuck her fingers into the grinder and later bit off the bandages. So that she might die of iron they tied her up again, and now she expires, chanting curses.
            Zabeth, this woman of iron, belongs to Madame Galbeaud du Fort, who lives in Nantes.

1791: Bois Caïman
The Conspirators of Haiti

The old slave woman, intimate of the gods, buries her machete in the throat of a black wild boar. The earth of Haiti drinks the blood. Under the protection of the gods of war and of fire, 200 blacks sing and dance the oath of freedom. In the prohibited Voodoo ceremony aglow with lightning bolts, 200 slaves decide to turn this land of punishment into a fatherland.
            Haiti is based on the Creole language. Like the drum, Creole is the common speech of those torn out of Africa into various Antillean islands. It blossomed inside the plantations, when the condemned needed to recognize one another and resist. It came from African languages, with African melody, and fed on the sayings of Normans and Bretons. It picked up words from Caribbean Indians and from English pirates and also from the Spanish colonists of eastern Haiti. Thanks to Creole, when Haitians talk they feel that they touch each other.
            Creole gathers words and Voodoo gathers gods. Those gods are not masters but lovers, very fond of dancing, who convert each body they penetrate into music and light, pure light of undulating and sacred movement.

1794: Paris
"The Remedy for Man is Man,"

say the black sages, and the gods always knew it. The slaves of Haiti are no longer slaves.
For five years the French Revolution turned a deaf ear. Marat and Robespierre protested in vain. Slavery continued in the colonies. Despite the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the men who were the property of other men on the far plantations of the Antilles were born neither free nor equal. After all, the sale of blacks from Guinea was the chief business of the revolutionary merchants of Nantes, Bordeaux, and Marseilles; and French refineries lived on Antillean sugar.
Harassed by the black insurrection headed by Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Paris government finally decrees the liquidation of slavery.

1794: Mountains of Haiti
Toussaint Louverture

He came on the scene two years ago. In Paris they called him the Black Spartacus.
            He was a coachman on a plantation. An old black man taught him to read and write, to cure sick horses, and to talk to men; but he learned on his own how to look not only with his eyes, and he knows how to see flight in every bird that sleeps.

1802: The Caribbean Sea
Napoleon Restores Slavery

Squadrons of wild ducks escort the French army. The fish take flight. Through a turquoise sea, bristling with coral, the ships head for the blue mountains of Haiti. Soon the land of victorious slaves will appear on the horizon. General Leclerc stands tall at the head of the fleet. Like a ship's figurehead, his shadow is first to part the waves. Astern, other islands disappear, castles of rock, splendors of deepest green, sentinels of the new world found three centuries ago by people who were not looking for it.
            "Which has been the most prosperous regime for the colonies?"
            "The previous one."
            "Well, then, put it back," Napoleon decided.
            No man, born red, black, or white can be his neighbor's property, Toussaint L'Ouverture had said. Now the French fleet returns slavery to the Caribbean. More than 50 ships, more than 20,000 soldiers, come from France to bring back the past with guns.
            In the cabin of the flagship, a female slave fans Pauline Bonaparte and another gently scratches her head.

1803: Fort Dauphin
The Island Burned Again

Toussaint L'Ouverture, chief of the free blacks, died a prisoner in a castle in France. When the jailer opened the padlock at dawn and slid back the bolt, he found Toussaint frozen in his chair.
            But life in Haiti moved on, and without Toussaint the black army has beaten Napoleon Bonaparte. Twenty thousand French soldiers have been slaughtered or died of fevers. Vomiting black blood, dead blood, General Leclerc has collapsed. The land he sought to enslave proves his shroud.
            Haiti has lost half its population. Shots are still heard, and hammers nailing down coffins, and funeral drums, in the vast ash-heap carpeted with corpses that the vultures spurn. This island, burned two centuries ago by an exterminating angel, has been newly eaten by the fire of men at war.
            Over the smoking earth those who were slaves proclaim independence. France will not forgive the humiliation.
            On the coast, palms, bent over against the winds, form ranks of spears.

1816: Port-au-Prince

Haiti lies in ruins, blockaded by the French and isolated by everyone else. No country has recognized the independence of the slaves who defeated Napoléon.
            The island is divided in two.
            In the north, Henri Christophe has proclaimed himself emperor. In the castle of Sans-Souci, the new black nobility dance the minuet – the Duke of Marmalade, the Count of Limonade – while black lackeys in snowy wigs bow and scrape, and blacks hussards parade their plumed bonnets through gardens copied from Versailles.
            To the south, Alexandre Pétion presides over the republic. Distributing lands among the former slaves, Pétion aims to create a nation of peasants, very poor but free and armed, on the ashes of plantations destroyed by the war.
            On Haiti's southern coast Simón Bolívar lands, in search of refuge and aid. He comes from Jamaica, where he has sold everything down to his watch. No one believes in his cause. His brilliant military campaigns have been no more than a mirage. Francisco Miranda is dying in chains in the Cadiz arsenal, and the Spaniards have reconquered Venezuela and Colombia, which prefer the past or still do not believe in the future promised by the patriots.
            Pétion receives Bolívar as soon as he arrives, on New Year's Day. He gives him seven ships, 250 men, muskets, powder, provisions, and money. He makes only one condition. Pétion, born a slave, son of a black woman and a Frenchman, demands of Bolívar the freedom of slaves in the lands he is going to liberate.
            Bolívar shakes his hands. The war will change its course. Perhaps America will too.

From “Memory of Fire: Century of the Wind

1937: Dajabón
Procedure Against the Black Menace

The condemned are Haitian blacks who work in the Dominican Republic. This military exorcism, planned to the last detail by General Trujillo, lasts a day and a half. In the sugar region, the soldiers shut up Haitian day-laborers in corrals--herds of men, women, and children--and finish them off then and there with machetes; or bind their hands and feet and drive them at bayonet point into the sea.
            Trujillo, who powders his face several times a day, wants the Dominican Republic white.

1937: Washington

Two weeks later, the government of Haiti conveys to the government of the Dominican Republic its concern about the recent events at the border. The government of the Dominican Republic promises an exhaustive investigation.
            In the name of continental security, the government of the United States proposes to President Trujillo that he pay an indemnity to avoid possible friction in the zone. After prolonged negotiation Trujillo recognizes the death of 18,000 Haitians on Dominican territory. According to him, the figure of 25,000 victims, put forward by some sources, reflects the intention to manipulate the events dishonestly. Trujillo agrees to pay the government of Haiti, by way of indemnity, $522,000, or $29 for every officially recognized death.
            The White House congratulates itself on an agreement reached within the framework of established inter-American treaties and procedures. Secretary of State Cordell Hull declares in Washington that President Trujillo is one of the greatest men in Central America and in most of South America.
            The indemnity duly paid in cash, the presidents of the Dominican Republic and Haiti embrace each other at the border.

1943: Milot
Ruins of Sans-Souci

Alejandro Carpentier discovers the kingdom of Henri Christophe. The Cuban writer roams these majestic ruins, this memorial to the delirium of a slave cook who became monarch of Haiti and killed himself with the gold bullet that always hung around his neck. Ceremonial hymns and magic drums of invocation rise up to meet Carpentier as he visits the palace that King Christophe copied from Versailles, and walks around his invulnerable fortress, an immense bulk whose stones, cemented by the blood of bulls sacrificed to the gods, have resisted lightning and earthquakes.
            In Haiti, Carpentier learns that there is no magic more prodigious and delightful than the voyage that leads through experience, through the body, to the depths of America. In Europe, magicians have become bureaucrats, and wonder, exhausted, has dwindled to a conjuring trick. But in America, surrealism is as natural as rain or madness.

1969: Port-au-Prince
A Law Condemns to Death Anyone Who Says or Writes Red Words in Haiti

Article One: Communist activities are declared to be crimes against the security of the state, in whatsoever form: any profession of Communist faith, verbal or written, public or private, any propagation of Communist or anarchist doctrines through lectures, speeches, conversations, readings, public or private meetings, by way of pamphlets, posters, newspapers, magazines, books, and pictures; any oral or written correspondence with local or foreign associations, or with persons dedicated to the diffusion of Communist or anarchist ideas; and furthermore, the act of receiving, collecting, or giving funds directly or indirectly destined for the propagation of said ideas.
            Article Two: The authors and accomplices of these crimes shall be sentenced to death. Their movable and immovable property shall be confiscated and sold for the benefit of the state.
Dr. François Duvalier
of the Republic of Haiti

From “Haiti, Despised by All,” an article for the Inter Press Service in September 1996

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. It has more foot-washers than shoe-shiners: little boys who, for a penny, will wash the feet of customers lacking shoes to shine. Haitians, on the average, live a bit more than thirty years. Nine out of every ten can't read or write. For internal consumption the barren mountain sides are cultivated. For export, the fertile valleys: the best lands are given to coffee, sugar, cacao, and other products needed by the U.S. market. No one plays baseball in Haiti, but Haiti is the world's chief producer of baseballs. There is no shortage of workshops where children assemble cassettes and electronic parts for a dollar a day. These are naturally for export; and naturally the profits are also exported, after the administrators of the terror have duly got theirs. The slightest breath of protest in Haiti means prison or death. Incredible as it sounds, Haitian workers' wages lost 25 percent of their wretched real value between 1971 and 1975. Significantly, in that period a new flow of U.S. capital into the country began.
            Haiti is the country that is treated the worst by the world's powerful. Bankers humiliate it. Merchants ignore it. And politicians slam their doors in its face.
            Democracy arrived only recently in Haiti. During its short life, this frail, hungry creature received nothing but abuse. It was murdered in its infancy in 1991 in a coup led by General Raoul Cédras.
            Three years later, democracy returned. After having installed and deposed countless military dictators, the U.S. backed President Jean Bertrand Aristide – the first leader elected by popular vote in Haiti's history – and a man foolish enough to want a country with less injustice.
            In order to erase every trace of American participation in the bloody Cédras dictatorship, U.S. soldiers removed 160,000 pages of records from the secret archives. Aristide returned to Haiti with his hands tied. He was permitted to take office as president, but not power. His successor, René Préval, who became president in February, received nearly 90 percent of the vote.
            Any minor bureaucrat at the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund has more power than Préval does. Every time he asks for a credit line to feed the hungry, educate the illiterate, or provide land to the peasants, he gets no response. Or he may be told to go back and learn his lessons. And because the Haitian government cannot seem to grasp that it must dismantle its few remaining public services, the last shred of a safety net for the most defenseless people on Earth, its masters give up on it.
            The U.S. invaded Haiti in 1915 and ran the country until 1934. It withdrew when it had accomplished its two objectives: seeing that Haiti had paid its debts to U.S. banks and that the constitution was amended to allow for the sale of plantations to foreigners. Robert Lansing, then secretary of state, justified the long and harsh military occupation by saying that blacks were incapable of self-government, that they had "an inherent tendency toward savagery and a physical inability to live a civilized life."
            Haiti had been the jewel in the crown, France's richest colony: one big sugar plantation, harvested by slave labor. The French philosopher Montesquieu explained it bluntly: "Sugar would be too expensive if it were not produced by slaves. These slaves are blacks .... it is not possible that God, who is a very wise being, would have put a soul . .., in such an utterly black body." Instead, God had put a whip in the overseer's hand.
            In l803, the black citizens of Haiti gave Napoleon Bonaparte's troops a tremendous beating, and Europe has never for given them for this humiliation inflicted upon the white race. Haiti was the first free country in South America or the Caribbean. The free people raised their flag over a country in ruins. The land of Haiti had been devastated by the sugar monoculture and then laid waste by the war against France. One third of the population had fallen in combat. Then Europe began its blockade. The newborn nation was condemned to solitude. No one would buy from it, no one would sell to it, nor would any nation recognize it.
            Not even Simon Bolivar had the courage to establish diplomatic relations with the black nation. Bolivar was able to reopen his campaign for the liberation of the Americas, after being defeated by Spain, thanks to help from Haiti. The Haitian government supplied him with seven ships, arms, and soldiers, setting only one condition: that he free the slaves – something that had not occurred to him. Bolivar kept his promise, but after his victory, he turned his back on the nation that had saved him. When he convened a meeting in Panama of the American nations, he invited England, but not Haiti.
            The U.S. did not recognize Haiti until 60 years later. By then, Haiti was already in the bloody hands of the military dictators, who devoted the meager resources of this starving nation toward relieving its debt to France. Europe demanded that Haiti pay France a huge indemnity to atone for its crime against French dignity.

            The history of the abuse of Haiti, which in our lifetime has become a tragedy, is also the story of Western civilization's racism.

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