Haiti Update: Grassroots Victory in Caracol

In the wake of the 2010 earthquake, international donors pledged billions of dollars to help Haiti “Build Back Better.”  Once the earthquake receded into the background, however, commitments made with much fanfare in front of the cameras, deteriorated quickly. Five years after the earthquake, the U.S. had delivered $3.1 of the $4 billion committed for relief and recovery work  –  though a large portion of this represents the cost of the U.S. military deployment in the days immediately following the quake.  USAID’s portion of funding was $657 million, a third or more of which went to build the Caracol Industrial Park in the North East department.

Caracol was a controversial project from the beginning – miles away from the disaster zone, the United States’ major funding initiative in Haiti was essentially going to be an export platform for clothing manufacture i.e., a park for sweatshops. And U.S. expertise was thus on full display: create a project that makes millions of dollars for a handful of investors off the blood, sweat, and tears of underpaid garment workers and call it “development.” If the envisioned end result was far from anything one might call “better,” the process through which the park was constructed might simply be considered another disaster visited upon the local community.

To build the park, land was taken from local farmers. Nearly 400 families were displaced – indeed, they were given only 5 days to vacate the land on which their families had lived for generations. Five years later, only 5 of these families had received credit for the purchase of new land. Caracol was to provide employment – but, as with sweatshops everywhere, the target workforce was women in their 20s and 30s, not middle-aged farmers. ActionAid, which has worked with the community throughout most of the process, provides more detail here.

After several years of unfulfilled promises, the families displaced by the park created the Kolektif Peyizan Viktim Tè Chabè to begin to fight for redess. The community worked with another local non-governmental organization, AREDE and with ActionAid and Accountability Counsel internationally to press funders to provide compensation. Last year, the Kolektif entered into formal arbitration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), another major funder of the park, and the government of Haiti through the IDB’s Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism. Last month the parties reached a settlement that may well provide a template for other community action seeking accountability.

The agreement is divided into two sections: Corrective Measures for the Restoration of Livelihoods and Measures Concerning the Environmental and Social Impacts of the Caracol Industrial Park (PIC). The agreement includes a commitment for one member of each family to find employment in the industrial park, the granting of access to land and technical support to families that have not secured land since the park opened, vocational training and access to microcredit programs for the creation of small businesses. A full description of the provisions of the agreement can be found here (per IDB rules, the full text of the agreement is not publically available).

The agreement represents a major victory for the community, though full implementation of its provisions is far from certain, and will require continued monitoring. That said, the community should have never been put in this position to begin with. The placement of the park on some of the most fertile land in northern Haiti, near important watersheds already suffering from pollution from the park, represents a model of development in which community stakeholders are shut out of planning, and environmental concerns are pushed to the back burner. Haiti has seen too much of this kind of development over the years.

True, the park has provided jobs and the generation facility for the park has provided electricity to nearby communities. But on balance, the process was a disaster for the community and one is left to wonder what $260+ million might have achieved if local people had been included in the process of visioning a new approach to development from the beginning. As we mark 9 years since the earthquake, that remains an important question.

 

Continue Reading

The Disdain of a Formidable Neighbor: The U.S. in Guantanamo

Cuban intellectual José Martí lived in the United States for a number of years, giving him a broad perspective from which to consider U.S. relations with Cuba and, by extension, Latin America. In his frequently cited essay, “Nuestra America,” Martí – whose Cuban homeland was still part of the Spanish Empire – worried about a threat that was much closer than Europe.

Pero otro peligro corre, acaso, nuestra América, que no le viene de sí, sino de la diferencia de orígenes, métodos e intereses entre los dos factores continentales, y es la hora próxima en que se le acerque demandando relaciones íntimas, un pueblo emprendedor y pujante que la desconoce y la desdeña. […]

El deber urgente de nuestra América es enseñarse como es, una en alma e intento, vencedora veloz de un pasado sofocante, manchada sólo con sangre de abono que arranca a las manos la pelea con las ruinas, y la de las venas que nos dejaron picadas nuestros dueños. El desdén del vecino formidable, que no la conoce, es el peligro mayor de nuestra América.

[But our America may also face another danger, which does not come from within it, but from the differing origins, methods, and interests of the continent’s two factions. The hour is near when she will be approached by an enterprising and forceful nation that will demand intimate relations with her, though it does not know her and disdains her.[…]

Therefore the urgent duty of our America is to show herself as she is, united in soul and intent, fast overcoming the crushing weight of her past, and stained only with the fertilizing blood shed by hands that do battle against ruins, or by veins opened by our former masters. The disdain of the formidable neighbor who does not know her is the greatest danger that faces our America.]

