Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Energy saving ideas - Sliding Scale electric bills

Electricity, the mainstay of modern life, is a new phenomenon. Here in the "developing" world (the Dominican Republic is considered a "middle income" nation in contrast to Haiti, consider one of the "least developed" nations , the majority of the population lives below the poverty level in the United States. The electric companies are mindful of their clients.

They have a sliding scale for payment based on consumption. It is a program that the United States would do well to emulate. Why not a progressive tax on electric consumption?

The bulk of the population here did not have it a generation ago. The national grid is non-existent. Electricity service 24/7 is an unexpected luxury: most new buildings or construction in the tourist areas have their own "plantas" or generators. At the very least, they will have a system of inverters, battery back up banks that will run a few lights, perhaps a fan and the refrigerator on an emergency basis for a few hours.

I live in a section of town called Gazcue, an area of former elegance of large homes and streets lined with old trees, next to the Colonial Zone, the oldest city in the Americas, est. circa 1598. A few blocks away is the National Palace so my neighborhood always has electricity.

The nation is just figuring out how to protect the electric supply, how to cut off the lines that are illegally spliced into it. In the country, you will see small wooden houses with dirt floors, and a television connected to an extension cord, connected to the house next door, and next door, leading eventually to a wire hooked into the tall electric pole. The government has just passed a law making the theft of electricity illegal. Since that was not explicit and only a fool would pay for a state provided service if there was a way not to. There are now some private electric companies which have better service but actually involve meters and bills.

After the first electric light, the Dominicans buy a "third world" washing machine, which has a tumbler for washing, another alongside for extracting. You fill the tub with soapy water, it runs and spins, then you extract the clothes, put them into the side tumbler which extracts the soapy water, then fill the tub with rinse water, load the clothes, then extract again, then hang the clothes on the nearest barbed wire fence. It is certainly more labor intensive than an American washer/dryer but certainly less so than taking them three miles down to river to beat them on rocks or washing them by hand. IIt is also a lot rougher on the clothes: holes seem to appear out of nowhere.

Here's how my April bill looked (the peso is now at 32= $1 US if you wish to convert):

Basic service 108.65
75 kWh x RD 3.12 234.00
125 kWh x RD 3.12 234.00
100 kWh x RD 4.71 390.00
100 kWh x RD 7.00 700.00
100 Kwh x RD 7.00 700.00
100 kWh x RD 7.00 700.00
69 kWh x RD 7.00 700.00

Total 3,785.65 (US 118.30)

Then the temperature started to really rise in July and I put on the old air conditioner in the middle of the day and went to the bedroom to read. Look at what happened to the electric bill.

Basic service 108.65
800 kWh x RD 8.57 7,370.20

Total 7,478.85 (US 233.71)

So you can be assured that I started rushing around changing my light bulbs to low consumption compact fluorescents, and set about to find an electrician to deal with the suspicious whirring noise that comes from my freezer, take a look at that strange plastic heating unit that is attached to the shower head which is supposed to heat the water, but doesn't.

And to solve the mystery of why I received a shock when my arm touched the metal cage outside the window surrounding the air conditioner. No mystery there, there is some sort of electrical leakage. The mystery is why the pigeons still want to nest in it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Aristide´s gang of drug dealers

There are some who believed that Aristide was the savior of the poor.

Others believed that he was a drug dealer, running a criminal enterprise.

This arrived, from a completely partisant, anti-Aristide source. However, I believe that the facts are the facts.

So much for the fall of Aristide.



July 20, 2007


Former director of security for American Airline at Port-au-Prince international airport

Arrested in Haiti in October 2004 and extradited to the US

on October 14, 2004 ; she is awaiting trial in Miami and is

currently out of jail on bail and confined to the Miami area; pleaded guilty on March 1, 2006. Will be sentenced in May.

Eddy High level drug trafficker
Extradited to US from Haiti in August 2003

Jean Salim Businessman and high level drug trafficker

In jail in Miami


Former Lavalas member of the lower house** of parliament implicated in drug trafficking in Jacmel.
Disappeared at about the time of Aristide's downfall in

February 2004



(or Evintz)
Former head of Haitian National Police anti-narcotic brigade (Bureau de Lutte contre le Traffic des stupefiants.

Arrested in Haiti in late May 2004 and deported to US; awaiting trial; tried and found not guilty on October 7, 2005

Quirino Ernesto Paulino Former captain of the Dominican army and high level drug trafficking baron suspected of ties with Haitian networks.

Extradited to NYC from the DR on February 19, 2005

Fourel Former president of the Haitian Senate

Arrested in Haiti in late May 2004 and deported to US; currently in jail in Miami

Wilnet Former Lavalas member of the lower house of parliament implicated in drug trafficking in Jacmel
Disappeared at about the time of Aristide's downfall in

February 2004


Arrested in Canada while trying to smuggle cocaine dissolved in cans of soft drink on February 23, 2005

Businessman involved in the borlette (lottery) and allegedly involved in drug trafficking Arrested in the DR on April 16, 2005 and deported immediately to the US; convicted on July 22, 2005 of drug trafficking and money laundering; sentenced to life in jail late in September 2005



"EDOUARD," Hughes and Hubert
Half twin brothers of Serge Edouard heavily involved with him in drug trafficking The petty drug dealers criminal and thieves
Convicted in Miami ; have testified against their half brother in order to have their sentence reduced


Former officer of the Haitian National Police

Arrested in Santo Domingo with his Spanish acolyte, Luis Felipe García Manso Gonzales on January 12, 2007 and extradited the same day to Miami. Accused of shipping 2000 kilos of cocaine to the US.


Business man and drug baron based in Gonaïves Do not know the pig
Picked up in a DEA raid on July 16, 2007 , and extradited to the US on the same day.


Businessman, owner of Gold's Gym in

Pétion-Ville Arrested in Fort Lauderdale on February 4, 2007, for alleged involvement in drug trafficking.


Jean Eliobert

(AKA ED-One)
Former owner of a construction company and high level drug trafficker. Extradited to US from Haiti in September 2003; sentenced

on February 9, 2005 to nearly 20 years

17 JEAN, Oriel Former head of presidential/ national palace security . Only 3 years Il a vendu les autres criminels y compris Aritide
He was arrested in Canada in May 2004 and deported to US shortly thereafter. He has pleaded guilty in Miami in late May 2005. He was condemned to 3 years in jail on 11.18.05.

