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26813: Haiti Progres: (news) This Week In Haiti 23:39 12/7/2005 (fwd)
From: Haïti Progrès <email@example.com>
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
December 7 - 13, 2005
Vol. 23, No. 39
U.S. DOCTOR SAYS:
JEAN-JUSTE IS GRAVELY ILL
by Kim Ives
On Dec. 1, a North American doctor examined Haitian political prisoner
Father Gérard Jean-Juste in jail and found that he had symptoms of
cancer or an infectious disease.
Haiti's illegal government arrested Jean-Juste, a well-known activist
priest and supporter of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, as he
was helping to officiate a funeral on July 21 (see HaVti ProgrPs, Vol.
23, No. 20, 7/27/2005). Since then he has been imprisoned - for the
second time since the Feb. 29, 2004 coup against Aristide - without
Concern over Jean-Juste's health has grown in human rights circles as he
has complained of neck and back pain. He was severely beaten by a mob
just before his arrest.
In his medical report, Dr. John Carroll reported "multiple enlarged
lymph nodes" in Jean-Juste's neck and underarms. Carroll also reported
that the nodes had increased in size since he last examined Jean-Juste
in September and that the patient had "an abnormal complete blood
Carroll, the founder and medical director of Haitian Hearts, an NGO
which treats Haiti's children, noted that among the possible causes for
Jean-Juste's symptoms are "hematologic cancers, metastic cancer, and a
host of infectious diseases."
Carroll said that Jean-Juste needs "an extensive medical work up, CAT
scan, and surgical biopsy of the cervical and/or axillary lymph nodes to
determine their etiology (cause) and to begin appropriate treatment
The doctor concluded that "many cancers of the blood have a good
prognosis when treated early by specialists."
Meanwhile, in Miami, the Haitian community and its supporters are
organizing a massive march on Dec. 10 calling for Jean-Juste's release
from jail. The demonstration starts at noon from the Torch of Friendship
in downtown Miami's Bayfront Park. March organizers are expecting
thousands to come out in support of the jailed priest, who organized on
behalf of Miami's Haitian refugee community during the 1980s before
returning to Haiti in 1991.
For more information on the Dec. 10 march, call (305) 582-4846 or (786)
290-1750 or visit www.freejeanjuste.com.
SEEING THE FOREST AND THE TREES
by Brian Concannon Jr.
Haiti's election dates have now been reset for the fourth time in the
last five months. The Interim Government of Haiti (IGH) will now miss
the February 7, 2005, deadline for transferring power that it had
promised to meet for 21 months. These delays, and the logistical
problems underlying them, are a cause for concern. But the logistical
defects should not obscure the more fundamental problems that will
prevent the elections, whenever held, from helping Haiti to break from
its brutal history of political instability.
The delays show a disturbing lack of organizational competence on behalf
of both the IGH and the Provisional Electoral Commission (CEP), which
has the responsibility to run the voting. Every step of the process has
been completed late, because of a failure to prepare for obvious
obstacles. Voting registration stretched past the August deadline into
October, because registration facilities were not installed in poor
urban and rural areas. An international outcry pushed the CEP to expand
the opportunities to register, and eventually about 3.5 million people
reportedly registered, out of an estimated pool of 4.2 million eligible
The latest schedule calls for a first round of Presidential and
legislative elections on January 8, a runoff election on February 15,
and local elections on March 5. Several remaining hurdles make reaching
this goal unlikely, including distributing electoral cards, printing the
ballots, recruiting and training electoral officials and establishing
enough voting centers. The electoral cards pose a particular challenge.
Although the CEP held a ceremony to introduce a "pilot" distribution in
September, the Counsel announced on November 30 that voters should
listen carefully to announcements on how they should pick their cards
The distribution of the electoral cards is complicated, involving
alphabetical order and date of registration, and the urban and rural
poor who had so much difficulty registering often lack access to radio,
television or other means of hearing the announcements. The schedule
leaves five weeks before the first round to distribute the cards (and
hire and train officials and find facilities for voting centers, which
the CEP announced it was starting to do on November 30), when
registration alone took over five months. Those particular five weeks
may be the hardest of the year to get things done. They include
Christmas, Haiti 's Independence Day on January 1 and the beginning of
Carnaval season on January 8, and much of that is school vacation.
The Interim government may eventually overcome these hurdles and hold
technically acceptable elections. But logistical smoothness does not in
itself ensure that the elections will make a sustainable improvement in
Haiti 's political stability.
Stability in Haiti requires a respect for the basic rules of democracy,
as written in the Constitution and international human rights
instruments. Voters must know that when they vote they have the right to
elect the candidates of their choosing for a specified period of time.
They must know they will have the opportunity to renew officials'
mandates if they keep their promises, and vote them out of office if
they do not. Those who seek political power must know that their only
path to power is through the ballot box; those who attain power must
know that they can stay as long as their term allows, and no longer.