Contrasting “our America” with the other America looming to the north, Martí feared U.S. influence would rival that of Spain. Martí himself died in an armed uprising against Spain in 1895 but his words would prove prophetic. While the United States publicly supported Cuban independence, the resulting Spanish-American War led to the imposition of a new imperial authority over the formerly “Spanish” Caribbean and the Philippines. Unlike Puerto Rico, Cuba was not subjected to outright colonialism but forced to agree to the Platt Amendment, allowing the United States to interfere directly in the affairs of the island. Soon after, the United States negotiated very favorable terms for the use of Guantanamo Bay as a continuing naval presence in the Caribbean. Cuba tolerated the U.S. presence on the island and, for several decades, little changed.

With the Cuban Revolution, came the demand for the U.S. to leave Guantanamo, but for 60 years now there has been no international legal forum with the force to vacate the lease and require the U.S. to leave. The United States continues to send lease payments to Cuba (since 1974 an absurd $4,000 a year) – though not a single payment has been deposited by Cuba’s government since 1959.

Incarceration in Guantanamo

Following a military coup in 1991, a large number of Haitian refugees took to the sea to escape the violence and seek asylum in the United States. Tens of thousands of Haitians were provided what was called “safe haven” in Guantanamo Bay while they were being screened for asylum. This practice, essentially detaining potential asylum seekers in large camps, was initiated in the administration of George H.W. Bush, paused briefly, then was resumed in the Clinton administration. Indeed, the limited capacity at Guantanamo Bay, where Clinton stated that 14,000 Haitians were interned, was a contributing factor to the decision to reinstate Aristide in the presidency of Haiti. At nearly the same time, the Clinton administration began to detain Cubans who wished to immigrate as well – also in Guantanamo –although this policy was relatively brief and impacted somewhat fewer persons. The detention practice was declared unconstitutional by a Federal District Court in 1993 (the ruling later vacated) – the last Haitian detainees left Guantanamo in 1995.

For a few years, Guantanamo was not known to be holding any detainees, but this door would not stay closed for long. On January 11, 2002, George W. Bush re-established the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, this time to house a population who were being described as “enemy combatants” in the “War on Terror.” The people in Guantanamo now are detained indefinitely, without trial, and many of the detainees have been tortured. Today these men – for they are all men – are 40 in number and a few have been charged and convicted but only in the Guantanamo Military Commission system, a tribunal of dubious legality. Indeed, the Supreme Court has sided with detainees in all four cases that arrived to the highest court. One of Obama’s first executive orders when he became president was a commitment to close the Guantanamo detention camp. He failed. One of Trump’s first executive orders was a commitment to keep Guantanamo open, indefinitely. 

January 11, 2019 marks 17 years since this detention center was established as part of the War on Terror but this is only the latest episode in the long story of U.S. imperial tactics in this place. In 2005, a group of concerned activists traveled to Cuba to attempt to visit the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and this trip gave birth to Witness Against Torture (WAT). Since 2007, WAT has been organizing actions in Washington, D.C. and around the nation leading up to the January 11 anniversary. In solidarity with the hunger strikes that have been started and maintained by detainees in Guantanamo and elsewhere to protest unjust treatment and living conditions, participants fast all week as a sign of their commitment to close down Guantanamo. This year, I have joined their number. Yet we know that our collective hunger pains are only a small reminder of the suffering of those held captive by our government in a foreign land. 

Taking our calls for justice one step further, once the closure of the detention center is finally complete, it is doubtless long past time to return full sovereignty of Cuba to its own people and vacate this base. Indeed, if we are serious about wanting to reduce the root causes of migration, we might revisit some aspects of U.S. foreign policy rather than build more spaces to hold humans captive.

In closing, I would like to leave you with a few lines from the Versos sencillos, also by Martí. These words have been immortalized in the classic Cuban song “Guantanamera,” a title referring to a woman from the Guantanamo region of Cuba, and they speak of a deep longing for an idyllic Guantanamo of the past, a land the poetic voice loves as his home. 

Con los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar:
El arroyo de la sierra
Me complace más que el mar.

[With the poor of the earth,
I cast my lot:
The mountain stream pleases me
More than the sea.]

 

 

Continue Reading

Haiti: Celebrating the New Year and Independence

On January 1st, Haiti celebrated the 215th anniversary of the conclusion of its revolution and struggle for independence from France. In 1804, Haiti became the second independent republic in the Western Hemisphere. The struggle in Haiti also marked the first successful revolution led by people formerly enslaved – anywhere in the world.

