Thursday, January 28, 2010

On the Ground in Port-Au-Prince

By Lawyer, Professor Bill Quigley
 Hundreds of thousands of people are living and sleeping on the ground in Port-Au-Prince.  Many have no homes, their homes destroyed by the earthquake.  I am sleeping on the ground as well - surrounded by nurses, doctors and humanitarian workers who sleep on the ground every night.  The buildings that are not on the ground have big cracks in them and fallen sections so no one should be sleeping inside.

There are sheet cities everywhere.  Not tent cities.  Sheet cities. Old people and babies and everyone else under sheets held up by ropes hooked onto branches pounded into the ground.
     With the rainy
season approaching, one of the emergency needs of Haitians is to get tents.  I have seen hundreds of little red topped Coleman pup tents among the sheet shelters.  There are tents in every space, from soccer fields and parks to actually in the streets.  There is a field with dozens of majestic beige tents from Qatar marked Islamic Relief.  But real tents are outnumbered by sheet shelters by a ratio of 100 to 1.
    Rescues continue but the real emergency remains food, water, health care and shelter for millions.
 Though helicopters thunder through the skies, actual relief of food and water and shelter remains minimal to non-existent in most neighborhoods.
   Haitians are helping Haitians.  Young men have organized into teams to guard communities of homeless families.  Women care for their own children as well as others now orphaned.  Tens of thousands are missing and presumed dead.
      The scenes of destruction boggle the mind.  The scenes of homeless families, overwhelmingly little children, crush the heart.
     But hope remains.  Haitians say and pray that God must have a plan.  Maybe Haiti will be rebuilt in a way that allows all Haitians to participate and have a chance at a dignified life with a home, a school, and a job.
 One young Haitian man said, "One good sign is the solidarity of the world.  Muslim doctors, Jewish doctors, Christian doctors all come to help us.  We see children in Gaza collecting toys for Haitian children.  It looks very bad right now, but this is a big opportunity for the world and Haiti to change
and do good together."

Haiti's 200-Year Earthquake


This article, including photo published on   Jan.27 2010, here, is the link:

By Dan Beeton
Other countries didn't cause Haiti's earthquake, but for centuries foreign interests have built the conditions which made this quake so especially devastating, writes Dan Beeton
The recent earthquake in Haiti has brought the island nation a level of attention, interest, generosity and solidarity that is perhaps unmatched since it declared independence and the end of slavery in 1804 after a devastating revolution against its colonisers.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dr Jean-Bertrand Aristide Statement on Earthquake

By: Jean-Bertrand Aristide
We thank all the true friends of Haiti, in particular the Government and the people of South Africa for their solidarity with the victims of Haiti.
The concrete action undertaken by Rescue South Africa and Gift of the Givers is a clear expression of ubuntu. Ubuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. As we all know, many people remain buried under tons of rubble and debris waiting to be rescued. When we think of their suffering, we feel deeply and profoundly that we should be there, in Haiti, with them, trying our best to prevent death.
To symbolize this readiness we have decided to meet not just anywhere, but here, in the shadow of the Oliver Tambo International Airport. As far as we are concerned, we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, to share in their suffering, help rebuild the country, moving from misery to poverty with dignity. Friends from around the world have confirmed their willingness to organize an airplane carrying medical supplies, emergency needs and ourselves.

Securing Disaster in Haiti

Peter Hallward

Nine days after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January 2010, it's now clear that the initial phase of the U.S.-led relief operation has conformed to the three fundamental tendencies that have shaped the more general course of the island's recent history. [1] It has adopted military priorities and strategies. It has sidelined Haiti's own leaders and government, and ignored the needs of the majority of its people. And it has proceeded in ways that reinforce the already harrowing gap between rich and poor. All three tendencies aren't just connected, they are mutually reinforcing. These same tendencies will continue to govern the imminent reconstruction effort as well, unless determined political action is taken to counteract them.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not A Time To Be Pulling Strings

By Wadner Pierre
This opinion article first published by an Australian website:

Haitian expat blogger Wadner Pierre delivers his preliminary survey of the complex issues of relief and representation arising from the 12 January earthquake
I am overwhelmed, frustrated and even angered by what some journalists have written about Haiti since the 12 January earthquake and I cannot believe some of the images I have seen on news channels such as CNN and MSNBC.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti: What We’re Getting Into

AEI Center for Defense Studies Issue Alert January 15, 2010 
As our past experiences in Haiti —or perhaps better yet, in Somalia in 1993—should remind us, conducting a “humanitarian relief” mission in a poor country stricken by a natural disaster can quickly embroil the United States in local politics. And desperate people can easily become violent people. That’s hardly a reason to turn our eyes away from Haiti in its hour of need. But it does mean we should keep our eyes open and our heads clear. We should not delude ourselves that we are not “interfering” in Haitian politics. 

