Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

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Cholera: From the Origin to Legal Developments

August 27, 2014 - 15:46

This article details both the theory that cholera in Haiti was triggered by environmental factors, as well as the evidence showing that United Nations peacekeepers triggered the epidemic through negligent sanitary practices. The author then describes the actions BAI and IJDH took to seek justice for cholera victims, from the 2011 petition demanding UN accountability through the 2013 complaint filed in the Southern District of New York. He also outlines some of the legal arguments against the UN’s response, as well as outside reactions to the case (including former UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s).

The introductory paragraph is below. Click HERE for a pdf of the full article.

Cholera in Haiti: A Perfect Storm of Scientific and Legal Uncertainty

Guy R. Knudsen, Natural Resources & Environment
Summer 2014

To date, the Haitian cholera epidemic that broke out
in 2010 has killed more than 8,500 people, and sickened
another 600,000. Although United Nations
(UN) peacekeeping forces have been widely blamed
for introducing the bacterial pathogen into Haiti, the UN
continues to deny responsibility and rejects demands for victim
compensation. Recently, two human rights groups filed a
class action lawsuit against the UN in federal court, seeking
compensation for cholera victims. The suit, which ventures
into largely uncharted waters of international law, takes place
against a backdrop of intense and sometimes rancorous scientific
debate about the human and environmental determinants
of the epidemic. The UN is relying on a two-pronged defensive
strategy: first, a defense based on immunity derived from
its traditional diplomatic privileges and immunities, which
dates back to the organization’s founding in 1946. Second, a
defense based on a lack of proximate cause, which is bolstered
by several prominent scientists’ theory that the pathogen
may have been endemic to Haiti and only was unleashed by
the combined effects of climate change, a devastating earthquake,
and unusually violent weather episodes. In this article,
I will discuss this evolving dimension of international law,
particularly as it is intertwined with ongoing scientific and
environmental controversy.

Click HERE for the full article.

OAS Pressures Haiti to Hold Long-Overdue Elections

August 27, 2014 - 07:51

The Organization of American States is pressing the Haitian government to hold elections, emphasizing the agreement made in the El Rancho Accord. The problem is, the El Rancho Accord’s method of appointing a Provisional Electoral Council contradicts the Constitution and the Senate has not approved the Accord.

Learn more about the delayed elections in our FAQ, here.

OAS Permanent Council Urged Haiti to Hold Overdue Elections and Convened a Special General Assembly on Strategic Vision

August 27, 2014

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today adopted a Declaration calling on the three branches of government of Haiti to comply with the agreement knows as El Rancho and to call legislative and municipal elections by the end of 2014, and also convened a Special General Assembly on the Strategic Vision for the Organization to be held on Friday, September 12.

The Chair of the Permanent Council and Representative of Saint Lucia, Ambassador Sonia Johnny, said theDeclaration on Haiti supports “the efforts of a member state to be able to hold elections in accordance with the terms of its constitution and with other agreements.”

Introducing the resolution, the Permanent Representative of Haiti, Edmond Bocchit, recalled the support given by the Council to the El Rancho Accord which provided for the holding of elections on October 26 and which he described as “a step in the right direction.” “Unfortunately this agreement is now facing great difficulties; you supported us, encouraged all actors to respect their commitments, and today I come to seek the solidarity of the OAS and its member states regarding a situation facing our nation, because we know that the well-being of Haiti’s democracy must be a priority for the region,” said Ambassador Bocchit.

The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, explained the scope and impact of the situation in Haiti and said that if the elections are held as scheduled in the agreement, “on the first of January if there are no elections Haiti will be left without a Senate, therefore we’ll be left without a constitutional institution. “ He said that the OAS “is prepared to support the democratic process in Haiti, especially the elections, in accordance to the Constitution and the laws of the country,” and assured the Council that the OAS will continue to accompany the political process through high level visits, the presence of an office in Haiti, and the work of the Group of Friends of Haiti in Washington DC.

The leader of the hemispheric Organization added that “the international community, including the OAS, can only assist in this process of democratic consolidation and then only upon the request of the legitimately elected Government of Haiti. From this perspective we hope that all stakeholders in the political process continue to work together to create the best circumstances for stability and growth and security.” He insisted that the Organization “hopes that the dialogue that started at the beginning of the year will continue and that all those who are not part of this process should be encouraged to take part,” as this is the best channel to voice all their concerns and needs.

The adopted resolution states that all parties fully honor “their political commitments as well as the legal and constitutional obligations to facilitate the speedy organization of elections necessary for the renewal of the mandates of legislative and municipal authorities”; and urges all state powers “to continue the dialogue in order to fulfill, as a matter of urgency, their obligations under the Constitution and the El Rancho Accord for the purpose of ensuring the holding of elections in 2014.”

On this, the Secretary General Insulza noted that Article 3 to the El Rancho clearly speaks of the Constitution, “and this is a wider approach that takes us in the direction of Article 156 of the Constitution which relates to the responsibility of the President regarding governance and the functioning of the democratic institutions.”

(The “Strategic Vision” part of this article has been cut off because it’s not relevant to this site.)


Click HERE for the original.

Learn more about the delayed elections in our FAQ, here.

Opposing Parties Unite for Justice for Aristide

August 26, 2014 - 12:28

This update focuses mostly on the current case against former Haitian President Aristide, with a brief mention of the August 10th prison break at the end. One key point is that people who usually oppose Aristide are joining Aristide supporters in denouncing the judge heading the case him. Realizing the importance of the rule of law, these opponents are putting aside their political differences in the name of justice.

Haiti: Aristide’s lawyers question inquiry

Weekly News Update on the Americas blog, World War 4 Report
August 26, 2014

Former Haitian prime minister Yvon Neptune (2002-2004) appeared before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire at the judge’s Port-au-Prince office on Aug. 22 to answer questions in an inquiry into allegations of corruption and drug trafficking during the second administration of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Bélizaire has notified the authorities that 33 people, most of them connected with Aristide’s Lavalas Family (FL) party, are not permitted to leave the country because of their connection with the investigation. After the Aug. 22 session, Neptune, who has broken with Aristide, told reporters that he had no problem answering Bélizaire’s summons. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Aug. 23)

Lawyers for Aristide, on the other hand, have challenged Bélizaire’s entire inquiry and his qualifications to head it. Aristide was reportedly ordered to appear before Bélizaire on Aug. 13, but human rights advocate Mario Joseph, Aristide’s lead attorney, said the former president never received the summons. Joseph himself went to Bélizaire’s office to deliver a letter on the subject, but the judge wasn’t present. Aristide’s legal team is demanding that Bélizaire be removed from the case on the grounds that there were irregularities in his appointment as judge and that he is a member of the center-right Tèt Kale Haitian Party (PHTK) of President Michel Martelly (tèt kale is Creole for “Bald Head,” a nickname for the president). Lavalas supporters have maintained barricades around Aristide’s house in the northeastern suburb of Tabarre since mid-August in case Judge Bélizaire issues an arrest warrant for the former president.

Aristide’s backers aren’t the only ones questioning Bélizaire’s investigation. “This case should be handled by another judge, one who understands respecting the law,” Pierre Espérance, the director of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) and a longtime Aristide opponent, told the online Haitian news service AlterPresse. “Judge Lamarre lacks character and temperament. He kneels before the executive.” According to Espérance, Bélizaire hasn’t had training to investigate financial crimes. “If he stays on the case, it’s because he has a personal interest.” (AlterPresse Aug. 13, Aug. 13Radio Kiskeya Aug. 17, Aug. 17)

The Haitian court system is often accused of being influenced by political interests. On Aug. 11 a court in the northwestern city of Gonaïves sentenced Wilford Ferdinand (“Ti Wil”) and his cousin Alix Suffrant (“Bout Zòrèy”) to nine years at hard labor for the April 2007 murder of Johnson Edouard, a former correspondent for the weekly Haïti Progrès and a regional coordinator for FL. Ferdinand was a leader in the so-called “Cannibal Army,” a local group that initially supported Aristide but later joined right-wing paramilitary groups seeking his overthrow. Ferdinand charged that the sentence against him was politically motivated. “Investigative judge Pierre Michel Denis is a member of the Lavalas Family party,” Ferdinand said. But he thanked the public ministry’s representative, Enock Géné Génélus, for his help. Normally the public ministry, responsible to the Martelly government, would be expected to lead the prosecution; in this case, it supported the defendant. (AlterPresse, Aug. 14)

In a major embarrassment for the criminal justice system, 329 prisoners broke out of the prison in Croix-des-Bouquets, northeast of Port-au-Prince, on Aug. 10. One of the escapees was Clifford Brandt, a wealthy business leader’s son who is charged with masterminding the October 2012 kidnapping of other members of the elite. There was speculation that Brandt’s backers were behind the massive jailbreak. Brandt was captured two days later by Dominican soldiers in Hondo Valle, just across the border from Haiti. As of Aug. 13 only some 20 of the escaped prisoners had been recaptured. (AlterPresse Aug. 13, Aug. 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, August 24.


Click HERE for the original.

Earthquakes Disproportionately Impact Developing Countries

August 25, 2014 - 06:13

Although we often hear about the large financial costs of earthquakes in the US and other developed countries, the human costs are never as high as in less-developed or developing countries. Even if the gross financial costs are less in developing countries, they represent a higher proportion of those countries’ GDP. Lack of building code enforcement in developing countries also results in a higher death toll from natural disasters. The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a prime example of that fact, with the death toll in the hundreds of thousands. This is one of the many reasons Haiti needs systemic change for a better future.

Earthquakes Cost More in Rich Countries but Devastate Poor Ones

Charles Kenny, Bloomberg Businessweek
August 25, 2014

Northern California suffered its strongest earthquake in 25 years on Sunday, and although 120 people were injured, not a single fatality was reported. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey put initial estimates of economic losses at $1 billion. Both the low human cost and high economic cost illustrate constants in natural disasters: They are far more expensive—and far less deadly—in rich countries.

Earthquakes are more expensive in rich areas because there’s more to break. A barrel containing $16,000 worth of pinot noir, for example, fell and smashed at Dahl Vineyards on Sunday. North America accounted for one out of six global catastrophes in 2013, according to an analysis by insurance firm Swiss Re. But it accounted for only 1 percent of the victims, compared with as much as 23 percent of the economic loss. (Perhaps of most interest to an insurance company: It accounted for 42 percent of the insured losses worldwide.)

