Wednesday, May 20, 2015

CEP Releases Final List of Candidates for Legislative Elections


by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

Early on the morning of May 15, Haiti’s electoral authority posted online the final list of approved candidates for legislative elections scheduled to be held in August. Over 2,000 candidates registered, representing some 98 different political parties. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) rejected 522 candidates – 76 for the Senate and 446 for the lower house – leaving 1,515 candidates to compete for 138 open seats.

Candidate senate deputy

The CEP, in announcing the rejection of over one-quarter of registered candidates, provided no rationale for individual cases. CEP member Lucie Marie Carmelle Paul Austin told Le Nouvelliste that the list is final: “The CEP did its work in a completely equitable manner and in compliance with the law.” She added that in many cases candidates were rejected because they did not have proper paper work proving their Haitian nationality.
            All the leading parties saw a significant number of candidates rejected, with Martelly’s Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK) having the most rejected: 31. Still, PHTK had registered the most candidates, and other parties had a higher percentage of their candidates rejected, such as Platfòm Pitit Dessalines and Renmen Ayiti. After the CEP’s rejections, VERITE, the new party created by former president René Préval and former prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive, has the most candidates in the upcoming election, with 97 followed by PHTK with 94.

candidates byparty

Although the CEP has said the decisions are final, political parties have expressed their frustration with the lack of transparency in the process. The coordinator of Fanmi Lavalas, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, told the press that the party had requested an explanation from the CEP, adding, “I think the right of all has to be respected and if there are people who have been unfairly rejected, we will present ourselves to the CEP, we will begin a legal process so that they do justice to those they unjustly rejected,” according to Haiti Libre.
            After the publication of the list by the CEP on Friday, the Haiti Press Network reported that some candidates led protests against the decisions. Supporters of Germain Alexandre Fils, a candidate for deputy in Petit Goâve under the VERITE ticket, blocked National Highway #2, while in the Central department PHTK Senate candidate Willot Joseph threatened to block elections from happening unless the CEP decision was reversed.
            The rejection of First Lady and PHTK Senate candidate Sophia Martelly had already been announced, but with seven other candidates for Senate rejected, PHTK can no longer field a candidate in every department. The only political party that is fielding senate candidates in all 10 departments is Fanmi Lavalas, which had been excluded from participating in past elections.
            In response to the CEP’s decision, the PHTK party released a statement “strongly challenging” the rejection of their candidates and calling on supporters to remain calm.
            Nevertheless, some of the rejections could hardly come as a surprise. These included former Senator Rudolph Boulos, of the PHTK party. He had previously been forced from his post after it was determined that he held a U.S. passport, making him ineligible to hold office in Haiti.
            While rejections made the headlines, some interesting names did make the cut. Jacqueline Charles reports for the Miami Herald: “Among those who will be vying for one of those empty Senate seats is Guy Philippe, a former Haitian police officer who led the 2004 coup that toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Over the years, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents have tried — and failed — on at least three occasions to arrest Philippe, who has been wanted in the United States since 2005. This will be Philippe’s third try at elected office in Haiti.”

            The registration period for presidential elections is ongoing.

Maryse Narcisse Registers as the Presidential Candidate of the Lavalas Family Party


by Daniel Tercier (Haiti Liberte)

With great fanfare, on May 19, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the coordinator of the Lavalas Family Political Organization (FL), registered as that party’s candidate for presidential elections scheduled for October and December.
            With over 150 motorcycles, 10 school buses, and 40 private cars, thousands of FL partisans clogged the streets of Tabarre in anticipation of the event. Dr. Narcisse arrived at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy around 9:30 a.m.. After a rally there, she drove through the multitude to the home of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, about a half mile away. After about 15 minutes, two vehicles with tinted windows emerged. The crowd went wild, thinking that Dr. Aristide was in one of the vehicles. But when the cars arrived at the West Department’s Electoral Bureau (BED), it turned out Dr. Narcisse was accompanied by Mildred Trouillot Aristide, the former president’s wife.

            The FL has been excluded from all Haitian elections for over a decade, since the U.S.-backed coup d’état against Aristide in February 2004.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Presidents Hollande and Martelly Obfuscate France’s Debt to Haiti


by Isabelle L. Papillon (Haiti Liberte)
           
It was to cries of "Long Live Dessalines, Down with Hollande!" that Haitian protesters welcomed French President François Hollande during his visit to Haiti on May 12, the last stop of several he made in the Caribbean over the past week.
            Haitian President Michel Martelly and his de facto Prime Minister Evans Paul greeted President Hollande with a red carpet at the Port-au-Prince airport. The French delegation was made up of some 300 people: members of the government and Parliament, representatives of five French overseas territories, university officials, cultural figures, businessmen, and 60 journalists.
            Hollande’s visit to Haiti of less than 24 hours was his first and reflected the domination which France still exerts over its former colony. The visit comes five years after former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Haiti shortly after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.
            Thousands of Haitian demonstrators seized the occasion to once again demand reparations for slavery and colonialism as well as restitution of the debt of 90 million French francs which Haiti paid France from 1825 to 1947. In 2001, France officially recognized that slavery was a crime against humanity. Calling on France to concretely remedy this crime, in 2003, then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government asked France to repay Haiti’s “independence debt,” with interest, which Haiti assessed at about $21.6 billion. France scoffed at the request, the first by any former colony, and joined with Washington to foment the Feb. 29, 2004 coup against Aristide.
            In 2006, former French President Jacques Chirac formally decreed May 10 the date to memorialize the evils of the slave trade.
            On May 10, 2015, President Hollande invited President Martelly and over 50 heads of state and government, as well as the representatives of international institutions, to the inauguration the world’s largest center commemorating slavery: the ACTE Memorial in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.
            In his May 10 speech, Hollande saluted Martelly’s presence representing the first nation to break slavery’s chains by defeating French troops. "This memorial will tell the world that the fight for human dignity is not over," Hollande said.
            Then Hollande shocked the crowd when he denounced the treaty to repay 150 million gold francs which French King Charles X extorted from Haiti in 1825 as “the independence ransom." (The “ransom” was reduced to 90 million gold francs in 1893.) Hollande then declared: “When I get to Haiti, I will in my turn pay the debt we have" to Haiti.
            The surprise declaration drew great applause from the audience, which included many Caribbean leaders who have recently been petitioning former colonial powers for reparations, following Haiti’s lead. Unfortunately, Hollande’s remarks were disingenuous, as Louis-Georges Tin, president of the Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN), explained in an open letter to the Haitian people.
            “The people who gave birth to Dutty Boukman, Cécile Fatiman, Toussaint Louverture, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines must now rise again,” Tin wrote. “Haitians, François Hollande, the French president, will be in your land on May 12. He will want to speak: let him keep silent. It is for you to speak. As soon as he begins his speech, let a chant begin silently, let it spread from one to the next, like spark that gradually engulfs a savanna in flames.
            “And let all say, and all roar ‘Restitution, Reparations!’ Until the President has accepted your just request, continue unabated, ‘Restitution, Reparations!’
            “On May 10, at the inauguration of the new memorial to slavery in Guadeloupe, François Hollande gave an historic speech concerning reparations. He vowed to return to Haiti the "ransom" imposed by France....
            “But hours later, a press release from the French president’s entourage to the national and international press claimed that there was a misunderstanding, that the remarks of President Hollande referred only to a ‘moral debt’ and not a financial one, as some had understood.
            “Haitians, they are laughing at you. This reversal is an unbearable insult made to you, which is made to us. Because everyone heard the words of Mr. Hollande, who spoke before several African and Caribbean heads of state. Haitians, that money was stolen from you. Do not let France rob you again. It is for you to say it loud and clear. We are not far from victory. As soon as he begins his speech, let Haiti's voices gradually rise up, along with the voices of the ancestors and all say, all roar: ‘Restitution, Reparations!’”
            President Martelly certainly did not go this far. He did not in his speech remind Hollande that the “independence debt” is money stolen from Haiti and that France must repay it at all costs. Instead, he did a kind of arrogant begging. He condemned the debt as destructive, imposed on Haiti to compensate the former colonists, with a view to hobbling the new state born on Jan. 1, 1804. "How many countries could feel themselves free in such an adverse and unfavorable situation?" Martelly asked in a round-about way.
            Then, instead of demanding restitution and reparations for Haiti, President Martelly began to throw flowers to Hollande, claiming, quite ironically, that French aid now "allows generations of young people in Haiti access to education, which is worth much more than whatever number you put on the debt," a thinly-veiled dig at Aristide’s 2003 demand.
            Claiming that the "Haitian youth is now unprepared to face its future," Martelly servilely pleaded with Hollande for “a Marshall plan for education in Haiti.”
            Hollande so greatly appreciated Martelly’s approach that he simply replied:"We cannot change history, but we can change the future by enabling young Haitians to have access to knowledge, know-how, and success; this is our duty."
            As usual with Martelly, nothing is put as a political demand but rather as a chance to “make money.”
            "Haiti wants the creation of a binational commission to encourage French and European entrepreneurs to come explore the many existing business opportunities in the country in areas where their expertise and comparative advantage are tested: water, electricity, sanitation, infrastructure, agro-industry, etcetera," Martelly said.
            Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators, particularly popular organization militants, protested on the Champ de Mars, demanding restitution and reparations. University students dressed as yoked-together slaves and carried anti-Hollande posters. The demonstrators also denounced that Hollande paid tribute to Toussaint Louverture, the precursor of independence who died in a French prison in April 1803, while General Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the father of the nation, was ignored. On some of the many placards, one could read: "Long live restitution, long live reparations, down with occupation," a reference to the continuing United Nations force – MINUSTAH – deployed in Haiti since 2004.
            Around 10:30 am, former senator and current presidential candidate Moise Jean-Charles laid a wreath at Dessalines’ statue, but the police intervened with heavy gunfire and a water cannon to disperse the crowd before the French president’s arrival.

