Cap-Haitien Times

Saturday, March 15, 2003


Well, there is an end to everything under the sun, and the sun has set on the Times. Due to time constraints and loss of interest, I will no longer be maintaining or updating this blog. Hopefully you found it helpful and informative.

- John Adams

Sunday, March 09, 2003

More Realism, Less Ideology

This is mainly a news blog that syndicates articles from other sources, so I rarely take the time and effort to fisk someone. The last person to receive a fisking from me was none other than President Jean-Bertrand Aristide himself. This weekend I read a glowingly naïve opinion piece by a woman named Wanda Sabir in a paper (the San Francisco Bay View) touting itself as the "National Black Newspaper of the Year." I'm making the assumption that it is a left-wing rag since it ran Fidel Castro's recent op-ed piece as Page One news. (Tim Blair fisked that article beautifully here.)

Let's begin with the title—Let Haiti Live! Kite Ayiti Viv!—published in both English and Creole, apparently in a futile attempt to be clever. Anyone with a remote understanding of the current situation in Haiti would think that a reasonable article explaining the situation and calling for Aristide's cooperation with the international community is forthcoming. Not so. This is a propaganda piece from start to finish. Ms. Sabir, however, has the advantage of living on the Left Coast, where crackpot theories and breathless paeans extolling the virtues of overseas dictatorships are widely approved of—provided they come from the far left and not the far right.

Sabir writes:

When one thinks of the first independent African nation in the Western Hemisphere, Ayiti, or Haiti, the vision is that of individuals who believed in justice and human rights at the cost of death, which is why, in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte and his forces surrendered the island, then known as Saint Domingue, to the people.

While no fan of the French aristocracy, I beg to differ as to the reasons for the Haitian revolt. Justice and human rights were not at the fore of the Haitian revolution. It was simply a brave, "live free or die" movement. The only unifying force in the movement, as proven by two subsequent centuries of internal strife and violence, was mutual enmity towards the white oppressors. When that threat was removed, many leaders of the Revolution turned to robbing white landowners of their properties, murdering dissidents, and enslaving their former comrades. With the exception of the justice the French met at the blades of Haitian swords, justice was not the objective. Human rights? Well, Toussaint Louverture, a truly great man by anyone's standard, might have instilled a love for them in his people, but he was whisked away to France, where he died in an Alpine prison. The men he left behind built fortresses at the expense of 20,000 of their countrymen, and ripped French babies out of their mothers' stomachs as retribution for their own enslavement.

It’s criminal that the richest nation in this hemisphere continues to undermine the economic well being of its neighbor to the south, but such has been the case throughout Haiti’s 199-year history. This relationship has had a dire impact on Haiti’s regional political stability, as the United States continually supported corrupt regimes that allowed U.S. economic interests to flourish.

It's comical that Sabir doesn't realize how much money the United States pumped into Haiti restoring her beloved Aristide. In one year alone (1994-1995), U.S. taxpayers lavished $1 billion on a corrupt regime that to this day has done absolutely nothing to improve the quality of life. Furthermore, Sabir doesn't even understand her argument well enough to make it coherent. The U.S. didn't support corrupt regimes here (Duvalier specifically) to allow its economic interests to flourish, it did so to provide a counterweight to Fidel Castro, thus serving its own political interests.

Clinton's reinstallation of Aristide was a shrewd political maneuver as well. Hoping to kickstart his erstwhile lethargic presidency and gain some critical PR applause, he invaded a helpless country in a show of power, put Aristide back in, and then beat a hasty retreat in time for the 1996 elections. In 1997, Aristide's successor/puppet (depending on who you ask) dissolved the Parliament, and things have deteriorated since then.

This all came to a halt when a parish priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected overwhelmingly in 1991 to the presidency. This was the first democratic election in Haiti’s history. In a speech, Aristide says that the church should be a tool for justice, equality and freedom. “It’s hypocritical,” he states, “for the pastor to feed the peasant’s children with free foreign rice that is being sold on the market for less than the farmer’s own produce.”

Aristide changed all that.

Please give me a few moments while I laugh at this wide-eyed statement. Exactly how has Aristide helped the Haitian farmer? He still can't sell his produce, and now there's no free rice.