Haiti was not welcomed into the world of independent states. Where we see an inspirational story of a people’s successful struggle for liberty, the United States and European powers at the time saw a threat. For the US the example of a successful rebellion led by enslaved people was intolerable. The US would not recognize Haiti’s independence until 1865, and conspired with European powers to isolate Haiti and block its international trade. France threatened a re-conquest of Haiti in 1825 – forcing the government to pay an indemnification for lost property (human beings, mind you) or face invasion. The debt accrued then, not paid off until 1947, continues to hang over Haiti’s development as the economy was restructured to meet the demands of international creditors.

As the new year begins, the people of Haiti are in a renewed struggle for accountability and independence. A protest movement launched against corruption in the administration of PetroCaribe funds has morphed into a broader movement for far reaching change. International creditors still demand policy changes that accommodate the outflow of dollars to banks and their gatekeeper, the International Monetary Fund. The UN is in the process of stepping down its direct involvement in security – scheduled to end the current mission in October this year. But the legacy of the 15 year occupation remains deeply problematic. Capturing these dynamics, Jake Johnston authored this update about the movement in Haiti.

Throughout it all, Haiti remains the source of compelling visions of liberation and is animated by a deep cultural heritage rooted in resistance to the many forms of oppression the people have experienced. An interesting introduction to Haitian authors, each of whom has explored different historical periods of struggle can be found here. We encourage you to explore some of these works.

We celebrate the new year, and the anniversary of the revolution, committed in our journey with the people in Gros Morne as they implement their creative and resilient programs for sustainable agriculture and reforestation. And we continue to seek a more just foreign policy, so that the struggle for independence may be fully realized.

 

Continue Reading

Haiti Update: Policing the Poor Is Not Security

On Wednesday, December 12 the United Nations’ special representative for its operations in Haiti, Helen La Lime, gave a presentation to members of the Security Council on the current status of the mission (MINUJUSTH) which is set to expire on October 15, 2019. Lime suggested that the mission had achieved a lot, but that challenges remain, especially in light of the current protests and calls for President Jovenel Moïse to step down. Lime argued for more support for the police, a primary focus of the current UN mission:

“It would behoove not only the government of Haiti, but also the international community to fulfill their commitment to fully fund the five-year HNP [Haitian National Police] Strategic Development Plan, so as to ensure the continued buildup of human, logistical and material capacity of the institution.”

Is this emphasis on policing misplaced? There is little doubt that human security is threatened in Haiti – as it is many places. However, it seems that the emphasis on policing is a thin veil for the underlying class dynamics at play, whereby the wealthy desire protection from an impoverished majority.

Peace…?

The UN established a “peace-keeping” mission in 2004 following a coup that forced President Aristide from office that February. MINUSTAH, the original mission, would come to be a dominant presence in Haiti, in a tenure dominated by scandals: Armed incursions into Cite Soleil that killed dozens of civilians, sex trafficking and other abuse of women and girls, and the introduction of cholera into the country in 2010, an epidemic that has killed at least 10,000 people. Against the backdrop of the scandals have been daily operations characterized by the all too familiar bigotry of international aid, whereby international “advocates” have more access to policy makers than the majority of the people impacted by policies.

The principal purpose of MINUSTAH was, in theory at least, to provide security, broadly understood, in the wake of the coup (officially not a coup, but a resignation). Toward that end, MINUSTAH, among other things, oversaw an expansion of Haiti’s police force, from 2,500 in 2004 to 16,000 officers today. MINUSTAH’s mission came to a close in 2017, and was replaced with MINUJUSTH, which has focused primarily on police “professionalization.” In recounting MINUJUSTH’s achievements, however, Lime missed a few details.

In November of 2017, 200 police officers descended on the Gran Ravine area of Port-au-Prince in an “anti-gang” operation. The community was under siege for 6 hours – during which time HNP killed several civilians, beating someone nearly to death with a chair at Maranatha College in front of community members, then killing a teacher who tried to intervene. In total, nine people were killed, five with gunshots to the head – the bodies left in view of the community until the next day. UN “trainers” helped organize the operation, but blamed the deaths on rogue police officers, taking (as is the UN habit in Haiti) “no responsibility” for the killing.

The UN statement on the operation read:

“None of the [U.N. police] unit proceeded to the location at Maranatha College where the alleged killings took place,” the spokesperson wrote. “The planned portion of the operation went relatively well. The post-operation unilateral initiative of some HNP members to conduct a high risk search, proceeding outside of the operational cadre, without advising the hierarchy, without authorization and contravening the operation plan was not part of the planned operation.”   

