Human rights groups have condemned a decision not to try Jean-Claude Duvalier, Haiti's former ruler, on crimes against humanity.
A Haitian judge decided this week that Duvalier, known as Baby Doc, should not stand trial for crimes against humanity.
He is accused of the torture and murder of thousands of his own people during his 15 year rule in the seventies and eighties.
A year ago, Duvalier made a surprise return to the country after 25 years in exile.
The judge ruled that his alleged crimes fell outside Haiti's statute of limitations. The judge, however, did say that Duvalier should stand trial on corruption charges. He is accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars during his rule.
n heavily criticising the decision, human rights groups say they gave prosecutors hundreds of documents detailing cases of abuse.
Human Rights Watch called it the most important criminal case in Haitian history.
Duvalier was only 19 when he was named Haiti's president for life in 1971 after the death of his father Francois – known as Papa Doc.
Human rights groups say the Duvaliers used paramilitary group Tonton Macoutes to torture opponents and kill 30,000 people during their combined 29-year rule.
"We cannot have reconciliation without justice. Those people who have committed the crime including Duvalier ought to be tried, and the nation ought to find out exactly what happened. We owe it to all those people who died. … I don't things are going to change anytime soon because the institutions in the country are not working ... the US policy has always been to have a weak government in the country."
- Jean-Yves Point-du-Jour, Haitian American radio host
Afro-Leo is pleased to bring you a guest post by Isaac Rutenberg, PhD, Patent Agent at Bozicevic, Field & Francis LLP in San Francisco, CA, USA. If you would like to contact Isaac directly, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is intellectual property always harmful to poor people? Plumpy’nut has been cited as an example that supports the case against allowing patent rights in matters of humanitarian aid. On the contrary, Plumpy’nut is a shining example of how proper use of intellectual property protections could have significantly enhanced international aid and development work.
A recent article in the NYTimes describes the row that has developed over Plumpy'nut. In short, Plumpy'nut is a revolutionary peanut-based product with the potential to end or significantly reduce severe acute child malnutrition. Developed by Dr. Andre Briend, a "crusading pediatrician" who became tired of traditional (frequently unsuccessful) solutions to acute malnutrition, Plumpy'nut is a simple product that is remarkably effective and practical.
So why the row? Turns out that the Plumpy'nut formulation has been patented in 38 countries, including the US, France, and much of Africa. The owner of the patent, the French company Nutriset, appears to be bent on commercializing not just the miracle product but the entire process of combating acute malnutrition. Nutriset and Nutriset's collaborators (including a US for-profit company manufacturing Plumpy'nut in New Jersey for distribution to USAID) have defended their approach and their product, taking steps to prevent others from producing similar products. Criticism of Nutriset has been unsurprisingly harsh: non-profits worldwide say that Nutriset is trying to profit on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable children. Inevitably, there is the claim that intellectual property is to blame for this disaster.
I say, not so fast. The NYTimes article says that Nutriset obtained the patent rights because Dr. Briend "signed a consulting agreement" with Nutriset after developing Plumpy'nut, since he "never knew anything about manufacturing food." This is somewhat vague, but according to a United States Patent and Trademark Office database, Dr. Briend and a co-inventor assigned (i.e., sold) the patent to Nutriset. This left Nutriset entirely in charge of the patent – Dr. Briend has no say in how it is used.
Why didn't he open source copyright the formulation?
You should read the New York Times article. Just be prepared to RAGE. The Peanut Solution
Jamaican Bible: 'It preserves the dignity of the Jamaican people'
Courtney Stewart of the Bible Society of the West Indies talks to Riazat Butt about a project to translate the Bible into Jamaican patois (Four minute audio at the link. No transcript though)
2008 The Bible in Jamaican
It is, of course, a tremendously ambitious project, for there is no such thing at the moment as Standard Jamaican Creole. Different dialects are spoken in different parts of . One immediately thinks of those in the west who say: "Him ben a come" while others (from the east) say: "Him a come". Both are 'correct', but they are different, and since I do not expect the translators to produce more than one translation, they are going to have to make choices about which variations they will use. And there are many variations. People from deep rural St Thomas speak slightly differently from people in deep rural Portland, and again differently from those in upper . There is uptown Jamaican Creole and downtown Jamaican Creole, not to mention the variation. Into whose Jamaican Creole will the Bible be translated?
There is a danger that, with the hegemony of the big city, the translators will produce an uptown St Andrew Creole Bible, the Mona Version, which may defeat their purpose. I remember the disdain with which many in the ghetto treated the Uptown of Pluto Shervington and Ernie Smith in the 1970s. If the idea is to reach the Jamaican people with a creole Bible, which Jamaican people will be targeted?MORE
Patwa Rights and Wrongs
Believe it or not, the Jamaican Constitution covertly acknowledges the fact that 'Patwa' is, indeed, a national language. Furthermore, the Constitution guarantees 'Patwa' speakers basic rights in the legal system. But don't take my word for it. See for yourself the relevant sections:
Chapter III of the Jamaican Constitution (2011), Section 14 (2):
(2) Any person who is arrested or detained shall have the right:
(b) at the time of his arrest or detention or as soon as is reasonably practicable, to be informed, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest or detention;
(c) where he is charged with an offence, to be informed forthwith, in a language which he understands, of the nature of the charge;
Section 16 (6):
(6) Every person charged with a criminal offence shall:
(a) be informed, as soon as is reasonably practicable, in a language which he understands, of the nature of the offence charged;
(e) have the assistance of an interpreter, free of cost, if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court;
The Constitution doesn't explicitly state the fact that the language of the court is English. Nor does it openly admit that the first language of the vast majority of Jamaicans is not English, but Jamaican. To concede this gross disparity would be an admission of the fundamental inequity of the justice system. So, instead, we have compromised justice.MORE
Should Creole Replace French in Haiti's Schools?
