Recent Feature Articles

Publication of such an article as the following in the New York Times suggests that the UN's efforts to dodge responsiblity for the cholera outbreak are doomed. Then the real work of providing a potable water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti can be stepped up. This is the ultimate purpose of the lawsuit spearheaded by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and others. It is disappointing that the article provides no detail of the lawsuit and its lead agencies, referring to those who have initiated the action on behalf of 5,000-plus victims as, simply, "the lawyers ."--Website editors


In Haiti, global failures on a cholera epidemic

By Deborah Sontag, New York Times, March 31, 2012
MIREBALAIS, Haiti — Jean Salgadeau Pelette, handsome when medicated and groomed, often roamed this central Haitian town in a disheveled state, wild-eyed and naked. He was a familiar figure here, the lanky scion of a prominent family who suffered from a mental illness.
 
On Oct. 16, 2010, Mr. Pelette, 38, woke at dawn in his solitary room behind a bric-a-brac shop off the town square. As was his habit, he loped down the hill to the Latem River for his bath, passing the beauty shop, the pharmacy and the funeral home where his body would soon be prepared for burial. The river would have been busy that morning, with bathers, laundresses and schoolchildren brushing their teeth. Nobody thought of its flowing waters, downstream from a United Nations peacekeeping base, as toxic.
 
When Mr. Pelette was found lying by the bank a few hours later, he was so weak from a sudden, violent stomach illness that he had to be carried back to his room. It…

By Travis Ross and Roger Annis, published on the Haiti blog of Rabble.ca, March 21, 2012

When President Michel Martelly was elected in April of 2011 he made a promise to create space for all Haitian children at school. Soon after, he announced his intention to tax all international phone calls as well as money transfers in and out of Haiti in order to fund the policy.

Although the Haitian constitution does not give the president the power to levy taxes, Martelly launched a ‘National Fund for Education' in May 2011 with the goal of collecting $8.5 million per month by taxing all international phone calls in and out of Haiti at 5 cents per minute and all international money transfers at $1.50 per transfer. Haiti's largest source of foreign revenue is the money transfers that its Diaspora sends back to family members.

For most Haitians, education is an unattainable goal. According to the UN, the cost of an elementary school education can be prohibitive--40 per cent of family income to the average Haitian family. Only about two-thirds of Haitian children were enrolled in primary school before the…

Newly Revealed WikiLeaks Show Long History of Fruitless U.S. Pursuit

By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, March 21, 2012

Haiti’s former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide “is once again in the crosshairs of the U.S. government,” reported the Miami Herald on Mar. 4, “this time for allegedly pocketing millions of dollars in bribes from Miami businesses that brokered long-distance phone deals” with TELECO, the once state-owned phone company. (TELECO was privatized in 2010.)

The Herald’s writers got a little carried away. They were working from a U.S. indictment charging that a certain Haitian “Official B” – whom the Herald and a defense lawyer deduce, but cannot confirm, is Aristide – made off with about $1 million, not “millions.”

But the whole story stinks to high heaven. Aristide’s accuser is one of those indicted, Patrick Joseph, 50, TELECO’s former director. Aristide fired him in 2003 for corruption, a key fact never mentioned in any of the Herald’s reports. Is it surprising that Joseph or his lawyer might now accuse Aristide as an accomplice, especially given the incentives U.S. prosecutors are surely offering him?

Washington’s campaign to pin something – anything – on Aristide has long been known. About 2000 secret U.S. State Department cables obtained by the media organization WikiLeaks, and then provided to Haïti Liberté provide one of the best confirmations of the U.S. witch-hunt.

Some of the cables, not previously published by Haïti Liberté, show that in recent years the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding as well as “monthly training and technical assistance” (according to a Jul. 25, 2008 cable) to Haitian agencies like the Central Unit for Financial Investigation (UCREF). Prime Minister Gérard Latortue’s de facto government formed UCREF to find evidence of and…

Shelters That Don’t Shelter the Needy

A new study by Haiti Grassroots Watch

By Milo Milfort, Enel Beaulière, Francy Innocent / Haiti Grassroots Watch, Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hills above Léogâne, HAITI – Almost half of the emergency shelters distributed by the British organization Tearfund in the mountains above Léogâne remain uninhabited six months after they were built. A two-month investigation by the Haiti Grassroots

Watch (HGW) investigative journalism partnership in the hamlets of Fonds d’Oies and Cormiers, the tenth and twelfth sections of Léogâne, found that 34 of the 84 families who received temporary houses didn’t live in them, and that 11 families got two houses from two different humanitarian organizations.

