Haiti: Ten years and a week after

Aerial view of Port au Prince

Sunday, January 11 marked the ten-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, centered near Port-au-Prince, that killed 220,000 or more people, and displaced millions. Being a ten year anniversary, there were a number of retrospective political analyses looking at the current crisis through the lens of events in the ten years since the quake. The weakening of the economy, corruption in the deployment of development assistance, the cholera outbreak brought on by UN carelessness in 2010, and additional disasters in the intervening years like Hurricane Matthew, all punctuated by controversial election processes, serve as a backdrop for discussions of the current economic crisis and protests calling on president Jovenel Moïse to step down. What lessons emerged in a week of commemoration? Let’s see….

One lesson, apparently, is the need for new legislation in the U.S. Congress: The Haiti Development, Accountability and Institutional Transparency Initiative Act. I’m not sure the intent of the title, but it comes close to just being the HAITI Act – which is…clever? This act was introduced specifically to mark the anniversary of the earthquake. The bill requires a number of investigations: Investigations into the massacre at La Saline, how to better protect the freedom of the press, how to better take action against corruption through investigating individual governmental and non-governmental leaders, and assessing delivery of U.S. disaster assistance, including investigation of the Caracol industrial park (the only major U.S.-funded project anyone can really point to in the last ten years, and not usually positively). None of this is particularly controversial. I mean who could argue against investigating human rights violations, corruption and assessing the impact of U.S. aid, right? But as the primary mechanism for these investigations in the bill is the U.S. State Department in “consultation” with the non-governmental sector, I am not holding my breath for a substantive re-evaluation of anything, assuming the bill even gets a vote.

Meanwhile, over the last week the major transition in Haiti was the departure of two-thirds of the Senate, and all of the lower house. In the absence of elections, originally scheduled for last October, all of these Parliamentary terms expired. The ten remaining senators cannot form a quorum. As a result, starting Monday, January 13, President Jovenel Moïse began governing through decree. His first act was a commitment to allocate the money saved by not having to pay salaries to members of Parliament to build 10 new schools. From Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, “The amount, about $16.3 million, would have gone to pay 118 members of the Lower Chamber of Deputies and 19 senators this year. The entire budget of the Parliament is roughly $60 million. Moïse did not say what he plans to do with the rest of the money.” By sending a message that Parliament is unnecessary and/or wasteful, the symbolism of Moïse’s first decree is somewhat alarming – though in the short-term it is likely to play well. Certainly the country needs new schools.

Toward the end of the week Moïse was indicating he would use his decree power to offer a new constitution that would be put to a vote through a popular referendum. Reuters reported, “The president aims to get the new constitution drafted within three months of being started, the source said, and voted on in a referendum by year-end.” Specific proposals are not yet drafted, but the sense is that a new constitution would seek to weaken the authority of the Prime Minister/Parliament in Haiti’s system of dual executive rule. In times past, a presidential, or unitary executive, has been promoted with mixed reception. Hard to say where all of this will go.

With the partisan opposition sidelined (along with parliament), perhaps Moïse will have more space to operate. However, while members of parliament may have been the most vocal opponents, they were hardly the only ones. Certainly among the younger generation of activists represented in some sense by the PetroChallenger movement, most of the political leadership is viewed as corrupt. Which is just to say Moïse may not be the best person to lead constitutional reform, given that the country has periodically erupted into massive protests over the last 18 months in an effort to get rid of him. 

Everybody knows this, of course. It is just worth repeating, as the U.S. government and international organizations continue to act as if the problems in Haiti are institutional design problems, and somehow Moïse’s political survival would be emblematic of successful design. “Moise won his election, after all,” they’ll say, “he should finish his term.” Without a parliament, Moïse can write his own electoral law and offer constitutional reforms. The United States will have Moïse’s back because ultimately the U.S. government only wants enough stability to keep Haiti profitable for those who seek to use it (not the people who live there). The Trump administration made this clear by parading a series of officials through Haiti in December for photo ops in order to demonstrate their commitment to Moïse.

Which brings us back to the elephant in the hemisphere: U.S. policy. One consistent theme over the last ten years -—  really the last 216 years — is the sense of entitlement with which the U.S. government lectures Haitians (really everybody, but I am trying to focus here). It is a bizarre dance whereby the U.S. government intervenes on behalf of a relatively small elite, to keep them in power over the express desire of most Haitians, while keeping the impoverished majority at bay (or at least unrepresented). It was the Obama administration that gifted Martelly and then Moïse to Haiti, after all, in the name of appearances. Then, when things don’t go well, some U.S. policy maker or congressional committee steps up to the mic to critique that same elite for lousy governance. I’m not sure the critique helps so much. What might help? Stepping out of the way so an actual democracy could emerge in Haiti. Then Haitians could hold each other more directly accountable. They would do a much better job I think. They could hardly do worse than the UN/US/Core Group-installed government they’ve been saddled with.

That, at least, is one lesson one might draw from the last ten years.

Continue Reading

Celebrating Haiti’s Independence

On January 1, 1804 Haiti became the second independent republic in the western hemisphere, and the first to abolish slavery. Unlike the U.S. war for independence, in Haiti there was a true revolution of social forces. People who had been enslaved in Haiti rose up against the French colonial authority and won their freedom and with it the country’s independence. The only successful rebellion of people enslaved known to history came with the defeat of the military super-power of the time – France under Napoleon Bonaparte. The ultimate defeat of France’s forces in Haiti forced Napoleon to sell colonial possessions in North America to the United States to meet expenses from the failed expedition. The resulting Louisiana Purchase more than doubled the size of the United States.  The revolution in Haiti was, however, not otherwise welcomed by the United States. Rather than celebrate another independent republic in the western Atlantic, the U.S. joined with European colonial governments in blockading Haiti. The goal was to strangle the revolution and the example of freedom it represented to those enslaved in the United States and throughout the colonial Caribbean and Latin America. Haiti’s independence survived but at a price of isolation and international indebtedness. The United States did not recognize the independent government of Haiti until 1865. In 2020, Haiti is still fighting for independence. The current government is widely viewed as an instrument of U.S. policy-makers, as both a bulwark against more popular democratic forces and wedge for unencumbered investment for the pillaging of Haiti’s resources. Protests against the government, which have shut down the country intermittently since July 2018, have slowed in recent weeks. But things are far from settled, as Parliamentary tenures expire and no agreement on new elections seems to be forthcoming.  President Moise, not surprisingly, used the Independence Day address to once again call for unity and establishment of a national dialogue. “This January 1 should be an opportunity for us to reflect…to define together the path to take the country.”  It is an invitation he has been repeating for months now, with few takers. We’ll see what the new year brings. The United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo issued a statement congratulating Haiti on its independence that read, “The story of the founding of Haiti, from the uprising of slaves to the creation of a Republic based on democratic principles, testifies to what can be accomplished when individuals are determined to work together for the greater good.” It was a message clearly speaking to the present moment – the U.S, as noted, hardly welcomed this fight for the “greater good” 216 years ago. Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic, in anticipation of new protests, sent an additional 1,200 troops to the border. There are now 11,000 Dominican troops on the border with Haiti attempting to stop the movement of people fleeing insecurity, looking for work, or simply returning from holiday visits with relatives. What the new year has in store is hard to read at this point. The United Nations is estimating that 4.5 million people – nearly half of the population – will be in need of humanitarian assistance in the coming year as the economy continues its collapse. The Associated Press reported last month,