Creole is the mother tongue in Haiti, but children do most of their schooling in French. Two hundred years after Haiti became the world's first black-led republic, is the use of French holding the nation back?
"The percentage of people who speak French fluently is about 5%, and 100% speak Creole," says Chris Low.
"So it's really apartheid through language."
Ms Low is co-founder of an experimental school, the Matenwa Community Learning Center, which has broken with tradition, and conducts all classes in Creole.MORE
Colonization has been a hell of a thing.
The United Nations is investigating allegations that five Uruguayan naval troops at a UN base in southern Haiti sexually molested an 18-year-old man in an attack reportedly captured by a cellphone camera.
The UN mission learned of the allegations last week and the scandal prompted Uruguay to sack its naval chief in Haiti.
The soldiers were confined to their barracks pending the outcome of the probe. Cellphone camera video
Shot with a cellphone camera, the clip shows several men in camouflaged uniforms laughing as they pin down a young man on a mattress.
The men seem to be saying "no problem" in Spanish as they hold the teen's arms and hands behind his back. The camera jumps around, and it's not clear from the video what's happening.
A magistrate in Port-Salut, the southwestern coastal town in which the assault allegedly happened, has gathered testimony from the alleged victim and his mother and filed it in court.
Before the cellphone video emerged, the UN unilaterally denied these allegations. Inner City Press writes:
On August 17, Inner City Press asked Ban's now departed deputy spokesman Farhan Haq:
Inner City Press: in Port-Salut there are complaints against the Uruguayan peacekeepers of MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti], including on sexual abuse grounds --what is MINUSTAH’s response on this topic that Ban Ki-moon has recently said is so important to him?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: MINUSTAH is in fact looking into this to see about these allegations and whether there is any credibility to them.
The very next day on August 18, Haq began the noon briefing by reading out a denial:"further to what I said yesterday on an investigation in Port-Salut, Haiti, the UN Mission there (MINUSTAH) tells us that the preliminary report of this investigation was finalized. After discussions with local authorities and members of the population in Port-Salut, the investigators found out that these allegations of misconduct could not be substantiated. The UN Mission in Haiti says that no supporting evidence was provided by anyone, and local authorities confirmed that these allegations were unfounded."
Here's the video. It's not perfectly clear, but strongly suggests abuse.
SEATTLE, U.S., Aug 2, 2011 (IPS) - Jean Ronel Noël, a young Haitian engineer, stood in a centuries-old fort on a small island just off Dakar and looked out at the Atlantic through a portal that once led enslaved Africans to the ships of the Middle Passage.
"Finally we come to 'the door of the voyage of no return'," he wrote in a blog. "My blood wouldn't stop boiling, wave after wave of gooseflesh. I nearly broke down. So it's through that door that my ancestors passed. The Door of Hell! There are two infinite things, Einstein said: the universe and human stupidity."
Noël, though, had come to Senegal looking forward more than backward. He brought with him some technological keys that he believes can unlock the doors of a rich storehouse of renewable energy, and ultimately a more durable and self-sufficient model of development for Haiti and other poor countries.
A Senegalese firm specialising in solar-power installations, KAYER, had invited Noël and technician Frantz Derosier to visit the westernmost nation of West Africa to teach their employees how to fabricate their own photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert sunlight into electricity.
Noël is co-founder, along with his partner Alex Georges, of ENERSA - Énergies Renouvelables, S.A. (Renewable Energies, Inc.). Derosier is one of their 20-odd employees. ENERSA manufactures solar streetlamps and other solar-energy equipment using PV panels that they build from scratch. They count around a thousand such lights installed in over 50 municipalities all over Haiti.
After the catastrophic earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, which knocked out electrical power across the Port-au-Prince area, these lamps were the only public light sources for some localities. The temblor also destroyed much of ENERSA's physical plant, but all the employees survived and the firm was able to restart production within a few months.
During the nine days Noël and Derosier were in Senegal, a former French colony like Haiti, they conducted a week of training sessions with KAYER in the headquarters of a peasant farmers' confederation in the town of Mekhe, about 100 kilometres inland from Dakar, the capital.
The sessions resulted in the first solar panels "made in Senegal". The ongoing collaboration, according to ENERSA, will cover the conception and manufacturing in Senegal of solar products, including solar streetlights. MORE
Last week, thousands of farmers and supporters of Haitian peasant agriculture marched for hours under the hot Caribbean sun to call for more government support for locally grown seeds and agriculture.
