Gros Morne 20th Anniversary Stories: Roy Lanham

As part of our celebration of the 20th anniversary of the launch of the reforestation project in Gros Morne, Haiti in partnership with the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center, we are sharing reflections from people who have been a part of the program over the years. This week we are sharing a reflection from Roy Lanham, campus minister & advisor for the Haiti Connection at Eastern Illinois University.

Gazebo at the peak of Tet Mon

As part of our mission experience in Haiti, Amy Jobin invited us to come to Gwo Mòn to experience the beauty of the place and its people. At the time we were open to exploring other options and missions. And so we came. As part of our exposure to the area, Amy and Sè Pat took us to what would become the Jean Marie Vincent [JMV] forest. It was just like every other hill top  in the area: I do not remember a single tree. (I was also thinking, Amy this is not as beautiful as Barassa.) Amy and Se Pat shared with us the vision of what was going to happen there. There were men already at work on the hill: cutting out scrub brush and preparing the land to receive the first set of trees, building the “ditches” with this cool “A” frame tool that allowed the ditches to all fill up at the same time to keep the water from just rushing down the hill.

I was impressed with the desire to “get it right.” I was hopeful because it wasn’t just a Sè Pat project, but it seemed our Haitian brothers and sisters believed in the value this forest would have. I have to admit it was hard to see success. They took us to Grepin Center and the tree nursery where the trees were being prepared. I remember them not just speaking about the new JMV planting, but their efforts to get farmers to plant trees throughout the zones. In fact, they showed us the room where formations took place and pictures of people picking up their trees. It was a vision of what could be.

As we continued to come over the years we watched the trees grow and the along with it the vision. The first set of trees were planted in rows and it had an “English garden” feel because it all seemed so tidy. I remember on a number of those early trips when Sr. Pat (Amy no longer lived in Gwo Mòn) asked us to cut the vines that encircled seemingly every tree they had planted. We had a big team and she said, as only she can: “Since we are here visiting imagine if every one of you would cut 100 of the vines off of the trees. This would keep 1800 trees from being choked.” We did  it. And we did this on more than one occasion over those early years.

We never gave money to this project, but it was always an important part of our experience of Gwo Mòn to visit JMV. I know my memory has faded over time, but I am almost certain Sr. Pat took us to the forest the first 10 years. I remember how energized she was and still is about trees.

I believe like all things, the value of the forest has deepened over the years, but with a twist. At first, I sensed it was like: hey someone wants to plant trees and give some jobs, great. It felt like any other “project” in Haiti. But it did not take but a couple of years and there was this energy. . .groups began to be formed (AJGR, Association of the Youth of Gros Morne, for example) that wanted to imitate JMV and what was happening there. When the sisters moved to their new digs, Sr. Pat transformed that piece of land, I believe because she saw what was happening at JMV and knew it could happen where they lived in town. I remember another tree nursery starting, I remember other smaller efforts, throughout the zone where the Monfortains did ministry: ti forèt yo. Some with success and some not, but all of them efforts born out of JMV.

And so the number one value would be HOPE. They have this beautiful and constant reminder of what is possible. I do not believe we will have “green hats” on every mountain any time soon, but you realize it is possible to show people how to restore the land. How to believe that the last chapter is not written, and it is possible to renew  the land. It is a living laboratory for sure.

The other piece which is not lost on the people of Gwo Mòn, is the forest has become a place of prayer. Isn’t it amazing that folks come to pray there. The link between the God of Redemption and the God of Creation is so beautiful and probably best exemplified in the way of the cross/stations on Good Friday.

Finally, the Grepin Center keeps expanding their efforts to create a vision for the people. I think the agronomists, the benefactors, the priests, the people  only have to look up the hill and see what is possible whenever they get overwhelmed by the myriad of problems that beset Haiti. Right here, right now this works.

I have to admit it was not until the second planting that we began to see the real value of the trees. For the first time we began to hear birds and then see them. The Gazebo became a place where we would reflect a bit on what was going on around us (we don’t do this anymore) and we would wonder about what if every mountain in Haiti began to have a “green hat?” It had this effect on us, and we were just visiting…The trees of the first planting are twenty years old and there is a sense of look at what it possible. Having said this, it is when you get into the second planting that you feel you are in a forest. I guess that is the effect pines have on you.

This change might seem strange: First there was a real concern to keep the canals cleared, so they could fill properly and aid with keeping the water from causing erosion and to keep some on the mountain. I think it is amazing that twenty years later they are allowed to be filled with leaves and whatever and they are becoming “Just memories,” because the trees themselves are doing what the canals did in the beginning. To me, that is one of the coolest changes.

