Recent Feature Articles

Riches beckon from beneath Haiti’s hills, and mining companies are hoping to lock in huge tax breaks to get at them.

By Jacob Kushner, published in Guernica Daily, Aug 16, 2012
Deep in Haiti’s northern mountains, a half-dozen supervisors at a mining exploration site spent their days playing dominoes at a folding table next to a helicopter pad. For weeks they waited in La Miel, off a dirt road deep in the countryside, for Haiti’s government to give them the go-ahead to search for the gold they believe is buried in the hills around them. Fig Newtons and water bottles filled the shelves of their staff tent. On a whiteboard, in scratchy handwriting, was a single-item to-do list for the week: Change $83,000 into Haitian gourdes.

A mile west, a team of locals with shovels widened a dirt road and lined it with a drainage ditch. They were paid by Newmont, the Colorado mining company working at La Miel, to prepare local roads for heavy mining machinery, which moved here when Newmont got permission to dig.

Mineral explorers have long suspected Haiti could be sitting on a wealth of gold deposits, and in the 1970s the United Nations Development Program confirmed it, testing the earth and publishing the results with the hope of attracting foreign mining companies.

Newmont and three other foreign companies took the bait; now, they are exploring much of northern Haiti for signs of gold, silver, and zinc ore. They hope to open a modern mine that might unearth tons of precious metals, while the price of gold is at record highs. In April 2011, VCS Mining, a small U.S.-based mining venture, purchased rights to explore 700 square kilometers at a cost of around $7,000 per year. Canadian explorer Majescor owns permits to explore 450 square kilometers. Last August its stock doubled in a single day after it a reported a high level of gold in some drill samples…

Canadian Ambassador satisfied with Martelly government's performance

By Roger Annis, published in the Aug 9, 2012 edition of the Haitian print weekly Haiti Liberté (English page) and on Rabble.ca, Aug 9, 2012

Washington and Ottawa have worked closely together over the past decade in Haiti to further mutual goals, ranging from their backing of the 2004 coup d'état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to support for key policies of the current government of President Joseph Michel Martelly.

Today, the U.S. and Canada are pushing hard for a Permanent Electoral Council that would further entrench the practices of excluding certain political parties from Haiti's electoral processes, and they are encouraging foreign investors to come to the country, particularly in the domains of mining (in the case of Canada) and assembly industries (the U.S.).

This agenda was broadly outlined by Canada's ambassador to Haiti, Henri Paul Normandin, in a June 28 interview he gave to Haiti's largest daily newspaper, the French-language Le Nouvelliste. The article is titled 'Canada-Haiti relations going well, according to Canada's ambassador in Haiti.'

Constitutional amendments in Haiti

Ambassador Normandin made clear in the interview that, "Canada and the international community" (code for the Washington-led coalition of North American and European powers) are anxious to see a Permanent Electoral Council installed in Haiti.

"Finally, Haiti will have a permanent electoral institution," he told Le Nouvelliste. "It was an anachronism in a democracy like Haiti where there are regular elections but there was not a permanent electoral institution. Now finally, we'll have one, which…

Haiti’s post-earthquake disaster is setting powerful social forces in motion towards change

Tectonic Shifts: Haiti After the Earthquake; editors Mark Schuller and Pablo Morales; Kumarian Press, 271 pp, January 2012

Reviewed by Roger Annis, review published in the August 2012 issue of NACLA

Tectonic Shifts is a vital account of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The book is a collection of 46 articles and essays by leading Haitian and international activists, scholars and writers who are on the front lines of the struggle for meaningful relief and reconstruction.

Through Tectonic’s pages, we meet key actors among the army of Haitian people and international supporters who have toiled in unimaginable difficulties since the earthquake to save lives, bring comfort and rebuild a shattered country. We learn of the intense political and class struggle that is determining in whose interests the future Haiti will be guided and governed, a dynamic story shifting wrenchingly from one day’s news to the next.

In view of the limited and sharply criticized outcomes of the reconstruction effort to date, the book amounts to an urgent call for action and change.

In their introduction, editors Mark Schuller and Pablo Morales pay tribute to the Haitian community tradition of youn ede lòt (helping one another).* “…The first emergency response came from the people themselves: Complete strangers pulling out children or the elderly half-buried under slabs of concrete. Neighbours pooling together what scraps of food, utensils, charcoal and water they could find, sleeping next to one another on the ground…this was the story of how the Haitian people put away their economic and political differences and worked together, in dignity and solidarity, to collectively survive.”

Youn…

GlobalPost special series: Where did all the money go?

The question rises up from the dust of the still-crowded tent camps and the mud of still-impassable roads and from desperate parents still struggling to feed their children. Two years after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that ravaged Haiti, less than half of the $3 billion the U.S. has committed to rebuilding the country has actually been disbursed. Reconstruction is by just about all accounts taking far too long. Why?

