Haiti Report for June 29, 2004Prepared by Haiti Reborn/Quixote Center
The Haiti Report is a compilation and summary of events as described in Haitian and international media. It does not reflect the opinions of Haiti Reborn. This service is intended to give a better understanding of the situation in Haiti by presenting the reader with reports that provide a variety of perspectives on the situation.
Marx Aristide, Triumphant Activist, Dies in Car Crash
One of this country's most prominent activists for democracy and development in Haiti was fatally injured over the weekend when his car was struck by a stolen vehicle driven by a teenager, D.C. police said.
Marx Aristide, 37, of Silver Spring and a 30-year-old Maryland woman who was described by friends as his fiancee, were hit Saturday evening in Northwest Washington, police said. Aristide, an economist who had once run the Washington Office on Haiti, a nonprofit human rights group, was described as an eloquent voice for his native island. He died about noon Sunday at Howard University Hospital, police said.
News reports of Aristide's writing and speaking, and associates interviewed yesterday, portrayed him as vigorous in urging Haitian Americans to contribute their talents and energies to help relieve Haiti's grinding poverty. "He started a nonprofit organization called the Skill Share Foundation," said Haitian American leader Mildred Charles. The group reached out to Haitian expatriates to "share their knowledge and expertise in trying to rebuild Haiti," he said. In addition, after Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide was apparently forced from office this year -- an action to which Marx Aristide objected -- he went to Haiti to observe the new interim government and the state of human rights, according to Washington-based rights activist Nicole Lee.
Friends said that after President Aristide left office, Marx Aristide "was very active in challenging" what he considered U.S. policies that had driven him out. He and two others were to discuss Haiti yesterday with the editorial board of The Washington Post; the meeting was canceled. Bill Fletcher Jr. of TransAfrica Forum, who was to head the delegation, said Aristide would have brought "a visceral connection . . . with the people and the situation in Haiti that was unique." Marx Aristide was born in the Haitian City of Gonaives, studied at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and did graduate work at Howard University.
His mother lives in New York and he had a daughter, friends said. (Washington Post)
June 18th Demonstration
15,000 opponents of the Feb. 29th coup d'etat marched through the street on Friday, June 18th to denounce the foreign occupation. Partisans of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide poured from Haiti's slums and demonstrated peacefully in Port-au-Prince on Friday in support of the man they still consider their elected leader. Under the watchful eye of several dozen U.S. Marines and Haitian riot police, more than 5,000 Aristide supporters accused the Bush administration of kidnapping Aristide and called on Washington to return him to Haiti. Aristide has said repeatedly that he was abducted at gunpoint by U.S. security agents and forced to board a plane to the Central African Republic against his will on Feb. 29, charges that the United States has denied. The Bush administration has said Aristide resigned voluntarily as rebels approached Haiti's capital. (Haiti Progres)
Argentines Burn U.S. Flag to Protest Sending Troops to Haiti
Leftist activists on Thursday set fire to the flags of the United States and the United Nations on the terrace of the Argentine Defense Ministry here as a protest against the deployment of troops to Haiti. "If an army is national, it can't be an invading army," said Fernando Esteche, leader of the leftist organization Quibracho, at the protest, which was otherwise peaceful. Some 600 Argentine troops are set to travel to Haiti in mid-July to join the U.N. peacekeeping mission on the Caribbean island. (EFE News Service)
Zapatero Willing to Send Troops to Haiti
Spanish Prime Minister Jose said that his government is willing to send troops to Haiti as part of a United Nations mission, which officially took control of the country on June 25. Zapatero voiced this decision at the third European, Latin America and Caribbean Summit in Mexico. The Spanish government envisions that this is part of its long-term foreign policy. They hope to "act as a bridge between European bloc, Latin America and the Caribbean. (World Socialist Web Site)
The Abu Ghraib and Haiti Prison Connection
Terry Stewart, the former director of Arizona's prison system, has been sent to Haiti to reform Haiti's prison system. Mr. Stewart was a U.S. prison consultant sent last year to "reform" Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, now known for the disgraceful torture of Iraqi detainees.