Haiti’s economy was already fragile when the new round of protests began in mid-September, organized by opposition leaders and supporters angry over corruption, spiraling inflation and dwindling supplies, including fuel. More than 40 people were killed and dozens injured as protesters clashed with police. Moise insisted he would not resign and called for dialogue.

The United Nations World Food Program says a recent survey found that one in three Haitians, or 3.7 million people, need urgent food assistance and 1 million are experiencing severe hunger. The WFP, which says it is trying to get emergency food assistance to 700,000 people, blames rising prices, the weakening local currency, and a drop in agricultural production due partly to the disruption of recent protests.

In the last two years, Haiti’s currency, the gourde, declined 60% against the dollar and inflation recently reached 20%, Chalmers said. The rising cost of food is especially crucial in the country of nearly 11 million people. Some 60% make less than $2 a day and 25% earn less than $1 a day.

A 50-kilogram (110-pound) bag of rice has more than doubled in price in the local currency, said Marcelin Saingiles, a store owner who sells everything from cold drinks to cookies to used tools in Port-au-Prince.

The fight for independence today is in the economic realm – particularly food production. Haiti was self-sufficient in food production forty years ago, and now is deeply dependent on imports, and even where domestic production exists, transportation costs impact prices dramatically. Much of this is the result of tariff reductions demanded by the U.S. government and enforced through international financial institutions lending requirements.  The work in Gros Morne we are doing with the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center continues to focus at the intersection of food and ecological renewal through reforestation. Our work and similar work by Haitian groups throughout the country, is committed to the regeneration of the agricultural sector, a necessary precondition for economic independence, and long-term stability. The other precondition is limiting U.S. intervention. That remains the bigger struggle.
Continue Reading

Haiti: A tale of two meetings

People march in Cite Soleil area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti during a protest to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise [Chandan Khanna/AFP]

On Tuesday this week, in Port au Prince and in Washington D.C., people gathered to talk about the crisis in Haiti. In one meeting, demands for restitution and accountability rang out from the voices of activists gathered from around the world. In the other, a mixed message of a need for change in the U.S. position, but no mechanism or real direction for how that should happen. In one meeting, a passionate call for justice and a new social order. In the other, political posturing more attuned to partisan differences in the U.S. than the crisis in Haiti. 

The first convergence was a collection of civil society organizations, mostly with deep roots in organizing for human rights and broader social equity in Haiti – groups that work within Haiti and organizations that partner across borders. This gathering was primarily focused on creating a framework of accountability concerning foreign intervention in Haiti – specifically the 15-year UN occupation of the country. From the People’s Dispatch:

Since December 7, over 100 Haitian and international delegates have been participating in the International Colloquium “Occupation, Sovereignty, Solidarity: Towards a People’s Tribunal on Crimes of the MINUSTAH in Haiti,” to continue on the long road to justice. The colloquium, organized by Platform to Advocate Alternative Development in Haiti (PAPDA), the Office of International Lawyers/ Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (BAI/IJDH) and Haitian Movement of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity (MOLEGHAF), seeks to bring to account the people and structures culpable in the 15 years of UN occupation and the crimes committed by the MINUSTAH.

Participants at the meeting included representatives from organizations in Puerto Rico, who joined in discussions about international debt, and the need for restitution. Representatives from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina were also present to contribute to the broader discussion on creating a people’s tribunal to document the crimes of the United Nations and other foreign entities.

During the 14 panel discussions and workshops organized as part of the colloquium, international delegates hailing from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, the United States, France, Martinique, Mexico, Nepal, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela, as well as Haitian delegates from over 100 organizations, reaffirmed their bonds of solidarity, shared strategies to ensure justice and expressed their support for the victims and survivors of the atrocious crimes committed by the MINUSTAH. 

This first convergence was thus an act and a statement of solidarity to press for accountability for decades (if not centuries) of foreign intervention in Haiti. Though not strictly speaking a response to the current crisis, there is a clear linkage between that history of intervention and the political and social cleavages evident in the streets of Haiti today as people are still protesting conditions and demanding that president Jovenel Moïse resign.

The second meeting was a U.S. House International Relations subcommittee hearing titled “Haiti on the Brink: Assessing U.S. Policy Toward a Country in Crisis.” Exactly what Haiti is on the brink of was not really clear. Apparently this was the first such hearing in nearly 20 years. When one thinks about all that has happened in Haiti in the last 20 years – and the United States’ deep involvement in much of it, it is telling that this is the first time there was an official public discussion in Congress about U.S. policy since the Clinton administration. Unlike the first convergence discussed, the framework for this meeting was not accountability, certainly not on the part of the U.S. government. The witnesses in the hearing covered the gamut – from representatives of the International Republican Institute to Pierre Esperance of the National Human Rights Defense Network. 

The strongest statement came from Maxine Waters, who emphasized the lack of accountability of the Moïse government regarding the La Salin massacre in November of 2018. 

In April of this year, I led a delegation to Haiti, which met with residents of the Lasalin neighborhood of Haiti’s capital and surrounding areas, who described acts of unconscionable violence that occurred in November of 2018. The Lasalin massacre resulted in the deaths of at least 71 civilians, in addition to the rape of at least 11 women, and the looting of more than 150 homes. Survivors expressed concern that government-connected gangs, working with police officers, carried out the attacks to punish Lasalin for participation in anti-government protests.