            In short, the Haitian people continue to make their demand for restitution and reparations to President Hollande, just as they did to Sarkozy in 2010.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Martelly Thugs Attack KOD Militants at May Day Demonstration

by Berthony Dupont (Haiti Liberte)

Hooligans attached to the regime of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Evans Paul attacked about 30 militants from the Dessalines Coordination (KOD) party as they loudly demonstrated at an official event for International Workers Day in front of Haiti’s National Palace.
            The KOD militants had marched about three miles from the Industrial Park with hundreds representing unions, popular organizations, and student groups. The demonstrators loudly shouted their demands for a 500 gourdes ($10.57) a day minimum wage. Many marchers affiliated with KOD also called for an end to the United Nations military occupation of Haiti and the resignation of President Martelly before the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections, now scheduled for August, October, and December 2015.
            At the official ceremony on the Champ de Mars, regime thugs assaulted the chanting KOD militants, who fought back. A melee ensued in front of the stage where Martelly and Paul were sitting.
            “We so panicked Martelly with our action that it became clear that he did not know what to say,” stated KOD leader Oxygène David after the struggle. “There was a security officer behind Martelly who sent a guy to come take the sign I was holding high. When he came to me, I gave him a shove. I received a lot of blows today, but I also gave a lot of blows.”
            Police of the Company for Intervention and Maintenance of Order (CIMO) eventually dispersed the demonstrators who came to protest at the Martelly government’s official celebration, a Labor Fair.
            Workers from some unions carried signs saying “Down with Yellow Unions that Collaborate with the Bosses!”
            KOD distributed a flyer explaining how May 1st began as a day to remember the repression against workers in the U.S. in 1886. “Today, this same American government, which crushed its own working class, is carrying out the same repression in Haiti,” the flyer read. “Since the 1970s, U.S. corporations have sent much of their manufacturing to Haiti because workers here earn only $5 per day. In the U.S., the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
            “In 2011, the U.S. government carried out an electoral coup d’état to put the Martelly regime in power in Haiti so that it could continue to keep the working class in poverty, continue to steal the land of peasants on Ile à Vache and the homes of residents in downtown Port-au-Prince, to tax working people sending money and making calls from the U.S., along with a lot of other theft, corruption, and repression.
            “Now, they need to do another electoral mascarade for those who don’t understand the game. KOD says “NO,” the Haitian people will not be ambushed again. KOD demands that Martelly and MINUSTAH [UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti] leave so the country can have free, fair, and sovereign elections. Having the MINUSTAH, OAS, and Washington decide who wins elections in Haiti, that can’t happen again! This business of money buying the election, the way the bourgeoisie does it in the U.S., that is not good for Haiti, it is not good for democracy!”

            KOD has called for a massive demonstration on May 18, beginning at Fort National in Port-au-Prince, to demand the departure of Martelly and MINUSTAH before any elections are held. The highly patriotic date marks the 212th anniversary of the creation of the red and blue Haitian flag.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

HBO’s Vice Follows the Money in Haiti


by Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

Vikram Gandhi, VICE on HBO correspondent traveled to Haiti to see just what happened with the $10 billion in aid pledged after the earthquake that occurred more than five years ago. The episode aired at 11 PM EST on Apr. 24.
            In a sneak peek, Gandhi goes to the site of a housing expo held in 2011. Organized by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission led by Bill Clinton, the expo was meant to showcase model homes that could be built across the country. With more than a million made homeless, and hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, providing new housing was seen as key to “building back better.”
            “If we do this housing properly, it will lead to whole new industries being started in Haiti, creating thousands and thousands of new jobs and permanent housing,” Clinton stated after the earthquake.
            But, as Gandhi shows, the expo never had the intended impact. Instead, the homes were abandoned and left to decay. Now, years later, the model houses have been occupied by residents, creating a new community in the rubble of the international community’s broken promises.
            Gandhi speaks with CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston, who explains how the U.S.’ premier aid agency, USAID, had an ambitious plan to build some 15,000 houses. But while costs nearly doubled to over $90 million, currently only 2,600 are planned and only 900 have been built thus far. USAID is no longer involved in new housing construction.
            Seven hundred and fifty of the 900 houses were built far from the earthquake, in Caracol, the site of the international community’s flagship reconstruction project, the Caracol Industrial Park. Since the filming of the VICE investigation, more information has to come to light about the houses in Caracol. While residents are being asked to pay rent and eventually take ownership of the houses, internal assessments conducted by the Army Corp of Engineers and USAID revealed that the houses were poorly constructed, with substandard concrete, roofs that are not properly attached and broken sanitation system that causes sewage to flood the area during rains. Both USAID contractors involved have been suspended from receiving further contracts while a legal investigation is being conducted.
            With only around 9,000 new homes built by international donors and NGOs since the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of residents have taken to the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, to an area known as Canaan, without government services or infrastructure of any kind. While little has been done to address the burgeoning crisis, from the hills of Canaan, one can see a new $18 million sports complex built by the Olympic Committee.
            Johnston tells Gandhi that while billions were spent, much of the funds went to the short-term emergency response, which left little lasting impact. Meanwhile, Haitian organizations were largely bypassed in favor of beltway firms. “The big question that’s been on everyone’s mind is where did the money go? And I think that’s when we enter this sort of ‘black box’,” Johnston says in the episode. “For every dollar that USAID spends, less than a penny actually goes directly to any Haitian organizations,” he added.