Not only did he set a minimum wage for employment, he also began micro-lending programs to help his citizens become entrepreneurs. During the two Lavalas administrations, Aristide (1991, 1994-6) and Rene Preval (1996-2001), the government began building schools, clinics and housing that is developing the infrastructure. This was also the first peaceful transition of power in Haiti’s history.

I haven't seen/heard of any new government-funded schools. I did notice one large government high school in the Artibonite once on a trip to Port-au-Prince, but it was only a skeleton of a building. There is a government housing project going up a mile away from my house, but it is not nearly large enough to meet Cap-Haitien's growth needs. Its construction has defiled a historical relic, the ruins of an old colonial house.

There has been a lot of construction since Aristide's return, but most of it has been off the private initiative. Humanitarian agencies and missionary organizations are doing most of the building. My father built his primary school the same month Aristide was reinstated. Some Catholics have built a school in St.-Raphael. There are a few missionaries who run medical organizations. As for housing, if Aristide's idea of developing housing includes turning a blind eye while immigrants from the country build on land owned by a radio station, then yes, he has done a whole lot. Then again, Aristide has always harbored a sort of Robin Hood mentality. The whole reason he was kicked out was because he took that idea to the extreme. He actually encouraged his hungry, zealous supporters through radio messages to burn out the rich, steal their lands, and squat on them. We have stories and tape to prove it.

“The difference was the same kind of elitist thinking. They didn’t want people to think their own independent thoughts, and it has an economic basis to it. When the peasants come to sell their products, they need to know how to read and write; otherwise they could be lied to about the weight of their product. The other thing is, when they’d get their bills, they couldn’t contest any errors. After they’d signed, they’d find out that they’d signed their life away. To this day, that’s why literacy and health are top priorities in this administration.”

Explain to me how Aristide's call-and-response speech techniques have encouraged independent thought. In a trip to Cap-Haitien last April, Aristide said things like, "Do you love your President?" to which an enthusiastic crowd, trucked in from the country, responded "Yes!" with mindless adulation. Many people still either cannot read, or cannot read well enough to be useful in a profession. They take their studies home to dimly lit shacks in shantytowns, and lose their sight at extremely early ages because Aristide's cronies at the power company haven't run lines out their way yet.

You say health is a top priority of this administration? Give me a break. A few weeks ago, my friend had a door slammed on her finger by a male whose sexual advances she had scorned. The skin had sloughed off of the wounded digit, and she was taken to the hospital at 10 mph on a deeply rutted road that Aristide promised to pave in the aforementioned speech. When she arrived at the city hospital, the doctors could not do anything for her. So she was taken to a private hospital in a nearby town over said road. By the time they found a doctor who would have been able to save her finger, it was too late. The finger was amputated because she could not get to a private medical facility in time.

I went to visit her the night the incident happened, and the halls of the public hospital are filthy. The floors are encrusted with blood, the rooms are overloaded, and patient files are stored in a cabinet left wide open for anyone to rummage through. I'll believe health is a priority when I see change.

After two paragraphs of sentimentalism about the return of Aristide, Sabir continues with this assertion:

The United States has blatantly undermined Aristide’s leadership by imposing economic embargoes as well as by harboring known terrorists. This is evident in its blockage of the Inter-American Development Bank loan of $146 million approved two years ago to assist the Haitian government in building schools, healthcare centers and roads and providing drinking water in the rural areas of Haiti, where there is much poverty and poverty-related disease.

It's interesting how much a story can change when one little fact is omitted—that Aristide's 2000 election was rigged. It was an election that went unobserved because of the unresolved controversy surrounding the May elections. Due to the absence of international observers, the election was supposed to have been monitored by the Haitian press. However, the Human Rights Report for 2000 states this: ``On November 22, nine separate explosions occurred in crowded areas of Port-au-Prince; the explosions killed two children and left many other persons injured. On November 25, marching FL members in Petit Goave staged citizen's arrests of several opposition members and detained several others. Also on November 25, an attempt was made during the evening to burn the communal electoral office (BEC) in Ganthiere. Police intervened and were able to save the electoral materials, although the building was partially destroyed."