Ten Things the US Can and Should Do for Haiti

by Bill Quigley

One. Allow all Haitians in the US to work. The number one source of money for poor people in Haiti is the money sent from family and workers in the US back home. Haitians will continue to help themselves if given a chance. Haitians in the US will continue to help when the world community moves on to other problems.Two. Do not allow US military in Haiti to point their guns at Haitians. Hungry Haitians are not the enemy. Decisions have already been made which will militarize the humanitarian relief - but do not allow the victims to be cast as criminals. Do not demonize the people.
Three. Give Haiti grants as help, not loans. Haiti does not need any more debt. Make sure that the relief given helps Haiti rebuild its public sector so the country can provide its own citizens with basic public services.
Four. Prioritize humanitarian aid to help women, children and the elderly. They are always moved to the back of the line. If they are moved to the back of the line, start at the back.
Five. President Obama can enact Temporary Protected Status for Haitians with the stroke of a pen. Do it. The US has already done it for El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Sudan and Somalia. President Obama should do it on Martin Luther King Day.
Six. Respect Human Rights from Day One. The UN has enacted Guiding Principles for Internally Displaced People. Make them required reading for every official and non-governmental person and organization. Non governmental organizations like charities and international aid groups are extremely powerful in Haiti - they too must respect the human dignity and human rights of all people.
Seven. Apologize to the Haitian people everywhere for Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh.
Eight. Release all Haitians in US jails who are not accused of any crimes. Thirty thousand people are facing deportations. No one will be deported to Haiti for years to come. Release them on Martin Luther King day.
Nine. Require that all the non-governmental organizations which raise money in the US be transparent about what they raise, where the money goes, and insist that they be legally accountable to the people of Haiti.
Ten. Treat all Haitians as we ourselves would want to be treated.
Bill is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
 Published on Thursday, January 14, 2010 by

NOT ONCE have we witnessed a single act of aggression or violence

Ciné Institute Director David Belle reports from Port-au-Prince: 

"I have been told that much US media coverage paints Haiti as a tinderbox ready to explode. I'm told that lead stories in major media are of looting, violence and chaos. There could be nothing further from the truth.  

"I have traveled the entire city daily since my arrival. The extent of damages is absolutely staggering. At every step, at every bend is one horrific tragedy after another; homes, businesses, schools and churches leveled to nothing. Inside every mountain of rubble there are people, most dead at this point. The smell is overwhelming. On every street are people -- survivors -- who have lost everything they have: homes, parents, children, friends. 


"NOT ONCE have we witnessed a single act of aggression or violence.  To the contrary, we have witnessed neighbors helping neighbors and friends helping friends and strangers.  We've seen neighbors digging in rubble with their bare hands to find survivors. We've seen traditional healers treating the injured; we've seen dignified ceremonies for mass burials and residents patiently waiting under boiling sun with nothing but their few remaining belongings. A crippled city of two million awaits help, medicine, food and water. Most haven't received any.

"Haiti can be proud of its survivors. Their dignity and decency in the face of this tragedy is itself staggering." 

                                                                                    David Belle, January 17th, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

IPS: As Aid Efforts Flounder, Haitians Rely on Each Other

By Ansel Herz (originally published by IPS) PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 15, 2010 (IPS) - The roof of Haiti's national penitentiary is missing. The four walls of the prison rise up and break off, leaving only the empty sky overhead.

The gate to the jail in downtown Port-Au-Prince is wide open; the prisoners and police are all gone. Bystanders walk freely in and out, stepping over the still-hot smoldering remains of the facility's ceiling.

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday afternoon broke it to pieces.
"I don't know if he's alive or not alive," said Margaret Barnett, whose son was a prisoner. "My house is crushed down. I'm just out in the street looking for family members."
"Where is the help?" she asked. The former government employee spits the question again and again, hands on her hips. "Where is the help? Is the U.N. really here? Does America really help Haiti?"
In the absence of any visible relief effort in the city, the help came from small groups of Haitians working together. Citizens turned into aid workers and rescuers. Lone doctors roamed the streets, offering assistance.

The Red Cross estimates that 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday's earthquake, with some three million others left homeless and in need of food and water.

