"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

“The Super Bowl Of Disasters”: Disaster Capitalists Profiting From Crisis In Post-Earthquake Haiti

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm

US taxpayers are underwriting sweatshop expansion in Haiti. Here, textile workers protest for better rights and working conditions. Photo: Ansel Herz.

Oldspeak:”Many a corporation, lobbyist, and consultant has seen Haiti’s losses as their gain, leveraging humanitarianism for profit. Plenty of the $1.1 billion in disaster aid has gone not to desperate Haitians but to inside-the-Beltway contractors. Often the very same corporations have wrested financial and political gain from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the countries hit by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans after the ensuing flood of 2005, and lots of other places.” Disaster capitalism is being practiced all around the world. Review the 4 steps of the Disaster Capitalism and Cycle and consider the implications.  Haiti is at step 2.  The United States is at step 3.

The Disaster Capitalism Cycle

1. The shock of war, torture, disaster, or political upheaval distracts or deconstructs the popular identity, precluding or minimizing protest against free market reform and privatisation, which are usually unwanted by the masses.

2. First World interests, multinational capitalist firms, and a cooperative and corrupt elite benefit the most from these changes, while for the general population wages drop, the cost of living increases, and social services like welfare and healthcare decrease.

3. The privatisation of important sectors, from mining to healthcare to homeland security, takes away citizen power and control over policy making in these areas, as the government limits its own power through the free market legislation and de-regulation. It becomes difficult to undo these reforms.

4. A feedback loop of international scale emerges, the wealthy and powerful becoming more so. Certain sectors and private hands have an interest in maintaining instability, as they learn to profit more and more from war and disaster – as the cycle returns to step 1.

By Deepa Panchang, Beverly Bell and Tory Field, Other Worlds Are Possible:

As Americans were gearing up for last week’s Super Bowl championship, Haiti’s president Michel Martelly was on a plane to the World Economic Forum to recruit players interested in what one businessman dubbed “the Super Bowl of Disasters” – Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.[1] The Irish-owned cell phone company Digicel footed his trip there, and hosted a regional business tour complete with a gala ball before his return to a country still reeling from crisis conditions in housing, jobs, and basic rights.[2]

Haiti’s status as prime-time jostling space for prospective investors is not new. Many a corporation, lobbyist, and consultant has seen Haiti’s losses as their gain, leveraging humanitarianism for profit. Plenty of the $1.1 billion in disaster aid has gone not to desperate Haitians but to inside-the-Beltway contractors. Often the very same corporations have wrested financial and political gain from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the countries hit by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans after the ensuing flood of 2005, and lots of other places. The same deals have been cut over Haiti in the past, too, particularly during periods of political instability.

The earthquake has provided a fresh wave of opportunity. In the first year after the earthquake, the US government awarded more than 1,500 contracts worth $267 million. All went to US firms except 20, worth $4.3 million, which went to Haitian businesses.[3] Among the American corporations that received contracts, we’ve seen everything: many millions going to companies that had had previous contracts cancelled for bad practices, that had paid out as much as eight-figure settlements for violence happening under their watch, that had been investigated by Congress for gaming the system, or that had been the subject of federal reports accusing wastage of funds.[4] We’ve seen corporate executives and members of Congress going through a revolving door and leveraging both sides for contracts. We’ve seen public funds given without any competition or transparency, quite a few to friends of the Clintons and other well-placed insiders.

Local labor and production, which are critical elements in economic recovery, have been trumped for American business profits. According to federal procurement data, among contracts which provide products (as opposed to services), 77% were for products manufactured in the US. They don’t list which, if any, of the remaining 23% involve any Haitian materials or labor.[5]

Two months after the earthquake, companies gathered in a luxury hotel in Miami for a “Haiti Summit” to discuss post-earthquake contracting possibilities. The meeting was sponsored by the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), but these were no peaceniks. Their members are predominantly private mercenary companies that enforce ‘security’ in war and disaster zones for the US government because, unlike elected entities, they can completely avoid public scrutiny and accountability. They included such companies as Triple Canopy, which took over Blackwater’s contract in Iraq.[6] One of the corporate representatives at the Summit described the outlook: “Their infrastructure is pretty much destroyed, communications are destroyed, there’s a lot of opportunities there for companies, particularly US countries [sic] because of the close proximity.”[7] The Summit was apparently worthwhile, as US government paid out more than $10 million to the industry for “guard services,” and almost $20,000 for riot shields and suits.[8]

Below are a few examples of post-earthquake contracts and grants, selected to show just some of the problems at play. They offer a small glimpse into a much larger, secretive world of disaster deals. We’re grateful to our investigative journalist colleagues who, alongside us, have kept heavy on the scent of these corporations and brought buried information to light.

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“American corporations and their stakeholders must understand how helping Haiti over the long term also helps them,” said the non-profit CHF International in its March 2010 board report. “By contributing to Haiti’s reconstruction in a lasting, meaningful way, companies will be helping to build a new, more vibrant Caribbean market for their own goods and services.”[9]

CHF’s involvement demonstrates how even non-profits can drive development that props up American business interests on the backs of poor Haitians. What CHF refers to as “helping Haiti” has meant using US tax dollars to underwrite textile sweatshops, making it easier and more profitable to score the cheapest source of labor in the hemisphere. In 2006, USAID gave CHF a $104 million, 4-year contract to help “existing industries to increase their capacity, efficiency and reach new markets,” primarily through the export textile industry. The money subsidized CHF’s creation of infrastructure such as roads around industrial areas and training of factory workers on skills such as “how to work in a formal work environment.”[10] Bolstered by additional USAID funding, this project continued after the earthquake.

CHF’s post-earthquake USAID contract, for $20.9 million, went to clean-up projects, including cash-for-work.[11] Cash-for-work meant camp residents engaging in hired-hand projects such as digging drainage ditches and clearing debris, for a period of a few weeks. The scheme has come under fire by camp residents and human rights groups, with even a USAID evaluation raising some serious critiques.[12] The jobs are unpredictable, workers have said, and while the short duration can palliate personal crisis for the moment, the program quickly returns the worker’s family to its desperate state. Those hired are paid officially at the unlivable minimum daily wage of 200 gourdes, or US$5, though unofficially they often earn less. A Haiti Grassroots Watch exposé found, furthermore, that cash-for-work hiring is often based on corruption, with many workers having to pay a ‘kickback,’ negotiate sex (in the case of women) for a job, or affiliate with political parties or candidates.[13] USAID also noted that cash-for-work programs it funded increased risks of “serious and avoidable” accidents on the job “by failing to develop and enforce consistent workplace safety rules and accident procedures.”[14]

CHF’s projects, based on factory jobs and cash-for-work, have given neither livable incomes to employees nor offered development opportunities to the nation. Meanwhile, CHF has gained humanitarian clout and an influx of funding, and its garment industry partners sit happily with the perks.

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Using tried-and-true strategies of political manipulation, some corporations have been able to edge their way into post-earthquake contracts despite histories of fraud and corruption.

AshBritt Environmental, for instance, has a record of disaster response elsewhere that spells trouble for Haiti. The company had received $900 million in contracts for Hurricane Katrina clean-up, after hiring lobbyists formerly involved in state government.[15] An MSNBC investigation later brought to light complaints by local contractors, a mayor, and local legislators that the company’s work was too slow, that it overcharged, and that it was not hiring local contractors.[16] The extent of “layer cake” contracting was so extreme that in one case, AshBritt was paid $23 per cubic yard of debris removed but subcontracted through three middleman companies so that the company that actually removed the rubble received $3 per cubic yard.[17]) Even a 2006 federal report accused the company of wasting money in this subcontractor layering after Katrina.[18]

Given its experience, AshBritt wasted no time unleashing its skills in lobbying and political pressure to get in on the Haiti game. Early in 2010, the company paid $90,000 to a lobbying firm to pressure the government for Haiti contracts, according to disclosure records described in the press.[19] In a prime instance of revolving door between public and private sectors, one of the lobbyists working on the case was the former chief of staff for Senator John Kerry.[20] Kerry, in turn, was the senator who co-sponsored the legislation for Haiti relief funding.

With influential people circulating between the givers and receivers of funds, AshBritt was confident enough about future contracts that it spent an initial $25 million setting up for anticipated operations in Haiti with a soccer field-sized base camp and services to house future project managers.[21] In July 2010, AshBritt won a $500,000 US government contract for debris removal, the first of what the company anticipated would be many contracts to come their way.[22] Continuing the revolving door trend, another lobbyist for the firm was the former USAID Mission Director in Iraq, Lewis Lucke, who was paid $30,000 per month to help win contracts via a partnership venture AshBritt set up.[23] Lucke claimed he “played an integral role” in obtaining three contracts for the company, including $10 million from the World Bank and about $10 million more from the Haitian government (one of the first major government contracts for debris removal).[24] As of this writing, not even the company’s website contains an update on what work it has or has not completed in Haiti.

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Like AshBritt, CH2M Hill, a large engineering and construction firm, should have raised warning signals as a company to be hired on the taxpayer dollar. A government database that monitors federal contracts reveals a track record of corruption, listing nine instances of misconduct for the company since 1995.[25] In one case, the company was paid $4.1 million for a contract in Iraq though no work was actually completed. [26] On the Gulf Coast, a US government investigation of $45 million paid to CH2M and the three other companies in no-bid contracts for Katrina response was declared wasteful spending. [27] CH2M was also accused in a congressional investigation in 1992 of misusing money during its cleanup of toxic waste sites in the U.S. More than two million dollars of this contract were allegedly used for “unallowable and questionable costs,” such as $11,379 for a Christmas party and $2750 for specialty chocolates.[28] The company is listed in the top 50 of U.S.-based contractors and has been a major player in wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.[29]

The track record was nothing that some strategic lobbying efforts couldn’t mitigate, however. The lobbyist who headed up CH2M Hill’s efforts to win contracts in Haiti was Larry LaRocco, a former congressman from Idaho who now runs his own lobbying firm.[30] And unsurprisingly, the company spent half a million dollars in political contributions in 2010. [31] Thus equipped with politicians in its pocket, CH2M was well-positioned to compete in the latest contract game. It received its first post-earthquake contract just days after the disaster, and was given a joint contract with KBR Global Service (itself notorious due to its Iraq and Afghanistan activities) for facilities operations support at the end of 2010.[32]

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In the case of a few other contracts that we know to be operating in Haiti, we’ve spent hour after hour on the scent. We’ve scoured internet resources, news articles, and company websites to track companies we know received post-earthquake contracts in Haiti. Nothing. Not even a mention, sometimes, in the 100-plus-page 2010 annual reports.