            Yesterday, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published an interview with Gandhi. "Do we understand what aid is, for real? And is there really a system of accountability that is out there?" Mr. Gandhi told The Chronicle. "I think the answer is no, after being in Haiti and seeing how money was spent there."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

25 Years After April 20, 1990: As the Empire Adapts, So Must We

by Berthony Dupont (Haiti Liberte)

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the historic Apr. 20, 1990 march by over 150,000 Haitians across the Brooklyn Bridge (literally shaking it) into downtown Manhattan.  The demonstration, which surrounded the Federal Building on lower Broadway, completely overwhelmed the New York City police, shutting down Wall Street and most other businesses in lower Manhattan. The size, militancy, and unexpectedness of the massive outpouring sent shockwaves through the U.S. political establishment.
            The march was a protest against the Federal Drug Administration’s February 1990 recommendation that Haitians be restricted from donating blood because they were supposedly a high-risk group for AIDS. In 1983, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) unscientifically grouped Haitians with homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and hypodermic-needle users to create the infamous “4H” risk group. Backed by many doctors and scientists, the Haitian community, already politically active from anti-Duvalierist mobilizations, rose up to demand that the CDC rescind the designation. Thousands marched throughout 1983 and 1984, and in April 1985, the CDC removed Haitians from the AIDS high-risk list.
            The massive, unified response of Haitians to the FDA’s resurrection of the CDC’s defunct policy was yet another illustration of a specific feature of Haitian political culture: once a victory is won, the Haitian people will rise up to defend against it being taken away.
            Napoleon was the first to discover this truth in 1803, after he sent his brother-in-law General Leclerc at the head of 25,000 troops the year before in an effort to reestablish slavery in the French colony of St. Domingue. Declaring that “union makes strength,” our ancestors joined together in a mighty force, the indigenous army, to chase the French from the island and form Haiti, the first truly free nation in world history, a slaveless society.
            After throwing off the yoke of the 30 year Duvalier dictatorship on Feb. 7, 1986, Haitians created another historic mobilization when the U.S. and Haitian ruling class tried to reestablish a neo-Duvalierist dictatorship by overthrowing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Sep. 30, 1991. On Oct. 12, 1991, a year and a half after the April 1990 march, some 100,000 Haitians again crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and tied up traffic in Manhattan for hours to protest the coup. That was the beginning of a three year mobilization, in Haiti and its diaspora, which forced the U.S. to return Aristide to Haiti (although in a cage) in October 1994.
            But the empire, with its “laboratory,” has studied these Haitian uprisings and learned to disguise their tactics with more sophistication. Rather than an overt rollback, like that done by Napoleon in 1802, the FDA in 1990, or Cédras in 1991, they learned to disguise their counter-revolution in Haiti behind “the electoral process” and “international community assistance.” This was how they carried out the “electoral coup d’état” (as former Organization of American States Ambassador Ricardo Seitenfus calls it) of November 2010 and March 2011, which resulted in President Michel Martelly illegally taking power (the Haitian Provisional Electoral Council – CEP – never approved the election). Martelly then took his time in neutralizing Parliament, aware that he didn’t really need to do it (in fact, it was better to wait to do it) until near the end of his term, so he could kill two birds with one stone: have right-wing, pro-imperialist candidates win both the legislature and the executive with one mixed, rigged electoral process, one controlled CEP.
            That is how we have arrived at the current imbroglio where the one-time leaders of the resistance to Martelly are now being docilely led to the democratic slaughterhouse due to either their illusions, delusions, or ambition.
            Many know the example, based on a 19th century experiment, of a frog placed in boiling water immediately leaping out. However if it is placed in cold water which is then very gradually heated, it is possible to cook him alive. Pleased by the slowly warming water, the frog realizes only too late that he is being boiled to death.
            We must ask if this is not what is occurring to the Haitian people today. Are they being lulled into yet another “electoral coup”? Will they accept that the “election/selections” have as funders, organizers, and umpires the very nations responsible for past coups (the U.S., France, Canada) and the military force which acts as their enforcer, the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH)?
            The “laboratory” has learned to bring about change very, very slowly and slyly in Haiti lest they stir the sleeping tiger which is the Haitian masses’ outrage at any liberty being repealed. We must become more sophisticated in understanding their new and improved tactics and tricks. The “black man” Obama in the White House? It makes no difference! A Haitian, Joel Denis, in the U.S. State Department? It makes no difference! Former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe replaced by Evans Paul? It makes no difference!
            The only way to make a real change in Haiti is to carry out Haitian elections in complete sovereignty and independence. That means Washington’s front-man, Michel Martelly, has to go, and Washington’s police force, MINUSTAH, has to go.

            To make this happen, we are going to need to mobilize Haitians in the same numbers as moved on Apr. 20, 1990, a mere 25 years ago.


On Apr. 20, 1990, over 150,000 Haitians surrounded the U.S. Federal Building in lower Manhattan after flooding across the Brooklyn Bridge. Today, the empire’s strategists try carefully to avoid provoking Haitian ire.

Credit: Daily News

Monday, April 20, 2015

HAITI SOLIDARITY, newsletter of Haiti Action Committee

See the new issue of HAITI SOLIDARITY here.

This new issue of Haiti Solidarity features: 
Cover Art - "Dechoukaj" - Nia Imara
Evolution of a Revolution - Charlie Hinton
Interview with Pierre Labossiere on the Tavis Smiley show
Combat Genocide - Akinyele Omowale Umoja
Interview with Mildred Aristide, former First Lady of Haiti


Dechoukaj - poem by Carolyn Scarr

Haiti Solidarity Interview: MILDRED ARISTIDE, FORMER FIRST LADY OF HAITI

Mildred Aristide is an attorney, who as former First Lady of Haiti, headed the country’s National AIDS Commission and authored a book on the root causes of child domestic service.  Since her family’s return home from forced exile in 2011, Ms. Aristide and her husband, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (known throughout Haiti as Titide) have focused their efforts on developing the University of the Aristide Foundation.

