Sunday, January 31, 2010

To rebuild Haiti, start with its young people

Go to Original (Los Angeles Times) >

A 700,000-strong national civic service corps would harness untapped labor rapidly and instill national pride and confidence.


January 31, 2010 | By Robert Muggah and Robert Maguire

Haiti will need big ideas to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake this month.

The reported death toll has topped 150,000, and the reconstruction needs are incalculable.

How about starting with a 700,000-strong national civic service corps made up of Haitian youth?

There are many reasons why such an entity makes a lot of sense.

Haiti is a young country. 

An estimated 70% of the population is under 30; the 15-to-29 segment alone makes up 50% of the population.

Demographers have long cautioned how excessively youthful populations can potentially exacerbate underdevelopment and accentuate political instability.

Although Haiti registers among the lowest levels of education in the Western Hemisphere, Haitian youth are a wellspring of creativity, talent and potential. 

You don't need to be a community-development specialist to know that they are stifled by a lack of meaningful opportunities.

Fortunately, Haiti has an enabling environment to set up a civic service corps.

Article 52 of the Haitian Constitution commits citizens to national service, though it has never been activated.

What is more, there are many Haitian and international organizations mobilized and ready to help the government get this going.

A civic service corps would get the young and able out of the tent cities in and around Port-au-Prince and into work.

They could start with the once-iconic center of the capital, but also could begin planting trees, working the fields and providing services in Haiti's countryside.

At a minimum, this would reverse generations of unfair stigmatizing of the youth there.

This plan would also harness untapped labor rapidly.

Before the Jan. 12 earthquake, 50% of youth in their 20s were out of work.

Putting them in service toward rebuilding the capital and outlying areas would be a first step to restoring their and their country's pride and dignity.

A civic service corps would also multiply international efforts to promote recovery after the world moves on to the next crisis. 

Hundreds of humanitarian agencies, donor governments and nongovernmental organizations are facing monumental challenges in coordinating relief assistance.

Although everyone involved is committed to rapid disbursement, transaction costs are monumental.

A civic service corps would allow for a more rapid form of transferring capital.

Direct support to such a corps would inject serious liquidity into the Haitian economy and stimulate recovery from the bottom up.

Rather than food-for-work schemes, international best practice recommends proposals that promote direct monetary transfers to beneficiaries.

Haitian youth and their families have urgent needs and don't need paternalistic programs that curb their choices.

With proper oversight and financial safeguards, a civic service corps would circumvent unnecessary administrative costs.

Further, a civic service corps would restore national pride and confidence in Haitian public institutions. 

During past decades, the state provided relatively few services to Haitians, particularly outside the capital.

In some cases, state entities were downright predatory.

As a result, nonstate providers, including gangs and shady middlemen, filled the gap.

A civic service corps -- wearing the Haitian colors and acting as first responders or organizations demonstrating the government's presence on the ground -- would show that the government is serious about supporting citizens. 

It would be a symbolic first step toward renewing the social contract with the people.

A civic service corps also makes sense for long-term risk and emergency planning.

Haiti is situated in the path of hurricanes and on a fault line, and can expect more disasters.

Training 700,000 young people -- especially young women -- in the basics of first aid, emergency response, community policing and other skills would greatly mitigate the consequences of future calamities.

With disciplined training and management, the corps could provide more intensive training in specialized areas -- engineering, telecommunications and public health.

An initial step to getting Haiti's youth to work could include the preparation of a road map for future meetings on Haiti, including the U.N. donor conference scheduled for March.

Any final plan would need to draw on the invaluable experiences of ongoing efforts to mobilize youth in Haiti. 

These include the work of the Brazilian nongovernmental organization Viva Rio and its supporters. 

Before the earthquake, Viva Rio and Brazilian peacekeepers had recruited and trained hundreds of Haitian youth, including former gang members, to provide relief services in Haiti's slums. 

This program could be reactivated and scaled up quickly.

A civic service corps could draw on the lessons from such groups to target and recruit youths for, say, up to two years.

The Haitian government would, of course, need to be the one to manage the undertaking, with direct oversight from the president's office and the Interior Ministry.

And there are many countries that could provide advice and support.

Nongovernmental groups and private donors could also play a key role in mobilizing support and transferring essential skills.

Haiti's youth are the future of the nation, and they are central to Haiti's recovery.

A civic service corps is a large-scale way to quickly mobilize them to act as catalyst for long-term, progressive changes.

Robert Muggah, based at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, is a principal of the SecDev Group and is currently advising multilateral and bilateral organizations on Haiti's recovery. 

Robert Maguire is on the faculty of Trinity Washington University and chairs the Haiti Working Group of the United States Institute of Peace in Washington.