The demonstration was organized by the Peasant Movement of Papay and other farmer associations, human rights and women’s groups, and the Haitian Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA), the Haitian online agency AlterPresse reported from the march. The official theme of the peaceful demonstration was “Land Grabbing is Endangering Agricultural Sovereignty.”
Singing slogans like “Long Live Haitian Agriculture!” and “Long live local seeds!” the crowd – wearing straw hats and red T-shirts – wound its way on foot, donkeys, and bikes through this dusty provincial capital. The demonstration ended at a square named for farmer Charlemagne Péralte, who lead the “Caco” peasant revolt against the U.S. army occupation from 1916 until 1919, when U.S. Marines assassinated him.
One year ago, thousands of farmers covered the same march route to protest the import of a “gift” of seeds from Monsanto. The farmers burned some of the seeds, calling them a “death plan” for peasant agriculture.
Last spring, in violation of Haitian law, the Minister of Agriculture gave the agribusiness giant Monsanto permission to “donate” 505 tons of seeds to Haiti. The first shipment of 60 tons, reportedly of maize and vegetable seeds, arrived in May 2010. Some of the seeds were coated with a chemical (Thiram) so toxic that the EPA forbids its sale to home gardeners in the U.S.. Monsanto announced its $4 million gift was “to support the reconstruction effort” in Haiti.
What has become of the seeds that Monsanto gave? And how real was the fear of Haitian farmer organizations that the donation was a Trojan horse?
Haiti Grassroots Watch explored the impacts in a three-month investigation, “Seeding Reconstruction or Destruction?” and “Monsanto in Haiti.” Excerpts from the report follow.MORE
Drawing from a trove of 1,918 Haiti-related diplomatic cables obtained by the transparency-advocacy group WikiLeaks, The Nation is collaborating with the Haitian weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté on a series of groundbreaking articles about US and UN policy toward the Caribbean nation.
Haïti Liberté, published largely in French and Creole, is working with WikiLeaks to release and analyze the Haiti-related cables, which will be featured in a series of English-language Nationpieces, written by a variety of freelance journalists with extensive experience in Haiti and posted each Wednesday for several weeks.
The cables from US Embassies around the world cover an almost seven-year period, from April 17, 2003—ten months before the February 29, 2004, coup d’état that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide—to February 28, 2010, just after the January 12 earthquake that devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding cities. They range from “Secret” and “Confidential” classifications to “Unclassified.” Cables of the latter classification are not public, and many are marked “For Official Use Only” or “Sensitive.”MORE
Wikileaks Haiti: Let them live on $3 a day
Contractors for Fruit of the Loom, Hanes and Levi’s worked in close concert with the US Embassy when they aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest-paid in the hemisphere, according to secret State Department cables.
The factory owners told the Haitian Parliament that they were willing to give workers a 9-cents-per-hour pay increase to 31 cents per hour to make T-shirts, bras and underwear for US clothing giants like Dockers and Nautica.
But the factory owners refused to pay 62 cents per hour, or $5 per day, as a measure unanimously passed by the Haitian Parliament in June 2009 would have mandated. And they had the vigorous backing of the US Agency for International Development and the US Embassy when they took that stand.
To resolve the impasse between the factory owners and Parliament, the State Department urged quick intervention by then Haitian President René Préval.MORE
WikiLeaks Haiti: The Earthquake Cables
Washington deployed 22,000 troops to Haiti after the January 12, 2010, earthquake despite reports from the Haitian leadership, the US Embassy and the UN that no serious security threat existed, according to secret US diplomatic cables.
The cables, obtained by WikiLeaks, were made available to the Haitian newspaper Haïti Liberté, which is collaborating with The Nation on a series of reports about US and UN policy toward the country.
Washington’s decision to send thousands of troops in response to the 7.0 earthquake that rocked the Haitian capital and surrounding areas drew sharp criticism from aid workers and government officials around the world at the time. They criticized the militarized response to Haiti’s humanitarian crisis as inappropriate and counterproductive. French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet famously said that international aid efforts should be “about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti.”
The earthquake-related cables also show that Washington was very sensitive to international criticism of its response and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mobilized her diplomatic corps to ferret out “irresponsible journalism” worldwide and “take action” to “get the narrative right.”
There are a great many reasons why I vomit when feminists like Shakesville go hurray Hilary Clinton!!! And this is one of MANY.
WikiLeaks Haiti: The PetroCaribe Files
When René Préval took the oath of Haiti’s presidential office in a ceremony at Haiti’s National Palace on May 14, 2006, he was anxious to allay fears in Washington that he would not be a reliable partner. “He wants to bury once and for all the suspicion in Haiti that the United States is wary of him,” said US Ambassador Janet Sanderson in a March 26, 2006, cable. “He is seeking to enhance his status domestically and internationally with a successful visit to the United States.”
This was so important that Préval “declined invitations to visit France, Cuba, and Venezuela in order to visit Washington first,” Sanderson noted. “Preval has close personal ties to Cuba, having received prostate cancer treatment there, but has stressed to the Embassy that he will manage relations with Cuba and Venezuela solely for the benefit of the Haitian people, and not based on any ideological affinity toward those governments.”