Haiti is a place of unanswered questions, and perhaps unanswerable questions. In this GlobalPost 'Special Report,' correspondent Donovan Webster and photographer Ron Haviv start GlobalPost on a journey through Haiti to find as many answers to this question as we can. Or at least to hear the questions that Haitians are asking of their own country and of the many donors who have promised more than they deliver.

Webster and Haviv are joined by GlobalPost correspondents Mildrade Cherfils, who is writing on the diaspora, and Jacob Kushner, who is based in Port-au-Prince. As a reporting team, they found that some reconstruction efforts are succeeding while others are failing. Most of all, they found resiliency and resourcefulness among the people. But they also found cynicism about an aid effort that seems to be enriching big non-governmental organizations (NGOs.) Haitians now call their country ‘the republic of NGOs.”

The stories they tell in "Fault Line: Aid, Politics and Blame in Post-Quake Haiti" reveal searing images and complex characters through whom truths emerge, if not exactly answers to the big question: Where did all the money go? It's a question that GlobalPost plans to keep asking through this ongoing series of reports.

(The above news notification has been added to the…

Article looks at the making of the film 'Baseball in the Time of Cholera'

The following article appears in the July 16, 2012 print and online editions of the Toronto Star. The Star is Canada's largest circulation daily newspaper. The article looks at the story behind the filming of the 27-minute documentary, 'Baseball in the Time of Cholera.' The links in the text of the article are taken from the Star online version of the article. Unknown Object

Screenings of 'Baseball in the Time of Cholera' are being held in the United States to help fund the legal action against the United Nations on behalf of the victims of cholera. The action is seeking redress for the victims and their families as well as assistance in establishing potable water supplies in Haiti. It is being spearheaded by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Go to this IJDH web page to read about the IJDH 'Cholera Accountability Project' and to watch 'Baseball in the Time of Cholera.' Go to the CHAN events page to read about screenings of the film taking place, including future screenings to take place in Canada.


Film takes swing at cholera

Documentary uses unique lens to ask UN to own up to deadly scourge in Haiti

By Deborah Black, Toronto Star page three, Monday, July 16, 2012

For Joseph Alvyns — a 17-year-old who survived the earthquake that ravaged Haiti — throwing the first pitch at a Blue Jays game was a dream come true. The captain of the first-ever Haitian Little League team had been spotted on a television news clip by Martha Rogers, whose family owns the Blue Jays. He and his cousin had been making…

Earthquake relief where Haiti wasn’t broken
CARACOL, Haiti — On the first anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, in a sleepy corner of northeast Haiti far from the disaster zone, the Haitian government began the process of evicting 366 farmers from a large, fertile tract of land to clear the way for a new industrial park.
 
The farmers did not understand why the authorities wanted to replace productive agricultural land with factories in a rural country that had trouble feeding itself. But, promised compensation, they did not protest a strange twist of fate that left them displaced by an earthquake that had not affected them. “We watched, voiceless,” Jean-Louis Saint Thomas, an elderly farmer, said. “The government paid us to shut us up.”
 
In Port-au-Prince, meanwhile, with rubble still clogging the streets, former President Bill Clinton, co-chairman of Haiti’s recovery commission, had celebrated the Caracol Industrial Park as a glimmer of hope during a ceremony cementing an agreement with the anchor tenant — Sae-A Trading, a South Korean clothing manufacturer and major supplier to American retailers like Walmart and Gap Inc.
 
“I know a couple places in America that would commit mayhem to get 20,000 jobs today,” Mr. Clinton said, referring to the jobs that Sae-A pledged to generate over six years. In exchange, thanks to a deal that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped broker, Sae-A looked forward to tax exemptions, duty-free access to the United States, abundant cheap labor, factory sheds, a power plant, a new port and an expatriate residence outfitted with special kimchi refrigerators.

By Deepa Panchang
Published by Other Worlds, ‘Another Haiti Is Possible’ project, June 29, 2012

“Where you stand,” goes an old Haitian proverb, “depends on where you sit.” This article, the second in a series, will examine aid workers’ stereotypes and prejudices about residents of displacement camps in post-earthquake Haiti, stemming from acute disconnect between NGOs and the people they are there to work with. We explore how these misperceptions have perpetuated deliberate decisions to deny water and sanitation services to desperate survivors.


The context is complicated by the transnational flow of both bacteria and aid dollars. Scientists have shown that the cholera pathogen came to Haiti in the bodies of foreign UN troops whose military base was dumping its sewage into a nearby river. The imported disease has claimed more than 7,000 lives and continues to ravage communities across Haiti. Two and a half years since the 2010 earthquake, the country still faces a severe dearth of water and sanitation services, further fueling the epidemic. The crisis is playing out among the nearly 400,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) still living in makeshift camps under tarps or torn tents, an ideal environment for cholera. The situation raises serious questions: why, with billions of dollars in post-earthquake aid and hundreds of humanitarian NGOs in the country, do so many people still lack the most basic of services? What factors are guiding NGOs’ decisions to provide or withhold them?