Friday, January 29, 2010

'New Haiti,' Same Corporate Interests

Go to Original (Naomi Klein) >

Published in The Nation

In the wake of the earthquake that has killed more than 100,000 people in Haiti, the foreign ministers of several countries calling themselves the "Friends of Haiti" met on Monday in Montreal to discuss plans for "building a new Haiti." Participants in the Ministerial Preparatory Conference on Haiti, who included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; representatives of international financial institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive came to what Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, the conference chair, referred to as a "road map towards Haiti's reconstruction and development."

However, the Latin American countries of ALBA--the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas--who held a counter-conference, and several grassroots Haiti solidarity organizations, who organized protests outside the conference, expressed skepticism that the "Friends of Haiti" and the international financial institutions would work to further the interests of ordinary Haitians.
One of the groups protesting the conference, Haiti Action Montreal, issued a statement warning that "There is a danger that these major powers will try to exploit the earthquake to further narrow pro-corporate ends, if reconstruction of New Orleans after Katrina and in Asia following the tsunami are any indication."
As Naomi Klein has observed, this process is already underway. The Heritage Foundation think tank's initial response to the earthquake clearly followed the pattern she documented in her book The Shock Doctrine, by which neoliberal reformers seek to impose an agenda of privatization in times of crisis. It was less than twenty-four hours after Haiti was hit by an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude that the Heritage Foundation issued a release recommending that "In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region."
That sentiment was echoed by James Dobbins, former special envoy to Haiti under President Bill Clinton and director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, who stated in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, "This disaster is an opportunity to accelerate oft-delayed reforms," including "breaking up or at least reorganizing the government-controlled telephone monopoly" and restructuring the ports, which also represent two of Haiti's few remaining state enterprises.
The World Bank also observed an upside to the catastrophe in Haiti; in a January 18 blog post titled "Haiti earthquake: Out of great disasters comes great opportunity," a World Bank disaster management analyst recently stated that "there is a silver lining to this great tragedy. Looking back in history, great natural disasters are often a catalyst for huge, positive change." Even calls for the expansion of Haiti's sweatshop industry are being made in the media.
The possibility of a repeat of the kinds of corrupt corporate profiteering that Klein documented in Iraq in the initial months of the 2003 US occupation have not been lost on Dan Senor, an adviser to the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003 and 2004. In a January 17 op-ed in the New York Times, Senor recommended the adoption in Haiti of the same fund used under the Coalition Provisional Authority--"a discretionary fund that American officers can dip into for development projects and crisis response without constantly looking over their shoulders at monitors in Washington."
As one financial analyst observed in a particularly frank article titled "An Opportunity to Heal Haiti," published a day after the earthquake in The Street, "Here are some companies that could potentially benefit: General Electric (GE), Caterpillar (CAT), Deere (DE), Fluor (FLR), Jacobs Engineering (JEC)." And that's not to mention the mercenary companies that, as The Nation's Jeremy Scahill has observed, are now setting their sights on Haiti.
The chair's opening remarks at the conference Monday suggest that corporate interests are being well represented in the planning stages for the "new Haiti." In his introductory speech at the ministerial conference on Haiti, Cannon stated, "We also have with us today some members from the private sector who have given generously to the humanitarian appeal but will also play an important role in Haiti's future." Singling out several sectors of the Haitian economy (including the ports, electricity and telecommunications) that have historically been state-owned, he added that "They [members from the private sector] will be accompanying and supporting us in rebuilding the national infrastructure of ports, roads and power generation and in re-establishing essential services from electricity, to banking and communications."

When I asked the World Bank's vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, Pamela Cox, to elaborate on what kind of private-sector role was being envisioned for Haiti's future, she said, "You'd have to talk to the private the sense that they're the ones who would be putting their money in so they'd have the decision. What we want to hear from them is what kinds of things they need, so that they can come back." Cox cited "one proposal" that she'd heard vis-à-vis investment in the "garment manufacturing industry"--a sector that has long been associated with sweatshop labor practices in Haiti.

For anyone familiar with Haiti's experience of this sweatshop-based, pro-corporate development model over the years, it is clear that the road map the banks and "Friends" are charting for the "new Haiti" is not in the least bit new. And, for the Haitian people, who have always paid the price for these failed policies, it is nothing less than disastrous.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Haiti: the land that wouldn't lie (by Peter Hallward)

The land that wouldn't lie

Published 28 January 2010

Go to Original (New Statesman) >

The Haitian people overthrew slavery, uprooted dictators and foreign military rule, and elected a liberation theologian as president. The west has made them pay for their audacity.

After weeks of intense media attention, some of the causes of Haiti's glaring poverty are obvious: years of chronic underinvestment, disadvantageous terms of trade, deforestation, soil erosion.