Jean-Claude Businessman suspected of having connections with drug trafficking and having financed the armed rebellion against Aristide. Escaped from the National Penitentiary on February 19, 2005 ; he was arrested in the DR and extradited to Haiti on July 10, 2005

Husband of Stephanie Ambroise and former security agent at American Airline in P-au-P Pleaded guilty with his wife in Miami on March 1, 2006; will be sentenced in May

Beaudouin High level drug trafficker

He said to the judge upon being sentenced "One day you will sentence Aristide the drug dealer just like me. He got 25 years
Deported from Haiti to US in June 2003, convicted late in

February 2004 shortly before Aristide's overthrow and currently serving time in an American jail. At the time of his sentencing, he denounced Aristide's participation in drug trafficking. His brother, Hector, was shot dead by Rudy Thérassan on February 13, 2003


Charles Maxime
High level drug trafficker

Arrested in Haiti and extradited to the US where he is in jail


Former commander of Haitian National Police Department of the West

In jail in the DR


Former head of Haitian National Police at international airport
Indicted jointly with Lucien and Thérassan and in jail in Miami ; awaiting trial there; pleaded guilty in Miami on August 23, 2005; will be sentenced on November 9, 2005

24 LOUIS, Wista Arranged transportation of drugs from Haiti to Miami; wife of Thibaud
Codefendant with Jean Eliobert Jasme.

Sentenced on February 9, 2005 to nearly 16 years.

Jean Nesly Former chief of Haitian National Police Indicted jointly with Lestin and Thérassan and in jail in Miami ; pleaded guilty to charge of money laundering on April 12, 2005 ; condemned to nearly 5 years on July 13, 2005

Nahoum Former Lavalas member of the lower house of parliament implicated in drug trafficking in Cap-Haïtien.
Disappeared at about the time of Aristide's downfall in

February 2004

27 OVALLE, Carlos Colombian national and long time resident of Haiti in charge of coordinating drug trafficking in Haiti on behalf of the Colombian cartels
Extradited to US in September 2003; tried and convicted in Miami

Guy Former high officer of the PNH long suspected of involvement in drug trafficking .
Defected Haiti under Aristide in 2001 and was one of the key leaders of the rebellion/invasion that caused the downfall of Aristide in February 2004; presidential candidate in 2006; was the target of DEA raid on his home in Les Cayes on July 16, 2007; on the run

29 PiQUION, Bernard
Aka Fizi Bwa

Picked up on May 31, 2007 in Leogane in conjunction with the consfication of 420 kilos of cocaine; deported on July 16, 2007 by DEA

Former army officer
In jail since November 11, 2006 ; deported on July, 2007

Emmanuel High level drug trafficker and husband of Wista Louis
Already serving a 141/2 year sentence for drug trafficking

Rudy Former head of the Haitian National Police Brigade of Research and Investigation

Arested on May 14, 2004 in Miami, indicted jointly with Lucien and Lestin and in jail in Miami; on April 20, 2005 pleaded guilty to accepting protection money from traffickers; condemned to nearly 15 years on July 13, 2005

Jean Ronald High level drug trafficker
Arrested in Miami on January 19, 2005 where he is in jail

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Drinking the Water

I ran out of water yesterday. Not tap water as I have a good supply in my building in Santo Domingo, but drinking water. The tap water here is not potable. Sometimes when I am in the countryside here and there is a well, I will drink the local water. But here in the city, there is often a rainbow reminiscent of a an oil spill in the water in the toilet bowl. Not for drinking.

My drinking water is delivered in 5 gallon bottles which cost about $1.20 each. I must use it to drink, to cook, to fill my ice cube trays. But I am lucky here, I just pick up my cell phone, call the local colmado (our little form of the Quick Stop) and a young man brings over the ten gallons on the back of his motor bike, carrying them up the three flights of stairs. It is not as if I have to walk five miles to the well or the river. So I don't feel bad here when I buy a bottle of water.

But my neighbors across the border in Haiti do. Most of the citizens there make up part of the bottom billion, those who live on less than $1 a day. It is rare that a town in Haiti has municipal water. One statistic that is batted about is that a Haitian has diarrhea for one week a month from the water supply.

The contrast of life in Haiti and life in the States - the poorest and the richest, living 600 miles apart - is most stark in the area of water. Americans, who all have healthy, potable water running out of every faucet in their homes, still spend over $16 million a year on bottled water. That is $500,000 a year for each Haitian.

And most of that is on bottled tap water. Just like the stuff that is running out of their faucets at home. Ah imagine the luxury of it! The streets must surely be paved with gold.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The global village

I often consult this little ditty
to keep my perspective on the world. On the chance that you may not have seen it - from Professor Donella Meadows, Dartmouth College)
State of the Village Report

If the world were a village of 1000 people:

584 would be Asians

123 would be Africans

95 would be East and West Europeans

84 Latin Americans

55 Soviets (still including for the moment Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, etc.)

52 North Americans

6 Australians and New Zealanders

The people of the village would have considerable difficulty communicating:

165 people would speak Mandarin

86 would speak English

83 Hindi/Urdu

64 Spanish

58 Russian

37 Arabic

That list accounts for the mother-tongues of only half the villagers. The other half speak (in descending order of frequency) Bengali, Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese, German, French, and 200 other languages.

In the village there would be:

300 Christians (183 Catholics, 84 Protestants, 33 Orthodox)

175 Moslems

128 Hindus

55 Buddhists

47 Animists

210 all other religons (including atheists)

One-third (330) of the people in the village would be children. Half the children would be immunized against the preventable infectious diseases such as measles and polio.

Sixty of the thousand villagers would be over the age of 65.

Just under half of the married women would have access to and be using modern contraceptives.

Each year 28 babies would be born.

Each year 10 people would die, three of them for lack of food, one from cancer. Two of the deaths would be to babies born within the year.

One person in the village would be infected with the HIV virus; that person would most likely not yet have developed a full-blown case of AIDS.

With the 28 births and 10 deaths, the population of the village in the next year would be 1018.

In this thousand-person community, 200 people would receive three-fourths of the income; another 200 would receive only 2% of the income.

Only 70 people would own an automobile (some of them more than one automobile).

About one-third would not have access to clean, safe drinking water.

Of the 670 adults in the village half would be illiterate.

The village would have 6 acres of land per person, 6000 acres in all of which:

700 acres is cropland

1400 acres pasture

1900 acres woodland

2000 acres desert, tundra, pavement, and other wasteland.

The woodland would be declining rapidly; the wasteland increasing; the other land categories would be roughly stable. The village would allocate 83 percent of its fertilizer to 40 percent of its cropland -- that owned by the richest and best-fed 270 people. Excess fertilizer running off this land would cause pollution in lakes and wells. The remaining 60 percent of the land, with its 17 percent of the fertilizer, would produce 28 percent of the foodgrain and feed 73 percent of the people. The average grain yield on that land would be one-third the yields gotten by the richer villagers.

If the world were a village of 1000 persons, there would be five soldiers, seven teachers, one doctor. Of the village's total annual expenditures of just over $3 million per year, $181,000 would go for weapons and warfare, $159,000 for education, $132,000 for health care.

The village would have buried beneath it enough explosive power in nuclear weapons to blow itself to smithereens many times over. These weapons would be under the control of just 100 of the people. The other 900 people would be watching them with deep anxiety, wondering whether the 100 can learn to get along together, and if they do, whether they might set off the weapons anyway through inattention or technical bungling, and if they ever decide to dismantle the weapons, where in the village they will dispose of the dangerous radioactive materials of which the weapons are made.