The IGH's current course is establishing (or reviving) several dangerous
precedents that undermine the basic democratic rules. First, it is
demonstrating that a mandate can be extended by simply not holding
elections for a replacement. The current best-case scenario has the
country missing the Constitution's February 7 deadline for handing over
power by a couple of weeks. Missing this deadline is serious, and will
be more so as the two weeks stretches into many more (imagine the uproar
in the International Community if President Aristide were in the
National Palace and failed to hand over the Presidential sash on
February 7). But the IGH missed an equally important deadline eighteen
months ago. Article 149 of the Constitution gives provisional
governments 90 days to organize elections, and that period expired on
June 1, 2004, without any attempt to hold elections.
The IGH will claim that it is trying to hand over power as soon as it
can, and that a lack of resources combined with logistical and security
problems kept generating delays. But in October 1994, when Haiti's
elected government was restored after a three-year dictatorship, it had
less financial support but managed to organize full legislative and
local elections in eight months, and the regularly scheduled
Presidential elections six months after that. The IGH's claim of trying
its best would have been more convincing had it not diverted so much
time and money to projects that were unnecessary for an interim
government: granting generous concessions for foreign companies to
exploit shipwrecks that had sat off Haiti's coast for 300 years already,
backpay for soldiers for not doing work after the army was disbanded in
1994, and most recently pursuing lawsuits against the elected
governments in US (and not Haitian) courts.
A second dangerous precedent is the government deciding who the people
can vote for, and who can organize electoral activities. One of the most
popular potential Presidential candidates, and the IGH's most prominent
critic, Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, is four months into his second stay in
prison, despite no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Haiti 's last
Constitutional Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune, has spent seventeen months
in prison. Even the US Ambassador called his detention a "violation of
human rights, injustice and abuse of power." Dozens of grassroots
activists, including well-known people like "So An," but also many more
known only to friends and family in Haiti , are held illegally. On
November 27, Louis Joinet, the UN Human Rights Commission's Independent
Expert on Haiti , called a press conference to denounce the IGH's
illegal jailing of political opponents.
A third dangerous precedent is the use of political terror as a campaign
strategy. Over and over again over the last six months, Haitian police,
and even troops from MINUSTAH, the UN mission in Haiti , have gone into
neighborhoods known as strongholds of government opponents, killing,
maiming and arresting people and destroying houses. In October,
MINUSTAH's top human rights official called the human rights situation
in Haiti "catastrophic," citing summary executions, torture and illegal
arrests. Keeping the poor neighborhoods under siege and imprisoning
activists keeps government opponents from organizing and campaigning. It
also keeps voters indoors, now and on election day.
On August 20, police accompanied by civilians called the "Little Machete
Army" attacked a crowd at a soccer game in the neighborhood of Grande
Ravine, killing at least ten people. The police initially denied
involvement, but after an outcry the force conducted a partial
investigation. Police leadership made the report public, and disciplined
eighteen officers, both positive signs. But no members of the Little
Machete Army have been arrested, even though victims of the massacre
report that they continue to operate openly. One MINUSTAH patrol did
arrest a member of the victims' association, illegally (without a
warrant), while he was working with another MINUSTAH unit to bring
victims to the hospital. After another outcry the police released the
The IGH cannot claim logistical or financial obstacles to stopping the
political repression. Releasing political prisoners will actually save
the money spent to incarcerate them; not shooting political opponents
saves money spent on bullets. Many political prisoners have never seen a
judge, and can be released by an order of the police or prosecutor. Most
of the rest are held by judges hand-picked by the government, who would
dismiss the case or at least let the person out on bail if prosecutors
The "official" watchdogs for this election are maintaining their focus,
and will not let the organizational chaos or widespread persecution dim
their enthusiasm. Last July, Organization of American States (OAS)
Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza provided a glowing report,
claiming the elections were "moving ahead," and predicted that a
one-month extension of registration would solve the problems.
Registration was eventually extended over two months, during which time
the police arrested Fr. Jean-Juste and the death squads massacred the
Grande Ravine soccer fans. When the latest dates were announced, Mr.
Insulza conceded in retrospect that "the electoral process was slow to
get off the ground," but trumpeted that now "considerable progress has
been made, which allows us to be cautiously optimistic about having
organized, orderly and credible elections early in the new year."
MINUSTAH reacted to the fourth postponement of the elections with an
equally glowing report - it even predicted the new President would be
inaugurated a week earlier than the electoral decree did. MINUSTAH's
press release did not even mention the "catastrophic" human rights
situation that its own human rights department denounced in October, or
the political prisoners that Mr. Joinet discussed just three days
before. MINUSTAH Chief Juan Gabriel Valdes did warn of "dark interests
in Haitian society" that could disrupt the elections, but could find no
fault with the IGH's lack of preparation or persecution of opponents.
