Wednesday, February 18, 2009


President Preval has asked that the protected status for Haitians that was temporary granted after last years storms be continued as Haiti has not yet recovered.

Less that one third of the City of Gonaives, the fourth largest city of 300,000, has been dug out of the mud.

The government of Haiti is now refusing to co-operate with the government of the United States and will not issue travel documents for these 30,000 Haitians, saying that to receive them will only cause more instability as the country has no resources to accommodate them. Prisons are already full, court systems are clogged. Many of these deportees have no family ties in Haiti and do not even speak Kreyol.

While I am strong supporter of solid and strong national immigration policies and believe that the United States has every right to deport illegal immigrants, I would

ask President Obama that he stay this deportation order until he himself has had an opportunity to visit Haiti in person.

Which I hope he will do as soon as he returns from Canada. Since Haiti is the second oldest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere, only 15 younger than the United States, and now our most fragile neighbor, she deserves our deepest attention.

I urge f/Friends to join me in this effort and to circulate this posting widely.

mesi d'avant.

Protest looms as US is set to deport 30,000 Haitians

MIAMI (AFP) — Activists called a protest for Saturday as the United States moved closer to carrying out deportation orders for more than 30,000 Haitians.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said Tuesday that deportation orders have been processed for 30,299 Haitians and hundreds have been put in detention centers or on electronic monitoring at home in preparation for deportation.

"Last week we had nationally 30,299 Haitians on final order of removal, meaning that an Immigration judge ordered them to be deported from the United States," said spokeswoman Nicole Navas.

Meanwhile 598 Haitians are detained and 243 (have) electronic monitoring, Navas explained.

US authorities complain that deportations have been dragged out because the Haitian government has failed to provide proper documentation for the trips while insisting it is not in any shape to handle a major return of refugees.

Haiti's consul general in Miami Ralph Latortue did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"People are terrified, very afraid, especially those who have children and do not want to go back to Haiti," said Gepsie Metellus, director of "Sant La", a social aid network in Miami's Little Haiti district.

Activists and immigrants alike have called a protest rally for Saturday at Broward Transitional Center, in Broward county just north of Miami, said activist Marleine Bastien.

They are demanding an end to arrests and an end to deportations of Haitians, the right to work and the release of the hundreds of Haitians held in detention centers across the country.

Immigration is a sensitive issue in the Miami area, home to at least 800,000 Cuban-Americans. Haitians and immigrants from other Latin American countries deeply resent that when Cubans arrive in Miami they are immediately given the right to stay and work, a blanket red-carpet welcome given to citizens of no other country.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Dangerous Faith Based Initiative

It was certain that President Obama would disappoint me at some point but I did not expect it to happen so soon.

Few inside the United States will appreciate how extremely dangerous the "faith based" initiative really is. We have now unalterably linked our nation to the aggressive arm of evangelical Christian fundamentalism . President Obama has lost his first opportunity to stem the tide by refusing to incorporate even the minimum requirement that recipients of Federal funding be open to non discrimination in their hiring practices.

My outrage well exceeds the mild words expressed in the NY Times.

No where in this hemisphere is this policy more strongly felt than in Haiti. I imagine that it is doing equal damage in Africa and the mid East.

Some of these things I have heard directly. Some of these things I have just heard reported. All of these things make me frightened for the future of America, as the lighthouse of freedom, a stronghold of liberty.

In Haiti, World Vision distributes vast quantities of US federally subsidized rice. They pray over it before they distribute it - in the "Name of Jesus Christ". Baptist Medical missionaries bring in doctors to examine patients and then write prescriptions. Before the patients may go to receive the medicines, they must sit and listen to the "gospel" preached. Evangelical Protestant missionaries here in the Dominican Republic, which is well served by roads, buses, and a public health service, use helicopters to ferry about medical supplies. By this means they "evangelize" this deeply Roman Catholic nation.

There is a nascent movement among some American Quakers, termed "Convergent Friends" to heal the rifts between the Evangelical, Orthodox and mystical branches of the Society. I had thought perhaps that I might be able to unite with that effort until I became aware of some of the beliefs held by some Evangelicals.

A recent correspondence with a member of the Atlanta Friends Meeting led to the news that they had been supporting an Evangelical Friend who had a mission and an orphanage in Haiti. This pastor, Frank Penna, has a blog, which then links to the larger mission under which he serves, The World Renewal Ministries, on which I found the following quote:

"In the USA we have been blessed by freedom that much of the world does not know. Haiti is a country that was dedicated to Satan in the 1800’s and prior to his removal as Haiti's President, Aristide had vowed that he would rededicate the country of Haiti to Satan on the 200th anniversary of the event in 2004. However God had another plan and removed him before this could take place."