The protests in Lasalin – as well as many other anti-government protests throughout Haiti since the summer of 2018 – were sparked by the disappearance of millions of dollars of assistance provided to Haiti by Venezuela under the PetroCaribe program.  Through PetroCaribe, Venezuela sold oil to Haiti and allowed them to defer the payments for up to 25 years and pay a low rate of interest on the debt. Haiti was supposed to sell the oil and use the money to pay for social programs. Instead, at least $2 billion went missing.  That is almost a quarter of Haiti’s total economy for 2017. The corruption in government was confirmed in a report delivered to the Haitian senate by official auditors on May 31, 2019. This corruption occurred under the leadership of Haiti’s current president, Jovenel Moïse , as well as his predecessor, Michel Martelly.  Haitians began demonstrating against this government because they knew that they never saw the benefits of the PetroCaribe program. 

Waters noted that the Trump administration continues to support Moïse and, absent any mention of corruption, is simply pressing for a dialogue with opposition groups – who have thus far refused – as the only strategy on the table. Waters concluded: “The president of Haiti needs to take responsibility for the current political crisis in his country, and the protests will not stop until he does.” 

It is doubtful that much will come from the Congressional hearing. Though it was one of the best attended subcommittee hearings anyone can remember, there seems to be little momentum in Congress to tackle anything substantive regarding Haiti. The administration itself seems to have no plan other than sticking with Moïse and calling for dialogue. In doing so, the United States is basically demonstrating that there is no sympathy for the concerns of those protesting. If this lack of imagination means that the United States stays out of further intervention into this crisis, that is not really a bad thing. However, the Trump administration’s reflexive defense of Moïse is in essence a form of intervention in and of itself. 

At some point Haiti’s destiny will be decided by a group of people sitting at a table trying to reach a compromise about the future. Those people will be driven to that table by events in the streets. But once there, will activism inspire and frame the conversation, or not? If not, there seems to be little hope of real change. Process and participation matter. This week we got a glimpse of that. The official discourse is offering little, and must be opened up to new voices if change is going to happen.

Continue Reading

Haiti Update, Program in Gros Morne

The agronomy team prepares to deliver sweet potato cuttings

This week United States ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, met with president Jovenel Moïse in Haiti, in what most saw as a gesture of support for his government. This was not a gesture welcomed by the majority of Haitians.

Though Haiti’s Moïse remains under intense pressure to resign, there seems to have been little movement in the positions people have staked out. Moïse refuses to talk about stepping down, and the opposition refuses to sit down with him and negotiate anything but the terms of his departure. As protests continue [five more people were killed this week in demonstrations] and the resulting lockdown on the country’s economy goes on, people are living under increasing stress. Food shortages have been endemic in recent years. However, the current crisis is threatening to create even more hunger as transportation difficulties and fuel costs send food prices up – when food is even available. Estimates are that up to 4 million people out of 11 million will lack access to adequate quantities of food by next year. 

In Gros Morne, as in the rest of the country, children are unable to go to school. Over the last week the primary hospital in the city was facing closure for lack of supplies. As of now, the hospital is holding on with limited resources.

For our partners at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center the work of reforestation and environmental renewal continues. There is no doubt that the cost of fuel, frequent blockades, and general instability are making the work more difficult. But the agronomy team is still delivering workshops and supplies – via pack mule when needed. The mobile veterinary clinic is still visiting to care for animals – if on a reduced schedule. And trees are still getting planted. While we remain concerned about the broader instability of the country and increasing political tensions, we do want to pause to celebrate the incredible work that goes on in Gros Morne – especially in these difficult times.

Through the first nine months of the year, here is a taste of what has been achieved through work at the Jean Marie Formation Center.

50,000* trees distributed from nursery at Grepen Center.

25,000 Haitian gourdes earned from the harvesting of 1,000 pounds of weevil free sweet potatoes by farmers in Baden during spring.

18,000 trees distributed from Satellite nurseries.

15,000* trees planted in Perou in coordination with the Lorax Project.

1,000 families received seeds at subsidized rate from seed bank (January through April).

800 eggs a day produced at the hen house in Campeche, powered by solar technology.

305 farmers took part in trainings. 

174 goats treated by mobile veterinary clinics (April-September).

75 farmers join the sweet potato program from June through September.

17 base communities participated in an environmental conference with local officials to deal with plastic waste.

15 episodes of the radio program “The Earth is Our Mother” produced (April-September) to educate the local community on environmental issues.

Being witness to the work in Gros Morne over the last fifteen years, and visiting other grassroots organizations during these years as well, I know that there is a deep spirit of cooperation and incredible ingenuity, wrought from years of struggle, among activists in Haiti. The Haiti we read about in the news is not the Haiti that lives and breathes, resists and strives for independence. Our work in Gros Morne touches one small part of the possibilities that exist. We thank you for joining us in supporting our friends in Gros Morne.

*In the newsletter we had slightly different figures. While the total number of trees planted remains the same – there more trees planted through the Lorax partnership than we originally reported, and fewer trees delivered directly from the Grepen Center.

If you would like to support the project, click the link below.

Donate Now!
Continue Reading

Haiti Update 10/4/2019: Will Moïse survive in power another week? 

The last week in Haiti has been tumultuous, as protests escalated again last Friday and continued into this week. As we updated last week, Moïse addressed the country last Wednesday, calling for dialogue between the government and opposition leaders, in order to find a path forward in the name of national unity. This week “members of the international community” met with opposition leaders in Petionville to encourage such a discussion. Thus far, the opposition has refused. Indeed, on Friday, October 4, the opposition called for renewed demonstrations and marched to the United Nations’ mission in a call for the international community to withdraw its support for President Moïse and allow a nine-member commission drawn from the opposition to oversee a transition to a new government. 

The United States continues to press for a dialogue, and in the name of the “rule of law,” continues to back Moïse until elections can be called. From the Miami Herald,

“The United States and Ambassador Sison continue to encourage Haiti’s political, economic, and civil society stakeholders to enter into an inclusive dialogue to identify a path to form a functioning government that will serve the Haitian people,” a State Department spokesperson for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs said. “This process should remain firmly rooted in democracy and the respect for the rule of law, and address the country’s pressing economic and social concerns. We support the Haitian people’s aspirations for a better life. We have reiterated that goal as recently as Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s meeting with Haitian Foreign Minister Edmond on September 26.” 