The CATDAT database of damaging earthquakes lists more than 7,000 since 1900 with estimates of their economic and human cost. Again, in absolute terms, by far the most expensive quakes are in rich countries: The 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, cost over $123 billion, compared with a mere $7 billion for the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

These impressive damage totals can obscure the fact that, in relative terms, economic costs of disasters are actually higher in the developing world. While there’s more to break in wealthy countries, construction is far better—buildings have to meet earthquake—safety regulations, for example. In poor countries, a greater proportion of the existing infrastructure collapses in a quake. The CATDAT database suggests that in terms of economic loss as a percentage of gross domestic product, the vast majority of the top 35 earthquakes have been in developing, not developed, countries. Kobe’s destruction was worth about 2.3 percent of Japan’s GDP. The Haitian earthquake’s devastation was worth more than that country’s entire annual output.

Related to the greater risk of infrastructure collapse, quakes are yet another deadly condition that disproportionately impact the poor. Fatalities after the Haiti quake were 20 times the Japanese fatalities from Kobe. The CATDAT database suggests that all of the top 10 most deadly earthquake-related events in the last 100 years, which killed between 52,000 and 283,000 each, happened in developing countries. Four of those top 10 have happened since 2000: the Indian Ocean tsunami, plus the earthquakes in Haiti; Sichuan, China; and Kashmir, Pakistan. The creators of the database estimate that the average number of deaths per earthquake in the most developed countries in their sample is less than 50—compared with more than 450 in the countries with the lowest income, education, and life expectancy. Don’t let the damage estimates fool you: To survive an earthquake with most of your loved ones and resources intact, it is far better to be in Napa Valley than Nicaragua or Haiti.


Click HERE for the original.

Haiti and Brazil Hit the ‘Ville

August 24, 2014 - 11:00

Don’t miss this Somerville, MA Haitian/Brazilian festival!

Kreyol isi.

Portugues aqui.


A cultural festival featuring music, dance, food, and more.


Union Square

Somerville, MA


Sunday August 24, 2pm-7pm


Click HERE for the City of Somerville event posting.

Aristide Warrant a Distraction from Delayed Elections?

August 23, 2014 - 06:24

This article explains the background to the Aristide case, as well as the speculation that the case is a tactic to distract from long-overdue elections being delayed again. Without elections in 2014, Parliament will become nonfunctional and President Martelly will rule by decree. There are also other serious repercussions of not having fair and democratic elections in Haiti. Learn more about elections in our FAQ.

Aristide Warrant and Brandt Prison Break Overshadow Election Derailment

Kim Ives, Haiti Liberte
August 20-26, 2014

Last week, Haitian demonstrators erected barricades of burning tires and car
frames in front of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s home in Tabarre
to prevent the government of President Michel Martelly from arresting him.
On Aug. 12, investigating judge Lamarre Bélizaire had issued a court summons
for Aristide to come to his offices for questioning the next day, Aug. 13.
Aristide never received the last-minute summons which was allegedly left at
his gate, according to his lawyer Mario Joseph. Having heard about the
summons on the radio, Joseph did show up at the 10 a.m. hearing with a
letter explaining that the summons had not been correctly served.
Ironically, Judge Bélizaire did not show up for his own hearing but
nonetheless later that afternoon issued an arrest warrant for Aristide
because of his absence.

Meanwhile, at about 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, two vehicles of armed men shot
automatic weapons at the outside of the new prison in Croix-des-Bouquets,
just north of the capital, precipitating the escape of 329 prisoners. Among
them was Clifford Brandt, 42, the scion of a prominent bourgeois family who
was jailed in October 2012 (but to date never tried) for heading a
kidnapping ring that held hostage the son and daughter of Haitian banker
Robert Moscoso. On Aug. 12, Dominican authorities recaptured Brandt and
three other fugitives across the border in the neighboring Dominican
Republic and turned them over to Haitian authorities, who tried to take
credit for the capture. (The Dominican Defense Minister had to issue a
statement setting the record straight.)

These two unfolding dramas, perhaps by design, have all but eclipsed a much
more ominous development last week: the cancellation of parliamentary and
municipal elections, already two years overdue, which had been promised for
Oct. 26. As a result, it is all but certain that another third of the
Haitian Senate and many in the House of Deputies will see their terms expire
on Jan. 12, 2015, rendering the Parliament nonfunctional and Martelly ruling
by decree.

This is exactly where the konpa-singer-turned-president wanted to arrive.
“First thing, after I establish my power, which would be very strong and
necessary, I would close that congress thing,” Martelly told the Miami New
Times in a 1997 feature article. “”La chambre des députés. Le sénat.” He
claps his hands. “Out of my way.”"

These were not jokes. The article made clear that even back then Martelly
was planning a run for president and was “not afraid to reveal that he has
given serious thought to his philosophy of government,” which was
essentially a “Fujimori-style solution.” Former Peruvian dictatorial
president Alberto Fujimori is presently in prison, having been convicted of
committing major human rights and corruption crimes during his
administration in the 1990s.

Martelly’s looming one-man rule marks a sharp political reversal. Last
autumn, massive popular demonstrations, led largely by outspoken Sen.
Moïse Jean-Charles and radical Lavalas base organizations, were marching
almost weekly to demand the resignation of Martelly and his Prime Minister
and business partner Laurent Lamothe and the departure of the 6,600-soldier
United Nations force, acronymed MINUSTAH, which has militarily occupied
Haiti since Jun. 1, 2004.

But in December 2013, Aristide’s Lavalas Family party (FL) expelled Sen.
Jean-Charles for criticizing and outshining the party’s Executive Committee,
and from January to March 2014, Washington and the Catholic Church connived
with the Martelly government to carry out a charade conference of national
reconciliation, resulting in the “El Rancho Accord” supposedly putting the
country on the road to the Oct. 26 elections. As a result, despite a few
sizable marches on symbolic dates, last year’s mobilization began to weaken.

Now from being on the defensive, Martelly is back on the offensive.
“It is not without reason that the puppet judge Lamarre Bélizaire published
a list with the names of [31] people who can’t leave the country a few days
before the Martelly-Lamothe-MINUSTAH government allowed its associate
Clifford Brandt to escape from jail,” said the Dessalines Coordination party
(KOD) in an Aug. 19 declaration. “They knew what kind of scandal that would
provoke… That may be why they decided to hatch a plot to issue a warrant
for former President Aristide, as a way to distract the population… That
may be why they created the crisis of Aristide’s so-called arrest to cover
not only the illegal liberation of more than 300 bandits, but the CEP
[Provisional Electoral Council] now saying that elections are not possible
this year.”

“Instead of the people being mobilized 24/7 to demand the departure of
Martelly, Lamothe, and MINUSTAH, [the regime] is now giving us our work,
making us stand out in Tabarre day and night making sure they don’t arrest
Aristide,” KOD concluded. “They have now put us on the defensive so we don’t
attack them for the crimes they are carrying out in the country.”

On Aug. 18, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the FL’s national coordinator and now
formal presidential candidate, held a press conference at the Aristide
Foundation where she called the attacks against Aristide “maneuvers and
diversions to distract Haitians from the real problems they face daily.”
Among these, she included the ever-escalating cost of living, the eviction
of hundreds of families in downtown Port-au-Prince, the uprooting of farmers
on Ile-à-Vache, the disaster in the state exam results this year, the
withholding of elections for 4 years, the failure of the El Rancho Accord,
and the spectacular release of Clifford Brandt. She said that the latest
charges of embezzlement and drug-trafficking against Aristide, which are
drawn from a long-discredited politically-motivated report by the
Washington-installed de facto government which took power on the heels of
the Feb. 29, 2004 coup against Aristide, were “fabricated in a laboratory
with the participation of a small group of enemies of democracy.”

“The Lavalas Family continues to demand free, fair, and democratic
elections,” Dr. Narcisse concluded, from which the party “will not allow
itself to be excluded,” as it has been in all elections over the past

“The Haitian people do not accept and will never accept a retrograde,
reactionary power, which has issued from the Macoute Duvalierist ideology,
to use the justice system to persecute an honest citizen who has faithfully
put himself at the service of his people,” said Lionel Etienne, an FL
Executive Committee member and former deputy. FL leaders also called for the
release of the Martelly regime’s political prisoners like Jean Robert
Vincent, Joshua and Enold Florestal, and Louima Louijuste.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 15, Aristide along with several of his lawyers sent a
long letter to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to lay out numerous reasons why the
legitimacy and “impartiality of Judge Lamarre Bélizaire is far from
established, and the credibility of the judicial system is quite flawed.”
The letter called on the IACHR to “urgently adopt precautionary measures to
safeguard the freedom and rights of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide whose
freedom is seriously threatened by the reckless and arbitrary actions of
Judge Lamarre Bélizaire.”

In Haiti, Aristide’s lawyers have formally asked that Judge Bélizaire be
recused from the case for which he has summoned the former president.

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Click HERE for the original.

Delayed Elections Leave Haiti’s Future in Limbo

August 22, 2014 - 13:02

Amid the recent news of a massive prison break and renewed charges against former President Aristide, the Provisional Electoral Council has announced that Haiti’s elections will no longer happen October 26. If elections don’t happen by the end of 2014, President Martelly may rule by decree. This is a scary prospect given Haiti’s history of dictators and political unrest. The Martelly government needs to compromise with the opposition leaders to make sure that Haiti has fair and democratic elections this year.

For more on the importance of elections, read our FAQ.

Once again, Haiti government could be in danger of collapse

Nathalie Baptiste, Latin Correspondent
August 22, 2014

In April, the United Nations warned that if Haiti did not hold parliamentary elections this year, the entire country would be set on a dangerous path towards political chaos.

Sadly, the kind of upheaval that political strife brings is nothing new to Haiti. The last coup, backed by the United States and France, was only a decade ago and is still fresh in the minds of the Haitian people. Riots, protests and violence erupted in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, as democratically elected Jean Bertrand-Aristide was whisked away on an airplane to live in exile in South Africa.

Today, as Haiti struggles to get its economy moving after decades of mismanagement, failed interventions, deadly hurricanes in 2008, a catastrophic earthquake in 2010 and a subsequent cholera outbreak, the political landscape looks as bleak as ever.

The United States has been calling on President Michel Martelly to hold fair and free elections, now three years overdue. The El Rancho Accord — talks between Martelly and the opposition, brokered by the Catholic church — stated that the first round of elections would be held on October 26, 2014. But the two sides have been at odds for years over the composition of the electoral council, placing leaders at a gridlock and leaving the political future of the country unknown.

