Tuesday, December 16, 2008


As I come up to the end of the year, I reflect on my four years here on Hispaniola and look back on my writing........

My favorite piece was written in 2005-----appear in Escape America magazine on escapeartist.com.

I see now that I left out Step 4, which probably accoounts for any of the difficulties that I have had in adjusting.....If I only I knew what Step 4 was!

I include it here for those of you who just might be thinking of moving offshore:


Preparing For Expatriotism
More From An American In The Dominican Republic
by Elizabeth Roebling

February 2005
Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic
It is the very people who are led to escape America who may in fact be exporting the best of it. Those who are discontent and yet hopeful are always the immigrants, the adventurers, and the colonists. Those with no hope just lie down on the couch and flip the remote.

The lyrics from one Paul Simon song roll around in my brain: “the thought that life could be better, is woven indelibly into our hearts and brains.” If you have come to these pages, you have that hope. Examine what is it, really, that lures and drives you.

Do you simply want to drop out of the system, and find a place among some happy natives, who might just save your soul? Are you tired of having to make an appointment with your best friends or family for dinner - perhaps in two or three weeks? Do you long for a sense of being useful and welcome in your retirement years, instead of just superfluous? Well, welcome aboard. The Third World needs your energy.

’ll be your coach here for a bit to help you along the path. There is a lot you can do at home to get ready. We’ll take it in simple steps. Try this for at least a month and see if you have the makings of a true adventurous expat.

Step One – Language

If you have a foreign language station on your TV, start tuning it in and keep it on all the time. No fair going back to English, for you will most likely be going where English is not the dominant language. Australia, New Zealand, Bermuda, the Bahamas, are all very picky about their immigration and visa requirements, although Jamaica and Trinidad are probably still open. If you can live in another language, you have far more options. So try living with only the sound of Spanish or Portuguese for a while.

This experience alone may discourage some of you.

If you don’t have a TV, you are already way ahead of the game and may move to the advanced class.

Buy yourself a short-wave radio and plug in to some completely incomprehensible station for at least an hour a day.

Courage, this is just how two-year olds all over the world feel and they learn. Well, most of them, anyway.

If you are thinking of moving to India, you may substitute a deep reading in the Hindu and Moslem religions for this section.

Buy three CDs from the top countries on your list, if you can find them. Try dancing to them around your living room floor. Now try it in front of a full-length mirror. White people are notoriously bad dancers. Overcome it.

People will like you if you can dance, even if you can’t speak their language. If you are going to Latin America, play the music at twice your accustomed volume.

Latins love their music and always want to share it with their neighbors. Get used to the volume. If you are thinking of Greece and are a man, practice dancing in a line with other men. Rent Zorba and dance along.

Step Two – Comfort Addiction

Life in America is extremely easy on many levels compared to most of the countries I know. We are used to going into a store and finding exactly what we want, at a fair price, without any haggling. And we are used to doing it fast, fast, fast. We have very little patience and are easily frustrated. The thought that you may have to go to three stores to find a can opener is appalling.

Then consider that the first two can openers that you buy and try out will not work. Frustration, exasperation, anger, incomprehension, all certainly described my feelings about this most recent episode with the can openers.

To increase your tolerance for inconvenience, I suggest a multi-part program to wean you a bit from the comforts of home and prepare you for life outside your current comfort zone.

Go to your stove and disable two of the burners. Take off the covering plates. Then take the knob off the oven so you will not be tempted to use it. Oh, please, forget the microwave. No way will there be power lines strong enough to carry it.

Pack it into a closet. Do not, under any circumstances, use the freezer. Neither take anything out of the freezer or put anything in. Put duct tape on the door. Use just the body of the fridge.
You will notice a dramatic drop in your electric bill. Put the money into your savings account.
Now prepare your food this way for at least one week. Then you can have the other two burners back. You will wonder why you ever needed them. Really, who needs four burners? Just mix those vegetables together in the steamer.

Do not use the oven or freezer for at least a month. This will no doubt require that you simplify your cooking pattern and complicate your shopping. Your food will be fresher. You will buy smaller portions and cook more often. You will waste less food. You will appreciate your freezer and long for ice cubes and cream.

Do all your laundry by hand and hang it on the line. (Oh, I forgot, you are American. Well, put up a clothesline, even across the back porch if necessary). When you first start doing this you will wear everything that you own until you have no clean clothes. This is normal. You are allowed on this program, one trip to the laundromat during the first month. Then you can start again.

You will quickly learn that life is better with fewer clothes and that you really only like about a third of the things that you own. You will also find that you can easily wash every day the few clothes that really need washing. Your clothes will last longer without the agitation of the machine. You will learn not to use bleach, as it will sting your hands: it also destroys the fabric and the ozone layer. You don’t need to be that white. If your white clothes get too dingy, dye them blue.

If you hang your pajamas or nightgown outside every morning, they will be remarkably fresh.
Your standards for cleanliness will drop radically. This is an essential for life on the road.

Of course, if you are currently living in an apartment, you will be crowded in the bathroom with the clothesline across the tub. You will be complaining about the sheets and towels. Stop it. Be grateful that you do not have to go down to the river and pound the clothes on the stones on your hands and knees. Appreciate what your great grandmother’s life was like. Know that when you get where you are going, there will be someone who will wash them for you for a pittance.

After you have done it yourself, you will pay her more.

You will notice an impressive decline in your electric bill without the washer and dryer. Put the money into your savings account.

Now, go through your closets and give your extra clothes away. The aim here is to get down to two suitcases, no more than you can carry. And, if you are anything like me, half of one suitcase will have to be reserved for books, CDs, and your portable stereo system. You cannot travel effectively on the quest for paradise if you cannot carry your own bags. You’ll never get off the gringo highway. You will be condemned to staying at Hilton Hotels. Not what you are looking for, I am certain.

Buy anything that you need only at thrift or second hand stores. Start offering half of what is on the ticket to see the reaction. It takes courage to do this but, in many countries, the art of pricing an item is a dance you are expected to dance for hours. Otherwise, you are considered rude.
You may not go to Wal-Mart’s, Walgreen’s, Target’s, K-Mart, Home Depot, Circuit City, Bed Bath & Beyond or Barnes and Noble. Convenience is not one of the perquisites of the Southern Hemisphere. You will buy half as much and spend twice as much time doing it. Your shopping addiction will end. You are learning how little you really need.

Pick your favorite country and study the exchange rate. When you are shopping, multiply the dollar price by the appropriate number. (Yes, bring your calculator, who can multiply by 28 in their heads?) This will give you practice in learning your new monetary system.

You will notice a dramatic increase in your checking account. Transfer the money to your savings account.

Step Three – Foreign Adjustment, NeoColonialism And Racism

If you live in a larger city, this part will be much easier. But even in small towns now in America you will be able to do this.

Eat in foreign restaurants, preferably genuine ones that have actual foreigners among the clientele. Never, ever, never eat at a fast food restaurant.

Eliminate red meat from your diet. This will save you the shock of having to buy it at an open air market where it has been sitting in the sun all day, covered in flies.

Buy vegetables that you do not recognize. Buy packaged boxes of unfamiliar grains from other countries. These will have names like cous-cous and polenta. Download some recipes and cook (on your two burners). Add lots of salt and butter. Try maybe adding hot sauce. Or honey. Look up the nutritional information on the web and feel superior.

Try, if you can, not to eat any bread. In most developing countries the art of bread making has not evolved and will disappoint you. And you cannot make your own because you have no oven, remember? So learn to live without. Flour is not indigenous to the developing world. Substitute corn tortillas.

Put a map of the world on the wall. Learn the names of all the nations in South America, then Africa, then Asia. If you are extremely brave and very gifted and have a modern map, you may also try for the names of the countries in the former Soviet Union, although personally, I would find them too cold. But this is an exercise in globalizing your mind.

Read at least three books on the following subjects: Globalization, The World Bank, The IMF, the Cuban Revolution, the Sandanistas, the Zapatista rebels, the School of the Americas or the bombing of Vieques. If you are not an avid reader, you may substitute one history book by Howard Zinn.

This is to prepare you to hear the absolute worst about your country. It is better to learn these things in the privacy and security of your own home than to go out in the world unprepared and have some foreigner have to educate you. If you skip this step, your new neighbors may give you the information on little pieces of paper wrapped around rocks and thrown through your window.

Practice saying “ I am sorry that my government is so stupid. Please don’t hold it against the American people, who are really quite generous at heart.”

Most of the people in the rest of the world are not pink-mottled-skinned palefaces. You will most likely be in the minority. Learn how this feels by taking a weekend trip to either a Black or Hispanic section of any large city. Stay in a hotel, eat at the restaurants, walk around in the streets and feel conspicuous. Get used to it.

While you are in that neighborhood, visit the emergency room in the local public hospital. This last step will prepare you to not feel superior should you land in a third world hospital. If you are planning to go to Thailand or Cuba, which have reputed excellent health care systems, you may skip this step.

When you arrive back home, look again at the map on your wall. Imagine how rich the former colonial nations would be if the industrialized world had paid them a fair price for their labor and raw materials.

Repent. Drink a cup of strong, fair-traded coffee. Write out checks to the United Negro College Fund and Doctors Without Borders. Mail them. Feel better.

Step Five – Ready?

Are you still with me? Do you still want to leave? Even if you are discouraged, look at all the changes you have made in your life patterns without leaving home. Look at all that money in your savings account. Look at all the time you are spending taking good care of yourself. Think of all the oil that you are saving.

Maybe a few adjustments to your life were all that was needed. Or maybe you might want to take just a short trip.