The United Nations, which is scheduled to end its mission in Haiti in two weeks, similarly called for “calm” through spokesperson Stephane Dujarric: “The U.N. continues to encourage all actors to refrain from violence, respect human rights, and allow the normal functioning of hospitals and emergency services, as well as the work of the humanitarian actors who are assisting the most vulnerable populations.”

As the protests have unfolded, the Haitian police have been accused of using excessive force, including shooting into crowds and indiscriminate use of tear gas. The National Network for Defense of Human Rights in Haiti issued a report documenting the death of at least 17 people and 187 injuries between September 16-30. On the other side, the expansive use of blockades is intensifying already existing food and fuel shortages. 

Jacqueline Charles reported yesterday, October 3, Nancy Pelosi met with members of the Haitian-American community in Miami and heard a pretty straight forward message for the U.S. to stay out of Haitian affairs. It is not clear she really got it – as while saying she understood she also defended U.S. efforts to topple Maduro, accusing him of being a “thug” and of “exporting” corruption. Such a statement  in the context of a discussion of U.S. intervention in Haiti is painfully hypocritical. Will the United States stay out of the process in Haiti now? Nothing in the 200 year bilateral relationship between Haiti and the United States suggest this is likely. But we will continue to say the U.S. should let Haiti be anyway.

Haitians in the Bahamas face uncertain future

We have reported several times on the situation of Haitians in the Bahamas since hurricane Dorian destroyed much of the Abaco islands and Grand Bahama. Haitians have for many years been the target of political attacks, and scapegoating in the Bahamas, much as immigrants are here in the United States under Trump. Hurricane Dorian destroyed several predominantly Haitian communities in early September, forcing many to take refuge in shelters in Nassau and other parts of the islands. While many Haitians feared reprisal, the government was, at least while the international media was present, trying to sound conciliatory telling people that shelters would not be subject to immigration enforcement operations.

Last week, that changed. The Jamaican Observer reported this weekend,

The Bahamas government says it will deport undocumented migrants who survived the passage of Hurricane Dorian on September 1 and are now living in shelters. Immigration Minister, Elsworth Johnson, says the shelters will not be used “to circumvent the law. “If you’re in a shelter and you’re undocumented and you’re not here in the right way, you’re still subject to deportation and the enforcement of the immigration laws,” Johnson told The Nassau Guardian newspaper. “Most certainly, those shelters will not be used as a mechanism to circumvent the law. The government of The Bahamas fully appreciates that we are a country of laws. We’re governed by the rule of law. “There’s an Immigration Act and the Immigration Act is in full effect and the director [of immigration] understands that he must enforce it,” he added.

In response, activists gathered in Miami to encourage the Bahamian government to change course:

Miami activists and a Hurricane Dorian survivor called on the Bahamian government Thursday to suspend immigration enforcement actions that threaten to deport undocumented migrants living in government-operated Bahamian shelters. 

“While we respect that the country has laws and can enforce them, this is not the time to enforce these laws,” said Marleine Bastien, executive director of the Little Haiti-based Family Action Network Movement. “The Bahamian government promised not to deport undocumented migrants after the storm. Recovery efforts are still happening. People have lost their homes, their documents and papers.” 

Bastien, along with spokespeople from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, 350 South Florida, Florida Immigration Coalition and a hurricane survivor, urged the Bahamian government at a press conference to not deport any Bahamians in the country until they can rebuild.

“It’s simply unjust. The news is really disappointing,” Bastien said.

Postscript on the “rule of law”? Under the rule of law, Haitians are asked to accept a government the vast majority never wanted and, if they try to move on and start a life elsewhere, the rule of law tells them to go back home. If they stand where they are and demand change, the rule of law means they get shot, tear gassed, or arrested. If they do nothing, the rule of law means they don’t eat. The “rule of law,” it seems, has become ideological spittle in the face of anyone who challenges the powerful interests profiting from the status quo. There is no justice here at all.

Continue Reading

Haiti Update 9/27/2019

On Wednesday morning at 2:00 a.m. Haiti’s President, Jovenel Moïse, addressed the country on television – yes, a.m. Moïse is once again under intense pressure to step down. The point of his early morning address was to make clear he was not going to step down and to ask for unity.  He said

“We have a responsibility to assume our responsibility in front of the nation and history…It is because of this I am extending my hand to all of the forces of the nation, for us to sit together to form a national unity government that has the capacity and legitimacy to address together the urgent problems the country is undergoing.” 

The context for the address has many layers. The most immediate was the failure of the Senate to affirm his appointment for Prime Minister, Fritz William Michel, earlier this week. Michel’s confirmation has been contentious following a variety of allegations of corruption. 

The tensions in the Senate session on Monday spilled over in the street as people gathered to protest the confirmation vote. From The Guardian

The senate president, Carl Murat Cantave, had given instructions to the police that only senators would be allowed into the senate precinct with one driver and two police-appointed security agents. 

Within hours he was criticising the police on Radio Magik9, saying they could not contain the crowds and there was chaos in the yard. Separately the senator Jean Rigaud Belizaire complained the senate’s rooms had been smeared with a liquid resembling faeces.

Senators, realising that the session would not happen and the ratification would have to be delayed again, began trying to leave to shouts of “thief, thief, thief.” Cantave himself was reported to be confined to parliament, having to retreat in his car under a barrage of rocks.

In the midst of the protest, Moïse ally Senator Jean Marie Ralph Féthière opened fire with a handgun outside the Senate building as he tried to get in his car, shooting a reporter and bodyguard. 

The Wednesday morning address did not specifically say Moïse would withdraw Michel’s nomination, but suggested it was likely (blaming the Senate for failing to act). From the Miami Herald:

Moïse did say that after multiple attempts by the Senate at a ratification vote, he had concluded that the chamber was not up to the task of fulfilling its constitutional duty to give Haiti a legitimate government. Two successive governments, Moïse noted, had failed to win Senate confirmation over the past six months and six hearings had to be aborted. One government was headed by Michel, and the other by Prime Minister Jean Michel Lapin, who resigned prior to Michel’s naming on July 22.

Another layer to the current iteration of crisis is the lack of fuel in the country. The fuel shortage is enough on its own to garner anger. However, the entire structure of the fuel delivery system in Haiti simply serves as a reminder of the cronyism at play throughout the economy.