What is less well understood is that -- natural disasters aside -- the fundamental reasons for Haiti's current destitution originate as responses to Haitian strength, rather than as the result of Haitian weakness, corruption or incompetence.

Haiti is the only place in the world where colonial slavery was abolished by the slaves themselves, in the face of implacable violence. As historians of the revolution that began there in 1791 have often pointed out, there is good reason to consider it the most subversive event in modern history.

Independent Haiti was surrounded by slave colonies in the Caribbean and flanked by slave-owning economies in northern, central and southern America.

The three great imperial powers of the day -- France, Spain and Britain -- sent all the troops at their disposal to try to crush the uprising; incredibly, Haitian armies led by Toussaint l'Ouverture and then Jean-Jacques Dessalines defeated them one after the other. By late 1803, to the astonishment of contemporary observers, Haitian armies had managed to break the chains of colonial slavery not at their weakest link, but at their strongest.

This extraordinary victory provoked an extraordinary backlash. The war killed a third of Haiti's people and left its cities and plantations in ruins.

When it was finally over, the imperial powers closed ranks and, appalled by what the French foreign minister called a "horrible spectacle for all white nations", imposed a blockade designed to isolate and stifle this most troubling "threat of a good example".

France re-established the trade and diplomatic relations essential to the new country's survival only when Haiti agreed, 20 years after winning independence, to pay its old colonial master enormous amounts of "compensation" for the loss of its slaves and colonial property -- an amount roughly equal to the annual French budget at the time.

With its economy shattered by the colonial wars, Haiti could repay this debt only by borrowing, at extortionate rates of interest, vast sums from French banks, which did not receive the last instalment until 1947.

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's request that France pay back some of this money, in the run-up to the bicentennial celebration of independence in 2004, encouraged the former colonial power to help overthrow his government that year.

New plantations

The slaves who won the war against the French were determined, above all, to avoid any return to a plantation economy or its industrial equivalent.

Over the course of the 19th century, large parts of Latin America, as well as much of Europe and Europe's colonies, were ravaged by the systematic expropriation of peasant farms, and of collectively or indigenously owned land and resources.

In Haiti, however, there was significant resistance to such trends, nourished by exceptionally resilient forms of communal solidarity and popular culture -- for instance, a reliance on collective work (konbits), widely shared religious affiliations and a rich tradition of oral history.

This resistance in turn solicited powerful countermeasures, including, from 1915 until 1934, the first and most damaging of an apparently unstoppable series of US military occupations.

The Americans abolished an irritating clause in Haiti's constitution that had barred foreigners from owning Haitian property, took over the national bank, reorganised the economy to ensure more regular payments of foreign debt, imposed forced labour on the peasantry, and expropriated swaths of land for the benefit of new plantations, such as those operated by the US-owned Haitian American Sugar Company.

As many as 50,000 peasants were dispossessed in northern Haiti alone.

Most importantly, the Americans transformed Haiti's army into an instrument capable of overcoming popular opposition to these developments.

By 1918, peasant resistance gave rise to a full-scale insurgency, led by Charlemagne Péralte; US troops responded with what one worried commander described as the "practically indiscriminate killing of natives", "the most startling thing of its kind that has ever taken place in the Marine Corps".

The next phase in the "modernisation" of the Haitian economy was contracted out to the noiriste dictator François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who came to power in 1957 through a rigged election in which he won only a quarter of the votes garnered by his main rival.

Four years later, Duvalier ripped up the last shreds of the constitution when he arranged for his re-election, winning 1,320,748 votes to zero.

Duvalier's determination to gain complete control over the country encountered resistance not only among the rural poor, but also among more cosmopolitan sections of the elite.

He overcame both problems by supplementing the army he inherited from its US patrons with a more home-grown paramilitary force, nicknamed the "Tontons Macoutes" after a child-snatching bogeyman from Creole mythology.

The paranoid ferocity of Duvalier's regime has long been the stuff of legend. In the autumn of 1964, for instance, after a dozen young men in the south-western city of Jérémie launched a reckless insurgency, Duvalier's militia publicly slaughtered hundreds of their kin.

By the mid-1960s, nearly 80 per cent of Haiti's professionals and intellectuals had fled to safety abroad, and most of them never returned.

Estimates of the total number of people killed under Duvalier vary between 30,000 and 50,000. "Never has terror had so bare and ignoble an object," reflected Graham Greene (whose 1966 novel, The Comedians, is set in Duvalier's Haiti).

The CIA was impressed with the result, noting that by the 1970s "most Haitians [were] so completely downtrodden as to be politically inert".

"Death plan"

Such downtreading was the precondition for international imposition of the neoliberal policies that began to reshape Haiti's economy when Jean-Claude Duvalier inherited his father's office as "president-for-life" in 1971. These policies were designed to turn the country into the kind of place international investors tend to like; Haitians soon started to refer to them as the "death plan".

