Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas sounds

It is Christmas, even here in the tropics. I tried to send out e-cards but all the scenes were of snow and ice. Bethlehem has a climate much more like this one, no? But we have fake fir trees in the stores.....Just can't escape that Euro-centrism.

But the darkness, the solstice-- the orginal Christmas that was usurped - that we do not have. Except perhaps the celebration of the end of the rainy season, which took over 100 lives this year and most of next year's plantains.

I hope that it was really really raining very hard in Bali. And that the lights went out. And that the bridges were flooded.

However, we do have large woven straw Christmas llamas for sale on the streets.

All hail, the Christmas llama... I think it is really a camel. Just seems a bit small.

I was going to Haiti. Nervous and excited. But the Haitian American friend who was coming to talk to me about his jatropha ( a plant which grows in arid soil and yields a burnable fuel) project could not come. We have postponed the encounter.

I will fly to DC instead, dressed as some sort of refugee in layers of summer clothing-- to hold my great-great nephew on his first Christmas.

Next year, I will hear the "Messiah" performed in Port au Prince......... I hope.

Here in my apartment building, I am the only foreigner. But someone nearby is learning Beethoven's Ninth on the recorder.

I picked up mine and played back at them. We will meet soon, I think, over Ludwig.

Digital memory is amazing. Back at Friends Seminary, we were so small (350 students, k-12) that we had only one music teacher, and only one instrument - The recorder. As we got older and taller, we could advance to the tenor and alto and bass recorders, if we wished......

But even though the pictures of Christmas are all in white and snow, and Jesus looks more like a goyim than a Jew, there are many sounds of the Christ that reverberate only in drums.

Me, I am a vodousant in training.

The FBI taking over in Haiti

WASHINGTON-Four hostage-takers have been sentenced to long prison terms for taking hostage a nine-year-old American girl in Haiti in 2005, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor and Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, Department of Justice, announced today.

( - WASHINGTON—Four hostage-takers have been sentenced to long prison terms for taking hostage a nine-year-old American girl in Haiti in 2005, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor and Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, Department of Justice, announced today.

Lesley Merise, 29, Yves Jean Louis, 29, and Ernso Louis, 20, all of Port au Prince, Haiti, were sentenced yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before the Honorable John D. Bates. A fourth defendant, Phito Cajuste, 26, also of Port au Prince, Haiti, was sentenced today. Judge Bates called the hostage taking of the little girl a “horrible crime” causing “severe and long-term trauma.”

Judge Bates sentenced Merise, one of the ring-leaders, to 238 months ( 19 years 10 months ). Yves Jean Louis, another planner of the crime, was sentenced to 180 months ( 15 years ). Ernso Louis was sentenced to 168 months ( 14 years ), and this afternoon, Cajuste was sentenced to 166 months ( 13 years and 10 months ). Each of the four had entered guilty pleas. Yves Jean Louis and Ernso Louis each pled guilty on December 16, 2005, to one count of hostage taking. Cujuste pled guilty on May 4, 2006. All three agreed to cooperate with the government in prosecuting other perpetrators. Lesley Merise was a fugitive for almost two years. Merise entered his guilty plea on Aug. 31, 2007, the last of the conspirators to plead guilty. The government had moved for downward departures from the applicable Sentencing Guidelines ranges for Yves Jean Louis, Ernso Louis, and Cajuste, which the Court granted.

The nine-year-old victim, who is a U.S. citizen, had been living with her family in the area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The ordeal for the little girl began in the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 2005, when Lesley Merise, Yves Jean Louis, Ernso Louis and Phito Cajuste abducted the girl from her bed, after having invaded the family’s home. The hostage-takers wore masks and wielded machetes and a real-looking imitation gun. The girl was taken to a remote mountain location and held there for more than one week, during which time she became ill. The girl was told repeatedly that if she told anyone or tried to escape, she would be killed. During that time, the hostage-takers made demands for ransom, starting at $200,000 in U.S. dollars.

A shepherd passing through the area where the girl was being held became aware of her presence and got her to write down her father’s name and phone number, using a piece of charcoal from a fire pit and a scrap of paper. Through great travails, the shepherd traveled many miles over torturous terrain to alert the authorities. On Oct. 4, 2005, the authorities mounted a rescue and saved the little girl. The authorities apprehended Ernso Louis at the scene and located Yves Jean Louis a short while later. Phito Cajuste was arrested in late February 2006 in Haiti. Merise was arrested in February 2007 in Haiti.

