Monday, January 24, 2011

Preparing for Aristide's Return

(Times, South Africa, 22 Jan 2011)

I want to go home, says Haiti's Aristide

Top-level negotiations involving Cuba and the US under way to send Jean Bertrand
Aristide back home --and save South African taxpayers at least R3-million a

Aristide wrote to his supporters in Haiti expressing his desire to return to the
poverty-stricken Caribbean island. One of the reasons he gave was that he wanted
to avoid the "unbearable pain" he was likely to suffer during a South African
winter due to the six eye operations he had had during his African exile.

The government has been negotiating with Haitian authorities, with the help of
the Cuban government, since last year for Aristide's departure.

But his return has been delayed by US concerns that the former Catholic priest
would destabilise the country.

It is understood that the issue was discussed during President Jacob Zuma's
state visit to Cuba in December.

Officials from the Department of International Relations have had several
meetings with Aristide to discuss his future, most recently on Friday, after he
said he wanted to leave.

The officials are to meet their US counterparts in a bid to convince them that
Aristide is no longer a threat.

Director-General Ayanda Ntsaluba confirmed the talks were continuing, but would
not say which countries were helping SA's bid to return Aristide to Haiti.

Ntsaluba said the former leader, who was ousted from power in a 2004 coup, was
no longer interested in running for office.

"He has assured us that he was not seeking any political office ... not going
there to contest any elections. He was illegally removed from political office
but (he is) not interested in politics any more.

"He wants to play a role in humanitarian aid following the floods and
earthquakes in his country," Ntsaluba said.

"We are talking to different countries and some major powers still have
reservations. We are saying, let bygones be bygones."

Haiti, which is still struggling with the devastation caused by the earthquake
more than a year ago, is embroiled in a fresh political crisis, sparked by the
recent presidential election.

As no candidate received an outright majority, a run-off is expected to be held
next month.

Furthermore, the return of notorious former dictator Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier
has added to the tensions. There are fears that the presence of the two former
rulers would plunge Haiti into renewed violence.

Ntsaluba said the talks also involved discussions of "the logistical issues"
around Aristide's safe return, as his security was still of major concern.

Aristide, who remains popular among Haiti's poor, was ousted amid claims by a
street gang that he had ordered the assassination of its leader, Amiot Metayer,
whose mutilated body was discovered in September 2003.

The former priest fled to Jamaica in February 2004, and three months later was
invited to South Africa by then-president Thabo Mbeki.

Last year the Minister of International Relations, Maite Nkoane-Mashabane,
revealed that Aristide enjoyed similar benefits to those of cabinet ministers
and that his monthly costs included accommodation; security; transport and
salaries for his support staff.

At about R3-million a year, Aristide would have cost South Africa a total of

This week, in a public letter to his supporters, the former Haitian leader
wrote: "The return is indispensable for medical reasons. It is strongly
recommended that I not spend the coming winter in South Africa, because in six
years I have undergone six eye surgeries. The surgeons are excellent, but the
unbearable pain experienced in the winter must be avoided in order to reduce any
risk of further complications and blindness."

But a US spokesman, PJ Crowley, tweeted this week that Haiti would be better off
without Aristide.

"We do not doubt president Aristide's desire to help the people of Haiti. But
today Haiti needs to focus on its future, not its past," Crowley said.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cholera continues

James M. Wilson V, MD
Haiti Epidemic Advisory System (HEAS)
Executive Director
Praecipio International
Washington-Houston-Port au Prince

Some very dedicated and brave "blans" are trekking through Haiti to help track the cholera epidemic.

They found that this beautiful river is contaminated.

"The MRT witnessed a funeral procession involving a victim that had died of causes unrelated to cholera. The team asked the villagers, "You don't wash the cholera fatalities in the river too, do you?" The answer was, "Of course we do… Where else do we get the water?" The team confirmed that food preparation, clothe washing, drinking, urinating, defecation, and corpse washing all occurred in the Grande Riviere waters, which flowed east and north to form the Grise River. It appeared the initial HEAS assessment of these rivers being contaminated was validated."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Statement of Aristide

– Translated by Smith Georges

“*So, to all those asking me to return home, I reiterate my
willingness to leave today, tomorrow, at any time. Let us hope that the
Haitian and South African governments will enter into communication in order
to make that happen in the next coming days,” reads a statement released
today by Dr. Jean Bertrand Aristide (aka Titid), former Haitian president in
exile in South Africa.*

*The statement also reads “I would like to thank the government and the
people of South Africa for the historic hospitality, deeply rooted in
Ubuntu, extended to my family and I.

Since my forced arrival in the Mother Continent six and a half years ago,
the people of Haiti have never stopped calling for my return to Haiti .
Despite the enormous challenges that they face in the aftermath of the
deadly January 12, 2010 earthquake, their determination to make the return
happen has increased.