For nearly 11 years Haiti was able to access subsidized fuel shipments from Venezuela. By purchasing at a discounted, concessional rate, the government could resell the fuel with a mark up to fuel distribution companies within Haiti, using the “profit” to fund investment in development projects. The “PetroCaribe” framework had some promise, but last year Venezuela was forced to stop the program under increasing sanctions from the United States. In the wake of that disruption, evidence came to light that much of the PetroCaribe money was simply redirected to government friends given contracts for projects that were never finished, or, in some cases, never started. PetroCaribe money was not a grant – but in essence a loan, albeit at very low repayment rates. So, Haiti’s government has a large debt to Venezuela (which is not in a position to forgive much, if any of it at the moment), and nothing really to show for it in terms of new development. The anger around the PetroCaribe scandal has been a major factor in demonstrations against the current government – which has failed to indict anyone – for over a year now.

As the PetroCaribe program began to unravel, other energy traders have stepped in, but no longer at concessional rates. International energy traders sell fuel to the government, which in turn sells to domestic distributors. If the distributors get behind in payments, the government does not have the money to pay traders for new shipments. The government’s intermediary role is also complicated because of its policy of subsidizing fuel costs in an effort to keep prices down – which requires a reimbursement to companies. The government has not been able to keep up with these payments – leading to a suspension of the delivery of fuel by international traders back in February/March of this year, and again this August. 

There are a number of reasons for this: A decline in overall economic activity and limited collection of tax revenue – always a struggle in the best of times – is a big part of the problem. Also, the price of oil is increasing internationally due to a variety of crises, not least of which is ongoing tension in the Middle East, none of which have anything to do with Haiti. On top of this, the gourde continues to lose value against the dollar – currently trading at 96 gourde to 1 dollar. As fuel is sold in gourdes in the local market, but purchased in dollars on the international market, over time the state’s debt increases significantly. Gas prices have been forced up more than double the price in gourdes. The government will likely be forced to introduce some kind of rationing scheme to ensure that it is able to keep payments flowing. Both measures are obviously very unpopular. Undermining all of this is an “unofficial” market in fuel that is commanding much higher prices – and thus providing a huge incentive to cheat on the margins.

Stepping back a bit further, the fuel situation is replicated throughout the economy as the cost of basic goods continues to increase with the collapse of the gourde. Items are either traded from international sources, or fuel prices are putting upward pressure on domestic trade. Either way, costs are fast outpacing what people are making. This speaks to the importance of supporting local agriculture, as it can provide some stability in price and access to food. This is a chief benefit of the program we support in Gros Morne. But Haiti is a long way from achieving this level of food sovereignty on a national level. Indeed, under international pressure from the United States and international financial institutions, Haiti has become more dependent on food imports. Such restructuring of the economy over the last 30 years, not any specific Moïse policy, is what underlies the current crisis. 

Jane Regan writes in NACLA,

Haiti has seen its share of upheaval, but never a president who lasted this long in the face of such dire conditions, according to Haitian human rights advocate Marie Yolène Gilles. 

“At my age, I’ve seen a lot of crises,” Gilles, 59, explained. “This is the worst I have ever seen. This is the first time I’ve seen a completely ungoverned country. All of the state institutions are sick.”

The director of the human rights advocacy group Je Klere Foundation, Gilles is no stranger to political unrest, violent coups d’états, and foreign occupations. A former journalist, she remembers the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, the fall of interim governments, and two coups against Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1991 and 2004.

“This is the first time I’ve seen a president successfully cling to power like this,” she said. “Even though people are dying, people are disappearing, people are suffering.”

As Regan reports, Gilles and others seem clear that Moïse is still in office because the United States wants him there. Officially, the United States has put its emphasis on elections as the way out of the crisis. But elections are not happening anytime soon. This leaves a huge question about what the United States will do. Prolonged periods of crisis in Haiti have often ended with the president put on a plane by U.S. government officials and/or the military being called out to “provide security.” For now the U.S. seems to be banking on Moïse riding out the crisis until new elections can be called, however long delayed. It doesn’t seem like much of a strategy. But then, the less the United States does at this point, probably the better.

As for the president’s early morning address – it was greeted with renewed protests Wednesday morning, and throughout the the week.

Continue Reading

Tet Mon 20th Anniversary

Wednesday, August 28, 2019 marked the 20 year anniversary of the Jean Marie Vincent Forest on Tet Mon. The forest was the first major initiative of the reforestation program that is now housed at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center in Grepen, Haiti. A barren hillside 20 years ago, Tet Mon is now home to over 200,000 trees. From the beginning the vision for Tet Mon was that it be a model project to demonstrate the impact of reforestation. Father Ronel Charelus (Father ChaCha) recalls:

It was a pilot project for the whole country. We had a conviction that if we were able to make this tree planting in Gros Morne successful, there would come to be many other places in the country that would be interested in this project. 

Father ChaCha also explains the connection to Jean Marie Vincent,

We chose to give the project the name of Jean Marie Vincent, a Montfortain priest who was assassinated on 28 August 1994. Why did we choose Jean Marie? We chose him because he had a dream for Haiti. His dream was for all peasants to have life, to live like people. This dream is for the country of Haiti to be covered with trees one day. It was an audacious project. But he had conviction in God and he also believed in people. For Jean Marie, the hope of the country lay in planting trees. He put this awareness in the lives of all of the school children. Jean Marie died, but his dreams are not dead. We can say that he is still here with us. Grepen will always remain a reference for all of the Montfortain priests who want to continue the work that Jean Marie was doing in the country of Haiti.

As with everything that is done at the Grepen Center, the celebration was itself part of an educational event – the Third Annual Agricultural Conference at Grepen.

The celebration of the forest began with a blessing at the tree nursery at the Grepen Center.

People then hiked up to the top of Tet Mon for a ceremony at the Gazebo that sits at the peak.

And, of course, what better way to celebrate the forest than to plant a new tree.

We like to think that the celebration of the forest marks the beginning of the next 20 years of work together with our partners in Gros Morne. Over the previous 20 years the program has grown from this one effort on Tet Mon, to a multifaceted initiative that engages grassroots activists in educational programs throughout the region of Gros Morne. We have been truly blessed to walk with our friends in Gros Morne and with those of you who have joined in support of their dream of a green Haiti. 

We hope you will join with us in celebrating this achievement.