But for those of you who are really enjoying this, bravo, you are almost ready for a life outside America.

Ok, now for the advanced class: disconnect your hot water for a week. Then go to your circuit breaker and shut off all the electricity and see if you can live without that for even 24 hours. Maybe you will have to wait for summer for these last two steps, but do them; really, it will help you more than fifteen guidebooks.

Now unplug your phone. Feel how it will be to not talk to your family and friends on a regular basis. Unless, of course, you are coming here to the Dominican Republic where it will be just a few pesos a minute or if you manage hi-speed internet in your new home and can use the internet phone system.

Do not flush the toilet paper down the toilet. Use instead a wastebasket on the floor. This will be difficult but most places are simply not equipped to handle toilet paper. Best you should know this beforehand and adapt. After all, I am not asking you to remove the toilet seat although that would also be good practice.

Stop taking all prescription medicine unless you are a diabetic. Cure yourself. You cannot be sickly and manage this life. Nor will you find a clinic on every corner.

If after all this, you still want to head out to the wilds, BRAVO – you have made it.

Take out your money from the savings account. Sublet your apartment or house at a profit for at least three months. You will need more money than you thought as the dollar is plummeting. Then buy a ticket or better yet trade in some frequent flyer miles for a ticket with a changeable return date with no penalty.

Make sure you have a good tenant so that you can stay for a year, at least. At the very least.
Select and break in three pairs of shoes. Make sure that you can walk at least two miles in each pair. Never start a trip with new shoes.

Then carefully pack two bags. Unpack them. Remove half the clothes. Replace them with rechargeable batteries and charger, a pocket flashlight, six books that you have always been meaning to read, CDs, and portable speakers for your Walkman. Pick up your bags and see if you can actually carry them. Adjust accordingly.

Transfer all your addresses from your email account onto a disk. Forward your mail and your bills to your sister along with a photocopy of your passport and driver’s license. Leave her as well a rough itinerary, the names and phones of any contacts that you might have, and a schedule for your check in calls so that she will know if she has to start a search.

Accidents can happen all over the world.

Buy a good offshore major medical policy.

Throw a really big goodbye party with all your friends so that you will be too embarrassed to come home in a month.


And – most importantly – don’t look back. Only right in front of you. That will be exciting enough.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Las Terrenas

Carving up ParadiseBy Elizabeth Eames Roebling

Located along white sand beaches on the north coast of the lush Samana peninsula, this is the latest Dominican boom town. Entering the town from across the high mountains, developers' signs are perched on the steep hills, with prices in dollars, promising a piece of paradise.

Inside the small village, crowded with motorbikes and SUVs, real estate agencies seem to be the major business. Empty new storefronts dot the sidewalks. New four-storey apartment buildings crowd along the beach front. Twenty-five years ago, the small village of a few hundred people lived off of fishing. Now the estimated 30,000 residents, including more than 5,000 foreigners, predominantly French, wait for others to come and buy the land that was long ago bought from the original owners.

Charlie Simon, a local artist, says things are worse for him now than a few years ago. He is concerned about all the new construction and what it will mean for the future of the place. "It is not such a good thing to build so many apartments. People come for a week or two and then lock the place up and leave. Or people come for the weekend from the capital, they come with their own food, with everything. These people, what do they bring? You don't need many people to work in an apartment. It is not business for a town. Fifty apartments will produce maybe five jobs. How much will they make each month, the maids, the gardeners, maybe RD 5,000 pesos a month? This is a benefit for the country? No."

Free Trade Zone earnings and tourism are currently the country's fastest-growing export sectors. So-called "real estate tourism" -- foreigners building vacation homes -- alone accounted for 1.5 billion dollars for 2007, and that number is expected to double within three years, according to the Dominican Association of Real Estate Tourism Companies.

Dr. Jose Bourget, a Dominican who teaches via the internet as a professor at the University of Maryland, settled in Las Terrenas with his family six years ago. He shares Simon's concerns about development. "I think Las Terrenas has grown too much, too soon. That has had a tremendous impact on basic services and infrastructure, on water, roads. People were building any way they wanted, anywhere they wanted. Much of it was done by paying off officials," he told IPS. "The damage cannot be undone. The corals are dying. The quality of the water is...well, there is no quality. We know that the underground water cannot be trusted because there are too many septic tanks. Now they have built a town sewage treatment plant, but they put the collection tanks right on the beach. Some of us have reservations about how well it will work. But the damage has been done. No one was thinking of how to control it when the place exploded," he said.

From May until October, there was a halt on all new construction projects in Las Terrenas. One tourism director put the ban in place and his replacement in the new administration lifted it. While Dr. Bourget believes that there should be a freeze on growth for five years, he is opposed to the manner in which the central government has been directing things in Las Terrenas.

Recently, the government released a "master plan" for the town, containing marked areas for green zones, commercial development and private residences. The plan was designed without any local input. "If you are making a plan for a city, how can you not ask the residents of that city what they want for their home? This was a lost opportunity for participation, to have a local discussion. for general focus groups and town hall meetings, " Bourget observed. "Most likely a lot of things that are in the plan will be said, like 'we want more sidewalks, more green areas, protection for the beach, solution for the traffic problem', but it feels differently if there are hearings, if people have their say. "

Bourget and his wife, Annette Snyder, started the Anacaona Community Library three years ago and run summer camps for some of the local children, with the aid of volunteers. The small library, which serves about 270 local people a week, also serves as the town's only children's playground. When asked about the public education system, Bourget threw up his hands. "Yes, the system has grown. Now there are two secondary schools. But there are 40-50 kids in each class. You cannot teach in a classroom with 50 kids. Graduates of eighth grade here do not read or write well. That is the most critical issue here and no one is talking about it. Leadership should be coming from government, otherwise the people will not be able to raise themselves out of poverty."

Simon's voice carries an edge of bitterness when he talks about the future of the town, reserving most of his anger for the resident foreign population. "The foreign population of Las Terrenas, they do the same thing that Dominicans do, every day. They are here for their business. Some people come from France, very young, they are supposed to stay in France, working until they retire but they do not do that, they come here with 5,000 dollars and open a restaurant and the French tourists go there, not to our comedors to eat our rice and beans. They use our country to make money. They talk bad about our population."

"If we look what we have to do to grow in a positive way, we need education for the people. If development is only for the rich people, the town will be finished," he said. (END/2008)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Street Life Lessons Santo Domingo

The problem with being poor is that it takes up all your time. The problem with living in a poor country is that getting anything done also takes up all your time, even if you have the money.

I am testy. Yesterday was my first 10 hour black out. The phone company arrived on schedule (amazing) to install the internet, and said that of course there would be no problem. As soon as the electricity came back on, it would work.

It did not. Few things work here on the first try.

There were three phone calls to the service center, clearly operators working from their homes as one answered from within his home discotheque. The last answer, last night. was "It has just been installed. They are still working on it. It will be working tomorrow."

It is tomorrow. It is not working. Another call to the service center. "When will you be available for a service technician to visit? Today? Tomorrow?" I will be available all day. Every day. I have nothing to do but wait.

"We will call you."

Why did I expect it to be any different?

Customer service here is a reverse game. The first attempt is to get you to go away. The second attempt is to convince you that whatever you said was wrong - is not wrong. The third attempt is get you to call someone else.

The fourth and final attempt, when it is clear that you are "one of the determined" is to deal with you and the issue at hand. You will never get your money back here. Sales people make you wait while they finish their cell phone calls. The notable exceptions are when you are dealing with the street vendors, the self-employed, the informal sector.

Does this habit come from Spain? From the oppression of a dictatorship? From the incredibly low wages and long hours on the paid jobs?

How is it that these people remain so apparently content? Is it the trytophan in the plantains they eat at breakfast or just their low expectations?

The little old lady followed me around the supermarket. She is one of the "permitted" beggars in the neighborhood. Certainly there must be some sort of unspoken policing of the sidewalks, of the public spaces; otherwise this middle class neighborhood would be filled with beggars.

Here we have just a few, mostly older women, poorly dressed, one with a very swollen leg. I make it a practice to give them something when I pass. Any one of them could have been my mother, or me, but for a fortunate birth. This particular one had made me angry once as she had found her way to my apartment door and knocked. Establishing boundaries is difficult here. I spoke sharply to her not to come to my home.

Today I have no change. I know that in my wallet are two $1000 peso notes, each worth about $28. but I have no change. Change has been hard to find for the past year. Some say the government has not paid the mint in Canada for the new order of coins. Even the smaller bills are in short supply - the $50 peso note ($1.50) is scarce; the $100 is hard to find. Perhaps all the small money is circulating in the poor barrios, from fruit vendor to colmado owner, never making it to the pharmacies and groceries.

I tell her "No, I have nothing."

I am wealthy by street standards - many people work two weeks to earn what I have in my purse- but I cannot maneuver on the street, cannot buy a banana or a paper or give to the beggars.

It nags me., my lie to the old lady. Clearly it is not true for I am wheeling my cart around filling it with fresh vegetables, and cheese and bread. I have been living here under the adage of "give a little to every one who asks for it" - applied to all except the shoe shine boys when they ask for money, lest they turn from workers to beggars. At times I have just bent down and dropped some coins next to someone sleeping on the sidewalk.

Ours is not the finest neighborhood.

I go to find her. She is standing by the checkout counters.
"Tell me what you want and I will buy it for you."
She rubs the indentation of her stomach and says:" I am hungry."
"Rice?" I say. "Beans?"
"No. I would like coffee, please."

My inner Protestant protests. It is the voice of the "One Who Knows Best." I have ongoing arguments with her. Coffee, I know, will ease the hunger. Quiet thy criticism.