This idea, that Vodou, an officially recognized religion in Haiti, is the worship of Satan, is not only a simplistic and inaccurate understanding of the African religion but is also denigrating and, in my opinion, culturally imperialistic.

I lean on the more educated works of Professor Elizabeth McAllister.
It is also at this juncture that
Pentecostalism poses the most serious questions for
Haitians'national identity and historical narrative.
For the Pentecostalchurch demands a total rejection
of African-based traditions, and regard them as
Satanic practice. Sermons and literature about Haiti
urges missions to "pull down strongholds" and aim
efforts at destroying working Vodou temples in various
ways. Missionaries are admonished to conduct "warfaring
against powers and principalities,"cast in particular
as Vodou temples and Rara bands. Haiti's poverty,
political turmoil and structural disadvantage with
regard to the United States are held up as proof of
God's disfavor. In sermons,white American missionaries
have interpreted the blackness of Haitians' skin as
the curse of Cain, demonizing Haitian identity
further by racializing evil.

For a national culture that is based, however
ambivalently, on ideas of an African past,
African moral values, and pride in an Afro-Creole
revolutionary war of independence, what does it mean
to be told, and to accept, that one's national culture
is corrupt, immoral, and evil? What happens to the
evangelical story when it is told to Haitians,
and how do Haitians take up that story as their
own, when this newstory casts them and their
national culture as evil?

In my correspondence with the Atlanta Friend, I said that I found that supporting a ministry which entered into a culture and judged the religion of their ancestors as Satan worship to be tantamount to warfare.

I regret, Friends, that I cannot converge.
I stand rather with Bishop Tutu who said:

"God is not a Christian! All of God's children and their different faiths help us to realize the immensity of God. No faith contains the whole truth about God. And certainly Christians don't have a corner on God. All of us belong to God. Even the nonbeliever is precious to God. And one simply tries to remind them that they are made for transcendence. They are made for goodness."

President Chavez will now be in power indefinitely in Venezuela. As he turns his wrath on the resident Jewish community in Venezuela, it is even more important that the United States disengage itself from this destructive union of Church and State initiated by the Bush Administration. We must remain a nation which upholds the freedom of religious expression.

I urge Congress to insist on oversight of overseas groups receiving funding under Faith Based Initiative program. Specifically, in Haiti, I urge USAID not to fund any faith based groups which hold a stated position against Vodou.

I would hope that we might restore our nation to one in which there is a separation of Church and State.

I ask that Quakers in particular take this discussion extremely seriously in light of our commitment to seek out and eliminate the roots of warfare in a quest for peace.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Throw good money after Bad?

The Jubliee 2000 Campaign just issued a request for its members and friends to write various people about the relief of Haiti's external debt. Readers might wish to know that Haiti is one of 30 nations now enrolled in the World Bank's Heavily Endebted Poor Country's Initiative HIPC.

(note here - I don't know what is going on with the font - it looks fine in the preview, I have corrected it twice, it is supposed to be all the same size, I am not alternately screaming and whispering here - it is just a glitch that I cannot fix- try to overlook it, ok?)

You may very well be one of the ones who received it. And perhaps you forwarded it about. And perhaps you even took the time to write the people involved. And then you assumed that you had done something good for Haiti. I wish I could agree.

Despite the tendancy of many Americans, in particular, to assume that all of the issues that are facing Haiti were (are) caused by the Great Cold Country to the North, the Imperialist Powers, the Neoliberal Economic Agenda, many of them are also caused, and continued to be caused by forces within Haiti, most notably a level of corruption which is unmatched in the hemisphere.

The extremely talented Haitian diaspora, left, right and center, is barred officially from participating in local politics by the lack of recognition of dual nationality. Officially, a constitutional reform will take ten years. Yet without the participation of the Diaspora, an estimated 50% of the college educated populatio, it is hard to imagine how Haiti will ever rise up off its knees.

So, my vote would be to save the effort in banging on the doors of The Bank, and perhaps instead, gather a small group together to send a Haitian through college at the H.E. L. P. project

Here is the lastest view of Haiti from from The Economist.

A modest success for the United Nations is threatened by nature and lassitude


THERE is a new lake outside Gonaïves, a town of 300,000 people and the fourth-largest in Haiti. It blocks the road south to the capital, Port-au-Prince. It formed last autumn when four storms, three of them hurricanes, swept over the poorest country in the Americas in the space of a month. The rain—a metre’s worth on one night alone—fell on saturated mountains, long since denuded of their forest cover, and swept down on to the coastal plain. It seemed a modest victory that only 793 people died, compared with 3,000 killed by Hurricane Jeanne in 2004.