A different kind of security

It should come as no surprise (though many seem surprised) that Haiti’s internal security problems have not been solved by increasing the size of the police force. The underlying structural socio-economic tensions remain, and are worsening: Inequality, economic stagnation, and an indifferent elite (indifferent to the poor, that is), typically backed by the “international community” in their indifference. The class dynamics in Haiti remain consistent: the police sequester and contain the poor, while protecting the wealthy in the name of stability and property. This is, of course, the institutional role of the police within capitalism more generally – not simply in Haiti – a role that has intensified globally in the last decades of neo-liberal pilfering of state resources.

So, as the UN discusses its ongoing role in Haiti, the Haitian people might be better served if the talk was less about the police and more about the UN’s debt for the cholera crisis and how it will repay that debt with expansive investments in health infrastructure. Or, they could talk about how to contain (dare we say, “police”?) affiliated organizations like the International Monetary Fund that continue to press for deeper and deeper austerity. The current political upheaval is hard to separate from IMF pressures. For example, the IMF demand for cuts in fuel subsidies sparked huge protests in July – protests that led to the resignation of the previous government.

A security regime that focuses on just working conditions, a sustainable and revitalized economy – especially in rural areas – health and education access, and human rights protections might be more effective than funding more police officers. The so-called “international community” has the resources, and it might even be cheaper than the current strategy. The reason such measures are not taken is that security for the poor is not really the goal. Security for the wealthy, and the system from which they derive their wealth, remains the evident goal.  This is not likely to change any time soon. But we can still call for accountability and join in solidarity with those who are trying to change the system.

Continue Reading

Haiti Update 11/16/18

Deforestation may take all of Haiti’s Primary Forest

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that Haiti may lose all of its primary forest within the next 20 years:

Here, we find that Haiti has less than 1% of its original primary forest and is therefore among the most deforested countries. Primary forest has declined over three decades inside national parks, and 42 of the 50 highest and largest mountains have lost all primary forest.

The impact of this loss has been dramatic. The study is particularly concerned with the resulting loss of biodiversity. The authors find that:

surveys of vertebrate diversity (especially amphibians and reptiles) on mountaintops indicates that endemic species have been lost along with the loss of forest. At the current rate, Haiti will lose essentially all of its primary forest during the next two decades and is already undergoing a mass extinction of its biodiversity because of deforestation.

The loss of biodiversity and forest cover also impacts people’s lives directly, through increased flooding events and mudslides. As a result hundreds of people die each year in flooding events directly tied to deforestation.

Primary forests in this study refer to forests that have not yet been cut by humans – as opposed to secondary forests that are the result of reforestation efforts. While reforestation can have a huge impact in prevention of flooding, secondary forests lack the biodiversity of primary forest cover.

The one weakness in the report is that it lays blame on the poor who clear forests for charcoal and small-scale agriculture. While this dynamic is undeniable, the root cause of these practices is deep inequity in Haiti’s social-economy that drives the poor onto vulnerable land. Protecting forests from such encroachment may be necessary, but absent other solutions that provide avenues for alternative means to make a living, conservation efforts will simply further marginalize the poor. This is why our work in reforestation is first and foremost an agricultural project that integrates tree planting with agro-ecology, water protection, and animal husbandry. There is an inherent value in planting and preserving trees – but neither works sustainably unless accompanied by social practices that respond to the lived reality of the communities most directly affected.

TPS Extended for Haitians

As reported last week, Temporary Protected Status for Haitians will “almost certainly” be extended as the result of lawsuits moving forward in the federal courts. Temporary Protected Status is a special designation that allows people already in the United States to remain here following natural disasters or periods of political instability in their country of origin. Haiti is one of nine countries that have been granted TPS. Last year, Trump announced that TPS for Haitians in the United States would not be extended – and he has moved to phase out TPS for most other countries covered by it. Without an extension, Haitians living in the United States under TPS had until July 22, 2019 to leave the U.S. With the cases moving forward in the federal courts, this deadline will most likely be extended.

Canceling TPS impacts 50,000 Haitians living in the United States, and another 27,000 children born in the U.S. that would either be deported with their parents, or would be separated. Sejal Zota, legal director for the National  Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild writes:

In 2017, Trump announced that TPS for Haitian nationals would end on July 22, 2019…In response, NIPNLG filed a lawsuit, Saget v. Trump, with the law firms of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli and Pratt P.A, (Kurzban), and Mayer Brown. The suit was brought on behalf of a dozen plaintiffs, including Patrick Saget, Haïti Liberté, the largest weekly Haitian newspaper in this hemisphere, and Family Action Network Movement, Inc. (FANM). Trials these days are rare in cases like this: they are usually decided on motions. This makes the decision even more notable, suggesting that the court may truly wish to hold the government accountable. A trial will begin promptly on January 7, 2019.

