Daily Dispatch 3/13/2019


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Daily Dispatch

March 13, 2019


USCIS Set to Close Field Offices Overseas

In a new effort to make legal immigration even more difficult, the Trump administration is looking to close U.S. immigration offices overseas and transfers some of those responsibilities to the State Department.  

The Trump administration is seeking to close nearly two dozen U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field offices around the world in a move it estimates would save millions per year. But critics argue the closures will further slow refugee processing, family reunification petitions and military citizenship applications.

USCIS spokeswoman Jessica Collins announced on Tuesday the agency is in “preliminary discussions” to delegate its international responsibilities to the State Department, or to its own personnel in the U.S. In some cases, the workload would be absorbed by U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Such measures may save money (the stated goal) but will ensure that backlogs for processing of visas, family reunification efforts and other normal immigration functions will be further delayed – likely increasing pressure for irregular border crossing.

Update on Arrests in Haiti

 

A couple of weeks ago we put out a dispatch focused on the arrest of five heavily armed, U.S. Americans in Haiti. Yesterday, Jake Johnston from the Center for Economic and Policy Research published a detailed investigative report about the arrests and the controversy that has ensued in Haiti over their release.

On February 17, Haitian police arrested seven Blackwater-like security contractors a few blocks from the country’s Central Bank. They claimed to be on a government mission, and had a cache of weapons. Four days later the US “rescued” them. What happened? Read the whole story here.

 

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Annual Report 2018

The Quixote Center’s Annual Report for 2018 is now available. If you like the work we are doing, please consider a tax-deductible contribution. You can designate funds to a specific program, or put it toward general funds that support all of our work. 

 

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Daily Dispatch 3/1/2019


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Daily Dispatch

March 1, 2019


TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan Extended until January of 2020

As the result of a lawsuit brought by TPS holders from these four countries, TPS has been extended until at least January of 2020. The extension is automatic – if TPS holders are currently registered, they do not need to re-register, but simply print this notice from the Federal Register. Lawyers with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti had briefed us on this several weeks ago, as it was much anticipated. For more detail you can check our earlier report.

Healthcare crisis in U.S. jails and prisons

There are over 2 million people held in jails and prisons around the country. As the result of a Supreme Court ruling in a 1973 case, they all have a constitutional right to access healthcare. Nevertheless, healthcare is routinely denied or inadequately provided. Writing in The New Yorker, Steve Coll provides a detailed history of healthcare provision in prisons and jails, and breaks down elements of the current crisis.

The rapid expansion of people held behind bars (from 300,000 in 1980 to 2.3 million today), and the trend toward contracting with private companies to deliver healthcare has proved to be a deadly combination. The author examined 1,500 lawsuits brought over a 5-year period against just two companies. The pattern is clear: incentives to cut cost, often by understaffing, lead to inadequate service provision. Prisoners are also rarely afforded the benefit of the doubt by law enforcement officials when claiming illness, and thus may never get to see a healthcare professional at all.

The crisis is more acute in jails, which hold 700,000 people. Most of these folk are awaiting trial – i.e., they have not been convicted of a crime – and simply cannot afford bail. Others are serving shorter incarceration terms. The number of people suffering from mental health problems is extremely high in jails, and many are suffering medical complications as a result of being forced to break addiction to hard drugs. These are well documented, and thus predictable needs, to be served, and yet training and staff resources are lacking. From the report:

According to a study released in 2017 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly half the people held in jails suffer from some kind of mental illness, and more than a quarter have a severe condition, such as bipolar disorder. The same year, the bureau reported that about two-thirds of sentenced jail inmates suffer from drug addiction or dependency; that number was based on data from 2007-09, so it does not take into account the recent catastrophic rise of opioid addiction.

Similar patterns of abuse have been uncovered in immigrant detention facilities. 

A report from Human Rights Watch documents many patterns of neglect and denial of health services to people in detention. For profit companies are often at the root of the problem, as 75% of people in detention are held by private companies.See this video for a brief description of some of the issues:

 

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Daily Dispatch 2/22/2018


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Daily Dispatch

February 22, 2019


 

Our New Attorney General Created a Concentration Camp for Haitians Who Were HIV+ last time he had the job.

Drowned out by the noise surrounding the budget deal and Trump’s executive order declaring a national emergency, the Senate confirmed William Barr last week as the next attorney general. Many concerns have been raised about Barr’s nomination, especially regarding his views of executive power and his prior comments on the Mueller investigation. Less discussed, but very relevant given the attorney general’s extraordinary powers over immigration law, is Barr’s history as the architect of a brutal immigrant detention program targeting Haitians.

From the Daily Beast:

Decades before President Donald Trump nominated William Barr to retake the reins at the Department of Justice, Barr used the post to indefinitely detain hundreds of HIV-positive asylum-seekers at a Guantanamo Bay detention center, deemed an “HIV prison camp” by a federal judge who ruled the quarantine to be in gross violation of the U.S. Constitution.