At the crumbling national cathedral, a dozen men and women crowded around a man swinging a pickaxe to pry open the space for a dusty, near-dead looking woman to squeeze through and escape.
The night of the quake, a group of friends pulled bricks out from under a collapsed home, clearing a narrow zig-zagging path towards the sound of a child crying out beneath the rubble.
Two buildings over, Joseph Matherenne cried as he directed the faint light of his cell phone's screen over the bloody corpse of his 23-year-old brother. His body was draped over the rubble of the office where he worked as a video technician. Unlike most of the bodies in the street, there was no blanket to cover his face.

Central Port-Au-Prince resembles a war zone. Some buildings are standing, unharmed. Those that were damaged tended to collapse completely, spilling into the street on top of cars and telephone poles.
In the day following the quake, there was no widespread violence. Guns, knives and theft weren't seen on the streets, lined only with family after family carrying their belongings. They voiced their anger and frustration with sad songs that echoed throughout the night, not their fists.

"Only in the movies have I seen this," said 33-year-old Jacques Nicholas, who jumped over a wall as the house where he was playing dominoes tumbled. "When Americans send missiles to Iraq, that's what I see. When Israel do that to Gaza, that's what I see here."

Late at night, Nicholas heard false rumours that a tsunami was coming and he joined a torrent of people walking away from the water.

Nobody knows what to expect. Some people said Haiti needs a strong international intervention - a coordinated aid effort from all the big countries. But there was no evidence on the streets of any immediate cavalry of rescue workers from the United States and other nations.

"My situation is not that bad," said Nicholas, "but overall the other people's situation is worse than mine. So it affects me. Everybody wants to help out, but we can't do nothing."

Haitians are doing only what they can. Helping each other with their hands and the few tools they can find, they lack the resources to coordinate a multi-faceted reconstruction effort.

U.N. agencies and humanitarian organisations on the ground are struggling to help survivors of the quake, but many are hindered by large-scale damage to their own facilities, as well as lack of heavy equipment to clear rubble.

Logistics remained the main obstacle on Friday, according to news reports, with damage to the main airport, impassable roads and problems at the docks continuing to bottleneck the outpouring of international relief workers and basic supplies.

The United Nations is issuing a flash appeal Friday for more aid as part of a coordinated immediate response and long-term reconstruction plan.

A popular radio host here reminded everyone that the strength of the Haitian people cannot be underestimated, posting on his Twitter: "We can re-build! We overcame greater challenges in 1804" - the year Haiti threw off the yoke of colonial slavery in a mass revolt.

As the days tick by and the bodies pile up, it will take bold vision and hard work on that scale for Haiti to recover from Tuesday's tremors. (END)

New York: Arrest of Haitian Immigrant Rights Leader Jean Montrevil Highlights Immigration Policies that Tear Families Apart

By: Wadner Pierre - HaitiAnalysis 

At a Jan. 5 rally that gathered over 100 demonstrators outside the Varick Street Immigrant Detention Center, eight clergy and community leaders were arrested after stopping traffic for 30 minutes. The protesters were demanding the immediate release of Jean Montrevil, a Haitian immigrant rights leader, arrested days earlier and blocking immigration vans that were transporting new immigrant detainees to the center.

Montrevil, the 40-year-old father of four U.S.-born children, legally immigrated from Haiti to the U.S. in1986 and has since resided there as a legal permanent resident. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is trying to deport him for a 1989 drug conviction, for which Montrevil served 11 of a 27 year sentence. He was freed early for good behavior, and his record has been clean ever since. 

Montrevil was detained on Dec. 30 during a routine check-in with DHS in Manhattan and is now held in Pennsylvania's York County Jail, where he is on a hunger strike along with other detainees. 

"I am fasting side-by-side with nearly 60 others to take a stand against this horrific deportation and detention system that is tearing families apart," he said. 

Montrevil's wife, Janay, 31, an African-American school teacher from Brooklyn, attended the Jan. 5 rally in Manhattan. "Our son keeps calling Jean's cell phone, hoping daddy will pick up," she said. "He asks me 'Why are they pretending daddy is bad? So he will go back to Haiti?'" Janay Montrevil says the family will be traumatized if her husband is deported, particularly their 6-year-old son Jahsiah, who is severely asthmatic and disabled. "Jean made mistakes before we started building a family together," she said. "Homeland Security wants to turn me into a single mother." As a community leader, Montrevil became a national spokesperson for the Child Citizen Protection Act (H.R. 182), a proposal before the U.S. House of Representatives that would be incorporated into the deportation process if it becomes law. The proposal would allow immigration judges to consider American children's best interests before deporting a parent. This proposal is also part of Representative Luis Gutierrez's recently introduced bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act (H.R. 4321). 