The work to build UNIFA, has taken place in the midst of growing repression within the country. Long overdue elections have not taken place. Police and UN troops using live ammunition, chemical agents and clubs have attacked demonstrators protesting against the Martelly government. President Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president, has been threatened repeatedly with arrest, with heavily armed police surrounding the Aristides’ home.

Yet UNIFA has persevered.  In this new interview, Ms. Aristide details progress made by this groundbreaking university over the last few years. Forged in the fight for democracy and inclusion, UNIFA is a true example of popular education in action.

Haiti Solidarity: First of all, thank you so much for your time. It is an honor for us at Haiti Solidarity to be conducting this interview. Looking back four years ago, to March 18, 2011, the date of your family’s return from exile in South Africa, what do you remember about that moment?

Ms. Aristide: Without a doubt, our accompaniment home from the airport to the front door of the house – where we sat in the car for 15 minutes until a passage could be cleared through the crowd to get inside!  It is a moment and a feeling that I’ll never forget.  The four of us like to refer to it as a "tsunami of love."

Dominican Campesinos Accuse Military Brass of Land Grab

teleSUR

Top military officials have been accused of seizing land from some of the Dominican Republic's poorest people. A campesino advocacy organization in the Dominican Republic accused the military on Friday of carrying out forced land dispossessions. 

The Campesino Movement of United Communities (MCCU) alleged top military officials have ordered troops to force small farmers off their land in eastern provinces including Monte Plata. The MCCU claimed “generals and colonels” have seized swathes of land for their own personal use. 

The campesino group argued much of the land taken was used by subsistence farmers. Around half of the Dominican Republic's rural population live in poverty, and many families survive by growing food crops on small plots of land. 

The allegations of illicit land expropriations are the latest in a series of high profile corruption accusations leveled at the military in recent years. Between 2009 and 2011 over 5,000 soldiers and police officers were fired amid allegations of widespread corruption, mostly in relation to links to drug cartels. 

The government has vowed to crack down on corruption, though in March Santo Domingo's prosecutor Yeni Berenice said state security forces are still complicit in more than 90 percent of crimes. “It's alarming and very concerning that the people taking part in crimes are the same people called to investigate (these same crimes),” she stated.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Eduardo Galeano on Haiti

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

On Apr. 13, 2015, the influential Uruguayan writer and journalist Eduardo Galeano, 74, died of lung cancer in Montevideo. He wrote over 30 books, including the seminal “Open Veins of Latin America” (1971) and the“Memory of Fire” trilogy, composed of “Genesis” (1982), “Faces and Masks” (1984), and “Century of the Wind” (1986).
            Haiti was a regular theme in Galeano’s work, and he wrote an exceptional speech, Haiti, Occupied Country, which he delivered at Uruguay’s National Library in Montevideo on Sep. 27, 2011.
            This week, we present a few excerpts of Galeano’s writings on Haiti.
           
From “The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

Three years after the discovery, Columbus personally directed the military campaign against the natives of Haiti, which he called Española.
            A handful of cavalry, 200 foot soldiers, and a few specially trained dogs decimated the Indians. More than 500, shipped to Spain, were sold as slaves in Seville and died miserably. Some theologians protested and the enslavement of Indians was formally banned at the beginning of the 16th century.
            Actually it was not banned but blessed: before each military action the captains of the conquest were required to read to the Indians, without an interpreter but before a notary public, a long and rhetorical Requerimiento exhorting them to adopt the holy Catholic faith: “If you do not, or if you maliciously delay in so doing, I certify that with God's help I will advance powerfully against you and make war on you wherever and however I am able, and will subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their majesties and take your women and children to be slaves, and as such I will sell and dispose of them as their majesties may order, and I will take your possessions and do you all the harm and damage that I can.”
...
In the second half of the [18th] century the world's best sugar was being raised on the spongy coastal plains of Haiti, a French colony then known as Saint Domingue. Northern and western Haiti became a human antheap: sugar needed hands and more hands. In 1786 the colony brought in 27,000 slaves; in the following year, 40,000. Revolution broke out in the fall of 1791 and in one month, September, 200 sugar plantations went up in flames; fires and battles were continuous as the rebel slaves pushed France's armies to the sea. Ships sailed containing ever more Frenchmen and ever less sugar. The war spilt rivers of blood, wrecked the plantations, and paralyzed the country, and by the end of the century production had fallen to almost nothing. By
November 1803, almost all of the once flourishing colony was in ashes and ruins. The Haitian revolution had coincided – and not only in time – with the French Revolution, and Haiti bore its share of the international coalition's blockade against France: England controlled the seas. Later, as its independence became inevitable, Haiti also had to suffer blockade by France.
            The U.S. Congress, yielding to French pressure, banned trade with Haiti in 1806. In 1825 France recognized its former colony's independence, but only in exchange for a huge cash indemnity. General Leclerc had written to his brother-in-law Napoleon in 1802, soon after taking prisoner the slave armies' leader Toussaint L'Ouverture, "Here is my opinion about this country: all the blacks in the mountains, men and women, must be suppressed, keeping only the children under twelve; half the blacks in the plains must be exterminated, and not a single mulatto with epaulets must be left in the colony." 
            The tropics took their revenge on Leclerc: "Gripped by the black vomit," and despite the magical incantations of [Napoleon’s sister] Pauline Bonaparte, he died without carrying out his plan.... But the cash indemnity was a millstone around the necks of those independent Haitians who survived the bloodbaths of the successive military expeditions against them. The country was born in ruins and never recovered: today it is the poorest in Latin America.
...
In the first years of our [20th] century the philosopher William James passed the little-known judgment that the country had finally vomited the Declaration of Independence. To cite but one example: the United States occupied Haiti for twenty years and, in that black country that had been the scene of the first victorious slave revolt, introduced racial segregation and forced labor, killed 1,500 workers in one of its repressive operations (according to a U.S. Senate investigation in 1922), and when the local government refused to turn the Banque Nationale into a branch of New York's National City Bank, suspended the salaries of the president and his ministers so that they might think again. Alternating the "big stick" with "dollar diplomacy," similar actions were
carried out in the other Caribbean islands and in all of Central America, the geopolitical space of the imperial mare nostrum.

From Memory of Fire: Genesis

1459: La Isabela
Caonabó

Detached, aloof, the prisoner sits at the entrance of Christopher Columbus's house. He has iron shackles on his ankles, and handcuffs trap his wrists.
            Caonabó was the one who burned to ashes the Navidad fort that the admiral had built when he discovered this island of Haiti. He burned the fort and killed its occupants. And not only them: In these two long years he has castigated with arrows any Spaniards he came across in Cibao, his mountain territory, for their hunting of gold and people.
            Alonso de Ojeda, veteran of the wars against the Moors, paid him a visit on the pretext of peace. He invited him to mount his horse, and put on him these handcuffs of burnished metal that tie his hands, saying that they were jewels worn by the monarchs of Castile in their balls and festivities.
            Now Chief Caonabó spends the days sitting beside the door, his eyes fixed on the tongue of light that invades the earth floor at dawn and slowly retreats in the evening. He doesn't move an eyelash when Columbus comes around. On the other hand, when Ojeda appears, he manages to stand up and salute with a bow the only man who has defeated him.