Continue Reading

Haiti Update

Political stalemate continues, migration news and celebrating 20 years in Gros Morne

Photo: Estailove St. Val/EPA-EFE

The political crisis in Haiti continues to unfold. President Moïse remains in office despite a year of demonstrations demanding his resignation. Haiti has had four prime ministers during that time. Jack Guy Lafontant was forced to resign following massive protests last July that launched the country into the current period of instability. His replacement, Jean Henry Céant, was forced out after a no-confidence vote in Parliament following another round of national protests in February of this year. Céant’s replacement as acting prime minister, Jean Michel Lapin, was put forward in April. However, Moïse nominated another official, Fritz William Michel, as prime minister on July 22, because Lapin was unconfirmable. Michel must still present his government and policy platform to Parliament before he can govern. As a result

In reality, Haiti has two prime ministers. There is Michel, who is technically prime minister under the country’s amended 1987 constitution. And there is Jean-Michel Lapin, who officially announced his resignation after Moïse chose Michel on July 22, but remains in charge. Neither one, however, can enter into any legal accords.

The opposition, united in calling for Moïse’s resignation, is otherwise divided over tactics and what comes next should Moïse step down. Those who have mobilized to create a new society confront not just the current government, but those who simply want to replace the current cohort in controlling the existing apparatus of the state. At the official level, the House of Deputies has gathered three times in the last week to vote on an opposition motion to hold impeachment proceedings against Moïse. As of Wednesday this week, the vote has not yet happened – postponed indefinitely over security concerns. While President Moïse remains unpopular in the streets, he has sufficient support in the House of Deputies to most likely avoid the supermajority required for an impeachment vote – if the proceedings ever get that far.

The international community…

Meanwhile, the “international community” seems content to hold out for new elections, currently scheduled for October for parliament and local offices. As always, the hope for international actors is to both control the outcome and provide a veil of legitimacy over institutions under strain. The contradiction embedded in that model continues to escape the would-be doyens of international order, chief among them the United States foreign policy team, the same crew that facilitated Moïse’s tenure in office to begin with. It is the Catch-22 of the moment. Elections are probably necessary and will solve nothing unless deeper structural reforms are instituted; so there is an actual choice when people go to the polls in October. The U.S. government, not big on actual choices (especially when they lead to reform), will direct the process as best it can through funding conditions, and hope for the best. What could go wrong? 

Of course, until there is a government to form the electoral commission and pass the electoral laws needed to proceed, there will be no election. 

The standard of living in Haiti continues to fall as prices go up, investment stalls, and everyone seems to be in a holding pattern to see what happens next. Among the chief concerns is food insecurity.  In announcing a nine million euro emergency aid package, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations noted, 

In recent months, the humanitarian situation in Haiti has deteriorated dramatically and the country is facing serious food shortages. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of people in crisis situations or facing food emergencies doubled to 2.6 million, i.e. 25% of the population. Furthermore, the prevalence of acute malnutrition among children under the age of five remains high, and above World Health Organization (WHO) emergency levels in several locations, including the Nord-Ouest department. (emphasis added)

The nine million euro package will provide food security for 130,000 people.

The International Monetary Fund staff came to an agreement with officials in Haiti this past March for a $229 million loan, at a concessional rate (0% interest, repaid over a three year period). While this represents an infusion of money that might otherwise be welcome, this is the IMF and so, yeah, strings. Among the strings are budget reductions mandated in order to ensure “debt sustainability.” The IMF does not just hand out money in a lump sum, instead issuing “tranches” periodically, and only after staff review conditionalities put in place in the policy realm to ensure “progress” is being made. Currently the lack of an actual government is complicating final negotiations for the aid bill – which will be, at best, a mixed blessing. Remember that it was IMF pressure to end fuel subsidies last year that sent an already angry community out into the streets and brought down Lafontant’s government.

Migration policy

Press conference on Haitian Family Reunification Program. Photo: Miami Herald

The combination of political instability and a collapsing economy has led many Haitians to look elsewhere for places to settle. Over the last year, there has been an increase in people seized at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard and naval patrols from other Caribbean states. There has also been an uptick in people from Haiti at the U.S./Mexico border. For some, arrival is complicated by the fact that they are arriving via Brazil or Chile where many Haitians resettled in the ten years since the earthquake and in some cases started families. The governments of Brazil and Chile have become increasingly anti-immigration amidst their own economic woes. Haitians have been a particular target of new laws to limit resettlement, especially in Chile.

In the United States, the list of efforts to limit migration for Haitians and to make it more difficult for them to stay in the United States continues to grow. 

As a result of the Trump administration’s not renewing Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in 2018, 40,000+ Haitians were facing removal proceedings this summer, starting in July (as well as the question for many about what to do with their U.S. born children). However, the effort to cancel TPS for Haiti (and other countries) has been tied up in court, and federal judges have ruled against the Trump administration in two separate cases involving Haiti. Both cases are still under appeal, but the result is that TPS remains available for Haitians for the time being – through at least December of this year and likely well into next year. It is not, however, secure long-term.

Last year the Trump administration decided to end Haiti’s participation in the federal H-2A and H-2B guest worker program. The program had benefited some Haitian farmers and laborers seeking to come to the United States as temporary, seasonal workers.

In the past few weeks, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service agency announced formal suspension of the Haitian Family Reunification Program, a special program that allowed Haiti family members awaiting visas – and otherwise fully qualified – to be allowed into the United States on a parole basis to wait out final determination here. The program had resettled just over 8,300 Haitians since 2014 – though USCIS had not issued any new invitations to Haitians to participate in the program since Trump took office.

20 years of partnership in Gros Morne

Here at the Quixote Center, we continue to work with our partners at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center near Gros Morne, Haiti on reforestation and sustainable agriculture. The forest celebrates its 20th Anniversary on August 28 this year. 

August 28 is the day in 1994 that Jean Marie Vincent, Montfortain priest, and strong advocate for Haiti’s peasantry, was murdered. Father Vincent argued against a charity model of working with the poor. His vision was an empowered community, in control of its own destiny. 

At the Formation Center, this vision still guides the work. The program is run by our partners in Gros Morne, in relation with the Peasant Movement of Gros Morne and other local organizations. In this way, the program is responsive to the immediate needs of the community, as determined by the community itself. 

Over 20 years we have planted 2 million trees. But the real story is in the hundreds of workshops, thousands of family gardens, and the mobilization of 34 parish communities that form the Caritas network in the parish.  