What we have been unable to uncover is at least as alarming as what we have learned about some of the firms receiving millions from the US government, and what they have done with those millions. We wonder whether the US government has had any more knowledge or oversight of the corporate actions than have the corporation’s investors. As for the American people, they have no way to know how their money has been spent or what has been done in their names. The lack of transparency has also given a green light to profiteers to neglect standards, quality, and honesty.

There is one group for whom the secrecy, foul play, taking of power that should never be taken, giving away of what should never be given away, matters most of all: Haitians, the ones whose country is being treated like a Monopoly game. They alone will have to live with the long-term outcome of what foreign companies build, demolish, restructure, or steal in their country.

Copyleft Other Worlds. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Deepa Panchang, Beverly Bell, and Tory Field, Other Worlds.


[1] Mike Clary, “Broward Rivals Battle for Work in Post-Quake Haiti,” Sun-Sentinel.com, July 14, 2010.
[2] Paul Cullen, “Attracting trade now focus for Haiti’s president,” The Irish Times, http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2012/0130/1224310943929.html
[3] Alex Dupuy, “One Year after the Earthquake, Foreign Help is Actually Hurting Haiti,” Washington Post, January 7, 2011.
[4] Emma Perez-Trevino, “Beating Death Lawsuit Ends in Settlement,” The Brownsville Herald online, January 7, 2010, http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/articles/rosa-107144-settlement-beating…. Martha Brannigan and Jacqueline Charles, “U.S. Firms Want Part in Haiti Cleanup,” Miami Herald, February 9, 2010.
[5] “Haiti Earthquake Report,” Federal Procurement Data System, data updated as of 9/15/2011, https://www.fpds.gov/downloads/top_requests/Haiti_Earthquake_Report.xls.
[6] See, for example, Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (New York: Nation Books, 2007); Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Picador, 2007); Jeremy Scahill, “US Mercenaries Set Sights on Haiti,” TheNation.com, February 1, 2010; and Anthony Fenton, “Private Contractors ‘Like Vultures Coming to Grab the Loot,” IPSNews.net, February 19, 2010.
[7] “Al Jazeera Reports on the Haiti ‘Summit’ for Private Contractors,” YouTube video, 3:32, Al Jazeera reporting, posted by “WebofDem,” May 6, 2010, http://youtu.be/kkNCdy0GXyc.
[8] “Haiti Earthquake Report,” Federal Procurement Data System, data updated as of 9/15/2011, https://www.fpds.gov/downloads/top_requests/Haiti_Earthquake_Report.xls.
[9] Jane Madden, “Corporations Must Consider Haiti’s Long Term Needs,” Philanthropy News Digest online, March 10, 2010, http://foundationcenter.org/pnd/commentary/co_item.jhtml?id=287300002.
[10] “New USAID-Funded Haiti Apparel Center to Provide Training to Thousands of Haitians in the Garment Industry,” press release by USAID, August 11, 2010, http://www.usaid.gov/press/releases/2010/pr100811_1.html.
[11] USAID, Haiti Earthquake: Fact Sheet #48, April 2, 2010,
http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/humanitarian_assistance/disaster_assistance/countries/haiti/template/fs_sr/fy2010/haiti_eq_fs48_04-02-2010.pdf.
[12]Center for Economic and Policy Research, “USAID/OTI’s Politicized, Problematic, Cash-for-Work Programs,” December 21, 2010, http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/cepr-blog/usaidotis-politicized-problematic-cash-for-work-programs; Antèn Ouvriye, Submission to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review: Labor Rights (Transnational Legal Clinic, University of Pennsylvania Law School, 2011), http://ijdh.org/archives/17948; and Office of Inspector General, Audit of USAID’s Cash-for-Work Activities in Haiti (San Salvador: September 24, 2010), http://www.usaid.gov/oig/public/fy10rpts/1-521-10-009-p.pdf.
[13] Haiti Grassroots Watch, “Is Cash-for-work Working?”, http://www.ayitikaleje.org/Dossier2Story2. Haiti Grassroots Watch, “Cash for Work – At What Cost,” http://www.ayitikaleje.org/haiti-grassroots-watch-engli/2011/7/18/cash-for-work-at-what-cost.html.
[14] Office of Inspector General, Audit of USAID’s Cash-for-Work Activities in Haiti, September 24, 2010, http://www.usaid.gov/oig/public/fy10rpts/1-521-10-009-p.pdf.
[15] Jordon Flaherty, “One year after Haiti earthquake, corporations profit while people suffer,” Monthly Review Magazine, January 12, 2010. “It’s who you know,” CorpWatch, August 16th, 2006, http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=14008
[16] Mike Brunker, “Dust flies over Katrina’s debris,” MSNBC, January 29, 20006, http://risingfromruin.msnbc.com/2006/01/fighting_over_t.html
[17] Rita King, “Layers and Layers,” CorpWatch, August 16, 2006, http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=14011.
[18] Martha Brannigan and Jacqueline Charles, “U.S. Firms Want Part in Haiti Cleanup,” Miami Herald, February 9, 2010.
[19] Kevin Bogardus, “Haiti’s recovery aided by U.S. lobbyists,” The Hill, October 11, 2010.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ben Fox, “Masters of disaster: Foreign firms set up shop in Haiti and wait for construction boom,” Associated Press, June 7, 2010.
[22] Mike Clary, “Broward rivals battle for work in post-quake Haiti,” Sun Sentinel, July 14, 2010, http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2010-07-14/news/fl-haiti-recovery-rivals-20100714_1_ashbritt-post-earthquake-haiti-debris.
[23] Ben Fox, “Ex-US official sues contractor in Haiti for fees,” Associated Press, December 31, 2010.
[24] Mark Weisbrot, “Haiti and the international aid scam,” The Guardian, April 22, 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/apr/22/haiti-aid.
[25] Project on Government Oversight, http://www.contractormisconduct.org/
[26] Matt Kelley, “Canceled Iraq contracts cost U.S. $600 million,” USA Today, November, 17, 2008.
[27] Center for Economic and Policy Research, “Impatient to Profit from Disaster,” October 14, 2010, http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/relief-and-reconstruction-watch/impatient-to-profit-from-disaster
[28] Keith Schneider, “Company Accused of Bilking U.S. on Waste Sites,” New York Times, March 20,1992.
[29] Top 400 Contractors Sourcebook cited on http://newsroom.ch2mhill.com/pr/ch2m/industry-rankings.aspx. Statement of Mr. Fred M. Brune, President, Government Facilities and Infrastructure Business Group, CH2M Hill Constructors, Inc. before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, July 26, 2010, http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/…/hearing2010-07-26_testimony_Brune_(CH2M%20Hill).pdf.
[30] Kevin Bogardus, “Haiti’s recovery aided by U.S. lobbyists,” The Hill, October 11, 2010. http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/123565-haitis-recovery-aided-by-lobbyists
[31] CH2M Hill Expenditures, Center for Responsive Politics, http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/expenditures.php?cycle=2010&cmte=C00143305
[32] “Haiti Earthquake Report,” Federal Procurement Data System, data updated as of 9/15/2011, https://www.fpds.gov/downloads/top_requests/Haiti_Earthquake_Report.xls.

WikiLeaks Cables: Shows U.S. Opposed Minimum Wage Rise, Despite Rampant Hunger & Poverty In Haiti

In Uncategorized on June 20, 2011 at 11:33 am

Oldspeak: Levi’s, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Dockers and Nautica’s public face: Fun, hip, fashionable, comfortable, sturdy, friendly fruits & Michael Jordan. Private face: ruthless, Anti-humanist, Anti-democratic, exploitative, manipulative poverty & hunger promoting, cost externalizing profit internalizing machines who operate with impunity in poor countries with the assistance of the U.S. Government. All so we can continue mindlessly consuming “cheaply” made goods, which is of course good for the “economy”. Never mind that 2 billion languish in squalor, poverty & despair. “2+2=5”. Meanwhile “Today, 16 months after the quake, only about 37% of US $4.6 billion in support pledges have actually been disbursed – a crucial issue given the dominant role that the international community plays in Haiti.” –Dan Coughlin

By Kim Ives & Dan Coughlin @ Green Left:

The United States embassy in Haiti worked closely with factory owners contracted by Levi’s, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to aggressively block a paltry minimum wage rise for Haitian assembly zone workers.

The moves to block a wage rise for the lowest paid in the western hemisphere were revealed by secret US State Department cables obtained by Haiti Liberte and The Nation magazine.

The factory owners refused to pay $0.62 an hour, or $5 per eight-hour day, as mandated by a measure unanimously passed by Haiti’s parliament in June 2009.

The cables, provided by WikiLeaks, show that behind the scenes, factory owners were vigorously backed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US embassy.

Before the rise, the minimum daily wage was $1.75 a day.

The factory owners told parliament they were willing to give workers a mere nine cent per hour pay rise — to $0.31 an hour — to make T-shirts, bras and underwear for US clothing giants such as Dockers and Nautica.

To resolve the impasse, the State Department urged then-Haitian president Rene Preval to intervene.

US ambassador Janet Sanderson said in a June 10, 2009 cable to Washington: “A more visible and active engagement by Preval may be critical to resolving the issue of the minimum wage and its protest ‘spin-off’ — or risk the political environment spiraling out of control.”

Two months later, Preval negotiated a deal with parliament to create a two-tiered minimum wage rise — one for the textile industry at $3.13 a day and another for all other industrial and commercial sectors at $5 a day.

The US embassy was still not pleased. Deputy chief of mission David Lindwall said the $5 a day minimum wage “did not take economic reality into account”, but was a populist measure aimed at appealing to “the unemployed and underpaid masses”.

Haitian supporters of the minimum wage rise said that it was needed to keep pace with inflation and alleviate the rising cost of living.

Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere. The World Food Program estimates that about 3.3 million people in Haiti, a third of the population, are food insecure.

Haiti was rocked by the “clorox” food riots of April 2008, named after hunger so painful that it felt like bleach in your stomach.

A 2008 Worker Rights Consortium study found a working-class family with one working member and two dependents needed a daily wage of at least $13.75 to meet normal living expenses.

US opposition to the minimum wage rise was revealed in 1918 cables provided by WikiLeaks.

In response to a request for a statement, the US embassy’s information officer Jon Piechowski told Haiti Liberte: “As a matter of policy, the Department of State does not comment on documents that purport to contain classified information and strongly condemns any illegal disclosure of such information.

“In Haiti, approximately 80% of the population is unemployed and 78% earns less than $1 a day — the US government is working with the Government of Haiti and international partners to help create jobs, support economic growth, promote foreign direct investment that meets [International Labor Orgainsation] labor standards in the apparel industry, and invest in agriculture and beyond.”