This plan has stifled public spending and forced the privatisation of Haiti's (often highly lucrative) public assets, while accelerating the reorientation of the country's economy away from agrarian autonomy and towards urban hyperexploitation. The case of rice production -- the staple food for most of the population -- is especially significant.

In the mid-1980s, local farmers were still able to produce almost all the rice Haitians consumed, but the last tariffs protecting Haitian farmers were removed in the mid-1990s and imports now account for two-thirds of consumption. Domestic production is now further undercut by the vast amounts of additional "free" rice that are dumped on Haiti every year through the ministry of USAID grantees, in particular the Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist and other like-minded churches.

Increases in the garment and light manufacturing sector were supposed to compensate for agricultural collapse. For a while, the lowest wages in the hemisphere encouraged mainly American companies or contractors to employ roughly 80,000 people in this area, while military and paramilitary coercion kept the threat of organised labour safely at bay.

By the end of the 1990s, however, a combination of international competition and local "instability" had reduced the number of people employed in sweatshops to barely 20,000, and their wages (averaging $2 a day) had fallen to less than 20 per cent of 1980 levels.

Bitter experience has forced the Haitian poor to improvise robust ways of defending themselves against their oppressors.

Over the course of the 1980s, opposition to both Duvalierist repression and neoliberal economic policies inspired a powerful popular mobilisation.

This was able first to "uproot" Duvalier fils and his Macoutes in 1986 and then, in 1990, after an army crackdown that killed another thousand people or so, to overcome direct military rule.

It forced the army's international backers reluctantly to sanction Haiti's first ever round of genuine democratic elections, which in early 1991 brought the liberation theologian Aristide to power on an anti-capitalist, anti-army agenda.

Haiti was the first country in Latin America to dare choose a liberation theologian as its president (twice), and this is a crucial but often neglected aspect of its recent history.

The Catholic Church had long been a solid pillar of the status quo, and its partial conversion in the 1970s into a well-organised vehicle for the "self-emancipation of the oppressed" reverberated throughout the region.

Pentagon officials were quick to realise, as one American military figure put it, that "the most serious threat to US interests was not secular Marxist-Leninism or organised labour, but liberation theology".

Pope Jean-Paul II and his successor, Joseph Ratzinger, reached the same conclusion as their American counterparts on the religious right.

Thirty years ago, in Haiti, there was only a tiny handful of small evangelical churches preaching political resignation and passive reliance on God's grace; today there are more than 500 of them.

Yet Aristide's election in 1990 changed the balance of power in Haiti for ever. Political violence came to an abrupt and exceptional stop. "We have become the subjects of our own history," Aristide said, a couple of years before his election, and "we refuse from now on to be the objects of that history".

Grotesque inequalities

That refusal remains the key to understanding the course of Haitian politics ever since. Haiti isn't only the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere; it is now also the most unequal in terms of its division of wealth and power. A tiny minority lives in paranoid luxury, surrounded by millions of the poorest people on earth. From the perspective of its elite, Haiti's main political problem is very simple: how, once the door to democracy has been prised open, might it be possible to preserve such a grotesquely inequitable distribution of property and privilege?

When Aristide was first elected, it was still possible to solve the problem in the usual way, by slamming the door shut. In September 1991, another US-backed military coup cut short Haiti's "transition to democracy". When the US eventually allowed a hamstrung Aristide to return in late 1994, he still managed to transform Haitian politics overnight, by abolishing the army that had deposed him.

A central priority for the businessmen and sweatshop owners whose interests were previously protected by the army has, understandably, been to restore or replace it. The need to do so became still more acute when Aristide was re-elected in 2000 with an even bigger share of the vote, backed up for the first time by a political organisation, Fanmi Lavalas, which won roughly 90 per cent of the seats in parliament.

The subsequent ten years of struggle in Haiti are best understood in terms of this basic alternative: Lavalas or the army. As the conflicts of the past decade confirm, there is no better way for political elites to deflect awkward questions than by redefining them in terms of crime, security and stability -- terms, in other words, that allow soldiers rather than people to resolve them.

Ruthless application of this strategy after the Lavalas election victory in 2000 led to the internationally sponsored coup of early 2004, just in time to squash any celebration of the bicentenary of Haitian independence. Since they could no longer rely on Haiti's own army, in order to overthrow a duly elected government for the second time, US troops were obliged to lever Aristide out of Port-au-Prince themselves.

In mid-2004, a large United Nations "stabilisation" force took over the job of pacifying a resentful population from soldiers sent by the US, France and Canada, and by the end of 2006 another several thousand of Aristide's supporters were dead.

