|Haiti Archives 1995-1996|
|19/05/95||INTERNATIONAL LIAISON OFFICE FOR PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Update|
Haiti: Update May 19, 1995
I. Addressing Peasants' Concerns
II. Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Development Plans of the Ministry of Agriculture
III. OAS Electoral Mission
IV. Ministry on the Status and Rights of Women
V. News Briefs
VI. Popular Art: Political and Aesthetic Freedom of Expression
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I. Addressing Peasants' Concerns President Aristide: – "Who is the State?" Peasants: – "We are" (Meeting with peasants, National Palace, April 30, 1995)
About seven or eight hundred members of various peasant organizations from all over Haiti were given the opportunity to present their concerns directly to the President and some government officials on the eve of Labor and Agriculture day (May 1) at a meeting held at the National Palace.
The peasants — who make up 80% of the population — had a clear set of demands for the government: assure the disarmament of criminals who continue to terrorize the peasants; bring to justice corrupt officials and criminals; offer reparations to the victims of repression; make land available to peasants and provide security to cultivate that land; assure access to lawyers; repair all irrigation canals; provide agronomists and technical assistance to peasants and peasant organizations in the countryside; create an agricultural credit bank; build rural roads; mount a national program of soil conservation and reforestation; reinsert the Creole pigs — exterminated in the 80s by a USAID controversial swine flu eradication program — which are more adequate for the country; encourage and strengthen popular organizations; support literacy campaigns launched by local organizations; and establish centers for health and schooling in rural areas. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide told the representatives of the peasant groups that in the new democratic Haiti everyone together is the State. He compared the State to a car transporting the people and driven by their elected President. "You gave me power, so that I can empower you", said President Aristide. He asked all Haitians to keep their eyes open and actively participate to assure that the car moves in the direction of democracy. President Aristide encouraged the people to stand together firmly and avoid falling in the traps of manipulations intended to destabilize the country and of zenglendos blocking the path to democracy.
Regarding the "economic gasoline" necessary to make the state machine move ahead, the President pointed out that all the international aid promised to the State to rebuild the country has not been forthcoming: US$ 65 million entered the country only to leave again as payment for the international debt and arrears; US$ 125 million received went to balance of payment support for expenses accumulated by the de facto regime; and US$ 13 million to be used in the electoral process.
Addressing the demands of the people, President Aristide announced the creation of a special agency called the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INARA), in order to organize the restructuring of land tenure and to implement an agrarian reform for the benefit of the people cultivating the land. According to article 248 of the Constitution of 1987, the Institute will propose an agrarian policy based on the optimization of productivity and will build the infrastructure to protect and develop the land.
The first measures of the INARA will be: 1) hand over the possession titles of state lands to the peasants and peasant cooperatives working the lands in Fort Dauphin (about 7,740 hectares of lands), in Grand Bassin (139 hectares), in Papaye (645 hectares); 2) assure the construction of irrigation wells; 3) facilitate the legal functioning of peasant associations; 4) assure the distribution of 10,000 new Creole pigs; 5) provide free land measuring; 6) distribute 14,000 agricultural tools for peasants; 7) eliminate all state tax over the lands worked by the peasants; and 8) implement technical assistance programs equipped with groups of 2 agronomist engineers and 4 agricultural technicians in each region.
Through a Presidential Decree of May 15, 1995 the government established the free granting of birth certificates for all Haitians, ending a long tradition of arbitrary "tax" exaction abuse. The decree also eliminates the recording of the persons place of birth —as rural or urban— in the birth certificate, which peasants claimed as discriminative.
II. Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Development Plans of the Ministry of Agriculture Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development Francois Severin is also seeking to respond to peasant needs through an emergency plan wich includes the following 15 projects:
--- Production of Basic Food Commodities:
1. Support for the revival of subsistance and market production.
2. Campaign of animal vaccination and parasite treatment.
3. Support of fish farming.
4. Aid to peasant poultry production.
5. Revival of industrial production of chickens and eggs.
--- Improvement of Production and Transformation of Export Agriculture and Fruit Production:
6. Development of micro-enterprise coffee production.
7. Expansion of mango production.
--- Foodstuff Preservation and Commerce:
8. Improvement of crop storage.
--- Protection and Strenghtening of Agricultural Infrastructure:
9. Repair and construction of irrigation and drainage systems.
10. Construction of community cisterns in mountainous
11. Improvement of mountain farming trails in areas of high production.
12. Production and distribution of fast-growing
--- Institutional Support:
13. Credit to small farmers and peasant women.
14. Support to small farmers to commercialize fresh fruits and vegetables.
15. Support to decentralize the Ministry of Agriculture.
III. OAS ELECTORAL MISSION
A new OAS Electoral Mission, independent from the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission in Haiti (MICIVIH), has been created to monitor the electoral process and the elections. The OAS Mission will be headed by Canadian Ron Gould and expects to have about 400 observers for election day. Fifteen observers of the MICIVIH have already been detached to join the Electoral Mission; 90 international election specialists are being deployed by the OAS between now and June 15; Germany and Japan, as observing members of the OAS will also send about 20 more international observers; and all MICIVIH human rights monitors as well as other international personnel already working in Haiti will join the OAS Electoral Mission as the election date approches.
The OAS Mission will be working closely with the UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) in matters of logistics and security. The UNMIH is helping with the distribution of electoral materials across the country and their spokesman Eric Falt noted that they will seek to provide an atmosphere of security for the upcoming elections. In a statement of May 8, the MICIVIH reports that in spite of a rough beginning, the overall environment has stabilized and a large number of candidates have registered. Three million people throughout Haiti have already registered to vote for the June 25 legislative and local elections, representing 70% of the eligible voters, according to the Provisional Electoral Council.
IV. Ministry on the Status and Rights of Women "How do we plan to empower the powerless? One word sums it up: accessibility. Access to justice by providing legal, medical and psychological aid to the victims of the crisis and victims of violence in general. Access to education. And access to economics."
(Lise Marie Dejean, Minister of the Status and Rights of Women, January 20, 1995)
The Ministrys Objectives, as presented at the Inauguration of the Headquarters of the Ministry, are as follows:
*** Establish strategic program priorities in the following sectors: education and culture; violence against women; economics and work; law; and communication. *** Launch an awareness program on the rights of women and girls, and on prevention of violence against them. *** Find a rapid response to the problem of violence committed against women, including programs of medical support, socio-psychological support, and legal support. Provide health care and justice for everyone. *** Help all women find the following possibilities: education and training; credit to remove them from endless debt; good working conditions for women, especially in the market. This program will be launched in conjunction with other ministries. *** Support all women's initiatives to organize themselves, while the Ministry continues to work with other women in the population.
Some of the Ministry priority projects currently underway or in formation are:
---- Helping victims of violence. A Legal Committee has been established to provide legal support for bringing cases of violence against women to court. The Ministry is developing a national program of health and psychological counseling for women who have suffered rape and violence, with local offices throughout the country. ---- Developing a program of credit for market women. In conjunction with the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance, a revolving loan fund will help capitalize market women. ---- Organizing a delegation to the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing. ---- Developing a women's health program (in coordination with the Ministry of Health). ---- Creation of a non-sexist curriculum to be used in the school system and in literacy plans. ---- Creation of a National Institute on Women's Rights. ---- Creation of a National Institute for the Family.
V. News Briefs
1) The minimum wage was set at 36 gourdes per day (approximately US$ 2.57 per day, or US$ 0.32 per hour for 8 hours) after extensive and intense negotiations between workers, the private sector, and the government. The Tripartite Commission on Business Labor Relations had recommended 29 gourdes for Port-au-Prince and 23 for the rest of the country. Another sector within the government sought 30 gourdes per day; while still another aimed at 50-75 gourdes. Many workers pushed for an even higher rate. President Aristide sought a 50 gourdes rate, on the logic that this would approximately restore the Haitian real minimum wage to its 1979 level of US$ 3 per day. In the past 15 years, real wages in Haiti had declined from US$ 3 per day to approximately US$1.07 per day (US$ 0.13 per hour), while prices of basic goods have risen drastically in recent years. The new wage is now proportional to the Dominican Republics minimum wage.
2) The leader of the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, Emanuel Constant, was apprehended and jailed on May 10 in New York by United States agents. The Haitian government, as well as the United Nations and the US government, have accused Constant in connection with many human rights violations during the coup regime, including murders, torture and kidnappings.
3) Zenglendos (gangs of bandits armed by the previous military regime and its collaborators) continue to operate in Port-au-Prince and the provinces. Some progress has been made to stop criminals as a result of investigations by the Haitian Interim Public Security Force (IPSF), the UN Police Monitors, the UN human rights observers, and with the efforts of the neighborhood crime watch committes. According to reports of the Interim Public Security Force and the UNMIH, several gangs have been dismantled and their members arrested and brought to court. Also, some of the eleven escapees from the Petionville prison have been captured, among them, a former soldier nicknamed Saddam Hussein, whose grave abuses against human rights under the coup regime have been widely documented.
4) Elementary and secondary public school teachers went on strike in several towns to demand an increase of salaries and better working conditions. The demonstrations by students and teachers led to violent confrontations. According to credible sources, these confrontations were a result of infiltration by groups aiming to create disturbances. "The teachers should continue their demands based on principles and avoid infiltration during this difficult period of the nations history", stated a group of private teachers. After long negotiations between the government and the teachers associations, and a final mediation by President Aristide, an agreement was reached on May 9. It includes, among other things, the legitimation of the school teachers' demands; a 120% raise in salary; and the promise to continue negotiations to allow every teacher more training and social benefits. Both the President and the teachers associations asked all students and teachers to resume their activities immediately.
5) The Economic and Social Assistance Fund (FAES) is launching 39 projects worth US$ 1.4 million. The majority of the money will be disbursed in the provinces, according to FAES General Director, Rene Preval. The Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank are providing the funding. The projects, which are expected to create 10,000 jobs for six months, include building schools, roads and latrines.
6) Delegates from all regional departments met in a national week-long symposium on May 8 to discuss the problems of public administration. The goal of this meeting, organized by the Ministry of Interior, was to assure the efficiency of the public administration at the local level. This is the first step taken by the government towards decentralization, one of the key political issues of the country. One of the major demands of the delegates during the symposium was to accelerate the pace of justice.
7) On May 11 and 12, a Consultative Group meeting of the international donor community and the government of Haiti was held in Port-au-Prince, following the one held in Paris last January. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the progress to date in implementing economic development plans and the delivery of international assistance committed. At a reception for representatives of the donor community, President Aristide thanked the donors for their promises of cooperation and success, and urged them to action.
8) Despite the difficulties of the transition towards a state of law, the Aristide administration is trying to create permanent structures for government accountability and transparence. One measure has been a new TV and radio program, Radiography and Transparence, which is broadcast live by public and short wave stations at prime time in Haiti, and New York. Each program focuses on a different state office or Ministry, such as National Telecommunications, Electricity, Ports, Airports, General Direction of Taxes, Customs, and Ministries. State officials respond to questions from the public via telephone. Despite technical and organizational shortcomings, the program is presenting the structure of the state apparatus and favoring national debate. Public participation has been very high.
9) Despite budget shortfalls, the government is undertaking prison reform initiatives as a crucial component of an effective judicial system. In addition to prison reconstruction, the program will focus on improving sanitation, health care, nutrition, and administration. Training in prison administration will be provided through a cooperative program involving the French government, the UN Crime Branch in Vienna, and the UN Center for Human Rights working with the Ministry of Justice. Additional funds are urgently sought by the Minsitry of Justice, particularly to respond to a crisis dealing with children and juvenile offenders.
10) The Haitian human rights community is working to provide assistance to people who have suffered human rights violations. A key initiative is the Legal Assistance Fund of the Catholic human rights organization Justice and Peace, which provides direct legal assistance to victims. The Justice and Peace Commission provides assistance to victims of human rights violations by helping fill out forms in creole with details about the case; preparing requests for reparations; and filing court actions to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations. The Legal Assistance Fund depends upon contributions from individuals around the world as well as in Haiti.
11) Leon Jeune, Undersecretary of State for Justice, resigned his post on May 12. He said that he would remain available to help his successor continue the work of forming a new Police.
12) A new inter- Ministerial Commission on Migration is being formed to help resettle the refugees who voluntarily return to Haiti.
13) The US government proposed to increase the number of Haitian police undergoing training from 4000 to 7000, offering the use of a military center in Alabama. The current training site, the Camp Application near Port-au-Prince, does not have facilities to accomodate more trainees. Some government and NGOs officials are skeptical about the United States proposal due to previous trainings in US bases of former members of the Haitian Armed Forces (such as Michel Francois and Raoul Cedras), and are calling for further efforts to identify potential training sites in Haiti, or alternative civilian training centers in the Caribbean or the US.
14) In a controversial case in the United States, an US Army court-martial panel found Capitain Lawrence Rockwood guilty of disobedience, disrespect and conduct umbecoming, and discharged him from the service for undertaking an unauthorized inspection of the main prison in Port-au-Prince. After several failed attempts to bring the prison conditions to the attention of his superiors, Captain Rockwood conducted his own inspection of the National Penitentiary, concerned over the plight of inmates and fearing their lives were endangered unless US forces acted quickly. Captain Rockwood claimed loyalty to the Constitution and the President of the United States over that of his immediate superiors. Rockwood recalled his visits as a boy to concentration camps in Germany where his father took him to show him the abuses against humanity carried by soldiers following orders.
VI. Popular Art: Political and Aesthetic Freedom of Expression "Art is the most powerful thing we have" (Haitian painter)
Wall murals have bloomed once more throughout Haiti after the flight of the military dictatorship in October 1994. As on December 16, 1990 —when Haitians went to the polls for the first free and honest elections—, thousands of anonymous hands opened a new space for themselves in popular art work that chronicles the collective enthusiasm of thousands of people to support a new hope embodied by democracy. The people once again eloquently manifested their political conscience after breaking the intolerable cycle of repressive regimes.
Freedom seems to inspire the hands of the artists. Symbols and expressions of a new hope —combined with African deities, Catholic saints and grand figures of Haitian history— are represented again throughout Haiti on houses, doors, trees, public walls, posters and street flags. Joy is expressed by the artists in their search for equality and justice.
Beneath the terrible circumstances of Haitian history, a closer examination reveals a deep and abiding spiritualism among the people, and, as a result, a refusal to be crushed by the material and social reality that seems overwhelming. The great religion of Haiti, the voudou, brings together the religious beliefs and aesthetics of the Fon people of Dahomey and the Catholicism of the colonial period.
Under the military regime, this popular art form was totally suppressed due to its highly political content. Painting murals on walls symbolizing the return of the constitutional order carried serious risks of detention, torture and even execution. However, sometimes at night, a brave hand would defy the death threats and fill a wall with beautiful expression of energy and rebellion.
N.B. These materials are being distributed by the International Liaison Office for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The International Liaison Office is registered with the Department of Justice, Washington DC, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, as an agent of the Government of Haiti. The required registration statements are available for public inspection at the Department of Justice. Registration does not indicate approval of the contents of these materials by the United States Government.