Friday, February 26, 2010

Brazil even more commited with Haiti. President Lula in Port-au-Prince.

"Haiti needs the forgiveness of his debt to rebuild the country"

President Lula called on creditor nations to forgive Haiti debt which reaches US$ 1.3 billion. That would be - according to Lula - a way to allow the Haitian government to take the money that would be to pay off the debt and apply on the reconstruction of the country. Lula defended the measure in a speech made on Thursday (Feb 25) in Port-au-Prince after signing of three acts - the construction of water reservoirs, food production and improvement of public schools network - together with the President of Haiti H.E. René Préval.

Lula recalled that earlier in this week, during the summit meetings held in Cancun, Mexico, he could witness the willingness of the Countries to help the Haitian people. Just before, at the meeting of {UNASUR} the Member Countries discussed the donation of over $ 100 million for the Haitian government. Lula stressed by several times that the aid to Haiti should be done following the needs defined by the local authorities.

Shoe vendor on a street in Port-au-Prince, capital of Haiti. Lula advocates debt relief for Haiti that the country can invest in its rebuilding.
Photo: Roberto Cordeiro / Blog do Planalto

The Brazilian president flew over the capital accompanied by Haitian President Préval. According to Lula, one of the priorities is the removal of rubble in towns and the lifting up of 50 to 60 modern tents per location in order to gather the families. Préval explained about his will on importing tractors and machinery from the Dominican Republic and the United States for the task force. According to the Haitian president, the machinery at the capital should be moved to the countryside.

"If Brazil has already built a very strong policy compromised on Haiti's close future, after seeing with my own eyes what happens to Haiti, we will do very much more. Things are even much more serious than we imagined. In this moment of pain and despair is exactly when we need to raise our heads and believe that Haiti will come out stronger of all this. A people that always have kept the dignity to fight. The first country to build Liberty in this Hemisphere will not bow to this setback. Men and women of Haiti will know with much more strength to build a fairer country for their own people, "he said.

Source: Presidential Palace (Planalto) Blog,

Rains threaten more Haiti misery

Go to Original (Al Jazeera English) >

Friday, February 26, 2010
07:20 Mecca time, 04:20 GMT

The first heavy rains have hit Haiti since last month's devastating earthquake struck, swamping makeshift camps that house hundreds of thousands of homeless and raising fears of landslides and disease.

The rains late on Thursday came as forecasters warned of a large storm heading in Haiti's direction that could strike over the weekend.

More than a million people were made homeless by the deadly January 12 quake, many of them now living in flimsy makeshift shelters that offer little protection from heavy rains.

Relief workers say the approaching wet season and the hurricane season later this year will likely add to misery for quake survivors struggling to rebuild their lives.

Even before the quake Haiti often suffered badly during the rain and hurricane seasons as a result of its poor infrastructure.

In 2008 a series of storms killed more than 800 people.

Now in the capital Port-au-Prince, some 770,000 quake survivors are living in makeshift camps and with the onset of rains, the threat of disease and infection poses another great challenge.

'Huge challenge'

"We have a huge challenge in terms of just providing emergency shelter - something that we feel that if we put all of our weight behind, as we are doing right now, we will be able (to do)," Kristen Knutson, a spokeswoman for the UN office that is coordinating the international relief effort, told Reuters news agency.

Thursday's deluge hit as relief officials changed strategy on dealing with quake
survivors, delaying plans to build big refugee camps outside the capital.

Instead, they want the homeless to pack up their tents and return to destroyed neighbourhoods.

Gerald-Emile Brun, an architect with the Haitian government's reconstruction committee, told Reuters that "everything has to be done before the start of the rainy season, and we will not be able to do it".

Brun also suggested that Haitians may largely be left to fend for themselves.

Haiti meanwhile is continuing to count the economic cost of the quake.

Call to cancel debt

On Thursday the country's president, Rene Preval, said government assessments had indicated that the disaster would cost the already poor country up to 50 per cent of its gross domestic product.

"This earthquake... led to the deaths of 200,000 to 300,000 people and destroyed from 35 to 50 per cent of the GDP," he said.

Preval was speaking reporters after meeting Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, his Brazilian counterpart at a UN-Brazilian military base in Port-au-Prince.

During his brief visit, Lula called on the international community to cancel Haiti's debt, and officials from the two governments signed agreements to aid Haitian farmers and schools, which were hard hit in the quake.

According to the United Nations, 5,000 schools were damaged or destroyed in Haiti, which was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere before the catastrophe struck.

Lula also referred to a recent South American summit's pledge of $300m in aid for Haiti, including an agreement to create a $100m fund to help the government with immediate needs.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

This is not a Post. It is a Gift! [ ♪ ♫ ♪ ]

Go to Original (SF Gate) >
The "This is Haiti" public service announcements
can be heard at
"Alan Lomax In Haiti" box set:

1930s recordings preserve 

Haiti's cultural wealth

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
(02-24) 04:00 PST MIAMI, (AP) --


At 21, Alan Lomax went to Haiti and recorded its citizens making music — songs about Voodoo, carnival politics, children's games and the first airplanes crisscrossing its Caribbean skies in the late 1930s.

He preserved the sounds on aluminum discs for the Library of Congress, but they were largely forgotten for seven decades as they sat in the library's archives.

Recently discovered, they were compiled into a box set released last fall. Haitian music scholars called it a "cultural archive" that documents the daily triumphs that get missed whenever a crisis in Haiti makes the news.

The catastrophic earthquake last month that killed more than 200,000 people was the latest crisis.

Now, the set's curator hopes "Alan Lomax in Haiti" will teach people that Haiti's culture remains intact, even when so many of its arts institutions have collapsed.

Music from the 10-disc box set, released by Harte Recordings, is featured in three radio public service announcements seeking aid for Haiti.

"It's too easy for people to just periodically feel sorry for Haiti," Gage Averill said. "Very few people except those who travel to Haiti understand just how much Haiti has to offer, how lovely a country it is, how generous a country it is."

Lomax was a newlywed ethnomusicologist when he set out to record the music of Haiti in 1936 and 1937, just following a 15-year American military occupation of Haiti.

He lugged his equipment into the mountains beyond the capital, Port-au-Prince, in search of ordinary people instead of polished performers and ended up with 1,500 recordings.

Ultimately, digital copies will be returned to Haiti, as some of Lomax's recordings from other Caribbean countries have been returned to those islands.

He found a wide range of music, from Boy Scout troops, religious processions, dances and bands of sugar cane cutters who brought back rhythms from Cuba.

Many of the Haitian Creole lyrics convey the impact of poverty and life in close quarters.

There also are songs about Haiti's global isolation after its slave rebellion and French ballads.

"The French romances (ballads) are not about courtly affairs and knights, but about the first time someone saw an airplane," Averill said.

When the earthquake struck near Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, the box set's collaborators looked for a way to use the music to help the relief effort.

It could show a different picture of Haiti than just a country of rubble; it also could immediately restore something that was lost, they thought.

"My feeling was, at a time like this, people don't just think of bread and water all the time," Lomax's daughter, Anna Lomax Wood, said. "They think of everything that is jeopardized in their lives — everything in their culture."

Actor Fisher Stevens and Kimberly Green, president of the Miami-based Green Family Foundation, produced the radio PSAs.

Like other urgent appeals for donations after the earthquake, they feature celebrities — Naomi Watts, Ben Stiller and Sting — seeking pledges to The Clinton Foundation and Partners in Health.

"This is Haiti," the celebrities say over three music clips selected from the box set.

They note the country's stature as the first black republic in the world after a slave rebellion succeeded in 1804, then its proximity to the United States.

Only in closing do they note Haiti's poverty and previous disasters.

The three songs selected for the PSAs share a sense of danger, Averill said.

In each, the singers call out to the gods for help, but they also prepare to take matters into their own hands if an adversary comes to close.

In a carnival song, a community girds itself against an unseen adversary.

A song from a Voodoo ceremony implores the gods to soothe some trauma and relieve the singers' agony.

Lastly, in a procession of sacred music, the band honors a particular supporter with a refrain that's still familiar, more than 70 years after it was recorded.

The refrain of one song indicates some beliefs have not changed much since Lomax's time. "After God, the priest,"   a rara band sings, honoring the entities they considered supportive. After the earthquake, some Haitians uttered a similar refrain, describing the entities most likely to help them: "After God, the United Nations."

Green said she hopes to broadcast Lomax's recordings on Haitian radio stations as they come back on the air, to inspire the preservation of culture even if museums and concert halls won't be rebuilt for years.

"I hope it can provide some solace to people, some strength," Lomax Wood said.