As far as I am concerned, I am ready. Once again I express my readiness to
leave today, tomorrow, at any time. The purpose is very clear: To contribute
to serving my Haitian sisters and brothers as a simple citizen in the field
of education.

The return is indispensable, too, for medical reasons: It is strongly
recommended that I not spend the coming winter in South Africa ’s because in
6 years I have undergone 6 eye surgeries. The surgeons are excellent and
very well skilled, but the unbearable pain experienced in the winter must be
avoided in order to reduce any risk of further complications and blindness.

So, to all those asking me to return home, I reiterate my willingness to
leave today, tomorrow, at any time. Let us hope that the Haitian and South
African governments will enter into communication in order to make that
happen in the next coming days.

United to the Haitian people, once again my family and I express our sincere
gratitude to the government and the people of South Africa.”*

*Click on the link below to watch a video related to this article:*


Notes from Richard Morse

When I came to Haiti I was instructed by my Haitian mother and my Haitian aunts not to get involved in politics.. I had come to Haiti for musical inspiration so the instructions seemed simple enough to follow. Jean Claude Duvalier was President for Life; the year was 1985.

Four months after my arrival in Haiti, Duvalier fell and I witnessed the period of dechoukaj which was a period of revenge aimed at participants of Jean Claude's system of governance. It was this period which made me understand what response a brutal dictatorship could illicit from the Haitian people. There was so much anger in Haiti that people were being burned alive, necklaced by burning tires.

I grew up in New England though I was born in Puerto Rico. My father was from Greenwich Ct. I had never previously seen nor experienced the kind of social brutality that was going on in Haiti during this period; nevertheless I followed my family's instructions: "Don't get involved in politics".

In November of 1987, Haiti attempted to hold a democratic election and rather that have an outcome they considered unacceptable, the Haitian army massacred people and the election was aborted. After brutally killing dozens of Haitians, the army shot an ABC reporter, killed a Dominican journalist and started chasing other journalists around town.

A week before that same election, I had re-opened the Hotel Oloffson. I had about 8 rooms and they were all rented out to journalists. I could only imagine that at any moment, the Haitian army was going to come up the front steps and shoot us all. From that day on I made a decision to "follow" politics so I could have an idea of what was going on and if necessary escape. I've been following Haitian politics ever since.

On the social media tool called TWITTER, I recently said that Duvalier appeared to be a middle of the road dictator. I said this for the simple reason that I thought that after Duvalier left, things in Haiti were going to improve. What I never imagined was that the leaders who came after Duvalier were going to take Duvalier's concepts and use them to their own benefits. Its important to note that in Haiti someone who is opposed to a politician may simply be envious of the politician's position.

The most famous Duvaliarist political phenomenon was known as the TonTon Macoutes. The macoutes were a paramilitary organization that was also responsible for internal espionage. Post Duvaliarist Haitian leaders seemed to buy into this concept as a necessity. The most "anti" Duvaliariste president of all, Aristide, had his Chimeres; Cedras had FRAPH, Namphy and Avril had the Zenglendos and more recently, Preval came up with the INITE party which is a political party AND a paramilitary organization. The INITE party runs for office, votes illegally and shoots people while the International Community turns a blind eye.

Which regime was the most brutal? Well that probably depends on how many people you personally know who were killed, raped, tortured or jailed. Duvalier was in power for 15 years! Has anyone ever done a per day repression rate? During Namphy we had the '87 election massacre where people were being shot and macheted. The first coup against Aristide in '91, led by Cedras/Francois, and the period following, was as intense a murder spree as any period I've lived through. Operation Baghdad during the Latortue regime was the period when Aristide's gangs were chopping off heads of policemen. During this same period, Latortue's policemen were driving around town with black ski masks, killing and arresting people. Recently, prisoners in Aux Cayes were forced to lay down on their stomachs and they were then shot; this being one of Preval's low points.. Burning and shooting at radio stations may have been started by Duvalier but several governments later adopted the practice..

When Duvalier left, Haiti was supposed to get better but it didn't. Certain families adopted economic practices that destroyed the lifestyles of tens of thousands of people. I call this economic repression. The living and sanitary conditions in Port au Prince could be considered social repression; illiteracy could be considered academic repression. How can we accept government negligence when people need treatment for cholera and don't get it, or people in certain neighborhoods are buried alive under earthquake rubble and there's little or no response? One year later and people are still buried under rubble..

I could go on and on. They say Jean Claude left with hundreds of millions of dollars and yet they say the same for Aristide and Preval.

Jean Claude was awful and unacceptable but so was what followed and that is the point I tried to make by calling Jean Claude "middle of the road".

Hopefully we can take a turn for the better. In the meantime I ask everyone to remember Jacques Roche or Jean Dominique or anybody you may know, whenever someone brings up the term "torture" or "freedom of the press" in Haiti. We must change as a society. We must recognize our faults in order to move on. We can't govern with Hate. We can't live lies and imagine one side's brutality is ok while another's is unacceptable. Governments have to learn to serve the population not themselves..