Last week, two major stories came out of Haiti. Three hundred and twenty-nine prisoners escaped from the country’s main prison after gunmen attacked it in an attempt to free an inmate held on kidnapping charges. Around the same time, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who returned to Haiti in 2011, was served a warrant for his arrest.

Amidst the frenzy of searching for the prisoners and U.N. clashes with Aristide supporters, many may not have noticed the announcement from the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP): elections will not be held on October 26. This announcement has brought the Haiti government perilously close to the edge.

The initial warning from the United Nations stated that not holding elections early enough could lead to a dissolution of parliament in January 2015, leaving Martelly to rule by decree. For a country with a long and troubled history of dictators and sham presidents, the prospect of having a president rule by decree is unnerving at best and horrifying at worst.

Compounding the issue is the possible problem with aid. Donors floated the idea of cutting off desperately-needed aid if Martelly is left to rule by decree in 2015.

So, what needs to happen? There’s a small chance that the first round of elections could be held in December so it’s vital that the two opposing sides come to an agreement. President Martelly would benefit by taking into account the complaints of the opposition party, which include claims of exclusivity of the provisional council and favoritism from the Martelly regime.

Ensuring that their voices are heard will lead to productive and peaceful talks that will hopefully transform into a speedy resolution. Without a solution, Haiti’s already fragile democracy will fall apart leading to another round of political unrest that the Haitian people simply cannot stomach.


Click HERE for the original.

For more on the importance of elections, read our FAQ.

Is arrest warrant for Aristide waived?

August 21, 2014 - 11:00

Some say that the arrest warrent against former President Aristide has been waived due to the investigation into the judge who issued the warrant, Lamarre Bélizaire. Bélizaire, on the other hand, insists that the charges were never waived and he doesn’t know why the arrest hasn’t yet been made. Aristide’s lawyers, including Mario Joseph, are seeking recusal of Bélizaire for bias and maintain that the investigation must be stopped while authorities handle the recusal. Keep an eye on our site for more information.

Haiti judge orders arrest of former president Aristide

Jamaica Observer
August 21, 2014

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) – A judge who has issued an arrest warrant for former president Jean Bertrand Aristide says he expects the police to bring the former head of state before him by force if necessary.

Lawyers representing Aristide have filed a motion seeking to have investigating judge Lamarre Bélizaire removed on the grounds of bias.

But the judge told the Port au Prince based news website, Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN) that he had not revoked the warrant in light of the motion filed the former president.

“I issued an arrest warrant for Mr Aristide and I don’t know what takes the police so long to bring him before me, because they know where he is,” Belizaire said, adding “I heard rumours that I had waived the arrest warrant.

“I want to say that it is absolutely false. The warrant still holds and I am still the judge in charge of the inquiry and nothing has changed in that regard,” he said, that he would continue his work in conformity with existing laws, without any form of abuse.

“I don’t have any particular problem with anybody. I am a judge and I am only doing what the law requires me to do and that is all I can say for now,” Belizaire added.

Aristide and several of his former colleagues have been accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from the State through his organisation, Aristide for Democracy Foundation and other organisations during the period 2001-04.

Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, and his colleagues including Mirlande Liberus, Yvon Neptune, Jean Nesty Lucien and Gustave Faubert, have also been banned from leaving the country.

The Dean of Port Au Prince first instance court, Raymond Jean-Michel, confirmed Tuesday that he had received a copy of a motion seeking recusal and disqualification of Justice Bélizaire on the grounds of bias.

Aristide’s lawyers said their client did not receive the summons which was sent to his residence, but the judge believed he deliberately chose not to appear.

Aristide’s lawyers argue that the judge is now obligated to stop all proceedings in the case regarding serious acts of corruption blamed on the former leader, but legal observers say the arrest warrant against Aristide is still valid and that the judge may proceed with the criminal inquiry while relevant judicial authorities examine the request for recusal.

Supporters of the former president have been gathering near his home in the Tabarre district, in a show of support for the former leader, who spent seven years in exile in South Africa before returning to the country in 2011.

Last week, a spokesman for Aristide’s Lavalas Family party, Ansyto Felix, said efforts to prosecute the former leader were part of a plan by the Michel Martelly administration to persecute political opponents, on the eve of crucial elections and in the face of popular discontent,

“The government of President Martelly and Prime Minister (Laurent) Lamothe is doing nothing to solve the problems and meet the needs of the population,” he said.


Click HERE for the original.

Qu’est-ce qui se passe avec le mandat contre Aristide?

August 20, 2014 - 09:28

Il y a beaucoup de rumeurs sur ce qui se passe au mandat contre l’ex-président Aristide. Certains disent qu’il est suspendu en raison de l’enquête sur juge Lamarre Bélizaire mais le juge insiste que rien n’a changé. Me Mario Joseph, l’un des avocats d’Aristide, soutient que c’est la persécution politique contre Aristide, en vue des élections en Haïti.

Aristide : le mandat d’amener suspendu ou encore debout ?

Roberson Alphonse, Le Nouvelliste
20 août 2014

C’est comme au rodéo. En vingt-quatre heures, le mandat d’amener contre l’ex-président Jean-Bertrand Aristide est tombé, avant d’être remis en selle par le juge d’instruction Lamarre Bélizaire, une véritable plaie pour les lavalassiens, supporteurs de Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Ses scoops, le juge d’instruction les donne à Guyler C. Delva, ex-secrétaire d’Etat à la Communication du pouvoir Tèt Kale et propriétaire d’une agence d’information en ligne.

Pour joindre le juge Lamarre Bélizaire au téléphone, il faut prendre son mal en
patience. Rien ne garantit, au bout du compte, qu’on obtiendra une interview.
Pour confirmer, pour infirmer des dits, dédits et non dits quant au gel du mandat
d’amener contre l’ex-président Jean-Bertrand Aristide à cause de la requête en
dessaisissement ou récusation du juge d’instruction Lamarre Bélizaire. Après une
dizaine de tentatives, un peu avant 9 heures du soir, mercredi 20 août, Lamarre
Bélizaire décroche son portable. Il n’est pas seul. Le bruit de fond permet de
distinguer d’autres voix. Affable, le juge d’instruction, avec courtoisie, demande
qu’on le rappelle. « Je participe à une petite réunion en ce moment », indique-t-il.

Deux heures après, plus d’une vingtaine de tentatives de le rejoindre sont
infructueuses. L’oiseau bleu a éteint son portable. Le journal tombe sur sa boîte
vocale. D’autres confrères, dont au moins un d’un média étranger, se sont
retrouvés face à ce mur. Ce silence. En revanche, tout le monde se fait coiffer au
poteau par l’ex-secrétaire d’Etat à la Communication du pouvoir Tèt Kale, Guyler
C. Delva, propriétaire d’une toute nouvelle agence d’information en ligne. Il a un
accès pour le moins privilégié aux informations concernant l’instruction de l’exprésident
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, inculpé pour trafic de drogue, soustraction de
deniers publics, forfaiture, concussion et blanchiment des avoirs. L’agence de
Guyler C. Delva révèle mardi que « le juge Lamarre Bélizaire a rejeté les allégations
selon lesquelles le mandat d’amener émis à l’encontre d’Aristide ne tiendrait plus,
étant donné qu’une requête en récusation du juge d’instruction a été déposée par
les avocats de l’ex-président ».

La dépêche cite le juge d’instruction : « J’ai émis un mandat d’amener contre M.
Aristide et je ne sais pas pourquoi la police tarde autant à l’amener devant moi,
puisqu’ils (les policiers) savent où le trouver ». « J’ai entendu des rumeurs que
j’aurais accordé un sursis sur le mandat d’amener. Je veux dire, ajoute le juge
Lamarre Bélizaire, que c’est absolument faux ». « Le mandat tient toujours et je
suis toujours le juge chargé de l’enquête et rien n’a changé à cet égard », affirme
Lamarre Bélizaire à Guyler C. Delva.

«Le juge d’instruction, qui dit attendre plusieurs autres individus objet de mandats
d’amener, indiqué qu’il continuera à s’acquitter de sa tâche en conformité avec les
lois en vigueur, sans aucune forme d’abus », d’après l’agence de Delva. « Je n’ai de
problème particulier avec personne. Je suis un juge et je ne fais que ce que la loi
m’oblige à faire et c’est tout ce que je peux dire pour le moment », confie le juge
d’instruction, qui reprend la main après un petit flou d’au moins 24 heures dans
l’opinion autour du mandat d’amener contre Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Tomber, pas tomber ?

Petit coup de théâtre. Le mandat d’amener émis par le juge d’instruction Lamarre
Bélizaire contre l’ex-président Jean-Bertrand Aristide n’est pas « tombé ». Le
doyen du tribunal civil de Port-au-Prince Me Raymond Jean Michel s’est ravisé
après avoir affirmé la veille sur Radio Solidarité que « le juge doit cesser les actes
d’instruction en attendant que la Cour de cassation se prononce sur la demande
de récusation. En un mot, le mandat émis tombe ».

Ce mercredi, sur Radio Kiskeya, Me Raymond Jean Michel soutient que son «
opinion, émise en tant que doyen, a, paraît-il, été prise à défaut ». « C’est le juge
d’instruction qui a le secret de son instruction. C’est lui qui saura ce qu’il décidera
en ce qui a trait au mandat qu’il a émis. Le juge d’instruction, détenteur d’un
pouvoir « largement large », a le dossier. C’est à lui de décider de l’orientation dans
le traitement », dit-t-il avec un calme olympien.

« Il y a une récusation du juge Lamarre Bélizaire dan le dossier concernant l’exprésident
Jean-Bertrand Aristide. C’est le juge d’instruction qui est le coffre-fort
de son cabinet d’instruction. C’est lui qui sait ce qu’il fait », souligne Me Raymond
Jean Michel, ajoutant qu’ « en principe, c’est la Cour de cassation qui doit se
prononcer sur la récusation conformément à la loi ».
Le doyen Raymond Jean Michel confirme avoir été signifié. La procédure telle que
tracée par le code n’est pas complétée. « L’avocat doit déposer le dossier au greffe
et doit accompagner le greffier pour me le communiquer », explique le doyen,
chargé d’acheminer la récusation à la Cour de cassation.

