Children's Hope Solidarity Team at MABE Orphanage -- Gressier, Haiti

Children's Hope Solidarity Team at MABE Orphanage -- Gressier, Haiti

Saturday, August 28, 2010

France Asked to Return Money ‘Extorted’ From Haiti

New York Times -- The Lede
August 16, 2010, 10:57

France Asked to Return Money ‘Extorted’ From Haiti

In an open letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, published on Monday in the Paris newspaper Libération, an international group of scholars and activists called on France to repay Haiti, its former colony, more than $20 billion that had been “extorted” in the 19th century.

As Isabel Macdonald, a Canadian scholar who helped draft the letter, explains in The Toronto Star:

Prior to independence, St. Dominique — the country that is now Haiti — was France’s most profitable colony, thanks in no small part to its particularly brutal system of slavery. In 1791, the slaves revolted, and in 1804, after defeating Napoleon’s armies, founded the world’s first black republic.

Following Haiti’s independence, former French slave owners submitted detailed tabulations of their losses to the French government, with line items for each of “their” slaves that had been “lost” with Haitian independence. In 1825, King Charles X demanded that Haiti pay France an “independence debt” to compensate former colonists for the slaves who won their freedom in the Haitian revolution. With warships stationed along the Haitian coast backing up the French demand, France insisted that Haiti pay its former colonizer 150 million gold francs — 10 times the new nation’s total annual revenues.

Under threat of a French military invasion that aimed at the re-enslavement of the population, the Haitian government had little choice but to agree to pay. Haiti’s government was also forced to finance the debt through loans from a single French bank, which capitalized on its monopoly by gouging Haiti with exorbitant interest rates and fees. The original sum of the indemnity was subsequently reduced, but Haiti still disbursed 90 million gold francs to France.

The money Haiti paid to France from 1825 until 1947 was estimated by the Haitian government in 2003 to be the equivalent of nearly $22 billion today.

Last month, a group calling itself the Committee for the Reimbursement of the Indemnity Money Extorted From Haiti — or, C.R.I.M.E. — drew attention to Haiti’s independence debt with an elaborate hoax, in which an actor impersonating a French Foreign Ministry official announced that France would repay the money.

As The Lede reported, video and text of the mock statement were posted on a near-replica of the French Foreign Ministry’s Web site.

Monday’s letter on the issue also appears on the fake Foreign Ministry site, above the names of dozens of well-known activists, including: Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Noam Chomsky, Ariel Dorfman, Naomi Klein, José Bové, Eduardo Galeano, Cornel West and the founders of the group that seems to have inspired the hoax announcement, the Yes Men.

The letter ends by linking threats of legal action against the pranksters with the fate of the former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who asked France to repay the debt for Haiti’s bicentennial in 2004:

In 2003, when the Haitian government demanded repayment of the money France had extorted from Haiti, the French government responded by helping to overthrow that government. Today, the French government responds to the same demand by C.R.I.M.E. by threatening legal action. These are inappropriate responses to a demand that is morally, economically and legally unassailable. In light of the urgent financial need in the country in the wake of the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, we urge you to pay Haiti, the world’s first black republic, the restitution it is due.

In March, international donors pledged to provide Haiti with just over $5 billion to help in its reconstruction. Earlier this month, Bill Clinton, who is helping to coordinate aid to Haiti, told The Associated Press that so far just five countries had made good on their promises and that less than 10 percent of that money had been delivered.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sean Penn on Wyclef's Presidential Campaign

[Editor's Note: Sean Penn's analysis of Wyclef's Presidential aspirations is right on target. However, both Wyclef and Sean Penn are ignoring the most crucial fact regarding the upcoming Presidential and parliamentary elections in Haiti -- the largest and most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, has been excluded by the Haitian electoral council (CEP). Unless this decision is reversed, then the results from the November 28 elections will be fundamentally undemocratic. As American citizens, we have a responsibility to put pressure on our government to support the democratic aspirations of the Haitian people, rather than continuing our more traditional role of undermining and violently repressing those aspirations -- Paul B]

Third Person Once Removed

The Huffington Post
Sean Penn, August 25, 2010

As Wyclef Jean announces his regrettable turn-about to contest Haiti's electoral rule of law (a law he has no previous record of dissension toward), his PR team is mobilizing. See Ms. Marian Salzman's recent blog on the Huffington Post (August 23, 2010). In it, Ms. Salzman, hired to frame perception of Mr. Jean, claims that I "lambasted" Mr. Jean's candidacy on CNN. Furthermore, she reduced the political dialogue that took place that day by calling the discussion a "celebrity feud". In fact, a sensationalized celebrity feud, is and was, as far from my mind as the alleged "lambasting." Though he and his camp came back with many disparaging comments in my direction, I felt that ignoring my initial impulse to react and respond allowed the attention to refocus on the real issues facing Haitians.