Five months later, bulldozers have cleared the mud from the main streets of Gonaïves. Away from them, on countless side streets, pedestrians look down on rooftops on either side. The houses have been dug out by hand, and the dirt piled in mounds on the roadway.

Only 20% of the town has been cleaned up, estimates Olivier Le Guillou of Action Contre la Faim, a French charity, which has paid 1,800 residents to help do the job. The damage was not confined to Gonaïves. Haiti’s agriculture minister reckons that 60% of the harvest was lost and 160,000 goats were killed, along with 60,000 pigs and 25,000 cows. In all, the storms have cost the country $900m, or 14.6% of GDP, according to a donor-funded government study. That is equivalent to 12 times the damage of Hurricane Katrina in the United States, and comes just four years after Jeanne wiped out 7% of Haiti’s GDP.

Nature is not the only force knocking Haiti back. Since Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a left-wing former Catholic priest, was overthrown by a rebellion in 2004, the country has been in the care of the United Nations. Some 7,000 UN soldiers and 2,000 police, mainly from Latin America, keep the peace. The UN mission has brought greater security: reported kidnappings fell from 722 in 2006 to 258 last year. A new UN-trained Haitian police force now has 9,000 officers. The streets of Port-au-Prince are visibly cleaner.

But this has not stimulated economic progress. Three-quarters of Haitians still live on less than $2 a day. Two in five children don’t go to school. A quarter of districts lack schools; where these exist, there are 78 pupils per teacher. In 2005, the maternal death rate rose to 630 for every 100,000 births, up from 457 in 1990. Though more than half of Haitians work in farming, they produce less than half the country’s food needs. Haiti’s agriculture is the least productive in the world, says Joel Boutroue of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). A hectare of rice paddy in Vietnam will produce 20 tonnes of rice a year, whereas a Haitian hectare yields just one tonne.

Trends in the outside world have added to Haiti’s home-grown woes. Last April the rise in food prices brought riots that toppled Jacques-Edouard Alexis, the prime minister. In January it was almost impossible to find a litre of petrol (though diesel was available). Rumour holds that Venezuela halted delivery of subsidised oil under Petrocaribe, a scheme which saved Haiti’s government alone at least $200m last year. Any boost that might have come from a law approved last year which grants Haiti’s textiles duty-free access to the United States has been more than nullified by the slowdown in remittances (down 20%) and exports because of the American recession. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister organisation, the economy will contract by 0.5% this year.

But some of the problems are the fault of Haiti’s politicians. René Preval, who was elected president in 2006 to widespread acclaim among Haitians and outsiders alike, now seems indecisive. It took him five months to form a new government after Mr Alexis went, and then many aid projects had to be renegotiated from scratch. Mr Preval has warned Haitians of a difficult year ahead.

“People want to see more than pessimism from a leader, they want to see proposals,” says Kesner Pharel, an economist and political analyst. The president is not the only one to blame. Hedi Annabi, the UN’s official in Haiti, recently criticised the country’s politicians for wasting time in “infinite debates” instead of “working for the essential needs of destitute Haitians”.

Corruption is deeply rooted. The family and friends of politicians and civil servants expect “to benefit from privilege”, says Gary Victor, a novelist. Money that was supposed to build better drains in Gonaïves after Hurricane Jeanne was siphoned off, says a UN official. There are plans to terrace the hills above the town, to plant shrubs and dig canals. But political lassitude means that this will not get done before the next hurricane season. The prisons remain an overcrowded horror, with four-fifths of the inmates yet to face trial.

The only business that seems to thrive is drug trafficking. The police chief in Port-de-Paix, in the north-west, was poisoned in January after several million dollars of cash seized from the uncle of a prominent drug-smuggler went missing. Guy Philippe, a former soldier who led the rebellion against Mr Aristide and whom the Americans accuse of drug-trafficking, says he will run for the Senate.

Next month aid donors will convene for a conference on Haiti, the first since the autumn of 2006. In response to the hurricanes they have doubled aid to $800m a year (half of this comes from the United States). That is on top of the UN mission’s $600m annual budget, and Venezuela’s fuel subsidy. Some things have been achieved in Haiti since 2004, but more should have been. “We spend a lot of money doing capacity building, but it is not clear that this has an impact,” says Mr Boutroue of UNDP. “Maybe we are just buying social peace—instability has just as much to do with the well-being of members of parliament as with a deepening of poverty.” It is surely time for outsiders to hold Mr Preval and the politicians to account.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Plea for Kidnapping Victim

I received the following posting from the daughter of a kidnapping victim in Haiti. Please send collected Light.