Pour Me Mario Joseph, l’un des avocats de l’ex-président Jean-Bertrand Aristide,
le doyen Raymond Jean Michel « s’est fait tirer les oreilles pour avoir donné le mot
du droit » en affirmant hier que la récusation freine temporairement tout acte
d’instruction en attendant la décision de la Cour de cassation. « Pour moi, on a
tiré les oreilles du doyen afin de permettre à Lamarre Bélizaire d’avancer », gage
Mario Joseph. L’avocat de JBA affirme avoir signifié, outre le doyen, le greffe, le
juge d’instruction Lamarre Bélizaire, le commissaire du gouvernement, chef de la
poursuite; indiquant plus loin avoir confié à l’huissier Réginald St Jean de la Cour
de cassation la signification de la récusation du juge Lamarre Bélizaire au directeur
général de la PNH, à la DCPJ. Mario Joseph persiste et signe : les accusations
contre JBA sont infondées. Le juge Bélizaire est le bras du pouvoir, engagé dans
une vaste persécution politique contre l’ex-président Aristide, affirme Me Mario

Entre-temps, le débat fait rage. Certains avocats disent que la requête en
dessaisissement ne freine en rien l’instruction, l’enquête sur des faits délictueux
reprochés à un justiciable. Cela ouvrira la voie à d’innombrables demandes de
récusation afin de nuire à l’instruction. D’autres juristes affirment au contraire
que cette procédure est comme un appel entraînant la suspension de la procédure
en attendant la décision de l’entité saisie, en l’occurrence la Cour de cassation. Le
mandat d’amener, entre ciel et terre, se cherche peut-être un point d’appui ou de

Cliquez ICI pour l’original.

August 2014 Update

August 20, 2014 - 07:50

Adapting to Changes in Social Justice Advocacy Trends

August 19, 2014 - 09:00


This Tuesday, human rights lawyer and activist Brian Concannon will discuss the work of the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). IJDH helps Haitians enforce the human rights they need to enforce to escape poverty and vulnerability. Along with its partner, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), IJDH litigates cases in Haitian, U.S. and international courts, trains progressive Haitian lawyers, documents human rights violations and works with grassroots activists in Haiti, North America and throughout the world. Brian will explain how IJDH was established to bring the fight of BAI to the international community. Brian will also explore IJDH’s support for the Cholera Justice Network– a flexible network of advocates for the victims of the cholera brought to Haiti by UN troops–as a model for 21st Century social justice advocacy. Through his experience adapting to the emerging networked model of social justice advocacy, Brian offers a unique insight into adapting an organization.


The Next Mile Project
2 Atlantic Ave, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02110


08/19/14, 12:00-1:00pm


Please RSVP to!

Click HERE for the original event post.

Contestation judiciaire s’arrête accusations contre Aristide

August 19, 2014 - 07:53

Raymond Jean Michel, le doyen du tribunal civil du Port-au-Prince, insiste que le dossier d’Aristide a été distribué au hasard. Mais le juge pour ce cas, Lamarre Bélizaire, est connu pour le traitement des affaires politiques et ce cas semble une excellente occasion d’intervenir dans les élections à venir. Maintenant, l’action en récusation contre le juge a interrompu la procédure engagée contre Aristide.

Aristide : le mandat d’amener « tombe »

Roberson Alphonse, Le Nouvelliste
19 août 2014

Le mandat d’amener contre l’ex-président Jean- Bertrand Aristide « tombe » en
attendant la décision de la Cour de cassation sur la requête en récusation du juge
d’instruction Lamarre Bélizaire, a confié ce mardi 19 août 2014 Me Raymond Jean
Michel, doyen du tribunal civil de Port-au-Prince. « Le juge doit cesser les actes
d’instruction en attendant que la Cour de cassation se prononce sur la demande
de récusation. En un mot, le mandat émis tombe », a expliqué Raymond Jean
Michel, administrateur du tribunal, rappelant la procédure, de la signification de la
récusation au greffe du tribunal jusqu’à lui, le doyen, chargé d’acheminer la
demande à la Cour de cassation.

Le doyen Raymond Jean Michel a déclaré « n’avoir aucun état d’âme dans la
distribution des dossiers ». Les dossiers, a-t-il insisté, sont distribués de manière
aléatoire. Sur la liste de ses 25 juges d’instruction, il affirme distribuer les dossiers
de un à vingt cinq. « Si j’ai 60 dossiers, je commence de un jusqu’à vingt- cinq.
Ensuite, je recommence dans le même ordre », a assuré le doyen. Contrairement à
ce qu’avancent des proches d’Aristide et d’autres personnalités, Raymond Jean
Michel a affirmé qu’il n’y a aucune motivation politique du fait que le dossier de
crime financier, de trafic illicite de drogue contre l’ex-président Jean Bertrand
Aristide est confié au juge d’instruction Lamarre Bélizaire.

Le juge chargé de ce dossier, pour une raison ou pour une autre, avait laissé le
pays. Il a fallu redistribuer le dossier après inventaire, a dit Raymond Jean Michel,
démentant dans la foulée que le dossier ait été confié au juge Sonel Jean François.
Le dossier n’a jamais été confié, ni retiré à Sonel Jean François. Ce magistrat, en
revanche, est chargé d’instruire la plainte déposée par Ti Sony contre l’exprésident
Jean Bertrand Aristide et celle concernant la « vaste escroquerie des
coopératives », a détaillé le doyen Raymond Jean Michel qui invite les
personnalités ayant communiqué de fausses informations à aller se dédire face
aux caméras. Sur la question de compétence juridictionnelle, le doyen a indiqué
que les dispositions transitoires de la loi créant le tribunal civil de Croix-des-
Bouquets stipule que toute affaire en cours d’instruction doit être achevée. Celleci
remonte à 2006, après le rapport en 2005 de la Commission d’enquête
administrative dirigée par Paul Denis.

Me Mario Joseph, avocat de l’ex-président Jean- Bertrand Aristide, a maintenu ce
mardi que le juge Lamarre Bélizaire est « dans la poche du pouvoir ». « Les
accusations contre l’ex-président Aristide sont sans fondement », a-t-il déclaré en
revenant sur la violation du secret de l’instruction dans ce dossier. C’est dans la
presse qu’il a été informé de l’existence du mandat de comparution. Le
lendemain, après avoir apporté une lettre invitant le juge à confirmer l’existence
du mandat de comparution, c’est aussi à travers la presse qu’il a su qu’un mandat
d’amener a été décerné contre son client, a détaillé Me Mario Joseph affirmant
fondée l’action en récusation contre le juge Lamarre Bélizaire.

Dans la foulée, Mario Joseph et Me Gervais Charles qui a rejoint l’équipe de JBA
ont annoncé avoir envoyé une pétition à la Commission interaméricaine des
droits de l’homme dénonçant l’acharnement judiciaire dont est l’objet l’exprésident
Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Me Gervais Charles a imputé ce nouvel épisode
à une tentative de détourner l’attention de l’opinion publique après l’évasion de
Clifford Brandt et des centaines de détenus à Croix-des-Bouquets, qu’il qualifie de
scandale et de comédie.

La semaine dernière et lundi, des barricades enflammées étaient remarquées dans
plusieurs artères de Delmas, Tabarre et Port-au-Prince. Des partisans zélés de
Jean-Bertrand Aristide ont passé la nuit devant sa résidence à Tabarre et menacé
de tout faire pour protéger leur leader.
Cliquez ICI pour l’original.

Post-Quake IDP Camps Continue, Nearly 5 Years Later

August 19, 2014 - 04:43

Although the government has stopped talking about it and NGOs have stopped funding it, housing remains a big problem in Haiti. The Martelly-Lamothe government successfully emptied the most visible camps but less-visible ones have become permanent settlements. Building codes still have yet to be enforced, though building violations were a major cause of the destruction of the quake. Haiti needs sustainable housing solutions to respect the human rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and close IDP camps once and for all.

Failure to Aid Haiti’s Earthquake Homeless

Etant Dupain, Let Haiti Live
August 19, 2014

Nearly 5 years after the quake, IDPs continue to be evicted from camps despite no sustainable housing solutions or meaningful construction reforms

Port-au-Prince, Haiti: More than 20,000 victims of the earthquake on January 12, 2010 are living under the threat of forced evictions from the camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) where they live, according to the August 14 bulletin from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). As we are approaching the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, the situation for thousands of victims has never been ameliorated. Of the 172 camps that are officially recognized that house 104,000 IDPs, thirty-nine are facing the threat of immediate eviction.

The Martelly-Lamothe government has been very successful in dealing with the most visible of the IDP camps, and this has made the question of homeless earthquake victims still living in camps a less important subject in the national dialogue as well as for the international community.

Not offering a sustainable solution for IDPs wasn’t a problem in forcing them to leave camps, on the contrary, it created another problem: many places that should have been temporary have become permanent. Areas like Corail and Kanaran, which received the great majority of IDPs who were evicted as well as those who received a small stipend to leave the camps, have turned into large bidonville, or shantytowns, and no one even knows the true number of people who are living there.

The Haitian government has treated the internally displaced population in a discriminatory way, even more so considering the very serious dangers that families living in camps face in terms of the cholera and Chikungunya epidemics and the hurricane season.

Many people think the challenge of displaced people living in camps is in the past, but in reality this isn’t true at all – it isn’t an issue people are talking about because there is no money to help IDPs anymore. It is no longer a good way for NGOs to raise money, and the government has ceased creating propaganda about the positive outcomes of their efforts. Many NGOs have left Haiti along with funds they raised to help victims of the earthquake, and there are NGOs that up until now are still sitting on funds they raised to help the survivors, yet up until now they haven’t done anything with the money.

The failure of NGOs and the Haitian government to create a sustainable solution to Haiti’s housing crisis can be interpreted in many ways, one is that the disaster was a good way to raise funds and play politics, creating a market for NGOs and politicians.

Construction in Haiti continues to be a disaster, and despite the catastrophe of January 12, 2010, there have not been any major reforms put in place to prevent people from losing their lives when another major earthquake happens.

Nearly five years after the terrible events in 2010, the Haitian government has missed a huge opportunity to bring about positive and meaningful reforms for housing construction, and has also missed the chance to show the world that Haiti can treat its most vulnerable families with respect and dignity.


Click HERE for the original.

Haitian Diaspora Leaders Urge Haitian Family Reunification Program

August 18, 2014 - 07:50


Steve Forester, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti,, 786-877-6999 (English, Haitian Creole)

73 Haitian American Diaspora Groups and Leaders Urge President Obama to Create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program

(Miami, August 18, 2014)—In an unprecedented demonstration of unity and urgency, Haitian American organizations and leaders from across the nation and political spectrum urged President Obama “to instruct the Department of Homeland Security to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRPP) now to save lives and speed Haiti’s recovery.”  Forty-three (43) diaspora groups and 30 other diaspora political, religious, professional and social leaders wrote urging the President to finally implement this long-proposed and “easy-to-implement humanitarian and recovery measure.”