Moreover, calls from church, political and community leaders for Montrevil's immediate release and for comprehensive immigration reform have mounted since his detention. "I am being arrested because it is a moral outrage that our government would do this to such a great man and father," said the Rev. Donna Schaper of Judson Memorial Church, where Montrevil's family worships, as she was being handcuffed at the rally. "These immigration laws that destroy families contradict the values we should uphold as a society. They need to change now."

Politicians are also being motivated by Montrevil's arrest. "Jean Montrevil's case is precisely why we need to see the provisions of the Child Citizen Protection Act passed into law - ideally as part of comprehensive immigration reform," said Congressman Jos? E. Serrano (D-NY). "We cannot continue to allow inflexible deportation guidelines to separate families with U.S. citizen children. I commend all those fighting on Jean's behalf, and look forward to a successful resolution of this sad case, and a day when there is more humaneness in our nation's immigration laws." 

NY City Council member Rosie Mendez and NY State Senator Thomas K. Duane also expressed their support. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) wrote a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stating that "my office believes that [Montrevil's] deportation will be a disproportionate punishment to him, his family, and his community." 

Also among those arrested at the rally was Catholic leader, Juan Carlos Ruiz de Dios. "To fan the winds of change, we are putting our bodies on the line - where our mouths, brains and energies have been for many years," he said in a statement. "Our demand is simple and reasonable. We ask [DHS Chief Janet] Napolitano, as she works with [NY Senator Chuck] Schumer, to include the very principle of judicial discretion and due process in the spirit of how they approach immigration reform." 

Grammy-award-winning recording artist Dan Zanes joined the Jan. 5 rally and performed songs dedicated to the movement to keep immigrant families together. 

Meanwhile in Naranja, FL, located south of Miami near Homestead, an area heavily populated by immigrants from Mexico, Central America and Haiti, five people have been fasting in a church since Jan. 1. 

"Five of us are fasting indefinitely, as long as it takes," said long-time North American solidarity activist and unionist Jonathon Fried, the executive director of WeCount!, a grassroots membership organization with centers in Homestead and Cutler Bay, Florida, that fights for immigrant, worker and youth rights. "Our target is President Obama and our goal is to get him to use the legal authority he has, now, without Congress, to suspend the detention and deportation of immigrants with American families, those who have US citizen children and/or spouses.... This decision to fast was not taken lightly. I was tired of getting phone calls from a mother, a father, a brother, a sister saying that their loved ones, their family, was taken away by ICE.... For a number of years the noose has been tightening around the neck of immigrant communities. Yet never have things been worse than under the Obama Administration. He is escalating and systematizing the policies of attrition followed under the previous administration, trying to make life so miserable for immigrants that they leave. Increasing local law enforcement's role in the deportation system; ... persons are deported for the crime of being poor, brown and undocumented, all under the false guise of combating crime; increasing the rate of detentions and deportations of immigrants, using a vast system of government and private prisons, and even secret sub-offices; violent early morning raids on homes; worst of all, is the separating parents from their children.... It is time to say to President Obama: This is on your watch." 

The others on the Florida hunger strike are Guatemalan immigrants Francisco Agustin and Sebastian Cano; Jenny Aguilar, a Honduran immigrant who has lived in the US for 18 years; Wilfredo Mendoza, a U.S. citizen from Puerto Rico, and a welder by profession. One anonymous woman faster, the mother of two US citizen children, ages 4 and 6, has lived in the US since 2001. She was stopped by police when driving alone in her car and arrested for driving without a license. Although she had no criminal record and the charges were dropped, she was turned over to ICE and deported, after five weeks in detention, to Mexico.

On Thursday, Jan. 14 at 12:30 p.m., the Families for Freedom will hold a demonstration outside the ICE Detention Center at 201 Varick Street in Manhattan. For more information, call 646.290.5551 or visit

Why The US Owes Haiti Billions – The Briefest History

By Bill Quigley.  Bill
is Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights and a long-time
Haiti human rights advocate.

Why does the US owe Haiti Billions?  Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State,
stated his foreign policy view as the “Pottery Barn rule.”  That is – “if you break it, you own it.”