In announcing the sentences, U.S. Attorney Taylor and Assistant Attorney General Wainstein praised the hard work of the FBI’s Miami Extraterritorial Squad, in particular lead case agents Oscar Montoto and Kenith Jett, and agents Carlos Monero, Ed Cruz and William Clauss, the Miami Evidence Response Team, and the FBI Miami Special Weapons and Tactics Squad, all based in Miami, then FBI Legal Attache Andrew Diaz and then ALAT Joseph Jeziorski based in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the Haitian National Police and the United Nations Civil Police, the Haitian Ministry of Justice, the ICE Office in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Port au Prince, Haiti. Furthermore, they acknowledged the efforts of victim witness advocate Veronica Vaughan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Trial Attorney Thomas P. Swanton of the Counterterrorism Section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanne M. Hauch, who prosecuted the case.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sent here

It's been almost three years now that I have been here. Why? I wonder. A while back, when I returned to my apartment to find it flooded - water flowing through the concrete walls-(concrete? don't they build dams out of that?) and I checked into an hotel for a week to be pampered while I looked for another apartment. At tea time one day, I met two middle-aged women, speaking English at another table. They invited me over.

"How did you come to be here?" They asked.

"You probably won't believe this. I know it sounds foolish. But God sent me." Sheepish - that is the proper word for my reply.

"Not foolish to us. We're nuns."

Monday, December 17, 2007


This was first island in the New World to be "colonized" . I wonder if the origin of that word actually comes from Christopher Colombus - known in Spanish as "Colon". The other third of the island, now Haiti, was a massive slave "colony" - great productive plantations of coffee, cocoa, oranges, indigo, cotton. During the "colonial" period of the Thirteen Colonies of the United States, Haiti by itself was producing more than all thirteen combined. But at such a price! The French did not bother to "breed" slaves, but rather imported new ones every year, fresh from Africa. Their passage was so hard that usually half of them died, many by suicide. But it was in the interests of the French planters to have the strongest slaves, the survivors.

However in the end, this practice aided the Haitian revolution as more and more people who arrived had the recent memories and the force of Africa in them. I speak often of Haiti with my French friends here who have not had the advantage of the 50-200 year discussion of the issue that we have had in the United States. Indeed, even now France is just beginning to hold the discussion on "affirmative action" - even using the English phrase, which is anathema to the French establishment.

One man recently said to me:"But slavery has always been with us, since ancient times." A true observation. Slaves were always part of ancient culture, usually taken as prisoners of war. Yet the African slave trade was distinctly different in that the Africans were considered "subhuman". Even today, there are those who hold that genetic racial distinctions render the Africans less competent or capable of sucessful life.

While I applaud the attention given to Africa, I often want to climb up on some high spire and shout out: "Haiti First!"

But it is easier to look at Africa - so exotic, so rich in tribal heritage, so far away. Americans can even look at Africa through a hazy cloud of self-righteousness. We fought the Civil War over this issue, didn't we?

This island, these two nations, seem to be carrying on to the future what was done to them in the past, like an abused child who often becomes an abuser. Both governments rank high on the international corruption scale, femicide, rape, child abuse, incest, prostitution, are common in both countries.

What will it take to break the cycle?

Thursday, December 13, 2007


The second tropical storm of the season, OLGA, passed over yesterday. It left another 30 people dead and much damage to the bananna crop. The last storm, Noel, did terrible damage to the plantains and rice crops. Calls are going out for everyone to bring sheets and mattressess, food, etc. People do help here and there is enough organization to get the help to the people. The two dams that were burst in the last storm have already been repaired.

My internet is still not working from that storm, although I have spent two days and $$$$ sitting on hold on my cell phone with the company. (hence my silent blog) But it always quite astonishes me when anything works at all here. 42% of the people live below the world poverty level of $2 a day-- and certainly most of them are illiterate -- so it is a wonder that there is any internet at all.

In one of those wild juxtapostiions, I heard Al Gore talking to the Climate change conference in Bali over CNN in Spanish (don't know if he got any coverage inside the US) -- he had the courage to state that it was the US who was the major obstacle to any meaningful improvement.

I think of this fragile island, how every storm brings death-- and how much worse the storms will become if something is not done.