Haiti Report for June 6, 2004

Prepared 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.


UN Peacekeeping Mission (MINUSTAH) Arrives:
UN troops took over peacekeeping authority on June 1 as aid workers in the Caribbean nation struggled with the loss of military helicopters that had delivered supplies to victims of deadly flooding. US forces formally handed over authority to UN troops in a ceremony in the national police academy, beginning a transition expected to be complete by June 20. Many of the UN troops have yet to arrive. ìThe stakes are high. This time, let us get it right,î UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a message read at the ceremony. The Brazilian General in charge of the UN forces, Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira, said disarming Haitiís politically connected gangs would be an important step towards the goal of elections. ìThe disarmament is very important for the security of everybody. However, spiritual disarmament is even more important than physical disarmament,î he said. (Reuters, 6/1)

Trinidad and Tobago will not send troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, the prime minister said, reversing an earlier promise to send 121 soldiers. In a decision with political ramifications for the region, Prime Minister Patrick Manning said ìthere is no shortage of troops going into Haitiî and the best way for Trinidad to help is through humanitarian and financial aid. Manning said that Caribbean countries still have ìgrave doubtsî about the circumstances of Aristideís hurried departure aboard a US-chartered aircraft. But he did not say if that had influenced his change of mind. (AP, 6/2)

Manning said CARICOM has ìmoved onî over the issue of acceptance of the new Haitian government. Asked if he was aware of an alleged decision taken by Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur to accept the new Haitian Government, Manning said, ìNo.î Manning said that ìa lot of things are happening behind the scenesÖ I spoke with Mr Latortue in Guadalajara and what the entire Caribbean is trying to do is to move on.î Manning said CARICOM ìis trying to treat Haiti as one of the brotherhood.î He said he has no doubt as to what decision CARICOM would take on the matter next month. Asked specifically if CARICOM would agree to recognize the new Haitian government, Manning said, ìI have no doubt about it.î Manning reiterated that CARICOM had passed the issue of Aristideís removal from office in February this year. He said CARICOM had ìgrave doubtsî about the ouster and has called for an investigation into it. He said even while this is being done, ìwe are also looking to the future Haiti.î (Trinidad and Tobago Express, 6/3)

For Haiti, the stakes surrounding the new peacekeeping mission could not be higher. Despite the polemic surrounding President Aristideís resignation, the Brazilian-led UN peacekeeping mission can implement three strategies that will help ameliorate Haitiís naked misery. - The mission must provide security. It will fall to the Brazilians to disarm the leaders of the anti-Aristide rebels and the pro-Aristide chimere gangs. Actionable intelligence will be needed. As in Iraq, US intelligence operations in Haiti are compromised by personal relationships with duplicitous characters. The Brazilian Embassy must be beefed up to develop an independent intelligence stream. - Security, also a feeling of safety and hope for the future, must permeate to all citizens, from the poorest slum-dweller to the privileged elite. Turning on the lights can trigger this feeling. As UN forces are deployed across Haiti, they should turn on the lights as they go. Electric power is opportunity. - Job creation must be the third component of an immediate development assistance program. In Haiti, Brazil has the rare opportunity to succeed where others have failed. Even a limited success in Haiti will help President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva demonstrate that Brazil is not only a regional power but a nation that deserves a permanent seat on a reformed UN Security Council. The international community, Haitians and Brazilians should stand behind this effort. Haiti cannot be left to fail again. (Slavin and Pershing in Miami Herald, 6/3)

Argentine lawmakers approved the deployment of 600 troops to Haiti, local news sources reported. Following hours of debate and ardent opposition from some senators, the decision to send 598 soldiers to Haiti, La Nacion reported. (UPI, 6/3)

China kicked off a three-month training for 148 anti-riot policemen on Friday, and will select 125 to compose its first team of anti-riot peacekeepers for missions in Haiti, according to the Ministry of PublicÝSecurity. Vice Minister Meng Hongwei said Friday at the training's opening ceremony that the anti-riot peacekeeping team would help maintain local public security order and handle possible social turbulence, which would require rigid and higher standards in skills and disciplines than a common peacekeeping police. The team will head for Haiti in early September this year and stay there for about six months. (Xinhua, 6/5)

