Recent Feature Articles

By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, July 26, 2017

For the fourth time, a large international delegation has traveled to the United Nations headquarters in New York to file a formal protest on Jul. 20 against the continuation of the UN’s illegal military occupation of Haiti and to demand that it pay reparations to the victims of UN-imported cholera.

Ten delegates from Haiti, Brazil, Guadeloupe, and the United States met with the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El Ghassim Wane and William Gardner, the UN’s lead Political Affairs officer, to deliver a joint letter in French (see English translation below) condemning the continuation of the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) under a new name starting in October: the UN Mission to Support Justice in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).

The “follow-on peacekeeping mission,” as it is called in the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2350 of Apr. 13, 2017, will be made up of about 1,300 policemen to “support political stability, [and] good governance, including electoral oversight and reform,” wrote UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a Mar. 16 report.

“After 13 disastrous years of sowing violence, sexual abuse, waste, and disease, the UN still thinks it can just trample the Haitian Constitution and UN Charter and anoint itself to supervise and direct sovereign Haitian affairs like elections and governance,” said unionist Ray Laforest of the Dessalines Coordination (KOD), one of the delegates. “These UN officials are simply the handmaidens of Washington, Paris, and Ottawa, Haiti’s neo-colonial masters presently, but not for much longer we hope.”

“We…

By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, July 17, 2017

Haiti opened recruitment for its new army Monday, attracting a long line of young Haitians who want to be part of the revived force.
 
The five-day recruitment drive runs until Friday, and is a significant public step in rebuilding the force, which was dismantled more than two decades ago by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
 
Since the 1994 disbandment of the Haitian Armed Forces, or FAd'H, there has been a lingering desire by a significant part of the political class and the business community to re-establish the force. The first steps toward re-establishment, however, weren’t taken until former Haitian President Michel Martelly came to power in 2011. He created a commission and sent several dozen Haitians to Ecuador for training. Today, there are about 150 trained individuals.
 
“I don't see it as an army,” Haiti Defense Minister Herve Denis said. “I see this more as a defense rather than a security force that we want to create.”
Denis and other advocates of re-establishing a defense force, including current President Jovenel Moise and both leaders of parliament, argue that it’s Haiti's constitutional right to have an army, since the 1987 constitution was never amended to reflect the disbandment, and with the pending departure of the U.N. Stabilization Mission after 13 years.
 
Earlier this year, the United Nations Security Council voted to withdraw its military troops from Haiti. As of July 10, the U.N. has ceased operations in Cap-Haitien and Les Cayes, Haiti’s second and third largest cities respectively, and a total of 956 military personnel have been withdrawn, reducing the strength to 1,413 personnel, concentrated in Port-au-Prince.
 
Publicly…

By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, July 20, 2017

Second of two articles

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse illegally fired former judge Sonel Jean-François as the head of Haiti’s autonomous anti-money-laundering Central Financial Intelligence Unit (UCREF) on Jul. 6 and the next day replaced the head of its cousin agence, the Anti-Corruption Unit (ULCC), supplanting both men with his cronies.

In an interview with Haïti Liberté, Jean-François laid out the various ways in which he sees these developments as a grave threat to Haitian democracy. “ Mr. [Joseph Oldy] Bellegarde is linked to several high-ranking people in Jovenel Moïse’s regime,” said Jean-François, referring to the man who replaced him. “That’s all I feel comfortable saying.”

Nonetheless, he elaborated by explaining that “UCREF is an agency which must work in the greatest secrecy. If you’re doing a money-laundering investigation, you must not tell anyone, especially not the person who is being investigated. That person should only become aware after you’ve finished preparing the report and submitted it to an investigating judge. The subject should learn about the investigation when he’s informed by the judge.”

Obviously, a regime creature like Bellegarde would be unlikely to maintain such discretion, much less carry out investigations of those in power like President Moïse.

Meanwhile, President Michel Martelly’s former Interior Minister Maj. David Bazile has replaced the well-respected former Port-au-Prince prosecutor Lionel Constant Bourgoin as ULCC chief.

Bazile “is on the board of the PHTK,” said Jean-François, using the acronym of Moïse’s Haitian Bald Headed Party. “When they select a leader of the very party which is in power, choose him precisely to run a watch-dog agency which is supposed to…

By Jake Johnston, World Politics Review, July 18, 2017

After 13 years and more than $7 billion, the “touristas” — as the United Nations soldiers that currently occupy Haiti are commonly referred to — will finally be heading home. Well, sort of. While thousands of troops are expected to depart in October, the UN has authorized a new, smaller mission composed of police that will focus on justice and strengthening the rule of law. But the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH, is not just thousands of foreign soldiers “keeping the peace.” It is the latest and most visible manifestation of the international community’s habit of intervening in Haiti, a habit that is unlikely to change. 