In the context of the current political crisis, the importance of this work becomes ever more clear. Food security and independence is a necessary component of any sustainable future for Haiti. As Geri Lanham recently wrote, the project in Gros Morne has demonstrated its value to the community over the last year. 

Continue Reading

What political crisis means in Gros Morne, Haiti

Entrance to Jean Marie Vincent Forest, Gros Morne

Over the last year there has been a recurring cycle of protest sparked by ongoing anger at the current government. The underlying causes are complex, touching on a number of themes, but central to the frustration is the increasing cost of living that is driving people into more and more desperate conditions. Alongside of the daily struggle, corruption has emerged as a specific target of frustration as it manifests the insular world of Haiti’s wealthy class which continues to dominate political institutions. The PetroCaribe scandal, where dozens of politicians and well connected friends were found to have syphoned off billions in subsidized oil revenue for projects never completed, or, in some cases, never started has become a focal point for demonstrations demanding the resignation of president Jovenal Moise.  

Below, Geri Lanham, who works with our partners at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center in Gros Morne, discusses what the crisis has meant in Gros Morne and some of the hopeful ways the community has responded.

Gros Morne is known for being a calm place where people go about their daily business of trying to support their families without much fuss. This daily endeavor is not without hardship, and is made more difficult by the lack of transportation and electric infrastructure, but it is generally carried out in a manner of purposeful action where each person strives to manage his or her affairs to the extent that he or she is able. This all happens within the local network of the eight communal sections of Gros Morne, which are connected via local markets and businesses which try to keep up a trade to more or less enable those people who are engaged within the network to strive to make ends meet. Hunger still very much exists in the zone, but thanks to local efforts to support and expand agrarian activities and family connections abroad, there are genuine attempts to lessen this daily struggle to provide basic needs. Life is difficult here, without a doubt, but the people of Gros Morne are incredibly resilient in the face of hardship. 

The recent recurring episodes of insecurity in the country have negatively impacted Gros Morne and the capacity and network that people here have worked hard to create in order to support their families. When the roads to the south toward Port-au-Prince are barricaded with roadblocks due to political frustrations, this means that the merchants of Gros Morne cannot resupply. Prices rise when everyday goods like eggs and flour become scarce, and when the roads open again, these prices do not fall back to the level where they were originally. The real difficulty is when local salaries for professionals who work in education and healthcare do not rise in response to these increased prices, and so the purchasing power of this professional class decreases. The merchants then lose some of their regular clients who can no longer afford to buy at the same level at which they had before the scarcity, and their network shrinks. 

When gas is not resupplied regularly to the four gas stations in town, transportation costs rise. This impacts virtually everyone in town who use the moto taxis to get where they need to go on a daily basis. Profit margins fall for small merchants who need to transport items farther out into the countryside, as well as for moto drivers, who realize that they cannot raise their taxi prices more than what people are willing to reasonably pay even when gas purchased on the black market is more expensive. People who were able to “make it” previously now find themselves in a difficult situation of needing some other activity or connection to fill the gap caused by the price increases which are the result of these roadblocks. 

With the transportation disrupted, people in Gros Morne felt the impact of these national strikes. This led to the desire from some in town to join in the protest activities to show their own frustrations and commiserate with their country people who are all very frustrated by the current situation of the unsustainable high cost of living. This disgruntled feeling manifested itself in a day of general protests in Gros Morne, which involved a group of people marching down the main roads, erecting rock barricades along the national highway that passes through town, and generally voicing their discontent with the status quo. Then the next day, all was back to business as usual, as people went about the daily struggle to provide for their families, which is only becoming more difficult. 

One positive ongoing change to emerge from these national protests and the disruptions that they have caused is a local desire for people to become more self sufficient in their food sources. The local agronomy team in Gros Morne, along with various community organizations, is striving to teach people techniques for increasing their garden yields and introducing them to new crops in order to fortify the local capacity to supply the nutritional needs of the population. Local women’s groups are supporting one another in efforts to create small front yard gardens of vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and okra, while community organizations are creating communal gardens to plant crops like corn, okra and sweet potatoes. Local farmers are receiving formation to plant a new variety of yams and are using land preparation techniques like double dug gardens to respond to the lack of rainfall in the zone. As families begin to identify the assets such as land, which they already have, they are then able to use what they learn from agronomy formations to put the land into use in an attempt to respond to the hardships facing their families. Coordination between leaders out in the communal sections means that different zones are planting different crops, so that they do not drive prices down when they bring their harvest to the central market in the town of Gros Morne. These small efforts are beginning to show results as everyone strives to go about living by finding creative ways to deal with the new normal. 

Continue Reading

Protests in Haiti

Protests against Haitian President Jovenel Moïse re-emerged last week as part of a year long campaign demanding his resignation. The movement against Moïse gained international attention last July when protests sparked by an announced end to fuel subsidies ultimately led to the resignation of Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant*. A new government formed in October last year under Moïse-appointed Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant lasted less than six months when he was removed in a vote of no-confidence a month after February protests. Moise, however, remains in office and has refused to address the concerns of demonstrators directly. This week he made only brief remarks, denying involvement in corruption and demanding that people stay calm – making clear his intent to use the police to maintain order.

In the midst of the latest round of demonstrations, the United States State Department did change its travel advisory for Haiti from Level Four (do not travel) to Level Three (reconsider travel). This will offer some relief for businesses dependent on travel and tourism and make it easier for aid groups to provide services.

The current protests were launched with a transportation strike last Monday. Jacqueline Charles reported on the death of a journalist during the protests in the Miami Herald:

Late Monday night, a well-known radio journalist, Rospide Pétion, was shot to death in Port-au-Prince, authorities confirmed. Pétion worked for Radio Sans Fin…Three of the individuals who allegedly set fire to vehicles belonging to Radio Télé Ginen were arrested by Haiti National Police, who also opened an internal probe into the death of the motorcyclist after the head of the presidential guards, Dimitri Hérard, was accused of firing the fatal shot at the intersection of Delmas and airport roads.

After a pause on Wednesday, protests resumed on Thursday, Moïse’s tepid address Wednesday evening clearly having no impact. From yesterday’s New York Times:

Thousands of protesters demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse clashed with police Thursday as some tried to storm barriers outside the National Palace while others sought shelter as heavy gunfire echoed in nearby streets.