Go to Original (SF Gate) >


The "This is Haiti" public service announcements
can be heard at

"Alan Lomax In Haiti" box set:

President Lula article on Haiti: Brazil's committed to the long haul!

Go to Original (Miami Herald) >


In 2004, a major challenge brought us to Haiti.

Brazil, with a U.N. mandate and welcomed by the Haitian government, arrived to help establish security and stability.

Above all, our objective was to sow the seeds of a longstanding peace. 

The U.N. Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) sought to create a new paradigm for peacekeeping missions.

Our intent was to show that security can only be assured by achieving development and social justice.

The Jan. 12 earthquake struck a terrible blow: 220,000 lost their lives.

Much of the physical infrastructure of Port-au-Prince was destroyed. Houses, universities and hospitals vanished.

A nation that previously endured precarious conditions now faces the challenge of struggling to survive.

I will visit Haiti on Thursday. 

My presence in Port-au-Prince expresses Brazil's fraternal solidarity with the long-suffering people of Haiti.

Brazil shares the pain of those who lost family members and their possessions, but we will also help to rebuild lives and homes. 

I will reaffirm Brazil's commitment to cooperate in order to once again lift up a country that has already demonstrated its determination to find its way back to development, political stability and democratic participation.

Before the earthquake, the endemic violence in the Cité Soleil neighborhood had become a memory. 

Businesses were resuming production, agricultural recovery projects were advancing, schools were full of students with dreams for the future. 

No earthquake can shake our confidence in that promising future. 

Now we are taking in Haitian university students, so they can complete their studies in Brazil. 

They will return to Haiti fully prepared to work on rebuilding their nation.

Heroism and solidarity

Brazil and MINUSTAH must persevere because we know the Haitians themselves will not give up hope.

We are certain of that after witnessing the countless demonstrations of heroism and solidarity in the wake of the earthquake. 

The sacrifice of our heroic soldiers who lost their lives reinforces our commitment to Haiti.

We are inspired by the unyielding determination to survive by those who endured days, or even weeks, under the rubble. 

They never ceased to believe in being rescued, nor did the rescuers lose hope, as they relentlessly dug, even with their own hands, in search of signs of life.

With that same sense of urgency and dedication, Brazilian Air Force flights have been delivering humanitarian assistance to Haiti daily.

Brazilian ships weighed anchor immediately, transporting doctors, civilian volunteers and helicopters, as well as tons of food, medicine and water.

I dispatched three of my cabinet ministers to Port-au-Prince to oversee these actions.
The total funding allocated by Brazil in emergency assistance to Haiti has now reached $210 million. 

We are also ramping up our presence, sending an additional 1,300 soldiers to strengthen MINUSTAH and assist in reconstruction.

This is a joint national effort. Brazilian companies and representatives of civil society are also deeply engaged.

Their work is inspired by the example set by Dr. Zilda Arns, the founder of the ``Pastoral da Criança,'' who, along with hundreds of other Brazilians and foreigners who perished in Haiti, embody a model of love and devotion.

At the Haiti Donors' Conference in March, we will have the opportunity to mobilize this renewed solidarity internationally.

Brazil has redoubled its coordination with the world community to ensure that its assistance arrives promptly to those who are most in need.

Once the current emergency is behind us, Haiti will continue to confront the challenge of creating productive capacity adequate to sustain the country's development.

In order for Haiti to find new ways to develop its potential fully, we should avoid the proliferation of disconnected stand-alone projects that would fragment the country.

We need long-term responses that will enable Haiti to implement, with sovereign control, programs that are truly in its national interest.

Supplying water, energy

With this goal, Brazil conducted a viability study for a hydroelectric power plant project that will supply water and energy for the reconstruction of Haiti. We are prepared to contribute financially to this project. 

Toward the same end, an emergency meeting of the South American Union of Nations, held in Quito with the participation of Haitian President René Préval, decided to strengthen regional solidarity with Haiti.

We invite Haiti's principal trading partners to give privileged access to exports of Haitian manufactured products.

We call on the business community and investors to resume their investment plans for Haiti.

For this purpose, it is essential that we all grant access to our markets for Haitian goods.

I am not afraid to say that the destruction caused by the earthquake was exacerbated by the international community's longstanding lack of engagement in Haiti.

I am certain, however, that the international community also needs Haiti.

Our planet is undergoing an unprecedented crisis. We now face the imperative of finding genuinely global solutions to the threats we have in common.

The world yearns for examples from people -- such as the Haitians -- with a strong determination to live and the readiness to confront adversities with a spirit of serenity and generosity.

A popular Haitian saying captures this spirit perfectly: ``The victory belongs to those who perform miracles, not to those who wait for them to occur.''

We need to see Haiti return to being the nation that inspired generations and gave birth to heroes, such as Tousaint L'Ouverture, who led Haiti to independence and empowered peoples around the world. 

Haiti is now rising up to fulfill its destiny. Its people and government have already shown us that they will not succumb to powerlessness and fatalism.

The international community now has both the opportunity and the duty to assist them in performing this miracle. Without losing sight of what is truly essential, it is worth noting that the Haitian people continue to recognize their legitimately elected officials as the true leaders for the reconstruction of their country.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is president of Brazil

Haiti reconstruction official owns share of concrete company

WASHINGTON — Haiti's top reconstruction planning official owns part of the country's largest concrete company, which stands to reap major gains from the coming wave of international rebuilding aid.

Patrick Delatour, Haiti's tourism minister, leads a commission that has been crafting plans to rebuild Port-au-Prince and other earthquake-devastated areas. He acknowledged he is 5% owner of GDG Concrete and Construction, which he started in 2000 with his cousin. The company, which calls itself Haiti's only supplier of ready-mixed concrete, helped construct the U.S. Embassy and several other major buildings in Port-au-Prince, it says on its website.

"I own a 5% share of that particular company, and in the long term, when that company continues to grow, it is obvious that I will have my interest protected in there," Delatour said in an interview from Haiti. "It is normal. I don't see any conflict of interest."

The company's website lists Delatour as vice president, but he said he took a leave from that post when he became tourism minister in 2006.

That majority owner, Haitian-American Michael Gay, is Delatour's cousin, both say. GDG employs the minister's nephew, Bernard Delatour.

A graduate of Columbia University, Delatour lost his elderly parents in the earthquake. He has been featured in several news stories since the quake as a spokesman for the government's reconstruction efforts, which he says could require $3 billion in international aid. His interest in the construction company has not previously been reported.

Delatour said that he declared his ties to the company on a disclosure statement and that Haitian law allows his holdings. He compared his situation to that of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who owns a majority of Bloomberg, a media company.

New York's Conflicts of Interest Board ruled that since Bloomberg's company does no business with the city, the mayor was not required to sell his shares. CDG has done work for the Haitian government, its website says, including the Department of Transportation and Public Works, Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport and a government residential building.

"That is three government projects among hundreds of private ones," Delatour said.

Delatour also likened his situation to that of Dick Cheney. After Cheney became vice president in 2001, he retained stock options in Halliburton, an oil services company, and their value soared as the company became a major player in Iraq rebuilding. Before taking office, Cheney signed an agreement to donate the options profits to charity.

"American Cabinet officers are not paid wages that are below the poverty level," Delatour said. "Haitian ministers make less than taxi drivers."

Delatour should cut his ties to the company, said Robert Maguire, a Haiti expert at Trinity Washington University in the District of Columbia.

"How appropriate is it, in the aftermath of this tragedy, when massive contracts may be left to this company and a minister may be in a position to reap personal benefits?" Maguire asked.

Gay, who spent most of his career as an engineer in the USA, said the company is clearing rubble and doing rebuilding work for private companies.

GDG is in position to win donor-funded rebuilding contracts, Gay said, but he fears that large international companies will get most of the work.

"No American company is going to be giving you a subcontract just because you are the cousin of a minister," Delatour said. "They are not in the charity business."

WHO/PAHO | Haiti Earthquake Health Response 17 February 2010

More than a month after the 12 January earthquake that devastated swathes of Haiti, particularly its capital Port-au-Prince, in excess of 300 000 people are suffering from injuries and over one million are living in temporary settlements or host families after losing their homes.

Immediately following the quake, which killed more than 200 000 people, the most pressing need was to rescue people buried in the rubble and provide immediate emergency care for trauma patients.

Now in the second month, health needs have changed.

The focus today is on post-operative care and followup of patients who have undergone surgery, rehabilitative services for people with disabilities, providing primary health care services to people living in overcrowded conditions with poor shelter and sanitation, such as maternal, child and mental health care, control of chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Outbreak control and environmental health interventions are also crucial to prevent and control epidemics.