Terry Stewart is the former director of Arizona's prison system. During Terry's tenure (1995-2002), the U.S. Justice Department repeatedly scrutinized and sued the state's Department of Corrections, alleging abuse, particularly of women. A 1997 DOJ suit charged that male prison guards raped, sodomized and assaulted 14 women. Female inmates were made to shower while male guards watched. Although Terry Stewart was not convicted, Arizona agreed to change its prison policies.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) called Terry's "shocking record of tolerated prison abuse" into question last week. In a Jun. 2 letter to the DOJ's Inspector General, Schumer asked how Stewart "with a troubling history in the United States' corrections system" was selected to oversee the reconstitution of Iraq's prison system, along with three other controversial appointees. (Haiti Progres)
Canadian Troops Seize Weapons from the Home of Former Haitian Senator, Dany Toussaint
Canandian troops raided the home of former Senator, Dany Toussaint on June 16 after receiving a tip from local authorities. They confiscated an M16 rifle, an Uzi submachine-gun, a semiautomatic .22-calibre rifle, four .38-calibre pistols and two dozen boxes of ammunition.
Toussaint was elected in 2000 as a member of Aristide's Lavalas Family party but later broke ranks to become an independent, saying he didn't agree with how Aristide was running the country. In 2002 Toussaint was summoned as a suspect in the 2000 killing of prominent radio journalist Jean Dominique, but he refused to answer the summons and the Senate refused to lift his parliamentary immunity. No one has been convicted in the killing. (Toronto Star)
Epidemics Threaten Flood Victims in Mapou
Doctors are fighting to prevent multiple epidemics that threaten survivors from the drowned Haitian town of Mapou, one of the worst-hit flood areas that killed about 2,600 people three weeks ago. A small team of doctors from Cuba and from the Paris-based Doctors Without Borders are fighting outbreaks of mosquito-borne fevers like malaria and dengue in Mapou, which is still under water following the May 24 floods. (Reuters)
Clothing Company Grupo M Continues Union-Busting in Ouanaminthe
Grupo M has ducked Sokowa's, the local Haitian union, efforts to address a series of grievances. Grupo M, a Dominican Republic-based company, has precipitated a strike, organized a lock-out of the workforce, and has fired more than half of its employees at the Ouanaminthe plant, which manufactures jeans for Levis. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions is protesting against another attempt at union-busting on the part of one of the biggest textile companies in the Caribbean, by calling on the World Bank to intercede in favor of the laid off Haitian workers.
The plant in question was built using a $20-million loan form the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank's private-sector lending agency. A one-day strike on Monday June 7th ended in an agreement between Grupo M and Sokowa for a return to work and the start of negotiations to address workers grievances. The following day Grupo M locked out the workforce and announced by letter the closure of their jeans factory in Ouanaminthe. On the Wednesday, the letter was partially rescinded, and the company restarted production, but on Friday, in another apparent U-turn, it was announced that the firm was laying off 254 workers. However, according to the Sokowa union, 370 workers (about 60% of the workforce) have been sacked.
According to information received by the ITGLWF, Grupo M CEO Fernando Capellan started threatening to fire factory workers as early as June 3, saying that the factory was suffering several million dollars in losses because of lack of productivity. The same day managers summoned four women workers into what is called the 'dark room,' locked the door and posted Dominican guards outside. Under the threat of weapons, the women endured a police-style interrogation. Their factory badges and work shirts were ripped off of them, leaving the women topless. After they had been in the room for nearly two hours, their co-workers grew worried and started to approach the room, shouting for the workers to be let out. The guards posted outside the room summoned back up. A truck full of guards arrived. The guards aimed their weapons at the workers, ordering them to back off behind a line traced on the ground with a rifle. A four-month pregnant woman was thrown to the floor, in a pool of mud, her dress torn. (ICFTU Online)
French and UN Troops Invade the Mayor of Milot's Home
On Monday June 14, a contingent of French soldiers along with some U.N. "blue helmets" invaded the home of Mayor Jean Charles Moise of Milot. Eyewitnesses report that a heavily armed convoy of two big trucks, 10 cars, two ambulances and about 80 soldiers descended on the Mayor's residence.
The mayor's four children, ages 3 to 9, were at home asleep at the time of the traumatizing dead-of-night French/U.N. home invasion. According to sources close to Mayor Moise, on finding that he was not home, the soldiers arrested his wife and took her into custody, possibly along with other adults in his house, leaving his small children without their mother. (San Francisco Bay View)
Amnesty International Report Blames U.S. and Haitian Government for Human Rights Abuses
Amnesty International said that Haiti is rife with human rights abuses and the Interim Haitian and U.S. governments are to blame. Despite the presence of the Multi-International Force, a large number of armed groups have continued to be active throughout the country and to abuse human rights said the report, written after a 15-day fact-finding mission to Haiti.