If these 34 houses – built for $3,000 each, according to Tearfund – are sitting empty or, worse, are up for rent, that means at least $102,000 was wasted while tens of neighboring families are still living in tents or make-shift huts.

“The emergency shelters distributed around here weren’t passed out fairly,” Rosemie Durandisse seethed. The 50-year-old farmer, her husband and six children used to live in a four-room concrete home that was destroyed during the earthquake, whose epicenter lies about 25 kilometers away. Now she and her family cram into a shack made of wood, cloth and plastic.

“Life is not too rosy for me… I need to find a home because [when it rains], the torrents make our lives miserable,” she added.

The Christian organization Tearfund (The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund), which works in about 50 countries around the world, arrived in these mountain hamlets between Léogâne and Jacmel after the earthquake. In addition to other work, Tearfund built 249 “…

Reconstruction money flushed away?

A compilation of studies on the state of sanitation services and protection of groundwater aquifers in the earthquake zone
Published on Haiti Grassroots Watch, March 8, 2012

Introduction:
Millions spent by the international community to empty over 11,000 "port-a-potties" has now dried up, leaving a half-million internally displaced people with no place to "go," literally. Online, it looks like two U.S.-based charities are making good on their promise to build 10,000 homes, and the money flows in… but not to build 10,000 houses - journalists could only find a few dozen. Earthquake refugees dump the ecological free toilets supplied by an Irish aid agency and instead dig to install familiar flush toilets

which are now polluting one of the capital's main water supplies.

These are just a few of the investigative reports produced this month by young Haitian journalists, with support from the new Fund For Investigative Journalism in Haiti.

Chosen by a jury made up of media directors from Groupe Medialternatif, the National Association of Haitian Media (ANMH) and the Association of Independent Haitian Media (AMIH), a dozen young men and women scoured the streets and hillsides of Haiti's earthquake zone for two months, discovering a lack of coordination, buck-passing, waste and corruption. Haiti Grassroots Watch is proud to have sponsored four of the investigations. Here are two, one from Haiti Grassroots Watch and one from Le Nouvelliste.


Temporary Toilets Threaten Permanent Damage

By Lafontaine Orvild, Haiti Grassroots Watch

Tabarre, HAITI, March 8 - Complete with gallery and garden, the 534 wood and…

Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, Laurent Dubois, Metropolitan Books, 2012, 418 pp.
Reviewed by Roger Annis
(This review was originally published in the International Socialist Review, March 2012, under the title 'Haiti from independence to occupation'.)

The Haitian people have been at the forefront of many of the events that shaped the modern world. They staged the first and only successful revolution against slavery, intersected with a profound agrarian reform. They faced down the barbarity of the U.S. military occupation of 1915-34 and ultimately drove the occupiers out.

The worker/student/peasant uprising of 1946 against President Élie Lescot was the first successful overthrow of a U.S.-backed regime in the Americas. The popular mobilization of 1986-90 that culminated in Jean-Bertrand Aristide's first election to the presidency in September, 1990 was the first to frustrate the strategy of U.S. imperialism in the 1980s of promoting ‘democracy’ in the form of sham elections while dangling the bait of foreign aid.

Haitians have suffered mightily for repeatedly defying and defeating the imperial order. As if that were not enough, they suffered a new and unbelievable tragedy with the earthquake of January 12, 2010.

Author and historian Laurent Dubois reviews this rebellious and often tragic history in his fascinating and engaging new book, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History. He seeks to illuminate and explain Haiti's coup-scarred history, and in particular shed more light on the origins of what another author, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, has termed its ‘predatory state.’

The evident weakness of the Haitian state that so troubled many in the world in the days and weeks following the earthquake is largely a consequence of the incessant interventions of the world's big powers. Dubois describes this in much detail. Born into a world dominated by slavery, Haiti was shunned by all the wealthy countries…

Haiti protest signals political tension for future
 
Article by Trenton Daniel, The Associated Press, Wed. Feb. 29, 2012
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Several thousand supporters of two-time President Jean-Bertrand Aristide filled the streets of Haiti's capital Wednesday on the eighth anniversary of his ouster, accusing the country's current leader of not doing enough to improve their lives. It was the largest demonstration against President Michel Martelly since he took office in May, and pointed to mounting political strife between the president and his critics as the country struggles to rebuild from the 2010 earthquake.
 
The size of the crowd also hinted at the level of support for Aristide, a former slum priest turned politician who still wields influence since returning to Haiti last year after seven years of exile in South Africa. "Martelly said he would bring change; instead he's bringing division," protester Rene Augustin said with Haiti's red-and-blue flag wrapped around his head.
 