For a 20-month period between early February 2008 and October 2009, US embassy officials closely monitored and reported on the minimum wage issue. The cables show that the embassy fully understood how popular the measure was in Haiti.

The cables said that the new minimum wage even had support from most of the Haitian business community “based on reports that wages in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua (competitors in the garment industry) will increase also”.

But the proposal faced fierce opposition from Haiti’s tiny assembly zone elite, which Washington had long been supporting with direct financial aid and free trade deals.

In 2006, the US Congress passed the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) bill. This gave Haitian assembly zone manufacturers preferential trade incentives

Two years later, Congress passed an even more generous bill called HOPE II. USAID provided technical assistance and training programs to factories to help them expand and take advantage of the new law.

US embassy cables claimed these efforts were threatened by parliamentary demands for a wage hike to keep pace with soaring inflation and high food prices.

A June 17, 2009, confidential cable from charge d’affairs Thomas C Tighe to Washington said: “Textile industry representatives, led by the Association of Haitian Industry (ADIH), objected to the immediate ($3.25) per day wage increase in the assembly sector, saying it would devastate the industry and negatively impact the benefits of … HOPE II.”

Ironically, Tighe’s confidential cable one week earlier, said the ADIH study had found that “overall, the average salary for workers in the [garment assembly] sector is $4.33” — only 67 cents a day less than the proposed minimum wage.

Nonetheless, the study urged opposing any rise in the minimum wage because “the current salary structure promotes productivity and serves as a competitive wage in the region”.

Tighe noted, however, that the “minimum salary for workers in the Free Trade Zone on the [Haiti-Dominican Republic] border is approximately $6.00”, a dollar more than the $5 demanded.

Still, the ADIH report concluded somehow that the minimum daily being demanded would cause “the loss of 10,000 workers”, more than one third of Haiti’s 27,000 garment workers at that time.

Tighe said the ADIH and USAID “funded studies on the impact of near tripling of the minimum wage on the textile sector found that [the proposed] minimum wage would make the sector economically unviable and consequently force factories to shut down”.

Bolstered by the USAID study, factory owners lobbied heavily against the rise, the cables said.

The cables reveal how closely the US embassy monitored widespread pro-wage rise protests and openly worried about the political impact of the minimum wage battle.

United Nations troops were called in to quell student protests, sparking further demands for the end of the UN military occupation of Haiti.

On August 10, 2009, garment workers, students and other activists protested at the Industrial Park near Port-au-Prince airport. The police arrested two students, Guerchang Bastia and Patrick Joseph, on the charge of inciting the workers.

Demanding their immediate release, protesters marched to the Delmas 33 police station, where the police fired tear-gas and the throng replied with rock-throwing.

In the course of the demonstration, the windshield of Tighe’s vehicle was smashed, and he took refuge in the police station.

Due to the fierce protests of workers and students, sweatshop owners and Washington won only a partial victory in the minimum wage battle, delaying the $5 a day minimum for one year and keeping the assembly sector’s minimum wage a notch below all other sectors.

In October 2010, assembly workers’ minimum wage rose to $5 a day, while in all other sectors it went to $6.25.

The Haitian Platform for Development Alternatives said in June 2009: “Every time the minimum wage has been discussed, [the assembly industry bourgeoisie in] ADIH has cried wolf to scare the government against its passage: that raising the minimum wage would mean the certain and immediate closure of industry in Haiti and the cause of a sudden loss of jobs.

“In every case, it was a lie.”

[Abridged from www.haiti-liberte.com .]

 

 

Wikileaks Cables: US Worked To Scuttle Haiti Gas Development Deal On Behalf Of Big Oil

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Oldspeak: “The U.S. embassy at the time noted that Haiti would save a hundred million U.S. dollars a year under the terms of the PetroCaribe deal; the saved dollars would then be earmarked for development in schools, health care, and infrastructure. Yet, under the charge of ambassador Janet Sanderson, the embassy immediately set out to sabotage the deal.” –Zaid Jilani  😐 Yet another case of rhetoric not matching reality in this Fiat Democracy. Now we find that the U.S. government is in the business of intimidating and threatening poor and impoverished countries on behalf of its megacorporation overseers  when countries act in their best interests and those interests do not coincide with the interests of U.S. Megacorporations. ‘Profit is Paramount’. ”

By Zaid Jilani @ Think Progress:

Earlier this week, The Nation magazine and the Haitian weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté announced a partnership whereby they would work together to publish findings from 1,918 U.S. embassy cables — dated between 2003 and 2010 — from Haiti.

Now, the two papers have released their first article about the cables. In “The PetroCaribe Files,” Dan Coughlin and Kim Ives review an ordeal discovered within the cables involving an oil and development deal Haiti was negotiating with Venezuela and Cuba between 2006-2007.

As a part of the deal struck that year, Haiti would join the Venezuelan-led oil alliance known as PetroCaribe and it would purchase oil “only 60 percent up front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1 percent interest” — a remarkably good deal for the Western hemisphere’s poorest country.

The U.S. embassy at the time noted that Haiti would save a hundred million U.S. dollars a year under the terms of the PetroCaribe deal; the saved dollars would then be earmarked for development in schools, health care, and infrastructure. Yet, under the charge of ambassador Janet Sanderson, the embassy immediately set out to sabotage the deal.

In a classified cable, Sanderson noted that the embassy started to “pressure” Haitian leader Rene Preval from joining PetroCaribe, saying that it would “cause problems with [the United States.]” Major oil companies — such as ExxonMobil and Chevron — began threatening to cut off ties with Haiti, and Sanderson repeatedly met with the energy firms to assure them that she would pressure Haiti at the “highest levels of government.” The U.S. embassy also continually warned Preval against traveling to Venezuela and collaborate with other left-wing governments in the region.

Despite this intimidation campaign, Haiti successfully completed its deal with PetroCaribe, rebuking both its superpower neighbor and the combined threats of the world’s most powerful oil corporations. Yet the story of the PetroCaribe deal outlined in the cables is a powerful tale of how multinational corporations have exerted pressure on the U.S. government to undercut development in the emerging world economies.

On Wednesday, The Nation and Haiti Liberte will publish articles detailing a campaign by the United States that pressured the country against bringing its minimum wage to $5 dollar a day. This campaign was allegedly waged under the Obama administration, where Sanderson currently works as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.


7 Years After Ouster In U.S.- Backed Coup, Former Haitian President Aristide Prepares To Return Home

In Uncategorized on March 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Oldspeak: “It really is disheartening to see how sanitized mainstream U.S. journalism has become. Look for yourself, CNN, MSNBC, YAHOO, FOX, AP, AFP, UPI, etc etc. never mention U.S. involvement in the coup that lead to the ouster of President Aristide. No mention of the violation of international law by President Obama and U.N. General Secratary Ban Ki-Moon when they called South African president Jacob Zuma to urge him to keep Aristide in South Africa. They just repeat on a constant loop the newspeak that “Former President Aristide has chosen to remain outside of Haiti for seven years. To return this week could only be seen as a conscious choice to impact Haiti’s elections. We would urge former President Aristide to delay his return until after the electoral process has concluded, to permit the Haitian people to cast their ballots in a peaceful atmosphere. Return prior to the election may potentially be destabilizing to the political process.” –U.S. State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner. Aristide did not “choose to leave”. There is nothing peaceful about what is going on in Haiti. Thousands of forced evictions, rigged elections, government under foreign rule, a year after the earthquake, thousands still living in tent cities with limited access to basic necessities for survival. This story from a british news paper is the only one I could find that stated the facts of the matter.”

By Mark Welsbrot @ The U.K. Guardian:

Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is scheduled to return to his homeland this week after seven years in exile in South Africa. He was overthrown – for the second time – in a 2004 coup organised by the United States and its allies. Washington has gone to great lengths to prevent his return over the last seven years, and this week the state department once again warned that Aristide should not return until “after the [20 March] electoral process is concluded.”

The state department is pretending that Aristide can simply come home after the election, and that he must have some sinister political motive for returning before the vote. This is completely dishonest. It is obvious that the next elected president will likely defer to the US and keep Aristide out. Furthermore, there is electoral pressure right now to allow Aristide back in the country. The Miami Herald reports that both of the contenders in the Sunday election have now said they welcome Aristide’s return, after previously opposing it. This about-face is obviously an attempt to court Fanmi Lavalas (Aristide’s party) voters. But we Americans know what happens to candidates’ political stances after the election is over.

Clearly, Aristide is taking advantage of his first, and possibly only, opportunity to return home. Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reports that phone calls from President Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon failed to convince South African president Jacob Zuma to keep Aristide from leaving South Africa.

How disgraceful that President Obama, a former law professor himself, would conspire to violate international law by attempting to deprive President Aristide of his human rights. And that the secretary general of the United Nations would bend to Obama’s will and collaborate with him. As noted in a letter to the state department by prominent lawyers and law professors, this is a violation of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty which the United States has ratified. It states that “[n]o one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

Washington and its allies would do better to take advantage of this opportunity to change course in Haiti, and accept the concept of self-determination for the Haitian people. They have denied this for decades, and especially since Aristide first was elected president in 1990. Within seven months, he was overthrown by the military and others who werelater found to be paid by the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The United States has denied self-government to Haiti ever since. After Aristide was democratically elected for the second time in 2000, with more than 90% of the vote, the United States “sought … to block bilateral and multilateral aid to Haiti, having an objection to the policies and views of the administration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide … Choking off assistance for development and for the provision of basic services also choked off oxygen to the government, which was the intention all along: to dislodge the Aristide administration.” That was Paul Farmer of Harvard’s medical school, Bill Clinton’s deputy special envoy from the UN to Haiti, testifying to US Congress last summer.

While many complain about the non-functional Haitian state as the country struggles to rebuild, they forget how large a role the “international community” has had in destroying the Haitian government even before the earthquake demolished most of what was left of it. The reconstruction of Haiti will need a legitimate, functioning state. This will require a process of consensus-building among the country’s most important political constituencies. This process will, therefore, have to include Aristide and his political party, Fanmi Lavalas, which remains the most popular party in the country.

Washington and its allies – including Brazil, which heads up the UN occupation force – must now accept this reality. Haiti cannot be ruled through violence, as it has been for most of the past century. Aristide, as the country’s first legitimate president, was able to eliminate 98% of Haiti’s political violence – mostly by abolishing Haiti’s murderous army. By contrast, after each coup (1991 and 2004) that overthrew his government, thousands of Haitians were murdered.