Rice War on the Poor:
One lesson of life in Haiti is never to say things cannot get any worse. They can, and they have. People say they have had less money, less food and less hope since the February ouster of President Aristide. For most Haitians, this has nothing to do with last weekís deadly floods, which left 1,000 dead and 1,600 missing in Haiti, according to the official government estimate. It has to do with the price of rice. The cost of living has soared in the past four months. And as they say in Haiti, ìRice is life.î ìLife for the people of Haiti was better under Aristide because rice was less expensive,î said Ms. Baron, not a big fan of the former president, who sells rice. ìEven though itís more expensive now, I make the same as I did before,î she said. ìThese high prices are not to my advantage. Theyíre not to anyoneís advantage except a few big importers and a few people in the Customs House. They always seem to have money.î ìWe have less and less to eat,î said Nadi Casmir, 21, who sells crackers, cookies and powdered milk from a sidewalk stall, and lives with her mother, aunt, and the auntís three children. ìThings were better before. Iím not making a living. Iíve had to raise my prices, but people have less money, so they canít buy what weíre selling.î Eighty percent of the rice imported by Haiti comes from the US, more than 300,000 tons in 2003. ìBecause of the political situation, I pay more for everything, for all the necessities of life, including rice,î said Ms. Baron. ìLifeís not better for me. Itís worse now. Itís not good for us poor people. The little money we have is not enough to fight the forces of commerce.î (New York Times, 6/1)

President Aristide Departs Jamaica and Arrives in South Africa:
Aristide was welcomed in South Africa on May 31 in a style reserved for visiting heads of state, ending a three-month search for what he maintains will be a ìtemporary homeî in exile. Before leaving Jamaica, Aristide insisted he was still the elected president of Haiti and vowed to return. President Thabo Mbeki embraced Aristide and his wife. South Africa says Aristide and his entourage can live in nearby Pretoria, the capital, at government expense until it is safe for them to return to Haiti. ìSouth Africa has a responsibility, as an African country and as part of the international community, to ensure that democracy and peace prevail in Haiti, and that the people of Haiti are able to choose who their leaders should be,î Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said. (AP, 5/31)

Deposed President Aristide spent his allotted 10 weeks in Jamaica in absolute silence. It was exactly what he promised. But he opened his mouth on the day he left for South Africa, to receive a top-level state welcome. Only a few hours before his departure on Sunday, May 30, he held a press conference. As one of a relatively small group of international and local media personnel, I was privileged to hear from the ex-presidentís own mouth some sentiments not mentioned in the official press release. President Aristide was careful to a fault, avoiding any direct reference to the major powers collaborating in his removal; he never once mentioned the US State Dept for instance. But he did not hesitate to call by name and designation as a crook the chief Haitian architect of his downfall. As firmly as he declared his full intention to return to Haiti from temporary exile, Aristide was equally strong in calling for a return to peace and democracy as a pre-condition of his restoration. Aristide did belabor one image to illustrate the new conditions of repression under the current Haitian regime, which he claimed is as different from his own as ìnight from dayî. It was the story of a five year old girl arrested, handcuffed and jailed along with her grandmother as suspected Aristide loyalists. In refuting several allegations of corruption on his part, he constantly returned to that image as the touchstone of a ruthless non-democratically installed government whose accusations against him bear no credibility. The ex-president insisted that talk of elections in Haiti is farcical, with ability of the populace to speak freely having been aborted. The image of the arrested five year old girl, symbolizes the smothering of any opposition to the current installed regime. Aristide sketched a gloomy picture of suffering and deprivation of the common Haitians, compounded by the recent floods. But he contended that without the right to vote freely, even those objective conditions are worsened by the subjective hopelessness of a people now being brazenly repressed. He spoke feelingly of the compassionate suffering of his wife and himself as they remain in ìdeep communionî with the plight of the ordinary Haitian people. He nevertheless wants to break the cycle of coup díetat with a return to democracy, not a return by violent counter-revolution. The exiled president faced a couple of allegations squarely. To the charge that he was in league with illegal drug dealers, he pointed out that not only did he sign a pact with the US to pursue drug dealers, but that there was a dramatic drop in the incidence of drug dealing under his regime and that this was supported by US statistics. In a comic mock query, he asked how US authorities were able to spot all the boats taking Haitian refugees towards American shores ‚ but not one boat was intercepted taking drugs. Asked about source of funds and the allegation that he fleeced the treasury was ìtotally falseî. He said he and his family unpreparedly left Haiti with no money; the generosity of Jamaica in hosting him and his family to live were, and are, his rescue. The president did not leave an air of mystery. Time and again he admonished journalists. ìBe patient.î This is because he is writing a book in which many questions surrounding his unwilling departure will be answered. The book is due for early publication. He did leave on a high moral note though. What he wants to see changed is a world in which four-fifths of the population consumed only one-fifth of the worldís resources. His mission is enshrined in that linked pursuit of peace, freedom and justice. He challenged all journalists to seek and speak the truth, and he graciously thanked Jamaica for its kindness to the refugees and his family. (Brown in Jamaica Observer, 6/4)