The demonstrators also called for the departure of Haiti's U.N. peacekeeping mission.
 
The protest came at a time when the mood in the country feels precarious and abounds with tension. Last Friday, Prime Minister Garry Conille suddenly resigned from his post after just four months on the job because of infighting with Martelly. Conille, who previously worked as an aide to former U.S. President Bill Clinton in his role as the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, is staying on as the country's No. 2 government official until legislators ratify a successor, a process that could take weeks and could prove tricky with an opposition-controlled Parliament.
 
Conille…

Canada-funded shelter assistance looks like shantytown clearance, not the vast house-building plan desperately needed

By Roger Annis

The following article was first published on the Haiti blog of the Rabble.ca news website, February 23, 2012.

A centerpiece of Canada's aid pronouncements for Haiti on the second anniversary of the earthquake is a $20 million project by the Canadian International Development Agency to resettle residents of the most visible camp of internally displaced people in Port au Prince, that of Champ de Mars, an historic public square located a stone's throw from the destroyed national palace.

The camp is a visual testament of the slow pace of housing and shelter construction since the earthquake. A recent Washington Post article said the Haitian government (and presumably its international backers) consider the camp an "embarrassment". Hence the priority on closing it down.

The announcement of the resettlement project by Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Bev Oda on January 11 said that 5,000 families would be relocated, two Port au Prince neighbourhoods (unnamed) would be rebuilt, workers would be trained for the building work, and those operating artisanal businesses in the camp would receive additional funding to relocate. 1

The true measure of aid pronouncements in Haiti since January 12, 2010 is only revealed in often hard-to-obtain detail. In this case, what looks on paper like a shelter plan reveals itself upon examination as more like shantytown clearance.

Few new houses built in two years

For one, the program will build next to no new houses. It is centered on a rent subsidy scheme, $500 for one…

By Kevin Edmonds
Part one, published on the author’s blog on NACLA, The Other Side of Paradise, NACLA, February 16, 2012
The weekend of February 4 and 5, 2012 saw the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA) convene its 11th summit in Caracas, Venezuela. ALBA began as an alternative vision to the reckless neoliberal agenda promoted by Washington throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2004, Venezuela and Cuba sought to establish a regional alliance which would be committed to an agenda of poverty eradication, sustainable development and social justice founded upon the values of co-operation, equality, and solidarity. The regional integration promoted by ALBA importantly stresses policy flexibility, fair trade, and recognition of the unique circumstances faced by the small Caribbean economies.

As many expected, the weekend summit contained the standard denunciations of American imperialism and the need for deeper economic integration but surprisingly ended with St. Lucia and Suriname expressing their desire for full membership in the organization and Haiti joining ranks as a permanent observer.

While St. Lucia and Suriname cannot fully join the organization without following the necessary political processes in their respective countries, the two nations were admitted to the meeting as “special guest members”— a prior step to their full entry. St. Lucia, Suriname and Haiti would join their CARICOM neighbours Dominica, who joined the regional organization in 2008, and St. Vincent and Antigua, who became members in 2009.

Professor Norman Girvan of the University of the West Indies, a leading scholar in Caribbean political economy, sees the recent regional shift towards ALBA as the result of the organization…

The following article is one of the very few recent articles to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of the scope of the housing and shelter crisis in Haiti. It also provides some detail of the $20 million that the Canadian government has provided to clear out the camp in the Champ de Mars square in central Port au Prince.

Of note is the fact that the article appears in a U.S., not Canadian, newspaper. No media outlet in Canada has written anything approaching an article of such detail on the shelter crisis, notwithstanding the aforementioned $20 million program. As to the effectiveness or not of what amounts to a camp clearance program financed by Canada, well, read the article and make up your own mind.

See also The Race to Zero, by Mark Snyder. The article examines how international agencies are pressing to close idp camps so that the statistics can show 'progress' being made but without necessarily providing the housing so desperately needed by many Haitian people.
--Website editors

By William Booth, Washington Post, February 19, 2012 (Go to link to see a photo gallery)
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — International aid worker Emmett Fitzgerald has to get 20,000 very poor people squatting in front of the National Palace to pack up their tarps and tin, their plastic buckets and soiled mats — to empty the most notorious camp in Haiti and go home. The hard part: What home?

There is not enough money, there is not enough time to build the cities of tomorrow in Haiti today. So the 4,641 families that have been living for the past two years in the…