News and opinions on situation in Haiti
Haiti Report for February 4, 2006
The Haiti Report is a compilation and summary of events as described in Haiti and international media prepared by Konbit Pou Ayiti/KONPAY. It does not reflect the opinions of any individual or organization. This service is intended to create a better understanding of the situation in Haiti by presenting the reader with reports that provide a variety of perspectives on the situation.
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IN THIS REPORT:
worst election organized in Haiti’s recent history. That’s a scandal.”
election authorities admitted the problems exist but said they will not have time to solve them. “The Haitian people should prepare themselves to walk on election day. Unfortunately that’s the case, we are not going to hide it,” said Justice Minister Henri Dorlean. “Please, get up early and make the sacrifice for yourself and your country,” he told a local radio station.
Authorities decided to establish larger voting centers instead of smaller, community polling stations. Some of the large centers could contain up to 40 polling stations. Critics say the setup could lead to chaos, with thousands of voters scrambling through a large center, trying to find their correct polling station. “You imagine 16,000 people in just one relatively small building looking with frustration for a polling station and a list where their names could be found,” said Himler Rebu, a presidential candidate. “It’s going to be a real mess.” Many voters cannot identify their voting center because the electoral council did not provide addresses. Authorities said they took the measure for security reasons. “When you have to walk six miles (10 km) to reach a voting center in a place you’re not familiar with, you run a greater security risk,” said Dr. Yves Cadet, a security expert. “It would have been much safer for voters to vote in their neighborhoods where they feel more confident and where everybody knows everybody.” (Reuters, 1/30)
The international Hip Hop star, Wyclef Jean, asked all individuals and sectors Monday who might be tempted to disrupt the upcoming elections to change their minds. The Haitian celebrity was speaking at a press conference at the private Haitian television broadcaster Télémax, of which he has become the majority shareholder. Wyclef Jean reiterated that elections are and shall remain the only way to enable Haiti to move forward on the path to development and for the population to obtain better living conditions. He urged that those who have been in the habit of taking to the streets calling for the departure of elected officials before the end of their terms adopt a different strategy. This practice tarnishes the image of Haiti in the eyes of the entire world, said Wyclef Jean. The musical artist achieved a first in Haiti two weeks ago when he brought two of the most visible of Hollywood’s actors to Haiti, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. The international star also took the opportunity of the press conference as a venue to report on the activities in Haiti of his organization “Yele Ayiti”. Yele Ayiti has made substantial investments in the areas of education, health and sports, said Wyclef Jean. He urged all sectors interested in the activities of this organization to join it to combine efforts in favor of the population. He announced that the “Yele Center” will soon be set up, with a mission of supporting young people in several areas including music. Wyclef Jean promised that his organization will support children in detention by teaching them to read and write so as to facilitate, he said, their social integration after they are released from prison. (AHP, 1/30)
Five years ago, René Préval did something no president in Haitian history had done: He finished his full term, left the National Palace and moved to the countryside to live in solitude, far from the political maelstrom of Port-au-Prince. Now the 63-year-old agronomist — whose term in office brought a rare spell of stability and some social progress, but paved the way for the chaos that followed — is the man to beat in elections scheduled for Feb. 7. His candidacy has delivered a degree of credibility to the balloting. Préval entered the race late — just two months before the November date when elections were scheduled, before delays pushed them to next week — and he is just now beginning to outline his agenda. ‘’In general, one of the things people reproach me for is that I don’t speak . . . That’s one of my defects, they say,’’ Préval, a quiet man of slight build, said Sunday in a wide-ranging interview with The Miami Herald. ‘This is false. When I was president, the people invented a slogan: `They are talking, he is working.’ My nature is to do things.’’
A December CID-Gallup poll showed Préval getting 37 percent of the vote, with the 34 other candidates far behind. In the capital, his momentum has significantly shaken the political establishment. Politicians and business leaders who helped remove Aristide from power and then pushed for the elections are now scrambling — fearing that they might get squeezed out of power by Aristide’s one-time protégé. Préval has scrupulously refused to discuss the polarizing topic of Aristide, letting both sides guess whether Aristide would have influence in a Préval administration. ‘’I don’t know if he’s coming,’’ back to Haiti, he said of Aristide, who is in exile in South Africa. ``I prefer to concentrate on the future.’’ Diplomats and others who have spoken to Préval privately say he has not talked to Aristide for years and has expressed no allegiance to him.