Also, ``the day before the election, several radio stations were forced to close their news operations because of threats."

The election was characterized by low turnout, estimated to be between 5 and 20 percent. A pipe bomb exploded in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Carrefour, and ballots were burned in Anse d'Hainault. When you factor in this information, it's easy to see that the United States has not had to do anything to get Aristide to parody himself. He's a master at it himself. His vision of utopia in Haiti is a Marxist state from which all foreigners have been expelled, a state that relies on no one but itself. This utterly unrealistic and anachronistic worldview has accelerated Haiti's decline into world misery, and further entrenches its status as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide cruised into office on the backs of utterly unrealistic promises that he has never fulfilled. He is not, and never will be, the savior of Haiti. He is a semi-deluded dictator whose fury is held in check only by an American government that does not want to end up with egg on its face. The sooner he leaves/is removed from office, the better. People like Wanda Sabir do nothing to let Haiti live, they only serve to further blind the eyes of Westerners to the plight of a Haitian people in dire need of more realism and less ideology.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Mardi Gras Came and Went

Revelers in flowing purple and white robes cracked bullwhips amid the crowds Monday night as part of a ritual meant to chase away evil spirits. Some people paraded about with painted faces, capes and feathered headdresses. (Read more)

IMF Criticizes Haiti For Poor Economic Policies
WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, must dramatically improve management of its economy, the International Monetary Fund said Monday.

The IMF "expressed deep concern about Haiti's worsening economic and social conditions, and in particular, the widening of the fiscal deficit, the accumulation of external arrears, and further increases in poverty," the IMF said in a press summary of its annual "Article IV" review of the economy.

Haiti's economy has worsened during the last two years, with rising deficits financed mainly by the central bank and through accumulation of arrears. International reserves held by the central bank have declined from efforts to support the currency, the gourde ($1=HTG41.00), which has also fallen in value.

"Political difficulties have deterred the authorities from taking corrective measures aimed at stemming the loss in international reserves, containing inflation, and promoting growth," the IMF said. Top priorities for 2003 should be rebuilding central bank reserves, now at $45 million or two weeks of imports, and containing inflation.

The government needs to improve transparency and accountability of its spending, the IMF said. The IMF "emphasized the importance of strengthening cash management by restricting the use of discretionary ministerial accounts."

The IMF also recommended enhanced banking and credit supervision, and action to privatize state-owned firms in the energy, telecommunications and transportation sectors.

-By Elizabeth Price, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9295;

Copied from Yahoo! News

A hidden view of Haiti's trouble
Jim DeFede/Commentary

Michele Montas wrapped up her visit to Miami on Saturday, but she didn't return to Haiti. Instead she went into hiding.

How long she will remain outside her beloved Haiti no one knows, least of all Montas. It may just be for a few weeks. Or it may be longer. But right now Haiti is far too dangerous a place for the widow of Jean Dominique, the Haitian journalist who was killed in 2000.

On Christmas Day, there was an assassination attempt against Montas, in which her bodyguard was killed. Montas, a journalist, has been unrelenting in demanding justice for her husband's murder. Because of her efforts, the judge assigned to investigate Dominique's murder has prepared a report naming those responsible.

All that is left is for the report to be released. But once again, no one knows when that will be. In the meantime, the pressure inside Haiti builds. The attempt to murder Montas on Christmas Day was seen by many as an effort to block the report from ever being released. If Montas were dead, the theory holds, then the driving force behind releasing the report would be gone.

Before coming to Miami to receive a free speech award from People for the American Way, Montas closed the radio station she and her husband owned because of increased threats against her reporters. Radio Haiti Inter was one of the few sources for unbiased news in Haiti.

There are a lot of people in the United States who would like to use Montas' plight to attack Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Indeed, it now seems almost certain that the men responsible for Dominique's murder -- and, presumably, the assassination attempt on Montas -- will have links to Aristide's political party.

Montas, however, was very careful not to attack Aristide. Instead, she portrays Aristide as being a president who has lost control of those around him. It would be a mistake, she said during the Miami Film Festival, where a Jonathan Demme documentary about her husband was shown, to equate Aristide with the dictators of Haiti's past. Aristide, after all, was elected. And the political violence today, while still obscene, is less pervasive when compared to the thousands who were murdered under the regimes of ''Papa'' and ''Baby Doc'' Duvalier.

''Before we always knew who was shooting at us,'' she told me. ``It was the army, it was the dictatorship. Today, if I want to be honest, I have to say, I don't know who is responsible.''

Is it someone who is connected to Aristide's Lavalas Family political party? Or is it someone who claims to be aligned, but who really isn't?

Certainly Aristide needs to do more. First and foremost, he must clean up Haiti's corrupt police department. You cannot have democracy in a country where there is no rule of law or body to enforce it. ''Right now the Haitian police force is very fragile,'' Montas said.

Between 1995 and 1998, the United States provided money and technical support to help the Haitian police force. During that time, Montas said, the department was a sign of hope for Haitians. But when the U.S. abruptly, and unwisely, pulled out in 1998, the department eroded quickly.

For the past five years, the United States has blocked all aid to the Haitian government -- including much needed support for its police -- and has forced other countries and financial organizations to do the same.

The American government decided this was necessary because of a handful of contested election results in Haiti. Of course, when there were no elections in Haiti and the country had a U.S.-friendly dictatorship, the money flowed freely.

''I do not believe the embargo against Haiti is a valid answer to the country's problems,'' Montas said.

And for those in Miami who think this issue doesn't affect them, consider this: The best way to keep Haitians from fleeing to Florida is to make conditions better for them in Haiti. ''When Haiti sneezes,'' the Haitian proverb goes, ``it is the United States that catches the cold.''

Copied from the Miami Herald.

Friday, February 28, 2003

Glimmer of Hope?

There may not be much to celebrate this Carnaval season, but there is always hope. The Miami Herald reports:

In a bipartisan effort to boost the desperate economy of Haiti, Floridians in Congress and other legislators began pushing Thursday for a significant trade break to increase jobs in that country's apparel industry.

A bill to change a 2000 trade law would grant duty-free status to Haitian apparel items assembled from fabric or yarn that comes from any countries that have favorable trade agreements with the United States. Currently the law grants that status only to products made from U.S. fabrics.

Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, who has visited Haiti 12 times, said the apparel industry in Haiti used to employ about 100,000 people, but that total has dropped to 30,000. He said the trade benefit would encourage job growth.

Because this work pays about $2 a day, the bill would not take away U.S. jobs, said DeWine. And the bill would cap the duty-free imports at 1.5 percent of all apparel products, so it would not affect U.S. companies, he said.

The bill has the strong backing of Florida's two senators, Bob Graham and Bill Nelson, and Reps. Clay Shaw, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, and Kendrick Meek, a Miami Democrat.

The Floridians said the trade bill could reduce the number of Haitians fleeing to South Florida.

''We've all seen the desperate attempts of Haitians to leave,'' Shaw said. ``This bill would, in a small way, unleash our economy to help these folks.''

Nelson, who recently returned from Haiti, added: ``This will give hope to the Haitian people.''

(Read the rest)

Here's the catch: For the trade benefit to go into effect, ``Bush would have to certify that the Haitian government is making progress toward political pluralism and the rule of law." Well, here's hoping.

Haiti's Plight Sparks Debate Over Carnival

With Haiti's currency collapsing, the price of gas skyrocketing and many residents unable to afford even the basics, Haitians both on the island and in South Florida are debating whether their country's annual kanaval celebrations should take place this weekend.

The discussion rages on Creole radio in Miami and in Haiti. A carnival song about the country's economic crisis has become a popular request.

Even Michel Martelly, aka Sweet Micky, one of the country's most popular and colorful compas performers, remains torn over whether he will perform at Haiti Kanaval. The three-day carnival, marked by dancing in the streets, kicks off Sunday evening and ends Ash Wednesday morning in the cities of Port-au-Prince and Jacmel.

''The fact that people are not able to find water so they can take a bath, or food to eat and the money is losing value, I feel we should take this money and do something for Haiti itself,'' said Martelly, whose float usually costs between $150,000 and $200,000. ``When you spend $5 million to dance for three days and you go back to misery, it doesn't make sense.