The interim government has swiftly moved to arrest members of former President Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party suspected of acts of political violence or corruption. However, they have not acted with the same commitment against accused or convicted perpetrators of grave human rights violations, some of whom played a prominent role in the recent insurgency.
The report specially criticized U.S. Marines in Haiti for what it called questionable shootings of Haitians. At least six Haitians were shot dead by U.S. troops March 7-12 in the capitol city of Port-au-Prince. (Michael A.W. Ottey, Miami Herald)
US Citizen Cassey Auguste, 22, Murdered in Haiti
Casssey Auguste was a 22-year-old American citizen who was killed at 2 p.m. on March 3 in Pont Sonde, about two hours north of Port-au-Prince. Auguste's mother had lived in Brooklyn, NY but returned to Haiti to open a small bar and market in Pont Sonde. Cassey decided to move to Pont Sonde permanently.
The day before the murders, several cars drove through the town, drivers warning, "The next day, we will come and kill." On the day of the murders, the cars returned. At the open market, people were told to stay in their seats, because "We know who we want." The store, which served as a bar and disco, was frequented by Lavalas supporters in the area.
The next several men armed with weapons went into the store and dragged Cassey and Extanus out onto the street. Luc Fabian, who was well known to the family, shot Cassey on the street. Luc Fabian recently joined the Gonaives Resistance Front, a group headed by Guy Phillipe, headquartered in Gonaives. The local leaders of the GRF are known as Butter Metayer and Wynter Tienne. The group is violently opposed to Aristide and Lavalas.
The family did not know why Cassey and Extanus were targeted but had several thoughts. Although neither Cassey, Extanus nor the Michaud family were active politically, the bar was frequented by supporters of Lavalas. Both young men wore their hair in dreadlocks, which is, to some, a sign of political affiliation with Lavalas. The family also suspects Luc Fabian murdered the two young men to prove his allegiance and value to the Gonaives Resistance Front or as an initiation rite. There is some feeling that Fabian acted without the sanction of those higher up in the organization, and, in fact, some of the men at the scene told Luc not to shoot Cassey and his friend and apologized to the family. (San Francisco Bay View)
Platform Former Opposition in the North Denounces the Incompetence of Technocrats in Power
Elusca Charles criticized "the extreme slowness of the Latortue government in coming to terms with a series of questions." He drew the attention of the interim government to the reforms he feels are needed within the national police and the judicial system. Elusca said he was very much disturbed by the attitude of the interim government which, in his view, is not worrying at all about the misery and suffering of the people.
The supporter of the anti-Aristide GNB movement, without the agreement of the authorities, went ahead last week with the installation of 19 new local government councils in Cap-Haitian to run the city halls in the North geographical department, believing that the interim government is incapable of governing the country. (AHP)
Reynolds Georges Claims that the Platform of the Former Opposition Provoked Foreign Troops' Occupation of Haiti
Reynolds Georges, the leader of ALLAH party (Alliance for the Liberation and Advancement of Haiti) accused the former opposition Platform Monday of provoking "the occupation of the country by foreign troops." According to Georges, it would have been preferable to negotiate a way out of the crisis with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide than to lead the country toward an occupation.
The ALLAH was critical of those who in the past had declared they were not interested in politics and who today hold the majority of the top jobs in the ministries. Mr. George was also pleased at the statements of students who said they were ready to resume the GNB movement, this time against the interim government, but without the participation of the political parties, whom they view as opportunistic. (AHP)
Louis Jodel Chamblain
While Ann Auguste, a 65 year-old grandmother and Aristide supporter, remains under lock and key at a prison in Port-au-Prince, Louis Jodel Chamblain, a convicted human rights abuser, was seen moving about the prison freely by Kevin Pina. Pina even noted that Chamblain assumed administrative duties in the prison. (Haiti Progres)
Arrests Associated with Tuesday Evening's Fire in Port-au-Prince
A fire ripped through a downtown section of Haiti's capital, destroying more than 30 businesses, officials said Wednesday. More than 30 stores and warehouses on both sides of the street were destroyed with damages estimated at about $1 million, said Reginald Boulos, president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Some were buildings and others were food stands that belonged to an open-air market. Warehouses containing food, toilet paper and candy were also destroyed, private Radio Vision 2000 reported. (AP)
Haitian National Police (PNH) Director General LČon Charles confirmed Friday that several individuals were arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation into the fire that broke out in the downtown commercial district of Port-au-Prince during the night of Tuesday June 22. LČon Charles indicated that the fire is the work of people seeking to destabilize the country.