Read more about what this means in this message from Steve Forester of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

 

Continue Reading

TPS to be Extended for Haiti

The follow is a message from Steven Forester, the Immigration Policy Coordinator for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. He is reporting some great news which we share in full below.

Due to legal developments in the Ramos court case related to TPS, explained below:

1)  TPS for Haitians will virtually certainly NOT end on July 22, 2019; the government in early March will automatically extend it to approximately January 1, 2020, and quite possibly will do so for another nine months beyond that date, to September, 2020;
 
2)  Haitians with TPS who didn’t re-register for it in 2017 or 2018 out of fear, confusion, or another good reason can and should seek to reregister now; the gov’t has agreed to give such applications “presumptive weight” as being filed late for good cause—meaning they should be granted and then entitled to the TPS extensions described above/below;
 
More Details:
 
As you know, DHS’s November 2017 decision ending Haiti TPS, with an 18-month grace period set to expire on July 22, 2019, is being challenged in four federal district court suits, including the Ramos litigation in San Francisco. On October 3, Judge Chen in Ramos issued a preliminary injunction (“PI”) in the plaintiffs’ favor, suspending as unconstitutional, while the injunction is in effect, implementation of DHS’s TPS termination decisions for Haiti, El Salvador, Sudan, and Nicaragua.
 
The U.S. government (“USG”) has appealed Judge Chen’s order to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but has agreed, while the court’s order is in effect, to certain important measures. These measures are reflected in an October 31 Federal Register Notice (“FRN”) (“Continuation of Documentation for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status Designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador”) or in a declaration filed in Ramos by a high-ranking USG official.
 
These important protective measures include the following:
  1. Automatic 9 month extensions, starting in April 2019, unless there is a loss at a court of appeals: “DHS will issue another Federal Register Notice approximately 30 days before April 2, 2019, that will extend TPS for an additional nine months from April 2, 2019, for all affected beneficiaries under the TPS designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador.  DHS will continue to issue Federal Register Notices at nine-month intervals so long as the preliminary injunction remains in place and will continue its commitment to [an] orderly transition period, as described above.” (There’s no way the Ninth Circuit will decide by early March, much less the Supreme Court.  So the early March additional Federal Register Notice referenced above will issue.)

 

  1. TPS work and legal status will be automatic for those registered—no need to pay for employment authorization cards or further registration:Under the agreement, for as long as the district court’s order is in place, people with TPS who have re-registered previously – or who re-register late – will not need to register again or apply for a new EAD. They can rely on their existing (to-be-expired) EAD or TPS approval notice, as well as the Federal Register Notice, as valid authorization to work or as proof of legal status in the United States. They do not need to pay any further money to the US government, and should not need to pay for additional legal assistance either.
 
  1. Re-registration possible—and likely guaranteed—for people who did not re-register during the Trump Administration: Crucially, Haitians with TPS who didn’t reregister in 2017 or 2018 due to fear or other good reason can successfully do so now!  If they now reregister for TPS late for good cause, the USG will give their applications “presumptive weight” as being valid!  This means that any Haitian TPS recipient who failed to reregister in 2017 or 2018 should be successful in doing so now — late — if they explain that they didn’t reregister on time due to fear, confusion, or other good reason.  (This is extremely important for example for the estimated nearly 16,000 Haitians with TPS who let their TPS status lapse early this year by not trying to reregister!)
 
  1. No new terminations for these countries for now: The USG will not try to write new TPS termination notices for Haiti or the three other nations while the court’s order remains valid.
 
  1. At least 6 months additional protection even if there is a loss at a higher court: “In the event the preliminary injunction is reversed and that reversal becomes final, DHS will allow for an orderly transition period,” which effectively amounts to about six months from the date of any such hypothetical future final, non-appealable order. This means that – if the district court’s order is overturned on appeal (at the court of appeals or the Supreme Court), the earliest that TPS holders from these countries could lose their legal status is about 6 months after the appeals court’s decision.
 
Further info will be shared on these legal developments in a webinar and/or otherwise, and prompt congressional action for a longer-term solution remains essential.  Meanwhile, please help disseminate the crucially important information explained above!
Continue Reading

Haiti Program Update 11/2/2018

Earthquake News, Disaster Relief

The northern departments of Haiti were struck by a powerful earthquake on October 6. The quake was centered in Port-de-Paix, but also severely affected Gros Morne, where several schools and the pediatric ward of the hospital were damaged or destroyed, as well as many homes. Thanks to many of you, we were able to deliver $3,000 to Haiti last week to help with the purchase of emergency supplies to assist people in need of shelter.