The first…

Interview with lawyers Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon: How President Martelly’s proposed constitutional changes are illegal

Interview by Kim Ives and Roger Leduc, published in Haiti Liberte, June 14, 2012

Haitian President Joseph Michel Martelly recently announced his intention to publish amendments to Haiti’s 1987 Constitution during the month of June. Once published in the government’s official journal Le Moniteur, laws are supposed to go into effect. But according to Haiti’s existing 1987 Constitution, amendments made during one administration are not supposed to take effect until the following administration.

Martelly’s plan to publish the amendments, which were partially and faultily drafted under Haiti’s last president, René Préval (2006-2011), has provoked a storm of protest among constitutional scholars, lawyers, politicians, and activists who charge that it would be patently illegal. But the U.S. and its allies continue to push Martelly to publish the amendments despite widespread and vehement objections.

On June 7, Kim Ives and Roger Leduc interviewed Mario Joseph, the lead lawyer of the Office of International Lawyers (BAI) based in Port-au-Prince, and lawyer Brian Concannon of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) on the radio program “Haiti: The Struggle Continues,” broadcast every Thursday from 9 to 10 p.m. on the Pacifica Network’s WBAI-FM in New York (streamed live and archived on www.wbai.org). What follows is an edited version of that interview. Mario Joseph’s responses in Kreyòl have been translated into English.

Kim Ives: Brian, can you briefly explain what are the key amendments to the Constitution that have been drafted, and what has gone wrong with their publication?

Brian Concannon: One overarching theme which is often…

By Catherine Porter, Toronto Star, June 2, 2012

SANTA CLARA, CUBA—Every morning, on the edge of town, you can witness a spectacular migration. Hundreds of students in white lab coats pour from a squat university building on to the street, around the line of horse-drawn wagons, and into nearby hospitals. You can play a game, watching from your perch beneath a flowering flamboyant tree: where do you think the guy with dreadlocks is from? What about the girl with a hijab? Some have telltale signs — an Argentinean or Angolan flag stitched over their medical uniforms.

They are international students at the world’s largest medical school, the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina — ELAM. To put the school’s size in perspective: the University of Toronto has 850 medical students and Harvard University has 735. ELAM has twelve times more students than those two schools combined: 19,550. And, despite being a poor country, every single one of those students is on full scholarship.

Nabeel Yar Khan rushes among them, his stomach growling from missing a miserable mess-hall breakfast, glasses gleaming, short hair gelled to a peak like an angry bird from the popular video game. Most locals guess from his brown skin that he is one of the 906 Pakistani students granted scholarships since the deadly 2005 earthquake. But, peer closely at the back of the grey knapsack strapped over his shoulders and you see a small red maple leaf pin.

Yar Khan is from Scarborough — Malvern, to be precise. He is rushing toward the low-slung, pink pediatric hospital — a place where the third and first worlds collide. Here, he can learn how to transplant a kidney, but patients bring their own buckets and kettles to heat water for baths.

For the past week, Yar Khan, 25, has been caring for 8-year-old Paulina, a girl with long curly…

By Deepa Panchang, Other Worlds, May 31, 2012

Scientists have shown that the cholera pathogen came to Haiti with foreign UN troops who carried the bacteria in their bodies, and whose military base was dumping its sewage into a nearby river. The imported disease has claimed more than 7,000 lives and continues to ravage communities across Haiti. Despite billions in post-earthquake aid dollars and hundreds of humanitarian NGOs, the country still faces a dearth of water and sanitation services, further fueling the epidemic. Nearly half a million internally displaced

people (IDPs) still live since the 2010 earthquake in makeshift camps under tarps, torn tents, and pieces of old fabric and cardboard, an ideal environment for cholera. The situation raises serious questions about the humanitarian mechanism and its priorities. Why do so many people still lack the most basic of services? What factors are guiding humanitarian agencies' decisions to provide or withhold them?

Read more about the results of a study answering these questions in this multi-part series. The first article focuses on how neglect of humanitarian standards and lack of commitment to human rights led to deliberate decisions to cut services that left hundreds of thousands without water and sanitation, thus allowing cholera to spike. In the next article, we will examine NGO personnel's negative perceptions about residents of the displacement camps, and how these perceptions abetted their decisions to deny services. The final piece takes a step back to look at the political dynamics that have historically left large gaps in water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti, and how these trends continue. Throughout, we highlight grassroots groups that are working towards Haitian-driven alternatives.