That policy, part of a program that at its peak held more than 12,000 Haitian refugees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, helped lay the legal groundwork for the indefinite incarceration of “enemy combatants” in the War on Terror—and institutionalized the detention system that President Trump has made a cornerstone of his immigration policy. Barr has since defended the detention of hundreds of HIV-positive asylum-seekers, some of them children, even though the government’s own lawyers admitted at the time that detainees had inadequate medical care.

This story came out before the hearings, but was little discussed during them. It is hard to imagine someone with less compassion than Jeff Sessions as Attorney General – but we may have just let that happen.

Vatican Sends Representative to El Paso

Trump went to El Paso two weeks ago and lied a lot about immigration and its impacts on the community. In the coming week Reverend Stark will join local organizations to discuss increased border security and the new crisis for families and asylum seekers that Trump’s policies have created.

From Texas Monthly:

“The meeting is about the emergency situation here on the border that’s been precipitated by the Trump administration,” said Dylan Corbett, director of the Hope Border Institute, which is helping to organize the event. It will include a gathering on Tuesday at the border fence in Sunland Park, New Mexico, just across the state line from El Paso. Reverend Robert Stark from the Vatican Migrants and Refugees Section will attend the meetings.

Although illegal border crossings are well below levels seen ten or twenty years ago, the numbers of families and unaccompanied children are now at record levels. Just over 120,000 family unit members and unaccompanied children were apprehended at the Southwest border in the first four months of fiscal year 2019, triple the numbers of a year ago, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. About two-thirds of those apprehensions have occurred in two Texas-based Border Patrol sectors: the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso. Families and children now account for about three of every five people apprehended at the border.

ICE Sued Over Raid in Tennessee

Last April, ICE engaged in one of the largest raids in recent history at a meat-packing plant in Tennessee. The operation involved dozens of heavily armed agents, who surrounded the facility completely before storming it, all with helicopters flying over head. This week a suit was brought against ICE for the treatment of some of the workers. All workers who appeared Latinx were detained, while white workers smoked cigarettes and waited out the raid in the parking lot. The raid had a devastating impact on the community. More on the case from Al Jazeera.

 

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Daily Dispatch 2/21/2019: Report on Arrests in Haiti

Over the weekend eight heavily armed men were arrested in Port-au-Prince near a police checkpoint. The men were driving in two vehicles without license plates. Inside the vehicle were multiple automatic rifles, one with a scope, handguns, several drones, satellite phones and other weapons. NPR Reports:

“They said that they were here on a ‘government mission,’ ” Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR from Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. “They did not specify which government, but then they did tell the police that … their boss was going to call their boss.”

The implication, Charles says, is that someone high in Haiti’s government would be able to free the heavily armed group — and she adds, “members of the administration of President Jovenel Moise did try to get these gentlemen released from police custody — but that did not work.”

On Tuesday this week it was revealed that one of the vehicles was registered to an advisor of President Moïse. From the Miami Herald:

A letter from a local car dealership to the prime minister revealed that one of the vehicles, the Ford, was purchased by a former government official and sent to the care of Fritz Jean-Louis, an adviser of President Jovenel Moïse. Jean-Louis has since fled the country, police said. Police found license plates inside the vehicles, and at least one was registered to Jean-Louis.

So who are the men? Five of them are U.S. citizens, four of who are known to have military backgrounds. Two are Serbian nationals and one is Haitian:

  1. Talon Ray Burton, the director of security for Hawkstorm Global Ltd, an international security firm run by Talon Ray Burton’s brother, Lance Burton.
  2. Kent Leland Kroeker, A 20-year Marine Corp vet who is a member of Kroeker Partners, a security advisory company (The company’s website states that it has no active mission in Haiti.).
  3. Christopher Mark McKinley, who is a former Navy SEAL, and founder and CEO of  INVICTVS Group, which is simply described as a “consortium of U.S. special operations veterans” that delivers “corporate team building services.”
  4. Christopher Michael Osman, another former Navy SEAL, who has claimed on social media to have been engaged in “classified operations” in the Arabian Gulf and Afghanistan.
  5. Dustin Porte, who operates Patriot Groups Services, listed as an electrical company based in Louisiana. Jacqueline Charles with the Miami Herald notes the company received a recent $16,000 contract with the Department of Homeland Security. There is no other known link to military or intelligence services at this point.
  6. Danilo Bajagic, a Serbian national currently working with K17 Security based in Rockville, MD. The company also claims to have no current operations in Haiti.
  7. Vlade Jankvic, another Serbian national about whom little is known.
  8. Michael Estera, a Haitian about whom little is known.

The men were held by police in Haiti until Wednesday, at which point they were flown to the United States, escorted to their plane by U.S. Embassy staff.