Préval says he will not tolerate armed gangs. He said he will work with the U.N. peacekeepers and international donors to immediately reduce tensions in the slums. ‘’What is going on [with the gangs] in Cité Soleil today is mainly criminal, or purely criminal,’’ he said. “We have to take police action against criminals at the same time there has to be massive social investment in Cité Soleil. To give work to people to better the social situation, that will isolate the criminals because now the criminals use [their spoils] to aid the population.’’ While many observers thought the gangs would mount a bloody offensive to disrupt the election, residents in the slums say it is the business elite that now has the motive to spoil the election. ‘’They know they’re going to lose,’’ said Rene Monplaisir, a Lespwa organizer from Cité Soleil. ``They don’t want elections.’’ (Miami Herald, 2/1)
Haiti will stop campaigning and close schools and government offices before next week’s presidential election, to help ensure security for the long-awaited poll, the country’s interim authorities said on Wednesday. Prime Minister Gerard Latortue also said polling would be stopped and barred media from publishing any but “official” results, amid fears of violence surrounding the Feb. 7 vote. Schools will close on Friday and not reopen until the following Friday, three days after the election, originally set for November, but delayed repeatedly. Latortue said he realized many Haitians might remember an election-day massacre in 1987, when voters were cut down at a school in the capital. He assured voters that Haitian police and 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers were ready to protect them. “The government, with the support of U.N. troops, with the help of Haitian police, will take all the necessary measures to make sure people can go and vote in a secure environment,” Latortue, who was appointed after Aristide’s departure, said at a news conference. “We are going to prove that we can be firm with those who will seek to stir violence during the election,” he said. Latortue said public administration workers would be off the job from Monday to Wednesday and campaigning would end on Sunday night. Pre-election polling surveys will not be allowed after Saturday. (Reuters, 2/1)
U.N. peacekeepers are ready to secure Haiti’s oft-delayed election with a rapid-strike force to put down any violence at polling stations, their commander said on Thursday. More than 100 election observers from the European Union and elsewhere arrived in the troubled Caribbean nation to monitor the Feb. 7 vote, put off from November because of political and gang violence and problems setting up polling stations and registering millions of voters. Brazilian Lt. Gen. Jose Elito Carvalho Siqueira, commander of the U.N.peacekeeping force said his security plan will “foil or prevent any plans by ill-intentioned groups who want to disrupt the process. All measures have been set up to ensure security before the elections, during the elections and after the elections,” he said. Security at more than 800 voting centers across the impoverished nation has been a primary concern leading up to Tuesday’s vote. “We have rapid-deployment forces that can reach in five or 10 minutes any voting center anywhere there might be a problem,” Elito said. (Reuters, 2/2)
The town of Ouanaminthe is experiencing something of a party atmosphere as presidential candidates visit as part of their election campaigns, but, all the while, there is a threat of violence. Yesterday, groups of armed supporters of Charles Henri Baker, the candidate backed by Chavannes Jean-Baptiste’s KONBA party, clashed with supporters of the Struggling People’s Organisation (OPL). Sticks, stones and other projectiles were thrown. The most animated activists danced and banged out rhythms on drums, before the confrontation developed in the town’s main square. Later, as night fell, gunfire was heard. It is not known if there were any casualties from the confrontation. As election day draws near, several candidates have decided to visit Ouanaminthe to wind up their campaigns. On Tuesday the OPL’s Paul Denis arrived, and on 2 February it was the turn of Evans Paul of the Democratic Alliance, and Charles Henri Baker. Groups of people singing and dancing, and trucks with blaring loudspeakers, circulated all through the town, both day and night, exhorting the population to vote in favour of the candidates. All this took place in an atmosphere of relative calm, and was supervised by troops from the MINUSTAH force. During the day, the town was calm and the campaigning continued, but a latent tension persisted. (originally: Fiesta electoral en Wanament pero con violencia – www.Espacinsular.org – translated from Spanish by Charles Arthur for the Haiti Support Group, 2/3)
He is a pro-business presidential hopeful, a tobacco and tomato farmer with little political experience who has promised to pull Haiti out of its security and economic chaos. But Charles Henri Baker’s chances to upset frontrunner René Préval in the ballot Tuesday will depend, analysts say, largely on whether Haitians can set aside the color and class disputes that have long affected politics in this poverty-stricken nation. ‘’Charlito’’ Baker, a leader of the political, business and civic coalition that helped force President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power in 2004, has emerged from a field of 32 as the second-place presidential contender in public opinion polls. ‘’One of the problems of Haiti is the lack of involvement of the mulatto elite. You have an elite that has economic means — and education — that is living in Haiti like foreigners,’’ said Pierre-Marie Boisson, a friend and Harvard-trained economist. The 50-year-old Baker says he prefers not to focus on his status as a member of Haiti’s mulatto elite, the great grandson of a white Englishman who married an African, and a factory and farm owner who speaks flawless English and Creole.