We walk to the coffee aisle. I put my hand on the largest bag of local ground coffee.

She protests: "No. Not that one, it is too expensive. A half pound will be fine."

I am shocked. But of course, she is in this for the long haul, knows that I can be a temperamental donor.

"But then, I will get some milk, yes?"

"Yes." She has negotiated my generosity.

She thus reminds that I, too, need milk for my coffee.

We proceed to the milk aisle.

I pick up my two liters in boxes. But she, wise in the ways of the poor, hands me over two packs of powdered milk.

There is much yet for me to learn here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:Marching Against Machismo
Elizabeth Eames Roebling

Raising their voices in agreement with the declaration over the loudspeaker that "machismo kills", hundreds of Dominican women, carrying banners and roses, ended a march through the streets of Santo Domingo Tuesday in front of the Supreme Court Building, protesting the rising level of murders of women.

On the steps of the court, four women were chained together, with the end of the chain held by a man who stood on the step above them. Drummers assembled and started a pounding beat to accentuate the voices of the women, shouting "No to the Violence!" "No to the Killings!" "No to the Silence!"

The Police Department recently released statistics showing that 154 women had been killed this year. Of these, 102 were killed by their intimate partners. This is seven more than last year. According to a report issued by Spanish authorities, this places the Dominican Republic as the sixth highest nation in the world in the rate of the murder of women.

The police have started a publicity campaign on television and radio against the rise in crime in the country. Although many have attributed the rise to organised drug crime, the statistics show that only a third of the crime is "organised". According to an interview with Franklin Almeyda, Secretario de Estado de Interior y Policia, "Over two thirds of the crimes are perpetrated by citizens are cases of inter-family violence, street fights, and other types of incidents."

Gracia de la Cruz, of the group, SER MUJER, told IPS, "I am not sure if there is really an increase in the violence or that it is that we have become more successful in showing the reality in the country. The police are keeping better records now. More women are coming forward now." "We must continue to denounce the violence. We must not be ashamed to do this," she said. "Many men hit women in parts of the body which are not seen. The women take pains not show that they have been beaten. We have had a culture which has blamed the women. Also many women are afraid to denounce their partners. They are afraid that they will be left without any resources for themselves and their children. "

Among the handouts to the crowd, a publication by CIPF (Centro de Investigation para Accion Feminina) had a definition of "machismo", a word which has defied English translation. It is "the expression of the magnification of the masculine, the exaltation of brute physical superiority, brute force and the legitimisation of a stereotype which creates unjust power relations."

In two studies on the murders of women in the Dominican Republic, done by ProFamilia in 2002 and 2003, interviews with killers showed that these violent men had the perception that a man, by the sole merit of being one, had the rights of a permanent privileged status in relation to women, treating them, consciously and unconsciously, as servants in all circumstances and over all women. Fatima Portareal of the Collectiva de Mujer y Salud explained the significance of this particular day: "We have a history in this country of standing up to violence. Today is a great day in our history. For today, the 25th of November, marks the day of the assassination of the Mirabel sisters who fought against Trujillo."

"The United Nations, in recognition of their bravery, declared this day to be in the International Day Against Violence towards Women. Therefore, we Dominican women, women from the city and the countryside, have come here to present the government with a document asking for greater protection for women."

The actual document presented showed the differing agendas of the four organising groups, Colective Mujer y Salud (SMS), Centro de Apoyos Aqeularre (CEAPA), Centro de Servicios Lesgales Para la Mujer (CENSEL), and Confederacion Nacional de Mujeres del Campo (CONAMUCA). Calling for an end to "the beatings, the wounds, the psychological aggressions, the risk of contracting AIDS," the proclamation also called for an end to the "blackouts, social abandonment, officially sanctioned gender violence, neoliberal political economics, and free trade agreements which impose the use of foods with genetically altered seeds". All "constitute the principal expression of violence under which Dominican women live."

In addition, the document called for constitutional reform on the issue of therapeutic abortion, which is not permitted under any circumstances. The women's groups are calling for the right of abortion to protect the life and health of the mother, and in the case of rape or incest. This effort has the support of the nation's Obstetricians and Gynecological Doctors' Association.

It was assumed to be close to passage last year, despite the opposition of the Catholic Church. However, anti-abortion protesters arrived here from the United States and placed explicit videos on the desk of each legislator. The measure was defeated. Both doctors and women are subject to imprisonment under the current law.

The three Mirabel sisters, whose husbands were imprisoned by Trujillo, were assassinated in 1961. Their courage has been credited with galvanising the resistance to the dictator. The story was popularised in English in the book and movie "In the Time of Butterflies" by the Dominican-American author Julia Alvarez. One of the Mirabel sisters, Minerva, was asked, "And if they kill you?" She responded: "If they kill me, I will raise my arms from the grave and be even stronger." (END/2008)

Friday, November 21, 2008

An Open Letter to Obama from Alice Walker

Nov. 5, 2008
Dear Brother Obama,
You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done.

We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance.

A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large.

We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise.

It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner."

There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies.

And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,Alice Walker
© 2008, Alice Walker

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Media Relations

HAITI-DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Media Unites to Fight Stereotypes

By Elizabeth Eames Roebling
PEDERNALES, Dominican Republic, Nov 18 (IPS) -

The contrast between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola, is nowhere so stark as on its common border.Pedernales, in the remote southwest desert, is poor by comparison to the rest of the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, it has continuous electricity without the blackouts that often plague the rest of the country. It has a regular supply of running water and well ordered, paved streets with solid concrete houses. Across the river in Haiti, Anse-a-Pitre has no paved roads, and only a few wells. Only the small barber shop with a solar panel and the small hotel with a generator have electricity. Fishing boats with large outboards line the rocky beach on the Dominican side while in Haiti, only one of the few dozen boats has a motor, the others must fish under sail.

It is easy for citizens of a country which has running water, electricity, gas stoves and plentiful food to assume that they are superior to citizens of a nation that does not have these modern conveniences.

"I do not blame Dominicans who hold negative views of Haitians since that is how they were taught since they were young," said Giselda Liberato, coordinator of Intercultural Programmes for the development agency Plan International. "We were told terrible things. We were told that they were savages, even that they were cannibals. So it is not the fault of Dominicans who have been misinformed."

"Many Dominicans do not have an opportunity to meet people of a high level of education. They do not meet their peers. We wanted Dominican journalists to meet Haitian journalists who are at the same level of education, so that they can meet one another as professionals," she told IPS.

With help from Plan International, six Dominican journalists who run espacinsular.org as volunteers recently organised a three-day meeting of Haitian and Dominican journalists. Their website carries news articles from both Haitian and Dominican news sources translated respectively into Spanish and French in order to promote better cross-cultural understanding.

The Nov. 14-16 meeting drew 50 representatives from newspapers, radio and television -- 25 Haitians and 25 Dominicans. All agreed to work towards better understanding between the two nations, draw the attention of their respective governments to the needs of the border region, and focus on specific human rights violations rather than allowing individual aggressions to escalate into disputes between their two nations. A group of eight media representatives was selected to form an ongoing network, the "Dominican-Haitian Binational Press Network."

Liberato is a rare Dominican so fluent in Kreyole that she was able to serve as translator for the event. She said that PLAN supported the project to give Dominican journalists an opportunity to meet their peers from the Haitian press, to perhaps help counteract some of the negative images of Haitians held by Dominicans, and vice versa.

Ruben Silie, sociologist and former general secretary of the Association of Caribbean States, explained to the group the history of the island from the discovery by Columbus to the present day. When questioned particularly about why Dominicans do not identify themselves with any African heritage despite the obvious racial characteristics in their appearances, Silie explained: "Under Trujillo, the history books were written to eliminate all mention of slavery. The people were told that they were descendants of Spanish colonists and Indians."

The information caused a stir among the Haitians in the room. Marie Keetie Louis, a Haitian interpreter who lives in Santo Domingo, said, "But they were taught a lie. That explains so much about them."

Jose Seruelle, ambassador from the Dominican Republic to Haiti responded: "One must remember that Trujillo was a fascist dictator, that he used the issue of Haitians for his own benefit. He did this to maintain himself, as a pretext to combat his opponents, his Dominican opponents. There was always the pretext of the blacks, the Haitians, who had to be put out of the country. But it should be remembered that this same Trujillo used the Haitian workers to exploit them and to enrich himself. There was hypocrisy there."

"But in the interior of the Dominican soul, there is no racism," Seruelle added. ¨There is a racism that is present at the level of the schools, but this is fought more and more by the Dominican people and by the Dominican government because the Dominican government does not accept racism."

"President Fernandez is a man who is anti-racist. He does not accept racism or discrimination on the basis of religion or the colour of the skin because we a people who are truly diverse, We have blacks, whites, people who come from Arab countries, from European countries, the United States, Canada, Cuba, Caribbean, how then, could we be racist? It is not possible. This is not the Dominican mentality. It is true that there are some historic events that have been badly explained. We must try to understand one another better."

"If two people respect one another, they will get along. We are two people, the Dominicans and the Haitians, who are married to one another, in the sense that we share the same island, a common history, and a shared ecosystem. We must respect one another. We must preserve our island, we must love it," he said. (END/2008)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC-US: Exorcising the Ghosts of SlaveryBy Elizabeth Eames Roebling

On the island where the African slave trade was first introduced to the western hemisphere in 1520, the United States embassy in Santo Domingo hosted more than 1,000 people to view the possible election of the son of an African to the U.S. presidency.While the current ambassador, Robert Fannin, is from Arizona and a close friend of Republican Sen. John McCain, there was a clear pro-Barack Obama sentiment in the room.