More than 50 staff from the World Health Organization/Pan-American Health Organization (WHO/PAHO) Office in Haiti responded to health needs in the wake of the earthquake. To support incountry operations, WHO/PAHO has since deployed more than 60 international experts in disaster management, epidemiology, public health, communicable diseases, water and sanitation and communications, among others. A field office has also been established in the Dominican Republic city of Jimaní, on the border with Haiti, to facilitate logistic operations.

WHO/PAHO is working with UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations in Haiti and coordinating the Health Cluster response to the emergency. More than 396 national and international organizations have registered with the Cluster, providing evidence of the enormous need for coordination. The Cluster has established sub-groups chaired by cluster members focusing on specific areas, including hospitals, medical supplies, primary health care/mobile clinics, reproductive health, disabilities, HIV/AIDS treatment and care, mental health and psychosocial support, gender violence and health information management.

Current Health Situation

Haiti’s entire health system, from its infrastructure to the very staff and system that operated it, has been deeply affected by the earthquake. The Ministry of Health’s building collapsed, killing more than 200 staff. Many Haitian doctors and nurses died or were injured, compromising the health system’s capacity to respond to pressing health needs.

While there has been no notable increase in infectious diseases being reported, poor sanitation and crowding increases the risk of communicable diseases. Fifty two sentinel sites have been established to monitor diseases and vaccination campaigns for measles-rubella and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis are being carried out.

The Ministry of Health has created a National Health Commission to coordinate the local and international response at three levels: mobile health centres, fixed health centres and hospitals. WHO/PAHO and health partners are supporting the Ministry’s priorities.

The re-activation of basic health services is a key priority to keep providing maternal and child health, treat chronic diseases, including tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, reduce malnutrition, manage cases of gender-based violence, and provide mental health services at the primary health care level.

With the rainy season approaching, mobile clinics are crucial in order to serve the displaced.

Revised Health Cluster Response

Health Cluster partners are focusing their efforts on the following areas:

1. Effective coordination of the health sector response, needs and disaster risk assessment, monitoring and evaluation 
• Support national health authorities in coordination of the international health assistance and the Disaster Response Commission
• Conduct health assessments and monitor mortality and morbidity trends by setting up early warning systems, monitor service provision and health facility capacity.

2. Ensure outbreak control and disease surveillance activities
• Re-establish the capacity to prevent and control communicable diseases
• Strengthen the health care information system
• Ensure immunization activities and vector-borne and zoonotic disease control activities

3. Ensure adequate water supply and environmental health
• Support the provision of safe water in health facilities
• Support health care waste management
• Hygiene promotion and health education in health facilities

4. Re-activation of basic health care services
 • Support the management of communicable diseases and primary health care services such as maternal and child health, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS
• Support basic emergency repairs in damaged health facilities and strengthen the use of mobile clinics for primary health care
• Provide equipment and supplies
• Support human resources for health
• Support prevention, screening and treatment of acute malnutrition

5. Effective treatment and rehabilitation of injured patients
• Support the treatment of injuries and emergency services, ensure access to a free orthopaedic unit
• Ensure proper functioning of at least one specialized institute on medical rehabilitation
• Set up community-based rehabilitation services

6. Ensure availability of essential drugs and medical supplies
• Provide essential medicines, surgical and trauma kits and other health supplies as needed.
• Ensure the proper functioning of Haiti's WHO/PAHO-managed central procurement agency for drugs and pharmaceutical supplies (PROMESS)

Health Cluster partners participating in the appeal are: CARE International, Fraternité Notre Dame, Handicap International, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, Hôpital Sainte Croix, International Medical Corps (IMC), International Rescue Committee (IRC), IOM, Management and Resources for Community Health (MARCH), Médecins du Monde (MDM), Merlin, PAHO/WHO, Partners In Health (PIH), the Haitian Health Institute (HHI), Save the Children (SC), UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF and World Vision.

Funding Needs

􀂾 WHO/PAHO and Health Cluster funding needs will be specified in the launch of the revised Flash Appeal on 18 February, 2010.

For more information:

Dr Henriette Chamouillet , PAHO/WHO Representative
Tel: ++409 22 45 45 53⎜

Washington, DC
Mr Jean-Luc Poncelet
Tel: + 1202 974 3434 ⎜ or

Jukka Sailas, External Relations
Health Action in Crises
Tel: +41 22 791 4778 ⎜ Fax: +41 22 791 4844 ⎜

Haitian Garment Workers Should Get at Least $5 a Day

Go to Original (The Huffington Post) >

Americans want to help Haiti; Democrats control the U.S. Congress; the Haitian Parliament has passed legislation saying Haitian workers should be paid at least $5 a day; and specific legislation that provides preferential access to the U.S. market to garments from Haiti is already U.S. law.

Therefore, the following policy reform ought to be a slam dunk: Haitian garment workers whose products receive preferential access to the U.S. market under the HOPE II Act ought to be paid at least $5 a day.

The international community is dusting off a plan to expand Haiti's low-wage garment assembly industry as a linchpin of recovery, AP reports.

The Obama Administration is on board, encouraging U.S. retailers to obtain from Haiti at least onr percent of the clothes they sell. Garments are central an economic growth plan commissioned by the UN and promoted by former President Clinton, the UN's special envoy for Haiti.

In 2008, Congress passed the "HOPE II" Act, which lets Haiti export textiles duty-free to the U.S. for a decade.

Currently, the minimum wage in Haiti for garment workers who produce for the U.S. consumer market is $3.09 a day. 

Last year the Haitian Parliament passed legislation to raise the minimum wage for all workers from $1.72 a day to $5 a day. 

But factory owners in the export sector producing for the U.S. consumer market complained to Haitian President Preval, and he refused to implement the law. 

A compromise was reached: the minimum wage is now $5, except for the garment workers; they get $3.09 a day.

AP gives the example of Jordanie Pinquie Rebeca, a garment worker:
Rebeca ... guides a piece of suit-jacket wool and its silky lining into a sewing machine...If she does this for eight hours, she will earn $3.09. Her boss will ship the pinstriped suit she helped make to the United States, tariff-free. There a shopper will buy it from JoS. A. Bank Clothiers for $550.
AP says that even the factory owners concede that garment-industry wages are too low to feed, clothe and house workers and their families.

As for Rebeca:
Rebeca ... sleeps on the street and barely eats. With a day's pay she can buy a cupful of rice and transport via group taxi, and pay down debt on her now-destroyed apartment. Anything left over goes to cell phone minutes to call her boyfriend, who was evacuated to the Dominican Republic with a leg fracture sustained in the quake, or her 4-year-old son, Mike, whom she sent to live with relatives in the countryside.
Should a worker in Haiti whose job is supported by U.S. consumer demand, whose product has preferential access to the U.S. consumer market, be forced to live like this?

The U.S. Congress could raise Rebeca's daily wage from $3.09 to $5 - a 60% increase - simply by enacting into U.S. law the benchmark established by the Haitian Parliament. 

Indeed, it is likely that if Democrats in Congress merely signaled their willingness to enact this benchmark into law, Haitian parliamentarians could do the rest.

They could go to President Preval and say: "Look, the Americans want this." And President Preval would have to listen.

Suppose that it takes Rebeca a day to produce that suit, an assumption that the AP article seems to imply is plausible. Is it too much to ask that she get an extra $2 for making a $550 suit? If we could ask the customer in the U.S. who purchased the suit for $550 for a $2 donation so Rebeca could have something to eat, how many people would say no?

Following the earthquake, the U.S. granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the U.S. One of the arguments in favor of doing this was that remittances from Haitian workers in the U.S. support people in Haiti, and this support was even more needed now in the wake of the earthquake. Doesn't this logic also apply to increasing the wages of workers in Haiti supplying the U.S. consumer market? Wouldn't this be a straightforward way to get U.S. dollars into deserving hands close to the ground?

We have a principle in the U.S. - not always honored in practice - that if you work full-time, you ought to be able to feed and clothe yourself and put a roof over your head. This principle ought to apply to workers in Haiti who produce for the U.S. consumer market.

This is a policy that labor, aid and Haiti solidarity groups should be able to unite on. Labor wants to raise labor standards. Aid groups want trade to support development. These are two great tastes that would taste great together.

Establishing this policy would set a good precedent. U.S.-supported international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have long used their influence to obstruct government efforts to raise wages in countries like Haiti. But the IMF has recently reversed itself on other long-held dogmas - embracing capital controls and moderate inflation in developing countries, for example. If the IMF can re-think capital controls and moderate inflation, maybe it can re-think starvation wages.

Follow Robert Naiman on Twitter:

Leaders agree to create LatAm bloc without USA and Canada

Go to Original (Al Jazeera English) >

Latin American and Caribbean leaders have agreed to create a new regional bloc that excludes the US and Canada.