Soon, however, it became clear that managing relations with those US adversaries “solely for the benefit to the Haitian people” would be enough to put Préval in Washington’s bad graces—especially when it came to the sensitive matter of oil.
Immediately after his inauguration ceremony, Préval summoned the press to a room in the National Palace, where he inked a deal with Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel to join Caracas’s Caribbean oil alliance, PetroCaribe. Under the terms of the deal, Haiti would buy oil from Venezuela, paying only 60 percent up front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1 percent interest.
As the press conference rolled on, just a mile away from the National Palace, in the bay of Port-au-Prince, sat a tanker from Venezuela carrying 100,000 barrels of PetroCaribe diesel and unleaded fuel.
Préval’s dramatic inauguration day oil deal won high marks from many Haitians, who had demonstrated against high oil prices and the lack of electricity. But it ushered in a multiyear geopolitical battle among Caracas, Havana and Washington over how oil would be delivered to Haiti and who would benefit.MORE
Haitian Mayor's Office Vows to Destroy All Refugee Camps, Launches Violent Campaign.
On May 23 and 25, police in the Delmas district of Port-au-Prince destroyed camps which sheltered people who were otherwise homeless since the earthquake. Police and other municipal workers beat and arrested residents, and physically threatened the lives of a human rights lawyer and an advocate who had come to investigate. The mayor of Delmas announced that this is part of a new campaign to evict internally displaced persons [IDPs] from public spaces.
Those whose lodging was destroyed were amongst the million-plus people who have lived for 16 months under tents, lean-to’s of shredded tarps, or whatever repurposed materials they could scrounge, from blankets to tin. Neither the Haitian government nor the international community has offered any large-scale resettlement options.
According to the reports on Twitter about today's presidential election runoff in Haiti, the lines at polling stations are long, and voters at the Lycée Petion and the Lycée Croix des Bouquets were unable to find their names on voter lists, a problem that had also plagued the original election last November. But many are also speculating on the outcome. Opinion polls conducted in the weeks before have tended to show entertainer Michel Martelly leading his rival Mirlande Manigat, an academic and former first lady.MORE
Haiti: Election Morning in Pictures
Haiti election: Manigat, Martelly and Celestin profiles (Celestin is not on the ballot, this is a runoff between Manigat and Martelly)
Whatever proposals they may have — Ms. Manigat has suggested remaking the education system, while Mr. Martelly has talked about revamping the agriculture sector — must pass muster with the international donors that prop up the country’s budget, said Alex Dupuy, a Wesleyan University sociologist who studies Haiti.
Neither one is going to be able to “set the priority for economic policy,” Dr. Dupuy said. “That is set by the donors, major financial institutions and the interim recovery commission” guiding the rebuilding plans.MORE
‘Sweet Micky’ gets makeover
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Haiti: Aristide’s return, the word “house” and today’s election
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Aristide Makes 'Historic' Return to Haiti
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Haitians vote in presidential runoff: UN official describes vote as peaceful but several polling sites delayed opening because they lacked voting materials.
( Read more... )
Singer shot during Haiti campaign: Hip-hop superstar Wyclef Jean injured by gunfire as polls open for presidential election in Caribbean nation.
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Catherine Porter of The Toronto Star has had some good coverage of Haiti for a while. This article talks about some of the pitfalls of voluntourism.
If you want to help Haiti, take a vacation there. Send money to a charity you trust working on the ground. Even better, set up a micro-credit loan for a single mother so she can rebuild her shattered market stall and send her kids to school.
Just don’t go down there to volunteer for two weeks.
I know, you want to help personally. That’s noble. But your good intentions might have the opposite effect: you would be paying to do a job a Haitian is literally starving for, and the normally neglected child you are holding for a few days in a run-down orphanage might be damaged from your affection.
Those are big statements. Let me uncrate them.
Voluntourism is the new ecotourism. One 2008 survey revealed that one in five travellers had volunteered on their vacation — most of them working on small construction sites, but some helping in orphanages, teaching English, protecting egg-laying turtles in Costa Rica, cleaning up garbage at the base of Mount Everest . . . The pricey trips are marketed as “meaningful travel.” Promotional websites usually feature a white adult smiling with a black child.
I’ve been to Haiti eight times in the past year, and every flight — save the first one, which was an aid shipment — has been packed with young people in matching T-shirts on a mission. Most were with church groups planning to rebuild a school or orphanage. Some were hosting “crusades,” which are healing church services, they told me. Others planned to play with babies in orphanages, teach English in schools or help out in tent camps around the city.
Think of it this way: a $600 round-trip ticket to Haiti is just $130 short of the annual income of the average Haitian. You shouldn’t pay to do that job. A Haitian should be paid to do it.
— Catherine Porter, "Don’t go to Haiti to volunteer", The Toronto Star
An interesting follow-up on Aristide's passport. The UK Parliament tabled an Early Day Motion stating:
That this House welcomes the announcement by the government of Haiti that former President Aristide will be issued with a passport and thus able to return from exile in South Africa; deplores the manner in which he was removed from Haiti; and hopes his return will help lead to social justice and democracy for the people.