At the entrance to the elegant Jaragua Hotel, Dominicans could cast mock ballots for either Obama or McCain and have their photographs taken next to cardboard cutouts of the candidates. The gathering reflected the skin tones of the Dominican Republic, whose population is described as 15 percent white, 15 percent black, and 70 percent mixed race. For Dominicans themselves, the issue of race and skin colour is more subtle than the simple "black-white" line in the United States, with six different shades of skin tones, including "blond", "wheat", "indian" and "negro (black)". Few Dominicans self-identify as "negro" or celebrate any historic relationship to Africa. The majority refer to themselves as "indians" despite the fact that historians estimate that the indigenous Taino Indian population fell from over 400,000 to less than 3,000 within the first 30 years of Spanish domination.

The Dominican Republic has been accused of racism against Haitians, both by human rights activists and representatives of the United Nations. However, most Dominicans insist that any animosity is not based on race but on nationalism. The Dominican Republic celebrates its independence from Haiti, which it won in 1844 after 22 years of occupation. The differences between the two nations are much deeper than racial tones and encompass respective preferences for soccer and baseball, as well language and culture. Nevertheless, last year the U.S. embassy issued a directive that none of its employees could patronise two of the upscale discotheques in the capital which had denied entrance to several African-American embassy employees. Subtle reminders of racism are evident in most Dominican women's hairstyle, straight and long like Indians, referred to as "good hair", not curly like Africans, called "bad hair". Hidden racial tag lines in job advertising, such as "good presence", indicate a national preference, reflecting both the larger regional and global preference, for whiter skin.

Ramon Martinez Portorreal, trade ambassador to Eastern Europe, who attended college at Columbia University in New York and whose own skin tone is darker than Obama's, discounted the issue of race both inside the United States and for Dominicans. "I think that the black-white issue was one for the 1960s. Today the issue is the economy, just that. I think the U.S. needs closer relations with the Caribbean in general, not just the Dominican Republic. We need closer relations with the United States -- both political and business relations -- and I think that Obama will be better for that." "I have family in the United States, as do many Dominicans," he said. "This country receives a lot of money from the United States, both in trade and in money that is sent home." Remittances from Dominicans who live abroad usually account for 10-12 percent of the annual GDP. Although there are Dominicans in many European countries, primarily Spain, the majority of the Dominican diaspora, of 800,000 to one million people, live in the United States, concentrated around greater New York City, Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island.

Predicting that the majority of Dominicans would vote for Obama, Jedeon Santor, who serves as a governmental advisor on Central America, observed: "Dominicans feel more comfortable with the Democrats in power. The Democrats have more tolerance, both for immigrants, racial minorities, and cultural differences."

"Latinos also believe that when the Democrats come into power, they grow the economy from below, increasing incentives, lowering taxes, and better redistributing the wealth, more aid goes to immigrants and minorities," Santor said. He noted that this is a contradiction for Dominicans since the Dominican Republic was twice invaded and occupied by Democratic U.S. presidents, first from 1916-1924 under Woodrow Wilson and then again briefly in 1965 under Lyndon Johnson. A group of police officials said that they had been invited to learn about the U.S. electoral process. One of them said: "There is a feeling in people to imitate the positive in the United States. So this shows us that things are possible and that the democratic system works. This shows that the democratic system holds the key to resolve our differences, that the people can simply vote. This is a very important lesson." He noted that the electoral process is different in the United States than here in the Dominican Republic. While this nation has had five different presidents in the past 44 years, one of them, Joaquin Balaguer, served for 24 years.

The ambassador from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, Fritz Cenas, was also in attendance. "I cannot speak officially as the ambassador, since in that post I represent the government," he said. "And of course, the government of Haiti will work with any American president who is elected. But personally, I can say that I support Obama."

"However, I can say that historically for Haiti, as the world's first independent Black nation, the fact that the United States may have a Black president is thrilling to us," he added.

The results of the mock vote were announced even before the state of Ohio was called for Obama. There was one write-in vote for actor Jack Nicholson, two for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, three for Hillary Clinton, 53 votes cast for John McCain and 448 for Barack Obama.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Protected Status for Haitians

October 13, 2008
NY Times Editorial
Help for Haiti

This year has been especially cruel to Haiti, with four back-to-back storms that killed hundreds of people, uprooted tens of thousands more and obliterated houses, roads and crops. A far richer country would have been left reeling; Haiti is as poor as poor gets in this half of the globe. Those who have seen the damage say it is hard to convey the new depths of misery there.

The Bush administration promised Haiti $10 million in emergency aid and Congress has since authorized $100 million for relief and reconstruction. The United Nations has issued a global appeal for another $100 million. We have no doubt that Haiti will need much more.

There is something the United States can do immediately to help Haitians help themselves. It is to grant “temporary protected status” to undocumented Haitians in the United States, so they can live and work legally as their country struggles back from its latest catastrophe.This is the same protection that has been given for years, in 18-month increments, to tens of thousands of Nicaraguans, Hondurans, Salvadorans and others whose countries have been afflicted by war, earthquakes and hurricanes.While the Bush administration has temporarily stopped deporting Haitians since Hurricane Ike last month, it has not been willing to go the next step of officially granting temporary protected status to the undocumented Haitians living here.

Haiti’s president, René Préval, and members of Congress have urged the administration to change its mind. We urge the same.

There is very little that is consistent in the United States’ immigration policies toward its nearest neighbors, except that the rawest deal usually goes to the Haitians. Cubans who make it to dry land here are allowed to stay; those intercepted at sea are not. Hondurans and Nicaraguans who fled Hurricane Mitch 10 years ago have seen their temporary protected status renewed, as have Salvadorans uprooted by earthquakes in 2001.

Haiti, meanwhile, more than meets the conditions that immigration law requires for its citizens here to receive temporary protected status, including ongoing armed conflict and a dire natural or environmental disaster that leaves a country unable to handle the safe return of its migrants.If Haiti is ever going to find the road to recovery after decades of dictatorship, upheaval and decay, it will take more than post-hurricane shipments of food and water. Haiti desperately needs money, trade, investment and infrastructure repairs.It also needs the support of Haitians in the United States, who send home more than $1 billion a year. What it does not need, especially right now, is a forced influx of homeless, jobless deportees.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dreams of Food, glorious food

Two stories on the Dominican Republic which I wrote: Here and here

Helping Haiti

Posted on Tue, Oct. 07, 2008Haiti could get gift of portable classrooms from Broward
From television interviews in Miami-Dade to a school visit in Broward, Haitian President René Préval raced through South Florida over the weekend seeking additional relief for his storm-ravaged nation.
Préval held private talks in Key Biscayne with Dominican President Leonel Fernández to discuss participation of that neighboring country's private sector in reconstruction projects. And he met Monday with the director of the Port of Miami to discuss how to transport several hundred unusually large items to Gonaives, the city hardest hit by four back-to-back storms last month.

The most promising gift so far from South Florida for Haiti: 600 portable classrooms from Broward to help alleviate a crunch created by damaged schools still serving as shelters for more than 165,000 homeless storm victims.Storms Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike are blamed for more than 700 deaths. They destroyed tens of thousands of homes, wiped out more than 50,000 acres of agricultural fields and delayed the opening of schools by a month.''This is a project that would have long-term impact in Haiti, especially for our youth and education sector,'' Préval said Monday in between a press conference at the Consulate General of Haiti in downtown Miami and a visit with a group of Broward County Haitian community leaders who have been working with the school district on the portable classrooms donation.School officials said the portables would likely be dismantled and destroyed if they don't go to Haiti even though the temporary buildings are good for another 20 years.

''There is no need for us to utilize these portables,'' said Benjamin Williams, a member of the Broward School Board. ``It's going to take money to dismantle these portables.''Préval is scheduled to return to Haiti on Tuesday. He was originally scheduled to go home on Sunday, but he canceled the flight and headed north to Everglades High in Miramar. Arriving at the campus, he sat inside a portable classroom and was immediately impressed.Williams then explained plans to ask his fellow board members to donate the mobile classrooms.On the drive back to Miami, Préval said he realized the structures could also help transform education in a country where many students learn in rundown, deteriorating classrooms.

''He's truly energized by this,'' said David Lawrence Jr., a child advocate and former publisher of The Miami Herald to whom Préval has reached out for assistance. ``He's deeply interested in seeing if there are other portables in the other school districts and asked me to see if I can make something larger come to pass.''Lawrence said the portables are a great idea.''I am delighted to help,'' he said. ``Haiti needs every bit of help it can get, and it should be the obligation of every fortunate person in Miami to help.''Préval also met with former Gov. Jeb Bush, various community leaders and officials and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, who organized a meeting at Miami International Airport where Préval, the Port of Miami director and the owner of a private shipping company discussed transportation.''I believe there is no greater humanitarian effort that South Florida can engage itself in,'' Meek said. ``In many of the hardest-hit areas, children are sleeping under the stars because their homes have been destroyed. These portables would allow the government to start putting the education system back in place so the children can learn in decent conditions.''Williams first mentioned the portable idea to board members three weeks ago. He also has been in contact with Walmart, he said.''They want to give school supplies for this project,'' he said. ``They say they are ready to do this if the Broward school system is going to give them the portables.''

Along with discussing the possibility of acquiring additional portables from the state of Florida, Préval has been trying to create partnerships to raise the funds to transport and assemble the 20-foot by 30-foot structures.The objective of the project, he said, is to use the portables as the cornerstone of a community center in each of Haiti's 142 counties, which would include classrooms, health clinics and sports facilities for youths.Préval said that even as Haiti faces many rebuilding needs, his goal is to ``little by little return a sense of normalcy to people's everyday lives.'