(Donella H. Meadows is an adjunct professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.)

Copyright Sustainability Institute

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Falling on knees in prayer

For an instant, after my last post, I was happier, seeing that there is, in fact, a vocal and present opposition to the war. As an American, I am responsible for it. But how will we ever repent for this?
are a few notes from the ground inside the war to give us a somber perspective:

"Then I met a lady working for the human rights field with these international organizations. I showed her a report about a poor Iraqi woman from Babylon, the militias killed her husband in Baghdad, then she was driven out with her children while she was pregnant. She gave birth in a toilet booth, for no one helped her to go into the nearby medical center. Her baby daughter died. She is living a sad life and is in need of help. The lady looked at the report and said: by God it is a sad story, but I am in a hurry, I want to travel. If you have a report about violence against the Iraqi women, I mean- a case of a woman being beaten by her husband or was forced into marriage against her will, send it to me so I can investigate the case and help her…
I remained astonished…..
Are these the stories that should be marketed in Iraq, violence against women?
Well, what about the woman who lost her husband because of the gangs and sectarian militias? Isn't she a victim of violence?
These are the priorities of the international organizations working for Iraq?
I mean; there is an Iraqi proverb that says: ((Arab wen, Tanbora wen??)) {"= A" talks in one direction, and "B" listens in another!!!}
How can I explain it to the non-Iraqis?
I mean- how far are we from this vain woman?
This Americanized, pampered woman, where is she living? And how can she help the Iraqi women?
Impossible to help them, for she lives in another world, and the salary she receives is a pity….

Before that, I visited an American organization here, to ask them what projects they are presenting to Iraq? What are they doing to the displaced families?
The Arabic employee said with pride: we have a team inside Iraq, and we arranged some projects to the displaced.
I said: pardon, but can I learn about these projects?
She said: we gave a bag to each displaced family, containing a towel, a soap bar, toothpaste and toothbrushes.
I kept staring at her face; is she sane, or nuts?
Where is the food after which they can brush their teeth and wash their hands with soap?
I wish I knew who puts down the work plans of these naïve, nut organizations? And who finances them?
They remind me of Marie Antoinette when the French people were starving for the lack of bread, and she said naively: well, why don't you feed them with biscuits?
And I remembered now a person I met some months ago. He is an Iraqi living in America, his wife is an American. He works in geology and well drilling… then, after the war on Iraq, he presented himself as an expert in marshes, and he started working with international organizations visiting the marshes and writing reports about them…
When I entered the offices of the organization he works with here in Amman, I found the walls covered with pictures of beautiful birds; large numbers of birds of different kinds, and written below them that these birds used to live in the Iraqi marshes habitat, and this project is to redraw these birds into their environment…
I turned to the American woman who works in the office and asked: and what about the people in the marshes? Do you have a project to improve their lives?
She laughed, blushing: no, we have nothing for the people, we are an organization caring for nature…
How nice! I felt happy because of this humanitarian organization that cares about nature, birds, and sparrows, but doesn't listen to the misery of the poor hungry Iraqis…
We sat down, the three of us. The Iraqi talked and laughed a lot, he said he was just visiting here, and will go back to America where his wife and kids are…
I stared at him, telling myself: this is one of the Iraqis who didn't suffer an embargo, or hunger, or wars. He's been living in America since about 1978, he studied there, got married, obtained the nationality, and perhaps forgot something called Iraq in his life… after the war, he jumped forward and said: I am an Iraqi, went with the American and European organizations to the marshes and made himself an expert, pledging to follow up the redevelopment of the marshes, and received financing from different organizations to develop the marshes..........
I said to him: very well, now what have you developed in the marshes? Didn’t all the American and British newspapers cry about the marshes, and that Saddam Hussein starved them to death, dried up the water, and destroyed the environment? What have YOU done?
He said: thank God we now have a team measuring the biological changes in the environment, I mean- the percentage of oxygen and other elements in the water; if it is suitable for the birds that immigrated to come back… checking the humidity in the air, and if it is suitable for the birds to lay their eggs?
I said to him: and how will you announce to the birds that the environment is suitable? Will you put a balloon in the air on which is written- hay, come back, we fixed the environment for you here?
He laughed and said: well, I mean, they will return with time…
He gave me a book published on excellent paper and very fancy printing, full of bird's pictures and their life story…
I said: well, what about the Iraqi families in the marshes, did you build any schools for them? Clinics? Did you provide drinking water purifying stations for them? Have you developed their lives and compensated them for the poverty of the past years?
He said, indignantly: this isn't our business, this is done by other organizations or the government. Our business is only with the environment and the birds. We set up a web site, and written all the necessary information, and if someone likes to come along and invest or create a business there, he's free to do so……
I hid my rage, and smiled….
In Iraq, we have a nice name describing the fools, with a genuine Iraqi word: dupe…
Whenever I remembered that bourgeois, that word jumps to my mind, why?
I don't know............
These are the models that entered Iraq after the occupation, then deserted and run away, after running out of their lies, and stealing the financing from naïve or evil organizations, god only knows…
But the marshes and its people remained poor, crushed, and forgotten creatures, whose lives didn't develop with anything real, their story was exploited to draw donations and outside financing, and that was the end of the movie…
This is the story of the entire Iraqi people, who was dealt with in the same way as the people of the marshes; lies and exaggerated stories in the media to draw financing and sympathy. And the result- nothing substantial was achieved, on the contrary, the financing was stolen or used in petty projects, and the poor Iraqi families were left starving of hunger, deprivation, and neglect….
The story of the war on Iraq is one of the biggest shameful stories in the history of humanity…
It will remain to be told thus, until the Day of Judgment…
Told as an evidence of lies, injustice and deception, of how someone can put on the guise of virtue, honor and mercy to save the lives of innocent people, and the result was- more innocent souls crushed, the lives of those remaining alive embittered, and their daily life's motto becomes: today is better than tomorrow….

We shall keep on waiting until the American occupation's nightmare is removed, and they go out of Iraq…
Then, the Iraqis will go back to the proverb: tomorrow will be better; we will unite our ranks and build our country with our own hands…..

And from the ground inside Iraq:

"Humanitarian organizations are warning that three Iraqi women are to be executed next month. The women are Wassan Talib, Zainab Fadhil and Liqa Omar Muhammad. They are being accused of 'terrorism', i.e. having ties to the Iraqi resistance. It could mean they are relatives of people suspected of being in the resistance. Or it could mean they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of them gave birth in the prison. I wonder what kind of torture they've endured. Let no one say Iraqi women didn't get at least SOME equality under the American occupation- we are now equally as likely to get executed.

And yet, as the situation continues to deteriorate both for Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq, and for Americans inside Iraq, Americans in America are still debating on the state of the war and occupation- are they winning or losing? Is it better or worse.

Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile."

How will we ever repent for this?

It was not enough - the standing in the center of Asheville, dressed in Black on Friday afternoons, the marching, the writing, the exile from my home country.