The motion was put forward by MP Jeremy Corbyn (Labour Party). The Labour Party was in power at the time of the 2004 coup, but the UK hasn't been as big a player in the situation in Haiti (where the U.S., Canada and France have been the primary nations influencing the country.
The Haitian government says it is ready to issue former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide with a passport, opening the way for his possible return.
Mr Aristide was ousted seven years ago, and has been living in exile.
The news comes at a critical time, with the final results of the disputed first round of the presidential election due on Wednesday.
He would be the second ousted president to return, after the surprise arrival two weeks ago of Jean-Claude Duvalier.
General Secretary for the Haitian Presidency Fritz Longchamp told the Reuters news agency that "the Council of Ministers, under the leadership of President Rene Preval, decided that a diplomatic passport be issued to President Aristide, if he asks for it."MORE
This is big news because the US has been working hard to make sure that he never goes back home:
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If any nation in the history of humanity has been terrorized by the naked brutality and hypocritical logic of modernity, it has been Haiti. One would assume that the Haitian Revolution in 1804 would be looked upon as a pivotal moment which helped to shape the ideas of freedom, equality and justice. This was not the case. Haiti has been the victim of both history and hypocrisy, since it’s independence in 1804 as the small nation who fought for the freedom, dignity and justice has been met with a nightmarish hell of slavery, genocide, racism, isolation, extreme oppression and economic terrorism exercised in the name of modern civilization that has not disappeared in the 500 years since Christopher Columbus first landed on the island. The recent turmoil surrounding the Haitian elections on November 28th must be seen as an extension of international support in the undermining of the Haitian people’s right to self determination.
It was within this debt riddled framework of the new global economic order, fighting against the unjust demands of the IMF, World Bank and the United States, that led a Roman Catholic Priest named Jean Bertrand Aristide to become Haiti’s first democratically elected president in 1991. Aristide’s grassroots support among the poor of Haiti led to his landslide victory with Fanmi Lavalas receiving 67% of the vote.
Aristide led calls for reparation of Haiti’s odious $21 billion debt to France, and was against further rounds of privatization of the Haitian economy. These concerns did not sit well with the United States or France resulting in a coup in September 1991. Due to international as well as internal pressure, Aristide was placed back in power by the Clinton administration but was not allowed to complete a full 6 year term or run for re-election in the next available term. In 2000, Aristide was elected once again, with 91.8% of the vote.
The devastating earthquake on January 12th and the tragic aftermath is being used as a backdrop of excuses to mask the engineered irregularities of the recent election. The November 28th election is the most recent step in the international community’s attempt to stifle the demands of self determination by the Haitian people. Fanmi Lavalas, by and large the nation’s most popular political party has been banned in every election since the overthrow of Aristide in 2004. The exclusion of Lavalas continued into the November 28th elections based on the party failing to meet last minute technicalities invented by the highly controversial Haitian Provisional Electoral Council – heavily influenced by current President Rene Preval. Fanmi Lavalas and 14 other political parties were excluded from participating in the November 28th elections without any transparent reasoning.
Ignoring reports highlighting the irregularities of the November 28th election from civil society organizations both domestically and abroad, the international community continued to support and finance the highly flawed process. As early as June, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti issued a comprehensive report titled The International Community Should Pressure the Haitian Government for Free and Fair Elections (http://ijdh.org/archives/13138) but the international community did not pay attention to the warnings of political turmoil resulting from their backing of highly flawed elections.
The reasoning behind such vehement support for Haiti’s current flawed elections is simple. There is over $10 billion in reconstruction contracts, an amount too large to be trusted to any independent, or heaven forbid progressive candidate who would channel the money into the building of much needed public services and infrastructure which served the Haitian people. What the international community demands from these elections is a President which will rubber stamp any of their self serving development projects. An article in the Washington Post titled “Would be Haitian Contractors Miss out on Aid” further demonstrates the self serving nature of aid to Haiti stating that of every $100 of US contracts, only $1.60 makes it into the hands of Haitian contractors.
The story of the recovery that hasn’t happened in Haiti is at last partially a tale of the money the developed world said it would give, but didn’t. In the immediate aftermath of last year’s earthquake there was a worldwide outpouring of support.
( Cut for transcribed ColorLines graphic )
The diplomat traces the 200-year history of foreign subjugation of Haiti. He draws a line of continuity to the present. “The world has never known how to treat Haiti, so it has ignored it.”
He says the country has lived a “low intensity war” since 1986, the year of the overthrow of the Duvalier tyranny. “We want to turn Haiti into a capitalist country, an export platform for the U.S. market, it’s absurd. Haiti must return to what it is, that is to say, a predominantly agricultural country still fundamentally imbued with customary law.”
Noting that nearly half of Haiti’s people—4 million—live abroad, Seitenfus says he does not pine for a return to a quaint rural past as a solution to Haiti’s present crisis. But he believes that the foreign intervention runs contrary to the country’s interests and needs. “The problem is socio-economic. When the level of unemployment is 80%, it is unacceptable to deploy a stabilization mission. There is nothing to stabilize and everything to build.”