'© 2008 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.http://www.miamiherald.com

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Threats to Journalist

Media Targeted for Threats, Lawsuits

Elizabeth Eames Roebling

SANTO DOMINGO, Sep 29 (IPS) - Media rights groups in the Dominican Republic are protesting what they say is a climate of legal and physical intimidation of journalists throughout the country.

"In the last two months, there have been more than 20 cases of journalists being subpoenaed," said Mercedes Castillo, president of the Colegio Dominicano de Periodistas (CDP), which was founded in 1991. "Each case is different, but they merge together to create an atmosphere which limits our ability to pursue our work."

Castillo said that it was not the government itself that was behind the threats but individual judges, private companies, private security firms and drug dealers.

"Reporters and media producers are not only being sued, they are being verbally threatened, both in person and by telephone," she told IPS. "We feel that we are being plunged into a massive wave of intimidation."

She cited the case of one journalist who approached the district attorney in Bani, asking for information on the whereabouts of packets of cocaine and dollars and Euros seized in a recent drug raid. The district attorney allegedly told the reporter to "Go home and look in your own house to find them."

And in early August, a cameraman for the daily news programme "Detrás de las Noticias" (Behind the News), Normando García, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen in the city of Santiago, 163 kilometres north of Santo Domingo. García covered drug trafficking and crime, and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating whether his death was in retaliation for his work.

On Sep. 23, more than 300 people assembled in the capital for what the CDP called a "March of Mourning" against assaults on the press. Participants, wearing black, also wore black ribbons around their heads, arms, or, more dramatically, their mouths.

A light rain started as the crowd proceeded along the brick pedestrian walk, El Conde, from the statue of Christopher Columbus to the gilded gates of the Parque Independencia, holding umbrellas and predominantly handmade signs. The Communist Party carried a large printed banner memorialising a few of the many journalists who lost their lives under both long-time dictator Rafael Trujillo and his protégé, Joaquín Balaguer.

The right of free speech and the liberty of the press are guaranteed under the country's constitution of 1973. However, reminders of the era of severe repression were seen in several printed support statements passed around the crowd which contained neither the names nor numbers of contact people.

One sign, asking for a minimum wage of 15,000 pesos per month for journalists (the equivalent of about 428 U.S. dollars) indicated the low salaries for the majority of the profession. Even the threat of the cost of having to defend a court case could be seen as a tool to silence the press.

Huchi Lora, a prominent investigative journalist, took the bullhorn to protest a recent court decision which allowed a private company to enter a journalist's office and take unedited tapes, calling this decision a threat to freedom of the press.

Lora, along with a colleague, Nuna Piera, had been raising questions for months over the quality of the milk supplied by the government to more than 1.5 million children in the public schools, saying that it contained deproteinised whey mixed with salt, a waste product which is fed to pigs.

The journalists based their original claims on a 2007 study done at the University of Santo Domingo which involved samples taken over several months during the 2004-2005 school year. The study found that the milk, which is a mixture of powdered and locally produced whole milk, varied in its protein and fat content over the sample months and fell below the legal guidelines posted by Department of Education.

Both journalists were sued by the milk supplier, Lacteas Dominicana (LADOM), which denied the claims. Lora said that the court's ruling set a dangerous precedent.

The office of the president, in response to the journalists' reports, and subsequent calls from the National Association of Pediatricians along with other civic groups, sent recent samples of milk taken from schools to two laboratories in the country and one in the U.S. state of Florida. They then called a press conference to release the results that all samples conformed to the standards required by law.

The new minister of education, Melanio Paredes, who took office this year, has said that the current contract for the school milk expires in December and all contracts will be under strict review. In addition, the amount of whole milk from local sources required in school milk programme will be raised from 33 percent to 50 percent. A rigid series of inspections of samples will take place over the next quarter.

Manual Frijas, a singer and spokesperson for the Association of Cultural Workers, comprised of singers, composers, musicians, and writers, marched along with six members of his union. He expressed his solidarity with the journalists, saying: "Without the press, there is no truth."

One of the signs held the words from a song written by Frijas: "And what would life be if the singer did not lift his voice in the courts."

Castillo said: "It is a constant fight. We have one battle here, another one there, across the entire country. Now reporters are being harassed in the courts and on the streets. We are here to ask the public to respect the freedom of the press, to let us investigate, to respect our profession, to allow us to do our jobs."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Interview with Peasant Leader, Chavanne Jean-Baptiste

Q&A: "Haiti Is Going From Catastrophe to Catastrophe"Michael Deibert interviews CHAVANNES JEAN-BAPTISTE
Chavannes Jean-Baptiste Credit:Michael Deibert/IPS

NEW YORK, Sep 23 (IPS) - Peasant leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste has been at the forefront of the struggles of Haiti's peasants for over 35 years. Born in the village of Papay in Haiti's Plateau Central, Jean-Baptiste helped found the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP) peasant union as well as the Mouvman Peyizan Nasyonal Kongre Papay (MPNKP), the latter a 200,000-member national congress of peasant farmers and activists.Jean-Baptiste's role is an important one in a nation where, over the past 50 years, 90 percent of the tree cover has been destroyed for charcoal and to make room for farming, with resulting erosion destroying two-thirds of the country's arable farmland.
For his work on behalf of Haiti's peasantry, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste was awarded the 2005 Goldman Environmental Prize, sponsored by the Goldman Environmental Foundation, the world's largest prize for grassroots environmentalists. In recent weeks, a series of hurricanes have struck Haiti, killing what is thought to be hundreds of people and devastating the country's already-decrepit infrastructure. The United Nations now estimates that 800,000 people are in need of emergency food aid. Haiti is currently the location of a U.N. peacekeeping force numbering over 9,000 uniformed personnel.

IPS correspondent Michael Deibert, who covered Haiti as a journalist from 2000 until 2006, sat down with Chavannes Jean-Baptiste during his recent visit to the United States. The interview was conducted in Haitian Kreyol in Brooklyn, New York, on Sep. 14, 2008.

IPS: How badly has Haiti been affected by the recent hurricanes?

CJB: It is a major catastrophe. The north of the country was affected, all of the Artibonite Valley, practically every house, every farm, every animal. Flood water passed through Saint-Marc, Fonds-Verettes, Marchand Dessalines, L'Estère, and other towns, and many of those communities are underwater.

IPS: The situation for the Haitian peasants before the hurricanes was already difficult, no? CJB: When Hurricane Gustav hit us, the organisations that we have in the southwest told us that most of their animals -- goats and cows and such -- were affected, that, after being trapped in the rain for 72 hours, they couldn't survive. Many of the animals died like that. I have spoken to people in [the towns of] Jacmel, Caye-Jacmel, Marigot and elsewhere in the south, and they have told us the same thing. In the Grand Anse, the same thing. Hurricane Hannah hit the north of the country, particularly the Artibonite, and the northwest. Hurricane Ike hit the Artibonite and the northwest again, as well as the west. Peasants in Fonds-Verettes have told me that only about 10 houses in the village were not destroyed by the flooding. The focus now is on the town of Gonaives, where those who were hit so badly have been hit again. [In 2004, Hurricane Jeanne killed an estimated 3,000 people in Haiti] Many people who have been displaced from these floods in the Artibonite -- 80,000 or so -- have now moved on to parts of the Plateau Central such as Mirebalais.

IPS: I know that you have worked with the Haitian peasantry for over 35 years. At this time, is the situation for the peasants more or less difficult than before?

CJB: The economic situation of the peasantry is more difficult. We have witnessed the degradation of the environment. There is less agricultural production, and people are migrating to the cities, creating slums such as those we see in Port-au-Prince. This adds to the urban population and to the demand for wood charcoal. When you see the environmental situation in Haiti today, it is quite grave, and there is a real need to organise. We have planted 20,000 trees around the country over the last 20 years, but over the same time period some 50,000 trees have been cut down. What seems clear now is that Haiti is going from catastrophe to catastrophe, and they are getting worse as we go along. And that is a direct result of the destruction of the environment.

IPS: How would you characterise the relationship of Haiti's recent governments with the peasantry?

CJB: We can say that we have never had a government in Haiti that ever changed the problems of the peasantry. We need to create environmental protection and work together, at the same time, in a national framework. There has been a lot of demagoguery, because none of the politicians have had a programme to help the peasants. The politicians and the government are working to implement a neoliberal programme, and the parliamentarians have one preoccupation: To remain in parliament.

IPS: How would you characterise the relations and the actions of the international community towards the Haitian peasantry?

CJB: Today we are under a military occupation by the international community. There are 9,000 foreign soldiers in our country, with a budget of 600 million dollars to supposedly aid our country. They are there because of the desire of a small group in Port-au-Prince. The United States wants bilateral accords with every country in the region, and the international community -- North America and Europe -- wants the Haitian peasants to produce agriculture for exportation. And I think these two things are tied together. They give us this aid, and we are to export our food to pay our debt. So we don't have a political situation that favours family or low-production farming.

IPS: What does the future hold for Haitian peasants?

