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

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Losing Latin America

America's 'backyard' has never been so united and independent of U.S. influence.
A University student wears a mask with the face of President Obama during a protest  against his  visit at El Salvador del Mundo square in San Salvador, on March  22, 2011. Obama was on the last  leg of a three-nation tour of Latin America. (Photo by Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images)
By Steve Ellner, April 14, 2011

In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama pressed for quick passage of a free trade agreement with Colombia, and since then has followed up on the proposal. In doing so he has delighted Republicans who had been accusing him of failing to prioritize the issue. In his January speech, Obama made no reference to his unequivocal concern over human rights violations which he had raised in his third presidential debate with McCain.

Since 2008, little has improved to justify Obama's reversal. Human Rights Watch has reported a 41 percent increase in the number of victims in 2010 over the previous year, including the murder of 44 trade unionists. In the first six weeks of 2011, death squads assassinated three more labor activists.

In an attempt to assure members of U.S. Congress that progress is being made, on April 7 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Obama announced from the White House the approval of an "Action Plan," whereby the Colombian government pledged to take stringent measures to curb abuses. Many Colombian trade union leaders, however, refused to buy into the arrangement and expressed skepticism about their government's resolve. Tarsicio Mora, president of the Unitary Workers Confederation (CUT), objected by saying, "It just can't be that respect for a basic right established in the constitution, such as the right to life, has to be required by a commercial transaction."

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mixed reviews in US for Haiti's president-elect

Jamaica Observer, April 6, 2011

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — Haitian emigrants in the United States have reacted warily to the victory of popular musician Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly in the French Caribbean Community (Caricom) country's presidential election.
Martelly received nearly 70% of the vote.

Preliminary reports show that Martelly, 50, a father of four and flamboyant figure who sometimes performs while wearing a Scottish kilt, received nearly 70 per cent of the votes cast in the March 20 second run-off presidential poll, defeating former first lady Mirlande Manigat, 70.

Some Haitians here have warned that Martelly could polarise the society.

"He has a double intensity," said Ricot Dupuy, manager and a host at Radio Soleil, which serves the Haitian immigrant community in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

"Those who love him, love him intensely. And those who hate him, hate him intensely," he added.
Brooklyn Shopkeeper Grand Drape said Martelly could be just the man Haiti needs.
"He is good for Haiti," said Drape, 68. "He loves people. He can do something better for the country. Let's give this guy a try."

News of Martelly's win on Monday night was greeted with jubilation and disbelief by Haitians, who both embraced and rejected his presidential bid.

"While Martelly is, indeed, a new leader, the structure of economic power remains the same and the old problems have not disappeared," said Robert Fatton, a Haiti expert at the University of Virginia, who has been following the elections since last year.

"In fact, the key players of yesterday have not vanished. Despite his dramatic eruption, Martelly may well be a case of "old wine in a new bottle,' but time will tell", he added.

Other Haitian observers say that the fact that most of the country's 4.3 million voters sat out the elections cannot be discounted.

They also say the fraud that lawyers inside the Vote Tabulation Centre discovered over the past 14 days, as they scrutinized more than 25,000 presidential tally sheets, is also a major factor.

Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) said it would release the final tally on April 16, after an expected appeal from Manigat is heard. According to the preliminary results, Martelly won by a 2-1 margin.
After the results were announced, Manigat's campaign sent a letter to the justice minister accusing CEP president Gaillot Dorsinvil of seeking to influence the results during a late Sunday night visit to the VTC.
Even with the challenge, Haiti's streets remained free of violence that the international community had feared if Martelly had lost.

Although there had been a perception for weeks that Martelly had won, his campaign was unsure of the outcome, even as advisors put him through governance tutorial courses.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Haiti's Movement from Below Endures

by Jeb Sprague
Aljazeera,, March 27, 2011

Despite those in power trying to keep him out, the return of Aristide to Haiti has rekindled hope among the poor.

As twice ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his family were escorted out from the airport tarmac in Port-au-Prince, loud chants of "Titid, Titid, Titid" rose from an ecstatic gathering that filled every space of a causeway leading out from the airport.

One crowd gathers in support of the former president, Jean-Bertand
Aristide, now returned from exile 
[Photo credit: Wadner Pierre]
Sitting on walls, a few climbing a telephone pole, rows of youth jumped in excitement at the return of Aristide from exile in South Africa – a heroic figure for the people whose history is one indelibly rooted in resistance.

As the gates swung open for two police vehicles, an SUV with dark tinted windows and a white van carrying guests, an airport grounds man with a huge smile on his face clasped the hands of a skinny police officer motioning the cars through.

Heavily armed UN soldiers with sky-blue helmets stood in rows some 30 meters away. The caravan made its way alongside the airport route. In waves, thousands poured in from the slums carrying flags and banners on foot. One man dressed as Jean Jacques Dessalines – the founding leader of Haiti – charged down the street atop a horse, waving the crowd forward. Many were on motorcycles or piled into trucks zooming through the dusty air.

Haiti Abstains

Dan Coughlin | March 22, 2011

Despite a massive UN mobilization, Haitians stayed away from controversial presidential elections in large numbers on March 20, raising serious questions about the legitimacy of the government poised to take power.

“The majority of the Haitian people did not vote in this election because the majority of people stand behind Lavalas,” said Wilnor Moise, a 29-year-old former bus conductor from Cité Soleil, referring to Fanmi Lavalas (FL), the democratic movement of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which was barred from participating in the elections.

Haiti’s disputed parliamentary and presidential poll, culminating in the final round of voting this past Sunday, is key to the future of billions of dollars in pledged earthquake aid and to that of the 14,000-strong UN force that has occupied Haiti since the 2004 coup d’etat that overthrew Aristide and his party.

The banning of progressive parties and the FL from this year’s polls, allegedly because of procedural and technical issues, opened the electoral landscape to two neo-Duvalierist presidential candidates: Mirlande Manigat, 70, the wife (and some say surrogate) of a former right-wing president, and Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, 50, a popular konpa musician.

Martelly appeared to emerge as the victor, although preliminary results won’t be announced until March 31 and final ones on April 16.