‘’The fact there is insecurity, the fact there are no jobs, the fact women are dying because they don’t have a doctor to go to when they are giving birth, the fact that three-quarters of the cities don’t have a hospital, don’t have any policemen, don’t have a judge, these are the things that are important to the Haitian people. Not my color,’’ said Baker. Baker gained prominence as a leading figure in the anti-Aristide Group 184 coalition. But he quickly became frustrated with the U.S.-backed interim government put in place after Aristide fled the country to arrange new elections. ‘’I was hoping we were getting an interim government that would set us on the path to democracy,’’ Baker told The Miami Herald this week in a lengthy interview in his walled Port-au-Prince home, protected by armed guards. ``I realized nothing was being done. It was same old, same old.’’ Within six weeks he had garnered 120,000 signatures to get onto the ballot. Later he aligned himself with one of Haiti’s most powerful peasant organizers, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste. A one-time Aristide supporter, Jean-Baptiste also supported Préval, who served as president from 1996 to 2001, before becoming disillusioned with both men.
A CID-Gallup poll in December showed Baker a distant second to Préval with 10 percent compared to the former president’s 37 percent. His supporters, the pollsters reported, ``can be found outside of Port-au-Prince, those with high school studies and those who self-declare themselves as independents.’’ Baker’s detractors admire his courage for standing up against Aristide but they question his ability to lead Haiti out of its chaos and his image as a successful businessman, saying his wealth was all inherited. Baker told The Miami Herald that he owns about $2 million in lands he inherited and a garment factory that makes uniforms for a U.S. client. In his spacious home, where supporters have gathered to talk strategy, boxes are piled with campaign give-aways. There are packets of M&Ms with Baker’s campaign sign, the number 44, and calendars showing a colorfully decorated Haitian bus and the slogan in Creole, ``There is room for everybody.’’ But in a country where the perception of class and color remains important, Baker has found himself on the campaign trail dropping proverbs in flawless Creole, hoping to show his audiences that despite his light skin and silver hair, he is as Haitian as them. ‘’If the people vote Charles Baker to be president, that means they don’t have a problem with my color,’’ he said. ``If they don’t want someone from the upper class or supposedly the elite to be president they won’t vote for me. I am willing to take that chance.’’ (Miami Herald, 2/3)
The United States is “very concerned” that drug traffickers could be financing candidates in next week’s elections, the top U.S. diplomat in the country said on Friday. The diplomat, Tim Carney, said he has received reports that some legislative candidates have been offered large sums of money in exchange for political favors. He did not mention names. “Some of the presidential candidates have told me they’ve had people with satchels of money turn up on the doorsteps of their candidates for the parliament,” Carney said in an interview with The Associated Press in his official residence. “This is a serious thing.” “We’re very concerned about the possibility of drug money … being used to finance candidates,” Carney added. Carney said the biggest concern for the United States is that “no candidate who is a drug trafficker or a person who espouses or uses violence should win these elections.” “I don’t see any such person anywhere close to the front-runners,” he added. Carney expressed confidence in the ability of U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police to secure elections, but said isolated bursts of violence were possible on election day. “This is pretty good sized country with a very complicated political past and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some elements of violence at some points,” he said. “But I firmly believe that the authorities … will be able to keep the lid on (and) provide the security as needed.” (AP, 2/3)
American Airlines Suspends Flights During Elections:
“Cité Soleil is the most serious challenge of our mission,” says Juan Gabriel Valdes, a Chilean diplomat who is chief of the UN stabilization mission, known as MINUSTAH. Two Jordanian battalions, with 1,500 troops and more than 50 armoured vehicles, have been unable to root out armed groups that prowl the neighbourhood’s immense warren of alleyways and precarious hovels. In the last month, four peacekeepers — a Canadian police officer and three Jordanian soldiers — were killed in the outskirts of the neighbourhood. Jordanian checkpoints have sustained heavy fire of up to 1,000 rounds a day, according to a UN official who asked to remain anonymous. But many Cité Soleil residents blame the UN peacekeepers, not the armed groups, for the violence. They accuse the blue helmets of shooting indiscriminately, routinely firing rounds from the cannons mounted on their vehicles and killing innocent civilians, including women and children. “Every day, the MINUSTAH is shooting people,” says Wilner Pierre, lying on a hospital cot with a large bandage covering his lower torso. The 35-year-old mechanic says UN troops shot him in the back on the afternoon of Jan. 1 while he was walking down the main avenue in Cité Soleil. The bullet exited through his lower abdomen, ripping through his intestines. “They stay inside their tanks and stick their guns out,” says Pierre. “They shoot in any direction and at any person, even babies, it doesn’t matter. They shouldn’t do their job like that.”
