Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Quiskeya Corps

In June of last summer I went up to Las Terrenas, on the crook of the left flipper of the Great Turtle here. It is a small international beach town where I lived when I first arrived here. My best friends are there and I consider it "home".

When I got there, I called my good friend Charlie Simon who is a Dominican Haitian artist and he came over -- looking like a skeleton of his former self. I was shocked. He must have lost 30 pounds and he was always thin. He had called me over the winter but -- as I had not had any money for another of his paintings-- he is one of the best artists in LT who routinely used to sell his paintings for $600 to $1000 each- I had not called him back. But I was ashamed of myself when I saw him. Because I had not known that a friend had actually not had enough to eat.

Within two days, I saw a Haitian with his hair turning red. This is kwashikoor, which is a protein deficiency. The hair turns red in a line, starting from one ear and going to another. Since Las Terrenas is one of the richest towns here in the DR, I was shocked. Again. Particularly since there were regular large tour buses bringing hordes of folks through town every day.

I went a bit nuts. Those of you who know me personally can attest to my capacity to go nuts.

I went screaming up at the tour buses... "would you like me to have some of my Haitian friends die for you on the street? Would you find that entertaining?"

I whipped out my American Express Card and started a few feeding station drop offs.. rice, beans, oil, peanut butter, cooking chocolate, oatmeal, sugar, condensed milk.

One day as I went passed the police station, there were over 50 Haitians assembled at the fence. A young Dominican had killed his Haitian girlfriend. He had confessed. He was in custody. The Haitians were afraid that he would be released.

I walked around the fence line.. addressed them in my few words of Kreyole.. I speak French and Spanish so the Haitians here in the DR can always understand me...and said that we should have a meeting.

So we had meetings.

We had meetings every week for six weeks, every Sunday. We even changed the venue a couple of times. We had no fliers. We did not make any calls. They all just talked to one another and every week 100 Haitians showed up.

It took them a while to understand that I was not an NGO nor did I have Bill Clinton's cell phone number.. All I said was that I was friends with their Minister of the Diaspora, Edwin Paraison, and that I knew the head of the Border foundation, Max Antoine and that they would .. at the very least... take my calls.

So what did these Haitians want?

They want to go home, they said.

There is no work for them here in the Dominican REpublic. They are homesick. And now they are beginning to starve. They are trained builders -- masons, electricians, finish carpenters, plumbers, assistants.. they speak Spanish ... they are ready to go home and help build Haiti.

We now have over 250 of them registered with the Association of Haitian Workers in Las Terrenas.

We are in the process of writing up a budget and a grant proposal.

Basically, we are hoping to send in the FIRST team -- of about 35 to 50 workers -- their World Cup Team-- with a work contract for one year and a tool bag full of tools. Every one of them has agreed that they will be very happy with that offer.

However, many of these men --we do have about a dozen women registered as well but it is mostly men- have children. Few of these children have any papers other than a registration of birth which has not been filed with any governmental authority.

Since this is a fragile population, we will have to proceed with care.

Monday, January 30, 2012

George Clooney, please

I would like to invite George Clooney, Matt Damon, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Andy Garcia and Martin Sheen down here to start the movie

the plot is unrolling here

Sunday, January 29, 2012

it has come to this!

Yes, it has now come to asking my readers to send me gifts!

I am broke. Up to my right nostril in debt.

But there is peanut butter and jelly

and chocolate

so how bad can life be?

Should you wish to say thanks for my witness

my wish list

from Amazon

is here

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Earthquake and Cholera... the end of a bad year

I invite you all to join me in reflecting on the passage of what can truly be called

Haiti's Worst Year

A Degree of comfort

I am settled in now. The dog, my Dominican street fluff.. who is the smartest dog I have ever met..insisted that we get a place by the beach.

So I said

"look here, Missy, I know that town and there is nothing there within walking distance of the beach that is less than $1000 a month."

And she said

"No - mommie-- I am sure.. We will keep looking"

And so we did. And so she found us the apartment on the beach, within walking distance of the best beach but totally protected from the weather by high stone buildings// but none that block out the palm trees or the clear shining stars in the black sky at night.

It is paradise.

And now that we are NOT going to make the island into a narcotrafficante paraiso, we have come up with a new plan

which is to turn the place into an ecotouristica paraiso

and teach you all how to live like Haitians

which is to say

in reverance to the ancestors

with respect for the Earth

with great faith in God

and amazing trust

and a smiling face

and a trusting heart

living on air and hope

and watching it all unfold

making art

welcome to
It has been a month now since I got off the road with the team from Interpol.

I hooked up with them in June, when I popped up in the middle of a huge international drug bust up in Las Terrenas. I am a good journalist, well trained now after 5 years of field work,so I figured out a bit what was going on and who they were and offered them my services.

So, after they establish a HUGE security web around me, we went traveling together from LT down to Pedernales where the Colombians have their deep water port. Then across and up to Constanza where I had always been suspicious of the potato exporters since they would not let me into their warehouse when I was doing a story on agriculture.

I had always thought it odd, that as a foreign journalist, I was able to expose the cocaine transport route down on the southwest -- in about four days. It is well known when offshore drops are made and who is directing the pick ups.

But it seems now that -- with the help of an international team from France, England, Italy, Germany and the US-- one of the biggest links in the drug transport chain has been broken. \

The main arrest was of a Puerto Rican (not Augusto) who had been here in the DR running the drugs into PR over the last 10 years. He was on the FBIs top ten most wanted list. Along with him, there have been arrests of nationals from Colombia, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Lebenon.

It is believed that the connection here was being opened up for the inshipment of heroin from the Middle East.

Over 200 arrests have been made from within the Dominican Republic's own drug agency.

Until this time, only one Senator, from the southwest region of Previa, had had the courage to keep this topic alive within this country.

May he live long and prosper