The announcement came at the close of a two-day summit of 32 leaders in Cancun, Mexico on Tuesday.

The new bloc "must as a priority push for regional integration ... and promote the regional agenda in global meetings," Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president, said on Tuesday.

Further details of the new bloc, including its name, are to be decided on at a meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, next year.

The grouping is expected to serve as an alternative to the Organisation of American States (OAS), which includes Washington and Ottawa, and has been the main forum for regional affairs over the past 50 years.

Arturo Valenzuela, the US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said the US did not see the new grouping as a problem, but added that it "should not be an effort that would replace the OAS".

The Latin American and Caribbean leaders also called for fresh talks on the sovereignty of the Falklands-Malvinas Islands.

Support for Argentina

Expressing "support for the legitimate rights" of Buenos Aires in the dispute, they said it was in the region's interest that Argentina and the UK resume talks "in order to find a just, peaceful and definitive solution".

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, called for the UN to reopen the debate over the islands' sovereignty, which has re-ignited in recent days after oil drilling began off the remote, British-controlled southern Atlantic archipelago claimed by Argentina.

London recently rejected Argentina's latest claim to the islands, which Britain has held since 1833.

Argentina lost a short but bloody war to Britain over the south Atlantic archipelago in 1982, which cost around 1,000 lives.


Meanwhile, regional tensions were also highlighted at the summit as Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, accused his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe of being a US agent looking to stall the creation of the new regional bloc.

Morales said Uribe provoked a heated discussion with Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, during a private meeting on Monday.

The dispute highlights the left-right divides in the region and drew calls for unity by leaders such as Michelle Bachelet, the Chilean president.

"We must protect our people, be more inclusive … construct the paths and networks necessary so we don't live with our backs turned toward each other," she said.

Colombia, a close ally of the US, and Venezuela, whose president is one of the fiercest critics of the US in the region, are locked in a growing political and trade dispute.

Chavez has repeatedly accused the US of planning to invade Venezuela with the help of Colombia, a charge Washington and Bogota deny.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Zimbabwe: Haiti As Seen Through Pan African Eyes

Go to Original ( >

Published by the government of Zimbabwe

Tichaona Zindoga
23 February 2010


FOLLOWING the devastating earthquake that left over 200 000 people dead and destroyed almost everything in Haiti last month, the world was treated to eccentric Western hype about self-inflicted poverty, hopelessness and the heroism of foreign rescue efforts.

The West, through its media, even justified the occupation of this second largest Caribbean Island, which they religiously touted as the "poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere".

One example of the foregoing was aptly demonstrated by one Tony Itis who wrote for the Green Left weekly on January 23, questioning the derision of the suffering people of Haiti.

In the article he cites "right-wing" columnist David Brooks of the New York Times who reminded his readers in a piece on January 15 that when, in October 1989, the San Francisco Bay Area was hit by a Haiti-like quake, the death toll was (only) 63.

"Brooks used crude racism to blame 'a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences [including] the influence of the voodoo religion'," the Green Left writer said.

He continued as saying that although most (Western) media coverage of Haiti's latest tragedy lacked Brooks' crudeness, the same racist assumptions dominated.

"This racist narrative is being used as a smokescreen, behind which the US is cynically using the earthquake to increase its military, political and economic control of Haiti. (Actively hampering relief efforts in the process.)," he inferred.

Turn to February 1's New York Times International story, "In quake's wake, Haiti faces leadership void".

One understands the real reason why the United States could send a naval flotilla and almost 13 000 soldiers in a country that desperately needed food, medicines, water and shelter, among other essentials -- guns and tanks not included.

In this story, Ginger Thompson and Marc Lacey seem to justify a take-over of power in Haiti.

"During this greatest disaster Haiti has ever faced," they wrote, "its president (Rene Preval) has seemed incapable of pulling himself together, much less this deeply divided society."

They quote Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady of Haiti "who makes no secret of her presidential aspirations".

Manigat says what the country has "seen since the earthquake is not a leader but a broken man," concluding that the country could not move with him as president.

In fact, the paper caricatures the leader as wandering around "in a daze" and "lapsing into moments of disorientation", claiming that the "disappointment with the president seems most palpable".

It critically reveals that United Nations and American officials "did not believe" in Preval and that because of alleged corruption and inefficiency "only a fraction of aid flowing into Haiti is permitted to pass through government channels". That is what self-serving Western interests could only see, on top of barbaric acts of looting and need for Western salvation, in this bastion of African quest against racial domination that has of late become a colony of the West following years of Western subversion of democracy and people's will.

A UN military force has been occupying Haiti since 2004, when the US sent marines to support a coup against the democratic government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Following the quake, the UN announced it would add 2 000 soldiers and 1 500 police to the 9 000-strong force already there, sources say.

Westerners could not heed the message in Preval's "Kembe" (Creole for "hold on") or the resilience of the Haitian people in heroically sifting through the rubble and rescuing their own with bare hands and improvised tools and implements.

But for those who can genuinely identify with Africans, it has been a different case altogether.

Coltrane Chimurenga of the pan-African grouping, the December 12th Movement, said he was amazed at the determination of the Haitian people amidst daunting odds, with the Creole message of hope, "Haiti will rise again", being the dominant theme as people here grappled with the devastation of the 7.0 magnitude quake.

The December 12 Movement sent a five-member team led by Haitian Collete Pean to Haiti to deliver a shipment of water on a "Pan-African support mission", early this month.

The water, 1 200 twenty-five-litre bottles, was purchased in the nearby Dominican Republic through US$25 000 funds raised by the movement in New York in an effort to help the people of Haiti and "to show the solidarity of black people in the United States."

In an interview with The Herald after returning from Haiti where the movement donated water to the people of Léogâne -- a town near the epicentre of the quake -- Chimurenga described the poverty of the country, the devastation of the quake and lamented foreign involvement in Haiti.

"After crossing the border from neighbouring Dominican Republic, you can notice the stark change in infrastructure," he said, referring to the level of poverty in Haiti, ironically the first-ever country to defeat colonialism.

"Although the people live in shanties and they are poverty-stricken, you can see their industriousness and fighting spirit," he said.

He recounts that the level of destruction caused by the earthquake progressively magnified as one entered the capital, Port au Prince, hundreds of kilometres from the border with the Dominican Republic.

"When you reach Port au Prince everything is level.

"The buildings are all mounds of rubble and gigantic cracks knife through the earth's surface. People's homes have been destroyed completely and they have settled in open spaces and the streets," he said.

Yet amid a people trying to rediscover their shattered life -- with little success -- there is an overarching foreign and alien force in the midst.

Chimurenga says that foreign military, and notably US forces, are everywhere depicting a virtual occupation of the island.

"In Port au Prince, the military is pervasive. Soldiers holding M16 guns will be everywhere sometimes just walking about or setting up distribution camps for aid while military tanks are seen driving up and down," he said.

He insinuated that the military, far from providing security or prevent looting as pronounced in the public, played no real positive role here except to keep Haitian people oppressed and unable to rise.

When the disaster struck, the US took over the main airport, a move that not only prevented but also delayed other rescue efforts.

The high volume of military traffic prevented many aid flights from landing.

One report says that five planes belonging to Doctors without Borders were turned back by the US forces.
Chimurenga said he noted a certain aloofness of Western organisations in dealing with the people of Haiti, as contrasted with the solidarity of the people from countries like Cuba and Venezuela.

Following the quake, the two countries were among the very first to send help in the form of doctors, search and rescue teams, as well as tents for temporary shelter.

Some sections of the media have accused Western rescue teams for concentrating their efforts on tourists and expatriates. Because of the stranglehold that American forces maintained in Port Au Prince, the December 12 Movement chose Leogane where it could freely distribute the water.

"One thing is that the town was one of the most affected areas," Chimurenga explained.

"Secondly, the town was relatively free from interference compared with the capital."

He said that when the movement reached the town, they were met with Haitian grassroots contacts who co-ordinated a rapid unloading of the water from the container truck.

Old people, pregnant women and the weak were prioritised with each household receiving a 25-litre bottle each.

There were no incidents of looting or violence, Chimurenga said.

There will be a second such trip in the near future and the December 12 Movement has pledged to be involved in the reconstruction of Haiti, which the movement reckons is "a beacon of Pan-African liberation from the time of its successful war against slavery".

And from the modest gesture of giving water to thirsty brothers and sisters in Haiti, the movement wanted to send the simple, non-judgmental but powerful message: "Africans can always come to the assistance of Africans anywhere in the world in the fight for self-determination".