One can YouTube the segment of the August 8 Larry King Live in question. In the clip, Wolf Blitzer interviews Wyclef Jean upon his announcing his candidacy. The viewer will also see a response from someone (myself) who runs an NGO in Haiti, someone who has spent most of the last six months following the devastating earthquake, side by side in that country, with so many others, doing whatever we could to lend a hand. I have never met Wyclef Jean, and all I really know of him on any personal level has come through the fond comments of a few mutual friends. Hence, nothing I might say, was in ANY way personal, or intended to be lambasting to anyone. My comments were critical observations of a political candidate and a leader of an organization in Haiti.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Assault on Haitian Democracy

Pro-Lavalas demonstrators march in Port au Prince to honor
the birthday of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, July 2010.
Photo credit: Haiti Action Committee
by Kevin Edmonds
North American Congress on Latin America August 23, 2010

While the presidential candidacy of rapper/entertainer Wyclef Jean in Haiti’s upcoming presidential and legislative elections has garnered much international attention, underneath the glare of this hype are the continued assaults on the country’s democratic process. Much is at stake in this key election, scheduled for November 28. The winner will be responsible for the colossal task of rebuilding the nation’s shattered infrastructure and psyche after the January 12 earthquake. Jean’s glitz and glamour have stolen international headlines (despite Haiti’s August 20 ruling denying him the candidacy), however, the real story is that the country’s strongest and most popular political force will again be excluded from these elections.

The United States and the principal international power brokers have stated over and over again that the promotion of a stable and democratic political process is a primary goal in Haiti. However, international elites continue to support and fund an election that openly excludes the political party Famni Lavalas, the party founded by former Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Not only has Lavalas been excluded from Haiti’s political process by the country’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), its supporters are continually intimidated and violently suppressed by a United Nations army that continues to be in Haiti six years after the 2004 coup that ousted Aristide from the presidency. The CEP and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) continue to work in coordination with each other to make sure only the Haitian and international economic elite have their say in the country.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Race for Haiti's presidency

Yvon Neptune, former Haitian Prime
Minister and now Presidential candidate., August 23, 2010

US-based Haitian singer-songwriter Wyclef Jean was the best known of Haiti's presidential hopefuls.

But he and 14 others have now been disqualified from November's election, leaving 19 candidates in the race.

Among those approved to run for the presidency were:

•Jacques Edouard Alexis, a two-time prime minister

•Leslie Voltaire, an urban planner and former minister

•Yvon Neptune, a former prime minister who served under ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide

•Mirlande Manigat, a well-known opposition leader and former first lady

•Jude Celestin, the former head of the government's construction programme

•Yves Cristallin, who served as social affairs minister

•Michel Martelly, a popular Haitian singer known as "Sweet Mickey"

Under Haiti's constitution, candidates must meet seven constitutional requirements.

Main contenders

They must be a native of Haiti, be at least 35 years old, have never renounced their citizenship, have never been sentenced for a crime, own property and a "habitual residence" in Haiti, not currently be handling public funds and have resided in the country for at least five consecutive years before election day.

Wyclef Can't Appeal Haiti Poll Exclusion: Council

By Joseph Guyler
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Auguest 24, 2010

A ruling by Haiti's electoral council that disqualified hip-hop star Wyclef Jean from running for the presidency is final and cannot be appealed, a council lawyer said on Tuesday.

The Haitian-born and U.S.-based singer-songwriter said on Sunday he would appeal against the provisional electoral council's decision on Friday which rejected his candidacy for the November 28 election in the poorest state in the Americas.

Council officials said Jean, who left his homeland with his family at the age of 9 to live in the United States, did not meet residency requirements.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Leisa's Haiti Journal #10: Sweatshops at 200g a Day ($5 U.S.)

Sweat Shops at 200g a day ($5US)
July 28, 2010

Job Offer In Haiti: Must be a highly motivated woman to assemble electronic components, able to read and write, and pass a logic/math test. You will arrive at 6:45am check in with fingerprint ID. You will work 8 hours and clock out for lunch. You will be handed a food coupon that is good on only the day of issue (value is 8g or four cents US). You may use the coupon toward your purchase of lunch at the company lunch counter. However the cheapest meal there is 23g, without any meat of course…that would be extra.

The cheapest form of public transportation will take you at least one hour to get to work, and two hours going home. That will cost you 5g to 7g depending on the price of gas (each way).

The net result is that you will be at work 9 hours (with no talking) and spend three hours in transportation. Since you are a woman, after being gone those 12 hours, you will shop each day (no electricity for refrigeration) and cook breakfast and dinner for your family over an open charcoal stove. You will do all the family laundry, kill, pluck and dress the chicken, haul water and purify it, while making sure your children are freshly scrubbed twice a day.