Airport employees say the men seemed quite at ease and were taken inside the VIP diplomatic lounge to wait on the flight after their tickets were purchased at the counter. One of the two Serbians initially was not allowed to board the flight by Haitian immigration because he had no stamps showing where he resides. After a few calls were made, he was put on the flight. The Haitian national, Michael Estera, who goes by the pseudonym “Cliford,” was not among those sent back to the U.S. He faces illegal weapons charges.

Below is a brief video clip of some of the arrested men deboarding their flight in Miami:

At this point, no one seems to know what they were doing in Haiti. If they were on an advisory mission with the government, or to there to provide security, it seems that would be an easy question to answer. The silence about their activities, is thus encouraging a great deal of speculation, especially in light of reports of people shot during recent demonstration. Now that they have been flown out of Haiti by the U.S. government we may never know.

UPDATE: It now appears that the none of the men returned to the U.S. will face criminal charges. From the Miami Herald:

The five heavily armed Americans arrested in Haiti earlier this week are back on their home soil and won’t be facing any criminal charges in the United States — a decision already causing outrage among some Haitian leaders.

Federal sources told the Miami Herald that the men will not be charged criminally, but are being debriefed. They told U.S. authorities they were on the island providing private security for a “businessman” doing work with the Haitian government.

 

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Haiti Update: Protests Enter 9th Day

Haiti has experienced 9 days of protest and violent state response. Opposition leaders have vowed to shut the country down until President Jovenel Moïse steps down. After seven days of silence, President Moïse finally addressed the country last night in a pre-recorded message. He had little of substance to offer, but did say he had no plans to step-down. Meanwhile, Moïse’s administration is in turmoil. He recalled the long-time Haitian ambassador to the United States this week, and reportedly some members of the PHTK (Moïse’s party) have already begun preparing to leave the country – if temporarily. It is hard to imagine how Moïse will hold on. If he tries to, the violence is likely to escalate, though what happens if he resigns is far from clear. The current prime minister and governing cabinet have only been in office since October, after the previous prime minister was forced to resign following mass protests in July.

Video report from Al Jazeera Wednesday, February 13

The “international community” has spoken (they always do). A statement issued earlier in the week from the so-called “Core Group” (composed of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, the Ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the European Union, the United States of America, and the Special Representative of the Organization of American States) called for compromise to move forward legislation needed for elections in this coming October:

Reiterating the fact that in a democracy change must come through the ballot box, and not through violence, the Core Group urges the executive and legislative branches of power to collaborate for the electoral law and the 2018-2019 budget law to be adopted and promulgated as soon as possible. It is only through these actions that the elections scheduled by the Constitution for October 2019, can be held in a free, fair and transparent manner, and that an institutional vacuum will be avoided. (Full statement here)

This is all reasonable advice, but no government or institution in this group has done much to promote democracy in Haiti. Indeed, these are the folks largely responsible for the electoral farces of 2011 and 2016, not to mention a coup d’etat and 14 year-long UN occupation. 

Meanwhile the U.S. State Department’s spokesperson for Western Hemisphere Affairs said,

“We support the right of all people to demand a democratic and transparent government and to hold their government leaders accountable, but there is no excuse for violence. Violence leads to instability, less investment, and fewer jobs.”

Officially, the U.S. deplores violence….we’ll just leave that there. The State Department has issued a level four travel warning on Haiti, and is directing all non-essential embassy staff and family members to leave the country.

Meanwhile, with the ambassador to the U.S. recalled, Haiti Foreign Minister Edmond Bocchit is supposed to meet with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton. As reported by Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald:

Bocchit has been seeking support for the Moïse administration in Washington ever since Haiti agreed to break with a longtime ally, Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, and recognize acting opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president. The discussion topics have included getting U.S. support for the purchase of subsidized rice for Haiti and help with getting Qatar to assist it in buying its $2 billion debt from Venezuela linked to its Petrocaribe discounted oil program, say sources familiar with the discussions.

Bocchit, who last week visited the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the State Department with influential Haitian businessman Andy Apaid, would not comment on the planned Bolton meeting. Apaid, a Moïse supporter, led the civil society movement that forced the ouster of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power in 2004 amid a bloody revolt.

The protests this week are the latest in a series of demonstrations that have expressed deep frustration with government corruption, a stagnant economy, fuel shortages, inflation and the collapse of the exchange rate. The political opposition leading the protests, including Youri Latortue, are not exactly clean themselves. Opportunism abounds as the elite jockey for position amid the turmoil. How bad might things get? Jake Johnston writes that we may be witnessing the collapse of a political and economic system, stitched together by the “international community” to put a thin democratic facade on a system of pillage. His widely shared twitter thread ends:

The strategy of the Haitian government appears to be hunker down and hope this all just goes away. In the meantime, the situation for millions of Haitians will continue to deteriorate, caught between political violence, government ineptitude, and the ever-increasing cost of living. I believe what we are witnessing is the collapse of a system. A system that has failed the Haitian people. There are no more quick fixes; there are no more internationally devised compromises to paper over the reality. I fear that things will get worse before they get better.