World powers have always had a difficult time accepting Haitian sovereignty. When a slave revolt delivered Haiti independence from France in 1804, gunboat diplomacy ensured the liberated inhabitants would pay for their freedom. For the next 150 years, Haiti paid France a ransom for its continued independence. In the early twentieth century, a new hegemonic power held sway, with US Marines occupying the country for more than 20 years. 

Two hundred years after Haitian independence, when the UN Security Council created MINUSTAH, it also mandated the formation of the “Core Group,” which included MINUSTAH’s leadership as well as diplomatic representatives from foreign governments and multilateral organizations. Since its creation, the group has influenced — subtly and not so subtly — Haiti’s internal affairs, with the backing of a heavily armed military force…

By Naomi Larsson, The Guardian, July 14, 2017

Charitable givers from the US who believe they are helping Haitian orphans are instead funding the abuse and neglect of children at orphanages in the Caribbean country, a report from the NGO Lumos has found.

At least 30,000 children live in privately-run orphanages in Haiti, a country that has suffered multiple natural disasters displacing many families.

More than a third of Haiti’s 752 orphanages are funded by donations from abroad amounting to $70m (£54m), 92% of which comes from philanthropic and charity givers in the US.

But an estimated 80% of the children living in these facilities are not actually orphaned: they have one or more living parent, and almost all have other relatives, according to the Haitian government.

Lumos, the NGO founded by author JK Rowling, campaigns for an end to the institutionalisation of children. It believes this not only hinders a child’s development, but makes them more likely to experience abuse.

Funds from foreign countries, especially the US, is putting thousands of children at risk from abuse and trafficking, found …

By BBC News Latin America, July 11, 2017

Haiti's government has launched a campaign to re-establish its army, dissolved more than 20 years ago. It wants to recruit about 500 men and women to help deal with natural disasters and to patrol borders.

The recruitment drive follows the announcement by the United Nations mission that it would be leaving Haiti in October. But critics say the island's small budget should be spent on the national police force of about 15,000 officers.

A Ministry of Defence statement said the recruitment drive is open to both men and women between the ages of 18 and 25, who have passed their secondary education exams. The UN Security Council agreed in April to withdraw their security forces, the blue helmets, and leave only a small police presence to support the Haitian police.

The UN departure has sparked a debate over whether Haiti should or should not form a new army. Many politicians support the idea arguing it would provide jobs for young people.

But the government's critics say a military force could quickly become politicised, becoming a weapon in the hands of whoever is the president or prime minister.

For much of Haiti's history, the army has been used to crack down on political dissent by a series of authoritarian presidents.

During the 29-year family dynasty founded by Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier in the 1950s, the army was pushed aside and replaced by the Tonton Macoutes, a feared private militia famed for its savagery.

But when Duvalier's son, Jean Claude, was ousted and fled to France in 1986, the army high command - notorious for its repressive tactics and packed with Duvalier appointees - remained in place.

After Haiti's first democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was ousted in a 1991 military coup, soldiers and paramilitary forces committed countless atrocities…

By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, July 12, 2017

First of two articles

Last week, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse named two political allies to take over Haiti’s two anti-corruption offices. One of the anti-corruption units alleges in a report last year that Moïse laundered millions of dollars through his banana-exporting agribusiness between 2007 to 2013, while the other issued a confidential report investigating irregular banking activity by Moïse.

On Jul. 6, Moïse illegally fired for the second time Sonel Jean-François, the director general of the Central Financial Intelligence Unit (UCREF), an office set up in 2001 to investigate money-laundering. In August 2016, UCREF published a 68-page report which charged that Jovenel Moïse, then the CEO of Agritrans, had likely laundered some $6 million through his company. The report led to an indictment which is supposedly still being pursued by the Haitian justice system.

UCREF’s director is supposed to serve a three year term, which began in May 2016. Moïse had originally tried to fire Jean-François on Apr. 19, but outcry against the premature, illegal ouster was fierce. Jean-François’ proposed successor, former Central Bank governor Fritz Jean, refused to accept the post, citing “reservations,” according to presidential spokesman Lucien Jura.