For this work you will bring home 1000g salary each week, less the 50g for the taptap (an overcrowded bed of an open truck), then deduct 75g for lunch. This means you will bring home 875g a week, or a little less than $90US a month.

Since you will also have to buy food, work clothes, laundry soap and charcoal as well as the $100US for your four room unfurnished house…you must also sell small candies on the street after dark and take in the neighbor’s wash.

Then, since you will still don’t have enough money for utilities, you send your oldest son out to climb the telephone pole and cut into the high voltage wire.

Since you also don’t have money for medicine, school uniforms and tuition, when your baby gets sick, you consider selling your oldest daughter to the wealthier landlord to be a servant, but, lucky for you, since she is only eight years old, restavek owners are required by law to send her to school. When they move away, you hope that they will not sell her to some unsavory to use as a sex slave, or worse yet…to some foreigner for body parts.

But, say, that's the cost of cheap "US" electronics, right?

Peace, leisa

p.s. This journal is based on real interviews and my tour of a Port au Prince electronics factory that sells components to over 100 U.S electronics companies.

(We will be returning to Haiti on August 9, 2010)

Leisa Faulkner, Executive Director
Children's Hope

3025 A Cambridge Road
Cameron Park, CA 95682

Text me @ 916.801.4184 916.801.4184 Haiti phone: 011.509.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wyclef Jean for President of Haiti? Look Beyond the Hype

by Charlie Hinton, with editing assistance from Kiilu Nyasha

San Francisco Bay View

Wyclef Jean holds a Haitian flag as he considers running for president of Haiti. Beware! Wyclef is Haitian, but he is no friend of the Haitian people as a whole, who remain loyal to President Aristide.To cut to the chase, no election in Haiti, and no candidate in those elections, will be considered legitimate by the majority of Haiti’s population, unless it includes the full and fair participation of the Fanmi Lavalas Party of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Fanmi Lavalas is unquestionably the most popular party in the country, yet the “international community,” led by the United States, France and Canada, has done everything possible to undermine Aristide and Lavalas, overthrowing him twice by military coups in 1991 and 2004 and banishing Aristide, who now lives in South Africa with his family, from the Americas.

A United Nations army, led by Brazil, still occupies Haiti six years after the coup. Their unstated mission, under the name of “peacekeeping,” is to suppress the popular movement and prevent the return to power of Aristide’s Lavalas Party. One must understand a Wyclef Jean candidacy, first of all, in this context.

Every election since a 67 percent majority first brought Aristide to power in 1990 has demonstrated the enormous popularity of the Lavalas movement. When Lavalas could run, they won overwhelmingly. In 2006, when security conditions did not permit them to run candidates, they voted and demonstrated to make sure Rene Preval, a former Lavalas president, was re-elected.

Interview with Pierre Labossiere, "This is Criminal!"

Pierre Labossiere, co-founder of the Haiti Action Committee
Pierre Labossiere on Haiti: ‘This is criminal’

Posted By Mary On January 27, 2010

The Bay View is introducing this interview with an urgent action alert from the Haiti Action Committee, co-founded by Pierre Labossiere, urging readers to “stand in solidarity with Haiti” and call the White House, the State Department and their Congress members today.

Haiti Action Committee Action Alert: Rebuilding Haiti with the Democratic Movement

Jan. 27 – In the aftermath of the devastating 7.0 earthquake, Haitian children, women and men are now suffering through a man-made disaster. Over one week ago, Obama promised, “The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble and to deliver the humanitarian relief.” But instead of delivering on this commitment, he has allowed the military response to take priority, resulting in thousands of preventable deaths.

As Haitians organize to rebuild their lives in the midst of an escalated military occupation, we demand that the Obama administration stop its destructive interference in Haiti. Haitians must be at the head of relief efforts and the long term rebuilding of their country. Fanmi Lavalas, the democratic grassroots movement of Haiti, must be at the center of any legitimate rebuilding process.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Haiti Gears Up for Polls - Again, Sans Lavalas

By Wadner Pierre

published by IPS, Photo by Wadner Pierre

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jul 30, 2010 (IPS) - After weeks of delays, Haitian President René Préval confirmed this month that presidential and legislative elections will take place on Nov. 28. The U.N. and Western donor nations are pledging millions of dollars in support of the polls, but with at least 1.5 million people still homeless from the January earthquake, questions loom over how to ensure voter participation.

In the last round of senatorial elections before the earthquake, less than three percent of the electorate participated. Fanmi Lavalas, widely seen as the most popular political party in the country, was excluded from the election on technical grounds, along with some other parties. Now, the party has again been banned from participating in the November polls.

International donors have expressed disappointment at Haiti's failure to hold inclusive elections, but have continued to fund them.