Over the last few weeks communities near Gros Morne have had a chance to take stock of the damage. There was significant damage done to 500 homes in the immediate area. Some photos here from Perou demonstrate the impact. We will continue to coordinate activities with our partners in Gros Morne to discern next steps.

Other Program News

The program that Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center had another busy quarter. From July through September the program distributed just over 17,000 saplings through satellite nurseries in the nearby communities of Koray, Danti, and Moulen. Accompanying the delivery of saplings in these communities and elsewhere, Center staff held trainings that reached 700 people.

In addition to the reforestation efforts, the Formation Center conducted a variety of workshops: Engaging  Environmental Education with 43 teachers in Danti, How to Begin a Community Tree Nursery also in Danti, a workshop on Reforestation and the Creation of Yard Gardens for 209 participants in Chato. In total workshops covered 4 zones and reached 420 people.

Some other activities include

  • Center staff assisted in the planting of 28.75 karos (just over 90 acres) of weevil resistant sweet potatoes.
  • The seed bank supported by the Formation Center delivered seeds to 123 families
  • 47 families taking part in the yard garden program were able to begin harvesting, and another 27 new families joined in the program.
  • The mobile veterinary clinic was able to provide care to many animals including 250 goats and sheep and 5 horses.

A final note, as you will be reading more about in our next newsletter, the Formation Center hosted a second annual conference on the environment in August. Quixote Center staff participated in the conference, alongside students from agronomy programs in the national university system and local farmers and activists. We look forward to attending again next year!

Migration

In other news, the Dominican Republic continues to deport Haitians in alarming numbers. Migration control teams composed of inspectors and agents of the Directorate General of Migration, in coordination with the military and National Police, continue to engage in enforcement actions. Recent operations led to arrest of 1,167 Haitians, 877 of whom were removed from the country. As we have reported here, the situation of Haitians in the Dominican Republic continues to be insecure.

On a more positive note, CARICOM has issued new rules on migration that allow people to travel within CARICOM members states without a visa for up to six months. The move was an initial step toward allowing the free movement of people within CARICOM member states, which include: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago

 

Continue Reading

Haiti Update: Earthquake Recovery and PetroCaribe Protests

Haiti was struck with a powerful earthquake Saturday, October 6. The quake was centered near Port-de-Paix.  Thus far, reports are that 17 people died, and over 300 were seriously injured. Outside of Port-de-Paix, the city that suffered the most damage is Gros Morne.

Reports from Gros Morne are that 7 people are confirmed dead. Dozens of people have been treated for broken limbs, with many being sent to hospitals in Gonaives or St. Marc for further treatment.

Damage to buildings is widespread. For example, St. Gabriel’s school lost its second story where 7th and 8th grade classes were held. The auditorium next to St. Gabriel’s totally collapsed. The Kay Vizite hospital guest house is uninhabitable. The Lycee public high school sustained damage; it may be two months before students can return to class. Many houses were damaged.

Our partners in Gros Morne, based at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center, where we have been working for 19 years, seem to be all accounted for. Father Charles and the Center director, Guy Marie Garçon reached out to everyone on the team, and everyone working at the center made it through.

Below are images from Gros Morne, including the community of Perou.

Emergency response

We are raising funds for immediate assistance to provide shelter for people whose homes were destroyed or are now structurally unsafe. We have raised just over $2,000 from an earlier e-mail appeal, and hope to send this and more in the coming week. We are also raising funds for longer-term assistance, to including support for people whose homes have been damaged. If you would like to make a donation, you can do that here.

Where is the Money? October 17 PetroCaribe Protests

Hundreds of thousands of people went to the streets this week to demand accountability for mismanagement of PetroCaribe funds. Protests were seen all around the country and were by and large peaceful. However, in Port-au-Prince, the police opened fire on demonstrators after a confrontation in which police tried to clear a road for a presidential caravan. Several police officers were injured by thrown rocks. The police retaliated with live ammunition, shooting at least 13 people, two of whom died.

For more background on the PetroCaribe initiative, the protests and the broader political context, check out this excellent background article by Jake Johnston of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, published just before the protests.

This movement is not going away. As the economic situation in the country continues to deteriorate, and ongoing frustrations with the political process mount, demonstrations are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The accusations of fraud and outright theft of funds from the PetroCaribe account are symptomatic of the deep structural inequalities in Haiti – and thus the anger, and the demands for change are reflective of these deeper issues. The cross-class coalition that has come together in opposition to the current government and its handling of this and other recent crises, could well become a longer-lasting political force in the country.  