Under pressure

Last year, the current president, René Préval, who ostensibly governs this UN protectorate, agreed to renew its stabilisation mandate, to persevere with the privatisation of Haiti's remaining public assets, to veto a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $5 a day, and to bar Fanmi Lavalas, along with several other political parties, from participating in the next round of legislative elections.

The decision taken by US and UN commanders in charge of the disaster relief effort, to prioritise military and security objectives over civilian-humanitarian ones, has already caused tens of thousands of preventable deaths. Plane after plane packed with essential emergency supplies was diverted away from the disaster zone, in order to allow for the build-up of a huge and entirely unnecessary US military force. Many thousands of people were left to die in the ruins of lower Port-au-Prince, while international rescue teams concentrated their efforts on a few locations (such as the Montana Hotel or the UN headquarters) that could also be enclosed within a "secure perimeter".

For the same reason, throughout the first week of the disaster, desperately needed medical supplies were reserved for field hospitals set up near the US-controlled airport and other "secure zones". Hospitals in "insecure" Port-au-Prince itself, overwhelmed with dying patients, have had to perform untold numbers of amputations without anaesthetic or medication. Still more "insecure" areas such as Carrefour and Léogane -- the places closest to the earthquake's epicentre -- received no significant aid for at least ten days after the disaster struck.

Unless prevented by renewed popular mobilisation in both Haiti and beyond, the perverse international emphasis on security will continue to distort the reconstruction effort, and with it the configuration of Haitian politics for some time to come. As reconstruction funds accumulate, pressure to expropriate what remains of Haiti's public services and collectively owned land is sure to be accompanied by pressure to speed up the growth of Haiti's booming security industry, and perhaps to restore -- no doubt in close co-operation with the current occupying power -- the army that Aristide managed to demobilise in 1995.

What is already certain is that if further militarisation proceeds unchecked, the victims of the January earthquake won't be the only avoidable casualties of 2010.

Peter Hallward teaches philosophy at Middlesex University and is the author of "Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment"

Haiti at Davos | Short Answers > Celso Amorim

Foreign Minister of Brazil, Celso Amorim, answers a question posted by a YouTube user: what can we do to build a sustainable economy in Haiti?

More from Celso Amorim >
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More "Haiti at Davos | Short Answers" >

Haiti at Davos | Short Answers > David Cameron

David Cameron  
David William Donald Cameron (born 9 October 1966) is the leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition in the United Kingdom. He has occupied both positions since December 2005. He studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, gaining a first class honours degree. He then joined the Conservative Research Department and became Special Adviser to Norman Lamont, and then to Michael Howard. He was Director of Corporate Affairs at Carlton Communications for seven years. A first candidacy for Parliament at Stafford in 1997 ended in defeat but Cameron was elected in 2001 as Member of Parliament for the Oxfordshire constituency of Witney. Promoted to the Opposition front bench two years after entering Parliament, he rose rapidly to be head of policy co-ordination during the 2005 general election campaign. Cameron won the Conservative leadership later that year after being seen as a young and moderate candidate who would appeal to young voters. His early leadership saw the Conservative Party establish a lead in opinion polls over Tony Blair's Labour for the first time in over ten years. Although they went behind for a time after Gordon Brown replaced Blair as Labour leader and Prime Minister, under Cameron's leadership, throughout 2008 and to date, the Conservatives have been consistently ahead of Labour in the polls. More "Haiti at Davos | Short Answers" >

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yéle Haiti - Blog - Numbers tell stories of Horror, Heroism in Haiti

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- Two weeks after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, the numbers have mounted. The numbers tell stories of death and destruction, as well as a global outpouring of aid. CNN has compiled the latest, most reliable figures available as the devastation continues to unfold:  


> 230,000: Latest estimate of the death toll, from the Haitian Health Ministry. The European Union and the Pan American Health Organization, which are coordinating the health-sector response, have estimated the quake killed 200,000 people.
> 194,000: Number of injured
> 134: Estimated number of people rescued by international search teams since the quake  


> 9 million: Population of Haiti > 3 million: Estimated number of people affected by the quake
> 1 million: Estimated number of displaced people
> 800,000 to 1 million: People who need temporary shelter
> 235,000: People who have left Port-au-Prince using free transportation provided by the government. The number who left by private means is undetermined.
> At least 50: Aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or higher that have hit Haiti since the January 12 quake  


> 300,000: Children younger than 2 who need nutritional support
> 90: Percentage of schools in Port-au-Prince that have been destroyed
> 363: Haitian orphans who have been evacuated  


> $1.12 billion: International aid pledges
> $783 million: Funds received as of Tuesday
> $317 million: U.S. assistance as of Monday  