Criticisms of Interim Government from Opposition and Council of Wise:
Hubert de Ronceray, one of the leaders of the Democratic Convergence (the coalition now in power) said that the situation in Haiti is still very troubling three months after the departure of President Aristide. The political leader said Lavalas had destroyed all of the country's institutions, which is preventing the interim government from getting off the ground three months after the fall of Aristide. He asserted that it is not the fault of the technocrats who took power if the situation has still not improved. For his part, the leader of the Rally of Christian Democracy, RDC, Eddy Volel blamed the poor situation of the country on the Haitian politicians who violated the Constitution, he said, to install as prime minister someone who had renounced his nationality. Volel considered that the country will not go anywhere until the regime of Latortue's technocrats. "Living conditions for the population are deteriorating, crime and human rights violations are constantly on the rise, that is all that Gerard Latortue has achieved," Volel said. (AHP, 5/31)

The Council of Wise has declared it has no control over the Latortue governemnt through its spokesperson, Christian Rousseau. He said he regrets that the new government has not demonstrated its determination to make a break from the practices that prevailed under the previous governments. Rousseau, who represents the State University on the Council, explained that the Council is ready to fight in order to impose itself, despite its disappointment. He also criticized the signing of an agreement between the government and the Alstom company for the supply of 30 megawatts of electricity to Haiti's electric company, EDH. This contract was signed outside of all principles applicable to such an arrangement he said, and without any bidding process. (AHP, 5/31)

Electricity and Wasted Funds:
A significant improvement has been observed for the past week in the distribution of electricity in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. The Peligre hydro-electric power station has played a role in this improvement, as its lake received a large amount of water during the recent rains. According to sources close to the power station, the lake presently has close to 168 cubic meters of water available for energy production. This amount of water is more than enough to turn the three turbines of the power station, capable of generating 51 megawatts of electricity. However, in several EDH (electric company) circles, people are surprised that despite the 168 cubic meters of water available, senior officials have decided to operate only one of the three turbines, which supplies only 12 megawatts, instead of 17. Placing into operation all three of the Peligre turbines would bring about savings on the purchase of heating oil, diesel and fuel oil to operate the Varreux and Carrefour thermo-electric power generating stations, according to the same circles within the electricity company. Indeed the fact that only one turbine was placed into operation has meant that the EDH national electric utility has been obliged to bring online 27 other motors in its power stations in order to have the 75 megawatts that are currently available. Thus, EDH could obtain the same result, that is, it could supply 75 megawatts of electricity by placing into service the three turbines at Peligre. This would allow fewer motors to operate at Varreux and Carrefour, thus limiting their consumption of heating oil, diesel and fuel oil. (AHP, 6/1)

Insecurity and Elections:
KONAKOM leader Victor Benoit appealed to the interim authorities to disarm all groups across the country possessing illegal weapons. Benoit toured the Central Plateau and stated that disarmament is indispensable to the launching of the electoral process. If nothing is done in this regard, he said, the candidates will have difficulty campaigning freely in a secure climate. He also spoke out against the witch hunt. (AHP, 5/31)

Violence in Petit Goave:
Considerable tension was in the air on May 30 in Petit Goave when armed individuals used a grenade to set fire to the police sub station located at the entrance to the city. This incident took place several hours after an altercation between CIMO police officers and an individual named Ti Kenley who had proclaimed himself commander of Petit Goave. The police made arrests among supporters of the ex-opposition, including Ti Kenley, in connection with this matter. Supporters of the anti-Aristide GNB movement erected barricades and forced the police to free their comrades. Soldiers from the multinational force were dispatched to the area in order to help re-establish peace in the city. (AHP, 5/31)