Richard Morse
Port au Prince, Haiti

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

News from the border

Cholera Chokes Off Border Trade
By Elizabeth Eames Roebling

Fishers and traders on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border say they have been hit hard by the cholera epidemic.

Credit:Elizabeth Eames Roebling/IPS
Buy this picture

ANSE-A-PITRES, Haiti, Jan 17, 2011 (IPS) - The cholera epidemic ravaging Haiti has affected even this small southern border town, which lived primarily from the trade with its neighbour even though it counts for less than five percent of the cross-border market trade.

All three of the border markets between Haiti and the Dominican Republic have been closed for the better part of the last two months.

Samuel Elouest, a trained human rights observer, walked proudly through the formerly dusty and rutted main street of his home village, Anse-a-Pitres.

"The streets were paved for the Binational Fair last year. We have a large generator now," he told IPS. "We have lights at night. It is only for the main street and the churches so far, none for private homes. But it has changed our lives."

"Our population increased from 22,000 people to about 28,000 after the earthquake. But since the market has been closed for two months, there has been little money in town," Elouest explained.

Whitney Alexander, a Haitian doctor who received his medical degree in Cuba, is now the attending physician at the small clinic on the border. It was without staff until the Batey Relief Alliance took over the clinic's management from the Haitian state a few years ago.

"We cannot say how many cases of cholera we have had since we do not have a confirmation from Port-au-Prince," Dr. Alexander told IPS. "All the cases here have been cases of suspected cholera. I do not wish to say that it is not serious since there is a nationwide alert against the disease."

"We are the only [medical] centre here, serving more than 50,000 people in the surrounding communities," he said. "I have been here for two years. We were already busy before the cholera outbreak two months ago, but with the help of the international community, we are managing."

Behind the clinic are three large tents for cholera treatment, isolating those cases from the other patients inside the clinic building. The tents are manned by a doctor, a nurse, and a technician from Doctors without Borders. They are assisted by nurses and personnel from the Haitian Red Cross.

Upon entering the cholera treatment tent, everyone is required to run their hands under the spigot of a five- gallon jug of chlorine while standing in a box lined with material soaked in the disinfectant. The same process is required upon exiting. Of the 12 beds available, only one is occupied, by a thin older man connected to an intravenous drip.

While there are now over 150,000 cases and more than 3,700 cholera deaths reported in Haiti, the Dominican Republic has managed to keep its cases to only 145, with no deaths.

Next to the border fence on the Dominican side is a new Health Department building, with four sinks and soap on each. Posters in Kreyol and Spanish explain briefly how cholera is transmitted and how to avoid it.

The government of the Dominican Republic, under pressure from many sectors, announced last week that it would resume repatriations to Haiti, which had been suspended after the earthquake a year ago.

Residents in one section of the nation's second largest city, Santiago, which is only two hours away from the northern border of Haiti, threatened to start expelling illegal Haitian immigrants. Protestors said that the immigrants were living in unsanitary conditions, defecating in plastic bags which were thrown on the street. Police in that city warned residents not to take the law into their own hands and then started deportations.

More than 900 Haitians have been repatriated since the beginning of this year. This prompted a call from Amnesty International to stop the deportations.

The Presidential Palace offered a clarification that the government was actually not deporting Haitians but simply increasing efforts to halt illegal immigration. It did acknowledge that it was searching for many of the convicts who escaped prison during the earthquake and announced that more than 100 convicted felons had been returned to Haitian authorities.

The U.S. State Department announced that it might introduce sanctions against the Dominican Republic if it did not do more to prevent the trafficking of Haitian children across the border. According to officials and rights groups, these children are often sold into prostitution or to organised groups of beggars.

The U.S. government spokesman said that the Dominican Republic has not brought any criminal cases against traffickers. Sanctions could include suspending economic and military aid, blocking of exports into the United States, and opposition to its votes in international organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

At the end of the main street of Anse-a-Pitres, by the small rocky beach, four gaily painted 35-foot open boats ride at anchor. A policeman comes out from the whitewashed barracks which house the local complement of eight officers and blows his whistle. The small group of fishermen and traders stop and stand in silence, facing the flagpole as the flag of their nation is slowly raised.

Jesner Amboise watches as sacks of flour are prepared for loading into his boat. He says he will leave for Marigot, which is 45 minutes by truck from Jacmel, at 8 pm and arrive at 2 am the next morning.

"It is too hot to sail during the day. The sun is too strong and there is no shelter, so we make the trip at night," he said. "I used to travel with a full boatload of people. But the closing of the market has been hard on us."

"I used to make 15,000 gourdes profit from each trip, twice a week because of the number of people who would come to trade at the market," Amboise said. "Now there is only the transport of some goods. I am lucky to make 5,000 gourdes after I pay for the gas."