The US has worked to break Haiti for over 200 years.  We owe Haiti.  Not charity.  We owe Haiti as a
matter of justice.  Reparations.  And not the $100 million promised by
President Obama either – that is Powerball money.  The US owes Haiti Billions – with a big B.

The US has worked for centuries to break Haiti.  The US has used Haiti like a plantation.  The US helped bleed the country economically
since it freed itself, repeatedly invaded the country militarily, supported
dictators who abused the people, used the country as a dumping ground for our
own economic advantage, ruined their roads and agriculture, and toppled
popularly elected officials.  The US has
even used Haiti like the old plantation owner and slipped over there repeatedly
for sexual recreation.

Here is the briefest history of some of the major US efforts
to break Haiti.

In 1804, when Haiti achieved its freedom from France in the
world’s first successful slave revolution, the United States refused to
recognize the country.  The US continued
to refuse recognition to Haiti for 60 more years.  Why?   Because the US continued to enslave millions of its own citizens and
feared recognizing Haiti would encourage slave revolution in the US.

After the 1804 revolution, Haiti was the subject of a
crippling economic embargo by France and the US.   US sanctions
lasted until 1863.   France ultimately
used its military power to force Haiti to pay reparations for the slaves who
were freed.  The reparations were 150
million francs.  (France sold the entire
Louisiana territory to the US for 80 million francs!)

Haiti was forced to borrow money from banks in France and
the US to pay reparations to France.   A
major loan from the US to pay off the French was finally paid off in 1947.  The current value of the money Haiti was
forced to pay to French and US banks?  Over $20 Billion – with a big B.

The US occupied and ruled Haiti by force from 1915 to
1934.  President Woodrow Wilson sent
troops to invade in 1915.  Revolts by
Haitians were put down by US military – killing over 2000 in one skirmish
alone.  For the next nineteen years, the
US controlled customs in Haiti, collected taxes, and ran many governmental
institutions.   How many billions were
siphoned off by the US during these 19 years?

From 1957 to 1986 Haiti was forced to live under US backed
dictators “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvlaier.  The US supported these dictators economically
and militarily because they did what the US wanted and were politically
“anti-communist”  - now translatable as
against human rights for their people.  Duvalier stole millions from Haiti and ran up hundreds of millions in
debt that Haiti still owes.  Ten thousand
Haitians lost their lives.  Estimates say
that Haiti owes $1.3 billion in external debt and that 40% of that debt was run
up by the US-backed Duvaliers.

Thirty years ago Haiti imported no rice.  Today Haiti imports nearly all its rice.  Though Haiti was the sugar growing capital of
the Caribbean, it now imports sugar as well.  Why?  The US and the US dominated
world financial institutions – the International Monetary Fund and the World
Bank – forced Haiti to open its markets to the world.  Then the US dumped millions of tons of US
subsidized rice and sugar into Haiti – undercutting their farmers and ruining
Haitian agriculture.  By ruining Haitian
agriculture, the US has forced Haiti into becoming the third largest world
market for US rice.  Good for US farmers,
bad for Haiti. 

In 2002, the US stopped hundreds of millions of dollars in
loans to Haiti which were to be used for, among other public projects like
education, roads.  These are the same
roads which relief teams are having so much trouble navigating now!

In 2004, the US again destroyed democracy in Haiti when they
supported the coup against Haiti’s elected President Aristide. 

Haiti is even used for sexual recreation just like the old
time plantations.  Check the news
carefully and you will find numerous stories of abuse of minors by
missionaries, soldiers and charity workers.  Plus there are the frequent sexual vacations taken to Haiti by people
from the US and elsewhere.  What is owed
for that?  What value would you put on it
if it was your sisters and brothers?

US based corporations have for years been teaming up with
Haitian elite to run sweatshops teeming with tens of thousands of Haitians who
earn less than $2 a day. 

The Haitian people have resisted the economic and military
power of the US and others ever since their independence.  Like all of us, Haitians made their own
mistakes as well.  But US power has
forced Haitians to pay great prices – deaths, debt and abuse.

It is time for the people of the US to join with Haitians
and reverse the course of US-Haitian relations.

This brief history shows why the US owes Haiti Billions –
with a big B.  This is not charity.  This is justice.  This is reparations.  The current crisis is an opportunity for
people in the US to own up to our country’s history of dominating Haiti and to
make a truly just response.