Dear Sirs and Madams,
My name is Rose Marcello. I am the daugther of Joseph François Robert MARCELLO, the National Coordinator of Public Procurement in Haiti since 2004, a member of your network (IGPN).
My father was kidnapped on January 12th, 2008 around 8 PM in Port-au-Prince, HAITI. Since then we have had no news of him. We were never able to talk to him or had any proof he was indeed alive. For the three first days we have had regular contacts with the kidnappers but twice a ransom delivery was thwarted. Since Thursday 15th as negotiations were taken over by the police, they never called back. We had made it really clear that we were ready to pay the requested sum. The police and the Haitian Government have had a really careless attitude since the beginning of this.
For the past few days, we have come to believe that this kidnapping was related to his office tenure. We learned that he had been receiving threats for quite sometimes and several high members of Government had been alerted and the calling phone numbers given to them. Nothing had been done. For now, the President, Prime Minister, Ministers and other high-ranking officials are aware of the situation. Nothing is being done. We even feel that the police investigation is deliberately being slowed down. Other members of his office have been requested at the police station to help with the investigation. None of them showed up.
I think you are all aware of the dangers and challenges that his position trigger due to high corruption in Haiti. Several times, it has been made public through the media that several senators, congressmen and other member of government considered that my father was an "annoying" element of the system; one who would not let business be done the good old-fashion way.
I am appealing to you today to please reach out to you partners in Haiti (OAS, IADB, Monetary Fund, European Union, UN) but also to your contacts within the Haitian Government to have my father freed. He suffers from heart failure and high blood pressure. He hasn't had his medications for 2 weeks now. My family and I are very concerned for his health.
Please let them know that we are ready to do any concessions to have him returned to us alive. We have knocked on every door we can. We followed the police indications. We have done everything we were told to and are more than ready to cooperate. Please if you have contacts in Haiti, do something for us.
Otherwise, make it known within your network and the international institutions so as to put pressure on the Haitian Gvt. If you happen to have contacts that we could reach out to, please help us.
I thank you in advance,
Rose Marcello

Monday, February 9, 2009

Running with Wolves

I have had an extraordinary event

I have just completed four years here based on a strong but somewhat vague call.

It was a sort of carrot and stick call: to escape America, help Haiti, heal the wounds of slavery, live in another culture, then to find like minded travelers, go back to the earth, form a center for conscious growth, form a school based on Quaker principles, set up a center for conscious dying...... all a rather broad agenda...

So after four years, having done a bit of the first four and stumbled on the fifth, last week, I was ready to hand in my resignation, return to the States, and bask in the light of Obama. After all, hard times are hitting home. There is work that I could do there. Perhaps more work even than here. Organizing soup kitchens, shelters, building coalitions- I am good at all that stuff. I could do all of that.

Wouldn't I be more useful there? Back home?

Maybe I was just being grandiose? (I can get that way)

Certainly it was a two or three lifetime dream and why shouldn't I just be content with what I had done, which wasn't bad, after all. (Some call it selling out, others call it being realistic, who is to judge?)

We talked, the Almighty and me. I'll admit that I should have more worshipful attitude but S/he evidently approves of my feisty approach.

Well, tolerates it anyway.

Ok, I talked. She listened.

"Look here", I sezs, (once a NYer, always a NYer),"either you make it a whole lot more interesting for me here, or I am bolting, get it?"

"Either I start to see that I am really needed here, or I go home, ok?"

"Either I get a place in the country where I can hug the trees in peace without being harrassed by the men and the loud music and the motoconchos or it's back to North Carolina for me. Got it? I will just quit."

I do this periodically with God. Pack my things and go to the end to the road. I am usually back by supper.

Not much to be gained in fighting the Almighty, I have learned.

But it is useful to speak up!

WAIT UP Just a MINUTE - intolerable working conditions here on the ground. Need more to continue. We have Corruption and Drugs and Rampant Prostitution and half the NGOs are living REALLY large and not doing much and the Christians, in PARTICULAR, are behaving REALLY badly and and and and and and and (here i disolve into sobs and end up on the floor kicking my feet in the air)

So yesterday I was brought by a connection made through this blog, through my having posted as a Quaker, - someone with whom, thankfully, I have been sharing deep Quaker silence for the past month, to meet the head of the group of "wiccans"---

The feminist, anthropologist, who is now leading the group studying Jung, reading Women who Run with the Wolves, has had a life dream of forming a community.

She has envisioned an equality based spiritual center, a center for the earth restored, to help manifest the new paradigm.

There are no accidents.

She has been offered land in the mountains. A great deal of land.