At least let us acknowledge in our body counts
the full number of deaths.

May God forgive us.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

News from my hometown!

I am really proud of my stalwart friends! Check out the news that doesn't make the news! You will feel better, I am sure.

It's the attitude of the "aid" that counts

Among my first friends and neighbors here was a couple- he Swiss- she from Burundi- who had hoped to start a life here together more compatable to them than either of their home countries. They had met when he worked for CARE International in Burundi, fell in love, married, moved to Geneva, where she had spent two years freezing in the climate and the atmosphere.

It didn't work out for them here in the long run, she being as dark as a Haitian was mistaken for one and treated badly. Yet I remember them with fondness and I will always treasure her observation of me "You are the first African I have met outside of Africa!" I have never been to Africa but I was warmed by her welcome.

They talked to me at length on how "aid" was delivered to Africa, the "white" aid workers, with fantastic European salaries, all expenses paid, high living,SUVs and the "Christians" with their Bibles in one hand, food in the other. They shared a general disgust with the entire operation.

It wasn't long before I saw the same thing for myself here. Aid is a business here. The very best job in Haiti and, to some extent here, is with an international NGO. Even though your boss is likely to be a foreigner. The people who direct the big money, like the USAID budget, only stay in the country for four years, sometimes never learning the language,often never interacting with much local input.

Do a search on the blogs on Haiti and you will find hundreds of good Christians, and, really, I have no doubt that many of them are, who are led to help Haiti, and "spread the Gospel". My only concern here is that Haiti has long been "exposed" to the Gospel and yet still appears to hold onto its own religious tradition. Are we to deny them that in order to help them? What if all the medical teams and missionaries who go there were to educate and empower the local shamans, the hougans and mambos, who already have the respect of the people, instead of replacing them with a western model.

It is no wonder that all the "foreign aid" hasn't worked. Here is a recent article in the Washington post by Uzodirnma Iwela who speaks of the predicament in Africa. The discussion in the comment sections is well worth your time.

It might as well be Haiti.

I have a Haitian friend who saw a picture of a young Haitian boy, naked, on a website of one group asking for aid money. He wrote to them saying that he considered it child pornography, and how would they feel if he put a picture of a naked American boy on his website? They apologized and removed the picture.

It is clear that we in the "developed" world have to shift our mindset if we wish to close the global divide between the rich and poor nations. From "us" being the generous benefactors and "them" being the poor, ignorant savages to a new model of development which acknowledges a more mature, equal and respectful reality.

Certainly neither Africa nor Haiti would be in the condition they are in now were it not for the Western slave trade, colonialism, and all subtle and overt forms of imperialism.

What if, for instance, we were to humbly acknowledge that our system of development, of progress, has led the world to the brink of environmental catastophe? That our lifestyles are not sustainable? That we might just have missed a few things along the way?

Nevertheless, I applaud everyone who has a concern for Africa, who cares about the wages being paid to foreign workers, who protests when China censors Google. In America, at least, it isn't easy to even hear anything about the rest of the world, unless we are at war with them.

It isn't our intention, it's the ignorance in our attitude that needs to change.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Arc of Justice

The news coming out of Haiti just keeps getting better. The DEA has started really arresting some of the biggest drug lords - although Guy Phillipe, who lead the "rebellion" or the "coup" against Aristide,escaped capture. Perhaps not for long.

The Prime Minister of Canada, which after the US is the biggest donor of aid to Haiti, visited the country and actually walked through Cite Soleil. A few years ago, the UN couldn't even get food aid into Cite Soleil.

There seems to be a real night life going on at the porch of the Olaffsen Hotel.

As if it were not all just too much good news, there has been an announcement by a mining company that they have discovered gold in the hills. Gold in the hills of Haiti - just imagine that.

And everyone has nothing but good things so say about President Preval. Except for a vociferous right wing group in the Diaspora who seem to talk a lot but not do very much. And a small group who simply cannot forget Aristide, no matter how much everyone wishes they would. Reports are that Preval is honest and sincere. He is also the first Haitian president ever to retire from his last term as president in his own country.

So now we will have to start a series of "simplicity" training programs for those Americans who want to "downsize". A true sort of eco-tourism. Learning how to live without electricity and thus refrigeration, and no running water - that is going to be a valuable life skill.

On this side of the island, there was a general strike last week that would have made Gandhi proud. True, one person died, but most of the entire country of 8 million people were simply, quietly, staying home. I drove over 5 hours from the border to the capital of Santo Domingo, passing through town after town with shuttered shops, closed banks. Even the colmados were closed. Not even a public domino game in sight. All to protest the rising cost of food, the increase in taxes insisted on by the IMF. Just a very loud and very quiet "Basta YA"

Oddly, although Europe seems to be flooding and burning up, here in the tropics, the weather is just about normal. Which is hot - but more like 90 and not 120 - and wet now in the rainy season.

Makes me believe that the arc of time does bend toward justice.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Haiti and the Law of Attraction

Everyone in the States is wild about the book "The Secret" which in a few short pages summarizes the Law of Attraction. Simply stated it is that Universe gives us what we ask for: we draw unto us the life experiences that we wish to experience. This, some of the "teachers" explain, is why 5% of the people have 95% of the wealth. The same theories have been put forward for years, by Deepak Chopra in "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success" and through countless books on New Age Thought. I am not completely rushing about with my hands waving above my head shouting "I believe I believe" but on many levels, I do believe. Many times in my life I have received exactly what I envisioned. The harder I envisioned, the sharper the manifestation.

The workings of the law of attraction hits hard in Haiti. I sat in a room with some Haitians from Anse A Pitres, on the southern border of the Dominican Republic. They were part of a bi-national theater group which had been started by Jessica Heckert, a most remarkable Peace Corps worker, who was twice evacuated from Haiti and went on to finish her service on the border. The Haitians sat in a circle and started to sing - piercingly beautiful singing. One of the songs was a lullaby, telling the baby the facts of life - that the rich will get richer and the poor will have nothing. I contrast that to the song I was sung - that if I stayed much longer in my cradle, which my perverse parents had placed high in the treetops, I would be smashed to smithereens. That sort of song certainly fosters a sense of self determination. No one else is going to do it for you.

There is a fine line between poverty and simplicity. I remember watching the tourists come to Haiti, thirty years back when there were still plenty of tourists. They seemed to divide in half, into those who were immediately enamored by the spirit of the people and those who were uncomfortable with the poverty. And not just uncomfortable with the poverty but with the smiles of the people in it. We are raised in America, at least, to believe that money can buy happiness. Or a fine replacement for it. And if these people are so poor, why is there so much art, so much music, so much sort of unbounded joy? I often thought that if I stood still long enough in Haiti, someone would paint me with the same bright colors that they used on their buses, the tap-taps.

Bob Corbett, who runs an English list-serve on Haiti, and is probably the foremost foreign authority on the country, believes that Haiti's original dream, of small self-sufficient farms, is a valid one. They lacked the needed knowledge for the preservation of their land in their farming techniques. They still do. But their land is not polluted. It was never used to produce toxic material. It does not have heavy metal toxins. It does not have the noise of traffic, or the hum of electrical wires.