“DHS as of November 1, 2013 had approved family-based immigrant visa petitions for 109,489 Haitians who remain on wait lists of up to more than 12 years in Haiti, where many may have died and all are at risk given cholera and other conditions,” they write.   Citing broad, bipartisan and national support among U.S. political, editorial and other leaders for creating a Haitian FRPP to expedite their entry, the precedent for doing so, horrifying migrant deaths at sea, and “the inability of Congress to pass immigration legislation [which] makes this long-urged and imperative action clearly appropriate,” they note the proposed program’s significant foreign policy and other merits:

“Reuniting our families would also speed Haiti’s recovery: after paying the U.S. Treasury significant fees applying for work permits, employed parolees would begin and continue into the indefinite future sending to loved ones in Haiti crucially-needed remittances, which as you know are the most effective form of personal support; Haitians remit about $2 billion annually, mostly from the diaspora in the United States.

“Both Cubans and Haitians risk their lives in Caribbean waters, and Haiti’s recovery is in our national and border security interests given its proximity to our shores and our nation’s significant Haitian American population.  Right in terms of foreign policy, humanity and fairness, an HFRPP would also relieve at least some of the despair which leads people to put their lives into the hands of smugglers.  Nor would anyone get a “green card” any sooner – there would be no “line jumping” – but they could wait for them in safety, like their Cuban counterparts, not in still-suffering Haiti.”

Recently 63 members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote President Obama urging creation of this program, as did five leading members of the Congressional Black Caucus including U.S. Representatives Frederica Wilson and Yvette Clarke.  Replying to the latter letter on July 28, Deputy DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote, “We have taken your request for the creation of a family reunification parole program for Haitians under advisement and are actively reviewing this proposal.”  Nearly five years after Haiti’s earthquake, the community urges the President to have DHS implement this program now.

The letter concludes, “Mr. President, for the excellent reasons urged in broad and bipartisan fashion since the 2010 earthquake, underscored by the increasing loss of life at sea and your appropriate pledge to act administratively if necessary given congressional inaction, we strongly and most respectfully urge you to instruct DHS to save lives and help Haiti recover by finally now creating a Haitian FRPP.”

Among the letter’s 43 endorsing organizations are the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON), the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians (NOAH), the Haitian Diaspora Federation (HDF), the National Association of Haitian Professionals (NAHP), the Haitian American Professionals Coalition (HAPC), the Chicago-based Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti; the New Jersey-based organizations Haitian American Leadership Council, Haiti Solidarity Network of the Northeast, and the International Coalition for Haiti; three Haitian American Lawyers Associations (Florida, New York, and New Jersey); the Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida (HACCOF), the Center for Haitian Studies (CHS), Haitian Women of Miami (FANM), the Haitian American Grassroots Coalition (HAGC), and Sant-la, all based in South Florida, the Boston-based Association of Haitian Women, Inc. (AFAB) and many other groups nationwide.

Endorsing political leaders include Massachusetts State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, New York City Council Member Mathieu Eugene, Florida State Representative Daphne Campbell, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime, City of North Miami Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime, and South Toms River (NJ) Mayor Joseph Makhandal Champagne, among many other current and former officials.

Endorsing religious leaders include Brooklyn’s Bishop Guy Sansaricq and Pastor Mullery Jean-Pierre; Miami’s Father Reginald Jean-Mary, Venerable Canon Reverend Fritz Bazin, and Monsignor Jean Pierre; and Boston’s Rev. Dieufort Jean Fleurissaint, Rev. Pierre-Louis Zephir, and Pastor Raphael Germain, Director of the Missionary Association of Haitian Christians.  Other prominent endorsers include renowned author Edwidge Danticat, Chicago-based Judge Lionel Jean Baptiste, two Florida SEIU labor union entities, the Brooklyn-based Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), and Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ) and Catholic Charities Legal Services (CCLS).

The letter is being released by endorsers in various parts of the United States, including but not limited to NOAH, NHAEON, the Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti, FANM and others.

Visit IJDH’s site to learn more about Haitian Family Reunification.



DR Citizenship Plan Still Leaves Thousands Stateless

August 16, 2014 - 11:33

Although the Dominican Republic now has a plan to counteract the problems caused by their September 2013 Constitutional Court ruling, hundreds of thousands will still have an uncertain future in DR. The plan for eventual citizenship includes many steps that simply aren’t feasible for informal workers. Human rights advocates continue to fight for a more just handling of immigrants and their descendants in DR.

Who’s A Citizen? The Question Dividing The Island Of Hispaniola

Sarah Tilotta, WGBH News
August 16, 2014

Anderson Desir, 9, shares a dream with many boys his age in the Dominican Republic: He wants to grow up and play baseball in la liga grande, otherwise known as American Major League Baseball.

But there’s an important difference between Anderson and the 80 Dominican kids from his summer baseball league in San Pedro de Macoris: Anderson is Haitian.

In a controversial decision last year, the Dominican Constitutional Court ruled that those born in the country are not citizens unless at least one parent is a legal resident.

The decision could cause problems for Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, like Anderson, whose parents brought him here from Haiti shortly after he was born. However, the ruling especially affects an estimated 250,000 Haitian descendants born in the Dominican Republic, including Anderson’s two siblings — his sister Rosaura, 6, and his brother Mickael, 2.

The court’s judgment was criticized by the United States, other Latin countries and international human rights advocates, who said the move could create a significant stateless population in the Dominican Republic.

In response, Dominican President Danilo Medina signed a law in May that essentially creates two categories of people born in the Dominican Republic to foreign parents: those births that were officially entered into the Civil Registry, and those that were not.

The first of the two groups represents a minority of approximately 20,000, who in theory should become “regularized” automatically. However, the vast majority, 200,000 or more in the second group, will be subject to a discretionary application, and would have an uncertain future in the Dominican Republic.

“For many years, there was a tacit acceptance of Haitian migration, and also the right of descendants to have Dominican nationality,” said Bridget Wooding, director of the Observatory of Caribbean Migrants, a think tank in Santo Domingo.

“In practice, there’s never been a very clear migration legislation, on the one hand. And on the other hand, the rights of descendants born in the Dominican Republic have been shrinking over the years,” she added.

Haitians traditionally moved to the eastern part of the shared island of Hispaniola to work in the sugar cane fields of the Dominican Republic.

But as that industry has waned, Haitians have become ever more visible as they seek other jobs and opportunities. “This tends to inflame passions,” said Wooding.

Haitians born in the Dominican Republic have until late October to apply for citizenship under the government’s new plan. The first step for someone born in the Dominican Republic is to declare oneself as a foreigner.

“The irony here is that these people who are and should be Dominicans by right, due to their birth on the territory (but were not registered, often due to the discrimination of local authorities), will have to claim to be foreigners in the only country they’ve known,” writes Cassandre Theano, an associate legal officer with Open Society Justice Initiative in New York.

Applicants must then submit supporting documents of all kinds: pay stubs, letters of employment, rental agreements, proof of homeownership, bank statements, etc.

But, says Wooding, “we’re talking about people who have been undocumented, or have not had regular migration status; people who are in informal work, so they don’t have regular work receipts. They don’t have the right to own property or open bank accounts, so those kind of criteria are out. People are finding it very difficult.”

Those who make it this far through the process will be given a two-year temporary visa, after which period they will either be granted or denied regularization status.

Theano says the worry is that “once the process is finished and people either don’t complete their file or have completed their file and are rejected, then that could pave the way for mass deportation, which, politically is going to be difficult to carry out, but theoretically could happen.”

The Dominican ambassador to the United States, Aníbal de Castro, draws comparisons between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic in “grappling with the challenges of immigration reform and the complexities of addressing undocumented people living within its borders.”

He even suggests that the Dominican Regularization plan “could serve as a road map for the United States and other countries that are facing similar issues.”

The United States is one of about 30 countries, many of them in the Americas and the Caribbean, that automatically grant citizenship to those born in the country, even if the parents are not legal residents.

However, the Dominican constitution of 2010 does not grant that right.

Back on the baseball diamond, Anderson’s team competes in a tournament on the dusty fields that spawned Sammy Sosa and Robinson Cano, to name only a couple of baseball greats from San Pedro de Macoris.

If his parents had never come to the Dominican Republic, he would most likely be speaking Haitian Creole and playing soccer somewhere in Haiti. Instead, Anderson’s coach calls out the batter’s count in quick Dominican Spanish, and the pitcher lobs the ball toward the plate. Anderson swings and makes contact good enough for a solid double, as if he’s been doing it his whole life.

And, in fact, he has. Although it’s only his second week on a team, he’s been playing street ball with Dominican neighborhood kids since he could walk. At this point in his baseball career, it’s safe to say that, as long as all the paperwork goes through, Anderson is just as likely as any other 9-year-old from San Pedro de Macoris to make it to la liga grande.

Click HERE for the original.

Diaspora Haitian Family Reunification Letter to President Obama

August 15, 2014 - 09:27

August 15, 2014

President Barack Obama, The White House

Dear Mr. President:

We write as Haitian-American diaspora leaders and organizations to urge you to instruct the Department of Homeland Security to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRPP) now to save lives and speed Haiti’s recovery.  We believe this needed and easy-to-implement humanitarian and recovery measure would be an excellent way to fulfill your State of the Union pledge to act administratively when appropriate.

DHS as of November 1, 2013 had approved family-based immigrant visa petitions for 109,489 Haitians who remain on wait lists of up to more than 12 years in Haiti, where many may have died and all are at risk given cholera and other conditions.  Since Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake, a broad array of support has urged you to create an HFRPP, like the ongoing Cuban FRPP created administratively by DHS in 2007 under which tens of thousands of approved Cuban beneficiaries have been paroled into the United States.

Supporters include 100 congresspersons of both parties, 10 major editorial boards in at least 17 editorials, the Miami-Dade County Commission, the New York and Philadelphia city councils, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, American Bar Association, Congressional Black Caucus, NAACP, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, 6,000 petitioners, etc.

Two new, exacerbating factors compel this letter now.  Many mainstream news reports document what the U.S. Coast Guard knows and confirms all too well: desperate Haitian migrants are dying at sea in ever-increasing numbers as smugglers cause them to brave perilous routes, including the notoriously treacherous 80-mile-wide Mona Passage strait toward Puerto Rico, often abandoning them to die.  The smugglers “are ruthless,” Chief of Enforcement Captain Mark Fedor of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District in Miami recently told the Wall Street Journal:  “They want to get the run done and collect their money… there’s probably a lot of death we don’t know about.”