That is the choice going forward: a legitimate government or a violent government.

So far, the international community does not appear to be much concerned about establishing a legitimate government. Fanmi Lavalas was arbitrarily excluded from the first round (28 November) of Haiti’s presidential election, in which a record three quarters of the electorate did not vote. Then, Washington and its allies forced the government to change the results of the first round of the election, eliminating the government candidate and leaving only two rightwing candidates in the race.

Haiti today is an occupied country, with almost no legitimate authority. United Nations troops police the country, and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) provide most basic services, which are severely inadequate. More than a year after the earthquake, there has been little progress in removing rubble, or providing adequate shelter or sanitation for more than one million people displaced. And Haiti faces another rainy season beginning next month. Humanitarian needs are dire.

The situation in Haiti is potentially explosive, and it is not because, as the US state department argues, Aristide might return before the election. Rather, it is because they have denied Haitians their right to self-government, and continue to do so. Aristide has been Haiti’s only national political leader for the past two decades, and his party the country’s largest political party. It is long past time that the international community recognised that reality, rather than trying to exclude them from the political process through intimidation and violence.”



Manifest Haiti: Monsanto’s Destiny

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2011 at 1:52 pm

 

Rural Haitian farmers gathered in Papaye, June 4, 2010. Many wore straw hats reading, "Aba Monsanto - down with Monsanto and Aba Preval - down with Preval.

 

Oldspeak:”The things Monsanto’s “Terminator Seed” and other “Genetically Modified Organisms” claimed to be “food” are good for: Agricultural slavery, engendering disease, chemical poisoning and destruction of  soil and anything that consumes what grows out of said soil, poverty, debt, reduced biodiversity. Haitians have demonstrated no desire to use Monsanto’s products; burning donated seeds in protest. Yet Monsanto continues to push their toxic waste via the Foreign controlled Haitian Government on Haitian farmers under the guise of “Disaster Relief.” No funds released for reconstruction or reconstituting sustainable native controlled farming, just a flood of  toxic, edible, “Colateralized Debt Obligations”.

From Ryan Stock @ Truthout:

Let It Burn

“A fabulous Easter gift,” commented Monsanto Director of Development Initiatives Elizabeth Vancil. Nearly 60,000 seed sacks of hybrid corn seeds and other vegetable seeds were donated to post-earthquake Haiti by Monsanto. In observance of World Environment Day, June 4, 2010, roughly 10,000 rural Haitian farmers gathered in Papaye to march seven kilometers to Hinche in celebration of this gift. Upon arrival, these rewarded farmers took their collective Easter baskets of more than 400 tons of vegetable seeds and burned them all.[i] “Long live the native maize seed!” they chanted in unison. “Monsanto’s GMO [genetically modified organism] & hybrid seed violate peasant agriculture!”

According to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, coordinator of the Papay Peasant Movement (MPP), “there is presently a shortage of seed in Haiti because many rural families used their maize seed to feed refugees.”[ii] Like any benevolent disaster capitalist corporation, Monsanto extended a hand in a time of crisis to the 65 percent of the population that survives off of subsistence agriculture. But not just any hand was extended in this time of great need, rather: a fistful of seeds. The extended fist was full of corn seeds, one of Haiti’s staple crops, treated with the fungicide Maxim XO. With similar benevolence, not just any tomato seeds were donated to the agrarian peasants, but tomato seeds treated with Thiram, a chemical so toxic the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled it too toxic to sell for home garden use, further mandating that any agricultural worker planting these seeds must wear special protective clothing.[iii] Happy Easter! Monsanto’s web site’s official explanation for this toxic donation is that “fungicidal seed treatments are often applied to seeds prior to planting to protect them from fungal diseases that arise in the soil and hamper the plant’s ability to germinate and grow. The treatments also provide protection against diseases the seed might pick up in transfer between countries.”[iv] However, according to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet, “repeated exposure [to Thiram] can affect the kidneys, liver and thyroid gland. High or repeated exposure may damage the nerves.”[v] Why would Monsanto be so eager to donate seeds that could potentially compromise the health of so many famished people?

“The Haitian government is using the earthquake to sell the country to the multinationals!” stated Jean-Baptiste. Welcome to the new earthquake.

“[It’s] a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds … and on what is left of our environment in Haiti.” – Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, executive director of the Peasant Movement of Papay.

A Brief History of Violence

Monsanto is also responsible for other life-changing inventions, such as the crowd-pleasing Agent Orange. The Vietnamese government claims that it killed or disabled 400,000 Vietnamese people, and 500,000 children were born with birth defects due to exposure to this deadly chemical.[vi] Up until 2000, Monsanto was also the main manufacturer of aspartame, which researchers in Europe concluded, “could have carcinogenic effects.”  In a rare demonstration of social justice, in 2005, Monsanto was found guilty by the US government of bribing high-level Indonesian officials to legalize genetically-modified cotton. A year earlier in Brazil, Monsanto sold a farm to a senator for one-third of its value in exchange for his work to legalize glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide.[vii] In Colombia, Monsanto has received $25 million from the US government for providing its trademark herbicide, Roundup Ultra, in the anti-drug fumigation efforts of Plan Colombia. Roundup Ultra is a highly concentrated version of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide, with additional ingredients to increase its lethality. Colombian communities and human rights organizations have charged that the herbicide has destroyed food crops, water sources and protected areas and has led to increased incidents of birth defects and cancer.

With more than 11.7 billion dollars in sales in 2009 and more than 650 biotechnology patents – most of them for cotton, corn and soy – Monsanto is an economic powerhouse. Nine out of ten soybean seeds in the US are also linked to Monsanto. Together with Syngenta, Dupont and Bayer, Monsanto controls more than half the world’s seeds with no effective anti-trust oversight. One of the world’s most powerful corporations, Monsanto teamed up with United Parcel Service to have the 60,000 hybrid seed sacks transported to their intended destination for Easter 2010 in its drive to trickle down some good to the little guys. Distributing Monsanto’s seeds on this auspicious occasion was a $127 million project funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), called “Winner,” designed to promote “agricultural intensification.”[viii] According to Monsanto, the original decision to donate seeds was made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,[ix] unbeknownst to Haiti.

“Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible.” -Monsanto’s former motto.

The genetically-modified seeds such as those donated and later immolated, cannot be saved from year to year. Some so-called terminator seeds – the DNA of which is altered so as to not drop seed after harvest – require the farmer to buy new seeds from Monsanto the following year in a legally binding contract, instead of collecting the seeds that would have naturally developed on the plant before its DNA was modified. Other GMO seed which do drop fertile seed may not be replanted by contract. Diminished yields, health problems and weakened prospects to buy the next season’s seeds in consequence of and combined with that binding contract with Monsanto have driven many rural farmers to poverty, and subsequently led to a rash of farmer suicides in rural India. Since 1997, more than 182,936 Indian farmers have committed suicide, according to a recent study by the National Crime Records Bureau.[x]“As seed saving is prevented by patents as well as by the engineering of seeds with non-renewable traits, seed has to be bought for every planting season by poor peasants. A free resource available on farms became a commodity which farmers were forced to buy every year. This increases poverty and leads to indebtedness. As debts increase and become unpayable, farmers are compelled to sell kidneys or even commit suicide,” Indian author Vandana Shiva noted in her 2004 article “The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation.”[xi]

Foreign farmers are not the only ones affected by these product features and associated business practices. As of 2007, Monsanto had filed 112 lawsuits against US farmers for alleged technology contract violations on GMO patents, involving 372 farmers and 49 small agricultural businesses in 27 different states. From these, Monsanto has won more than $21.5 million in judgments. In estimates based on Monsanto’s own documents and media reports, the multinational corporation appears to investigate 500 farmers a year.[xii] “Farmers have been sued after their field was contaminated by pollen or seed from someone else’s genetically engineered crop [or] when genetically engineered seed from a previous year’s crop has sprouted, or ‘volunteered,’ in fields planted with non-genetically engineered varieties the following year,” said Andrew Kimbrell and Joseph Mendelson of the Center for Food Safety.[xiii] A Monsanto seed will often magically appear in an ordinarily organic field, giving Monsanto grounds for an onerous lawsuit that will eventually lead to the complete occupation of the innocent farm.

Nothing New Under the Caribbean Sun

Jean-Robert Estimé, who served as Foreign Minister during the murderous Duvalier dictatorships, is Monsanto’s representative in Haiti,[xiv] and refuses to acknowledge his involvement in furthering the impoverishment of his own people. However, Monsanto’s “Manifest Destiny”-like intentions for Haiti are hardly anything new. Many Haitians consider Monsanto’s seed donation to be part of a broader strategy of US economic and political imperialism. Haiti’s agricultural sector has already been decimated by United States’ interference once. Jean Bertrande Aristide was overthrown by a coup supported by the US government in 1991. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund collectively decided that if he were to return to power, a condition upon his return would be that he open the country to free trade. Shortly thereafter, the tariffs on rice fell from 35 percent to 3 percent and the money that was originally reserved for agricultural development went into paying off the country’s external debt. Under the Clinton White House, the Haitian market was flooded with subsidized rice from Arkansas. Since then, almost all of Haiti’s rice is imported and subsequently, much of that local knowledge and expertise of rice cultivation is lost.[xv]

Food Sovereignty, Not Agricultural Slavery

As the new earthquake continues to shake, this seemingly benevolent donation of vegetable seeds will forever change the paradigm of Haitian agriculture and thus lead to its further dependence on seeds that poison both the soil they are grown in and the bodies that consume them and that create financial dependency on the biotechnology firm Monsanto. “Our people will never be autonomous if Haiti has to suffer through what is called generosity, but makes us dependent on corporate control in agricultural production,” said Catherine Thélémaque of Action SOS Haiti in Montreal.[xvi] Agroecologists Ivette Perfecto and John Vandermeer, at the University of Michigan, have recently published a study showing that sustainable, small-scale farming is more efficient at conserving and increasing biodiversity and forests than industrial agriculture.[xvii] With less than 1 percent of its original forest coverage remaining, Haiti cannot gamble on the disastrous environmental effects of hybridized industrial monoculture to feed its many hungry. “If the US government truly wants to help Haiti, it would help the Haitians to build food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture, based on their own native seed and access to land and credit. That is the way to help Haiti,” says Dena Hoff, a diversified organic farmer in Montana and member of Via Campesina’s International Coordinating Committee.