A Haitian school struggles in the aftermath of the earthquake


February 23, 2010

Haiti is living through an unimaginable catastrophe following the earthquake of January 12, 2010. One of the victims is Society of Providence United for the Development of Pétion-Ville (SOPUDEP), a unique school and community project located in Pétion-Ville, on the outskirts of Port au Prince. Its building is damaged beyond repair. Its staff and students are now engaged in a harrowing struggle for survival and for eventual renewal of the school.

A unique school project in a land where education is a luxury

Two years ago, I knew very little about Haiti other than it was a Caribbean island. But a summer spent exploring human rights led me to Haiti and the epidemic of extreme poverty and human rights abuses the majority of their population was facing every day. Haiti has become an integral part of my life ever since.

A random conversation with a photojournalist from Montreal, Darren Ell, led me to book a plane ticket to Haiti in the fall of 2007. I wanted to check out an education project he told me about, SOPUDEP. This was unusual for a guy who never finished high school! But once I saw Haiti with my own eyes -- her people, the school for poor children and their families -- I knew I had to get involved.

SOPUDEP prides itself on providing free education to the poorest children in the community, children who would otherwise have little or no opportunity for any kind of education. Haiti's public education system reaches only 10 per cent of the country's children. So foreign charities or other private institutions operate the great majority of schools.

Both public and private schools charge mandatory fees that are out of reach for most Haitian families because the average Haitian only takes home between .75¢ and $2 (U.S.) a day. SOPUDEP is different: families are only charged fees they can afford, and no one is turned away.

Education in Haiti is in a state of ongoing crisis. Because of the country's chronic poverty and the national government's lack of resources, SOPUDEP depends on international support for its survival.

SOPUDEP's co-founder and School Director, Réa Dol, is an unbelievable woman who tirelessly serves her community. She is a community leader, working with grassroots women's rights organizations, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, and economic empowerment projects. She also helps set up other community-based schools around the city, often providing them with financial support using portions of the funding she receives for the school.

Creating a Support Foundation for the School

On returning to my home in Orillia, Ontario after my first visit to Haiti, I set about creating a family foundation with the specific goal of providing financial aid, sustainability, and growth for SOPUDEP School.

For the remainder of the 2008/2009 school-year (five months), we resurrected the school's hot lunch program, five days a week. Réa explained to me that if we had shown up just a month later on our first visit, the school might possibly have already been closed due to lack of funds.

The average teacher salary is only $500 (U.S.) per year. The total salary budget for 47 staff in the 2008/09 school year was $26,957 (U.S.). There were few textbooks, poor protection inside the school from wind and rain, and most classrooms had dilapidated chalkboards and rough desks made from planks of wood. Despite these obstacles, the school offered education from pre-school through to grade 12. Students learned reading, writing, arithmetic and other subjects. 

A World Turned Upside Down

The daily struggle to keep the school routine going changed dramatically and forever on January 12, 2010 when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti.

The school building, a former private mansion, was one of the only three in a neighborhood of three hundred buildings to survive the quake. It was immediately put to use as a makeshift hospital and shelter. The majority of people who once lived in the surrounding area- called Monn Laza- moved into camps. Réa and her staff only managed to secure food eight days after the quake. Starvation was beginning to set in and international aid agencies had yet to reach the area.

Beginning of February 5, Réa recently explained to me, people began to move into the school building and grounds. Approximately 20 people are in the building, another 40 in the grounds.

"We purchased food with the contributions we receive from our friends and supporters. We buy corn (meal), rice, beans, cooking oil, spaghetti, and bullion flavoring. The food was bought on credit, more than 240 bags of rice, 279 measures of beans, 35 cases of cooking oil, 10 boxes of bullion flavoring, etc. As financial contributions come in, we reimburse our suppliers.

"All of the classrooms are occupied. They are filled with materials, mattresses and beds, everything. We offer water as well."

Réa has taken on even more during this disaster. She is now director of sanitation for a camp of 16,000 people that is situated by the ruins of the National Palace. She is also organizing daily food and medical distributions to be sent to other camps and because she was able to buy a pickup truck with donations received from a group in California, SOPUDEP's scope of distribution also includes Carrefour and other outlying areas. She reflects upon the prospects for Haiti's poor, "We would be very happy if the school could open," she says. "The children are in a bad situation, but the means are not yet available to start over."

"Most schools in the capital have been destroyed or are structurally unsound. The government is asking for schools to re-open under tents, but that represents a danger. In our case, there is not enough space in the courtyard. The children would be victimized once again if a second disaster struck. Our minds can only be at rest if there are open spaces, but we cannot find enough of them."

"This has been traumatic for our community. The school is still alive, but the area of Monn Laza is not livable at this moment. Everyone has deserted. How will we create a zone and climate of peace for children in this area? Other places in the city haven't been affected as badly as Monn Laza. Every home has been destroyed here and the government has still not even removed everyone from under the rubble."

Réa remarks on the incredible bravery of the young people in the district. "It is the youth who put masks on their faces and removed the rubble. Bodies have to be burned, but funerals cannot be conducted. It is the youth of the neighborhood who have taken on the heavy burden, and they don't even have the equipment like tractors or front-end loaders to do it."

"A reporter from the New York Times visited the area with me. He asked why our area has been overlooked by the rescue effort. It's because it has been fully destroyed. The authorities have given priority to other areas. So it is the youth who must make an effort, alone, to remove the dead from under the rubble."

"We have already contacted more than 135 families, all of them with up to 4-5 children, sometimes 6 children.

We are trying to support all of these families in terms of food, tarps, crutches, and travel in order to connect with their families in the provinces. We have helped organize mobile clinics in different shelters in many areas of the city. We are supporting the victims in any way possible, both the family members of SOPUDEP, as well as the other residents of Monn Laza."

Réa comments on other efforts she is making and the critical needs still on the ground, "I don't know of any other school that is doing what we are doing: personally going and looking for our children and getting our students involved in this search. We want to know who survived, who has left for the countryside, how many have died. And those that are here, we give them a stipend. I focus on the children, and I see their future, because it is they who will replace me tomorrow. We got the students involved right after the earthquake. But we have many, many traumatized people, young and old. We need psychologists, people that understand the mentality and customs of the country, who understand what just happened. We would be very happy to receive these people."

Beyond the Devastation

Conditions in Haiti are devastating. It will take a long time to recover. But our hopes lie in local organizations such as SOPUDEP because of their deep understanding of what the people of their community need. These are the organizations that deserve the bulk of our international aid money. Local initiatives that allow Haitians to be in charge of their own affairs will create a groundswell and a strong counter balance to the powers that have kept Haiti in a state of repression for over 300 years.

Last year, SOPUDEP began paying for a new plot of land on which to build a new school for the 2012 year. The first phase of architectural plans have been drawn up by the school and our foundation in Canada, together with a group of students and staff of the Interior Architecture Department at Ryerson University in Toronto. The immediate plans include temporary structures that can be used as classrooms and shelters.

These structures utilize free materials that can be readily found in any neighborhood. The second phase in this project is the permanent school building that would be made from shipping containers. This material is both hurricane and earthquake proof. It would also include a solar roof that could provide electricity to many surrounding homes. Current donations to SOPUDEP are devoted to food and other supplies for basic survival. Soon, classes will resume and teacher salaries and student supplies will have to be paid.

SOPUDEP's ability to help their community will not be limited by money, but its effectiveness will! It is up to us to help them in their fight to build a country that exists for all Haitians and not just for a select few.

The Sawatzky Family Foundation is a registered charity in Canada (BN: 80143 8417 RR0001).

One hundred per cent of all donations go to SOPUDEP.

No costs are assessed to donations, not even the costs of money transfers or administrative fees. For information on how you can support this amazing program that seeks every day to empower Haiti's most vulnerable, please click here [1].

Monday, February 22, 2010

Haiti Donations: New Rules for Getting a Tax Break

Go to Original (CBS Money Watch) >

by Kerry Hannon | Feb 22, 2010

Donate to a charity helping
Haiti earthquake victims
before March 1,
and the Internal Revenue Service
has some relief for you.

Under a new law, you can actually write off a 2010 Haiti donation on your 2009 tax return if you itemize. (You can put the donation on your 2010 return next year if you prefer.) “This is quite unusual,” says Tom Ochsenschlager, vice president of taxation for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. “But there are a number of requirements to qualify for this break.”

Here are the five key rules:
  • Your donation must be dated no later than February 28. That means, if you’re mailing a check, the postmark will need to be the 27; the 28th is a Sunday and post offices will be closed.

  • Your gift must be cash. Donations of clothes or other goods won’t qualify.

