• Slide-1
    Educating Haitian youth about reforestation and sustainable farming.
  • Slide-2
    We serve those in need by working to build a world that loves more justly.
  • Slide-3
    Providing homes for families to combat the housing crisis in Nicaragua.

Solidarity and Friendship

A gathering of people who work and pray with laughter and who reach for the stars that seem too distant to be touched, or too dim to be worth the effort. We try to be friends with people in need and to celebrate life with people who believe that the struggle to be like Jesus in building a world more justly loving is worth the gift of our lives.

What We Do

Quest for Peace

Quest for Peace

Building homes for Nicaragua's poor.
Haiti Reborn

Haiti Reborn

Reforesting and revitalizing for the future.
InAlienable

InAlienable

Pursuing an inclusive vision of citizenship.
Catholics Speak Out

Catholics Speak Out

Working for a more inclusive Church.
Activist in Residence

Activist in Residence

Check out our new Activist in Residence Program.

Latest Blog Posts

JPIC Franciscan Family of Honduras Statement on Free Trade Zone Law

Photo: Protest in Roatan against the ZEDE project “Honduras Prospera”. Citizen photography, originally in El Faro

[The Justice Peace and the Integrity of Creation Committee of the Franciscan Family of Honduras is a fellow member of the Franciscan Network on Migration. The new free trade zone law in Honduras continues the current government’s pattern of providing open access to Honduras’ natural resources and exploitation of workers. Speaking out against such “reform” is crucial. This kind of liberal investment environment, promoted as a means to address the “roots of migration,” will likely make things worse in the long run by dislocating communities and undermining labor.]

JPIC STATEMENT OF THE FRANCISCAN FAMILY OF HONDURAS

“We reject the expropriation of the common home” 

Monday, July 12, 2021, Santa Rosa de Copán To all the Honduran people:

The Franciscan Commission on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), faced with the problematic situation confronting the Honduran nation in light of the imposed law of the so-called “Zones of Employment and Economic Development ”(ZEDES), sees a proposal that affects territorial sovereignty and the Rights of Peoples, the care of biodiversity, ecosystems and hydrographic basins; it also deteriorates democracy, nullifies citizen participation and increases the impoverishment of households, including that of native peoples and the rural population.

The magisterium of the church in numeral 2420 of the Catechism states: “The church expresses a moral judgment, in economic and social matters,’when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls demand it’ (GS 76,5).” Pope Francis in the encyclical Laudato Si, expresses that, This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will[…]This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22).”

Considering that the Bicentennial of Independence is celebrated this year, we ask our representatives (diputados) to imitate the founders and heroes of this nation, who fought and defended our territory against colonialism and illicit and dishonorable forms of appropriation by ill-intentioned and unscrupulous people against the common good.

Therefore, we express our feelings:

  1. We are concerned about the rights of indigenous peoples who are being violated, threatened and dispossessed, which makes them lose their territories, their livelihoods and their culture.
  1. We reject the decision taken by the National Congress and ratified by the Judiciary, which violates popular sovereignty, and all this again shows the interest of a political and economic class that is taking over the property of the common home in Honduras.

  2. We reject the neo-colonialism of the government, which hands over control with treachery, premeditation, malice and advantage, and without prior consultation with the sovereign Honduran people.
  1. We strongly demand that the National Congress nullify said law, since it is not legitimate, valid or lawful.
  2. We join the courageous mayors, Dioceses, parishes, institutions, professional associations, Universities (UNAH), CNA, ASONOG, FOSDEH, indigenous peoples in resistance (Garífunas, Lencas, Chortis), and many more who have raised their voices against this unpatriotic, harmful and exclusive project.
  1. We call on all brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this project to the detriment of the nation, so that the sovereignty, peace and integrity of our Honduran territory prevail.

The Franciscan JPIC invites the Honduran people, and especially young people “to be God’s today”, as Pope Francis expresses it in Christus Vivit # 64; to be the present and the future of the nation, being people who propose solutions or are active subjects of the transformation of the current reality, and in whose adulthood may well enjoy contributing to the nation.

“Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, 
who sustains us and governs us and who produces 
varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.”
Saint Francis of Assisi

The original untranslated statement in Spanish is available here.  

The song remains the same: The United States in Haiti this week

This week a new interim government was established in Haiti and the United States appointed a special envoy to represent US interests in the effort to move forward on elections, provide security and to offer support for the investigation into Moise’s assassination. Along the way, the Biden administration demonstrated once again the inability of the US government to listen to anybody standing outside the echo chamber clamoring about the indispensable role of the United States in finding a solution. As we’ll see, it is not as though alternative messages from Haitian civil society have been hidden. If there is one positive in the US response thus far it is that there are no occupation troops being deployed – not yet at least. Whether this is an indication that the administration is actually listening, or simply reluctant to engage the optics of US troops moving from Afghanistan to Haiti, is an open question.

A “new” government

Shortly after president Moise was assassinated on July 7, 2021, acting prime minister Claude Joseph took the reins of government. Joseph, the former foreign minister, had been appointed by Moise as an interim prime minister earlier this year but was replaced with Ariel Henry by Moise the day before his death. Henry was never officially sworn in, and thus Joseph, with the support of Haiti National Police head Leonel Charles, declared himself in charge, and was recognized as such by US appointed UN diplomat Helen La Lime a couple of days later. Meanwhile, Henry claimed interim status for himself. Along with the ten members of Haiti’s senate that are technically still in office (though, absent a quorum, the senate cannot actually do business), Henry formed a government with Joseph Lambert as interim president and himself as interim prime minister. Behind the scenes, businessman Reginald Boulos supported the arrangement. It came to light that he had already hired a lobbyist to press the case for a new government with US policy makers before Moise was killed. 

The Lambert/Henry formation never actually took power, but the United States, fearing further turmoil (or more to the point, the lack of negotiating partner to dominate), stepped into the Joseph/Henry divide to negotiate a backroom deal last weekend that led to a new interim government with Henry as prime minister, and Joseph back in his role as Foreign Minister. Jake Johnston, writing in the American Prospect this week, says, “What this really means is that Haiti’s political class is dividing the spoils of government out of public view once again, and negotiating with foreign powers to ensure that whatever emerges is recognized by the international community.” Indeed, in The New York Times this week one can read about how various factions of Haiti’s elite are competing for legitimacy – in Washington – by hiring lobbying firms. 

With a new government in place – not a government with any public legitimacy, or one that emerges from a constitutionally recognized process – the United States can now proceed. And so, on Thursday, Biden appointed Daniel Lewis Foote as special envoy to Haiti. Foote is a career diplomat that once served as Deputy Chief of Mission for the US embassy in Haiti, and, more to the point in this case, was once acting head of the State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. Foote’s mission:

The Special Envoy will engage with Haitian and international partners to facilitate long-term peace and stability and support efforts to hold free and fair presidential and legislative elections. He will also work with partners to coordinate assistance efforts in several areas, including humanitarian, security, and investigative assistance. Additionally, the Special Envoy will engage stakeholders in civil society and the private sector as we pursue Haitian-led solutions to the many pressing challenges facing Haiti.

There is another way

While this is going on, a conference of civil society leaders representing the Commission for a Haitian Led Solution is being convened this weekend to craft proposals for a more participatory transition plan. Johnston notes:  

This civil society–led organization formed many months ago, bringing together more than 300 organizations representing unions, farmers, churches, anti-corruption activists, feminist movements, human rights organizations, and many others. The conference would have begun earlier, but hotels refused to provide space. Many participants have received pushback from political leaders across the spectrum, and for a clear reason: The commission’s work is a threat to the political class. It is also a threat to the holding of elections later this year.

However, the United States, with Foote pressing the issue, seems determined to press forward with elections in Haiti. The single minded mantra concerning elections is increasingly out of step with the voices of many Haitians, who have been arguing for a different path for months now. This week Haitians were making their case in the United States.