The interim government announced Friday the creation of a five million gourdes fund to help small businesses who suffered as a result of Tuesday's fire in the downtown Port-au-Prince commercial center. The Minister of the Economy and Finance, Henri Bazin, who spoke on behalf of the government, said that two million gourdes have also been released for victims of the fire at the public market in Gonaives that occurred on June 15. (AHP)
Several hundred small scale vendors who were victims of the intense fire that broke out during the night of Tuesday, June 22, complained that the interim government has not taken their case into consideration. These small shopkeepers said they have lost everything in the flames and indicated that they do not know where to turn for help. They appealed for assistance from the interim authorities to enable them to resume their activities.
The vendors particularly criticized the head of the interim government, Gerard Latortue, who met, they said, with the large business owners who suffered from the fire while showing no concern for their situation. They asserted that this behavior displayed by Gerard Latortue clearly shows that the provisional government will not do anything to help them. (AHP)
Yvonne Neptune, Haiti's Former Prime Minister, Arrested
Yvon Neptune, Haiti's former prime minister who refused to leave his homeland in the wake of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's departure, came out of hiding Sunday to turn himself in to Haitian authorities. He is accused of organizing and ordering the killing of Aristide opponents in the port city of St. Marc, 60 miles north of the capital of Port-au-Prince, in February.
The U.S. Embassy, while condemning the St. Marc massacre, which took place at the height of Haiti's violent rebellions, recognized that Neptune helped facilitate the transition. It has asked the government to come to a quick resolution to its inquiry. Aristide supporters were livid at the news Sunday. ''It is a pity that in the 21st century we still have such pain like we have in Haiti right now,'' said Jonas Petit, a spokesman for Aristide's Lavalas Family who was among several party officials and supporters who fled to the United States following Aristide's Feb. 29 ouster. ``It's a pity the international community doesn't react to this thing. We are in America. Haiti is in the Americas.'' The New York-based Haitian Lawyers Leadership also denounced Neptune's arrest and what it calls ``the repression of Lavalas supporters by the business elites, their death squads, reconstituted army officers.'' In several interviews with The Herald following Aristide's departure, Neptune insisted that he would not leave Haiti despite fears for his safety. In his final days in office, he was under 24-hour protection. He was later barred from leaving the country by the interim government.
Neptune is now the highest-ranking official from Aristide's government to be arrested. In April, Haitian authorities arrested Aristide's interior minister, Jocelerme Privert, and charged him with conspiring to kill Aristide opponents in St. Marc. Aristide opponents say that during the height of the armed rebellion that helped toppled Aristide, his supporters killed about 50 opponents in a massacre on Feb. 11 in La Syrie, a village near St. Marc. However, there have been conflicting reports about just how many people were killed, and independent observers were able to find only five bodies. (Miami Herald)
Maxine Waters denounces the arrest of Yvonne Neptune
On Capitol Hill today, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) denounced the arrest of Yvon Neptune, the wrongfully-replaced Prime Minister of Haiti, and demanded the arrest and prosecution of the thugs and killers who have taken over Haitian cities. Yvon Neptune was detained yesterday by Haitian police in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.
"Yvon Neptune is still the legitimate Prime Minister of Haiti, and his arrest is part of a politically-motivated campaign to arrest and intimidate members of Lavalas, President Aristide's political party," said Congresswoman Waters. "The people who were responsible for President Aristide's ouster are now determined to destroy the political movement he led." (House Press Release)
Transfer of Power from MIF to MINUSTAH on June 25, 2004.
A United Nations force led by Brazil took over command from the United States on Friday of peacekeeping in Haiti four months after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted by a coup d'etat. While many look forward to tense U.S. Marines being replaced by Brazilians who share a passion for soccer, rights groups and Haiti experts said the challenges are enormous.