(For more on the history of exploitation of Haiti by the US
see:  Paul Farmer, THE USES OF HAITI; Peter
Hallward, DAMNING THE FLOOD; and Randall Robinson, AN UNBROKEN AGONY).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Solidarity with Haiti's people: Workers World Party statement

The earthquake that flattened Haiti’s capital and brought a new calamity to millions of people in that heroic but impoverished country has awakened calls for solidarity and aid from the vast majority of the world’s people. The number one priority is to provide food, drinkable water and emergency medical care to the approximately 3 million Haitians affected by the disaster to try to limit the deaths, injuries and illnesses to the people.
All reports from Port-au-Prince, located 14 miles from the epicenter of the devastating 7.3 earthquake and whose un-reinforced buildings nearly all collapsed, are that casualties are already in the tens of thousands. Even the main hospital and the national palace have collapsed, as has the hotel housing the U.N. occupation force. One Haitian minister said he expected 100,000 deaths.

Anyone feeling solidarity with fellow humans is moved by this tragedy. One is especially moved if aware of the world’s debt to the Haitian people for their historic contribution: they carried out a successful slave rebellion and liberated their island from French colonialism.

We know that many of our readers want to offer their own personal aid to show solidarity with Haiti. There will be a myriad of private charities asking donations for aid to Haiti. Many of the most powerful charities, like the Red Cross, are closely tied to the imperialist establishment that has no desire to promote Haitian sovereignty.

We would suggest that those who wish to support the sovereignty of Haiti as well as get aid directly to the Haitian people donate to Fanmi Lavalas. This was recommended at a Jan. 13 Boston meeting hosted by the mostly Haitian-origin Steelworkers Local 8751 (School Bus Drivers), local Haitian organizations and others.

Fanmi Lavalas is the party associated with former Haitian President Bertrand Aristide, the most popular of recent Haitian leaders who was twice removed by military coups supported by the U.S. In the last instance, in February 2004, Aristide was expelled from the country by U.S. troops and agents in collaboration with French and Canadian imperialism.

Governments will provide the bulk of aid to Haiti. Some of these governments — mainly the old colonial powers and U.S. imperialism — will attempt to use the disaster as a way to increase their own dominance over the Haitians, even as others freely aid in solidarity.

It was predictable that the U.S. government, while delaying any actual delivery of aid, put its military foot forward. Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said that the U.S. would send the Aircraft Carrier Carl Vinson along with the U.S. Bataan, an amphibian ship with an expeditionary unit of 2,000 Marines to police the Haitians in Port-au-Prince, claiming that security was “a serious concern.” (New York Times blog, Jan. 13)

In addition, while much of the U.S. media reports alleged looting, few mention that many Haitians barely survive from day to day and breaking into a shop may be the only way they are able to obtain food. No one can forget how the U.S. federal and local governments handled the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. There police, National Guard, army and mercenary guards from Blackwater focused on control and repression, not on aid and rescue.

In contrast Socialist Cuba, with the experience of sending medical brigades to meet emergencies in Pakistan, Bolivia, China, Guatemala and Indonesia, sent a team of 403 people to Haiti, 344 of them health care workers. On the first day they treated 800 Haitians and performed 19 surgical interventions. (TeleSur, Jan. 14) Cuba already had hundreds of medical doctors providing care in the Haitian countryside and provincial towns.

Chile, Nicaragua, Spain, Guatemala, France, Mexico and Russia all rushed aid, mostly food and water, to Haiti on Jan. 13, while the U.S. was still discussing how the Marines would land. China sent a 60-member search-and-rescue team with sniffer dogs.

Venezuela immediately sent 19 doctors and 10 firefighters who specialize in search and rescue along with 20 other experts and material aid. The Bolivarian government of Venezuela has always recognized South America’s debt to Haiti, which in the 1820s gave the aid to Simón Bolívar he needed to help free some of the South American countries from rule by Spain.

French imperialism especially — and the U.S. too — owes a great portion of its early wealth and subsequent development to its looting of the natural resources and super-exploiting the labor of Haiti, though they both refuse to acknowledge the reparations they owe to the Haitian people for that and for their continued role in preventing Haiti’s development.

The progressive movement in the U.S., while joining in providing aid and solidarity to the Haitian people, should also demand that the U.S. government stop deporting Haitians, allow the return of Aristide and provide reparations so the new Haitian government can establish a functioning system and stop military intervention and subversion of Haiti.

The Bail Out the People Movement has the right idea with its demand to use the $18 billion Wall Street now wants to pay its undeserving executive bankers in bonuses as a down payment on reparations to Haiti. It’s hard to imagine a similar transfer of wealth that could be more effective in establishing justice.