1496: La Concepcion
Sacrilege

Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher's brother and lieutenant, attends an incineration of human flesh.
            Six men play the leads in the grand opening of Haiti's incinerator. The smoke makes everyone cough. The six are burning as a punishment and as a lesson: They have buried the images of Christ and the Virgin that Fray Ramon Pane left with them for protection and consolation. Fray Ramon taught them to pray on their knees, to say the Ave Maria and Paternoster and to invoke the name of Jesus in the face of temptation, injury, and death.
            No one has asked them why they buried the images. They were hoping that the new gods would fertilize their fields of corn, cassava, boniato, and beans.
            The fire adds warmth to the humid, sticky heat that foreshadows heavy rain.

From “Memory of Fire: Faces and Masks

1758: The Plains of Northern Haiti
Makandal

Before a large assembly of runaway slaves, François Makandal pulls a yellow handkerchief out of a glass of water.
            "First it was the Indians."
            Then a white handkerchief.
            "Now, whites are the masters."
            He shakes a black handkerchief before the maroons' eyes. The hour of those who came from Africa has arrived, he announces. He shakes the handkerchief with his only hand, because he has left the other between the iron teeth of the sugar mill.
            On the plains of Northern Haiti, one-handed Makandal is the master of fire and poison. At his order cane fields burn, and by his spells the lords of sugar collapse in the middle of supper, drooling spit and blood.
            He knows how to turn himself into an iguana, an ant, or a fly, equipped with gills, antennae, or wings; but they catch him anyway, and condemn him; and now they are burning him alive. Through the flames the multitude see his body twist and shake. All of a sudden, a shriek splits the ground, a fierce cry of pain and exultation, and Makandal breaks free of the stake and of death: howling, flaming, he pierces the smoke and is lost in the air.
            For the slaves, it is no cause for wonder. They knew he would remain in Haiti, the color of all shadows, the prowler of the night.

1772: Léogane
Zabeth

Ever since she learned to walk she was in flight. They tied a heavy chain to her ankles, and chained, she grew up; but a thousand times she jumped over the fence and a thousand times the dogs caught her in the mountains of Haiti.
            They stamped the fleur-de-lis on her cheek with a hot iron. They put an iron collar and iron shackles on her and shut her up in the sugar mill, where she stuck her fingers into the grinder and later bit off the bandages. So that she might die of iron they tied her up again, and now she expires, chanting curses.
            Zabeth, this woman of iron, belongs to Madame Galbeaud du Fort, who lives in Nantes.

1791: Bois Caïman
The Conspirators of Haiti

The old slave woman, intimate of the gods, buries her machete in the throat of a black wild boar. The earth of Haiti drinks the blood. Under the protection of the gods of war and of fire, 200 blacks sing and dance the oath of freedom. In the prohibited Voodoo ceremony aglow with lightning bolts, 200 slaves decide to turn this land of punishment into a fatherland.
            Haiti is based on the Creole language. Like the drum, Creole is the common speech of those torn out of Africa into various Antillean islands. It blossomed inside the plantations, when the condemned needed to recognize one another and resist. It came from African languages, with African melody, and fed on the sayings of Normans and Bretons. It picked up words from Caribbean Indians and from English pirates and also from the Spanish colonists of eastern Haiti. Thanks to Creole, when Haitians talk they feel that they touch each other.
            Creole gathers words and Voodoo gathers gods. Those gods are not masters but lovers, very fond of dancing, who convert each body they penetrate into music and light, pure light of undulating and sacred movement.

1794: Paris
"The Remedy for Man is Man,"

say the black sages, and the gods always knew it. The slaves of Haiti are no longer slaves.
For five years the French Revolution turned a deaf ear. Marat and Robespierre protested in vain. Slavery continued in the colonies. Despite the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the men who were the property of other men on the far plantations of the Antilles were born neither free nor equal. After all, the sale of blacks from Guinea was the chief business of the revolutionary merchants of Nantes, Bordeaux, and Marseilles; and French refineries lived on Antillean sugar.
Harassed by the black insurrection headed by Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Paris government finally decrees the liquidation of slavery.

1794: Mountains of Haiti
Toussaint Louverture

He came on the scene two years ago. In Paris they called him the Black Spartacus.
            He was a coachman on a plantation. An old black man taught him to read and write, to cure sick horses, and to talk to men; but he learned on his own how to look not only with his eyes, and he knows how to see flight in every bird that sleeps.

1802: The Caribbean Sea
Napoleon Restores Slavery

Squadrons of wild ducks escort the French army. The fish take flight. Through a turquoise sea, bristling with coral, the ships head for the blue mountains of Haiti. Soon the land of victorious slaves will appear on the horizon. General Leclerc stands tall at the head of the fleet. Like a ship's figurehead, his shadow is first to part the waves. Astern, other islands disappear, castles of rock, splendors of deepest green, sentinels of the new world found three centuries ago by people who were not looking for it.
            "Which has been the most prosperous regime for the colonies?"
            "The previous one."
            "Well, then, put it back," Napoleon decided.
            No man, born red, black, or white can be his neighbor's property, Toussaint L'Ouverture had said. Now the French fleet returns slavery to the Caribbean. More than 50 ships, more than 20,000 soldiers, come from France to bring back the past with guns.
            In the cabin of the flagship, a female slave fans Pauline Bonaparte and another gently scratches her head.

1803: Fort Dauphin
The Island Burned Again

Toussaint L'Ouverture, chief of the free blacks, died a prisoner in a castle in France. When the jailer opened the padlock at dawn and slid back the bolt, he found Toussaint frozen in his chair.
            But life in Haiti moved on, and without Toussaint the black army has beaten Napoleon Bonaparte. Twenty thousand French soldiers have been slaughtered or died of fevers. Vomiting black blood, dead blood, General Leclerc has collapsed. The land he sought to enslave proves his shroud.
            Haiti has lost half its population. Shots are still heard, and hammers nailing down coffins, and funeral drums, in the vast ash-heap carpeted with corpses that the vultures spurn. This island, burned two centuries ago by an exterminating angel, has been newly eaten by the fire of men at war.
            Over the smoking earth those who were slaves proclaim independence. France will not forgive the humiliation.
            On the coast, palms, bent over against the winds, form ranks of spears.

1816: Port-au-Prince
Pétion

Haiti lies in ruins, blockaded by the French and isolated by everyone else. No country has recognized the independence of the slaves who defeated Napoléon.
            The island is divided in two.
            In the north, Henri Christophe has proclaimed himself emperor. In the castle of Sans-Souci, the new black nobility dance the minuet – the Duke of Marmalade, the Count of Limonade – while black lackeys in snowy wigs bow and scrape, and blacks hussards parade their plumed bonnets through gardens copied from Versailles.
            To the south, Alexandre Pétion presides over the republic. Distributing lands among the former slaves, Pétion aims to create a nation of peasants, very poor but free and armed, on the ashes of plantations destroyed by the war.
            On Haiti's southern coast Simón Bolívar lands, in search of refuge and aid. He comes from Jamaica, where he has sold everything down to his watch. No one believes in his cause. His brilliant military campaigns have been no more than a mirage. Francisco Miranda is dying in chains in the Cadiz arsenal, and the Spaniards have reconquered Venezuela and Colombia, which prefer the past or still do not believe in the future promised by the patriots.
            Pétion receives Bolívar as soon as he arrives, on New Year's Day. He gives him seven ships, 250 men, muskets, powder, provisions, and money. He makes only one condition. Pétion, born a slave, son of a black woman and a Frenchman, demands of Bolívar the freedom of slaves in the lands he is going to liberate.
            Bolívar shakes his hands. The war will change its course. Perhaps America will too.