Sr Pat in those early years and her desire to show off the forest, even when it was just a bunch of saplings was amazing. It didn’t seem like much was happening, but her enthusiasm was contagious.

The men we would meet on the mountain and listening to them talk about their work had a pride in what they were doing for JMV and for the community. Lives transformed.

The joy we have had over the years in bringing our mission teams to the top. Many times, it is seen as a thing “Roy wants us to do.” However, always, always afterwards the students talk about the beauty and the power of the woods. Isn’t that cool. They write about it in their journals. It has an impact on them to see what is possible. It is at moments like that I am reminded how we all are connected, and how all our lives are interconnected on this planet of ours.

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Gros Morne Stories: Amy Jobin, Quest volunteer 1999

As part of our celebration of the 20th anniversary of the launch of the reforestation project in Gros Morne, Haiti in partnership with the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center, we are sharing reflections from people who have been a part of the program over the years. This week we are sharing a reflection from Amy Jobin who volunteered with the Religious of Jesus and Mary’s (RJM) Quest program in 1999 as the reforestation project was getting started.

I remember going to Tèt Mòn for the first time shortly after I arrived in Gros-Morne back in August of 1999 for a year of volunteering with Quest. I remember Sr. Pat first telling me about Tèt Mòn and how the RJMs and the Montfortain priests had made the [transfer] of the land possible [from the Diocese of Gonaives] so that it could be reforested.  I don’t recall exactly how many acres or hectares Sr. Pat told me had been purchased but it sounded like a lot – and that a lot of trees would need to be planted to cover this much ground.

I also remember the first time we went out to see Tèt Mòn, the name we called this mountain that was going to be reforested. It wasn’t much to look at, like many of the mountains in Haiti; it was brown, dry, eroded looking….. but whole sections had tiny new trees planted on it that ranged from about six inches to a foot or foot and a half tall.  When places like this become too deforested, rain stops falling, creating conditions that make places like Gros-Morne even more prone to drought which can lead to a host of other challenges in places where water and especially potable water for drinking is already on short supply. To combat the water problem, big blue plastic barrels had been placed all over Tèt Mòn that were periodically filled with water from [the river] and when we would go out to see the forest in the evenings, we would check the small trees, giving a sip of water to as many trees as we could before it became too dark. At the time, this struck me as a “nice project” that needed to be done so that there might be some tree cover on the mountain again and maybe more rain in that area. I had no idea when Sr. Pat introduced me to Tèt Mòn in the early beginnings of this project what it would one day come to be.

Fast forward to May, 2015. It has been over a decade since I have visited Haiti and when I arrive in Gros Morne, Sr. Pat says to me, “I want you to come and see Tèt Mòn while you’re here.” I had a much greater appreciation for trees and reforestation by this time in my life and I remember being excited to go and see this forest that had been in the re-making for over 15 years now. When I got there, I couldn’t believe what I saw. The once nearly barren land with small trees on it now had to be entered through a special path that was made so that anyone visiting could walk through the forest! I remember our first few steps inside, it had changed so much that we were no longer standing on a piece of land that was being reforested, but we were inside the coverage of an actual forest. The trees were anywhere from five to fifteen feet tall at least. And wonder of wonders, there were birds, insects – in particular, caterpillars weaving pupas and several different colored moths or butterflies, one a beautiful color of delicate yellow, everywhere we turned. Not only had the trees grown, but this now forest had an eco-system all its own, supporting a host of plants and animals not to mention the humans who were benefiting from its carbon-absorbing properties, not to mention its beauty.

I am still struck each time I remember and re-imagine my experience of the forest with Sr. Pat 15 years after it had been planted, struck by about how much it changed and transformed and came back to life, how even the animals and insects knew it was time to come back.  Is it a miracle, well, yes, in its own way, but it is also a testimony to a well planned reforestation project and care for our earth, who needs us to be awake to her condition so much at this time in our history.

During one of my early visits to Tèt Mòn, I was with Sr. Pat and one of our good Haitian friends, Jean (pronounced John) Desnor. Jean was instrumental in helping plan and coordinate this project, knowing which trees needed to be planted, how much water they would need, the growing cycles of certain trees, and many more agricultural complexities that needed to be carefully thought out as this project began. I hardly remember taking the photo, but I still have one of Jean and Sr. Pat up on Tèt Mòn back in the very early days and Jean has his hand on his heart and Sr. Pat is looking reflectively at the land. I didn’t understand what this project meant to either of them when it began, but the photo says it all; they knew it was possible for a forest to be re-grown here someday. Sr. Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN, who was martyred in the Amazon in 2005 for her work empowering indigenous peoples to fight for land rights and for protecting the land itself, said “The death of forest is the end of our life.” She knew as she watched acre upon of acre of clear cutting in the Amazon that “the trees are the lungs of our planet” and that if we keep cutting them down without replacing and reforesting, we would be (and still are) on a fast path to self-destruction. Let us remember her words and let us continue to plant, support and celebrate forests like Tèt Mòn that remind us of the regenerative powers of our Mother Earth and that it’s our right and our responsibility to assist her. Thank you, Sr. Pat, Sr. Jackie, Jean, Pè Chacha, the Grepen farmers and agricultural workers and so many others who helped bring Tèt Mòn to life again, helping Mother Earth sustain, one tree at a time.