The hope? A new generation of leaders who have yet to fully emerge, but undoubtedly will be the only ones able to lead their country forward. Who among the discredited political class will have the courage to step aside and empower them?

In Gros Morne, where Quixote Center’s partners live and carry out their work, the roads have been blocked for days, but otherwise things are relatively calm. There have been fighting and gunshots fired in nearby Gonaïves and St.Marc. Fuel shortages are complicating life here and everywhere in Haiti. Water treatment facilities are running out of fuel (and money) to run reverse osmosis processing. Gas in Gros Morne is up to $7.50 a gallon, when it is available at all. Hospitals are running out of medicine and other supplies because of the blockades. The team at the Jean Marie Vincent Center is thus far safe. We will keep in touch and report what we can. They did ask that we offer prayers for peace for Haiti. 

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Haiti: Quarterly Report from Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of our partnership with the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center near Gros Morne, Haiti. We will be celebrating the year with a delegation to Haiti in August – more details will be forthcoming once dates have been selected.

Over the past 20 years, the program has grown from a modest effort to forestall land erosion along the highway by reforesting adjacent hillsides, to a holistic program of sustainable agriculture that reaches communities throughout the region. We will be telling the story of the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center throughout the year. Today we begin by simply sharing an update from the final quarter of work at the Center in 2018, which demonstrates the broad scope and creative efforts of the team in Gros Morne.

Some program highlights from the final three months of the year include:

  • In the last quarter 19,500 trees (including, coffee, lime, and avocado) were delivered for planting.
  • A weekly radio program was broadcast, titled The Earth is Our Mother, meant to educate people on key environmental themes. Important issues covered in recent months were the impact of plastic waste on the environment, especially rivers and oceans, and discussion of the health impacts of trash on people and animals in the area.
  • Trainings with a peasant organization [OTADB7MGM] in Moulen/Baden on soil conservation, and the establishment of a satellite nursery for saplings, with emphasis on trees whose produce can be monetized (lime and avocado).
  • Planting of weevil-resistant sweet potatoes with 23 families, covering over 42 acres.
  • Harvesting of the parish garden, which was down this year because of lack of rain. However, the garden has become self-sufficient in seed production.
  • Meetings with people who live near the forest on Tet Mon (original site of reforestation program) to discuss the importance of the forest for the community, and also to provide agricultural tools to the forest’s neighbors.
  • Expansion of the seed bank, with distribution to nine new families for a total of 25 families served this quarter.
  • Expansion of courtyard garden program to 27 families.
  • 20 trainings for “reinforcing” groups that help manage local programs on production, formation and economic management.

The work that is animated from the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center continues to thrive under the creative management of Guy-Marie and Méléus Téligène, and is supported by the outreach director Marcel Garçon, who brings the program to communities throughout the region. We are continually inspired by their efforts, as we are by your ongoing support for the program.

 

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Update on Temporary Protected Status: It will not end on July 22 for Haiti

There are currently four different legal challenges to Trump’s decision to suspend Temporary Protected Status for most countries. Developments in one particular case have ramifications for TPS holders from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan. We are working to ensure that this information gets out into communities affected as there continues to be much confusion about the timeframe.

We will continue to demand a permanent solution, one that offers a path to permanent residency and citizenship.

The following update is from Steve Forester, an attorney with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti:

As a result of developments in the Ramos case, Haiti TPS WON’T end July 22!  It’ll go thru December at least, and no one who now has TPS needs to pay or do ANYTHING at all to benefit!  More good news: any Haitian who had TPS but doesn’t anymore because they didn’t reregister for it in either 2017 or 2018 may and should reregister now!  (But beware of rip-off artists: no one who now has TPS needs to pay anyone or do anything except show their employer a Fed Register Notice to be published in March extending TPS thru December!)

DETAILS OF THIS:  Due to TPS-related legal developments in the ongoing Ramos federal court case:

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; no one who properly re-registered for TPS needs to pay or do anything at all to benefit from this!

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, 2018, Judge Chen in Ramos issued a preliminary injunction (“PI”) in the plaintiffs’ favor, blocking as unconstitutional, while the injunction remains 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:

  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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!)
  • 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.
  • 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.

Prompt congressional action for a longer-term solution remains key.  But please help spread this crucially important info for TPS’ers explained above in Haitian American communities! Haitians with TPS need to know they needn’t fear anything changing on July 22; and Haitians who used to have it but who failed to reregister for it under Trump need to know that they may and should reregister for it now to get its protections.

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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.

 

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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.]

 

 

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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)