  • The charity must qualify as tax-deductible according to the IRS. The agency’s Publication 78 has a list of many approved groups. Churches, synagogues, mosques and government agencies are also eligible, even if they are not listed in Publication 78. But contributions made to foreign organizations generally are not deductible, so if you have your eye on a foreign charity, check to see if they have an American subsidiary. (For example, you can’t claim a deduction for a donation directly to Médecins Sans Frontières, but you can deduct a gift to Doctors Without Borders.)

  • You must be able to prove the donation was for Haiti relief. Be sure you have documentation that your contribution was earmarked to help victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake. The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund qualifies, and MoneyWatch blogger Kathy Kristof has noted some other groups worth considering. For contributions made by cash, check, credit or debit card, you’ll need either a bank record such as a cancelled check, a credit card statement, or a receipt from the charity. A receipt should show the name of the charity, the date of your donation and amount you gave. And if you zapped a text-message donation from your cell to the American Red Cross, United Way, or Catholic Relief Services, a phone bill will satisfy the recordkeeping requirement, as long as it has the required documentation for receipts.

  • Donations of $250 or more will demand additional documentation. For these gifts, you’ll also need written acknowledgment from the charity showing whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

Check back on every day between March 1 to April 15: We’ll be giving you a tax tip a day.

Senators Ask Remittance Companies to Cut Haiti Fees

Go to Original (Bloomberg) >

By Bill Faries and Adriana Brasileiro

Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senators John Kerry and Evan Bayh asked Western Union Co. and MoneyGram International Inc. to eliminate or reduce fees on money transfers to earthquake- damaged Haiti through June.

Kerry, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, and Bayh, a member of the Banking Committee, said suspending the fees of about 7 percent to 9 percent would help fund recovery efforts after the Jan. 12 temblor, which may have killed 300,000 people, according to Haiti’s president, Rene Preval. They praised both companies for cutting their fees in the immediate aftermath of the quake.

“While we appreciate your initial efforts, the need for a longer commitment is great because for many Haitians remittances will act as a lifeline,” the two Senate Democrats wrote in a letter today. “With your help, Haitian Americans who sacrifice to send remittances will see more of that money reach their families in Haiti who are in desperate need.” Kerry represents Massachusetts and Bayh represents Indiana.

Messages left with spokesmen for both companies weren’t immediately returned.

The Inter-American Development Bank on Feb. 16 estimated that it may cost as much as $13.9 billion to rebuild from the quake, the deadliest-ever in the Western Hemisphere, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The economic damage is equivalent to 104 percent to 117 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product, more than any other nation in modern times has faced, the bank said.

World Bank economist Dilip Ratha said in a statement on his Web site that Haiti receives between $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion in remittances each year.

The United Nations said Feb. 18 that the $1.4 billion is needed to provide food, water, shelter and sanitation to 3 million Haitians throughout 2010, the largest appeal following a natural disaster in the world body’s history.

Brazil plans to build hydroelectric plant in Haití

Go to Original [Spanish] at TeleSur >  

The Brazilian leader said the hydro was designed by the Brazilian Army specialists.

He also said the energy to be produced by his facility would help the reactivation of the country's industrial sector.

He announced that he will meet with President René Préval to report on it and listen to the needs of the Haitians after the devastating earthquake of January.

Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, announced Monday the will for construction of a hydroelectric plant in Haiti, to relieve the severe energy problems the Caribbean country is going through since the earthquake measuring 7.3 last January 12. 

"We [Latin America] are willing to do whatever is needed to rebuild Haiti along with other European countries, subject to the coordination of United Nations," Lula said on his radio show on Mondays, Coffee with the President.

Lula, who will travel to Port-au-Prince Thursday, said the hydro-power project is already designed by the Brazilian Army and said that this plant will ensure the energy necessary to install industry in the country. 

He said the reservoir will also serve to irrigate crops what will help Haitian agriculture. 

"I will see with our Armed Forces, which coordinate the Stabilization Mission of the Organization of United Nations (UN) in Haiti (MINUSTAH), that it becomes a priority, because Haiti is needing the world solidarity, and now the world should do what didn't in the past", he said.

Lula said his trip will be in solidarity with the Haitian people and to tell the government of this country that Brazil will continue to be supportive.

He recalled the approval of a grant of about $ 200 million to to help rebuild this nation.

"That amount is in addition to the $ 15 million that we decided to put through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the recovery plan for Haiti," Lula added.  

Speaking at the First Summit Mexico-CARICOM (Caribbean Community Countries), Préval said the rising death toll, established around 217 thousand, could rise to 300 thousand when they finish the tasks of lifting the debris. 

He also recalled that thousands of people remain without shelter and without jobs thus they need international help, not only to rebuild their homes, but to rehabilitate an economy that has also been devastated and urges now for jobs generation.

Préval said that at present the most pressing is the attention to the displaced before the impending rainy season and noted that in the future centralization should be avoided .


OtherSreams note: Brazil has more than 60% of its energetic matrix coming from hydro-powered energy, being one of the most specialized countries within the sector and having much of the biggest world plants totally built on own-developed technologies.

Peter Hallward (earlier TODAY) on “Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment”

“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.” 

“What is already certain is that  if further militarization proceeds unchecked, the victims of the January earthquake won’t be the only avoidable casualties of 2010.” 

Peter Hallward is the author of Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment and a professor of Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University.

Kim Ives is journalist with the newspaper Haiti Liberté, speaking from Port-au-Prince.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Haitians call for Aristide's return

Go to Original (Times - South Africa) >

Feb 21, 2010 11:00 AM | By AFP

The burnt-out church where he once preached to the poor in a Port-au-Prince slum is in ruins, but the graffiti on its stone walls is defiant: "Titid come back," it says, "quick, quick."

Titid - known to the rest of the world as Jean-Bertrand Aristide - was forced out of Haiti six years ago, but the suffering wrought by last month's devastating earthquake has intensified calls for the return of the Catholic priest who became the country's first democratically elected president.

Such calls are due in part to frustration with President Rene Preval over his low-key response to the disaster, but also to an enduring allegiance among many of the poor to the hope Aristide once represented.

"He should have come back already," said Joseph Wilfred, a 48-year-old father of three now sleeping on the streets near the Saint Jean Bosco church, where Aristide gave fiery, politically tinged sermons. "If he were here for this catastrophe, he would have handled it better."

Aristide, once a passionate advocate for Haiti's downtrodden who many accused of having grown hugely corrupt by the time he was forced from power in 2004, now lives in exile in South Africa.

Aristide has made no secret of his want to return to his country.

Three days after the massive quake hit - killing 217,000 people and leaving more than a million homeless - he told reporters he was ready to help. It was not the first time he raised the possibility.

Protests have broken out in the capital since the 12 January earthquake over the lack of food and shelter, with a number of demonstrators urging the diminutive figure (his nickname means Little Aristide) to come to their rescue.

Graffiti throughout the capital - and even on a rock at a mass grave for quake victims outside Port-au-Prince - calls on Aristide to come back, while support runs deep in the slums surrounding his former church.

"If he were here, we wouldn't be in this terrible situation," said Wesline St. Hilaire, a 32-year-old mother of seven who lives in a tent in front of the nuns' convent at Saint Jean Bosco.

She spoke as she sat on the ground cutting chicken parts covered in flies and tossing them into a pot, a church mass being held under tents a short walk away.

There was misery all around her, with buildings up and down the street crumbled and people taking up residence on the filthy ground. A child urinated on the roadside.

"President Preval cannot visit poor neighborhoods without MINUSTAH and the police," said Peter Lealis John, a 56-year-old living in a tent near the church. MINUSTAH is the name of the UN mission in Haiti.

Aristide rose to prominence by railing against Haiti's dictators in sermons, including the infamous Duvaliers, who held power from 1957 until 1986.

In 1988, his church was attacked and burned as he held mass, killing several people. Aristide went into hiding.

Only the shell of the building remains now, and the earthquake appears to have caused further damage.
Aristide was elected in 1991, but was overthrown in a coup the same year.

He returned to office in 1994 with backing from the United States, but fell out of favour with Washington amid claims of vote-rigging in the 2000 elections and political violence.

An armed rebellion in 2004 led to his exit. He has maintained ever since that the United States and France forced him to leave.

Father Wim Boksebeld, a priest at Saint Jean Bosco, said though he admired Aristide's fight for the poor, he did not think he should return.

"The Americans don't want him to come back," he said.

He spoke of Aristide's sermons and how he had denounced what he called a "banana regime," but said that the ex-priest moved too fast for his country.

Peter DeShazo, director of the Americas program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Aristide generated great hope which he failed to deliver on.