The measures of our world on how well nations are doing are skewed to material prosperity, education, health care, longevity. And by those measurements, Haiti always scores near the bottom. Yet if we were to change the scale to "who can do the most with the least?" or "who makes the lowest carbon footprint on the planet?" Haiti would perhaps score a lot higher.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


PEDERNALES, Dominican Republic, Jul 12 (IPS) - The border between Anse a Pitres in Haiti and Pedernales in the Dominican Republic, both seven hours from their respective capitals, is barred only by a chain that pedestrians can easily cross.

Unlike some other crossings that are tightly controlled, Haitians pass freely back and forth during the week. No immigration checks occur until buses are stopped at the fort leaving the town.

Still, relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic are so delicate that the theft of a motorbike, which precipitated a melee along the Pedernales River last week, drew the intervention of the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti and representatives of both the national governments.

The governors of Pedernales and the Departmente du Sud Est from Port au Prince met last week on the southern border to publicly demonstrate that there was no conflict between the two nations.

In the Jul. 4 incident, a Haitian was accused of stealing a motorbike from the Dominican side. A number of Dominicans crossed into Anse a Pitres and started to beat him up. A lot more Haitians arrived to aid the accused. In the end, there were as many as 200 people gathered on the banks of the river fighting with rocks and machetes.

Local residents, including Ramon Mateus, director of Plan International, and Frederico Oscaldo, the Haitian consul in Pedernales, insist that the altercation, in which eight people were wounded, was merely infighting among gang members.

"It is an organised gang of delinquents who regularly steal motorbikes from the Dominican side and sell them on the Haitian side. This is an ongoing problem," Oscaldo said.

Mateus, whose office works to promote friendship between the residents and dispel any ideas of "anti-Haitianismo", added that, "The people in Anse a Pitres are country people, not sophisticated. They could not be regularly stealing motorbikes without the cooperation of people on the Dominican side."

This belief was shared by Marino José, owner of the Hotel Dona Chava, a lifelong resident of Pedernales who himself has never crossed over the border into Haiti.

"Certainly it is a gang of delinquents," he said. "The Haitians could not be doing it alone. They could not be wandering about stealing without someone catching them."

José said that young Dominicans have crossed over into Haiti to get their bikes back. But if the bikes have been seized by the Haitian authorities, which often happens if they discover that a Haitian has a bike with Dominican identification plates, they require them to pay a "recovery fee" that is sometimes more than the bike is worth.

There is also a large population of Colombian nationals living in Pedernales who own several apartment buildings, and a concrete company, along with a dock with a ship on the deep water port of Cabo Rojo. The company has not been producing concrete for the last year.

The 20,000 residents of Anse-A-Pitres, which has no electricity, live primarily through fishing, although few of their boats have motors so that they do not catch as much as the motorboats which leave from the Dominican side and can go further out.

Many of the women go into Pedernales during the day to perform domestic labour in Dominican homes. A wage of 50 dollars a month is typical, and there are many more people looking for work than there are jobs available. One Haitian woman working at a local hotel is paid 65 dollars a month for seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

Mateus challenges the local custom of keeping young Haitian girls to do housework in Dominican homes for room and board only, with no salary.

"I have been at meetings with Dominican women, high-level women, who have these girls of 13 years old at their homes. They do not pay them. They do not send them to school. I say to them that this is a form of slavery. They say that it is not, that they are giving them a place to live and food. But if you are not sending them to school and not paying them, what do you call it?" he said.

On market days in Pedernales, Mondays and Fridays, the consul on the Haitian side and his assistant and two customs officials on the Dominican side eye the goods coming out of the market and determine the duty on the spot. There are no set customs duties posted. Neither official could give an estimate of how much money changed hands during the two market days every week.

Marino José says that the director of customs is building a new house. "The front door alone costs 50,000 pesos. His salary is only 15,000. How is this possible? I have watched them collect the customs. There is no paperwork, no records."

Recently there has been a tightening of controls on Haitians arriving without proper passports and visas. Three hours before the local bus from Santo Domingo arrived in Pedernales, the bus driver received a phone call.

"Two or three, you say?" he commented.

At the next military checkpoint, he turned to the fare collector and pointed out one of the guards, saying: "Go talk to that one." When the fare collector got back on the bus, he told the driver: "He says we can only bring in two and he wants 300 pesos each." The driver said: "That means that we will charge them 1,200 pesos" -- about 36 dollars.

Jose says that the military men at the border checkpoints are paid the minimum wage, about 120-150 dollars a month. If a bus stops and is not carrying any undocumented Haitians, the officer will say to the driver: "You are not bringing anything. You are not bringing a livelihood."


Monday, July 9, 2007

Given to Visions

On my last business card,I termed myself a "creative visualizer." I lived then in Asheville, NC, where such terms were appropriate. But I am given to dreams and visions. After I had visited the northern border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, I was given this one:
I see the border between these two nations as a wound in need of stitching. I have been daily visualizing a great ribbon of love going back and forth between the nations as through the holes in a shoe, like a bootlace of love, bringing together the divide, healing the wounds, making the island whole, united in harmony. Here is how it appeared.

I would focus in on the Massacre river, on the Haitian side at Ounaminthe, the big field there on the other side of the bridge, covered as it is now with plastic trash, bordering on the river where the women and children went to wash their clothes. I would bring a chair, and an umbrella, two big cartons of avocados and a box of large black plastic trash bags.

The children would approach, curious, as children are. I would show them the avocados and the bags and then we would walk together picking up all the trash. When a bag was full, I would trade them an avocado for the trash. Somehow, despite my lack of Kreyole, I would explain that they were to bring me back the pits - in a few days or a week - and a jar. We would start an avocado farm. Soon we would also grow bamboo, for food and furniture and weaving. Soon we would have a commercial chicken farm with fresh eggs.

The vision continued as on the other side of the road, men were building an incinerator for burning the trash.

When the field was cleared, we would begin moving rocks into a great circle, creating a sacred space where we could sit together in equality and silence.
First we would sing. We would chant. The drummers would arrive. We would raise a cone of power for the healing of the earth. Magic began to permeate the air as the hope was raised. Haiti=Eden. Hispaniola=Heaven. The Angels gathered round.

Near the edge of the field, the men were building a latrine, covered space so that the women would have privacy. Soon there would be well, with running water, lines for hanging the wash, tables for sharing food.

The market itself, a gift from the people of the world, was built with strong wire walls for protection while it was in its growth as an area of free commerce, between the two free people, both citizens of democracies. The land of the market belonged to both nations, and to neither. It was encircled with two storied buildings of concrete, strong walls, solid roofs to keep out the rain, electricity and running water from solar panels. It was completely self contained and self sustaining. While it was primarily a place of commerce, it was evident that this market represented a concern for something far greater even than money. This was a manifestation of a new sort of world.