From “Memory of Fire: Century of the Wind

1937: Dajabón
Procedure Against the Black Menace

The condemned are Haitian blacks who work in the Dominican Republic. This military exorcism, planned to the last detail by General Trujillo, lasts a day and a half. In the sugar region, the soldiers shut up Haitian day-laborers in corrals--herds of men, women, and children--and finish them off then and there with machetes; or bind their hands and feet and drive them at bayonet point into the sea.
            Trujillo, who powders his face several times a day, wants the Dominican Republic white.

1937: Washington
Newsreel

Two weeks later, the government of Haiti conveys to the government of the Dominican Republic its concern about the recent events at the border. The government of the Dominican Republic promises an exhaustive investigation.
            In the name of continental security, the government of the United States proposes to President Trujillo that he pay an indemnity to avoid possible friction in the zone. After prolonged negotiation Trujillo recognizes the death of 18,000 Haitians on Dominican territory. According to him, the figure of 25,000 victims, put forward by some sources, reflects the intention to manipulate the events dishonestly. Trujillo agrees to pay the government of Haiti, by way of indemnity, $522,000, or $29 for every officially recognized death.
            The White House congratulates itself on an agreement reached within the framework of established inter-American treaties and procedures. Secretary of State Cordell Hull declares in Washington that President Trujillo is one of the greatest men in Central America and in most of South America.
            The indemnity duly paid in cash, the presidents of the Dominican Republic and Haiti embrace each other at the border.

1943: Milot
Ruins of Sans-Souci

Alejandro Carpentier discovers the kingdom of Henri Christophe. The Cuban writer roams these majestic ruins, this memorial to the delirium of a slave cook who became monarch of Haiti and killed himself with the gold bullet that always hung around his neck. Ceremonial hymns and magic drums of invocation rise up to meet Carpentier as he visits the palace that King Christophe copied from Versailles, and walks around his invulnerable fortress, an immense bulk whose stones, cemented by the blood of bulls sacrificed to the gods, have resisted lightning and earthquakes.
            In Haiti, Carpentier learns that there is no magic more prodigious and delightful than the voyage that leads through experience, through the body, to the depths of America. In Europe, magicians have become bureaucrats, and wonder, exhausted, has dwindled to a conjuring trick. But in America, surrealism is as natural as rain or madness.

1969: Port-au-Prince
A Law Condemns to Death Anyone Who Says or Writes Red Words in Haiti

Article One: Communist activities are declared to be crimes against the security of the state, in whatsoever form: any profession of Communist faith, verbal or written, public or private, any propagation of Communist or anarchist doctrines through lectures, speeches, conversations, readings, public or private meetings, by way of pamphlets, posters, newspapers, magazines, books, and pictures; any oral or written correspondence with local or foreign associations, or with persons dedicated to the diffusion of Communist or anarchist ideas; and furthermore, the act of receiving, collecting, or giving funds directly or indirectly destined for the propagation of said ideas.
            Article Two: The authors and accomplices of these crimes shall be sentenced to death. Their movable and immovable property shall be confiscated and sold for the benefit of the state.
Dr. François Duvalier
President-for-Life
of the Republic of Haiti

From “Haiti, Despised by All,” an article for the Inter Press Service in September 1996

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. It has more foot-washers than shoe-shiners: little boys who, for a penny, will wash the feet of customers lacking shoes to shine. Haitians, on the average, live a bit more than thirty years. Nine out of every ten can't read or write. For internal consumption the barren mountain sides are cultivated. For export, the fertile valleys: the best lands are given to coffee, sugar, cacao, and other products needed by the U.S. market. No one plays baseball in Haiti, but Haiti is the world's chief producer of baseballs. There is no shortage of workshops where children assemble cassettes and electronic parts for a dollar a day. These are naturally for export; and naturally the profits are also exported, after the administrators of the terror have duly got theirs. The slightest breath of protest in Haiti means prison or death. Incredible as it sounds, Haitian workers' wages lost 25 percent of their wretched real value between 1971 and 1975. Significantly, in that period a new flow of U.S. capital into the country began.
            Haiti is the country that is treated the worst by the world's powerful. Bankers humiliate it. Merchants ignore it. And politicians slam their doors in its face.
            Democracy arrived only recently in Haiti. During its short life, this frail, hungry creature received nothing but abuse. It was murdered in its infancy in 1991 in a coup led by General Raoul Cédras.
            Three years later, democracy returned. After having installed and deposed countless military dictators, the U.S. backed President Jean Bertrand Aristide – the first leader elected by popular vote in Haiti's history – and a man foolish enough to want a country with less injustice.
            In order to erase every trace of American participation in the bloody Cédras dictatorship, U.S. soldiers removed 160,000 pages of records from the secret archives. Aristide returned to Haiti with his hands tied. He was permitted to take office as president, but not power. His successor, René Préval, who became president in February, received nearly 90 percent of the vote.
            Any minor bureaucrat at the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund has more power than Préval does. Every time he asks for a credit line to feed the hungry, educate the illiterate, or provide land to the peasants, he gets no response. Or he may be told to go back and learn his lessons. And because the Haitian government cannot seem to grasp that it must dismantle its few remaining public services, the last shred of a safety net for the most defenseless people on Earth, its masters give up on it.
            The U.S. invaded Haiti in 1915 and ran the country until 1934. It withdrew when it had accomplished its two objectives: seeing that Haiti had paid its debts to U.S. banks and that the constitution was amended to allow for the sale of plantations to foreigners. Robert Lansing, then secretary of state, justified the long and harsh military occupation by saying that blacks were incapable of self-government, that they had "an inherent tendency toward savagery and a physical inability to live a civilized life."
            Haiti had been the jewel in the crown, France's richest colony: one big sugar plantation, harvested by slave labor. The French philosopher Montesquieu explained it bluntly: "Sugar would be too expensive if it were not produced by slaves. These slaves are blacks .... it is not possible that God, who is a very wise being, would have put a soul . .., in such an utterly black body." Instead, God had put a whip in the overseer's hand.
            In l803, the black citizens of Haiti gave Napoleon Bonaparte's troops a tremendous beating, and Europe has never for given them for this humiliation inflicted upon the white race. Haiti was the first free country in South America or the Caribbean. The free people raised their flag over a country in ruins. The land of Haiti had been devastated by the sugar monoculture and then laid waste by the war against France. One third of the population had fallen in combat. Then Europe began its blockade. The newborn nation was condemned to solitude. No one would buy from it, no one would sell to it, nor would any nation recognize it.
            Not even Simon Bolivar had the courage to establish diplomatic relations with the black nation. Bolivar was able to reopen his campaign for the liberation of the Americas, after being defeated by Spain, thanks to help from Haiti. The Haitian government supplied him with seven ships, arms, and soldiers, setting only one condition: that he free the slaves – something that had not occurred to him. Bolivar kept his promise, but after his victory, he turned his back on the nation that had saved him. When he convened a meeting in Panama of the American nations, he invited England, but not Haiti.
            The U.S. did not recognize Haiti until 60 years later. By then, Haiti was already in the bloody hands of the military dictators, who devoted the meager resources of this starving nation toward relieving its debt to France. Europe demanded that Haiti pay France a huge indemnity to atone for its crime against French dignity.