The Impending Storm

In his 1780 History of European Colonization, Guillame Raynal remarked that there were signs of an “impending storm.”[xviii] This storm erupted into a full-fledged monsoon on August 22, 1791, when Dutty Boukman sounded the conch shell and the slaves of Saint Domingue rose in revolt against the French imperialists. Under the leadership of Touissant L’Overture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the slave rebels overthrew the imperialist occupation of Napoleon Bonaparte and in 1804, Haiti was declared a free republic. Lest we forget the lessons of history, we cannot discount the power of unity. Much as Napoleon himself did, a tyrannical corporation such as Monsanto exports poverty, would keep the people as agricultural slaves and must be resisted. It’s time for Boukman to sound his conch once more: La liberté ou la mort!

Footnotes:

i. Bell, Beverly. “Haitian farmers commit to burning Monsanto hybrid seed.” Huffington Post, May 17, 2010.

ii. La Via Campesina, “Haitian peasants march against Monsanto Company for food and seed sovereignty,” June 16,2010.

iii. Extension Toxicology Network, Pesticide Information Project of the Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University and University of California at Davis.

iv. Veihman, Mica. “Five Answers on Monsanto’s Haiti Seed Donation,” Beyond the Rows, May 20, 2010.

v. New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. “Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet.”

vi. MSNBC, “Study Finds Link Between Agent Orange, Cancer,” January 23, 2004, The Globe and Mail, “Last Ghost of the Vietnam War,” June 12, 2008.

vii. Kenfield, Isabella, “Monsanto’s seed of corruption in Brazil.” North American Congress on Latin America, October 16, 2010.

viii. PR Newswire. “Monsanto Company Donates Conventional Maizeand Vegetable Seed to Haitian Farmers to Help Address Food Security Needs,” May 13, 2010.

ix. Monsanto Company, “Monsanto donates maizeand vegetable seed to Haiti.” Monsanto Blog, May 13, 2010.

x. Shiva, Vandana, “The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation.” ZNet, February 19, 2004.

xi. Chopra, Anuj, “Debt drives farmers to suicide.” The National, January 20, 2009.

xii. Center for Food Safety, “Monsanto vs. US Farmers,” Nov. 2007.

xiii. Andrew Kimbrell and Joseph Mendelson, “Monsanto vs. US Farmers,” Center for Food Safety, 2005.

xiv. Urfie, Fr. Jean-Yves, “A new earthquake hits Haiti: Monsanto’s deadly gift of 475 tons of genetically-modified seed to Haitian farmers.” Global Research. Canada. May 11, 2010.

xv. Holt-Gimenez, Eric. “Haiti: roots of liberty, roots of disaster.” Huffington Post, January 21 2010.

xvi. Organic Consumers Association. “Canadian Groups Support Haitian Rejection of Monsanto’s Seed Donation,” June 3, 2010.

xvii. University of Michigan. “SNRE Professor Perfecto co-authors PNAS paper on family farms, biodiversity and food production.” Ann Arbor, Michigan,February 22, 2010.

xviii. Center and Hunt, “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity,” 119.

Author’s Note:

I regret some inaccuracies included in this article, and attempt to correct them here:

In speaking with a representative from the Peasant Movement of Papay’s office in Brooklyn New York, I learned the particular peasants mentioned in this article initially burned several pounds of seeds in protest of Monsanto, though have yet to burn all of the seeds in their entirety. This initial seed burning was mainly symbolic, and used to bolster a movement against the agribusiness multinational.

Monsanto donated its hybrid and GMO seeds to the Haitian government, which then attempted to sell the seeds to Haitian farmers. Monsanto did not donate the seeds to the peasant farmers themselves. I was told by MPP’s representative that many of the seeds were not planted in the Central Plateau, where the protest took place. Only very few of the seeds were planted in the Port-au-Prince area. As many of the seeds are “terminator seeds”, the question remains whether they will still be suitable for planting during this year’s planting season.

For more information regarding the Peasant Movement of Papay, please visit their official website at: http://www.mpphaiti.org/



Haiti’s 1.3 Million Camp Dwellers Waiting in Vain, Despite Massive NGO Apparatus On The Ground

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2010 at 10:34 am

 

Hundreds of displaced Haitians live in make-shift homes outside Gheskio Field Hospital, located on Quisqueya University grounds, near Port-au-Prince

 

Oldspeak: “In 70 percent of Haiti’s refugee camps, the residents are on their own. Apart from water deliveries, they get nothing from the government and the massive humanitarian apparatus on the ground. No food. No jobs. And no news about their future. In the meantime, camp dwellers are getting impatient. 21-year-old Marie Lucie Martel, has a message for the NGOs “making tonnes of money, driving expensive rental cars.” “If they don’t take care of us, we will revolt. They won’t be able to drive down this highway. They will call us violent – they will call us all kinds of names. But we are being forced to do this, because ‘hungry dogs don’t play around’,” she warned”

From International Press Service:

GRAND GOÂVE, Oct 15 (IPS) – Rosie Benjamin is just one of over 1.3 million people living in Haiti’s 1,354 squalid refugee camps. She and 1,200 others are jammed into 300 tents and plastic tarp-shacks on a soccer field in Grand Goâve.

“We went to City Hall, we didn’t learn anything. We went to Terre des Hommes, nothing,” Banjamin said. “So far we haven’t gotten anything. Nothing. We are sitting here and we have no idea what anyone is thinking.”

Benjamin and her neighbours live on money from relatives overseas, share what food they have, and every now and then a non-governmental organisation (NGO) drops off some bulgar wheat and vegetable oil, but that’s about it. Some of the children – many of whom will likely not go to school this year – even have orange-tinted hair.

Asked about that obvious sign of malnutrition and other conditions, Deborah Hyde, a member of the U.N. “Shelter Cluster” – a U.N.-mandated management team tasked with trying to coordinate the NGOs working on the shelter issue – said that in March, most food distributions stopped because, she said, the Haitian government requested that the NGOs cease the handouts.

Besides, she added, “[M]alnutrition is unfortunately something that has been here since the 1980s.”

Hyde said that she felt some camp residents actually had a place to live, or could find one. Instead, they stay because, she said, “to be perfectly frank, are afraid they will miss a [food or aid] distribution.”

But Benjamin and her neighbours say nothing could be further from the truth. Some camp residents are homeowners but they do not have the means to destroy their hulk of a home, truck away the rubble, and rebuild. Others are renters. Benjamin, like almost two-thirds of Haiti’s homeless, rented her home. That means that she can’t move her family back home until her landlord makes repairs.

Benjamin said nobody is in her camp by choice. And no wonder – recent reports document increasing expulsions, gang activity and sexual exploitation, unsanitary conditions and putrid, inadequate latrines.

And so, despite the massive flow of donations – from citizens and governments – to humanitarian agencies, nine months after the catastrophic earthquake which killed some 300,000 people and devastated the capital and other major cities, most of Haiti’s “internally displaced people” are exactly where they were on Jan. 13: crammed into cardboard, canvas and plastic shantytowns, exposed to hot sun and to the frequent downpours and storms of Haiti’s infamous “rainy season”.

Last month, a storm touched down in the capital Port-au- Prince, killing six people and destroying 8,000 tents.

The apparent stagnation of resettlement efforts has led camp residents like Benjamin to assume there is no plan for the internal refugees.

But there is.

A three-week investigation by a new “reconstruction watch” effort, Ayiti Kale Je/Haiti Grassroots Watch, unearthed one. Unfortunately for Benjamin and her neighbours, however, it is a plan that is unlikely to succeed.

Crafted by U.N. agencies and the NGOs, the plan has three options:

• Return homeless to their neighbourhoods of origin, but into better-built and better-zoned houses;

• Convince some to move to the countryside;

• Put the rest in new housing developments on new land.

On paper – Haiti Grassroots Watch obtained the Oct. 5 draft of the “Strategy of Return and Resettlement”, translated from French – the plan seems sound. Put families into safe “transitional shelters” or T-Shelters – wooden or plastic houses – while more permanent, earthquake-safe structures go up in properly planned rebuilt or new neighbourhoods.

But there are many challenges, including the fact that so far, the government hasn’t officially bought into it.

Shelter Cluster Coordinator Gehard Tauscher said the lack of coordination and participation at the national level is a real roadblock, noting he wished “all layers of the government would come together and speak with one voice.”

“I wish they would lock up all of the people in a nice place for a weekend – the U.N., the agency people and the national government – and not let them out until they make decisions,” he said.

There are so many other obstacles, almost every step of the plan appears difficult, if not nearly impossible, to implement.

Take the T-Shelters, for example. First of all, there are over 300,000 families who need safe shelters. The agencies and NGOs are planning to build only 135,000. What about the other 165,000 families? And where will the shelters be put?

That’s not an insurmountable challenge. NGOs can try to negotiate leases for families like Benjamin’s. But but who will pay the lease?

That leads to another – Haiti’s “land problem”.

Haiti’s land tenure system is “a bordello… a complete disorder that has been going on for 200 years,” according to Bernard Etheart, director of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform.

Ever since Haiti’s independence, dictators have stolen, sold or given land to their families and allies. Many “owners” do not have titles to prove their ownership, while some parcels have two or three “owners”, all with “legal” papers.

Added to the land issue is another roadblock – quite literally. There are an estimated 20 to 30 million cubic tonnes of rubble around the capital and Haiti’s smaller affected cities that experts say will take years to clear.

In its three-article series, Haiti Grassroots Watch ran through the plan and pointed out the challenges, concluding that the problem of Haiti’s 1.3 million homeless can’t be dealt with until the underlying structural issues are tackled.

Dr. Paul Farmer, the U.N. Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti and also co-founder of Partners in Health, put it this way: “[W]hat happened on Jan. 12 is aptly described as an ‘acute- on-chronic’ event.”

Sanon Renel of FRAKKA, the Front for Reflection and Action on the Housing Issue, a coalition of camp committees and human rights groups that advocates for the right to housing, echoed Farmer.

“The NGOs don’t have a solution to the country’s problems. We need more than a short-term solution. We need another kind of state – a state that serves the majority,” he said.

In the meantime, camp dwellers are getting impatient. Benjamin’s neighbour, 21-year-old Marie Lucie Martel, said she was tired of seeing the NGOs “making tonnes of money, driving expensive rental cars”.

“I have a message for the government and all the NGOs. If they don’t take care of us, we will revolt. They won’t be able to drive down this highway. They will call us violent – they will call us all kinds of names. But we are being forced to do this, because ‘hungry dogs don’t play around’,” she warned.