Each morning upon the opening of the market, and each evening at the close, a loud bell chimed. Everyone present assembled in a circle. Then sang, first the anthem of one nation, then the anthem of another. And in reverse at the close of day.

The upstairs of the market was a living school, a constant educational experience. Here there were free internet connections for those who were enrolled in ongoing university training. In order to pay for their education, the older students were obliged to give equal time to teaching the younger ones. Everyone was learning everything in four languages, as it is easy for children to learn that. Signs were printed in Kreyole, Spanish, French and English. The market itself had a multilingual web page where orders for hand made goods, juices, preserves, could be placed.

There was a radio station next to a music room full of instruments so that musicians from both sides of the border could come together in harmony in the loving language of music. Linked with Radio for Peace International at the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica and broadcasting in French, Spanish, and English, it provided language lessons and hopeful news from around the world on global progress toward the Millennium Goals.

Next door, were the craft studios, with tools and teachers for embroidery, leather working, painting, the heartfelt language of illiterates.

Every inch of the market was a classroom. There was ongoing instruction in how to produce enough for a family to eat on a small piece of ground. There was ongoing instruction from the micro-enterprise institutions on finance, book-keeping, and loans group loans available. Teams were busy building solar ovens and sand water purifiers. Alternate energy was being produced by bicycles. Instruction was being given on how to safely use grey water for irrigation, on how to construct self-composting toilets.

There was a dorm room where visiting presenters, experts in alternative energy, alternative construction, such as straw bale and rammed earth construction, could stay during their two week tours.

The health clinic, staffed with volunteers from around the world, and operating under a grant from the Gates Foundation, had an ongoing Aids testing and educational programs and provided access to inexpensive retroviral drugs. It also provided classes on balanced nutrition, basic first aid courses construction of sanitary facilities, prevention of water borne diseases, and distributed mosquito nets for the protection from malaria and dengue. Equipment for the establishment of small medical outposts was available to those who had completed the required training.

The former free trade zone, which had failed due to lack of a co-operation from the people, on the edge of the market, was now firmly enclosed within the bounds of the market, It had been transformed into a refugee center and recycling station. Daily more Haitians returned from their hard exile in the sugar cane fields and brothels and construction work in the Dominican Republic.

Haitian and Dominican citizens in the Diaspora as well as people of good will from all over the world had all contributed enough for the upkeep of the center‘s. returning exiles who were first healed and cared for as they learned new skills. No one could live there for more than 6 months, in order to make room for the new returning exiles.

All the used goods that came into Haiti from the United States were brought here. The goods were laid out on great tables and sorted through. The valuable shoes with famous logos, such as Nike, which could be purchased for under $5, would be repackaged to export back to the streets of American cities, where they would be sold for $50, under half the retail price. The clothing that was made of natural fibers, cotton, wool, silk, rayon, would be cut into pieces to be reworked into quilted bags and clothing. The pretty evening dresses and blue jeans (except those that were going to be hand embroidered or turned into skirts) would be sold onto the Dominican side of the island along with the finished crafts that came out of the studios. These crafts would also be exported to fair trade outlets in the United States and Europe.

There was one big office where all the non-governmental organizations that were operating in Haiti or for the development of the Dominican Republic to reach the Millennium Development Goals had their programs described and represented.

The center of the market held stalls for the merchants, shielded from the sun. Here were the best of all the Haitian handcrafts, the finest selections of Dominican cigars, the freshest organic produce, cakes, jams, hand made brooms and clothing.

Near the outer edges were the animal stalls where the Heifer Project and various agencies were conducting classes on how to care for the chickens, goats and small pigs. Once the classes were completed, groups of women would be given the animals for their own care with the stipulation that the first born of any animal would be given away to someone who had none. Next door were the community orchards.

In the river, running through the center of the market, fresh water fish were being raised for market.

Outside the market, the fields on both the Haitian and Dominican sides were being daily put into profitable production. With the assistance of Stoneyfield Farms, the largest organic yogurt maker in the United States, and Dannon, its new parent company in France, the small local Haitian yogurt co-operative, Lait Agro Pro, had expanded its operation deep into all the regions in Haiti and had a new bottling plant near the market. In its cooperative effort with the Bee Keeper’s alliance on the Dominican side of the river, all the farmers were now producing both yogurt and honey. With the assistance of Burt’s Bees, a progressive company in the United States, they were now producing lines of soap, facial creams, and flower essence oils.

The chocolate producers in the Dominican Republic, fearful of the fungus that was threatening their concentrated production, had moved many of their plants to the fertile area around the market. They were in discussion with various organic chocolate makers about opening up chocolate production.

The companies from the United States, Motts, Ocean Spray and Snapple who exported apple, cranberry and fruit drinks to the Dominican Republic ,agreed that it would be more lucrative to collect their used bottles through re-cycling and fill them with local juices produced on Hispaniola. Their plant was just completed and already the mango and pineapple and lime sellers had begun to bring their products to be sold there.

The Coca Cola company in both Santo Domingo and Haiti agreed to start a recycling project for its plastic bottles and began to offer a deposit on the bottles. There was a noticeable improvement seen on the streets and beaches of both countries. In the industrial zone by the capital, they began to produce plastic blocks and paving material out of the materials. These were among the most popular items sold at the market.

The German solar panel manufacturer who had agreed to lend its technical assistance for the construction of the market, saw that there were enough skilled workers present and decided to open up a manufacturing base to take advantage of the profitable trade agreements with and proximity to the United States. Also, the Swedish manufacturer of energy efficient refrigerators, washers, dryers and other small appliances had started discussions on building a plant next to it.

The governments of the two island nations had agreed to issue special low priced tourist cards to those who were crossing the border through the market. On both sides of the border, thriving tourist businesses grew, taking visitors on trips to visit Cap Haitian and Fort Liberty and Monte Christi. There were bird watching tours, snorkeling trips, cultural exchanges and camping tours. On both sides of the border, there were a growing number of small bed and breakfasts. The former trade of sex tourism had declined due to the increased number of family travelers and their sensibilities.

And so it was that by the year 2015, Haiti, the poorest of all the nations in the Hemisphere, reached the goal of reducing extreme poverty in half, drastically cut down on infant mortality, fostered the education and equality of women. Forgiving the world for all the pain it had suffered, it became the beacon to the world as was always its destiny.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

On the recent upheavals in Haiti

Listen to the interview on WNYC last year with Michael Deibert who is the author of what,I believe, is the definite English book on the Aristide presidency, Notes from the Last Testament.

It is a really good read even if you aren't trying to figure out just why it is that so many Americans and Canadians keep referring to him as the "democratically elected president of Haiti" and most Haitians.....

well ok I can't speak for most Haitians. The ones who post in French and English on the Internet are obviously not part of the poor majority.

But if you are really interested in Haiti - this is the one book to read.

When I got down here, three years ago, I was still a great fan of President Aristide. I had read a couple of his books. I listened to Amy Goodman on Pacifica Radio. I am probably more willing than most Americans to believe that the US is on the wrong side. We have historically been on the wrong side in most of Latin America.