One Wednesday, the Haitian Studies Association, Center for Economic and Policy Research, and other groups sponsored a panel discussion with speakers drawn from Haiti’s vibrant civil society, including the Rosy Auguste Ducena of RNDDH, Velina Elysée Charlier, Nou Pap Dòmi, Magali Comeau Denis, Komisyon pou Jwenn yon Solisyon Ayisyen, Mario Joseph, BAI, Sabine Lamour, SOFA, Josué Merilien, UNNOH/ Konbit and David Oxygène, MOLEGHAF.

The presentation can be watched on Youtube here:

Members of the Commission also briefed members of congress this week. Other members of civil society have met with administration officials in the United States.

The Haiti Response Coalition also released its statement, signed by 146 organizations, calling for policy makers to listen to Haitian voices, including on the question of elections. The letter calls for, 

Ensuring that conditions for fair, participatory, and credible elections are in place before rushing Haiti to the polls. Elections are a fundamental part of the democratic process. However, they must be free and fair and perceived as legitimate in order to strengthen democracy. Elections will not be free and fair without inclusive voter registration, an independent and legitimate electoral body, and the security necessary not only to vote, but also to campaign leading up to election day. Meaningful participation requires that women and other marginalized groups also participate in the electoral process. A race to hold elections on an internationally-imposed timeline risks further eroding democracy in Haiti.  

We note that Foote’s mandate (above) says that he ”will engage stakeholders in civil society and the private sector as we pursue Haitian-led solutions.” Is this just another Democrat lifting progressive language, while bullying ahead with business as usual? Or is Biden finally listening? Of course, we will know by what the US actually does – not what its diplomats say in press releases. And thus far, Biden’s team does not seem to get it, at all. 

But maybe there is a seed here we can nurture. Afterall, what choice do we have?

Update from Haiti: Ten days since Moise’s assassination

In the ten days since Jovenel Moise was assassinated the international media has been primarily focused on the constantly shifting details of the attack itself. The Haitian police have arrested nearly 30 people for involvement, including nearly 20 Colombians (some with US training background) apparently working under contract with a Miami based security company, run by a Venezuelan ex-pat. Several more Colombians were killed in fighting with Haiti’s police, and others remain at large. A Haitian-American doctor has been arrested as one of the possible “masterminds” behind the plot, and the head of Moise security has also been brought in for questioning. 

Meanwhile, some things remain the same…

In some ways, the division of power within Haiti looks similar to before the July 7th assassination. Claude Joseph as acting prime minister, working alongside Leonel Charles as head of the Haitian National Police, represents the continuity of Moise’s governing coalition such as it was. The political opposition situated in the remnants of Haiti’s senate have nominated Senator Lambert as acting president, and Ariel Henry as acting prime minister, proposing that they assemble an interim government to oversee elections – to be held in 2022. Finally, there are hundreds of civil society organizations who are calling to launch a participatory process of selecting an interim authority to oversee a new electoral process. 

For now, the United States and international community seem to be backing Joseph, though the US did dispatch a team to facilitate conversation between Joseph and the official political opposition. President Biden is dispatching Marines to lock down the US embassy in Port au Prince, but has indicated that more troops from the United States were “not on the agenda.” For now, then, the fear of military intervention has been forestalled. However, the voices of social movement leaders continue to be set aside by US policy makers – which is a dynamic we seek to change.

There continues to be reports of attacks in the popular neighborhoods of Port au Prince, where armed groups have been fighting for weeks now, displacing 14,000 people or more. Security concerns have made reaching some of those displaced nearly impossible for local partners. We have delivered some funding to help those displaced, and are also now raising general funds so that we can respond in other ways to the crisis as well.

A Call to Action from social movements

The message from social movement partners in Haiti and the folk we work with here in the United States is that Haitians must lead in this transition – and not just an acting prime minister. Rather calls for an inclusive process should be heeded. This week a statement was circulated for organizational signatures to lift up this central message alongside other relevant points. The statement includes the following principles to guide further action

A Haitian solution. Haitians should lead in building the path forward. Foreign actors must not impose solutions from abroad. Even prior to Moïse’s murder, Haitian organizations have been building consensus for a transitional government. Foreign governments and international institutions must not overstep their role by declaring who has authority in Haiti, particularly when that conflicts with Haitian law.