This month, the local hospital has treated nearly 70 gunshot victims, more than half of them women, children or elderly. During a recent visit to the hospital, all six people being treated for bullet wounds said they were shot by UN peacekeepers. The hospital itself was hit by gunfire twice in two weeks. One bullet broke a window in the pediatric ward and hit a wall inches from a boy. The other, fired from a high-powered weapon with a calibre of between 16 and 20 millimetres, blasted holes through two walls of the hospital’s administrative offices, according to Sergio Cecchini of Doctors Without Borders, which helps run the hospital. He could not say where the bullets came from.
Jordanian Brig.-Gen. Mahmoud Al-Husban, commander of the UN troops in Port-au-Prince, denies that the peacekeepers fired on the hospital. He says the Jordanian soldiers shoot only when fired upon and even then only when they can clearly target the attacking gunman. But he concedes that he cannot know the extent of any potential “collateral damage” because the peacekeepers rarely leave the safety of their vehicles. “Inside Cité Soleil, we never see a dead body or wounded person because the gangs will take away the bodies of gang members, and civilians stay inside their houses,” says Al-Husban. “The problem is that most people living in Cité Soleil are with the gangs. If they are not fighting with the gangs, they are supporting the gangs.”
Cité Soleil is controlled by numerous armed groups, some of which remain aligned with Aristide’s Lavalas party, the country’s largest political force, and are now supporting former president René Preval, considered the frontrunner in first-round presidential elections slated for Feb. 7. The two former presidents have become estranged, but both are hugely popular in Cité Soleil and other poor neighbourhoods. Leading members of Haiti’s fiercely anti-Aristide business elite blame the armed groups in Cité Soleil for the kidnappings that have sowed panic among the capital’s small middle and upper classes, although UN and police officials say many of the criminal masterminds live elsewhere. In recent weeks, conservative business leaders have organized protests demanding a UN-led crackdown “to cleanse Cité Soleil of the criminals. “Lavalas accuses the business leaders, who include factory owner and anti-Aristide activist Andre Apaid and his brother-in-law, presidential candidate Charles Henri Baker, of trying to use the UN to further clamp down on the party and its supporters. “They don’t want elections,” says René Monplaisir, a Lavalas leader in Cité Soleil who is campaigning for Preval. “Ninety per cent of the Haitian people want elections because they are supporting René Preval for president. That’s why (they) want to kill people living here.”