> 17,000: U.S. military personnel in and around Haiti
> 8 million: Meals the World Food Programme has delivered to nearly 400,000 people
> 300: Aid distribution sites that are up and running
> 130 to 150: Flights arriving every day at the single-runway Port-au-Prince airport with aid Huge crowd of Haitians lines up for rice  


> 12,000: U.N. workers in the country at the time of the quake
> 53: U.N. workers still missing
> At least 82: U.N. workers dead
> 20: Brazilians dead
> 27: U.N. workers injured or hospitalized
> 11,500: Americans and family members who have been evacuated
> 4,800: Americans unaccounted for  

Sources: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Red Cross, the United Nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. State Department and the World Food Programme"

Monday, January 25, 2010

Avengers of the NewWorld

“If we live in a world in which democracy is meant to exclude no one, it is in no small part because of the actions of those slaves in Saint-Domingue who insisted that human rights were theirs too...”
Laurent Dubois Avengers of the NewWorld
The Story of The Haitian Revolution

Prologue Excerpts

On new year’s day 1804, a group of generals gathered in Saint-Domingue to create a new nation. Their leader, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, had once been a slave. So, too, had several of the men who joined him in signing their declaration of independence. Some had been born in Africa and survived the middle passage; others, including Dessalines, had been born into slavery in the French colony. They signed their names next to those of men who had once been slave owners, including one apparently was nicknamed “the good white.” Many were men of mixed European and African descent who had been free long before the Revolution began, several of whom had fought against Dessalines in a brutal civil war a few years earlier. Now, however, they stood behind him to declare that they had forever renounced France, and would fight to the death to preserve their independence and freedom. "I have avenged America". Jean-Jacques Dessalines (1804) Haiti was founded on the ashes of what had been, fifteen years before, the most profitable slave colony in the world Its birth premised on the self evident truth that no one should be a slave. It was a dramatic challenge to the world as it then was. Slavery was at the heart of the thriving system of merchant capitalism that was profiting Europe, devastating Africa, and propelling the rapid expansion of the Americas. The most powerful European empires were deeply involved and invested in slavery’s continuing existence, as was much of the nation to the north that had preceded Haiti to independence, the United States. For decades Saint-Domingue had been the leading example of the massive profits that could be made through the brutal institution. Then, in 1791, the colony’s slaves began a massive uprising. It became the largest slave revolt in the history of the world, and the only one that succeeded. Within a few years these Caribbean revolutionaries gained liberty for all the slaves in the French empire. The man who came to lead Saint-Domingue in the wake of emancipation, Toussaint Louverture, had once warned the French that any attempt to bring slavery back to the colony was destined to fail. Although he did not live to see it, he was proven right. When freedom was threatened by Napoleon Bonaparte’s regime, the people of Saint-Domingue fought successfully to preserve it. Through years of struggle, brutal violence, and imperial war, slaves became citizens in the empire that had enslaved them, and then founders of a new nation… During the nineteenth century an economically and politically isolated Haiti became the object of scorn and openly racist polemic… The revolution began as a challenge to French imperial authority by colonial whites, but it soon became a battle over racial inequality, and then over the existence of slavery itself. The slaves who revolted in 1791 organized themselves into a daunting military and political force, one ultimately embraced by French Republican officials. Facing enemies inside and outside the colony, these Republicans allied themselves with the insurgent slaves in 1793. They offered freedom in return for military support, which quickly led to the abolition of slavery in the colony. The decision made in Saint-Domingue was ratified in Paris in 1794: the slaves of all the French colonies became citizens of the French Republic. These events represented the most radical political transformation of the “Age of Revolution” that stretched from the 1770s to the 1830s. They were also the most concrete expression of the idea that the rights proclaimed in France’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen were indeed universal. They could not be quarantined in Europe or prevented from landing in the ports of the colonies, as many had argued they should be. The slave insurrection of Saint-Domingue led to the expansion of citizenship beyond racial barriers despite the massive political and economic investment in the slave system at the time. If we live in a world in which democracy is meant to exclude no one, it is in no small part because of the actions of those slaves in Saint-Domingue who insisted that human rights were theirs too...  