Soon we will we travel north together and look at it.

I am going to go out and buy my machete.

Well done, God.

(and that was pretty fast work, impressive...... and, thanks... I may get to worshipful later, I hope, because it is certainly more fun than angry!)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Aristide Allies/ Phillipe barred from elections

There is probably going to be some trouble here over this one, along with collective sighs of relief. Stay tuned. Never a dull moment.

Aristide allies, ex-rebel barred from Haiti vote

Haiti's electoral council has barred members of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's popular political party from running in the upcoming Senate election, prompting statements of concern from the United States and Canada.

All candidates of Aristide's Famni Lavalas Party were rejected for the April 19 election - in most cases because their documents lacked the signature of party leader Aristide, council president Frantz G. Verret said Friday. Aristide has been in exile in South Africa since 2004.

Lavalas leaders pledged to fight the decision. Electoral officials had assured the party in December that leaders in Haiti could sign for their candidates, said Maryse Narcisse, the head of Lavalas' executive council.

"We think these are political machinations," Narcisse told The Associated Press. "Famni Lavalas followed the law. ... I think this is a provocation."

The electoral council said its decision is final on all 17 Lavalas candidates and 23 others who were rejected, including former rebel leader Guy Philippe, whose rebels helped oust Aristide five years ago.

"These are decisions without appeal," Verret told The Associated Press in an interview.

But both Aristide and his party enjoy widespread popularity in Haiti, especially among the urban poor. Haitian police and U.N. peacekeepers blocked traffic near the electoral council's headquarters to guard against potential protests.

Prominent members of the international community, who are largely responsible for funding Haiti's elections, called for dialogue.

The U.S. Embassy called it "a matter of great concern that a decision was adopted that prevents all candidates of a particular party from participating in the next electoral contest," and called on all involved to "keep the doors open to dialogue and debate."

Canadian Ambassador Gilles Rivard also issued a statement of concern.

"Elections are a symbol of democracy which must unite, not divide, the population," the statement said.

Lavalas party infighting also might have hurt its chances as rival factions submitted two separate lists of candidates - both of which were rejected.

The exclusions leave 65 candidates to contest 12 open seats.

President Rene Preval's Lespwa party could benefit from Friday's decision because it had a candidate approved in all 10 departments - including two in the Artibonite department, where two senators will be elected.

The Lavalas party's support was a significant factor in Preval's 2006 electoral victory.

Preval was in Washington this week, where he met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and attended a prayer breakfast hosted by President Barack Obama.

Verret said the council's deliberations regarding Philippe were confidential. Philippe has been living in hiding and is wanted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges.

Candidates were certified for the election based on documents that proved Haitian nationality, ownership of property in the country and other requirements, along with consultations with national police and Cabinet ministries, Verret said.

More than a third of Haiti's 30-member Senate has been vacant since early last year.

Elections originally scheduled for late 2007 were postponed after Preval dissolved the electoral council amid infighting.

Food riots, parliamentary delays in replacing Preval's ousted prime minister and a string of catastrophic hurricanes and tropical storms led to further delays.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

How are things in Haiti - 2009

The US Embassy has updated their grim travel warning for Haiti. People who live in Haiti suggest that this warning is unwarranted, citing that there are more murders per year here, in the Dominican Repubic, which is true. But, alas, what is also true, is that Americans are not targets of kidnapping here in the DR.

Here it is:

U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Haiti despite this warning are
reminded that there also is a chronic danger of violent crime, especially
kidnappings. Most kidnappings are criminal in nature, and the kidnappers
make no distinctions of nationality, race, gender, or age. As of January
2009, 25 Americans were reported kidnapped in 2008. Most of the Americans
were abducted in Port-au-Prince. Some kidnap victims have been killed,
shot, sexually assaulted, or brutally abused. The lack of civil protections
in Haiti, as well as the limited capability of local law enforcement to
resolve kidnapping cases, further compounds the element of danger
surrounding this trend.Travel is always hazardous within Port-au-Prince.
U.S. Embassy personnel are under an Embassy-imposed curfew and must remain
in their homes or in U.S. government facilities during the curfew. Some
areas are off-limits to Embassy staff after dark, including downtown
Port-au-Prince. The Embassy restricts travel by its staff to some areas
outside of Port-au-Prince because of the prevailing road and security
conditions. This may constrain our ability to provide emergency services to
U.S. citizens outside of Port-au-Prince. Demonstrations and violence may
occasionally limit Embassy operations to emergency services, even within
Port-au-Prince. The UN stabilization force (MINUSTAH) remains fully
deployed and is assisting the government of Haiti in providing security.