 

Continue Reading

Haiti Update: Vote on New Government?, PetroCaribe, and Immigrants Arrested in Bolivia

Update: Jean Henry Céant was confirmed as Haiti’s new Prime Minister following votes in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies on Saturday, September 16. 

In July, widespread protests in Haiti following an announced cut in fuel subsidies led to the resignation of Prime Minister Guy Jack Lafontant and dissolution of the cabinet. Since the resignation, Haiti has been without a functioning government. President Moïse nominated Jean Henry Céant to the post of Prime Minister on August 7, but his confirmation in Parliament has been delayed. Last week, with a scheduled recess looming, Céant formally presented his list of proposed ministers to Parliament.

The slate of ministers has proved to be controversial. Of the 18 ministers proposed, 6 were part of Lafontant’s government, and 3 have had their eligibility challenged. One of the nominees, Osner Richard named Minister of the Environment, has already been forced to step down on the basis of his holding dual citizenship (with the United States). Additionally, of the 4 appointed Secretaries of State, 3 were part of the previous government. The selections have led to widespread criticism that Moïse is controlling the selection process in an effort to keep the government under the control of his Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK), despite opposition concerns about the government that led to the resignation of Lafontant back in July.  The PHTK holds the largest bloc of seats in both houses, but is far from a majority in either, and thus must hold together a coalition to get the slate of ministers passed. At this point, the votes do not seem to be there.

Deputy Jerry Tardieu, who represents Pétion-Ville as a member of the Verité party, has been among the outspoken critics of Moïse role in the selection process. From Haiti Libre:

I…recommend that the Executive reconsider the formation of the Government as soon as possible, leaving the designated Prime Minister free to choose leading figures who can inspire confidence in society and give the government a serious image. This indiscriminate insistence on imposing personalities stamped PHTK, even when they are competent, is contrary to the wishes of the living forces of the nation who had opted for the establishment of a government of openness that soothes and builds confidence. It proves that President Jovenel Moïse has still not taken the right measure of the events of July 6 and 7, 2018, does not understand the stakes of the hour and even less the risks for tomorrow.

To the [designated] Prime Minister Céant, I hope that he has the courage to resign if he can not have the free hand, that is to say the freedom to choose credible and competent personalities to form a Government capable of providing solutions immediately.

There was no vote before deputies recessed Monday. However, President Moïse ordered a special session of parliament, calling members back to Port-au-Prince to hold a vote on the new government. We’ll update when we hear the results of the special session.

PetroCaribe

Hanging over the process of selecting a new government is ongoing outrage over embezzlement of money through the PetroCaribe fund. PetroCaribe was a regional effort put forth by the Venezuelan government in 2006, that allowed governments to purchase oil at a discount in order to use funds for development projects. Under PetroCaribe’s agreement, the government purchases oil from Venezuela, paying back 60% of the purchase price within 90 days. The extra funds are to be paid back over 25 years at 1% interest. In theory, the extra funds are to be used to develop infrastructure, at rates below what multilateral lenders would provide.

In October last year a senate committee led by Evallière Beauplan (Northwest Department) released a scathing audit that showed misappropriation of funds through the awarding of $1.7 billion in non-bid contracts for reconstruction projects between 2008 and 2016. The beneficiaries of the contracts included people closely associated with former president Martelly (also of the PHTK) and his prime minister Laurent Lamothe. Some of the accused are part of the current government, like Wilson Laleau, who is Moïse’s chief of staff. Public anger over the corruption, which has left Haiti with over $2 billion in debt to Venezuela with little to show for it, continues to grow and played a significant role in animating the protests in July.

Some examples of the waste include (via the Miami Herald):

[C]onstruction overages that include the ministry of public works paying for 10 miles of road that actually measured 6.5 miles; the signing of a contract between the ministry of public health and a deceased person; large disbursements by government ministers with no documents to support the expenditures, and tens of millions of dollars paid to Dominican and Haitian firms for post-earthquake roads, housing and government ministries that never materialized or weren’t completed.

One of the most blatant allegations involved the reconstruction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, one of 40 government buildings that crumbled during the earthquake. The Dominican firm Hadom was awarded a $14.7 million contract, and paid $10 million up front, to construct the building that remains unbuilt. Hadom’s lucrative Haiti contract is among several given to Dominican firms after the quake that became the subject of separate probes in Haiti and in neighboring Dominican Republic, where Hadom owner and Dominican Senator Félix Bautista was accused of embezzlement. The Bautista case was eventually dropped by the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court.