The Brazilians and Chileans who are staying on will be joined by Argentines and others in a force that will eventually number 6,700 troops and 1,622 police, and have a broader mandate of preparing the country of 8 million for elections in 2005. Our most difficult mission will be disarmament," Brazilian Gen. Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira said. It's a long-term mission, it's a mission that depends on the Haitian National Police, it depends on the Haitian authorities and we will also depend on the support of the population. But not on force." About 3,000 convicted prisoners who escaped from jails during the revolt will have to be recaptured, and a sharp rise in crime confronts Haiti's ill-trained police.
Rights groups said the U.N. force will have to encourage the interim government to be even-handed in applying justice. Named by a council of Haitians, Latortue's government has arrested supporters of Aristide accusing them of corruption, murder, and other crimes. But little effort was made to go after human rights abusers from past military regimes who joined the revolt. The Haitian interim government has been dragging its feet: after 100 day in power, there are still no signs of the urgently needed disarmament program or any real attempt to apprehend escaped prisoners and know human rights violators," Amnesty International said. (Reuters)
The definitive transfer of materials and operations from the Multinational Interim Force to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) took place Friday, June 25th in the presence of several officials of the interim government. Interim Prime Minister GČrard Latortue praised the work accomplished in Haiti over the past three months by the multinational force aimed at preventing a catastrophe, he said.
According to Gerard Latortue, there is a good deal of work for MINUSTAH to do in Haiti, notably the creation of a climate of security to facilitate the renewal of economic activities and the creation of employment that will be beneficial, he said, to the establishment of a climate of peace in the country. "We are counting heavily on the contribution of the MINUSTHA with respect to the disarmament process underway in the country and the professionalization of the national police ", declared Mr. Latortue. He noted in this regard that he has observed some degree of an increase in the crime rate. (AHP)
Reaction to Massive Dismissals in the Civil Service
The National Protestant Coalition for the Promotion and Respect of Human Rights (CNPRDH) declared that it greeted with astonishment Friday the statements of provisional President Alexandre Boniface suggesting that all State employees who have been fired from their jobs thus far by his government were deeply involved in embezzlement. In a news release, the CNPRDH asked why these employees were not turned over to justice officials to answer for their actions rather than being illegally and arbitrarily fired after several years of service. "Why were the employees who were accused of serving no useful purpose in the performance of their positions in the public sector not immediately replaced by other workers", CNPRDH went on to ask. (AHP)
Public Sector Employees Living in the 2004 District Speak Out Against the Government's Decision to Dispossess Them of Their Public Housing
State employees living in the 2004 district spoke out Friday against the decision by the ministry of Social Affairs to dispossess them of their public housing which they claim they have purchased outright from the previous government. According to these employees, this measure constitutes a breach of the contract, which they agreed with the Haitian government under the public housing program created by the Lavalas government. Under the terms of that contract, they insist, the installment payments on these homes extends over a 20 year period. The enactment of such a measure, they said, contradicts the principle of the continuity of the commitments of the State. (AHP)
The Director of Air France in Haiti Murdered Thursday Night by Armed Individuals
Didier Morthet, the director of Air France in Haiti, was murdered Thursday night by gunmen riding aboard a motorcycle in the Musseau district. The killers attacked as the victim was returning home from the Toussaint Louverture international airport. Didier Morthet was struck by two bullets; one hit him in the arm and the other struck him in the heart. For the time being, the motives behind the killing are not known, and no one has claimed responsibility for the crime. The police, who arrived at the scene of the crime within moments, announced the opening of an investigation to find those responsible. (AHP)
Artibonite Valley Residents Call for the Minister of Agriculture's Resignation
Peasant farmers in the Artibonite Valley on Friday denounced the staggering increase in the price of fertilizer on the local market. They pointed an accusing finger at the new Minister of Agriculture, agronomist Philippe Matthieu, whom they see as being behind their difficulties buying a bag of fertilizer. According to them, a bag of fertilizer now sells for 2,000 gourdes, whereas under the Lavalas government it cost 1,500. These peasants also criticized the government for deciding not to continue subsidies for fertilizer, contrary to the previous government. And they deplored that the Latortue government has turned this question over to the private sector, which is now setting prices, they say, to suit their interests. They called for the resignation of the Agriculture Minister and announced a large mobilization against him and his collaborators to prevent a situation where the Artibonite department is incapable of producing enough rice for its inhabitants.