Secondly, the inability of Congress to pass immigration legislation makes this long-urged and imperative action clearly appropriate.

It makes no sense for Haitians long since approved by DHS to join their families in the United States to remain on years-long wait lists in Haiti.

Creating a Haitian FRPP would save lives: the 109,000 Haitians at risk in our hemisphere’s poorest nation — now enduring an unchecked cholera epidemic which has killed thousands and sickened hundreds of thousands — would be safer with their petitioning U.S. family members in our communities.

Reuniting our families would also speed Haiti’s recovery: after paying the U.S. Treasury significant fees applying for work permits, employed parolees would begin and continue into the indefinite future sending to loved ones in Haiti crucially-needed remittances, which as you know are the most important form of personal support; Haitians remit about $2 billion annually, mostly from the diaspora in the United States.

Both Cubans and Haitians risk their lives in Caribbean waters, and Haiti’s recovery is in our national and border security interests given its proximity to our shores and our nation’s significant Haitian American population.  Right in terms of foreign policy, humanity and fairness, an HFRPP would also relieve at least some of the despair which leads people to put their lives into the hands of smugglers.  Nor would anyone get a “green card” any sooner – there would be no “line jumping” – but they could wait for them in safety, like their Cuban counterparts, not in still-suffering Haiti.

Mr. President, for the excellent reasons urged in broad and bipartisan fashion since the 2010 earthquake, underscored by the increasing loss of life at sea and your appropriate pledge to act administratively if necessary given congressional inaction, we strongly and most respectfully urge you to instruct DHS to save lives and help Haiti recover by finally now creating a Haitian FRPP.

Very sincerely yours,

National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON), Mayor Joseph Makhandal Champagne Jr., Chairman

National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians (NOAH), Washington, D.C., Dr. Joseph Baptiste, Chairman and former President, The Haitian Diaspora Federation (HDF)

1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Monica Russo, Executive Vice President, Miami Lakes, FL

Center for Haitian Studies, Health, and Human Services (CHS), Miami, FL, Dr. Larry Pierre, M.D., M.P.H., Executive Director

The Haitian Diaspora Federation (HDF), Toms River, NJ, Katleen Felix, Interim President

Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida, North Miami Beach, FL, Raoul Siclait, Treasurer, on behalf of the Board of Directors

National Association of Haitian Professionals (NAHP), Hillside, NJ, Serge Renaud, Chairperson

Haitian American Professionals Coalition (HAPC), South Florida (comprising the Haitian Lawyers Association, Haitian American Nurses Association, Association of Haitian Educators of Dade, Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida, Caribbean-American Visual Cultural Preservation, Harmony of the Divine Light, and Community Access Center), Sevigne Castor, MBA, BEE, BE, Chairperson

Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti, Evanston, IL, Marie Lynn Toussaint, Chair

Association of Haitian Women, Inc. (AFAB), Boston, MA, Carline Desire, Executive Director

Haitian Lawyers Association, South Florida, Fritznie Jarbath, Esq., President

Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York, Emmanuel Depas, Esq., President

Haitian American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, Wilson Antoine, Esq., President

Haitian American Leadership Council (HALEC), Freehold, New Jersey, Emmanuel Coffy, Esq., Chairman

Diaspora Community Services, Brooklyn, New York, Carine Jocelyn, Executive Director

Fanm Ayisyen nan Miyami/Haitian Women of Miami, Inc. (FANM), Marleine Bastien, Executive Director

Haiti Renewal Alliance, Washington, D.C., Firmin Backer, President

Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ), Cheryl Little, Executive Director

Haitian American Leadership Coalition, Jacques Despinosse, Chairperson and former Councilman, City of North Miami, FL

Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC), Boston, MA

Haiti Environmental Rescue Organization (HERO), Chicago, IL, Serge Fontaine, Founder and President

Haitians Unified for Development and Education (HUDE), Jersey City, N.J., France Casseus, Chair/Executive Director

Catholic Charities Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami (CCLS), Randolph P. McGrorty, Executive Director

International Coalition for Haiti, Inc., East Orange, N.J., Vanessa B. Vincent, FRM, Board Chairman and G. Charles Bouchereau, Ph.D, Program Director

Haitian American Grassroots Coalition, South Florida, Jean Robert Lafortune, Chairperson

Somerville Haitian Coalition, Somerville, MA, Franklin Dalembert, Director

Sant La, Haitian Neighborhood Center, Inc., Miami, FL Gepsie M. Metellus, Executive Director

Association of Exchange and Development of Activities and Partnership (AEDAP), Miami, FL, Flore Lindor Latortue, Executive Director

Friends of Haiti 2010, Brooklyn, N.Y., Edens Debas, Secretary General

Unique Coalition of Minority Businesses of South Dade, Inc. (UCOMB), Jacques R. Laroche, President and former FL field ambassador for President Obama’s re-election

Haiti Solidarity Network of the North East (HSNNE), Jersey City, NJ

Federation des Associations Regionales Haitiennes de la Diaspora (Haitian Regional Associations Federation of the Diaspora, FAREHD), Hollywood, FL, Kenol Aris, MS, President

Haitian Empowerment Foundation, Inc. (HEF), Lake Worth, FL, Ralph Cheriza, President and CEO

Harvard Haitian Alliance, Cambridge, MA, Ketsia Saint-Armand, President; Shunella Lumas, Co-President; Josie François, Secretary; Stephanie Charles, Public Service Chair; Chelsea Cherenfant, Outreach Chair; Sinclaire Hamilton, Publicity Chair

Center for Self-Sufficiency, Miami, FL, Edeline B. Mondestin, RN, BSN, Executive Director

Operation S O S, Chicago, IL, Colette M. Jeffries, Executive Director

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Brooklyn, NY, Opal Tometi, Executive Director

United Networks in Collective Solidarity (UNICSO), Miami, FL, Marcus Sansaricq, President

Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group (HHTARG), Freeport, NY, Maybelle Jadotte, Acting Executive Director

Sosyete Koukouy, Miami, FL, Jean-Marie Denis (“Jan Mapou”), President

Haitian Cultural Association, Boston University, Boston, MA, Shaita Picard, President

Alternative Chance/Chans Altenativ, New York, NY, Michelle Karshan, Executive Director

Greater Boston Nazarene Compassionate Center, Inc., Boston, MA, Rev. Pierre-Louis Zephir, Executive Director

Myrtha Desulme, Assistant Vice-President for Advocacy and Public Policy, The Haitian Diaspora Federation (HDF) and President, Haiti-Jamaica Society

Father Reginald Jean-Mary, Pastor, Notre Dame D’Haiti Catholic Church, Miami, FL

Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq, Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y

Rev. Mullery Jean-Pierre, Pastor, Beraca Baptist Church, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rev. Dieufort Jean Fleurissaint, Executive Pastor, Voice of the Gospel Tabernacle Church, Mattapan, MA and Strategy Team Member, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, Boston, MA

Venerable Canon J. Fritz Bazin, D. Min, Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida

Pastor Raphael Germain, Director, Missionary Association of Haitian Christians, Inc. (MAHC), Boston, MA

Judge Lionel Jean Baptiste, Chicago, Illinois

Edwidge Danticat, author

Mayor Joseph Makhandal Champagne Jr., Borough of South Toms River, New Jersey and Chairman, National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON)

State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, Massachusetts Legislature, Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1st Suffolk District)

Council Member Mathieu Eugene, New York City Council, District 40, New York, N.Y.

Commissioner Jean Monestime, Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners (District 2)

State Representative Daphne D. Campbell, Florida House of Representatives (District 108), State of Florida

Acting Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime, City of North Miami, FL

Vice-Mayor and Councilwoman Marie Erlande Steril, City of North Miami, FL

City Councilman Dabouze Antoine, Forest Park, GA

West Ward Council Member Charnette Frederic, MHA, LNHA, Irvington, New Jersey

Vice President Archange Antoine, Board of Education, Roselle Public Schools, Roselle, New Jersey

Andre Pierre, Esq., Adjunct Professor, Barry University, Miami Shores, and former Mayor, City of North Miami, FL

Philippe Derose, former Mayor, City of El Portal, FL and Councilman, City of North Miami Beach, FL

Monsignor Jean Pierre, St. James Catholic Church, North Miami, FL

Patrick Richard, PhD; Health Economist; Assistant Professor and Professional Lecturer in Health Economics, George Washington University

Ludovic Comeau Jr, Ph.D., Economist and Associate Professor, DePaul University, Chicago; Professor and Trustee, Institute of Science, Technology and Advanced Studies of Haiti (ISTEAH); President, Group for Reflection and Action for a New Haiti (GRAHN)-USA; Vice-President, GRAHN-World

Kysseline Jean-Mary Cherestal, Esq., International Development, Washington, D.C.

Luckner Bayas, PE, Haitian Diaspora Working Group

Lucie Tondreau, former Mayor, City of North Miami, FL

Raynald Louis, CEO/GM, Radio Kajou (“The #1 Internet Radio Serving the Haitian Diaspora”), South Florida

Sergo Graham, Co-Host – Voices & Perspectives, Radio Kajou, South Florida

Rico Dupuy, radio host and Director, Radio Soleil, New York City


Cc: Secretary Jeh Johnson, Department of Homeland Security

Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Department of Homeland Security

Leon Rodriguez, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Secretary John Kerry, Department of State


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Aristide Summons Suspected to be Political Persecution

August 14, 2014 - 19:28

Former President Aristide’s supporters believe that the recent summons and arrest warrant issued against him are a ploy to discredit his political party, Fanmi Lavalas, in time for the upcoming elections. Aristide and his party are still very popular among the poor, the majority of Haiti’s population. IJDH’s Nicole Phillips, featured in this article, describes the situation.

Supporters of Haiti’s Aristide accuse authorities of persecution

David Adams, Reuters
August 14, 2014

Supporters of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide accused local authorities of political persecution after he was summoned before a judge on Wednesday for questioning in a money laundering case.

Aristide’s lawyer, Mario Joseph, appeared in court to argue that the summons had not been properly served. But the judge failed to show up, according to Nicole Phillips, an attorney for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), who works with Joseph.

“We understand that an arrest warrant was issued yesterday afternoon,” said Phillips. “But President Aristide has not been arrested. It’s unclear what is going to happen.”

A former Roman Catholic priest still popular among poor Haitians, Aristide became president of the impoverished Caribbean country in 1991 but was later ousted in a military coup.

He was elected again in 2000, but driven from power four years later in a rebellion led by former police and soldiers. Aristide returned to Haiti in 2011 after seven years in exile in South Africa.