Jean-François continued heading UCREF until last Thursday, when he learned in a phone call from a friend that he had been replaced by Joseph Oldy Bellegarde, a functionary placed as UCREF’s Director of Operations by President Michel Martelly, Moïse’s predecessor and mentor…

By Claudia Blume, Médecins Sans Frontières Canada (MSF), July 12, 2017

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) launched a new report today – Against Their Will – that draws attention to an overlooked issue  affecting an alarmingly high number of girls and young women in Haiti: sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

In 2015, MSF opened a clinic in Port-au-Prince that specializes in providing services to survivors of sexual violence. The vast majority of our patients are under 25, and our staff is particularly concerned that more than half of them are under 18.
 
The report shows that sexual violence is a medical and psychosocial emergency, and that it also affects the survivors’ family and communities. It asks that SGBV should be recognized as a public health issue in Haiti and that prevention, treatment, protection, medical and psychosocial services must be reinforced.

In Haiti, the number of young people, especially women and girls, who report experiencing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is alarmingly high, especially in the densely populated capital Port-au-Prince.

Yet the issue is not widely discussed, and SGBV cases are likely underreported due to stigma and shame, as well as fear of reprisal from perpetrators or the community. At the same time, the services that are available for survivors, especially for minors (under the age of 18), are insufficient and inadequate.

In May 2015, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened the Pran Men’m clinic (Creole for "take my hand") in Port-au-Prince that specializes in providing medical and psychological care to survivors of SGBV. The vast majority of the more than 1,300 survivors of sexual violence who have been treated in the clinic are younger than 25 years, and more than half are minors. 

 
You can find our…

By Jamie Vernaelde, Miami Herald OP-ED, July 3, 2017

The youngest of six children, Christine was placed in an orphanage when her mother died, and her father could not care for another baby. She then spent the next 10 years in orphanages just outside the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

In conducting research for the report, Funding Haitian Orphanages at the Cost of Children’s Rights, released during Haiti’s first national conference on Child Trafficking last month, I spoke with her and more than 40 other children and young adults with similar experiences.

Christine told me that what bothered her most about the orphanage was that “a lot of disabled kids came in and died.Only two stayed alive the whole time I was there.”

Globally, children with disabilities are the most vulnerable. In Haiti, I heard examples of this treatment again and again, and not just from children and young adults raised in orphanages.

Healthcare workers, international NGO staff, and former orphanage volunteers described situations of extreme neglect and avoidable death of children with disabilities in orphanage “care.”

Yet, an estimated 80 percent of children in Haitian orphanages have one or both living parents who did not intend for their children to meet this fate. Their decision to send their children away is usually a desperate one.

Mired in poverty with no access to education and healthcare, many families say Yes to recruiters from orphanages in the hope their children will have a better life. More often than not, that is not the case.

Christine’s experience was not uncommon: She was kicked out of the orphanage at age 13, without any preparation or effort to contact her family. The orphanage had already stopped sending her to school, and she had become numb to beatings for “misbehaving.”

Children from orphanages throughout the country reported…

By Milo Milford, Haiti Liberté, June 27, 2017

The workers in Port-au-Prince’s assembly industries have not given up. Under a blazing sun, alternating with heavy rain, surrounded by heavily-armed police units, Haiti’s working class took to the streets to continue demanding that the minimum wage be increased to 800 gourdes ($12.71) per day.

After a few days of truce, broken promises by state authorities, police violence, and despite firings, blackmail, and pressure from the bosses, several thousand workers again took to the streets of the capital on Mon., Jun. 26 to demand a salary hike and better working conditions in factories.

Chanting slogans hostile to the bosses and the government, armed with tree branches and placards, demonstrators from across the metropolitan area demanded a minimum daily wage of 800 gourdes ($12.71) and social services because of the increased cost of living and fuel prices in Haiti.

"Social services mean subsidizing the food, rent, transportation, and education of the workers' children,” said Dominique St-Eloi, General Coordinator of the National Central of Haitian Workers (CNOHA). “We talked to the Social Affairs Minister, who lied to us. He promised buses, and a subsidy of food and rent. Yet nothing has been done."

"We are going to work for the reintegration of more than 40 people who have been fired," he added.

The protestors, mostly young women, danced and pranced to the rhythm of well-known Haitian traditional songs. They also denounced certain people who claim to be workers' representatives on the government’s Higher Council on Salaries (CSS), an entity charged with working on adjusting Haitian workers’ minimum wage.

"With this life that is increasingly expensive for us, we workers find ourselves unable to take care of our family with 300 gourdes ($4.76),” complained Luc Léon, 50, a worker and a trade…