Recent Feature Articles

By Kim Ives, published in Haiti Liberté weekly, edition of April 10, 2013

A chorus of outrage is building against former Haitian president Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier as he sits in the dock of a Haitian court, charged with crimes against humanity during his 15-year rule. However, the U.S. government remains strangely and completely silent. A 40-year-old trove of diplomatic cables, newly unearthed by WikiLeaks and reported exclusively here on Haiti Liberté, helps explain why.

Around midnight in the early morning hours of July 23, 1973, a fire broke out in the packed armory of Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier’s National Palace. Almost immediately, “President-for-Life” Duvalier and his Army Chief of Staff, General Claude Raymond, telephoned the U.S. Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Thomas J. Corcoran, to tell him about the fire and ask for U.S. assistance in putting it out.

The destruction of Haiti’s large weapons cache became, in the following days, the perfect excuse to resume the sale of military weapons as well as military aid and training to the Duvalier dictatorship, after it had been halted during the 1960s under the notorious regime of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

Haïti Liberté has been able to reconstruct a clear picture of this pivotal historical moment thanks to a new website constructed by WikiLeaks called the Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy or PlusD. The site enables searching of over 1.7 million State Department cables from 1973 to 1976 which had been declassified and stored in the U.S. National Archives, but which were all but inaccessible due to the form in which they were kept.

Haïti Liberté is one of 18 media partners worldwide to which WikiLeaks provided exclusive access to the PlusD search engine in early March, prior to its unveiling for public use on April 8. This article is one of…

By Isabeau Doucet.
An earlier version of this article was published in The Nation. This version is published in the weekly Haiti Liberté, issue dated March 27, 2013.

I contracted cholera two years ago by the breezy beaches of Port Salut, while attempting to escape burnout, a broken heart, and the lingering pangs of Dengue fever in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital.

Cholera's not a whole lot different from food poisoning and is no big deal if you have a clean toilet, potable water, know how to treat it, and aren't malnourished.

But in malnutrition-wracked Haiti, where there is no sewage system and where water and sanitation are almost completely privatized, cholera has been a death sentence for over 8,000 people. According to a host of scientific studies (including the UN's own investigators), the South Asian strain of the disease was likely imported by UN troops from Nepal in October 2010. Having sickened over 640,000, it is now the worst cholera epidemic in modern history.

A week before the long-delayed release of an international $2.2 billion 10-year eliminate-cholera plan at the end of February, the UN rejected outright a legal claim filed by over 5,000 cholera victims seeking financial compensation, an apology for the UN's gross negligence, and a commitment that the world body rebuild Haiti's water and sanitation infrastructure.

Invoking immunity under its1946 convention, the UN snubbed the suit as "not receivable." It has not apologized and has committed only 1% ($23.5 million) to the plan, recommending Haiti get the rest from the "private sector" or from "major venture philanthropist individuals," according to Nigel Fisher, the new head of the UN military occupation force in Haiti known as MINUSTAH.

"Combating water born diseases, cholera, is actually a good investment if you want to attract investors," Fisher added.

With some 9,000 armed soldiers and police officers, MINUSTAH had an…

UN human rights expert: Haiti and international community should "throw light" on cause of cholera outbreak

By Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch (CEPR), March 21, 2013

According to reports on Twitter yesterday, the United Nations independent expert on the human rights situation in Haiti, Michel Forst has resigned for “personal reasons,” even though his mandate was supposed to continue for another year. In one of his last acts, Forst’s report for the U.N. Human Rights Council was presented yesterday, recommending to Haiti and the international community that they “throw light” on the cause of the cholera outbreak and “respond to any compensation requests”. The cholera outbreak has killed at least 8,050 and sickened over 650,000 more.

In his report Forst notes that the “question of what caused the outbreak of the epidemic in Haiti remains a burning issue that has attracted significant public controversy.” Over the last few years, a number of scientific reports have identified U.N. troops as the source of cholera’s introduction. Forst’s report, which was issued before the U.N.’s denial of victims’ compensation claims, notes “that silence is the worst response.”

The U.N. broke their “silence” on the issue by rejecting the victims’ claims, yet they have continued to stonewall on the issue of responsibility. While Forst “deplores” the exploitation of the issue by “certain organizations…

On Second Anniversary of Illegal Election: Martelly and Washington push for another “electoral hold-up”

By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, March 20, 2013

March 20, 2013 marks the second anniversary of a patently illegal and exclusionary election that brought President Michel Martelly to power.