As the economic situation in Haiti continues to deteriorate – projected growth this year was lowered to 1.2% by the IMF – frustration with the government only increases. A campaign asking Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a (“Where did the Petro Caribe money go?”) has launched on social media, and protests continue in the streets. The situation remains volatile. It is hard to know how much hinges on the new government, or what space it will have to operate within the confines of the neo-liberal policy constraints Haiti is forced to operate under, but if the new government returns many of the same players back to power, it will only fuel the opposition.

100 Haitians Arrested in Bolivia

Last week we reported on the increasing challenges faced by people who have migrated out of Haiti looking for new opportunities. Earlier this week, over 100 Haitians were arrested in Bolivia as they traveled through the country from Brazil and Chile – two countries where many Haitians have resettled since the earthquake in 2010.

The arrests also included two Haitians and five Bolivians (the four drivers of the buses and a woman who processed tickets), all charged with trafficking.

 

Continue Reading

Migration: From the Dominican Republic to Chile and the U.S., Haitians face increasing barriers

Haiti Update, September 10, 2018

Looming Crisis in the Dominican Republic

August 25 was the deadline for immigrants to present required documentation to regularize their status under the Dominican Republic’s controversial National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners (PNRE). Close to 98% of the people impacted are from Haiti. Under the provisions of the PNRE, 230,000 people of Haitian descent had registered with the government of the Dominican Republic by an earlier deadline in 2015. However, formalizing their status requires them to present documents to the Dominican Republic’s government (birth certificates and passports being crucial). Very few Haitians have been able to secure these documents from the government of Haiti despite repeated promises that they would be issued.

To highlight the dilemma now faced by over 200,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, cane cutters protested at Haiti’s embassy in Santo Domingo this week to demand that documents be produced. Over 4,000 cane cutters from Haiti had paid 1000 pesos each in 2015 to secure documentation from Haiti’s government, and these documents have not been provided.

Meanwhile, Sonia Vásquez, the National Representative of the United Nations Population Fund, implored the government of the Dominican Republic to not begin mass deportations in response to the crisis, arguing that doing so would have a dramatic impact on many sectors of the Dominican Republic’s economy and society.

Tensions along the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic remain high.  Back in March thousands of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic fled across the border at Anse-à-Pitres. A Dominican man had been killed and wife assaulted in Pedernales  – Dominican authorities accused three Haitian men for the crime. As a result, attacks and threats against Haitians increased. Such incidents happen periodically, with the government of the Dominican Republic stereotyping Haitians as criminals and using the tensions for political purposes.

The International Office of Migration has been monitoring the border at regular and irregular crossing points since the earlier 2015 deadline passed, and have documented a large number of border crossings – over 240,000 from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. The majority have been “voluntary” returns – but nearly a quarter have been official deportations.

Wave of Anti-Immigration Policies

Migration out of Haiti remains a high, but options of places to go have been reduced. Following the earthquake in 2010, Brazil opened immigration to Haitians. Close to 65,000 Haitians moved to Brazil looking for work in the years since, only to see the economy there collapse and their options narrowed. Many began a long trek to the United States – traversing 7,000 miles and 11 countries, a journey covered at length in an investigative report by the Miami Herald in 2016.

One of the danger spots for Haitians is Nicaragua, which has ramped up security along the border with Costa Rica since 2015, austensibly for reasons related to the drug war. Nicaragua’s recent political crisis has overtaken these issues – but as recently as February 2018 Haitian migrants and others were still routinely blocked from crossing through Nicaraguan territory.

Over the last several years, Over 100,000 Haitians have moved to Chile (equivalent to 1% of Haiti’s population). However, as was the case in Brazil, many have found work opportunities to be scant, and prospects further diminished by the increase in migration to Chile from people fleeing economic collapse in Venezuela. Then in April, newly elected right-wing President Sebastián Piñera eliminated the temporary visas that allowed Haitians to go from tourists to regular migrants once they obtained a job, a status that had allowed them to then bring their families from Haiti.

Here in the United States, the Trump administration refused to renew Temporary Protective Status for Haitians, put in place following the 2010 earthquake. Which means 59,000 Haitians in the United States face expulsion in July 2019.

Meanwhile, international banks and multilateral lenders continue to bleed Haiti’s economy, while corruption scandals among Haiti’s U.S. protected elite, most recently questions about former president Martelly’s “management” of $3.8 billion in PetroCaribe Funds (which must be paid back to Venezuela), are ongoing. All of which is a reminder that foreign policy is immigration policy – even though we refuse to acknowledge that. The people of Haiti, like many others from Central America, the Middle East and Africa, are caught in the middle: Dislocated by war and greed, and increasingly unable to find safe haven elsewhere.

 

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)