Anti-Narcotics Investigation Leads to More Arrests:
The Haitian anti-narcotics police brigade and agents from the US DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) are continuing their operations against individuals accused of involvement in drug trafficking. Business man Marcel Michel was arrested in Port-au-Prince in the context of these operations for his alleged involvement. Senator Fourel Celestin, whose home was searched last week by Haitian police and DEA agents, has decided to turn himself in to the police. Celestin was immediately transported to the US after having been turned over to the DEA ìpursuant to agreements negotiated with the Haitian State.î (AHP, 6/1)

A former Haitian senator surrendered to federal agents on June 1 on drug smuggling conspiracy charges, according to law enforcement sources. Agents immediately brought Celestin to Miami to stand trial. According to a US DEA affidavit, Celestin received tens of thousands of dollars in protection money to ensure shipments of cocaine through Haiti. The affidavit, based on five confidential informants, also accused Celestin of hoarding cocaine shipments in his Jacmel home and narcotics trafficking. His arrest was part of a widening investigation into alleged drug trafficking activity in the administration of deposed President Aristide. (Miami Herald, 6/2)

Attacks on the Press:
Aryns Laguerre, a camera man from the private television station Tele Ti Moun, was arrested on May 28. He was arrested near the Port-au-Prince cemetery with several other individuals. Some 50 police, accompanied by the Justice of the Peace for La Croix-des-Missions, had forbidden access on May 18 to both Radio and Tele Ti Moun officials and employees and had chained the door shut. (AHP, 5/28)

Guyler C. Delva, secretary general of the Association of Haitian Journalists (AJH), condemned the arrest of Laguerre. Delva confirmed having met with the government prosecutor on this case and said that the judicial authorities are not in a position to provide any evidence that the cameraman took place in any illegal acts whatsoever. According to Delva, this is a case of arbitrary arrest, in that it was carried out without a warrant and in the absence of a justice of the peace to certify the statements by the police that they had discovered bullets in the pocket of Laguerre. The Tele TiMoun has said that he had no bullets in his pocket when arrested. Delva finds the accusation against Laguerre wild and grotesque. ìIf the police are unable to arrest bandits and criminals who are on the loose, how can they justify the arrest of a journalist even in the event that some bullets were found in his pocket,î the AJH secretary general wondered. Delva called for the immediate release of Laguerre. This illegal arrest can only cause harm to the provisional government, he said. He went on to declare that he is gravely concerned for freedom of the press in Haiti. ìIf a government decides to shut down a media organization because it disagrees with its political line, isnít this a threat to freedom of the press?î Delva asked. (AHP, 6/2)

Amnesty International on UN Mission:
Last weekís devastating flooding in Haiti is another compelling reason for the international community to take action to address the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Haiti, said Amnesty International (AI). Haitiís ongoing insecurity and political instability are rooted in a long history of economic and social inequalities. MINUSTAH [the UN mission] should make the most of the humanitarian provisions of its mandate, including by assisting the Haitian government in developing programs for the provision of basic social services, such as health, nutrition, water and sanitation. On the eve of the handover of power from the UN MIF Stabilization Mission to the UN MINUSTAH, ordinary Haitians are still living in fear and insecurity, while armed gangs remain in de facto control of much of the country. ìDisarmament of armed groups and the re-establishment the rule of law throughout the country must be the first step towards ensuring safety for civilians in Haitiî said AI. ìIt is regrettable that neither the MIF nor the interim government have made any credible attempts to initiate, or even propose, comprehensive nationwide disarmament programs.î As its first priority, the UN Mission must carry out the disarmament that has so long been promised, but never achieved. Only when minimum levels of security and the framework of government authority are re-established, will MINUSTAH be able to deal effectively with the other elements of their mandate; support to the interim government in the rebuilding of the police, prisons and judiciary and the establishment of the rule of law. The restoration of an independent judiciary and the development of a police force and prison system that observe human rights obligations must also be high on the list of priorities for MINUSTAH. AI is concerned that former military personnel with a record of human rights violations may be, or may have already been, incorporated into the police force. MINUSTAH must ensure that a vetting process is urgently established for the recruitment of new and the screening of existing police officers in order to prevent perpetrators of human rights abuses from joining the new Haitian police force. All past and current human rights abuses should be promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated, and those responsible ‚ regardless of their position of power or political views ‚ be brought to justice. Furthermore, accountability must extend to the UNís own personnel. MIF forces have allegedly used excessive force and intimidation during search and detention operations, and AI has urged the US Command of MIF to carry out thorough and impartial investigations into all such incidents, and to identify and deal appropriately with those responsible for any abuses. (AI, 6/1)