So I get down here with my standard progressive "wasn't it terrible what happened to Aristide" and I encounter a wall of contradictory opinions - from Haitians, from NGO workers who had been there, from Haitian web pages. One NGO head who had been in Haiti for 6 years started giving me books, saying that he had the same opinion on Aristide as I did when he arrived there but changed. Why?"Because no one whom I respected had any respect for him."

I despair a bit in changing all of the progressive opinion on Aristide, who has a strong and loyal following - at least in the United States and Canada.

Fortunately for Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Aristide has just received a doctorate in South Africa and will perhaps find a wonderful home there. Even during his supposedly wildly popular presidency, he needed private armed guards from the United States to protect him in his own country.

If you listen to the interview with Deibert, you will here an update from last year. The good news is that - under pressure, admittedly from the United States - Preval did order the MINUSTAH troops into Cite Soleil in the beginning of the year and the kidnappings are way down, security is way up.

Haitians whom I know who have been back there have said it is a country transformed.

Ojala.....which is Spanish for "from your mouth to God's ear.'

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Thinking of a visit?

The Dominican Republic is a prime tourist destination, although most visitors stay in all inclusive resorts. Here is the report from the US State Department:

SAFETY AND SECURITY: American citizens should be aware that foreign tourists are often considered attractive targets for criminal activity, and should maintain a low profile to avoid becoming victims of violence or crime. In dealing with local police, U.S. citizens should be aware that the standard of professionalism might vary. Police attempts to solicit bribes have been reported, as have incidents of police using excessive force.
Protests, demonstrations, and general strikes occur periodically. Previous political demonstrations have sometimes turned violent, with participants rioting and erecting roadblocks, and police sometimes using deadly force in response. Political demonstrations do not generally occur in areas frequented by tourists and are generally not targeted at foreigners. However, it is advisable to exercise caution when traveling throughout the country. Street crowds should be avoided. In urban areas, travel should be conducted on main routes whenever possible. Power outages occur frequently throughout the Dominican Republic, and travelers should remain alert during blackout periods, as crime rates often increase during these outages.
U.S. citizens considering overland travel between the Dominican Republic and Haiti should first consult the Consular Information Sheet for Haiti as well as the Internet site of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince for information about travel conditions in Haiti. Santo Domingo and the majority of tourist destinations within the Dominican Republic are located several hours from the Haitian border, and recent events in Haiti have generally not directly affected these areas.

And a bit of a more personal approach from the government of Canada:

Dominican Republic

This information is current as of today, document.write(Date()+".") Tue Jul 03 2007 17:55:18 GMT-0500 (Eastern Standard Time).

The security situation is stable, but demonstrations and protests occasionally occur. These are not targeted at foreigners and do not happen near resorts. Canadians should exercise caution, monitor local news reports, and avoid large crowds and demonstrations.

Aquatic equipment offered at the beach may not meet Canadian safety standards. Check that your travel insurance covers recreational activities. Swimmers should remain in well-marked and supervised areas and be aware of water conditions including the possibility of strong undertows. Avoid swimming at or walking on deserted and unpatrolled beaches after dark.

Avoid excursions that are not recommended by tour operators. In general, travellers should ensure tour operators have taken proper safety measures, including the use of safety equipment such as helmets and life jackets, before undertaking extreme or eco-tourism types of activities, especially for excursions to the 27 Charcos/Damajagua waterfalls near Puerto Plata.

A number of cases have been reported of Canadians losing large sums of money while playing Progressive Keno, Super Keno and other Keno or Progressive Roulette games at Casinos. These games operate on a progressive wagering basis, and large amounts of money can be lost rapidly. Canadians should exercise caution in hotel casinos where these games are offered, especially when requested to provide credit card information.

The crime rate has increased. While violent crime, including assault, has affected a few foreigners, petty crime, including pick pocketing, is common in urban areas. Thefts have also been reported in resorts. Canadians should exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings, especially after dark. Avoid showing signs of affluence and ensure passports and other travel documents are secured at all times. Do not leave personal belongings unattended on the beach.

Theft of items from checked baggage at airports, particularly in Puerto Plata, has recently increased. Thefts are reported most frequently upon departure. Money and personal items are sometimes stolen from carry-on luggage while travellers are going through security checks. Do not pack valuables in your checked luggage. Items most likely to disappear include electronics (especially digital cameras), jewellery and perfume. All bags are routinely x-rayed on arrival and departure, as part of normal local procedure.

In the event that documents are lost or stolen, travellers should obtain a police report in order to receive a passport or an appropriate travel document from the Embassy of Canada in Santo Domingo or the Consulate of Canada in Puerto Plata.

Unaccompanied female travellers should exercise caution in dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances, especially regarding the acceptance of rides or other invitations. Incidents of assault, rape and sexual aggression against foreigners have been reported, including at beach resorts. In some cases, hotel employees have been implicated. Anyone who is a victim of sexual assault or other crimes should report the crime immediately. No criminal investigation is possible without a formal complaint to the Dominican authorities.

The Tourist Police (POLITUR) can provide assistance to tourists. They can be reached at 809-686-8639, or toll-free at: 1-200-3500.

Canadians planning to visit any area near the Dominican/Haitian border should be aware that Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is advising Canadians to avoid all travel to Haiti.

And the reason that I am now living here rather than in Haiti - from the US government:


January 10, 2007
This Travel Warning is being issued to remind American citizens of ongoing security concerns in Haiti, including frequent kidnappings of Americans for ransom. Travelers are strongly advised to thoroughly consider the risks before travel to Haiti, and to take adequate precautions to ensure their safety if they do so. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued July 7, 2006, and expires July 9, 2007.
U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Haiti are reminded that there is a chronic and growing danger of kidnappings. Most kidnappings are criminal in nature, and the kidnappers make no distinctions of nationality, race, gender or age; all are vulnerable. Over 60 Americans were kidnapped in 2006, most in Port-au-Prince. Many abductions are the result of carjacking or home invasions. Past kidnappings have been marked by deaths, sexual assault, shooting and physical assault of Americans. The lack of civil protections in Haiti, as well as the limited capability of local law enforcement to resolve kidnapping cases, further compounds the element of danger surrounding this trend.
U.S. citizens are also reminded of the potential for spontaneous protests and public demonstrations that can occur at any time, day or night, and may result in violence. While the nation-wide elections for municipal and other local positions on December 3rd, 2006, were conducted peacefully, political violence can occur at any time. American citizens are advised to take commonsense precautions and avoid any event where crowds may congregate. Visitors and residents must remain vigilant due to the absence of an effective police force in much of Haiti; the potential for looting; the presence of intermittent roadblocks set by armed gangs or by the police; and the possibility of random violent crime, including carjacking and assault.
Travel can be hazardous within Port-au-Prince. Some areas are off-limits to embassy staff, including downtown Port-au-Prince after dark. U.S. Embassy personnel are under an embassy-imposed curfew and must remain in their homes or in U.S. government facilities during the curfew. The embassy has limited travel by its staff outside of Port-au-Prince and therefore its ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Port-au-Prince is constrained. The UN stabilization force (MINUSTAH) remains fully deployed and is assisting the government of Haiti in providing security.
Due to the current security situation in Haiti, the Department of State reminds U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Haiti to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security; they are strongly advised to register either online at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ or with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. The Consular Section can be reached at (509) 223-7011, fax number (509) 223-9665, or e-mail address acspap@state.gov. Travelers should also consult the Department of State's latest Consular Information Sheet for Haiti and Worldwide Caution Public Announcement at http://travel.state.gov. American citizens may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States or Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from overseas. In Haiti citizens can call 509/222-0200, ext. 2000.