So far, the UN has not ceded to demands for a large-scale offensive. Nor have the peacekeepers attempted to negotiate with the armed groups, hampered by the U.S.-backed interim government’s refusal to grant an amnesty. “There is no military solution to Cité Soleil,” says Al-Husban, the Jordanian general. “The solution could be giving the gangs amnesty and giving more social help. Medicine, food, development projects … It seems the government is not willing to solve the problem of Cité Soleil and they want us to go there and destroy it, to kill all the people there. We will not do this.” Peacekeepers typically enter a country after the United Nations has brokered a peace agreement between opposing sides in an armed conflict that provides a framework for UN-sponsored disarmament and elections. But in Haiti, MINUSTAH was charged with backing an interim government that has shown little interest in reconciliation. The UN’s quagmire in Cité Soleil is rooted in the absence of a peace agreement, says Todd Howland, director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial’s Center for Human Rights. “The UN has not been allowed to do what it traditionally does,” says Howland, who worked in UN peacekeeping missions in Rwanda and Angola. “This is the only country in the world where you have a significant United Nations’ operation without a peace accord. “Instead, the member states have told the UN to take sides in Haiti. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a case where marginalizing a significant segment of society and failing to make any structural changes resulted in peace.” (The Star, 1/29)
U.N. troops in Haiti must take control of a vast, gang-infested slum while minimizing the impact on civilians, their new commander said Wednesday. At least 200,000 people live in the warren of cinderblock shacks and open sewage canals known as Cite Soleil, where kidnappers stash hostages, heavily armed peacekeepers barely penetrate and polling booths will not be erected for national elections Tuesday due to insecurity. Brazilian Lt. Gen. Jose Elito Carvalho de Siqueira told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview — his first since arriving in Haiti last week — that having a strong U.N. presence in Cite Soleil is one of his chief objectives. “Certainly, it’s necessary in the future that we must go in, and stay, to help the population,” Elito said in the interview. “But we need to think of these people that are living there.”
Limiting “collateral damage,” the general said, “is absolutely a priority in every plan you do. We are here for a stabilization mission, not as an occupation force.” The new commander said his top priority is ensuring that elections next week go smoothly and are free from violence. Slum dwellers have accused U.N. troops of shooting unarmed civilians during late-night raids, but Elito said peacekeepers only fire when attacked. “They have strict orders not to shoot without identifying the problem. But we need to return fire sometimes to control the situation,” he said. In Cite Soleil Wednesday, two young men lay in the street wounded by gunfire that one of the victims and witnesses said came from a U.N. armored personnel carrier. Jordanian U.N. peacekeepers based at the nearest U.N. outpost waved journalists away when they approached for interviews. (AP, 2/1)
Michelet Etienne was kicking a soccer ball around the warren of cinderblock hovels where he lives when a U.N. patrol thundered by and gunmen leaped from their hiding places to spray it with bullets. When the shooting was over, the 12-year-old lay bleeding and unconscious amid piles of garbage and potholes filled with fetid water. A stray bullet had blown out part of his skull and severed his spinal cord, rendering his skinny legs useless. “I can’t bring my feet together,” the listless child whimpered in the crowded recovery ward of St. Joseph’s Hospital a week later. “I can’t move my feet.” Like hundreds of other hapless bystanders over the last year, Michelet was caught in the crossfire between gunmen and besieged peacekeepers, an increasingly dangerous fact of life for the 2.5 million Haitians doomed to the teeming slums of this capital. With the approach of Tuesday’s elections, the first since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled an armed rebellion two years ago, pressure has mounted on U.N. forces to break the gangs’ stranglehold on the city. The crackdown has accelerated the deaths and injuries. Aristide loyalists claim that some of the casualties are victims of trigger-happy peacekeepers in league with corrupt Haitian police. Diplomats call the gunmen common criminals who are trying to protect their drug- and gun-running operations from the United Nations force, which is made up of more than 9,000 soldiers and police from three dozen countries, mostly in Latin America and Asia.
It used to be that most of the shooting victims came from a couple of trouble spots, slums such as Cite Soleil and Bel Air, said Ali Besnaci, a French physician who heads the trauma clinic run by Doctors Without Borders at St. Joseph’s. “Now the problem has spread all over,” he said. Of the more than 300 gunshot victims treated at St. Joseph’s in the last six weeks, at least half were women, children and elderly, clearly not combatants in the city’s street-by-street clashes, Besnaci said. In December, Doctors Without Borders’ two downtown emergency units treated 220 people with bullet wounds, 26 of those in a single, violent day after Christmas. Among the victims were a 15-month-old and a 77-year-old. Since the aid group arrived here 13 months ago, its volunteer surgeons have treated nearly 2,500 people. “It’s terrible. It’s simply unacceptable,” Besnaci said as he visited the bedsides of the maimed, laid out in rows of gurneys and covered with stained sheets. He appealed to Haitian police and the U.N. mission, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH, to be more mindful of the risks to bystanders as troops seek control of the city.
