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.

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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: 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.

 

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Daily Dispatch 12/5/18


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Daily Dispatch

December 5, 2018


All politics are local…

On his first full day as Mecklenburg County Sheriff Wednesday, Garry McFadden notified the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that it was ending the county’s 287(g) agreement, according to a news release.

The bed-rental program will bring in in more than $10 million by the end of 2018, up from $8.3 million last year for housing detainees, officials said. The 2018 revenue would be the most since at least 2015, documents show. McHenry County administrator Peter Austin said the take in is among the most, if not the most, the contract has ever raised for the county in any one year.

San Luis Obispo County sheriff turned over 87 immigrants to ICE in 2017. This year, it’s zero thanks to “sanctuary state” laws.

Denver courts are part of new Department of Justice program to expedite family asylum proceedings.

See our guide to local actions to challenge immigration policy.

Other news…

Sarah Knopp  writes in Jacobin a few days ago – the so called “private violence” that people are fleeing is very much rooted in state policies, and should not disqualify people from seeking asylum.

Mexico’s new president wants to have a good relationship with Trump and is expecting talks on immigration soon (hard to see that going well….)

Trump considering charging a fee for immigrants applying for asylum.

European nationalists respond to new UN Pact on migration.

 


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Daily Dispatch 12/04/18


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Daily Dispatch

December 4, 2018


Top story…

400 former Department of Justice officials send letter denouncing Whitaker’s appointment as acting Attorney General. As Attorney General Whitaker potentially has the authority to make unilateral decisions on immigration rules. Michael Cohen writes in the Boston Globe that Whitaker must go.

 

Asylum…

Asylum denials at an all time high.

 

In the courts…

A federal appeals court has struck down a portion of federal law that makes it a crime to encourage foreigners to enter or reside in the United States illegally.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that the provision violates the First Amendment by covering speech that is constitutionally protected.

A judge in Boston is under fire from the governor. She is accused of helping a defendant avoid arrest by ICE agents who sought to detain him after criminal hearing.

 

Fact checking….

Trump tweets that illegal immigration costs the United States $250 billion a year…it doesn’t.

 

Around the world…

Danish government presents plan to relocate some immigrants to a mostly deserted island, also the site of a research facility for infectious animal diseases.

 


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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

 

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Daily Dispatch Focus on Migrant Caravan 10/24/2018

A sampling of today’s headlines on immigration, race, and related stories.

October 24, 2018

Caravan Edition

Latest Caravan News

Powerful photo essay published yesterday in The Atlantic.

Another photo essay here from the BBC.

Crackdown on migrant caravan is a violation of international law.

Report from Huixtla, Mexico from New York Times, as the caravan begins its 12th day: “This is straight-up biblical,” said Julio Raúl García Márquez, 43, a Guatemalan traveling with his wife, their 1-year-old son and a cousin. They spent part of the night on sheets of cardboard in the central square.”

Journalist José Luis Granados Ceja accompanies the caravan across border between Mexico and Guatemala. “We’re not migrating, we’re fleeing!”

Honduran migrants take part in a caravan heading to the US, on the road linking Ciudad Hidalgo and Tapachula, Chiapas state, Mexico, on October 21, 2018. – Thousands of Honduran migrants resumed their march toward the United States on Sunday from the southern Mexican city of Ciudad Hidalgo, AFP journalists at the scene said. (Photo by Pedro Pardo / AFP) (Photo credit should read PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)

Reality Checks

Human Rights First – Myths vs Facts about the caravan.

ISIS? Caravaners attack Mexico’s police? And other lies revealed here.

Luke Barnes and Rebekah Entralgo cover (and debunk) some of the false stories circulating about the caravan.

Background articles on migration

Alianza America’s Oscar Chacon discusses what the caravan is “really telling us.”

U.S. policy supports Honduran “tyrant” – Op-ed from Silvio Carrillo in New York Times (from Dec. 2017)

Mark Tseng-Putterman argues “U.S. empire thrives on amnesia….There can be no common-sense immigration “debate” that conveniently ignores the history of U.S. intervention in Central America.” He offers detailed timelines concerning interventions in EL Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. (from June 2018)

National Geographic snapshot about gangs in Honduras (from Feb. 2018)

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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.  

 

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NICA Act 2.0: It’s back and even worse than before

The Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act has been floating around congress since 2015. The main idea behind the bill is to direct the U.S. Executive Branch to use its voting power in multilateral lending institutions to block any new loans for Nicaragua until a set of reforms regarding elections and transparency is implemented.

The latest version of the bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in October of 2017. A companion bill was then introduced into the Senate by Ted Cruz (R-TX). This Senate version (S. 2265) was similar to the House version, but added provisions for investigation into the activity of “other regimes” in Nicaragua – principally Venezuela and Russia. This version of the NICA Act was sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where it sat with no action until September of this year.

During the last week of September, NICA Act was given new life with a companion bill introduced by Robert Menendez (D-NJ), called the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2018 (S. 3233). The new bill was voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 26, and is heading for a floor debate some time soon. The twist is that Menendez’s original bill was fused with the NICA Act in this latest version, creating a broad set of sanctions that will impact Nicaragua’s access to international financial institutions while also punishing individuals in Nicaragua.

Specifically, the new bill:

  • Directs the Executive to use the influence of the U.S. government to oppose the extension of new loans or agreements with Nicaragua through the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund;
  • Calls for sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act – which allows the U.S. executive to seize assets of individuals from other countries it deems responsible for human rights abuse or political corruption, and also employ other sanctions;
  • Calls for restricting visas for travel to the United States to individuals in the Nicaraguan government and their associates;
  • Calls for annual reporting on the state of Nicaragua’s democracy;
  • Directs agencies to create a “civil society” engagement strategy – which in the current context largely means expanding support for groups in opposition to the government;
  • Is enacted until 2023, although provisions can be waived if Nicaragua adopts reforms that satisfy U.S. policy-makers.

If passed, the U.S. government will be committing itself to increased intervention that would do serious harm to Nicaragua’s economy – already reeling from a collapse in investment and capital flight. By incorporating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act the bill leaves the path open for the President to go even further than individual sanctions in punishing Nicaragua.

The Nicaragua Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2018 (S. 3233) is a bad idea. It goes much further than the original NICA Act, which we have opposed from the beginning. It has the potential of doing grave harm to the people of Nicaragua, and seems intent on deepening the polarization in the country at a time when the United States, if it is to do anything, should be limiting its role to encouraging dialogue (without imposing predetermined outcomes on the dialogue – as the U.S. has done thus far). This new bill will simply make it that much harder for groups to come together and reach a political settlement to the ongoing crisis.

You can call your Senators at the Capitol Hill Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Tell them “No to sanctions” in S. 3233, and yes to encouraging a return to dialogue unencumbered by U.S. intervention!

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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.

 

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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)