Our role in Haiti's plight


Any large city in the world would have suffered extensive damage from an earthquake on the scale of the one that ravaged Haiti's capital city on Tuesday afternoon, but it's no accident that so much of Port-au-Prince now looks like a war zone. Much of the devastation wreaked by this latest and most calamitous disaster to befall Haiti is best understood as another thoroughly manmade outcome of a long and ugly historical sequence.
The country has faced more than its fair share of catastrophes. Hundreds died in Port-au-Prince in an earthquake back in June 1770, and the huge earthquake of 7 May 1842 may have killed 10,000 in the northern city of Cap Haitien alone. Hurricanes batter the island on a regular basis, mostly recently in 2004 and again in 2008; the storms of September 2008 flooded the town of Gonaïves and swept away much of its flimsy infrastructure, killing more than a thousand people and destroying many thousands of homes. The full scale of the destruction resulting from this earthquake may not become clear for several weeks. Even minimal repairs will take years to complete, and the long-term impact is incalculable.
What is already all too clear, however, is the fact that this impact will be the result of an even longer-term history of deliberate impoverishment and disempowerment. Haiti is routinely described as the "poorest country in the western hemisphere". This poverty is the direct legacy of perhaps the most brutal system of colonial exploitation in world history, compounded by decades of systematic postcolonial oppression.
The noble "international community" which is currently scrambling to send its "humanitarian aid" to Haiti is largely responsible for the extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce. Ever since the US invaded and occupied the country in 1915, every serious political attempt to allow Haiti's people to move (in former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's phrase) "from absolute misery to a dignified poverty" has been violently and deliberately blocked by the US government and some of its allies.
Aristide's own government (elected by some 75% of the electorate) was the latest victim of such interference, when it was overthrown by an internationally sponsored coup in 2004 that killed several thousand people and left much of the population smouldering in resentment. The UN has subsequently maintained a large and enormously expensive stabilisation and pacification force in the country.
Haiti is now a country where, according to the best available study, around 75% of the population "lives on less than $2 per day, and 56% – four and a half million people – live on less than $1 per day". Decades of neoliberal "adjustment" and neo-imperial intervention have robbed its government of any significant capacity to invest in its people or to regulate its economy. Punitive international trade and financial arrangements ensure that such destitution and impotence will remain a structural fact of Haitian life for the foreseeable future.
It is this poverty and powerlessness that account for the full scale of the horror in Port-au-Prince today. Since the late 1970s, relentless neoliberal assault on Haiti's agrarian economy has forced tens of thousands of small farmers into overcrowded urban slums. Although there are no reliable statistics, hundreds of thousands of Port-au-Prince residents now live in desperately sub-standard informal housing, often perched precariously on the side of deforested ravines. The selection of the people living in such places and conditions is itself no more "natural" or accidental than the extent of the injuries they have suffered.
As Brian Concannon, the director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, points out: "Those people got there because they or their parents were intentionally pushed out of the countryside by aid and trade policies specifically designed to create a large captive and therefore exploitable labour force in the cities; by definition they are people who would not be able to afford to build earthquake resistant houses." Meanwhile the city's basic infrastructure – running water, electricity, roads, etc – remains woefully inadequate, often non-existent. The government's ability to mobilise any sort of disaster relief is next to nil.
The international community has been effectively ruling Haiti since the 2004 coup. The same countries scrambling to send emergency help to Haiti now, however, have during the last five years consistently voted against any extension of the UN mission's mandate beyond its immediate military purpose. Proposals to divert some of this "investment" towards poverty reduction or agrarian development have been blocked, in keeping with the long-term patterns that continue to shape the distribution of international "aid".
The same storms that killed so many in 2008 hit Cuba just as hard but killed only four people. Cuba has escaped the worst effects of neoliberal "reform", and its government retains a capacity to defend its people from disaster. If we are serious about helping Haiti through this latest crisis then we should take this comparative point on board. Along with sending emergency relief, we should ask what we can do to facilitate the self-empowerment of Haiti's people and public institutions. If we are serious about helping we need to stop trying to control Haiti's government, to pacify its citizens, and to exploit its economy. And then we need to start paying for at least some of the damage we've already done.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti: A 7.0 Earthquake Hit the Western Part of Haiti.