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Brazil for Haiti: Foreign Relations Minister after The Haiti Donors' Meeting

Brazil for Haiti: "Right now, government and opposition are together." Agência Senado (Brazilian Senate)

PSDB called for greater military presence in Haiti, says Azeredo. Senator Eduardo Azeredo (PSDB-MG) said on Monday (25) that his party supports the increase in the Brazilian military in Haiti. He said that to prevent a conflagration and to ensure the stability of the country - hit by an earthquake 12 days ago - it is necessary to expand the presence of United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH), which is headed by Brazil.
Chairman of the Foreign Relations and National Defense (CRE) of the Senate, Azeredo reminded that he was in this country in August. He said that even before the earthquake, Haiti has "lived a tragedy without precedent, a situation that does not exist either in the Brazilian slums'. According to the senator, only 10% of the Haitian population has access to electricity, water supply benefits less than 20% of the population, the unemployment rate is 70% and infant mortality is 69 per thousand newborns . He also stressed that "the country's production system is destroyed, mainly in the field '. - Components are perfect for social conflagration. It is for this reason that the presence of MINUSTAH is needed - he argued, adding that, "In addition, we will need to rebuild the country. " The senator also noted that "in Brazil there are good engineering battalions that can help in the reconstruction of Haiti, as is the case of Araguari Battalion." Azeredo also noted that the leader of the PSDB in the Senate, Arthur Virgilio (PSDB-AM), reiterated the support the Executive call to the increase of the Brazilian contingent. - In this case, government and opposition are together - Azeredo said.
Ricardo Koiti Koshimizu / Agência Senado
See Original Article (BR Portuguese) >

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The world’s best foreign minister

Why Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is having a great term | David Rothkopf
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This may have been the best month for Brazil since about June 1494. That's when the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed granting Portugal everything in the new world east of an imaginary line that was declared to exist 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands. This ensured that what was to become Brazil would be Portuguese and thus develop a culture and identity very different from the rest of Spanish Latin America. This guaranteed the world would have samba, churrasco, "The Girl from Ipanema," and through some incredibly fortuitous if twisted chain of events, Gisele Bundchen.
While it took Brazil sometime to live up to the backhanded maxim that it was "the country of tomorrow and always would be," there is little doubt that tomorrow has arrived for the country even if much work remains to be done to overcome its serious social challenges and tap its extraordinary economic potential.

Friday, January 22, 2010

H. E. Mr. President Lula da Silva sends to Parliament US$ 200M bill on aid to Haiti.

Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 18:29
Memorial to the Brazilian military dead in Haiti

The Bill sent to Congress on Thursday (Jan, 21st) provides financial assistance in more than R$ 350 million (approx. US$ 200M) for Haiti, according to the minister of Institutional Relations, Alexandre Padilha.

The Bill adds for the R$ 15 million already announced by President Lula in the days following the disaster last week, more R$ 205 million from the Ministry of Defense for use in humanitarian aid and R$ 135 million from the Ministry of Health that aims to build and equip 10 Emergency Care Units (UPA) on Haitian soil.

Padilha also said that President Lula has recommended to the Health Minister that he immediately begin the process of construction of the UPAs, as the people of Haiti have urgent demand for primary health care. 

The government also wants to increase military peace forces in Haiti in more than 1.3 thousand military and another message will be sent to Congress. 

By now the Caribbean country will receive more than 900 men of the Brazilian Armed Forces to join the more than 1,200 yet there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

World Bank: We Are in Haiti for the Long Haul

World Bank Haiti Country Director
Posted: January 21, 2010 06:11 PM

Today's announcement that we're waiving all payments from Haiti for the next 5 years while we continue to work to forgive its debt of US $38 million -- less than 4% of the country's external debt -- is only a small sliver of our much larger commitment to Haiti.

Since 2005, we have provided US $363 million in grants that have been used to further the country's reform agenda and improve its overall economic prospects.

Additionally, in June of 2009 Haiti received US $1.2 billion in debt relief after reaching the completion point under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), which allows creditors, including multilateral institutions, to provide debt relief to the world's poorest and most heavily indebted countries.

Haiti was already showing encouraging signs of improvement when the earthquake struck.

It had posted three successive years of economic growth since 2004 -- when the economy contracted by 3.5% -- and the government was making headway in improving governance and transparency, especially in the area of public financial management systems.

In spite of the global financial crisis and the fall of remittances, Haiti's economy grew more than 2% last year.

The earthquake has put the brakes on all that, but at the Bank we look to redouble our support to Haiti and its people by building back better and putting the reins of development in the hands of the Haitian communities.

A team of World Bank experts is on the ground in Haiti, to assess how our current projects can be best redeployed to support recovery and to prepare for an emergency operation in response to the earthquake. Bank specialists will join a multilateral team -- including staff from the UN, the European Union and the Inter American Development Bank -- that will be working in Haiti for the next few weeks to conduct damage and reconstruction assessments in every major sector, including health, education, water, sanitation, electricity, and roads.

Going forward, we would like to put special emphasis on the capacity generated by community-driven development projects, where people at the local level decide their priorities.

We have supported a number of such initiatives going on in Haiti at the moment that have proven to be particularly successful on the basis of community involvement. This will be critical in the reconstruction.

Just to give an example, by May 2009 our community-driven initiative had completed 549 projects, primarily for agricultural support and other infrastructure -- including grain mills, water pumps, and local roads -- as well as income-generating activities.