*Read the complete series, see accompanying videos and listen to audio podcasts at Haiti Grassroots Watch – http://www.haitigrassrootswatch.org. Ayiti Kale Je (Haiti Eyes Peeled, in Creole), Haiti Grassroots Watchin English and Haïti Veedor (Haiti Watcher in Spanish), is a collaboration of two well-known Haitian grassroots media organisations, Groupe Medialternatif/Alterpresse (http://www.alterpresse.org/) and the Society for the Animation of Social Communication (SAKS – http://www.saks- haiti.org/), along with two networks – the network of women community radio broadcasters (REFRAKA) and the Association of Haitian Community Media (AMEKA), which is comprised of community radio stations located throughout the country.


Wyclef Jean Resigns From Embattled Charity, Prepares To Formally Announce Candidacy For President

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Oldspeak:”Wow this shit is really gonna happen. They’re relaxing constitutional rules to let this dude run. Curiously enough, no mention of the twice illegally deposed, duly elected President Aristide chillin in S. Africa, courtesy of the U.S. Government. Business as usual looks to be restored in Haiti, the will of the people ignored as they’re exploited for their cheap labor.”

From Johnathan Katz @ The Associated Press:

Wyclef Jean has stepped down as leader of the embattled aid group he founded as he prepares to formally declare his candidacy for the Haitian presidency.
The singer released a statement that he was resigning the chairmanship of Yele Haiti effective immediately Thursday.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-raised entertainer was headed to his native Haiti and was expected to officially file his election papers Thursday afternoon at the provisional electoral council in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

“I am not stepping down in my commitment to Haiti. On the contrary, regardless of what path I take next, one thing is certain: My focus on helping Haiti turn a new corner will only grow stronger,” Jean said in the statement.

Businessman Derek Q. Johnson will take up the helm of the organization.

Jean helped found Yele Haiti five years ago to raise money and build awareness of the myriad problems in his impoverished homeland. It raised $9 million in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed a government-estimated 300,000 people. Of that, it has spent $1.5 million on food, water, tents, clothes and other products for quake survivors, Jean spokeswoman Cindy Tanenbaum said.

The organization — named for one of the former Fugee member’s songs — often worked in partnership with the United Nations and other agencies to implement its programs, lending its name and Jean’s cache to help raise funds.

But Yele came under criticism when post-quake scrutiny revealed alleged improprieties including that it had paid Jean to perform at fundraising events and bought advertising air time from a television station he co-owns.

Jean tearfully defended the organization in a news conference weeks after the quake. Yele also hired a new accounting firm after the allegations surfaced.

On Wednesday, The Smoking Gun website posted documents online indicating Jean personally owes $2.1 million in back taxes to the U.S. government.

Tanenbaum declined to comment on the new allegations.

Jean was en route to Haiti and could not immediately be reached. From aboard a private plane he posted on Twitter: “Taking off on my way to Haiti me and my family About to make the biggest decision of our life (sic).”

It was accompanied by what appeared to be a camera photo of him in a shirt and tie, seated in a leather chair and reading a newspaper.

Numerous candidates are expected to seek the presidency in Haiti’s Nov. 28 election, from those representing small factions, towns and pockets of the diaspora to former heads of government. They have until Saturday to register.

Among the most formidable contestants will be ousted ex-Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis, who secured the backing of President Rene Preval’s powerful Unity party this week. Preval is barred from running by the constitution.

All candidates must be approved by an eight-member, presidentially approved electoral council that will verify constitutional requirements including having resided in Haiti for five consecutive years leading up to the election and never having held foreign citizenship.

The residency requirement could put Jean’s candidacy in jeopardy from the start. The singer — whose age was until recently listed as 37 but whose brother said this week he is 40 — left Haiti as a child and lives primarily in the United States.

In an interview this week with The Associated Press, the brother said advisers believe he will be excused from the requirement because he has held a formal, at-large Haitian ambassadorship since 2007.

Wyclef Jean For President Of Haiti? Look Beyond The Hype.

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2010 at 11:10 am

Wyclef Jean holds a Haitian flag as he considers running for president of Haiti. Beware! Wyclef is Haitian, but he is no friend of the Haitian people as a whole, who remain loyal to President Aristide.

Oldspeak: “Wow. Wyclef Jean is kind of a anti-democratic douchbag.  Wyclef Jean supported the 2004 coup. When gun-running former army and death squad members trained by the CIA were overrunning Haiti’s north on Feb. 25, 2004, MTV’s Gideon Yago wrote, “Wyclef Jean voiced his support for Haitian rebels on Wednesday, calling on embattled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to step down and telling his fans in Haiti to ‘keep their head up’ as the country braces itself for possible civil war. Jean and his uncle, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., are both cozy with the self-appointed czar of Haiti, Bill Clinton, whose plans for the Caribbean nation are to make it a neo-colony for a reconstructed tourist industry and a pool of cheap labor for U.S. factories. Wyclef Jean is the perfect front man. The Haitian elite and its U.S./U.N. sponsors are counting on his appeal to the youth to derail the people’s movement for democracy and their call for the return of President Aristide.”

From Charlie Hinton @ The San Francisco Bay View

To cut to the chase, no election in Haiti, and no candidate in those elections, will be considered legitimate by the majority of Haiti’s population, unless it includes the full and fair participation of the Fanmi Lavalas Party of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Fanmi Lavalas is unquestionably the most popular party in the country, yet the “international community,” led by the United States, France and Canada, has done everything possible to undermine Aristide and Lavalas, overthrowing him twice by military coups in 1991 and 2004 and banishing Aristide, who now lives in South Africa with his family, from the Americas.

A United Nations army, led by Brazil, still occupies Haiti six years after the coup. Their unstated mission, under the name of “peacekeeping,” is to suppress the popular movement and prevent the return to power of Aristide’s Lavalas Party. One must understand a Wyclef Jean candidacy, first of all, in this context.

Every election since a 67 percent majority first brought Aristide to power in 1990 has demonstrated the enormous popularity of the Lavalas movement. When Lavalas could run, they won overwhelmingly. In 2006, when security conditions did not permit them to run candidates, they voted and demonstrated to make sure Rene Preval, a former Lavalas president, was re-elected.

Preval, however, turned against those who voted for him. He scheduled elections for 12 Senate seats in 2009 and supported the Electoral Council’s rejection of all Lavalas candidates. Lavalas called for a boycott, and as few as 3 percent of Haitians voted, with fewer than 1 percent voting in the runoff, once again demonstrating the people’s love and respect for President Aristide

Fanmi Lavalas has already been banned from the next round of elections, so enter Wyclef Jean. Jean comes from a prominent Haitian family that has virulently opposed Lavalas since the 1990 elections. His uncle is Raymond Joseph – also a rumored presidential candidate – who became Haitian ambassador to the United States under the coup government and remains so today. Kevin Pina writes in “It’s not all about that! Wyclef Jean is fronting in Haiti,” Joseph is “the co-publisher of Haiti Observateur, a right-wing rag that has been an apologist for the killers in the Haitian military going back as far as the brutal coup against Aristide in 1991.

“On Oct. 26 [2004] Haitian police entered the pro-Aristide slum of Fort Nationale and summarily executed 13 young men. Wyclef Jean said nothing. On Oct. 28 the Haitian police executed five young men, babies really, in the pro-Aristide slum of Bel Air. Wyclef said nothing. If Wyclef really wants to be part of Haiti’s political dialogue, he would acknowledge these facts. Unfortunately, Wyclef is fronting.”

As if to prove it, the Miami Herald reported on Feb. 28, 2010, “Secret polling by foreign powers in search of a new face to lead Haiti’s reconstruction …” might favor Jean’s candidacy, as someone with sufficient name recognition who could draw enough votes to overcome another Lavalas electoral boycott.

Wyclef Jean supported the 2004 coup. When gun-running former army and death squad members trained by the CIA were overrunning Haiti’s north on Feb. 25, 2004, MTV’s Gideon Yago wrote, “Wyclef Jean voiced his support for Haitian rebels on Wednesday, calling on embattled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to step down and telling his fans in Haiti to ‘keep their head up’ as the country braces itself for possible civil war.”

During the Obama inaugural celebration, Jean famously and perversely serenaded Colin Powell, the Bush administration secretary of state during the U.S. destabilization campaign and eventual coup against Aristide, with Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”

Jean also produced the movie, “The Ghosts of Cite Soleil,” an anti-Aristide and Lavalas hit piece, which tells us that President Aristide left voluntarily, without mention of his kidnapping by the U.S. military, and presents the main coup leaders in a favorable light. It features interviews with sweatshop owners Andy Apaid and Charles Henry Baker without telling us they hate Aristide because he raised the minimum wage and sought to give all Haitians a seat at the table by democratizing Haiti’s economy, a program opposed by the rich in Haiti.

It uncritically interviews coup leader Louis Jodel Chamblain, without telling us he worked with the Duvalier dictatorship’s brutal militia, the Tonton Macoutes, in the 1980s; that following the coup against Aristide in 1991, he was the “operations guy” for the FRAPH paramilitary death squad, accused of murdering uncounted numbers of Aristide supporters and introducing gang rape into Haiti as a military weapon.

Wyclef Jean’s movie, “The Ghosts of Cite Soleil,” an anti-Aristide and Lavalas hit piece, features interviews with sweatshop owners Andy Apaid and Charles Henry Baker without telling us they hate Aristide because he raised the minimum wage and sought to give all Haitians a seat at the table by democratizing Haiti’s economy, a program opposed by the rich in Haiti.

It uncritically interviews coup leader Guy Phillipe, without telling us he’s a former Haitian police chief who was trained by U.S. Special Forces in Ecuador in the early 1990s or that the U.S. embassy admitted that Phillipe was involved in the transhipment of narcotics, one of the key sources of funds for paramilitary attacks on the poor in Haiti.

Wyclef runs the Yele Haiti Foundation, which the Washington Post reported on Jan. 16, 2010, is under fiscal scrutiny because “(i)t seems clear that a significant amount of the monies that this charity raises go for costs other than providing benefits to Haitians in need … In 2006, Yele Haiti had about $1 million in revenue, according to tax documents. More than a third of the money went to payments to related parties, said lawyer James Joseph … (T)he charity recorded a payment of $250,000 to Telemax, a TV station and production company in Haiti in which Jean and Jerry Duplessis, both members of Yele Haiti’s board of directors, had a controlling interest. The charity paid about $31,000 in rent to Platinum Sound, a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and Duplessis. And it spent an additional $100,000 for Jean’s performance at a benefit concert in Monaco.” A foundation spokesperson “said the group hopes to spend a higher percentage of its budget on services as it gains experience.”

PLEASE SPREAD THE NEWS: “WYCLEF JEAN IS NOT A FRIEND OF THE PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT OF HAITI.” The floating of his candidacy is just one more effort by the international forces, desperate to put a smiley face on a murderous military occupation, to undermine the will of the Haitian majority by making Wyclef Jean the Ronald Reagan of Haiti.

The floating of his candidacy is just one more effort by the international forces, desperate to put a smiley face on a murderous military occupation, to undermine the will of the Haitian majority by making Wyclef Jean the Ronald Reagan of Haiti.

Let us be clear. Jean and his uncle, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., are both cozy with the self-appointed czar of Haiti, Bill Clinton, whose plans for the Caribbean nation are to make it a neo-colony for a reconstructed tourist industry and a pool of cheap labor for U.S. factories. Wyclef Jean is the perfect front man. The Haitian elite and its U.S./U.N. sponsors are counting on his appeal to the youth to derail the people’s movement for democracy and their call for the return of President Aristide. Most Haitians will not be hoodwinked by the likes of Wyclef Jean.

Charlie Hinton is a member of the Haiti Action Committee and works at Inkworks Press, a worker owned and managed printing company in Berkeley. He may be reached atch_lifewish@yahoo.com

A Second Slave Rebellion In Haiti: What’s The Worth Of A Haitian Child?

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Tens of thousands of children left abandoned and orphaned since the earthquake are at risk of becoming slaves. (Photo: Tory Field)

Oldspeak:”It is telling that four new free enterprise zones have been created since the earthquake. Both Bill Clinton, who is the special envoy to Haiti from the U.N., and Hillary Clinton, of course in her role as Secretary of State, have said that the assembly industry is the linchpin of the reconstruction plan. And yet the sweat shop workers earn $3.09 a day, which is not a livable wage, work in often terrible conditions, and are forced to live in terrible conditions as well. Many of the people who died in the earthquake were sweatshop workers who could not afford better housing than temporary makeshift structures that were on top of each other, that were on the sides of hills, that were completely unstable, which is why up to 300,000 people died during this earthquake. So, to base a reconstruction plan on the expansion of an economic sector that already has failed the people, and which is based on transient capital that can and will pick up at any given moment to move to where jobs are cheaper, is not a good solution for Haiti.”

From  Beverly Bell & Tory Field @ Truthout:

One of the many effects of poverty in Haiti is that desperate parents regularly give away their children in the hope that the new family will feed and educate the children better than they themselves can. Instead, the children usually end up as child slaves, or restavèk. In a country which overthrew slavery in 1804, today anywhere from 225,000 to 300,000 children live in forced servitude.[1] They work from before sunup to after sundown, are often sexually and physically abused and usually go underfed and uneducated. (For more information, see “Slavery in Haiti, Again.”)

The numbers are soon likely to explode due to the hundreds of thousands of children left orphaned or abandoned by the earthquake. Guerda Constant with Fondasyon Limyè Lavi, the Light of Life Foundation, an organization dedicated to ending the child bondage system, said, “I can’t figure out what kind of future this country will have with so many kids in the street right now, without parents.”

Guerda’s organization is among a small, but growing network, which is committed to abolishing slavery and to ensuring that all Haitian children receive love, care and education. Many strategies are at work towards these ends.

The first is to get the government to pass a law prohibiting child slavery and prosecuting those who keep slaves. Haitian law outlaws forced labor, but restavèk labor is, in practice, condoned. It is not investigated, prosecuted or punished.[2] A June 2009 UN press release concerning restavèk noted the “absence of comprehensive legislation protecting the rights of the child” and “the weakness of the judicial system in ensuring prosecution, fair trail and adequate punishment of perpetrators.”[3]

A bill which would outlaw trafficking of adults and children, both across the border and within the country, has been in the hands of the Parliament for some time. The International Organization for Migration and other organizations worked with the government to ensure that the language of the bill met international norms. But the bill has not yet been voted on and the Parliament has been inactive since it turned power over to an international commission in mid-April.

Guerda said, “It’s important that the government make a political decision on this situation. We need a law and a national plan [of implementation]. Then many NGOs who want to work on child protection in Haiti could know what to do and how to do it.”

And Malya Villard, co-coordinator of the Commission of Women Victim to Victim (KOFAVIV), a children’s and women’s rights organization, said, “Everyone who does violence against a girl or a child should be judged and condemned. We have to have a state that has justice so it can put an end to this. If the state doesn’t take responsibility, nothing will change.”

A second strategy includes educating parents about exactly what may happen to the children they give away. Helia Lajeunesse, a rights advocate with KOFAVIV, says, “We encourage parents in the countryside who think they’re doing their child a favor to do everything within their means not to give their child into servitude.”

A third strategy is to change national awareness about the rights of children, which are not universally recognized in Haiti. Malya said, “Children are an object, garbage, for many people.”

Today in Port-au-Prince, a few billboards sponsored by national and international organizations show cartoons of a sad little girl scrubbing a floor; a thought bubble above her head shows her merrily headed to school. Last May, the Restavèk Freedom Foundation hosted a national “I am Haiti Too” conference, which brought together more than 500 people, the largest such meeting to date.

One level at which the awareness campaign operates is with the families who have restavèk in their homes. The Restavèk Freedom Foundation, for example, hosts meetings to dialog with families who keep restavèk about their treatment of the children, challenging the assumptions that many of them grew up with.

Another level of awareness raising is happening within communities, encouraging members to involve themselves in the children’s well-being. Helia explained KOFAVIV’s work in this regard. “We’re getting neighbors to know they have a responsibility. We say, if you hear someone beating a child in their home, go tell them to stop. Tell them, ‘This is a human being and you need to treat them well.’ When we can’t confront the person directly because we’re worried about what will happen to the child as a result, we put a tape recorder outside the violator’s window to record them beating the child, then we take that tape to the radio station. The family hears it on the radio and hopefully gets ashamed and gets a different level of understanding about its treatment of the child.

“We’re seeing people change the way they’re treating restavèkchildren,” she said.

A fourth strategy is to work for improvement of the economy, especially in the rural areas which are home to unmitigated poverty, to undermine the incentive behind giving children away. On this issue, anti-restavèk activists are joined by peasant farmer and allied movements, which are working to prioritize rural agriculture so that small farmers can have an adequate livelihood. The movements are also calling for the decentralization of services and budgetary expenditures, in part to create good schooling for children. Although primary school is supposed to be free and compulsory, even before the earthquake, 55 percent of school-aged children were not going to school.[4] And what schooling does exist in rural areas offers notoriously poor education.

A fifth strategy involves direct intervention to nurture restavèkchildren. This not only restores wounded and neglected young victims, but also helps break the stranglehold of the system. TheRestavèk Freedom Foundation, for example, employs nine child advocates who partner and meet regularly with children, encourage the restavèk families to allow these children to go to school and finances school fees and uniforms.

Changing the national system is a painfully slow process. “We now have more people who consider child servitude a crime.” said Guerda, “But at the same time it’s like there are so many children and there are so many things we [advocates] have to do, sometimes you don’t feel like anything happens in a kid’s life.”

Yet, change is occurring, thanks to these small, but dedicated organizations. These groups are increasingly organized and united. The Down with the Restavèk System (ASR by its Creole acronym) network, born out of a 2000 conference sponsored by the Fondasyon Limyè Lavi and the US-based Beyond Borders, is one network connecting the relevant groups.

Helia said, “It’s an enormous struggle, but just like I’ve learned and am speaking out, everyone will become aware this system has to end.”

For more information and to become involved in creating a slavery-free Haiti, check out the following (partial) list of groups.
Beyond Borders (US) and Limyè Lavi Foundation (Haiti) work in partnership for a national child rights movement to demand the Haitian government take a stand against the exploitation of children. They also educate parents about the dangers of therestavèk system, mobilize and connect grassroots groups working on the issue and address the root causes: the poverty and lack of quality education in rural areas, which prompt parents to send their children away. Together, the groups have also hosted conferences, marches and, in 2008 and 2009, a National Day against Child Servitude. They also coordinate ASR.

The Commission of Women Victim to Victim (KOFAVIV) is an organization of former restavèk and rape survivors who have banded together to ensure that no child or woman ever again experience these horrors. KOFAVIV engages in advocacy; provides support to children at risk; and publicizes the brutality of the system through community meetings, trainings, public marches and media campaigns. KOFAVIV has no web site, but many articles about their work can be found in this column series.

The Restavèk Freedom Foundation, formerly the Jean Robert Cadet Restavèk Foundation, focuses on working with the families who keep restavèk to change the way they treat children and to encourage them to send the children to school. The foundation pays for the children’s education and otherwise watches over their needs and builds awareness of the problem within Haiti and globally.

6 Months Later, Haiti Still In Ruins; Aid, Housing, Not Forthcoming.

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Oldspeak: “1.9 million people displaced/homeless, no rebuilding plans to house them. 11 billion dollars in aid pledged, but less than a billion released. Very little money actually goes to Haitians, most of it  goes to the U.S. Army/Foreign Non-Gov’t Organizations. 4 “free-enterprize zones” created; touted as the key to the reconstruction plan, but  facilitate the continued exploitation of Haitians via sweatshop work for unlivable wages.”

From Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

Haiti remains a nation in ruins, six months after one of the world’s worst natural disasters killed more than 300,000 people. Thousands of bodies still lay under rubble. We begin today’s show in Port-Au-Prince outside what remains of the Montana Hotel where some 200 people died in the earthquake. We speak to Patrick Elie, a longtime Haitian democracy activist and Haiti’s former Secretary of State for Public Security.
“We are a people who can fend for ourselves,” Elie said. “We have a vision of where we want to go so we do need friends but we don’t need people to think for us or to pity us and that is probably this attitude that is playing a part in the aid not being forthcoming.”

____________________________________________________________________________________

guest:

Patrick Elie, a longtime Haitian democracy activist and Haiti’s former Secretary of State for Public Security.

____________________________________________________________________________________

AMY GOODMAN:Six months ago was just days after the earthquake, January 12, 2010. One of the worst natural disasters in history. Over 300,000 people have died. Yet, since  the earthquake in Creole, known as Terre Tremble, the earth trembled, not much has changed. Thousands of people remain under the rubble. The rubble has hardly been moved. 1.7 million people are homeless. There are more than 1300 official refugee camps. Hundreds more dotting the country. People under tarps, under tents, outside their homes on baking plateaus, waiting, waiting for something to change here in Haiti. Today we will be speaking with a human rights attorney. We will go to one of those camps. But first, we are going to speak with the former Secretary of State for Public Affairs, a longtime pro-democracy activist. We are standing in the ruins of the Montana Hotel. Just behind me, one part of that hotel that was the site of international press for many years. 111 guests died, more than 200 people were killed in the earthquake, people who worked at the hotel. Today it continues to lie in ruins. Our guest is Patrick Elie We welcome you to Democracy Now!