When the interview turns to questions of aid and earthquake relief, Seitenfus drops a bomb in declaring, “If there is proof of the failure of international aid, it is Haiti.” Charity and aid to Haiti have enfeebled the Haitian state.
In Haiti, “We must build roads, hydroelectric dams, assist in building government structures, including a judiciary system.”
“The UN says it is not mandated to do that,” he laments. “It’s mandate in Haiti is to maintain the peace of the graveyard.”
His prophetic words may no longer grace the offices of the OAS in Haiti. But they have given voice to countless Haitians still living in the miserable conditions of the camps of internally displaced or still waiting for the promised “reconstruction.”
They will not wait forever. They will continue to assert their rights. The longer the elites of Haiti and the world fail to offer a vision for the future of the country, the more certain become social explosions through which the people reassert their dignity and their rightful claim to social justice.
Twelve presidential candidates, including all the leading contenders excepting Preval's chosen heir, have just called for the election in Haiti to be cancelled. They are also calling for their supporters to fill the streets in protest.
Haiti was plunged into political crisis after a majority of the presidential candidates rejected the vote before it was even over, decrying the election as fraud-filled.
Their declaration, made at a joint press conference yesterday afternoon, raised the spectre of violence in the streets, with fears that some Haitians may attempt to force the ouster of President René Préval or attack supporters of his protégé, candidate Jude Célestin, who were accused of orchestrating the alleged fraud.
— "Haitians take to the streets as voters, candidates declare election a fraud", The Globe and Mail
Certainly, there were many reasons to doubt the fairness of the election prior to today. During my trip there in December, I spoke to many people deeply concerned about the arbitrary exclusion of 14 political parties from the elections -- including the country's most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas. Haitians were concerned about these exclusions in the 2006 and 2009 elections. Now, with the Presidential election on the line, this issue seems to be coming to a head.
Yes, experts predicted the likely outbreak of deadly disease not long after the earthquake, yet infrastructure in preparation for the outbreak was still lacking when it hit. Indeed, as of two months ago, a mere 2% of the earthquake debris has been cleared; I’m unsure if more recent figures are available, but it’s doubtful that two months managed to magically accomplish what nine months did not. With this being the case, it’s less than shocking that there is also a severe lack of working toilets and uncontaminated water.
If you have money to spare, Partners in Health is an on the ground organization in Haiti that takes a community-based approach to providing free health care. They have been responding to the cholera outbreak by treating patients both at special treatment centers and in their communities, distributing soap and water purification supplies, educating communities on prevention, building showers, and working towards long-term water security in Haiti. You can support Partners in Health’s efforts to respond to the cholera outbreak and save lives by donating here.
Can you please contextualize the work you do, in what has become a global system of agriculture?
We are now importing the majority of the food we eat. The overwhelming majority of workers who harvest the food we eat in the United States are not from this country. And many if not most of the workers employed in the fields in the United States are displaced farmers from their own countries (mostly Mexico but not exclusively.) So we’re seeing that many of the same pressures and challenges that are facing farmers in the US are the very same ones that are displacing small farmers in the global South and resulting in them coming in search of employment to the United States, Canada, Australia, and European Union. At the same time, farmers and sometimes their spouses in the US are looking for second jobs in more urban settings.
When Vietnam entered the global market with coffee we saw an unprecedented exodus of coffee farmers out of eastern Mexico. When NAFTA was signed, mass exodus of corn farmers – so we see a direct correlation between these international trade policies and agricultural practices and kind of the global crisis of agriculture that we’re facing.
Within that context you look at agriculture in the United States and pretty much anyone born in this country has no aspirations to work in the fields. And I think if we’re honest with ourselves, the reason is because we all know the conditions are not good, the pay is pretty bad, and there’s really no benefits. As a result we have depended on immigrant workers to come up and do the work that we haven’t wanted to do. And so if you look at the history of the United Farm Workers, we’ve had workers literally from around the world as members – from Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Yemen, African Americans and of course, Mexicans, Central Americans, and the internationalization of the work-force continues. We now have workers working under contract from Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, and it’s very much become a global workforce that is harvesting the food we eat.MORE
One Year since the Bagua Massacre: New Actors Facing a State in Crisis – by Raúl Zibechi
“The rainforest is not for sale”, was one of the most-repeated choruses in the marches across Peru commemorating the first anniversary of the Bagua massacre. 34 people died and 200 were wounded when Alan García’s government decided to clear out the Awajun people who were blocking roads in the Amazon in protest of the indiscriminate exploitation of the forest. Thousands of Awajun had been demonstrating for two months and were about to abandon the so-called Curva del Diablo, but before they had a chance to do so they were attacked by rifles on land and by air.
Ten indigenous people were killed at the Curva del Diablo. They later retaliated, causing the death of 23 police officers. The location of one of the protestors, Major Felipe Bazán Caballero, remains unknown. All signs indicate that the minister of the interior, Mercedes Cabanillas, gave the order to open fire. A year later, no one has been found guilty of the tragedy. Shortly after the repression, four of the legislative decrees that had provoked the demonstrations were revoked and, on May 19, parliament approved the Consultation Law, which dictates that locals must be consulted before any projects to exploit community resources are approved. These are two substantial victories for the movement.