            The history of the abuse of Haiti, which in our lifetime has become a tragedy, is also the story of Western civilization's racism.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

World Bank Mining Ruling Will Only Bring More Pain to Haiti


By Nathalie Baptiste (Haiti Liberte)

In early February, in yet another blow to Haitian civil society, the World Bank refused to hear a complaint filed by the Justice Mining Collective on the revival of the mining sector in Haiti.
            According to the World Bank, Haiti’s mining sector is constrained by “outdated legal framework, weak institutional capacity and widespread lack of information” about the sector among politicians and the public alike. Meanwhile, activists and community members that live in mining zones have consistently voiced complaints about the effects of mining, ranging from exploitation to environmental degradation.
            The World Bank’s refusal to address these very real concerns about the environmental impacts of mining is a failure to acknowledge that Haiti is on the short list of countries that will be most affected by climate change.
            At Haiti’s first Mining Forum, held in 2013, experts tried to convince Haiti’s government of all the positive developments that would come from developing the country’s mining sector. And they succeeded — at the end of the forum, then-Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe was certain that the mining sector was Haiti’s ticket out of abject poverty.
            Mining, of course, can be lucrative for a select few — but the environmental damage would have a profound effect on Haiti’s environment.
            In 2014, risk consultancy firm Maplecroft released its annual Climate Change Vulnerability Risk Index, which ranked Haiti at number 6 and classified the situation facing the country as “extreme.” With its location in the Caribbean making it susceptible to tropical storms, extreme deforestation, overfishing, frequent droughts and other natural disasters, it’s no surprise that Haiti falls near the top of the list. Weak infrastructure, dilapidated hospitals and crumbling roads only exacerbate the problem, and the current political crisis leaves Haiti vulnerable to political unrest.
            Economic benefits aside, mining comes at a great environmental cost. Some of the impacts include water pollution, loss of biodiversity and soil contamination. The chemicals used in the mining process also pose a great public health risk. Anyone with a modicum of knowledge of Haiti knows why the country could not possibly sustain any more public health risks or contaminated water.
            For an understanding of what gold mining does to a country’s water supply, look no further than El Salvador. After a mining company poisoned the San Sebastián River, members of the community that gets its water from the river are now suffering from illnesses like kidney failure.
            Salvadorans are currently fighting to prevent the World Bank from handing over another gold mine to another multinational mining company, in a desperate effort to keep the country’s largest river, the Lempa River, from ending up like the San Sebastián.
            The World Bank’s treatment of Haitians is similar to that of the United Nations and the cholera lawsuit; both have long-term impacts on the livelihoods of Haitians, a fact that appears unimportant to these international entities. Shrugging off the environmental concerns of an extremely climate-vulnerable nation, though, is tantamount to willingly destroying lives.

This article originally appeared on the Latin Correspondent website.


The Back-Story of the Late Oriel Jean, Former Security Chief for Aristide


by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

(The second of two articles)

On Mar. 2, 2015, gunmen killed Oriel Jean, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s former security chief from 2001 to 2003, in Port-au-Prince. After misleading media reports and rumors, he was falsely accused of selling out Aristide when jailed in the U.S. for 30 months on charges of money laundering. After returning to Haiti in September 2013, he led a low-profile life running a construction company.