PATRICK ELIE: Thank you for the invitation.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you first talk about your country?

PATRICK ELIE: Yes. As you know, maybe a lot of the American public don’t know, Haiti has had a very difficult history, having emerged from slavery and colonialism through a war against the most powerful countries at the time. And since then, for a lot of its history, Haiti has been almost blockaded, or at least isolated and faced the hostility of the powerful countries of the time. On top of that, Haitian revolution after independence did not actually bring what the people of Haiti expected from it. What happened is that a minority seized most of the riches and as a consequence, the development of the country has been a very unequal. I believe Haiti is now one of the countries where you have the most social divide, is the widest, and probably as a consequence of that, the Haitian state is very weak, has always been after independence and has mostly, for the majority of Haitians, the power of [inaduible]. Haitians have never had a chance to collaborate with their state. And even though dictatorship after dictatorship took power in Haiti, what they brought was not order, but chaos. It seems like a paradox, but the Haitian system had only one objective, was for the strong man at the time and the classes that were his allies, to hold power. They didn’t care what happened on the periphery of power. And we are actually in the reconstruction, and even before that, you could say that the horrible toll of the earthquake, even though its magnitude was serious, but that toll is the result of the behavior of the Haitian state, often allied with foreign power, to disenfranchise the majority of the Haitian people and, if you want, impoverish the peasants who had no choice but to either migrate toward the DR and the Cuban cane fields when these belonged to U.S. interests, or to migrate to Port-au-Prince. And there, there was no plan to accommodate them, and the result is what you have seen, shantytown upon shantytown, no standards for building, very high population density, and that’s why when the earthquake struck we had so much damage and more than the damage, so much loss of life.

AMY GOODMAN: It wasn’t long after the Haitian earthquake there was an earthquake in Chile. It was hundreds of times stronger than the Haitian earthquake and yet hundreds of times fewer people died, less than 300 people died. In Haiti it was close to 300,000. Now I want to ask you about the aid. There has been close to $11 billion promised. Haiti hasn’t seen even 10% of that. Why is that?

PATRICK ELIE: Well, you might point to the bureaucracy of, you know, the international donors; but also I think that the weakness of the Haitian state also explains that. You see, it is a vicious circle. The powers that be—and I mean by that, the U.S., France, and Canada—but mostly the U.S., have worked over decades to weaken the Haitian state. And then now they are using this weakness as a pretense, not to free the aid or have it go through Haitian authorities. So, that 10% of aid that has been released actually, most of it did not go through the Haitian state. And I can say, even though I am not a specialist, that a lot of it went into things that were not indispensable for reconstruction. As you know, in the beginning we have 82nd Airborne being deployed around Haiti and in Haiti. These cost a lot of money and all this money, if you want to count it, is money that went to help Haiti. So, it gives you a false sense that, you know, already a lot had been done and we are not seeing the result on the ground.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re saying, less than 10% of the money was released and much of that was actually to the U.S. military?

PATRICK ELIE: A lot to the U.S. military and to the NGO’s. And this is not to disparage what the NGO’s have done here. But the lack of coordination explains a lot of the slowness of the process. Mind you, I don’t want to be too severe in my judgment, and especially I have been reading the U.S. press and as always, they’re clobbering the Haitian authorities. I am not at all saying that we have the best government. I have always said we have a state that is not only weak but apart with the nation. But on top of that, the government—or the State was weakened more by the earthquake itself because the earthquake hit not a remote part of Haiti but right smack in the middle of the administrative, political, and economic center of the country. As a result, about 17% of public servants died, ministries collapsed with all of their memory, their archives, their computers, etc. So, we are facing a pharaonic task of rebuilding. Besides, everybody in Haiti seems to agree we cannot actually rebuild Port-au-Prince as it was. So, aside from building, you have to plan again differently. This involves some heart wrenching decisions that have to be made.

AMY GOODMAN: Like?

PATRICK ELIE: Like, you know, are you going to displace people? Are you going to, for example, using eminent domain, expropriate people so they don’t live on terrain that is inherently weak. Or, are you going to, as I say, expropriate people and already, you know, the troubles are starting. Land tenure in Haiti is total chaos. This is also the result of the behavior of the Haitian elites over centuries. They appropriated land which was, especially after independence and the end of slavery which would have been common property, and they appropriated vast tracts of land, pushing the peasants—the newly freed slaves who did not want to work on the plantation system anymore—to the mountains, you know, which would also help to explain the deforestation. And now, of course, there is a lot of discussion about who owns what piece of land. And it is almost intractable to resolve that through the law. I don’t know if the Haitian state is going to be forceful enough given the size of the problem, to actually by decree, decide what is going to be done.

AMY GOODMAN: We are going to break and we will come back to this discussion. We are speaking to Patrick Elie. He is the former Minister of Public Safety here in Haiti. He is a long time pro-democracy activist. A country here, Haiti, that is still in ruins, six months after the earthquake, one of the worst natural disasters in history, killed close to three hundred thousands of people, many thousands still lie under the rubble. Most of it has not been moved. 1.7 million people are displaced. There are well over 1,300 official refugee camps, hundreds of unofficial ones. We’ll be back with Patrick Elie in a minute.

[music break]

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from ground zero, the center of the earthquake six months ago, January 12, 2010. One of the worst natural catastrophes in human history. Close to 300,000 died, 1.7 million people are displaced in the refugee camps, and where is the money? People everywhere, as we go from camp to camp is asking, where is the support? There are many NGO’s, the American Red Cross collected more than a billion dollars and people continue to ask where is the support, where is the aide, why don’t we have better homes vendees tarps and tents. They are and able population, wanting to work and move rubble. But there is no coordination, they say. We are joined by Patrick Elie, former secretary for public security here in Haiti, a longtime pro-democracy activists. In fact, Patrick Elie, where you six months ago today?

PATRICK ELIE I was having a drink with some friends. Fortunately under a very light structure. So, the house collapsed, but the structure did not because it was simply, you know, kind of like a tart, especially made of tin roof—kind of like a tarp, a tin roof and four posts. The house collapsed in not this, and that is the reason why we were not crushed because the House totally collapse.

AMY GOODMAN: Here where we are now, the Hotel Montana, the former Hotel Montana, the site of the elite hotel where the elite gathered, international press. 111 people died, who knows how many are still in the rubble. More than 200 people died all together with the workers who are here, and we are standing in its remains. Patrick Elie, you have referred to the vultures. Who do you mean?

PATRICK ELIE Well, I mean both the local who are trying to—if you want to take advantage of the situation to make money, but mostly also to the usual vultures. Whenever there is a catastrophe, there are vultures. On the grand scale like that, there are grandscale vultures. Talking about the likes of—Dyncorp, Blackwater, Halliburton—I am sure they are already laying down their plans to take as much of the loot as they can, not caring about what ever they do, what impact it will have on Haiti’s future. And whether or not we take into account whether the Haitian people themselves want. And I don’t know, if Haitians and their friend’s at the international level, can match your lobbying power of these large vultures, who are very well connected, as you know, not only in Washington but I would say internationally.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see signs of who you call these vultures, the mercenary companies that you mentioned, Dyncorp, Blackwater, Halliburton, here now?

PATRICK ELIE I am not saying I am seeing them now. But as you know, the reconstruction hasn’t started yet. That is when you will see the grabbing. But, in the first weeks after the earthquake—I almost said the coup—we saw mercenaries accompanying some NGOs and even some journalists and carrying war weapons without any kind of license from the Haitian government. It was like we were in a no-man’s land, in a open country. So, this I saw as a sign of what might come if Haitians and Haiti’s friends are not vigilant, are not watchful.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you, you mentioned the coup. The interim commission to reconstruct Haiti, known as the C-I-R-H, many people have raised concerns about, a little more than two dozen people, half Haitian but half not Haitian. It is headed by the Prime Minister of Haiti, Jean-Max Bellerive, and former President Bill Clinton. The only one with the veto power is the president, Preval.

PATRICK ELIE Preval, at the moment. But if that structure is kept, it will be the next president.

AMY GOODMAN: But the shock of people that there are—and it was originally proposed to have more foreigners than Haitians—and among those who are on the commission are people like Gary Lissad, who was the attorney for the coup leaders in the first crew against Aristide when he was deposed in 1991 to 1994 and Reginald Boulos who helped finance the coup. These are the people in the interim so-called reconstruction commission.

PATRICK ELIE Yes, this gives me pause. But you have to see in what conditions these were picked. President Preval has tried always during his second presidency to arrive at a decision with consensus. Time will tell whether this was the right approach. But of course, this worries me personally because, as you know, I have been involved with Haitian politics for many years now and I’ve met some of these people. By the way, in the name of truth, I should say that Mr. Lissad, after being the lawyer of the first coup makers, then became President Aristide’s Justice Minister, which is something which always shocked me.

AMY GOODMAN: And you also worked for President Aristide and now are advising presidents Preval after the earthquake?

PATRICK ELIEAfter the earthquake, even though I tried before to keep strictly my autonomy, but after the earthquake I thought that it was imperative that I help as much as I can.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is most important for people to understand right now? People who are watching and listening to and reading this broadcast all over the world?

PATRICK ELIE I think the most important thing is the resilience, the courage, and the discipline of the Haitian people. I would have given up after the earthquake given the size of the destruction, if not for the behavior of the Haitian people. And that’s what people have to understand: We are a people who can fend for ourselves. We have a vision of where we want to go. So we do need friends but we don’t need people to think for us, or to pity us. That is probably the attitude that’s playing a part in the aid not being forthcoming. Our friends, if they are friends, should trust us.

You know, people say nothing has changed. Not enough has changed after the earthquake, but some things have changed. The first days, people were living out in the streets without anything, without any type of shelter. And completely in chaos and disorder. Now camps have been organized very often by the people themselves. A lot is mentioned about the breakdown of security. After a tragedy like that, you always have some form a breakdown of security and a camp environment is not conducive to the best type of security. But, things are a lot less bad that is being described, not because of the Haitian police or because of the UNPOL or the minister, but because people have started organizing themselves and taking care of their security themselves. Since the earthquake, one thing that has given me some hope is that the movement of neighborhood committee has sprung up again, and I have been to numerous meetings, the last one Saturday, with a federation of neighborhood committee. And they are talking about precisely that, how they are going to take care of their community.

AMY GOODMAN: Patrick Elie, we are going to have to leave it there. When we come back, we will be in camp Corail. You will be hearing from the refugees themselves. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. We are in Haiti, a country still in ruins.