But, in addition to their legal triumphs, the indigenous people who make up the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), which brings together around 1,500 communities, obtained the recognition of Peruvian society as new and decisive actors in national political life. This is a symbolic act. On June 5, the father of the missing Major Felipe Bazán, travelled to the Curva del Diablo, near Bagua and the Ecuadorian border, one thousand kilometers northeast of Lima, to embrace indigenous people as they participated in a memorial act, baptizing the site as the “Curva de la Esperanza”.
Time to Value Women's Unpaid Work
SANTIAGO - The time has come for Latin American countries to put an economic value on the work that women do as they take care of households, children and the elderly, says ECLAC, the United Nations regional economic agency.
Haitian peasants march against Monsanto Company for Food and Seed Sovereignty- By La Via Campesina
On June 4th about ten thousand Haitian peasants marched to protest U.S.-based Monsanto Company’s ‘deadly gift’ of seed to the government of Haiti. The seven-kilometer march from Papaye to Hinche—in a rural area on the central plateau—was organized by several Haitian farmers’ organizations that are proposing a development model based on food and seed sovereignty instead of industrial agriculture. Slogans for the march included “long live native maize seed” and “Monsanto’s GMO & hybrid seed violates peasant agriculture.”MORE
CZECH REPUBLIC: Women Resist All-Male Cabinet
PRAGUE, Jul 7, 2010 (IPS) - Women’s rights campaigners say the Czech Republic’s new government has effectively told women they have no relevance to the country’s future after the new cabinet was formed – without a single female minister.
Despite a record number of women elected to parliament in elections in May and pre-election pledges by party leaders that they wanted more women in politics, women’s rights activists said they had been given a "slap in the face" after the make-up of the new cabinet was finally agreed last week. MORE
'Save Us From These Bankers, Fast'
BRUSSELS, Jul 5, 2010 (IPS) - Besieged by bankers opposed to regulation of their sector, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have taken an unusual step. A cross-party alliance has called for an international campaigning organisation to concentrate on remedying the flaws of the financial services industry with the same tenacity that Amnesty International focuses on victims of torture and Greenpeace on toxic chemicals and whales.I could get behind this 110%!
The call -- signed by 70 of the Parliament's 736 elected members -- was prompted by concerns over how the financial lobby had marshalled its ample resources over the past few years in a bid to dilute legislation drafted in response to the global economic crisis. According to the MEPs, the pressure they have been placed under by the financial industry is so intense that it represents a threat to democracy, especially as public interest groups have generally lacked the means or the expertise to mount a robust counter- offensive to the banks' efforts
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Collateral Murder Uncut Version
April 03, 2010 — Wikileaks has obtained and decrypted this previously unreleased video footage from a US Apache helicopter in 2007. It shows Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen, driver Saeed Chmagh, and several others as the Apache shoots and kills them in a public square in Eastern Baghdad. They are apparently assumed to be insurgents. After the initial shooting, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded. They are fired upon as well. The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents and claimed the US military did not know how the deaths ocurred. Wikileaks released this video with transcripts and a package of supporting documents on April 5th 2010 on http://collateralmurder.com
Global Vocies:Kyrgyzstan: The “Archived” Revolution
The roots of the present revolution are various: South vs. North clash (Bakiev is from the South, the rebels are from the North), corruption and suppressive government (in recent years Kyrgyz people witnessed all forms of oppression from closings of the newspapers [ENG] to independent journalists' murders [EN]), Russia's Great Game interest, Ortega-y-Gasset'ian “revolt of the masses” etc). Whatever the real reasons of the Kyrgyz revolution of 2010 are it is important to note that it was overwhelmingly immediate, furious, bloody and… well-documented.
The role of the new media changed slightly this time compared to other dramatic events (like the protests in Moldova or Iran). Blogs and Twitter didn't serve as serious means of public mobilization since the Internet penetration rate is relatively small in Kyrgyzstan ( just 15 percent in 2009). However, new media were agile enough to cover all the main events giving detailed footage of initial protests in Talas, rampage in Bishkek and looting that followed. At the same time, new media were efficiently used by the opposition attracting the attention of international community and shifting public opinion to the side of the protesters. The opposition leader Roza Otunbaeva (@otunbaeva), for instance, registered her account as soon as she became the head of the provisional government. On the other day, son of president Bakiev, Maxim opened a LiveJournal account to express the pro-government point of view.