And from Canada:


The hurricane season extends from June 1st to November 30th. For more information, please see our Current Issues on the hurricane season.

OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to the region(s) specified below. (IDW5)

Travellers are advised against all travel in the Gonaïves region, Trou du Nord, the Cap-Haïtien region, and in the neighbourhoods of Martissant, Carrefour, Bel Air, Sonapi and Cité Soleil in the Port-au-Prince area. The security situation in these areas is unstable and dangerous.

OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to this country. (IDW7)

It is imperative that all Canadians who must travel to Haiti have suitable accompaniment. They must ensure that they are expected by family members, friends, colleagues, local business representatives or organizations able to meet them as soon as they arrive at the airport or border, and to guide them in their travels. No public transport of any kind is recommended.

Canadians who must travel to Haiti must be extremely vigilant throughout the country. Since the beginning of 2007, actions by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to disband criminal gangs and ensure the safety of citizens has caused criminals to flee the capital. These criminals have taken refuge in certain regions where an upsurge of insecurity has been observed.

Although travel in the provinces presents less of a risk once beyond the suburbs of Port-au-Prince, travellers are advised to exercise extreme caution and not to travel after dark.

Despite improvement since early 2007, the situation is relatively dangerous throughout the country owing to criminal activity combined with the difficulties the police have in organizing themselves and ensuring order. Personal safety cannot be guaranteed by local authorities, and police presence is not guaranteed in all cities. In most cities, the police are unable to respond in a timely manner to calls for assistance. It is strongly advised to avoid going out after nightfall, especially in the areas most at risk.

The security situation is dangerous and unpredictable. Kidnappings and carjackings still occur regularly in Haiti. The general Haitian population, regardless of level or social class, can be considered at risk of being kidnapped. However, there have already been kidnappings involving Canadians and other foreign nationals, including missionaries, aid workers and children. Most victims have been released after paying large ransoms. However, in some cases, victims have disappeared or have been killed.

Canadians in Haiti should monitor local developments and news broadcasts, and review their security arrangements carefully. In light of the uncertainty regarding the security situation, the Government of Canada does not allow dependents under 18 years of age to accompany Canada-based staff posted to Port-au-Prince.

The Embassy of Canada in Port-au-Prince remains fully operational. However, because of current problems with transportation and communications, the Embassy may be unable to provide consular assistance to Canadians, including in emergency situations or in the event of a natural disaster. The Government of Haiti’s capacity in responding to such situations is also low.

Because the situation can change at any moment, visitors are advised to check with the organizations, institutes or hosts that are taking care of them to receive the latest updates on the security situation in the region they are travelling to.

It is the responsibility of individual travellers to make informed travel choices. The Government of Canada takes very seriously the safety and security of Canadians abroad and provides credible and timely advice in its Country Travel Reports. Situations vary from country to country, and there may be constraints on government resources, which can limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries where the potential for violent conflict or political instability are high. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. Canada will assist Canadians in leaving a country as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at the individual’s personal expense.


The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety. The purpose of this Travel Report is to provide Canadians with up-to-date information to enable them to make well-informed decisions.

Demonstrations, protest marches and strikes may occur at any time in the capital, throughout the country and on main highways. Local transportation services can be disrupted. Avoid large crowds, particularly in downtown Port-au-Prince, as they can quickly turn into violent demonstrations with gunfire and burning barricades. The rhetoric of some activists and popular organizations has been anti-foreign. Canadians should monitor the political situation and remain indoors during political rallies and demonstrations. Curfews may be imposed.

Route Nationale No. 1 (toward the north), Route Nationale No. 2 (toward the south), and rural roads close to the Dominican Republic border are particularly vulnerable to roadblocks erected to protest social and economic conditions. You should not attempt to cross blockades, even if they appear unattended.

Criminal activity is endemic throughout Haiti, especially in large centres such as downtown Port-au-Prince and Gonaïves, where armed and extremely dangerous gangs operate.

Murder, kidnapping, armed robberies, burglaries, and carjackings (especially on Route Nationale No. 1, in the port area, and on the road to the airport) are common in daylight hours. Avoid walking alone at all times. Keep car windows closed and doors locked when travelling

Avoid showing visible signs of affluence, such as wearing expensive-looking jewellery or cameras. Remain cautious with new acquaintances offering friendship or hospitality. Foreigners, including Canadians, are viewed as wealthy and have been robbed, kidnapped and murdered. Travellers should comply and not resist if attacked.

Remain alert to small groups of loiterers, especially near your residence. Keep doors and windows secure at all times. Instruct domestic staff to only permit pre-authorized visitors whose identities have been verified into your home. Keep all visitors under close supervision.

Personal and luggage security cannot be guaranteed at the Port-au-Prince airport. Arriving passengers are often overwhelmed by the large crowd of loiterers outside the terminal who pretend to offer porter or taxi services. Canadians have been arrested for drug trafficking after they agreed to check in bags for new acquaintances.

Foreigners have reported the theft of their yachts and sailboats in Haiti.

Avoid photographing individuals without obtaining their approval first. Shantytowns should not be photographed.

Monday, July 2, 2007



The burning Wood

Those of you who have seen Al Gore´s film or read Jared Diamond´s book, Collapse, are familiar with the stark contrasting border line between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. On the eastern side of the island,total forest cover has increased in the last thirty years, primarily through a government campaign to subdize and promote the use of propane (LPG) gas for cooking and protect trees. On the western side, there is 99% deforestation.

Santo Domingo, a "modern, bustling city", is now awash with gas guzzling SUVs. In the campo, the sign of affluence is the noisy two-stroke motor bike. The highway system is fast and paved with new ones being built constructed every week.

Now that we know, collectively, that the age of oil is ending, that the use of gas will produce its own climate problems, Haiti awaits the introduction of some new, spectacular cooking fuel. It will, of course, be almost impossible to introduce as "old habits die hard" as we saw from the discussion of soaking the beans.

But Haiti has almost skipped the age of petroleum. The roads are terrible, most more suited to burros than horses. It offers a wonderful opportunity to leap frog over the age of oil and go directly into alternate fuel, sustainable development.

A long shot, perhaps, but perhaps one of the few that we have.