The victims’ stories reflect an atmosphere of seething tension and fraying nerves. When Jean-Rony Francois arrived for work at the Acierie d’Haiti steel mill three weeks ago, he said, gunmen were shooting at Jordanian U.N. troops from behind a factory wall. The Jordanians returned fire. “I didn’t see who was firing. I was inside. But the bullets came from the direction of MINUSTAH,” the 22-year-old recalled. Struck twice by shots that penetrated the walls, he lost the use of his right arm and both legs. “When they were done firing, they just took off.” Residents of the capital’s most overcrowded and impoverished areas say their need to work compels them to wade into the middle of such shootouts, which occur daily. John Lumera, 35, who made a living selling lottery tickets, was shot in the leg. The wound became gangrenous and his limb had to be amputated. Now his four children have no means of support. “I don’t know why they were shooting,” he said. “It seemed to be at random. I couldn’t see anyone they [the U.N. troops] were firing on, but I was flat on the ground.” Human rights monitors contend the foreign troops are overreacting to Haitian government complaints that they have failed in the two years they’ve been here to disarm the gangs and bring security to the urban war zones. The international force has lost 13 of its members to violence and accidents during the deployment. “MINUSTAH soldiers seem to have lost their cool since four of their associates were killed since late December,” said Pierre Esperance, head of the National Human Rights Defense Network. (LA Times, 2/3)
Human Rights Groups and Citizens File Petition Against US:
Further, explained James J. Silk, Director of the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School, “The petition seeks to break new ground in establishing that international law protects citizens’ democratic choice of government, not only from the violence of domestic opposition, but also from the intervention of powerful states. It relies on a number of international agreements, including the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the OAS Charter, to establish that Haitians have the right to participate in government by voting, running for and holding office, and expressing their political views.”
The petition establishes that:
Today, Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-35) expressed her support for a petition that is being filed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The petition seeks to establish that the Bush Administration participated in a coup d’etat to overthrow President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the democratically-elected President of Haiti, in February of 2004, and, in so doing, violated the democratic rights of the people of Haiti. The Congresswoman’s statement follows: Two years ago, our government was a party to a coup d’etat in Haiti. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the democratically-elected President of Haiti, was forced to leave Haiti in a regime change supported by the United States. President Aristide left the country on February 29, 2004, aboard a U.S. airplane when U.S. Marines and Embassy officials came to his home in the wee hours of the morning and told him to leave immediately or he and thousands of other Haitians would be killed. The U.S. plane took him to the Central African Republic and left him there.
This coup d’etat was carried out after groups of heavily-armed thugs had taken over several Haitian towns, occupied police stations, terrorized the local population, and entered Haiti’s capitol. Many of these thugs were former soldiers from the brutal Haitian army, and many of them continue to roam Haiti today with impunity. After the coup d’etat, I led a delegation of President Aristide’s friends and supporters to escort President Aristide out of the Central African Republic and accompany him to Jamaica, where he was reunited with his family. President Aristide and his family are now living in exile in South Africa. Two years later, the tragic results of regime change in Haiti are clear. Haiti is in total chaos. The unelected interim government, which was put in power by the United States and has received unprecedented support from our government, is both oppressive and incompetent. Violence is widespread, and security is non-existent. The Haitian police have been implicated in extrajudicial executions, and the interim government has imprisoned hundreds of political prisoners without trial. Haitian elections, which are now scheduled for next Tuesday, have been postponed several times, are fraught with technical problems, and are unlikely to be free and fair. I urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate the coup d’etat that occurred on February 29, 2004, and determine the role of the Bush Administration in this travesty of justice, which denied the democratic rights of the people of Haiti. (2/2)
Father Jean-Juste Begins Treatment in Miami:
A politically influential Roman Catholic priest arrived in Miami on Sunday after Haiti’s government granted him a temporary release from jail to be treated for leukemia and pneumonia. The Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste will be treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital, said Ira Kurzban, an attorney who has worked with the cleric for years. He has been in prison on suspicion of involvement in the killing of prominent Haitian journalist and poet Jacques Roche. The 59-year-old priest has always denied the allegations. Kurzban said Haiti buckled under public pressure to allow Jean-Juste to seek treatment in the United States. “They certainly did not do this willingly and on their own,” Kurzban said. The Haitian government granted Jean-Juste a provisional release from jail for humanitarian reasons, said Michel Brunache, chief of staff of interim President Boniface Alexandre. “His leukemia cannot be treated in Haiti,” Brunache told the Associated Press. “After his treatment, he has to return to face justice.” A judge cleared Jean-Juste of homicide, but he is charged with weapons possession and criminal conspiracy — charges that the priest denies. (AP, 1/29)
Haiti’s turbulent political clouds hovered over South Florida on Monday, as an ailing priest in a Miami hospital bed vowed to clear his name and the nation’s interim prime minister defended his leadership from his Boca Raton home. The Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, the priest released Sunday from a Haitian prison for medical treatment in Miami, was anxious to return to the Caribbean country to fight for justice, a spokeswoman said after visiting him in the hospital Monday. “The first thing that came out of his mouth was, `How long am I going to be here?’” said Lucie Tondreau, a community activist who has worked with Jean-Juste for 21 years. “He wants to go back to Haiti … What we want and what he wants is for him to be freed from all charges against him,” Tondreau said. But doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital still were conducting tests and treating the priest for leukemia and pneumonia, Tondreau said, and it was uncertain when he would be released. She said some supporters hope Jean-Juste, a former Miami activist, remains in South Florida until after a new Haitian government is elected Feb. 7, assuming the election is not postponed again. She said supporters would continue their calls for justice until then, and a group planned to picket at the Boca Raton home of Gerard Latortue, the interim Haitian prime minister. “We are going to continue the struggle in order to call for all the political prisoners in Haiti to be released,” she said. (Sun-Sentinel, 1/31)
Sanderson Steps Closer to Being US Ambassador to Haiti:
Tet Kole National Peasant Organization Leaves the PLANOPA Platform:
Tèt Kole believes in the construction of strong unity within the peasant sector through existing peasant organisations that are not under the leadership of, or obedient to, big shots with other agendas. Our strength is a strong organisation with peasants and other exploited people at the centre; Our strength is a united national peasantry but without rhetoric or deception; Our strength is a collective struggle but without treachery; Our strength is to construct a platform to project the struggle of the peasantry and the poor majority in general.
Notes: PLANOPA, formed in July 2005, brought together the following seven organisations: Tèt Kole ti Peyizan Ayisyen (national), Mouvman Peyizan Nasyonal Kongrè Papay (MPNKP) (national), Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP) (Central Plateau), Mouvman Revandikasyon Peyizan Latibonit (MOREPLA) (Artibonite), Rezo Koperativ Peyizan Ba Latibonit (RACPABA) (lower Artibonite), Kòdinasyon Rejyonal Oganizasyon Sidès (KROS) (south-east), Konbit Peyizan Nip (KPN) (south-west). (originally: Deklarasyon piblik- Tèt Kole ti Peyizan Ayisyen pou fè tout moun konnen li sètoblije retire kò l nan Platfòm Nasyonal Òganizasyon Peyizan Ayisyen – PLANOPA. Extract translated from Creole by Charles Arthur for the Haiti Support Group).
New York Times Editorial: No Help to Democracy in Haiti
But according to the Times report, which the I.R.I. disputes, much of the Republican Institute’s activities in Haiti from 2001 to 2003 were carried out in a shadowy world of secret meetings and efforts to isolate and destabilize the democratically elected government. Diplomats, including the American ambassador to Haiti in those years, said that the I.R.I. program worked at cross purposes with the State Department’s policy of promoting compromise between President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his many powerful opponents. It also undercut mediation efforts that appeared within reach of success. With all hopes of compromise thwarted, a rebel army led by notorious criminals and cashiered police officers crossed into Haiti from the Dominican Republic and drove President Aristide from office. He fled on a United States-supplied plane after Washington made it clear to him that it would not protect his life if he remained or defend the democratically elected government.
That was almost two years ago, and Haiti is worse off today. Murder rules the slums of Port-au-Prince, and a United Nations peacekeeping force struggles even to protect itself. Dates for new elections have been repeatedly postponed. The latest date is now set for next week. We hope this begins to undo some of the damage done by the kind of I.R.I. democracy building described in The Times. (2/3)
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial: Lawyers ask for a halt to deportations