"And in the end, by the time he left the country in 2004, the country was pretty much in shambles," he said.

"You can't put all the blame on him, but certainly he deserves his share."

Aristide's return could cause more instability at a time when coordination is needed in the urgent aid effort following the quake, he said. "Any divisive element would be unhelpful," said DeShazo.

Could a Start-Up Competition Help Haiti?

Go to Original (The New York Times) >


Could a nation still lacking basic resources and infrastructure and still reeling from a devastating earthquake benefit from entrepreneurial education and cash grants for small businesses? Startup Weekend, a nonprofit organization based in Seattle, thinks so.

Since 2007, Startup Weekend has been orchestrating gatherings of entrepreneurs, application developers, marketers and designers who, over 54 hours in 3 days, pitch their business ideas, self-select, break into teams, and then work to build what they hope will become successful technology start-ups. Each Startup

Weekend culminates with a business competition, where participants and invited panelists vote for the best overall start-up to receive a prize. So far, according to Marc Nager and Clint Nelsen, the organization’s directors, Startup Weekend has held 83 events in 62 cities, and those events have begin 290 ventures.

Several companies hatched at these events are now operational, a few with full-time employees, including: Mugasha, an electronic dance music site based in Portland; Skribit, an Atlanta-based tool that helps bloggers gather story suggestions from their readers; Foodspotting, an online food guide based in San Francisco that emphasizes local dishes and user-contributed photographs; and SnapImpact, a Boulder, Colo.,-based site and iPhone app that matches volunteers to charities and projects.

But Startup Weekend has never held an event in a developing nation, let alone an area recovering from a natural disaster. Attempts to organize a Startup Weekend in Nigeria in 2008 failed because the group  lacked a network in the country to help secure a venue, promote the event, and recruit participants.

Nonetheless, Mr. Nager and Mr. Nelsen intend to hold Startup Weekend: Haiti in the fall, following the rainy season. To do so, they will have to raise sponsorship funds here and forge partnerships there with experts and organizations including schools and government offices. They face a steep challenge and need to learn a great deal about economic development, said Andrew Hyde, founder of Startup Weekend, “but sometimes big challenges are best met by people unfamiliar with the obstacles.”

So far, Mr. Nager and Mr. Nelsen have obtained one corporate sponsor, Microsoft BizSpark, a division of the software giant that offers free software and support to start-ups. BizSpark donated a venue for a fundraiser at the SXSW conference in Austin next month. Mr. Nelsen hopes the event will lock in at least $8,000 in donations and maybe more.

Startup Weekend will also seek donations online, using the services of San Francisco-based Piryx, a fund-raising platform that has worked extensively with politicians and nonprofit groups. In fact, it was Tom Serres, chief executive of Piryx, who suggested holding a Startup Weekend in Haiti.

Acknowledging their own lack of experience, Mr. Nager and Mr. Nelsen say they don’t know who will show up for the event in Haiti. They hope to recruit a mix of aid workers and residents with business ideas. “Whether people have ideas for farmers markets and Internet cafes, or high-tech, medical and logistics businesses, we want to help them get started and let them know we can continue to support them financially and with advice,” said Shaherose Charania, who is chief executive of Women 2.0 (another entrepreneurial support venture) and who has volunteered to serve as a coach.

Everyone is hopeful, but not everyone is convinced. “They might succeed if they do their research,” said Melissa Carrier, executive director at the center for social value creation with the University of Maryland. “But there is a strong risk that Haiti may not be ready to absorb this kind of economic development by the fall. Basic needs of the citizens may still be so under-met that there won’t be capacity to even think about business creation and jobs.”

Startup Weekend promises to spend 90 percent or more of the total budget raised for this initiative within Haiti’s borders and to post its budget on its Web site. “Beyond that, I don’t want to make other promises,”

Mr. Nager said. If the event inspires the creation of one company or one job even, he said, he would consider it a success.

See The Prize’s guide to coming business plan competitions. And here’s how to win a competition.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The U.S. in Haiti: Neoliberalism at the Barrel of a Gun

Go to Original (The Indypendent) >

By Arun Gupta
From the February 19, 2010 issue | Posted in Arun Gupta

Official denials aside, the United States has embarked on a new military occupation of Haiti thinly cloaked as disaster relief. While both the Pentagon and the United Nations claimed more troops were needed to provide “security and stability” to bring in aid, violence was never an issue, according to nearly all independent observers in the field.

The military response appears to be more opportunistic. With Haiti’s government “all but invisible” and its repressive police forces “devastated,” popular organizations were starting to fill the void. But the Western powers rushing in want to rebuild Haiti on a foundation of sweatshops, agro-exports and tourism. This is opposed by the popular organizations, which draw from Haiti’s overwhelmingly poor majority. Thus, if a neoliberal plan is going to be imposed it will be done at gunpoint.

The rapid mobilization of thousands of U.S. troops crowded out much of the aid being sent to the Port-au-Prince airport following the Jan. 12 earthquake. Doctors Without Borders said five of its cargo flights were turned away, while flights from the World Food Program were delayed up to two days. By the end of January, three quarters of Haitians still lacked clean water, the government had received only 2 percent of the tents it had requested and hospitals in the capital reported they were running “dangerously low” on basic medical supplies like antibiotics and painkillers. Nearly a month into the crisis, the Washington Post reported, “Every day, tens of thousands of Haitians face a grueling quest to find food, any food. A nutritious diet is out of the question.”

At the same time, the United States had assumed control of Haiti’s airspace, landed 6,500 soldiers on the ground with 15,000 more troops off shore at one point and dispatched an armada of naval vessels and nine coast guard cutters to patrol the waters, and the U.S. Embassy was issuing orders on behalf of the Haitian government. In a telling account, The New York Times described a press conference in Haiti at which “the American ambassador and the American general in charge of the United States troops deployed here” were “seated at center stage,” while Haitian President René Préval stood in the back “half-listening” and eventually “wandered away without a word.”

The real powers in Haiti now are the U.S. commander, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen; U.S. ambassador Louis Lucke; Bill Clinton (who has been tapped by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to lead recovery efforts); and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. When asked at the press conference how long U.S. forces were planning to stay, Keen said, “I’m not going to put a time frame on it,” while Lucke added, “We’re not really planning in terms of weeks or months or years. We’re planning basically to see this job through to the end.”

While much of the corporate media fixated on “looters,” virtually every independent observer in Haiti after the earthquake noted the lack of violence. Even Lt. Gen. Keen described the security situation as “relatively calm.” Veteran Haiti reporter Kim Ives told Democracy Now! on January 20: “Security is not the issue. We see throughout Haiti the population … organizing themselves into popular committees to clean up, to pull out the bodies from the rubble, to build refugee camps, to set up their security for the refugee camps.” In one instance, Ives continued, a truckload of food showed up in a neighborhood in the middle of the night unannounced. “It could have been a melee. The local popular organization … was contacted. They immediately mobilized their members. They came out. They set up a perimeter. They set up a cordon. They lined up about 600 people who were staying on the soccer field behind the house, which is also a hospital, and they distributed the food in an orderly, equitable fashion. … They didn’t need Marines. They didn’t need the U.N.”


But that’s what Haiti is getting, including 3,500 more soldiers and police for the 9,200-strong U.N. force already there. These U.N. forces have played a leading role in repressing Haiti’s poor, who twice propelled Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency on a platform of social and economic justice. And the poor know that the detailed U.S. and U.N. plans in the works for “recovery” — sweatshops, land grabs and privatization — are part of the same system of economic slavery they’ve been fighting against for more than 200 years. Neoliberal reconstruction, then, will happen at the barrel of the gun. In this light, the impetus of a new occupation may be to reconstitute the Haitian Army (or similar entity) as a force “to fight the people.”

This is the crux of the situation. Despite all the terror inflicted on Haiti by the United States, particularly the slaughter of thousands by U.S.-armed death squads after each coup, the strongest social and political force in Haiti today is probably the organisations populaires (OPs) that are the backbone of Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas. Twice last year, after legislative elections that banned Fanmi Lavalas were scheduled, boycotts were organized by the party. In the April and June polls the abstention rate was reported to be at least 89 percent.

A new occupation of Haiti — the third in the last 16 years — also fits within the U.S. doctrine of rollback in Latin America: support for the coup in Honduras, seven new military bases in Colombia, hostility toward Bolivia and Venezuela. Related to that, the United States wants to ensure that Haiti will not pose the “threat of a good example” by pursuing an independent path, as it tried to do under President Jean-Bertrand Aristide — which is why he was toppled twice, in 1991 and 2004, in U.S.-backed coups.