As Gregory Asmolov concluded [RUS], it was not “journalists 2.0″ who were the most efficient in covering Kyrgyz events but the “editors 2.0″. Bloggers who both knew the region and were outside the country to see the big picture and collected the photographs, videos and Twitter confessions. Two most informed bloggers in this situation were people outside the country: US-based Yelena Skochilo (a.k.a. LJ user morrire) and Kazakhstan-based Vyacheslav Firsov (a.k.a. lord_fame). They managed to assemble the most complete collections of photos, videos and timelines
Trinidad & Tobago: Election Fever
With one action, the prorogation of Parliament, Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister thrust the country into election mode. (The constitution of the twin island republic states that from the moment Parliament is dissolved, a general election must be held in no fewer than 35 days and no more than 90). As the news broke, the blogosphere was rife with speculation that the move was made to pre-empt a no-confidence motion against Manning that had been scheduled for debate today in the House of Representatives, as well as to avoid the fallout over the report of the Uff Commission of Enquiry into the Construction Sector, which was critical of the modus operandi of the state-owned Urban Development Corporation of T&T (UDeCOTT) - which is not to say that bloggers are not asking other critical questions, some even as basic as “When?
Trinidad and Tobago girls, politics, sports, technology, carnival, and lifestyle, however, starts with the “Why?”:
Why now? Why would the Prime Minister risk losing Government with not even 3 years of his five-year term behind him?
Why? Why when the country can still call on record revenue and a commanding majority in Parliament?
The analysts are pinning it on the no-confidence motion; or Calder Hart. But as Chris Rock asked when speaking on the Columbine shootings, “Whatever happened to crazy?”
It's quite possible Manning is just a nut. A lunatic.
RIGHTS-US: Love Without Borders – Or Papers
Cuba:Old Havana reaches out to the hearing impaired
Peru: Ongoing Mining Strike
Palestinian Christians barred from Jerusalem for Easter
Our Bodies are shaking now: Rape follows Earthquake in Haiti
Bolivia: Polarization persists:Regional elections confirm political split between the western highlands and eastern lowlands
Guatemala: Despite change to Penal Code, poor, indigenous Guatemalans lack resources to bring discrimination cases to trial.
South Korea insists it atomic program is for energy only
Diskin to Abbas: Defer UN vote on Goldstone or face 'second Gaza
The request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the United Nations Human Rights Council last year to postpone the vote on the Goldstone report followed a particularly tense meeting with the head of the Shin Bet security service, Haaretz has learned. At the October meeting in Ramallah, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told Abbas that if he did not ask for a deferral of the vote on the critical report on last year's military operation, Israel would turn the West Bank into a "second Gaza."MORE
Also: MIDEAST: Israel Jails Palestinian Peace Activists and MIDEAST: Sale of Land to Israel Threatens to Split Church
This is going to end well.
HAITI-DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Sisters in Catastrophe
BRAZIL: 'Colonisation Made Us Poor,' Say Indigenous Peoples
U.S.: 200,000 undocumented Haitians to seek legal status
Haiti hit by another earthquake
Millions view solar eclipse
Azerbaijan: 20th anniversary of Baku pogrom and Black January
Camara backs Guinea's interim ruler
Clashes near Nigerian city of Jos
Kenya protest turns deadly
Caucasus: Society, sex and the dating game
Poland Has Three Preliminary LOT Bids, May Get More
Frost has killing effects on Colombia's Rose Exports
Huge link list of stories about Muslim women
The Caribbean island nation of Haiti has been beset by a series of natural disasters in recent years, experiencing four devastating tropical storms in 2008.
Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake will only further complicate living conditions for residents of the poverty-stricken country where 80 per cent of Haiti's nearly nine million people live below the poverty line.
Al Jazeera's John Terrett reports. 13 Jan 10
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In the French-speaking Caribbean, celebrating “La Toussaint”, All Saints' and All Souls' Days, are as much an opportunity for family reunions as the Christmas season is. Here is a review of what the blogosphere says about it this year [all links are in French]: In Guadeloupe, blogger Mycho has decided to resume her blogging activity for the occasion. Her short post highlights two important aspects of this celebration of the lost ones, which are the tradition and the family dimension:
Comme d'habitude, les Guadeloupéens vont illuminer les tombes. C'est toujours une occasion de se souvenir de ceux qui ne sont plus là, mais aussi de revoir ceux qui sont bien présents, mais que l'on n'a pas l'occasion de croiser bien souvent. Un moment de tristesse et de joie mêlées.As usual, Guadeloupeans will be lighting up candles on the graves. It is always the opportunity to remember the dead ones but also to meet the living ones, that we don't see that often. It's a moment of mixed pain and joy.Traditionally, the “Toussaint” season is an opportunity to do some grave maintenance as families clean, repaint and flower their graves. Domactu explains that when a grave presents none of these enhancements, it is a synonym of family disfunction and the issue sounds important enough for the local authorities to devote some money to fill in for missing families: MORE
USA cancels Haiti's debt.
But you know, there is something I want to say here. You see, this is the story we all here (in this region) have heard, we hear it every time the idea of a FTA with USA comes around. I have heard about it even before I started to think about politics. And it's Haiti's story.
You see, Haiti had a lot of problems, but something it was was one the the biggest producers of rice in the World. They produced themselves all the rice they needed, and their rice market was growing. That was until the FTA with USA happened (and it happened when the country was in a politic crisis). Of course, as any FTA between two countries with very uneven economies, Haiti was flooded with USA's products. Now is the poorest country of the region and all the rice it consumes comes from USA. Heck, most of what it consumes comes from USA.