Flooding, Mudslides and Relief Efforts:
Deadly rains have left more than 50,000 homeless, helpless and hungry in floods that lashed Haiti and the Dominican Republic and killed at least 1,000 people. Aid agencies braced for epidemics, particularly in Haitiís southwest corner where workers are trying to free trapped corpses that risk contaminating water sources. The water could cause eruptions of dysentery, hepatitis, giardia and E.Coli. Mosquitos, which carry parasites that cause malaria and dengue fever, already are breeding in the standing water. (AP, 5/29)

Col. Glen Sachtelben, Chief of Staff of the MIF said that the Southeast department is at risk of being hit by a new catastrophe now that it is hurricane season. He deplored that no plan was prepared to evacuate the inhabitants of this region in the event there were new incidents of flooding. According to him, the MIF will not be able to do very much in the event of a new catastrophe. It will only be able to help by distributing basic necessities. "It is up to the Haitian government to address the displacement of the population in order to avoid the worst," said Sachtelben. (AHP, 5/31)

Francoise Groulos, the provisional resident coordinator of the UN in Haiti declared on June 2 that it is possible to travel by land to reach Fond Verettes. This area has been inaccessible due to deterioration in the roads since the latest floods there which caused more than 160 deaths. Several trucks have already been able to carry aid to the victims of the city, but it remains impossible to reach Mapou by truck due large areas of standing water. The chief of staff of the Multinational Interim Forfe (MMIF), Col Schatleben, declared on June 1 that the immediate needs of the victims in Fond Verettes and Mapou have been met. Therefore, the MIF is ending its rescue operations for victims for these areas. The Federation of Community Councils of Fond Verettes spoke out regarding the way in which humanitarian assistance is being distributed to the victims of the recent flooding that struck the area. Two officials of the organization said that a number of neighborhoods affected by the disaster have not yet received any aid. They say they fear that the aid will be intercepted to benefit people who were not victims. (AHP, 6/2)

A total of 2,061 Haitians have been picked up since January, including those taken to Port-au-Prince (122 repatriated from south of the Turks and Caicos), the Coast Guard reported. The numbers have already surpassed those from the past three years: 1,490 in 2003, 1,287 in 2002 and 1,956 in 2001. Marlein Bastien, of the Haitian Grassroots Coalition, said a ìfloating Berlin Wallî of US ships monitoring the waters near Haiti since February may have prevented more would-be refugees from leaving the island. The coalition and other Haitians advocacy groups are calling for the federal government to give Haitians temporary protected status, allowing them to stay in the US until the situation in Haiti improves. (AP, 6/3)

Rich Attempt to Reverse Land Reform in the Artibonite:
Peasants of the Artibonite Valley threatened to come to blows with the large land owners who made outright seizures of parcels of land that had been granted to peasants under a land reform program. In an interview with the private station Radio Solidarite, some 30 peasants who arrived directly from the Artibonite accused the interim government of Gerard Latortue of having acted in a lax manner that favors the actions taken by the large land owners. ìThe large land owners have the support of Provisional Prime Minister Latortue. And if Mr. Latortue continues down this road, blood will flow in the Valley,î they threatened, adding that they are not prepared to stand by and let themselves be exploited. Several individuals were injured on June 1 in clashes between groups of peasants from LíEstere and Hatte Chevreau (in the Artibonite) over land issues. These peasants, who are disputing rights to several hectares of land in the region, remain at each otherís throats. They accuse leaders of a human rights organization and sectors of the judiciary of being in league with the large land owners. (AHP, 6/2)

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