It provided technical support to 4,032 community-based organizations in rural areas, benefiting around 763,000 people in poor rural areas (or 57 percent of the population of the rural communities covered by the program).

We also want to build back better, making housing and infrastructure more resilient to natural hazards, such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

We want to work with the Haitian authorities to strengthen code enforcement and the institutions that supervise this, while continue building the government's capacity to ensure that this happens.

In a joint effort with the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) we have recently produced a Reconstruction handbook that I'd like to share here with anyone interested.

In sum, we will be focusing on ongoing projects that work quickly, effectively, and with the people.

The recent tragic events in Haiti have proven the resilience and determination of the Haitian people -- who have not given up on their country or their future or even their hope to still find survivors in the wreckage of their battered capital.

We want to join their determination to build a better future based on their own priorities and the help of the international community.

A Tribute to Haiti I - Icon, Model and Mirror of the Past, Present and Future of the New World.

To help rebuild Haiti it is needed to understand Haiti, and her heroes from yesterday, now, and ever.

That is a history that I will try to explain from now on, as I, myself, also come pursuing to learn about it. Getting touched more and more by its epic grandeur that seems to have no end.

Understanding the complex Ayiti, we may really understand the why and how to help effectively to rebuild a renewed but coherent Ayiti, as it was at once: INDEPENDENT, proud, generous and strong. That is a matter of honor for the world and specially for the whole Americas.

Moreover, this "Millennium" earthquake should also be the great motivator for us to show ourselves that we can, starting with Ayiti (put again as vanguard and model) ... we can, together and focused, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and build a New New World in its entirety.

The immeasurable disaster happens at the exact moment of the greatest global crossroads we have in the life of all of us who are alive. 

I have, at each new document or testimony I look at, each untold fact that I find, an even more increased and unshakable certainty that the path, for the better shared Earth we all demand, has now to go through a renewed Ayiti. 

Under our free will is the choice among the possible paths - progress or retrogression. 

"A tragedy is a very huge opportunity - of learning and union - to be wasted."

By now, I stop here. Soon, I will begin to replace my tears for sweat.

By now, rests alone the total feeling of void, occasionally interrupted by the questions that I think will never shut up:
  • Why D. Zilda Arns and all who were there (as the UN staff and many others) only to help, to support?
  • Why our and other peacekeepers?
  • Why all the tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters of the First Free Nation in Americas - without neither overseas owner nor internal slavery -, sons and daughters of The First Black Republic in the World, heirs and heiresses of the heroes that spread the Liberty will abroad the whole Continent? Why such suffering?
  • Why - as it may seem absurd to think this time about the cold / blanket fitness (but that is the way I honestly feel) ... Why this heroic country, today already tired of so much prejudice-fighting, wars, natural disasters, domestic and imposed political, economic, and social crisis?
  • Why? Why Ayiti?
There is not how to express this feelings into words.

Otherwise, I will do as did Euclides da Cunha - the great Brazilian writer (in his inauguration statement at The Brazilian Academy of Writers, discussing about the Brazilian 100 years anti-slavery struggle, humbled and saying himself wordless) using the verses of our greatest abolitionist poet Castro Alves, whom among other inspirations had the Revolution of Saint Domingue (now Ayiti) as a muse:

God! O God! Where are you that you do not answer! 
On what world, what star have you hidden yourself 
Veiled in heaven? 
For two thousand years I have cried out to you, 
In vain, it has echoed through an empty heaven . . . 
Where are you, Lord God?. (...)

Christ! In vain you died on a mountain 
Your blood will not cleanse my brow of The original stain. 
Yet today, by unlucky fate, 
My children-beasts of burden for the universe 
I---pasturage for all. 

Today my blood feeds America Condor, 
you have made yourself into a vulture, 
Bird of slavery. She draws nearer, . . . traitorous sister! 
Which of Joseph's vile brothers, 
For the other Will sell his brother! 

Enough, Lord! 
Send forth your potent Arm, 
across the stars of space 
Forgiveness for my crimes! 

For two thousand years I have had one cry ... 
Listen to my protest from your everlasting throne, 
My God! Lord, My God!!! (...)  

*Atrocious fatality that the mind crushes! 
Extinguish now the dirt brig, 
The track that Columbus opened in the waves, 
Like an iris in the deep abyss! 

But this is too much infamy!.. 
of the ethereal land Rise, 
heroes of the New World!  
Andrada, rip that flag of the air! 
Columbus, close the door of your seas!

"Voices from Africa" (excerpt) *w/ "The Slave Ship" (excerpt)
Antônio de Castro Alves (died at 24)
São Paulo, June 11, 1868 
(YEAR 77 of the Emancipation in Ayiti)

Dedicated to D. Zilda Arns.