Local media reported on Thursday that a crowd of Aristide supporters blocked the street in front of his home on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Phillips accused the judge of being a political stooge who was appointed without the required qualifications for his post. “It appears clear to us that this is more of a political persecution that seeks to discredit Aristide and his political party, Lavalas,” said Phillips, noting that important elections are due this fall.

IJDH said Aristide was never served with the court summons in person, and it was unclear why he was wanted for questioning.

Aristide was accused in 2004 by the Haitian government of public corruption, but those charges were later withdrawn, IJDH said. (Reporting by David Adams; Editing by Dan Grebler)


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Aristide Summons Leads to Tensions in Haiti

August 14, 2014 - 17:16

After an investigating magistrate issued a summons ordering former President Aristide to appear in court, demonstrators clashed with UN peacekeepers over this matter. The demonstrators erected barricades in front of Aristide’s house, hoping to protect him from possible arrest. When they threw stones at a peacekeeper SUV, peacekeepers retaliated with tear gas. Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, says the summons is part of “an act to block Fanmi Lavalas from taking part in the election.”

Haiti tense after summons issued for ex-president

Evens Sanon, AP
August 14, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide clashed with U.N. peacekeepers Thursday as the popular former leader faced possible arrest for not providing court-ordered testimony in a criminal investigation.

About 150 Haitians had erected barricades of stones and burning tires outside Aristide’s home in Port-au-Prince to prevent any attempt to arrest him, keeping traffic at bay along the busy street largely without incident much of the day.

But some demonstrators pelted an SUV carrying U.N. personnel with stones, forcing the occupants to flee into a nearby home. They were subsequently rescued by peacekeeping troops, who then cleared the protesters and their barricades using tear gas and armored vehicles.

The source of the tension was a summons issued by investigating magistrate Lamarre Belizaire for testimony from Aristide, whose ouster in February 2004 amid a violent rebellion triggered the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force that has been in the country ever since.

Belizaire issued the summons ordering Aristide to appear in court Wednesday. A copy of the order obtained by The Associated Press says the case involves allegations of laundering drug money but does not provide details.

Aristide lawyer Mario Joseph said the former president never received the summons at his home, where he has largely lived a secluded life behind high walls since he returned in March 2011 from exile in South Africa. The lawyer showed up at the court at the appointed time after hearing media reports about the hearing and brought a letter explaining why the summons should not be considered properly served.

The judge himself did not show up at the hearing and he could not be reached for comment. Under Haitian law, the judge could issue an order requiring police to take Aristide into custody for questioning, but it was not known whether he did so.

Joseph said he had been unable to reach the judge to clarify the situation. The lawyer said the summons was not properly served on the former president and thus he could not be legally taken into custody as a result.

Aristide remains a polarizing figure in Haiti. He is popular among a large segment of the population and his supporters allege that the criminal investigation is part of a campaign to keep the party that he founded, Fanmi Lavalas, from trying to build support ahead of legislative elections expected by the end of the year.

“The judge is a political judge,” Joseph said. “He is an opponent of Fanmi Lavalas. All this is an act to block Fanmi Lavalas from taking part in the election.”


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IJDH Update on Latest Legal Pursuit of President Aristide

August 14, 2014 - 14:20

Haiti’s former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was summoned to a judicial hearing in Port-au-Prince on August 13, 2014. The Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) has received many questions about this situation.

Brian Concannon, IJDH Executive Director, and Nicole Phillips, IJDH Staff Attorney based in Port-au-Prince, held a conference call on August 14 to provide information on the current legal situation, the historical context, and some insight into how the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and IJDH propose to respond.  BAI Managing Attorney, Mario Joseph, is representing President Aristide.

Thank you to all who joined the call. For those who missed it, a recording is available. Dial Playback Number (712) 432-1219 and follow the instructions using Meeting ID 416-399-999 and Reference Number 1. If you don’t have time to listen to the entire call at once, you can press 4 to rewind 1 minute, 5 to pause/resume playback, and 6 to fast forward 1 minute.

Keep an eye on our site for relevant media articles.

The History and Future of Haiti-DR Relations

August 13, 2014 - 09:00

Haiti and the Dominican Republic have long had a rocky history but tensions were heightened by a September 2013 ruling that stripped hundreds of thousands of their Dominican citizenship. Friends with Haitian and Dominican roots, Edwidge Danticat and Junot Diaz (respectively), discuss the roots of the two countries’ disputes, racism, activism, and how Haiti and DR can get along better in the future.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti: A Shared View from the Diaspora

Richard André, Americas Quarterly
August 2014

A conversation with Edwidge Danticat and Junot Díaz.

In a landmark ruling, the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court last September stripped an estimated 210,000 individuals—most of whom are Dominicans born to Haitian sugar cane workers—of their citizenship, effectively leaving them stateless. The ensuing outcry from the international community has included Junot Díaz and Edwidge Danticat—two of the best-known contemporary authors from the island of Hispaniola. Friends for over 20 years, Danticat (from Haiti) and Díaz (from the D.R.) have been relentless in their condemnation of the ruling. In a written exchange moderated by Americas Quarterlyproduction editor and Haitian-American Richard André, Díaz and Danticat discuss the roots and legacies of racism and conflict in the neighboring nations, the impact of the court’s ruling, and the responsibility of the diaspora to build bridges between Dominicans and Haitians and defend human rights at home and abroad.

What do you think most Haitians/Dominicans don’t understand about the other side?

DIAZ: Depends on who you’re asking. Some folks on the D.R. side know a lot more about their neighbor than others. Some Dominicans are in fact descended from said neighbor and might know a thing or two because of it.

Yet there is no question that there’s not enough real contact, and that the anti-Haitian derangements of certain sectors in the Dominican Republic have helped to widen the gulf between the two nations, and have made it harder for our communities to be in fruitful communion except through the most reductive, divisive, and—on the Dominican side—sensationally racist generalizations about one another. But if I have to answer you most specifically: [neither side understands] we’re sisters and brothers, that we share a poor, fragile island, and that without true solidarity we won’t make it.

DANTICAT: I agree that it has a lot to do with who you’re asking, and also where you are. There are many mixed families, of course; and in many places on the island, people who grow up in close proximity to one another are practically indistinguishable physically. There are also a lot of people who understand that we share a common struggle, and especially that poor people on both sides of the island are battling similar types of detention and immigration policies in the diaspora. Perhaps we need to hear more about these people. Often in the dialogue we bring up our historical scars, but not our historical bridges. Because our neighbors are solely defined by what they did to us, rather than what we can do together.

That being said, I think some—certainly not all—Dominicans have a very limited, almost stereotypical idea of what a Haitian person looks and acts like. And it often has to do with the people some are most prejudiced against: the people who work in the bateys [sugar plantation towns]. When I used to travel to the D.R., I would have to spend the first 15 minutes of a lot of conversations going back and forth with someone trying to convince me that I’m not really Haitian because they feel they know what a Haitian is supposed to be. I know many people who never left Haiti and who’ve also had that experience. It is grounded in a kind of inflexibility of sorts; an inability on the part of some to see us in a variety of ways: as neighbors, friends, allies, and as brothers and sisters in both a looser and broader sense.

What role, in your opinion, does history play in the way the two nations interact?

DIAZ: Quite a lot. But for me to say simply that “history plays a role” without at least trying to examine the hard facts of what actually happened would only serve to obfuscate both the complexity of the situation and also the profound culpability that the European and North American powers bear in Haiti’s immiseration and in the conflict between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

History indeed plays a role in what you’re seeing today. But it’s a complex, multivalenced history that involves former dictator Rafael Trujillo and genocide [against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent]— a history over which looms the predations of Europe and the U.S. and Haitian elites and, yes, the Dominican Republic.

There’s no question that many Dominican elites have historically deployed a metaphysics of Haiti-hating to curry favor with the colonial powers and also as a way to modulate all manners of internal contradictions within the Dominican state (and as a way of consolidating power through nationalist practices). But the Dominican Republic’s tortured history with Haiti can never be understood in isolation from the larger histories of the colonial powers that helped initiate the D.R. into the metaphysics of Haiti-hating in the first place.

DANTICAT: History plays a huge role of course. Not just the history we can’t avoid but speak out about—the time when the leaders of our side of the island were also on your side of the island. Or Trujillo’s massacre in 1937. One thing that is not mentioned as often is that early in the twentieth century (1915 to 1934 for Haiti, and 1916 to 1924 for the D.R.), the entire island was occupied by the United States. Then again, in the D.R. in the 1960s, Trujillo—who not only organized a massacre, but wiped out several generations of Dominican families—was trained during the occupation by U.S. Marines and put in power when they pulled out. Same with the Haitian army that terrorized Haitians for generations. It is not a matter of blame but a matter of historical record.

The U.S. sugar interests grew more and more powerful during that first occupation, and the U.S. even had a hand in deciding where the two countries’ borders should be. So we have had our own internal problems, but there has also been this very powerful historical meddling to make sure that we stay divided—for our resources to be pilfered more easily, as in the case of sugar production; or to serve as a wall against communism. When people talk about colorism in the Dominican Republic—and I am sure this is not the only source of it—you can imagine these Marines from the southern U.S. who came during the U.S. occupations and set up their clubs and their hierarchies, just as they did in Haiti, rewarding any kind of proximity to whiteness, pushing us beyond colorism to a version of the U.S. Jim Crow system.

What can be done to heal those historical scars?

DANTICAT: We have to keep talking to each other and air the different layers of truth. We have to be willing to listen to the other side and accept being questioned as we, too, question others. Not just here where it’s easier, but on the island, too. Often, when you talk healing, people think you mean cultural occupation. We have to find ways to have difficult conversations about how we got here.

I know those conversations are being held. I know a lot of activists are having them, and students and friends. But people who speak the loudest speak with the laws they create, or with the notion that there is a whole nationalistic machine behind them.

We must keep dialoguing, and not just in the way that heads of governments employ to give the appearance that “they got this,” while we wait for them to come up with some kind of solution that will probably mean more money in the pockets of the people at the top who want license and our silence so they can go forward with their trade and tourism projects, etc.

But we must keep talking to each other without dismissing the other side altogether. It is always a very painful thing to me to remember that very few Haitian leaders have shown much care or concern about the people working in the cane fields in the Dominican Republic. During the [Francois and Jean-Claude] Duvalier dictatorship, people were picked up by the Tonton Macoutes [Duvalier’s militia] and practically sold across the border. As a child, I knew many people this happened to. After the 1937 massacre, outsiders had to urge our then-president to give a damn. The Haitian government was totally silent for weeks after the recent Constitutional Court ruling. The reaction reminded us—as if we needed to be reminded—that our governments, regardless of which side of the island they’re on, discriminate against the poor.