The first round of that election, held on Nov. 28, 2010, was a complete fiasco, marred by disorganization, voter fraud, and disenfranchisement. Furthermore, months earlier, Haiti’s largest party, the Lavalas Family of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, had been illegally and arbitrarily excluded from fielding a candidate.

Thirteen of the 18 presidential candidates held a joint press conference and issued a joint statement the same day calling for the election to be annulled and reheld. But Edmond Mulet, the head of the UN military occupation force known as MINUSTAH, called two of the candidates – Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly – and assured them they were front-runners. Jettisoning principle, the two about-faced and backtracked on their call for annulment.

Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced first round results on Dec. 7, saying Manigat had placed first and Jude Célestin of the ruling party, Unity, second. Martelly had placed a close third, edged out by about 7,000 votes, the CEP said. The Haitian Constitution says that the CEP is the “final arbiter” of all Haitian elections.

As Martelly’s supporters launched violent demonstrations, Washington mobilized the Organization of American States (which Cuba wryly dubs the U.S. “Ministry of Colonial Affairs”) to send a delegation of mostly North American “election experts” to recalculate the vote and pronounce Martelly the second place finisher.

“There was enormous political pressure brought to bear by the United States and its allies – the same countries who dominated the OAS Mission – for Haiti’s CEP to accept the…

UN News Center, March 11, 2013

See also these recent stories:
Urgent Action: Displaced face arbitrary arrest (Grace Village camp)
By Amnesty International, March 6, 2013
UN expert urges World Bank to increase protection and promotion of the right to adequate housing
Press release, Office of the High Commissioner for Humn Rights (UN), March 6, 2013, and re-posted to the Under Tents campaign website, March 7, 2013
FRAKKA denounces arson attacks on displaced persons camps
Press release, Feb. 28, 2013

11 March 2013 – The top United Nations humanitarian official in Haiti has expressed grave concern about recent incidents of forced evictions of internally displaced persons (IDPs), following his visit to a site in the capital, Port-au-Prince, from which thousands of people were forced to leave.

While recognizing the right of owners to enjoy their property, the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti, Ross Mountain, recalled that the practice of forced eviction often results in violations of human rights such as the right to life and security of the individual.

Following a visit to the Acra 2 camp on 2 March, Mr. Mountain stressed that “these families have suffered intimidation, physical violence and the destruction of their shelters, including through arson.”

His visit comes after the eviction of about 1,000 displaced persons in Acra 1 and Acra 2 on 17 February.

Nearly 350,000 IDPs are…

By CEPR Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch, February 27, 2013

865 days after Haiti’s cholera epidemic first began, with over 8,000 dead and some 650,000 sickened, the government of Haiti, with international support, officially launched a ten-year cholera eradication plan today after months of delays. The plan calls for an investment of $2.2 billion in clean water and sanitation infrastructure, with some $485.9 million needed for the next two years. Currently 31 percent of the population does not have access to potable water, while 83 percent lack access to adequate sanitation. By 2022, the plan aims to deliver potable water and improved sanitation services to 85 and 90 percent of the population, respectively.

The plan notes that in the short term, “actions will focus on preventing the transmission of cholera from one person to another through the use of drinking water disinfected with chlorine, and the promotion of hand washing, good sanitary practices, and food hygiene.” Resources will also go to capacity building and training for the relevant government agencies, in particular the health ministry (MSPP) and the water agency (DINEPA). Over the long-term, some $650 million will go to DINEPA to build water supply systems in the 21 largest cities in the country, though most of this would start after the next two years. A breakdown of funding needs by sector, program and time-frame can be seen below. Overall, about 70 percent of the needed funds are to go to water and sanitation provision, though just over 10 percent of that is planned to be spent in the first…

Three years after the earthquake, major changes needed to avoid an aid legacy of deeper poverty for Haitians

Statement by the Canada Haiti Action Network, January 7, 2013

Billions of dollars of aid to Haiti have been pledged or spent following the devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010.[1] Yet three years later, life remains very harsh for many of the country’s ten million people. By every social, economic and environmental measure, Haiti’s prospects for post-earthquake progress remain exceptionally challenging. The U.S., Canada and other wealthy countries need to end the destructive cycle of interference in Haiti’s sovereign affairs. They have a duty to provide meaningful assistance not only for obvious humanitarian reasons but also in recognition of the harm committed against the Haitian people over the decades by big power interference.