CJB: We can say that the future for Haiti's peasants is very uncertain. There is not a political system that can foster rural development right now, and that is our cause today Young peasants go to the Dominican Republic, they go to the Bahamas, or they go to Port-au-Prince, because 80 percent of the Haitian population works in agriculture, but it cannot support them anymore. Our agriculture is threatened by the application of a neoliberal economic programme in our country. The future could be very sad, as well, but it depends on whether or not the people can organise in the country to save the country. Organisations like MPP and MPKNP have a movement, a unified movement, to move forward and address this situation. For example we have a petition that says no to the production of combustible agriculture [agriculture for biofuels such as ethanol] and says yes to the production of food, food for the people in Haiti to eat, not for American cars. We will present this petition in October, and search for support from international organisations for our position, in forums such as La Via Campesina [an international peasant movement headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia]. We will continue to struggle for agrarian reform to develop Haiti, which is integral if the peasants are ever going to have any kind of security. We will continue onwards with this struggle.

*Michael Deibert is the author of "Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti". (END/2008)

HODR Recruiting Volunteers

For those who are willing to come to Haiti to do relief work, there is an organization which is recruiting. This organization has worked in Haiti before and according to Lionel St Pierre, who is running the FACEBOOK campaign to help Haiti, does a fine job of assisting.

---Hands On Disaster Response is energized to help Gonaives, Haiti recover from the devastating effects of 4 successive tropical storms and hurricanes. One thing is for certain – there will be barrels and barrels of great dirty HODR work! We will begin accepting volunteers at our base on 10 October, 2008.
The city of Gonaives (pop 300,000) is awash with muck which streamed down from the hills which frame this fertile valley. The river actually flowed through town and although most of the water is now gone from the city center, what remains is an almost incomprehensible amount of mud. Initially our focus will be on moving this mud out of schools, public gathering spaces, and homes.
We anticipate this to be a very challenging deployment. Haiti has long been the poorest country in the western hemisphere and the recent storms seriously damaged an already weak infrastructure. Food insecurity issues may be compacted by the damaged harvest and generally poor living conditions. Serious needs will exist in the months of our project, and the feeling is almost palpable.
We invite you to volunteer with HODR to help Haiti but we caution you to make yourself aware of the facts surrounding the condition of this country. We will post pertinent data to our Volunteer Info section soon. Arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible and then make a decision that is correct for you. If you cannot volunteer with us at this time please visit our donation page where you know your contribution will make a direct impact.
An NBC news crew has been following us this week as we get to work in Gonaives. We hope to be featured on Friday’s NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams for a story on HODR in Haiti. Watch for updates on our HODR international operations Twitter micro-blog.
This entry was posted on Thursday, September 25th, 2008 at 2:58 pm and is filed under Haiti. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site

HODR Recruiting Volunteers

Hands On Disaster Response is energized to help Gonaives, Haiti recover from the devastating effects of 4 successive tropical storms and hurricanes. One thing is for certain – there will be barrels and barrels of great dirty HODR work! We will begin accepting volunteers at our base on 10 October, 2008.
The city of Gonaives (pop 300,000) is awash with muck which streamed down from the hills which frame this fertile valley. The river actually flowed through town and although most of the water is now gone from the city center, what remains is an almost incomprehensible amount of mud. Initially our focus will be on moving this mud out of schools, public gathering spaces, and homes.
We anticipate this to be a very challenging deployment. Haiti has long been the poorest country in the western hemisphere and the recent storms seriously damaged an already weak infrastructure. Food insecurity issues may be compacted by the damaged harvest and generally poor living conditions. Serious needs will exist in the months of our project, and the feeling is almost palpable.
We invite you to volunteer with HODR to help Haiti but we caution you to make yourself aware of the facts surrounding the condition of this country. We will post pertinent data to our Volunteer Info section soon. Arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible and then make a decision that is correct for you. If you cannot volunteer with us at this time please visit our donation page where you know your contribution will make a direct impact.
An NBC news crew has been following us this week as we get to work in Gonaives. We hope to be featured on Friday’s NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams for a story on HODR in Haiti. Watch for updates on our HODR international operations Twitter micro-blog.
This entry was posted on Thursday, September 25th, 2008 at 2:58 pm and is filed under Haiti. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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Monday, September 22, 2008

White Privilege

International viewers who watched the passage of Hurricane Ike over this region were able to see both Haiti and Houston and the differential in living accomodations and care in the space of a few days.

I submit this essay on White Privilege for your consideration. It is the underlying cause for the state of the nation of Haiti.

By Tim Wise> 9/13/08>

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you're "untested."

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it's good enough for me," and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn't added until the 1950s--while if you're black and believe in reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school, requires it), you are a dangerous and mushy liberal who isn't fit to safeguard American institutions.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto is "Alaska first," and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you're being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college and the fact that she lives close to Russia--you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because suddenly your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a "second look."

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is when you can take nearly twenty-four hours to get to a hospital after beginning to leak amniotic fluid, and still be viewed as a great mom whose commitment to her children is unquestionable, and whose "next door neighbor" qualities make her ready to be VP, while if you're a black candidate for president and you let your children be interviewed for a few seconds on TV, you're irresponsibly exploiting them.

White privilege is being able to give a 36 minute speech in which you talk about lipstick and make fun of your opponent, while laying out no substantive policy positions on any issue at all, and still manage to be considered a legitimate candidate, while a black person who gives an hour speech the week before, in which he lays out specific policy proposals on several issues, is still criticized for being too vague about what he would do if elected.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just a good church-going Christian, but if you're black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a "trick question," while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to go to a prestigious prep school, then to Yale and then Harvard Business school, and yet, still be seen as just an average guy (George W. Bush) while being black, going to a prestigious prep school, then Occidental College, then Columbia, and then to Harvard Law, makes you "uppity," and a snob who probably looks down on regular folks.

White privilege is being able to graduate near the bottom of your college class (McCain), or graduate with a C average from Yale (W.) and that's OK, and you're cut out to be president, but if you're black and you graduate near the top of your class from Harvard Law, you can't be trusted to make good decisions in office.

White privilege is being able to dump your first wife after she's disfigured in a car crash so you can take up with a multi-millionaire beauty queen (who you go on to call the c-word in public) and still be thought of as a man of strong family values, while if you're black and married for nearly twenty years to the same woman, your family is viewed as un-American and your gestures of affection for each other are called "terrorist fist bumps."

White privilege is when you can develop a pain-killer addiction, having obtained your drug of choice illegally like Cindy McCain, go on to beat that addiction, and everyone praises you for being so strong, while being a black guy who smoked pot a few times in college and never became an addict means people will wonder if perhaps you still get high, and even ask whether or not you ever sold drugs.

White privilege is being able to sing a song about bombing Iran and still be viewed as a sober and rational statesman, with the maturity to be president, while being black and suggesting that the U.S. should speak with other nations, even when we have disagreements with them, makes you "dangerously naive and immature."

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism and an absent father is apparently among the "lesser adversities" faced by other politicians, as Sarah Palin explained in her convention speech.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because a lot of white voters aren't sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, it's just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain.

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

The Incredibly Big Muddy or Let Them Eat Poppies- lessons from Haiti for Iraq and Afghanistan

"There is not a single U.S. implementing partner in Haiti that knows how to build government institutions. There are no tools or instruments. Implementing agencies come here to compete for grants and against one another. Rather than building institutions, they build dependency. International implementing organizations and donors have been a fundamental part of the problem."

The US, having now destabilized Iraq, is thinking of taking on Afghanistan.

Since we Americans have memoires the length of a sound bite, perhaps candidates McCain and Obama would like to take a look at how well we are doing with the Nation Building exercise a few hundred miles off the coast of Florida?

The US occupied Haiti in the beginning of the last century, supported a dictator, then played with supporting democracy, destablizing democracy, rebuilding democracy-- threw in the towel, turned the whole mess over to the UN...

Well ,of course, Haiti is a special case.

Afghanistan, well, that is going to be lot easier.

After all, remember that Haiti has this history of violence, all that money from drug trafficing and that peculiar form of religion.

Nothing like Afghanistan.

Haiti: New Terms of Engagement?
Comments to United States Institute of Peace event on
"Haiti: No Longer a Failed State?"
February 7, 2007
Stewart Patrick
Center for Global Development
Many thanks to Bob Perito and to USIP for inviting me to join this panel today and to offer reflections in the aftermath of what was only my first visit to Haiti. I’m both honored and a bit embarrassed to be speaking before such an august and knowledgeable group, aware that I’m bringing coals to Newcastle, and that many of you have been toiling in the mines for years. My sole (if dubious) advantage is the chance to offer some thoughts through fresh eyes, in the context of my work on state fragility, state building, and spillover effects of state weakness.
I’m grateful to Bill Zartman and the SAIS students for welcoming me on the Haiti trip. As he mentioned, we met with a wide range of the major players, including:
• Government officials, among them President Preval; Prime Minister Alexis; Mario Andresol, head of the Haitian National Police; Alex Fils Aimé , Chairman of the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR); Max Antoine of the Presidential Commission on Border Development; and the mayor and police chief of the city of Jacmel;
• Representatives of the International community and implementing agencies, notably Special Representative Mulet, head of MINUSTAH; the World Bank Resident Representative; US Embassy personnel and USAID mission staff; agencies implementing large USAID projects; and Catholic Relief Services.
• Members of Haitian civil society, including Archbishop Louis Kebrou, head of the Catholic Church; the head of the Haitian chapter of Transparency International; the leaders of CLED (Center for Private Enterprise and Democracy); the National Human Rights Defense Network; the peacebuilding organization Caravane de la Paix; and the head of the National Federation of Haitian Voodoos.
• The most eye-opening portion of the trip was our visit to Bel Air in the company of the IOM country director, which gave us a chance to meet with community leaders in what had been until recently one of the most violent neighborhoods of Port au Prince.
If I had to give a title for my talk it would be"Haiti and the Donor Community: New Terms of Engagement?" I want to hit on 4 points and then give ample time for questions and discussion. The four points are:
1. The marginal utility of describing Haiti as a "Failed State"

2. The inter-relationship among the main sets of challenges facing Haiti: (a) Security and the Rule of Law; (b) Institutions of Governance; (c) Development, including growth and social welfare

3. The need for donors to end their dysfunctional approach to Haiti, which has kept it a dependent ward of the international community, by embracing state building.

4. The transnational spillovers resulting from Haiti’s endemic state weakness, notably the reciprocal relationship between (a) drug trafficking and (b) Haiti’s insecurity, dysfunctional governance and stalled development.

(I) A "Failed State?"
First, and briefly, on the question Is Haiti a "Failed State"? This question is arguably more distracting than illuminating. Policymakers and scholars, myself included, have devoted an inordinate amount of attention to classifying states into binary categories. This misses is the larger point that state strength in the developing world – indeed in all countries – falls along a continuum, depending on the quality and resilience of state institutions. Rather than assigning countries into an "either/or" category, it’s more useful to array them along a spectrum and gauge their performance relative to others in their cohort on their ability to provide the essential political goods associated with statehood.

In an ongoing collaboration with Susan Rice of the Brookings Institution, we’ve been developing an index to measure state weakness in the developing world. Using 18 well established indicators, we have ranked 143 developing and transitional countries across 4 main spheres of state function, including: securing their populations from violent conflict and to control their territory; meeting the basic human needs of their population; fostering and environment conducive to sustainable and equitable economic growth; and governing legitimately and effectively. Our index ranks Haiti 13th from the bottom, with dramatic deficiencies on all components of statehood, notably its political, economic, and social components. Relatively speaking, this is above Afghanistan and Liberia, for example, but below the Burma or Chad. In terms of social indicators, Haiti fares abysmally on primary school completion rate (with ½ of school age children not in school) and on under 5 mortality (an astounding 25%).
So much for numbers. What about conditions in the country as we found it? The overwhelming impression from our trip was the lack of any functioning government institutions in the country and the absence of the state as a consideration in the everyday life of Haitians (and the dominant role of NGOs in filling the vacuum as the state has atrophied). There is little human capital below 2-3 levels into the bureaucracy, little ability to get anything done or implement approved policies. The state does not maintain basic records. It is largely absent in the delivery of social services: 85-90% of education is private (and poor), and a majority of health care (55-60%) is delivered by foreign donors/NGOs. There is little or no electricity in much of country. The state is incapable of building and maintaining roads. The new parliament has no staff, no computers. Without remittances of approximately $1 billion/year, Haiti would not stay afloat.
For all weakness, Haiti has a brief window of opportunity, a delicate moment comparable to the "golden hour" in immediate post-conflict situation. For the first time ever, Haiti has a fully elected government, a clean President who understands development, and Cabinet including talented technocrats. At the same time, the government faces intense pressure to deliver short term results at the same moment that it must build long-term institutions. How to deliver "quick wins" and build capacity at the same time is an acute dilemma. I detected in many quarters a growing disillusionment with Preval’s perceived weaknesses as a leader and a yearning for a man on horseback, a benevolent authoritarian.

As the Archbishop told us, "What we need is leadership…. We need somebody who can provide order and institute a vision… We need a man who is truly capable of serving and loving his country." Preval is trying to persuade Haitians to embrace a new type of leadership, not a "providential president", but collective responsibility of all Haitian people, including through local government. Unfortunately, Haitians have a misplaced nostalgia for the social order of the Duvalier years, or what Preval called "le paix de la cimitière." But are Haitians prepared for such as shift in political culture and civic engagement? If Preval does not deliver, there will be growing agitation for strongman rule.

(II) The Need for an Integrated Strategy

Second, I was struck by the interdependence of the security, governance and development challenges confronting Haiti and the need for a long term strategic plan that reflects and addresses these linkages. The dilemma in Haiti, several of our interlocutors intimated, is that "everything is a priority." It is difficult to know where to begin. Take physical security. It is clearly fundamental, since nothing permanent can be built, no development can occur, in an insecure environment. The Government’s inability to provide safety of its people was underscored by the horrific wave of kidnapping in late 2006. Criminal violence has paralyzed professional and social life, contributing to massive exodus of young and talented. (There are more Haitian nurses in New York City than in Haiti)
The presence of MINUSTAH at least ensures baseline stability. But criminal violence continues to hold Haiti hostage. Until Port-au-Prince in particular is secure and perceived as truly secure, there will be no investment, domestic or foreign, no tourism, no incentive for the talented to remain or the diaspora to return.
Yet insecurity cannot be addressed in a vacuum – say, by conducting MINUSTAH operations and ramping up the HNP -- beause violence is rooted in Haiti’s political and socio-economic pathologies: an authoritarian and corrupt political culture; anemic and unaccountable institutions of government; a corrupt judicial system that enables a culture of impunity and undercuts the rule of law; pervasive social exclusion, atomization and inequality (less than 1% of the population has 75% of the wealth); and inability to satisfy basic human needs, exacerbated by tremendous population growth of 3% and heavy migration to the main slums.

I am normally skeptical of economic motivations for violence, but Haiti tested my prejudices. It seems indisputable that high crime and corruption are both a result of and a significant contributor to Haiti’s extreme poverty, underdevelopment, lack of economic opportunity. In previous decades gang activity was largely political in nature; today it is largely criminal, a way to make a buck by kidnapping, another activities. As one slum dweller explained to us: "Better to die of violence than to die of hunger." Or as a former gang leader said, "Once you are hungry, you will do the wrong thing to get food." Whether this is a matter of "need" or simple "greed" is a matter of dispute. What is not disputed is that there are 2.5 million young people between ages of 15 and 25, and too many of them are neither going to school or working. Every year, Haiti graduates another 200,000 students who lack both skills and jobs. In Fils Aimé’s words, they are "all dressed up with nowhere to go."

What the government of Haiti and the international community appear to lack is a comprehensive "campaign plan," spanning several years, that seeks to integrate the separate strands of external support, so as to simultaneously address these security, rule of law, governance, and development components of Haiti’s predicament. As a template, one might borrow elements of the approach that USIP developed in the 2005 book The Quest for a Viable Peace, which sought to build bridges between conflict transformation strategies in four separate spheres: security, politics, the rule of law, and economics. This USIP study group might take the lead in outlining an analogous integrated strategy for Haiti, including addressing difficult issues of sequencing and trade-offs.

The promising news is that external actors are beginning to move toward more integrated approaches. One example is the adoption of an almost counter-insurgency approach to gangs, whereby the HNP and MINUSTAH use coercion to move gangs incrementally into smaller and smaller zones, establishing "hard sites" within the bidonvilles, quickly followed by donor interventions to deliver rapid improvements in the lives of the slum dwellers, including the creation of safe public spaces, stalls for markets, youth programs, especially jobs.

• USAID has 2 big programs in this regard: The first is a $29 million program implemented by IOM in targeted hot spots, through community-based initiatives that work with local businesses, use local materials and labor, and work with leaders to resolve conflicts. These grants are often modest, on order of $25,000, for projects like putting up new lighting. The second is an $89 million JOBS (Jobs, Opportunities, Rebuilding Structures) program, which seeks to create longer term employment opportunities and increased economic growth, including by laying the foundations for commerce.

• Last week the Bush administration announced that it would provide $20 million dollars for a stabilization initiative for Haiti, using section 1207 of the Defense Appropriation Act, to help integrate security and development and strengthen government presence and local institutions in Cité Soleil. This will include increased access to police and justice, strengthened local governance, provision of vocational training and new jobs through infrastructure and public works projects.

• The World Bank, likewise, is doing some creative, non-traditional things to try to address the socio-economic causes of violence, through community-driven projects. This includes both quick impact projects and longer term institution building. The Bank is spending some $38 million this year on
Community Driven Development, which goes directly to priorities identified by the community. The Bank has embraced Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPED), and it is financing things like street lighting and building community centers for youth. It is also conducting food programs in some of the most volatile areas. As a Brazilian general told Bank mission staff, "We donors need to follow up our enforcement actions with social interventions because otherwise violence will return."
Another promising – if underfunded – program is Fils Aimé’s National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR), which aims to provide gang members with alternative livelihoods and communities with a package of social services. As Fils Aimé explained, many of the gang leaders thrive on a Robin Hood-like image – they hijack a truck with bags of rice and distribute it. But what they cannot deliver is real services, including education, health, sanitation (picking up garbage, cleaning up streets). The NCDDR provides gang members who are willing to give up their lives with training, reorientation and reinsertion, including permanent job. There was a lot of disagreement among international actors and within the Haitian government about whether the sort of incentives that the NCDDR is offering to gang members will actually make a difference in getting them into another line of work. MINUSTAH and U.S. officials were particularly skeptical, arguing that most gang leaders are beyond rehabilitation and must be killed or arrested. One hopeful fact is that it the number of actual gang members that have to be dealt with is not particularly large. More worrisome is that the government of Haiti remains largely absent from the slums, and that the HNP shows little presence in the form of community policing.