In 2001, as the George W. Bush administration began targeting Aristide officials like Oriel, a few dozen heavily armed paramilitary “rebels,” led by former army officer and police chief Guy Philippe and former death-squad leader Jodel Chamblain, began launching military raids from the Dominican Republic on the Police Academy on Jul. 28, 2001 and the National Palace on Dec. 17, 2001, both of which the Special Unit for Guarding the National Palace (USGPN), under Oriel’s direction, repulsed.                                                                                          
            In 2002, using one of its usual political pressure tactics, the U.S. issued a list of Haitian government officials, including Oriel, to whom it would deny visas due to their alleged ties to Haitian drug traffickers. On Jun. 27, 2003, conservative Radio Métropole reported that Oriel had been “spotted” two days earlier leaving the Port-au-Prince international airport “incognito... with his entire family” for Canada, insinuating that he was fleeing the country and might be arrested by Canadian authorities. Oriel rebutted the report the same day in a telephone interview with Radio Kiskeya, saying he’d traveled to Montreal for no more than two weeks to seek medical attention for a bad knee, while his family had joined him for a vacation and to see relatives.
            “Before you spread rumors, you should try to confirm the information,” Oriel complained to Kiskeya and the media in general. “There are simple calls you could make. My God, if I am going to leave for a few days, do I have to hold a press conference?”
            Despite the interview, Oriel hastily flew back to Port-au-Prince on Jul. 1, 2003. But, with the U.S. tightening the political screws, it was decided he should resign as USGPN chief a few days later, just as Nesly Lucien had been forced to resign as police chief in March 2003.
            Oriel continued to play a central but background role in Aristide’s security until the coup d’état of Feb. 29, 2004. Eight days later, armed with a visa and having received assurances from an official in the Canadian Embassy that he was welcome, Oriel flew from Punto Cana, Dominican Republic to Toronto, but he was arrested on arrival there. Canadian authorities told him they had cancelled his visa.
            “My lawyer and I asked them how they could revoke someone’s visa without telling them,” Oriel told Haïti Liberté in a 2007 interview. “If someone has no right to enter Canada, you have to tell them that beforehand, not after they’ve taken a flight and arrived there... If they don’t want me to enter, return me to the Dominican Republic or Haiti. I even asked them to return me to Haiti.”
            According to Oriel, he and his lawyer had won this argument when the proceedings were interrupted, and the judge was presented with an extradition request from Washington.
            “My lawyer told me that I could fight the extradition request, but given the close relationship between Canada and the U.S., I had very slim chances of winning,” Oriel said. “The legal fight, the judicial process, in Canada might take two or three years during which time I’d be detained, and if I did lose, the clock would start at zero again when I was extradited to the U.S.. So despite some opposition from my family and supporters in Canada, I decided not to fight the extradition request and to face my accusers in the U.S..”
            Oriel was extradited to the U.S. on Mar. 19, 2004. Prosecutors accused him of helping to offload drugs and demanding a cut of drug profits, charges Oriel vigorously denied. He insisted that he had taken part in no illegal activities or drug-trafficking whatsoever.
            “But my lawyer said to me: ‘Listen son, you’re not in Haiti anymore. Here in the U.S. they have this charge called conspiracy. Even if you personally weren’t involved in anything, if you were at all associated with someone who is charged with a crime, and you even accepted five cents from him, there are ways to accuse you. Going to a trial is very risky given the demonization of [the] Lavalas [government]. I advise you to clear yourself, tell them what is true, what is not true, and make a deal.’”
            Oriel followed the advice and admitted to knowing Haiti’s three principal drug traffickers and having even accepted gifts from them. “Knowing they were drug traffickers, I should have kept my distance from them,” he said. “I admitted my error and agreed to pay the price.”
            “As I did my job, I thought I was just dealing (en affaire avec) with the Haitian government,” he added. “I didn’t realize I was dealing with the U.S. government.”
            He made a deal to plead guilty to the charge of “Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering” and to testify against drug trafficker Serge Edouard, who was convicted for life in 2005.
            “There are some who say I betrayed Aristide and said things about him and gave up other people, and that was why I got so little time,” he said in his 2007 interview. “People can say anything. The truth is that I simply told them what I knew about the drug traffickers.”
            Released from prison in September 2006, with one year probation, Oriel went to work as a parking lot attendant at Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood Airport, working the midnight to 8:00 a.m. shift. The U.S. State Department granted him an S visa, given to “alien witnesses and informants,” which had to be renewed every year following an interview.
            Some years, U.S. officials would delay the renewal. One of those years was 2011. Following Aristide’s Mar. 18, 2011 return to Haiti from a seven-year exile, Oriel told Haïti Liberté that the Justice Department had sent a team of three investigators to ask him questions about Aristide. He said he provided them with no answers and sent a hand-delivered message to Aristide about the visit. In the same note, he gave Aristide some advice and warnings about people in his security team.
            Finally, Oriel decided to leave Florida and return to Haiti in September 2012. Under the terms of his S visa, he would not be allowed back into the U.S., so he knew it was a one-way trip. “He didn’t want to stay in the U.S. any longer,” his wife Bettina told Haïti Liberté. “He was tired of working nights at the parking lot. He felt a lot of stress in the States from work, financial problems, and his immigration status and thought he could contribute more in Haiti. He was like a fish out of water.”
            Back in Haiti, he went to work as Operations Director for Claudy Construction, owned by Claude Guillaume, who also owns Claudy Center Borlette, a popular private lottery in Haiti. “The Martelly government offered him a job, but he refused it,” said Oriel’s childhood friend Alix Sainphor. “He didn’t want to be involved in politics, and he didn’t want anything to do with Martelly.”
            He maintained a low profile, but trouble came looking for him. Investigating Judge Ivickel Dabrézil subpoenaed Oriel, along with many others, including Aristide, to provide him with any information they had concerning the Apr. 3, 2000 murder of radio journalist Jean Dominique and his radio’s guardian Jean-Claude Louissaint.
            Oriel said that he told Dabrézil what he knew about the matter, testimony that might implicate former Lavalas Family Senator and Aristide Foundation director Mirlande Libérus – now living in Florida – in the double killing.
            “You have to understand that I have no power, no money, no team of lawyers to avoid talking to Dabrézil when he subpoenaed me,” Oriel told Haïti Liberté in 2013. “He is taking testimony from many people. I told him exactly what was said to me, what I did, and what I know. First, I don’t want to get in trouble by hiding something or telling a lie, and second, I think we should get to the truth in the Jean Dominique case. It’s gone too long unsolved.”
            “Some people say I accused Aristide, which is not true,” he continued. “I was dealing with Mirlande. I don’t know where it went from there. She will have to give her testimony. But don’t blame me for just telling what I experienced.”
            With this tension between certain former Lavalas Family leaders and Oriel, the stage was set for tragedy.
            “He had received numerous death threats, particularly in February 2014,” said Sainphor. “At that time, he chose to leave Haiti and stay in the Dominican Republic for a month and a half. When he felt the danger had passed, he returned. But shortly before he was killed, he had received more threats.”
            Some Haitian analysts question whether the hidden hand of the “laboratory,” as the U.S. military/intelligence complex is called in Haiti, might be involved. “It could be that the laboratory killed two birds with one stone,” said Henriot Dorcent of the party Dessalines Coordination (KOD). “They eliminate a very connected and experienced guy who was once a militant in and apparently remained sympathetic to the Haitian people’s struggle for justice, democracy, and sovereignty. And at the same time, they lay the crime at Aristide’s doorstep, thereby undermining the people’s mobilization against the regime of President Michel Martelly, their puppet.”
            This hypothesis is given credence by the reaction of Martelly’s former spokesman Guyler C. Delva, secretary general of SOS Journalists, who put out a Mar. 3 statement saying that Oriel had “constantly been the subject of death threats from individuals close to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide whom he had accused of ordering the murder of Jean Dominique.” In truth, even in a long interview with the former security chief which Delva made public on Mar. 10 on Radio Caraïbes, Oriel stopped short of directly accusing anybody of the crime but simply lays out a version of events and circumstances that are very suggestive. As Alix Sainphor said: “Guy Delva is lying, twisting and framing Oriel’s words to further his own agenda.”
            Other pro-Martelly politicians, like Sauveur Pierre-Etienne of the Struggling People’s Organization (OPL), have also charged that Aristide is behind Oriel’s killing.
            “Aristide had asked Mirlande and others to ‘neutralize’ Jean Dominique, whom he saw as a strong challenger for the presidency coming from Préval’s party Kozepèp,” Oriel told Haïti Liberté in 2013. “Did he mean for them to physically eliminate him? Frankly, I don’t think so.”
            Oriel Jean’s funeral is scheduled to be held on Mar. 11 at the Parc de Souvenir cemetery in Port-au-Prince, where he will be buried. He is survived by his wife, Bettina, his father, Odiyel, two sisters, Mamoune and Gladys, and four children, two boys and two girls, ranging in ages from 27 to 12.
            It is perhaps fitting to close with Oriel’s own words from his 2007 interview with Haïti Liberté: “The U.S. government and media has tried to paint me as a corrupt criminal, like Jean-Claude or François Duvalier, Ti Bobo, Bòs Pent, Luc Désir, etc. Those who know my trajectory, who know where I come from in the struggle since 1986, know that’s not me. Those who have worked alongside me know that I’m a militant and an upright citizen (sitwayen de bien). However, I recognize that I’m not perfect, I made errors as everyone does, and I’ve paid for my errors and started anew. I have made my self-criticism (otokritik). But I have never been a trafficker, a drug dealer, a criminal. I cannot spend my whole life fighting against dictatorial power – people who kill others, who beat others – to become one of them today. My relationship with someone I should not have been friendly with, which got me into trouble, I don’t deny that. I accept that. But to make me into something I’m not is not good. I’m very critical because I was in a key post, and I saw how the government finished badly, and I’m critical of many people. I’m critical of Aristide, I’m critical of myself, I’m critical of many people who were in power because I saw what happened in front of me and how in the end it was the people who were the victim. As I always say, I am a child of the people, I was raised among the people, and I will die among the people.”


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