But to cite someone I know you like, Oscar Wilde, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, writes, “The curves of your lips rewrite history.” So let’s all keep talking.

DIAZ: All of us who want to see a better future for our nations need to fight the toxicologies of the past by practicing the simple revolutionary techniques of contact, compassion and critical solidarity. And we really do have to find a way to get our elites out from between us. They have done more to promote the circulation of hate and suspicion than anyone else. I keep imagining what might be possible if our elites weren’t constantly shouting in our ears.

What role, in your opinion, does race and class play in the conflicts—past and present—between Haitians and Dominicans?

DIAZ: Anti-Haitianism is a racist ideology, whether it’s practiced by France, the U.S., the Dominican Republic, or Haitian elites. So race is clearly at the core. It is a racism born of colonialism, whose foundational tenet is that people of color are not human. It’s not only white folks who avail themselves of its bestial logic. If only white people were implicated in white supremacy it would have been a lot easier to extirpate, but, alas, the hydra has planted a hissing head in all of us.

DANTICAT: We also have a situation, I think, on both sides of the island—or maybe all over the world really, but it might seem more pronounced in these two poor countries—where light skin color is a kind of currency, where skin color can be perceived as a kind of class of its own. Even in the word’s first black republic, we are still not exempt from that.

Where do you think Haitians and Dominicans can find common ground?

DIAZ: Are we not one African diasporic people, survivors of this world’s greatest act of sustained inhumanity, sharing one beautiful island? Are not all of us being slowly destroyed by the same forces that colonialism put into play? Doesn’t the fact that our elites spend so much energy keeping us apart suggest that our ultimate liberation begins with us coming together?

Many of us already work together both at home and in the diaspora. One day, we will become the majority, and I suspect that in the revolutionary eschatology of the future, this will be the first seal whose opening signals our liberation.

DANTICAT: I don’t want to be “kumbaya”-esque about this, but we share a common vulnerability—an environmental vulnerability. Certainly we share some nasty fault lines. Our people often end up in the same boats in the same oceans. Haitians spend millions of dollars on Dominican products, so we are trade partners, formally and informally. Some people share bloodlines, a common history.

Two novelists are not going to solve this problem. It will require some real give and take to get to some point of balance in the exchange, and maybe the basic understanding that Haitians are not trying to destroy the Dominican Republic any more than Dominicans are trying to destroy the United States when they come here. And the “kumbaya” part, of course, is that we are always stronger together than torn apart.

What was your first thought when you heard about the ruling?

DIAZ: That the political leadership in the D.R. is both mad and cruel beyond measure. And also that when it comes to destroying immigrant lives, ex-President Leonel Fernández and current President Danilo Medina have learned well at the feet of the United States. What’s going on in the D.R. is a nightmare in its own right, but has to be understood as part of a larger global movement to demonize and marginalize immigrants—and as part of the U.S.’s post-9/11 push to “strengthen borders”—which is really to militarize them. The U.S. helped the D.R. militarize its border, helped the D.R. create its very own border patrol based on a U.S. model. The world is slowly dying and our elites are draining it to the lees, and yet this is what our idiot politicians want us to focus on.

DANTICAT: I remember feeling very sad. There is always this sense of ultra-vulnerability when you are an immigrant or the child of immigrants. But it’s something you hope goes away with the generations. Or diminishes. I remember thinking, “What are all these people going to do now?” especially when I heard that the ruling was irreversible. But soon after, I was heartened by how many people spoke up: ordinary people as well as international organizations….Dominicans who are not of Haitian descent speaking up for their brothers and sisters.

I spent time with two amazing women activists in Miami, Ana María Belique Delba and Noemi Mendez, who are part of an organization called Reconocido (Recognized). They are so unified in this struggle. That was also very inspiring. I also remember missing Sonia Pierre, the founder of the Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitiana (Movement for Dominican Women of Haitian Descent—MUDHA). I kept thinking, “She is going to have a lot of work to do.” Then I remembered that she died of a heart attack at 48, two years ago. This citizenship struggle, which was sealed but did not begin with this ruling, has been going on for decades. And it had broken her heart.

Where do you see things going next?

DIAZ: Fortunately, the mobilization against the sentencia has been strong and the international reaction unanimously negative. (Though it’s worth noting that the [Barack] Obama administration, no friend of immigrant rights, has been pretty muted in its condemnation.) I am very sad to say that the politicians who masterminded this vast human rights violation clearly weren’t expecting this kind of backlash. But we’ll see how it goes. Right now, the party in power, the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (Dominican Liberation Party—PLD), is trying to save face by making it seem as though they never intended this as an assault against our citizens of Haitian descent—just an attempt to “regularize” a broken system, which clearly is just a bold-faced lie. Like I said, we’ll see. We’ll keep fighting, of course. But it goes to show you that it takes more than helping out during an earthquake for a country to unlearn the metaphysics of Haiti-hating.

DANTICAT: I think it will probably go the way of individual action. People will start asking themselves if they can spend their money in a place where people can be treated this way in a legal fashion, which then of course gives license to others to act on what this ruling says or take it even further. I wish the commercial interests, the tourist boards etc., would jump into the conversation and become more vocal, because ultimately it comes down to money. Where pocketbooks are concerned, people are nudged into action.

Why should the world—and especially citizens of the Americas—be paying attention to what’s going on in the Dominican Republic? Given that you are both children of the island of Hispaniola living in the U.S., why is this issue important to you?

DIAZ: First, the world should always be concerned whenever a vast human rights violation occurs anywhere on the planet. There’s a reason it’s called human rights: a blow to one is a blow to all. Injustices have a way of birthing horrors if left unchecked, and right now we have enough horrors in the world.

And why is it important for me? Because that island is my birthplace and one of my two homes; and if people like me don’t fight its injustices, don’t fight for the better future we deserve, who will? As a Dominican living in the U.S., it matters to me a whole hell of a lot that political elites in the D.R. are inflaming ethnic-racial hatred against Haitians to divide the pueblo and keep it from organizing against its real enemies—the elites themselves.

Supporters of the sentencia defend it with a lot of high-flying gibberish about bureaucratic necessity, etc., but the reality is that the ruling is all about creating a permanent group of second-class citizens in the Dominican Republic. As for the human cost, all one has to do is travel to the D.R. and you will see the terrible damage this kind of politics has caused and continues to cause. At a structural level, I know people who have had their papers taken away and others who are unable to secure documentation to travel or even to be educated. But on a more basic level, the anti-Haitian mood has reached a level I’ve never experienced before.It’s a disaster. This is the type of deforming political sorcery that’s going to take a lot of work and good faith to undo.

DANTICAT: Both Junot and I—correct me here if I am wrong, Junot—grew up in relative poverty on our respective sides of the island….

DIAZ: Oh yes, poverty aplenty.

DANTICAT: In both our lives, even when we were living on the island, we were also aware of our relative privilege when we traveled to see the relatives or spent time in the campo or the pwovens [rural provinces]. That makes you extraordinarily aware of what opportunity means. And it makes you hypersensitive to seeing not just a few but a slew of rights and opportunities being taken away in one swoop.
You hope you would always speak up. Even when the issue is not as clear as this. You hope you would speak up if someone is sleeping on the floor in an immigration cell in Texas, or if people are being tortured in Guantánamo, no matter what their nationality. People’s lives are being affected here in a way that touches their children and their children’s children.

Even in the name of self-interest, the people in power in the Dominican Republic should see that they are creating an even greater problem here. They are trying to kick a Sisyphean boulder down the road for political gain or as a bargaining chip for trade. Maybe they are hoping that several generations of their citizens will “self deport” to Haiti if you take their identity away. But what they’re doing is creating a tier of people who cannot contribute, beyond perhaps their limited physical strength, to a growing society. You take away their ability to learn, to work, and you also take away their ability to continue to build a society that they’ve helped sustain for many generations now.

What should be the domestic and international response by individuals and policymakers? What role can you play in advocating on this issue?

DANTICAT: Recently, members of the Dominican senate and lower house approved a citizenship bill. But, at least at this point, it looks like people who were never able to get their birth certificates in the first place will still have a hard time using the channels offered by the bill.

When the lower house unanimously voted in favor of the bill, Juliana Deguis Pierre, who was the plaintiff in the Constitutional Court case that was central to the ruling, told journalists, “I hope to God they give [my citizenship] back to me because of everything I’ve been through and everything I’ve suffered.” Just for those who doubt that the ruling has real consequences, Deguis was not able to travel to the U.S. because, with as much attention as she’d gotten given her involvement in a landmark case, she did not have the papers to travel.

Imagine what it’s like for someone who is much less visible living on a batey.

A Haiti/D.R. bilateral commission has met a few times, and as of the time that we’re talking now, in mid-May, it has not produced conclusive results. The initial international interest in this has cooled a bit. News cycles are short and people move on quickly, but it’s important to remain vigilant. There might have initially been a perception that this ruling would go undetected. But the little progress we’ve had, that the Dominican (and even the Haitian) government has been forced to take some action at all, has a lot to do with the fact that people have spoken out all over the world, that there have been calls for boycotts, that people have written letters and taken to the airwaves—and that some groups have canceled their conferences and taken their dollars elsewhere.

All this has helped and will continue to help. We must continue to listen closely to the leaders on the ground, to the people who are taking the heat every day. I am sure they are not ready to rest any time soon. And neither can we. Struggles like this are long and hard, and people have to keep their eyes on the prize. And when you have a just outcome, it not only improves the specific situation we’re talking about; it is also a step forward for oppressed people everywhere. This is why we can still learn lessons from the U.S. civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. The right outcome in situations like this can eventually make the world itself a better place.

DIAZ: We need to throw everything we can at the Dominican government to stop this travesty. We need protests and letters and emails. People are talking about a boycott against the country until the sentencia is dropped. Fortunately, there are plenty of organizations and individuals fighting this. One could always reach out to them. On my side of the island, there’s Comité de Solidaridad con Personas Desnacionalizadas (Committee of Solidarity with Stateless People) and Reconocido. There’s Dominicanos Por Derecho(Dominicans for Rights) and Sonia Pierre’s MUDHA. As for myself, I do what I can. I fight these idiots with all my strength. But if you’re like me, you always feel you can do more.

DANTICAT: And more, and more, and more….


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