The demonstration came a day after Moïse broke his silence over the country’s recent unrest and rejected demands that he step down over allegations of officials misusing funds from subsidized oil shipments from Venezuela under the Petrocaribe program. He denied any wrongdoing.

The immediate cause of the latest demonstrations was a report issued on June 4 that further documented corruption, directly implicating Moise. From the Miami Herald:

Months prior to Haiti’s deeply flawed October 2016* presidential vote, the man who would become president, Jovenel Moïse, received millions of dollars for questionable road rehabilitation projects that a panel of Haitian government auditors say were part of embezzlement schemes that defrauded the country’s poor out of billions of dollars in Venezuelan aid meant to improve their lives.

At least $1 million was for a stretch of rural road in northern Haiti that government auditors said was paid for twice, after the public works ministry issued the same contract to two firms in late 2014. The firms shared the same tax identification number, government patent, technical staff and resume of projects in their portfolio, auditors said.

The only difference between the firms, auditors noted, was their heads. Agritans listed Moïse, a relatively unknown businessman and eventual handpicked successor to then-Haiti president Michel Martelly, as its head, while Betexs, the second firm, listed someone else. Agritrans received a $419,240 or 66 percent advance on the project — two months before the signing of its contract with the ministry of public works.

“For the court, giving a second contract for the same project… is nothing less than a scheme to embezzle funds,” auditors said about the project involving the Borgne-Petit Bourg-de-Borgne road.

While the media focuses a great deal on opposition to corruption as the primary motivator of the demonstrations, the issues go much deeper. As in any movement, there are factions with different goals and coming from various ideological perspectives in the protests against Moise. However, as the popular mobilizations continue, it is clear that corruption is not ultimately the concern. Rather, it is the grave inequality in Haiti, in which a narrow spectrum of the elite, often defended, or at least shielded by the international “community,” control the economic and political institutions of the country. Corruption is thus an indicator of a deeper social crisis. Increasingly the demands from the movement are directed at confronting these systemic issues.

A recent profile of youth activists, who have been critical in the evolution of the movement helps provide some context:

“But now, the PetroCaribe challenge is not something against a president. It’s not against a dictatorship,” she said. “It’s people asking for accountability, and this is a huge problem in Haiti. But it’s been a long time since we have had so many people coming together to ask for it. I think this is really new.”

The Petrochallenge movement is comprised of two groups: Nou Pap Dòmi, or “We keep our eyes open,” which is focused on government accountability in the short term; and Ayiti Nou Vle A, or “The Haiti we want,” a group that encourages ordinary citizens to get involved in shaping Haiti’s longterm future by encouraging civic engagement, online and offline. Both groups started in the wake of Mirambeau’s tweet.

For inspiration, the Petrochallengers have looked to other youth-led movements around the world that used social media, such as the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and Y’en a Marre, a Senegalese movement created by young rappers and journalists to protest ineffective government and register youth to vote. They’ve also looked to France’s Yellow Vest protests[…]

Social media is a key component of the Petrochallenge movement, said Gaëlle Bien-Aimé, 31, a Haitian women’s rights activist, comedian and Petrochallenger. For example, people have tweeted photos of vacant lots and skeletal structures where some of the nearly $2 billion in PetroCaribe funds were supposed to have been spent.

For an excellent, detailed analysis of the roots of the protest, I highly recommend the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti’s (IJDH) recent report, “Haiti at a Crossroads: An Analysis of the Drivers Behind Haiti’s Political Crisis.” In this report, IJDH breaks down not just recent developments, but the historical/structural drivers of the crisis that are important for understanding the current moment. From the executive summary:

This report seeks to put the current crisis in Haiti into context by explaining the short-, medium- and long-term factors driving the unrest, including detailing some of the gravest human rights violations in Haiti during President Moïse’s tenure. In the short term, the PetroCaribe scandal galvanized civil society and was the spark that brought Haitians into the streets. In the medium term, the movement is a response to the Moïse administration’s broader abuses of authority and de-prioritization of the rights and needs of the impoverished majority. President Moïse assumed office without a true popular mandate, having been elected in a low-turnout process that left him beholden to foreign and elite interests and a patronage network over the impoverished majority. In office, his administration has engaged in human rights abuses, flouted the rule of law, and mismanaged the economy in ways that disproportionately impact the poor. In the long term, this administration’s failures are enabled by years of flawed elections, a dysfunctional justice system and domestic and foreign economic policies that have impoverished the majority of Haitians.

The drivers behind the movement reflect repeated failures by Haitian leaders to serve their people, but they are also the result of decisions made by actors outside of Haiti. While the international community has invested billions in building up rule of law institutions in Haiti, powerful governments and international institutions have also exerted influence on Haiti to forge ahead with problematic, exclusionary elections and to accept a system of justice that allows foreign and elite actors to operate above the law. The faults of the decades-long prioritization of short-term stability over rule of law are now cracking. If the international community is to support a sustainable way forward for Haiti, it must finally take its lead from Haitians and support systemic reform that will be long and difficult. Systemic reform is the only way for Haiti to emerge out of this crisis into a place of true stability.

As the protests continue into this week, pressure remains on Moise to step down. What a transition would look like were he to do so, is not clear. Elections for Haiti’s Parliament are scheduled for October and the current crisis will certainly weigh heavily on them. But absent major reform they are unlikely to settle anything or offer resolution to the underlying structural inequities that are driving the current mobilizations. The people of Haiti have always been on the leading edge of democratic mobilization in this hemisphere, from the revolution in 1804 to today’s confrontation with the brutal political structures and consequence of neo-liberalizaton. Too often, victory has been stolen through retrenchment of the elite and an international community that wants a compliance. It is hard to see how things will turn out this time. But the determination to create a new political and economic order is strong, and the protests will almost certainly continue until something significant changes. 


*Corrections:

An earlier draft mistakenly identified Laurent Lamothe as the prime minister who resigned in July of 2018. Lamothe is a former prime minister (2012-2014) who served under President Martelly – he has been implicated in the PetroCaribe scandal as well.

The date for elections in the Miami Herald article quoted above is incorrect. The original election was October 25, 2015 – the results were widely protested, and ultimately annulled. The new “deeply flawed” elections were held on November 20, 2016. 

h/t to Reparations for Haiti (@ReparationsH ) for the call out and corrections.

Continue Reading

Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)