In a March 2009 New York Times op-ed, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon outlined his development plan for Haiti, involving lower port fees, “dramatically expanding the country’s export zones,” and emphasizing “the garment industry and agriculture.” Ban’s neoliberal plan was drawn up by Oxford University economist Paul Collier.

Collier is blunt, writing, “Due to its poverty and relatively unregulated labor market, Haiti has labor costs that are fully competitive with China.” He calls for agricultural exports such as mangoes that involve pushing farmers off the land so they can be employed in garment manufacturing in export-processing zones. To facilitate these zones Collier says, Haiti and donors need to provide them with private ports and electricity, “clear and rapid rights to land;” outsourced customs; “roads, water and sewage;” and the involvement of the Clinton Global Initiative to bring in garment manufacturers.

Revealing the connection between neoliberalism and military occupation in Haiti, Collier credits the Brazilian-led United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH ) with establishing “credible security,” but laments that its remaining mandate is “too short for investor confidence.” In fact, MINUSTAH has been involved in numerous massacres in Port-au-Prince slums that are strongholds for Lavalas. Collier also notes MINUSTAH will cost some $5 billion overall; compare that to the $379 million the U.S. government has designated for post-earthquake relief.

Speaking at an October 2009 investors’ conference in Port-au-Prince that attracted dogooders like Gap, Levi Strauss and Citibank, Bill Clinton claimed a revitalized garment industry could create 100,000 jobs. Some 200 companies, half of them garment manufacturers, attended the conference, drawn by “Haiti’s extremely low labor costs, comparable to those in Bangladesh,” The New York Times reported. Those costs are often less than the official daily minimum wage of $1.75. (The Haitian Parliament approved an increase last May 4 to about $5 an hour, but it was opposed by the business elite, and President René Préval refused to sign the bill, effectively killing it. This episode sparked student protests starting in June of last year, which were repressed by Haitian police and MINUSTAH .)


In his work Haiti State Against Nation: The Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism, Michel-Rolph Trouillot writes, “Haiti’s first army saw itself as the offspring of the struggle against slavery and colonialism.” That changed during the U.S. occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. Under the tutelage of the U.S. Marines, “the Haitian Garde was specifically created to fight against other Haitians. It received its baptism of fire in combat against its countrymen.” This brutal legacy led Aristide to disband the army in 1995.

Yet prior to the army’s disbandment, in the wake of the U.S. invasion that returned a politically handcuffed Aristide to the presidency in 1994, “CIA agents accompanying U.S. troops began a new recruitment drive” that included leaders of the death squad known as FRAPH, according to Peter Hallward, author of Damning the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment.

It’s worth recalling how the Clinton administration played a double game under the cover of humanitarian intervention. Investigative reporter Allan Nairn revealed that in 1993 “five to ten thousand” small arms were shipped from Florida, past the U.S. naval blockade, to the coup leaders. These weapons enabled FRAPH to grow and to terrorize the popular movements. Then, pointing to intensifying FRAPH violence in 1994, the Clinton administration pressured Aristide into acquiescing to a U.S. invasion because FRAPH was becoming “the only game in town.”

After 20,000 U.S. troops landed in Haiti, they set about protecting FRAPH members, freeing them from jail and refusing to disarm them or seize their weapons caches. FRAPH leader Emmanual Constant told Nairn that after the invasion the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was using FRAPH to counter “subversive activities.” Meanwhile, the State Department and CIA went about stacking the Haitian National Police with former army soldiers, many of whom were on the U.S. payroll. By 1996, according to one report, Haitian Army and “FRAPH forces remain armed and present in virtually every community across the country,” and paramilitaries were “inciting street violence in an effort to undermine social order.”

During the early 1990s, a separate group of Haitian soldiers, including Guy Philippe, who led the 2004 coup against Aristide, were spirited away to Ecuador where they allegedly trained at a “U.S. military facility.” Hallward describes the second coup as beginning in 2001 as a “Contra war” in the Dominican Republic with Philippe and former FRAPH commander Jodel Chamblain as leaders. A Democracy Now! report from April 7, 2004, claimed that the U.S. government-funded International Republican Institute provided arms and technical training to the anti-Aristide force in the Dominican Republic, while “200 members of the special forces of the United States were there in the area training these so-called rebels.”

A key component of the campaign against Aristide after he was inaugurated in 2001 was economic destabilization that cut off funding for “road construction, AIDS programs, water works and health care.” Likely factors in the 2004 coup included Aristide’s public campaign demanding that France repay the money it extorted from Haiti in 1825 for the former slave colony to buy its freedom, estimated in 2003 at $21 billion, and his working with Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba to create alternatives to U.S. economic domination of the region.

When Aristide was finally ousted in February 2004, another round of slaughter ensued, with 800 bodies dumped in just one week in March. A 2006 study by the British medical journal Lancet determined that 8,000 people were murdered in the capital region during the first 22 months of the U.S.-backed coup government and 35,000 women and girls were raped or sexually assaulted. The OPs and Lavalas militants were decimated, in part by a U.N. war against the main Lavalas strongholds in Port-au-Prince’s neighborhoods of Bel Air and Cité Soleil, the latter a densely packed slum of some 300,000. (Hallward claims U.S. Marines were involved in a number of massacres in areas such as Bel Air in 2004.)


Less than four months after the 2004 coup, reporter Jane Regan described a draft economic plan, the “Interim Cooperation Framework,” which “calls for more free trade zones (FTZs), stresses tourism and export agriculture and hints at the eventual privatization of the country’s state enterprises.” Regan wrote that the plan was “drawn up by people nobody elected,” mainly “foreign technicians” and “institutions like the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank.”

Much of this plan was implemented under Préval, who announced in 2007 plans to privatize the public telephone company, Téléco. This plan is now being promoted by Bill Clinton and Ban Ki-moon as Haiti’s path out of poverty. The Wall Street Journal touted such achievements as “10,000 new garment industry jobs” in 2009, a “luxury hotel complex” in the upper-crust neighborhood of Pétionville and a $55 million investment by Royal Caribbean International at its “private Haitian beach paradise.”

Haiti, of course, has been here before, when the USAID spoke of turning it into the “Taiwan of the Caribbean.” In the 1980s, under Jean- Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, it shifted onethird of cultivated land to export crops while “there were some 240 multinational corporations, employing between 40,000 and 60,000 predominantly female workers,” sewing garments, baseballs for Major League Baseball, and Disney merchandise, according to scholar Yasmine Shamsie. Those jobs, paying as little as 11 cents an hour, coincided with a decline in per capita income and living standards. (Ban Ki-moon wants Haiti to emulate Bangladesh, where sweatshops pay as little as 6 cents an hour.) At such low pay, workers had little left after purchasing food and transportation to and from the factories. These self-contained export-processing zones, often funded by USAID and the World Bank, also add little to the national economy, importing tax free virtually all the materials used.

U.S.-promoted agricultural policies, such as forcing Haitian rice farmers to compete against U.S.-subsidized agribusiness, cost an estimated 830,000 rural jobs according to Oxfam, while exacerbating malnutrition. This and the decimation of the invaluable Creole pig (because of fears of an outbreak of African swine fever), led to displacement of the peasantry into urban areas, and along with the promise of urban jobs, fueled rural migration into flimsy shantytowns. It’s hard not to conclude that these development schemes played a major role in the horrific death toll in Port-au-Prince.

The latest scheme, on hold for now, is a $50 million “industrial park that would house roughly 40 manufacturing facilities and warehouses,” bankrolled by the Soros Economic Development Fund (yes, that Soros). The planned location is Cité Soleil. James Dobbins, former special envoy to Haiti under President Bill Clinton, outlined other measures in a New York Times op-ed: “This disaster is an opportunity to accelerate oft-delayed reforms” including “breaking up or at least reorganizing the government- controlled telephone monopoly. The same goes with the Education Ministry, the electric company, the Health Ministry and the courts.”

It’s clear that the Shock Doctrine is alive and well in Haiti. But given the strength of the organisations populaires and weakness of the government, it will have to be imposed violently.

For those who wonder why the United States is so obsessed with controlling a country so impoverished, devastated, and seemingly inconsequential as Haiti, Noam Chomsky sums it up best: “Why was the U.S. so intent on destroying northern Laos, so poor that peasants hardly even knew they were in Laos? Or Indochina? Or Guatemala? Or Maurice Bishop in Grenada, the nutmeg capital of the world? The reasons are about the same, and are explained in the internal record. These are ‘viruses’ that might ‘infect others’ with the dangerous idea of pursuing similar paths to independent development. The smaller and weaker they are, the more dangerous they tend to be. If they can do it, why can’t we? Does the Godfather allow a small storekeeper to get away with not paying protection money?”