Originally, Martelly had hoped other bands would join his efforts to protest this year's carnival. But with the effort failing, and fans demanding his participation despite their bleak circumstances, Martelly said he's torn.

''As I am speaking to you right now, I am out of carnival but there are people trying to talk me into it,'' he conceded.

Emeline Alexis, who is active in Miami-Dade County's Haitian community, understands the performer's reservations.

''Gasoline prices are up, people do not have electricity, no health services,'' said Alexis, who is also concerned about the message this weekend's carnival celebrations will send to the international community. ``How can you dance when you go home and have nothing to eat?''

Added Sidney Charles, a Haitian American who serves as Florida Republican Party co-chairman for the 17th congressional district in North Miami-Dade: ``I don't see how we can celebrate, dance and do all that stuff when our people are in the conditions they are in. Until I see some positive changes in Haiti, I feel there is nothing to celebrate.''

(Read the rest)

I must admit I'm rather torn about this, too. I leave the debate to the comment box.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

NYPD Victim Turns Settlement Into Philanthropy

Abner Louima, a victim of police brutality who made NYC headlines 5 years ago after being sodomized by a police officer, is turning his $5.8 million settlement into philanthropic gold.

"Maybe God saved my life for a reason," Louima said in a rare interview while visiting Haiti last week. "I believe in doing the right thing."

The 36-year-old said he plans to use his own money and donations to open community centers in Haiti, New York and his new home base of Miami-Dade County, Fla. The facilities would offer legal help, financial aid and other programs for Haitians and others.

He also hopes to raise money to build a hospital in the Caribbean country, where the poor struggle to obtain even basic health care.

Read the full story.

We Lost

Haiti's soccer team lost a friendly match against Peru, 5-1 today in Lima.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Dominique Honored in Miami

Hollywood-tier director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) has finally completed his documentary on Jean Dominique, an event that took 10 years in the making. During the course of shooting the film, Dominique was assassinated. Jean Dominique was Haiti's leading journalist before his tragic and untimely death on April 3, 2000. He had spoken out vociferously against the Haitian government's corruption. Many believe that that is why he was murdered.

The film, as reported in the Miami Herald, is scheduled for a special screening at the Miami International Film Festival this week. Click here for times and information.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Strikes All Around

Australia's ABC Online and the Boston Globe are the first to pick up this story:

One of Haiti's most popular radio stations has stopped broadcasting news to protest an attack last week against one of its correspondents.

The home of Goudou Jean Numa, one of Radio Metropole's leading political reporters, was surrounded by armed men on Friday local time, and later that night a car in his garage was set ablaze.

He has since gone into hiding.

Privately owned Metropole have aired a statement saying it would halt news reports for 24 hours in protest.

"Here at Radio Metropole, we have always avoided protesting publicly against the intimidation, threats and physical and verbal attacks leveled against the members of the newsroom," the statement said.

"However, the attack against our colleague Goudou Jean Numa was too much."

Radio Metropole, along with other private radio stations such as Radio Kiskeya and Radio Haiti Inter, have frequently been the target of threats and harassment from political militants claiming loyalty to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

President Aristide, a former Catholic priest who began his second term as Haiti's president in February 2001, has been under fire in recent months from opposition groups that accuse his government of repressing journalists and human rights groups.

The Metropole statement said four of its journalists had gone into exile in the United States in the last 14 months and its correspondent in the northern city of Gonaives had been forced to flee the city as a result of threats and attacks by escaped convict and Aristide supporter Amiot Metayer.

There's more. The nation's judges have also gone on strike in protest of what they call an unfair deposition of Judge Josiard Agnant. The judge in question had recently dismissed a drug trafficking case against defendant Jean Salim Batrony, citing a lack of evidence. This quote from Sen. Pierre Prince Soncon, of Aristide's Lavalas party, is classic:

"We want to fight against drugs, against impunity. It's a question of morality."

Gee, if the Lavalas Party is this zealous about fighting drugs in Haiti, maybe they should pay closer attention to their own Evans Brillant, who cordoned off a Port-au-Prince highway to land between 1,760 and 2,200 pounds of cocaine. Brillant's stash makes Batrony's charge of possession of 128 pounds of the stuff look like a mere pittance by comparison.