Haitian voters may decide that the best thing they can do in the face of
a deeply flawed process rubber-stamped by the International Community is
to participate anyway. They may find a candidate they can support
enthusiastically, and be happy with the end result. But this will not
mean Haiti is any closer to escaping its centuries-old cycles of
violence. The shortcomings of the process will inevitably detract from
the victor's legitimacy, making a tough job even harder. The precedents
of extending a Presidential mandate, keeping opponents off the ballot,
and deploying electoral terror will soon enough return to once again
deprive the Haitian people of the stability and democracy they deserve.
Brian Concannon Jr., Esq. directs the Institute for Justice and
Democracy in Haiti and is a former OAS Elections Observer and UN Human
Rights Observer in Haiti. This article was originally published on
CANADA:THE BLOC* AND LIBERALS ALIGN ON HAITI
by Yves Engler
Canadian involvement in Haiti has made for some strange bedfellows.
Among the many puzzling aspects of our country's recent role in the
hemisphere's poorest country is that the Bloc Quebecois are passionate
defenders of the Liberal government's questionable conduct. And
supposedly "left-wing" groups based in Quebec share a political analysis
with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.While the Bloc asks
questions about CIA "torture" planes landing in Canada the separatist
party criticizes the NDP for using the word "removal" to describe what
happened on February 29, 2004 to Haiti's elected President Jean Bertrand
Aristide. In a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign
Affairs and International Trade Bloc MP Pierre Paquette insisted the NDP
's Alexa McDonough use the word "departure" instead. This is also the
position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Pierre Pettigrew and U.S.
President George W. Bush. Removal is the word preferred by Haiti's
neighbors in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the African Union.
Both organizations have called for inquiries into Aristide's ouster and
have refused to recognize the interim government.
A Bloc MP who met with members of the Montreal Haiti Action Committee
refused to see the irony of agreeing with the Bush administration on
Haiti - whose Secretary of State went out of her way on a recent trip to
Ottawa to praise Canada's role in Haiti. Willing to condemn the U.S. war
in Iraq, the Bloc remains silent on Canadian "aid" that for three years
went almost exclusively to NGOs that opposed the Haitian government and
now flows to groups that ignore the human rights disaster which has
resulted from the overthrow of the president and thousands of other
elected officials. Neither the Bloc or the Conservatives have asked the
government why the deputy minister of "justice" for the first fifteen
months of the interim government, Philippe Vixamar, was on CIDA's
payroll for four years up until July 2005.
How bad are the current human rights and social conditions in Haiti? On
August 20, 2005, machete-wielding men, protected by Haitian National
Police, chopped to death as many as 50 spectators in a crowd of 5,000 at
a soccer game paid for by USAID in a poor Port au Prince neighborhood.
After UN "peacekeepers" attacked a "gang" leader in a Port au Prince
slum, Ali Besnaci, head of Doctors Without Borders in Haiti said: "We
received 27 people wounded by gunshots on July 6 . Three quarters
were children and women." Reuters and/or Associated Press have reported
numerous police killings of unarmed protestors over the past 18 months.
On June 28, 2005, the United Nations Undersecretary-General for
Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno described the situation in Cap Haitien,
the country's second largest city, as worse than in Sudan's devastated
Darfur region. More recently, Thierry Faggart, director of the human
rights section for the UN mission in Haiti, admitted that the post-coup
human rights situation is "catastrophic."
Yet Canadian funded NGOs working in Haiti (largely based in Quebec) that
criticized the Aristide government and called for his removal remain
curiously silent on the abysmal record of the interim government.
Officials from the Quebec Federation of Labour blocked a resolution
originating in English-Canada union locals criticizing Canada's role in
Haiti at the Canadian Labour Congress' annual convention in June. Even
Quebec-based Alternatives, a "progressive" news organization that
receives CIDA funding for work in Haiti, effectively supports the
Liberal government despite growing grassroots opposition to Canada's
shameful role in Haiti.
Why are the Bloc and Quebec "left" organizations siding with what has
been described as "Canadian imperialism" in Haiti?
Could it be the numerous Quebec-based companies that do business in
Haiti? Or the diaspora that sent many members of the Haitian elite to
Montreal? Or the fact that the Aristide government promoted the Creole
language at the expense of French?
One can only hope that this is not an example of an "oppressed people"
ignoring their complicity in a 21st century version of colonialism.
*Bloc québécois is a federal party whose sole purpose is to be in the
opposition in order presumably to defend interests of the Province of
Quebec and promote its independence. Its leader is the opportunist
Gilles Duceppe who is always quick to attack Paul Martin but sides with
Paul Martin on the issue of Haiti. [Editor's note]
**Yves Engler is co-author (with Anthony Fenton) of Canada in Haiti -
Waging War on the Poor Majority published by Fernwood Publishing. The
above article is an excerpt from the introduction to the forthcoming
French translation of Canada in Haiti.
All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Progres.