We need only look to the recent MINUSTAH mission to see that foreign military interventions fail to create lasting public democratic institutions that are necessary for any country to function. Despite spending 13 years and $7 billion — ten times Haiti’s GDP– the MINUSTAH mission left Haiti with more guns and less democracy. The mission also afflicted Haiti’s citizens with sexual exploitation and abuse, leaving behind hundreds of children fathered by peacekeepers, and was responsible for introducing cholera to Haiti, killing an estimated 10,000 people.

A commitment to a participatory dempcratic process. After decades of foreign intervention and aid policies that have destabilized Haiti, each branch of the Haitian government has been systematically dismantled, and public confidence in Haiti’s governance has declined to nearly nothing. Haitian organizations and civil society have long been calling for a transition government to restore stability, basic security, and democracy. Haiti must have a transition process in order to rebuild its democratic institutions, and this process must be inclusive of all sectors of Haiti’s population. 

Ensuring that conditions for fair, participatory, and credible elections are in place before rushing Haiti to the polls. Elections are a fundamental part of the democratic process. However, they must be free and fair and perceived as legitimate in order to strengthen democracy. Elections will not be free and fair without inclusive voter registration, an independent and legitimate electoral body, and the security necessary not only to vote, but also to campaign leading up to election day. Meaningful participation requires that women and other marginalized groups also participate in the electoral process. A race to hold elections on an internationally-imposed timeline risks further eroding democracy in Haiti. 

Protection for the right to free expression and the right to life. Over the past three years, all Haitian people have learned that there is no safety; there is no guarantee that they will make it home when they leave. Human rights defenders and activists are frequent targets of threats and attacks, and essential health care workers have been injured and killed through kidnappings, attacks and gang violence. Gender-based violence, including rape, has been increasing during this crisis, and thousands of women and girls have been displaced from their homes, making them even more vulnerable. 

Three years ago, on July 6-7, 2018, the emerging evidence that government officials had stolen more than $2 billion from state coffers and rising gas prices sparked the first in a series of protests against corruption and impunity. These massive mobilizations of Haitians across class and political lines marched together to call for accountability and democracy. They were consistently met with brutal repression from the government and indifference from the international community. 

There have been 18 massacres documented in Port-au-Prince over these past three years. Perpetrators have targeted neighborhoods active in opposition protests, and have not been held accountable. Human rights groups have documented connections between officials and the armed groups responsible for these massacres, including Moïse and other government ministers.  Further, some argue that these massacres  constitute crimes against humanity. 

Recognition of how foreign interventions have contributed to current conditions in Haiti. While many are calling Haiti a “failed state”, what we see is the failure of centuries of policies imposed on Haiti by the international community, including aid policies, that prioritized foreign interests and short-term gains over sustainable democracy and prosperity for Haitians. The 2010 earthquake was an opportunity to rebuild Haiti with strong public institutions. However, despite hundreds of millions of aid dollars, Haiti’s entire public administration was outsourced to foreign institutions and NGOs. 

To read the full statement connect HERE. If your organization can sign, you can do so HERE.  The statement with signatures will begin to circulate next week, including to member delegations at the United Nations and policy makers in the United States.

Must See Webinar

Finally, the Haitian Studies Association is sponsoring a webinar with social movement leaders from Haiti on Wednesday July 21 from 11:00 to 12:30 EDT. Participants are:

Moderator: Mamyrah Dougé-Prosper, University of California, Irvine

Panelists: Rosy Auguste Ducena, RNDDH; Velina Elysée Charlier, Nou Pap Dòmi; Magalie Comeau Denis, Komisyon pou Jwenn yon Solisyon Ayisyen; Sabine Lamour, SOFA; Josué Merilien, UNNOH/ Konbit

The event is Co-Organized by the Haitian Studies Association, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Haiti Response Coalition, Haitian Studies Institute at Brooklyn College, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University, and North American Congress on Latin America.

Click HERE to register

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