What has international aid achieved?

  • Emergency relief in the days, weeks, and months after the earthquake saved lives, provided comfort to survivors, cleared rubble over time from streets and neighbourhoods, and provided rudimentary shelter for hundreds of thousands.
  • Public infrastructure works have improved roads and bridges. Architects and builders, Haitian and international alike, have laid plans and begun the long process of rebuilding shattered homes and neighbourhoods.
  • Medical assistance is one of the most important post-earthquake accomplishments. Thanks to the contributions of Latin American countries such as Cuba and Venezuela and global health agencies such as Partners In Health, who were already present in the country prior to the earthquake, and thanks to the Haitian people and government’s own efforts, improvements to health care services have been registered.
  • Successful projects in agriculture, education, and tourism have shown the potential…

By Roger Annis, first published on Rabble.ca, Nov 11, 2012

Hurricane Sandy struck another heavy blow to Haiti on October 23, 24. At least 54 people died and several dozen more are missing. Several tens of thousands of people were flooded out of their homes or camps. There are some 370,000 people stuck in appalling conditions in earthquake survivor camps while hundreds of thousands more have gone back to damaged homes or whatever ramshackle shelter they can find.

Canada's media reports, and doesn't report, on Sandy in Haiti

The Montreal daily La Presse assigned Gabrielle Duchaine to report from Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which struck Haiti on October 23-24. Hers was the most substantive reporting to appear in Canada. She wrote two informative articles on the difficult conditions she observed, including the blow to food production that the storm delivered.

According to preliminary estimations by Haitian government officials, 70 percent of the crop that was ready to be harvested in the south of the country was destroyed, including bananas, beans, rice, avocado and corn. Cattle were also killed. The losses amount to more than $100 million.

Areas in the north of Haiti experienced drought conditions earlier this year and the drought in the U.S. Midwest this year has sent prices of corn, soy and other staples soaring in Haiti. United Nations officials say that one million people are now threatened by food insecurity.

Here is the translated introduction to one of the articles by Duchaine:

When Hurricane Sandy descended on the U.S. east coast, all eyes were turned to New York and the huge…

Unlike earthquake or hurricane, Haiti's cholera outbreak is a manmade disaster – by the very agency supposed to protect it

By Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian (UK), Nov 12, 2012

Before Hurricane Sandy slammed into the east coast of the United States, it killed 54 people in Haiti and left tens of thousands more homeless. Haiti is especially vulnerable because of its poor infrastructure and environmental destruction, so people die there – as they did during the earthquake in January 2010 – in greater numbers than they would in other countries subject to the same natural disasters.

But there is one disaster that was brought to Haiti directly by people, not by nature. It was not caused by shifting tectonic plates or extreme weather (or climate change). That disaster is the cholera epidemic that struck Haiti two years ago.

Most people I talk to don't even know that United Nations troops…

The NGO Republic of Haiti

By Kathie Klarreich and Linda Polman, The Nation, October 31, 2012
 
The wire fence that surrounds Haiti’s National Palace in the heart of the country’s capital has been covered, recently, with a green mesh. Inside, the multi-domed structure has been reduced to rubble, finally knocked down after it was all but destroyed by the country’s deadly 7.0-magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010. The worst national disaster in the history of the Western Hemisphere, the temblor killed an estimated 200,000 people in just thirty-five seconds.
 
A lone blue-and-red Haitian flag waves from the gigantic pile of rubble. Along the western edge of the palace grounds, lots that once housed government ministries and the Palace of Justice continue to lie vacant. More than 16,000 civil service employees died in the quake. Now their offices are occupied by new employees in temporary buildings or even tents. Some still lack standard operating equipment such as telephones and computers, along with a backup electrical system to deal with blackouts, a routine occurrence here.
 
Several miles northwest of downtown sits the Logistical Base, or Log Base, the headquarters for the United Nations and its recovery efforts. Here, it’s a different world. Within the massive blue-and-white compound are revamped trailers, golf carts and more glistening public toilets than any other place in Haiti. (Log Base is germ—and cholera!—free.) Flowers line the walkways, and machines blow a cool mist into an outdoor restaurant whose menu, on one random day, included sushi, jasmine rice, German potatoes, Brazilian cheese bread, halal shawarma and Häagen-Dazs ice cream. The American dollar, not the Haitian gourde, is the currency of choice.
 
Shortly after the earthquake, Log…