 – Amy Jobin, campus minister, Quest volunteer 1999

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20th Anniversary Stories from Gros Morne: Father Chacha

(Above Drone Video of Forest on Tet Mon and Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center [Grepen Center])

This year we mark the 20th Anniversary of our work with Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center in Gros Morne, Haiti. Today we are launching a new blog series to celebrate the 20 year anniversary, which will focus on reflections from people who have worked on the program through the years.

One of the original visionaries of the program was Fr. Ronel Charelus (Father Chacha). Below he discusses the beginnings of the project back in 1999.

Fr. Ronel Charelus (Pere Chacha), former pastor of Notre Dame du La Chandeleur parish

Wi se avèk kè kontan  nou te pran inisyativ pou forè sa a nan Nan Gwomon.  Map sonje Sè Lise Brosseau, Barthelemy Garcon, Nesly Jean Jacques, Jean Desnor, père Cine syriaque, Sè pat Dillon, Sè Rose Gallagher avèk  lot moun anko ki te konprann valè plante pye bwa nan Gwomon.

It was with happy hearts that we took the initiative to start this forest in Gros Morne. I remember Sr. Lise Rosseau, Fr. Barthelemy Garcon, Fr. Nesly Jean Jacques, Jean Desinor, Fr. Cine Syriaque, Sr. Pat Dillon, & Sr. Rose Gallagher,  along with other people who understood the value of planting trees in Gros Morne.

Se te yon pwoje pilot pout tout peyi a.  Nou te gen konviksyon si nou rive plante bwa Gwomon si nou reyisi,  ap gen anpil lot kote nan peyi a kap enterese ak pwoje sa a. Se esperyans sa nou te fè apre kèk lane nou komanse ak pwojè a.

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. This is the experience that we had and after some years we started with the project.

Pwojè a te demare  nan lane 1999 ak yon relijiez nan kongregasyon Sè Lise Brosseau ki rele Carol ??? mwen bliye siyati l.  Li tap travay nan Quixote center nan Washington ??. Sete Sè Rose Gallagher yon bon zanmi m ki te metem an relasyon avek li. Li te rive fe plizyè vwayaj  nan Gwomon. Se limenm ki te ede nou jwenn lajan pou nou komanse pwojè sa a.

The project kicked off in in 1999, with a religious sister in the congregation of Sr. Lise Brosseau [Holy Names of Jesus and Mary] who was named Carol [Reis]. She was working with the Quixote Center in Washington. It was Sr. Rose Gallagher, a good friend of mine, who put me in contact with her [Carol]. She came to make many trips to Gros Morne. She was the one who helped us find money so that we could start this project.

Nou te chwazi bay pwojè  a pote non Jean Marie Vincent , yon prêt monfoten  yo te asasine le 28 Aout 1994. Pou kisa nou te chwazi Jean Marie ? Nou te chwazi l paske li te gen yon rèv pou Ayiti. Rèv li se te pou tout peyizan yo gen  lavi, pou yo viv tankou moun. Rèv sa se pou peyi Dayiti kouvri ak Pye bwa yon Jou. Se te yon pwojè odasye. men li te gen Konviksyon nan Bondye, li te kwè nan moun tou… Pou  Jean Marie Espwa peyi a se plante pye bwa. Se mete konsyans sa nan lavi tout timoun lekol yo. Jean Marie mouri, men rèv li yo pa mouri. Nou kapab di li toujou la avèk nou. Grepen ap toujou rete yon referans pou tout Pè monfoten yo ki vle kontinye travay Jean Marie tap fè nan Peyi Dayiti.

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.

Yon lot pwojè nou te gen pou Gomon se te pwoteje tet mon yo sitou Rivye Mansèl. Jodi a map mande si pwojè sa a toujou la ? Apre 20 tan jodi a nou kapab evalye ak moun yo, avèk jean Desnor pou nou we si rèv sa a Jean Marie te genyen an ap kontinye toujou.

Another project that we had for Gros Morne is to protect the mountain tops, especially in Rivyè Mansel. Today I ask if that project is still there. After 20 years, today we can evaluate with the people, with Jean Desinor, to see if this dream that Jean Marie had still continues.

 

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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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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)