(III) New Terms of Donor Engagement
A third impression from the trip was the clear need for the international community to change the terms of its engagement with Haiti, by shifting toward state-building. As the World Bank has recognized, the vast sums of moneyspent in Haiti over the past two decades have had remarkably little long term impact. Aid has kept Haiti afloat, but in a situation of perpetual dependence. To some degree this understandable. Given the legacy of autocratic and corrupt governance, and lack of confidence in the government to implement and maintain development projects, donors long ago adopted the approach of bypassing the state and delivering services directly to the people themselves. These programs kept people alive and delivered essential services, but they also created what Ashraf Ghani in other contexts has labeled a "parallel international public sector." This pattern has leeched the Haitian civil service of much of its talent and contributed to a culture of dependency that is by now engrained among the Haitian populace.
While this pattern might have made sense in the past, there is now a legitimate government in Haiti and the Preval Government wants to take leadership of development cooperation. As Prime Minister Alexis explained, "In all of history, we have no record of any country that has realized its development by NGOs." But he noted that some donors remain resistant to change, as "bad habits have become engrained" over the past 13 years. Still, the ice is beginning to break up. As a USAID representative said to us, the question for donors is: "At what point do you actually pull back and get the government to take over, rather than replacing it. USAID/Haiti has not asked this question for too long. We need to ask it now. By and large it has been us doing it for them, thus building dependence and postponing the day of reckoning." At a rhetorical level, at least, donors and implementing partners are conceding that the Haitians must be put in the driver’s seat; that development cooperation must be demand rather than supply driven (consistent with the Paris Declaration); and that the international community must make a long term commitment to Haiti, rather than repeat its episodic engagement.
Equally fundamental, there is a growing recognition that unless donors help to bolster the state, they will not achieve the results that they want. For too long, donors have sought to keep themselves in business, financing expensive technical assistance missions for foreign consultants, with little impact, and sustaining donor implemented projects that bypass the state, without a transition plan for handing things over to the Haitians. They have overwhelmed the management capacity of a weak Haitian state through project proliferation, and they have
poached local talent. Although donors have often complained of a lack of Haitian "absorptive capacity," this also reflects a lack of donor capacity to effectively engage states that possess weak institutions.
In April 2004, donors met with the interim government of Latortue and committed themselves to a Haitian-led strategy. The result was the Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF) which has 4 pillars: 1) Economic Governance; (2) Political Governance; (3) Economic growth; (4) Social Services (health,education). Two years later in July 2006, donors pledged some $750 million for Haiti’s recovery. More recently, in November 30, 2006, 30 countries met in Madrid to review donor pledges, including streamlining the $1.8 billion in pipeline. At the insistence of the Haitian government, donors agreed to recognize the principle of Haitian leadership on the Extended ICF; to ensure that Haitian rather than donor priorities drive assistance; and to harmonize their aid policies to avoid overwhelming the GOH with uncoordinated projects. The Haitain government has tried to force donors into a single approach to applying for and managing donor funds, because it lacks enough skilled officials to handle the burden of multiple reporting and implementing requirements. The Ministry of Planning and Cooperation is also circulating a plan to bolster a secretariat charged with supervising donor activities, including creating first ever database of donor programs in Haiti.
While this renewed focus on state-building is important, there are obstacles to realizing it on both the donor and Haitian side. The head of a major implementing agency in Haiti told us,

"There is not a single U.S. implementing partner in Haiti that knows how to build government institutions. There are no tools or instruments. Implementing agencies come here to compete for grants and against one another. Rather than building institutions, they build dependency. International implementing organizations and donors have been a fundamental part of the problem."

Nor is it clear that the GOH has sufficient planning and implementation capacity to design and implement a coherent reconstruction plan or to absorb the aid associated with it. People at various levels of Haitian society complained that President Preval does not appear to have a clear program or plan about where he is taking the country. Both Preval and Prime Minister Alexis told us that the Haitian government is laying plans right now for a comprehensive national dialogue on development, traveling around the country with ministers, parliamentarians, department officials, mayors, to ask the people, civil society and the private sector to tell GOH, "here are our priorities," so that the GOH can match these with donor resources. While this "development from below" experiment is to be applauded, it is liable to be very time consuming.
A few guidelines for donors: Given these facts, I would make the following recommendation for donors:
• Assist with Haitian Government with public revenue generation: By some estimates Haiti suffers from hundreds of millions of dollars in foregone revenue, including $120 million from weak tax collection and customs leakage. The normal tax collection rate for developing country is approximately 16%, according to the World Bank, but in Haiti it is less than 10%. Customs leakage, meanwhile, is virtually non-existent in many parts of the country, and the government has called on donors to help bolster the National Ports Authority.
• Put more money through the Haitian national budget, in return for Haitian commitments to government reform. The World Bank has been one of the few donors willing to put money through the state itself, as well as to finance recurrent costs. The Bank’s EGRO (Economic Governance Reform Operations) program provides Haiti with $61 million in budget support to pay for economic governance reforms.
• Pool donor efforts through greater use of Multi-Donor Trust Funds. Donors should explore ways to pool their resources, to ensure funding for priority Haitian goals, improve coherence of donor efforts, leverage funds from a variety of sources, and help support recurrent costs of government. As in the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund and other similar experiments, access to funds should be conditional, contingent on transparency on approval from Bank officials, etc.
• Press World Bank Board for greater flexibility: Haiti is not considered a traditional "post-conflict" country in World Bank classification. Typically, the Bank can provide only about $7 per
capita to IDA countries, while providing some $17-20 for post-conflict countries. To get around this problem, Haiti was made a special case in 2004, when the Bank Board agreed to grants amounting to $150 million for 2 years. This arrangement expires this fiscal year, meaning that from now on amounts determined by Haiti’s, so that aid to Haiti would plummet to under $20 million. The Bank Board should consider extending Haiti’s exemption in the next round of funding.
• Top up salaries of returning expatriates. The IDB is doing small-scale work in this area.
• Greater Use of Joint Project Implementation Units. Although there are exceptions, such as arrangements between the World Bank and IDB, most donors have resisted these mechanisms.
• Fund the NCDDR at higher level. The success of the NCDDR will depend in large part on external resources to meet its ambitions.
(IV) "Spillovers" from Fragile States
Finally, one of my interests in going to Haiti was in contributing to a larger project on the relationship between weak states and transnational threats, funded by the Carnegie Corporation. This two-year project aims to probe the oft-stated claim that weak and failing states world generate cross-border threats, and also examine the reciprocal debilitating impact of these transnational "bads" on state capacity in the developing world. The current US preoccupation with Haiti is motivated in large part by the fear that endemic weakness there may facilitate the flow of numerous negative externalities to the United States, including uncontrolled migration, disease, and particularly narcotics trafficking. Our interviews underlined the US concern that Haiti is an "ungoverned space." But they also revealed the modesty of U.S. efforts to help ameliorate this situation.
After $1 billion in remittances, trafficking in drugs and other contraband provides the second largest flow of resources into Haiti. It is often claimed that some 10-15% of cocaine destined for the United States transits Haiti, mostly en route to the Dominican Republic and then Puerto Rico. Haiti has 1700 km of coastline and 17 official ports where there are virtually no customs. Satellite photos show multiple remote airstrips in the southeast. The distance from Baranquilla, Colombia, to Jacmel is only an 8-hour ride in a "go-fast" boat. Other drug shipments dropped from air – so that in the south peasants call the drugs la manne ("manna"). Although the numbers of Haitians using drugs themselves appears to be modest, multiple Haitian and international officials, as well as civil society actors, warned of the growing danger that the large sums of money from trafficking would increasingly undermine governance and cripple efforts to reduce corruption.
Haiti’s status as a major trafficking and increasingly money laundering hub is a direct function of the state’s incapacity to control its borders, particularly the ports and its long, essentially ungoverned frontier with the Dominican Republic. Border is 300 km long and largely un-policed. It has 15 municipalities with 500,000 people, but is one of poorest areas of country, with no effective government institutions. There are an average of two secondary schools and eight primary schools per 10,000 people. There is no electricity, phone service, or potable water. A few dysfunctional customs offices exist, but with only 2 police per 10,000 inhabitants, traffic in contraband is unimpeded, with large illicit flows of drugs, guns, and trafficked women, at a value in the hundreds of millions of dollars. As one Haitian, "Haiti is the weak link" in the drug trade between Colombia and the United States.
Drug money is increasingly sloshing around Haitian society, reinforcing the gang problem. HNP commissioner Mario Andresol says that traffickers are investing a lot of money trying to corrupt Haitian law enforcement and justice system. "Drug trafficking is creating more problems than any other thing in Haiti," he notes. "The drug traffickers chose Haiti because they like to operate in countries where there are weaknesses." Trafficking is helping criminals create financial empires, and they can deploy this wealth to persuade gangs to exacerbate the instability in the country, which facilitates the further trafficking of drugs. Early last month, President Preval lashed out at the United States for its drug demand problem, which risked turning Haiti into a "narco-state." The U.S. appetite for drugs, he observed, is preventing Haiti from moving forward. In the words of Prime Minister Alexis, "This is a very important issue, connected to the survival of
democracy and sustainable development in the country." Unfortunately, the HNP has only 50 officers devoted to narcotics trafficking.
As Mark Schneider has pointed out in previous sessions, US policy responses to this threat to both U.S. interests and the Haitian state have been pretty weak to date. According to U.S. officials in Port-au-Prince, the INL slot is currently vacant in the Embassy and there is only 1 person to fill 5 DEA slots. Total U.S. counterdrug activities in the country amount to a little more than a million dollars, including for marine interdiction, anti-money laundering, and the creation of a DEA-vetted counterdrug unit. This is clearly inadequate to the scale of the problem. In a few weeks President Preval will be meeting with Presidents Fernandes of the Dominican Republic and Uribe of Colombia to improve cooperation on stemming the drug trade. But without greater U.S. attention to Haiti’s drug challenge, these efforts are unlikely to bear significant fruit.
Those, in short, are my impressions from the trip to Haiti. I look forward to your questions and comments.