“People cry, and many lives have gone, but Haiti can rebuild.”
by Wadner Pierre
  Early this morning, I spoke to some of my friends in Haiti and had a very wonderful conversation with them.  A couple of hours later, my friend Guerline, who lives in Montreal, sent me a text message about the earthquake that hit Haiti. My beloved country was hit by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake. Expects reported on CNN that it was the worst ever recorded in this region of the Caribbean.
I know my country, and I know Carrefour and its surrounding areas.  The way that most of houses in Haiti are build is contrary to any safety norm or standard.  A major earthquake like this will devastate people’s lives, and make them more vulnerable than ever before.  The political instability that has ravaged the country for years will make things worst. What happened in Haiti some fives hours ago is truly catastrophic. Even the President’s office and government buildings under construction received major damage.
The President and is wife is safe, but no one knows where they are. The secretary of the president was in the street when the Earthquake struck. By chance, Haiti’s Ambassador in the United State, Raymond Joseph, reached him by telephone and told him that he had no contact with the president. Joseph, who served as Haiti’s Ambassador since the de facto government of 2004-2006, is now appealing to the world for help.  
U.S. President Obama told the Haitian people that he stands ready to help them. That is great, but what will happen next? We will hear the same from other presidents and international organizations from all over the world. However, effective help is far from guaranteed. Millions of tones aids, millions of dollars will pour to Haiti in the next coming days in the name of people, but the people are unlikely to be the real beneficiaries. Many years after Gonaives was ravaged by hurricanes one does not find significant evidence of reconstruction.  The city remains destroyed and is now forgotten.        
Must we wait until people die suddenly by thousands before we notice them – and even then not for very long? Why can we not make Haitians less vulnerable to every natural disaster that hits their region? I hope these questions will be heard, and understood by the government and the international community. Hopefully, this time will be different.
Let build Haiti back better with common sense, and for benefit of all Haitians.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Haiti: Upcoming Elections to be a Set Back to Haiti's Democratic Development

By Wadner Pierre

The U.S. Representative, Californian Congresswoman, a long-time supporter of democracy in Haiti Maxine Waters, qualified the Haiti's upcoming election to be a set back for Haiti's democratic development if these elections  will not be fair and credible. Congresswoman Waters expressed her concerns about the upcoming elections in  a letter addressing to Haitian President, Mr. Rene Preval.

Representative Waters' letter is one of dozens of letters  that have been sent to President Preval, U.N's Secretary General and OAS' Secretary General about the upcoming flawed election in Haiti, scheduled for the months February and March.

Coming soon, more analysis about other letters on Haiti's  undemocratic upcoming elections as already qualified by national and international political leaders and human groups.
©Photo Randal  White 

Below is the Letter of Rep. Waters to President Preval.
December 23, 2009
His Excellency René Préval - President of Haiti
c/o Embassy of Haiti

2311 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
click image below for story

Your Excellency:

I am writing to express my concerns about the decision of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to exclude more than a dozen political parties from the Parliamentary elections scheduled for February and March 2010. I am concerned that these exclusions would violate the right of Haitian citizens to vote in free and fair elections and that it would be a significant setback to Haiti’s democratic development.

As you know, I have a longstanding commitment to supporting democracy and development in Haiti. I led efforts in the United States Congress to obtain debt cancellation for Haiti. These efforts culminated in the World Bank’s announcement last June that Haiti reached the “completion point” for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and would receive complete cancellation of its multilateral debts. I am also working to increase United States bilateral assistance to Haiti.

It is imperative that Haiti’s next elections be free and fair and that they be perceived as free and fair. Political parties should not be excluded from an election without a legally compelling reason, determined through a transparent, impartial process.

The CEP, to my knowledge, has not provided a public, written explanation for the exclusions of the political parties from the upcoming elections. The CEP’s failure to explain the justification for the political parties’ exclusions for almost a month raises questions about the validity of these exclusions. The fact that the decision was made by a provisional CEP – one chosen by your office from a list of nominations from organizations selected by your office rather than according to the 1987 Constitution – also raises questions about the fairness of the process.

I urge you to take appropriate action to ensure that the upcoming elections in Haiti are free and fair. This includes taking appropriate action to ensure that the CEP: a) provides a complete, public explanation for the exclusions; and b) allows any political party that was excluded for anything less than a clear, compelling legal reason to fully participate in the February elections.

Please communicate with The Honorable Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States; The Honorable Eliot Engel, Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere; and myself regarding the measures you take in this matter. I look forward to continuing to work with you to support democratic development in Haiti.

Maxine Waters
Member of Congress

cc: Hon. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States
The Honorable Eliot Engel, Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere