The Haitian Conundrum, Perception or Reality?

On Friday March 21st 2014, I had the privilege of watching (for the second time) Mortal Assistance.  It is a documentary directed and produced by our own Raoul Peck and for some reason, seeing it on big screen, with state-of-the-art sound, without interruptions and distractions and hearing the filmmaker’s insight, made a world of difference.

I had a chance to thank him personally for making this film and for giving voice to the Haitian people and their post-earthquake plight.  The confusion that ensued after January 12, 2010 was a reflection of the weakness of the Haitian system matched by the arrogance of perceived superiority by the foreigners.  As Raoul Peck puts it, “everyone wanted a piece of the pie”; and there was a huge pie to be had.  His film is for Haiti, for victims everywhere and for the failure of assistance.  It showed that whenever policies fail, people’s lives are affected and their basic human rights trampled.  You should see it.

How can so much money and so much will to do good turn so badly? That must be the conundrum of the century.  It is the ongoing struggle between what people think is and what actually is.

Speaking of conundrum, I had the opportunity to have a short conversation with a Haitian woman who also attended the showing.  She is a Haitian entrepreneur who wanted to speak of the changes she witnessed during the two years since the film was first aired in 2012.  She feels the cinéaste should think about making another documentary painting the “new reality” showing how “things have changed in the past two years”.

I caught up with her during the little informal post-show gathering.  I was curious.  I was perplexed.  I wanted to know how things have indeed changed in Haiti.  It was important for me to hear it from her.  After all, she is an entrepreneur, an endangered species in Haiti.  I believe that along with education and reformed institutions, the entrepreneur is the key to progress and development in a country where so many need jobs.

So, I asked her.  How have things changed in Haiti since the film first aired in 2012? I braced myself, held my breath, opened my ears and started taking mental notes for the next blog.  My curiosity was only rivaled by my excitement at the prospect of hearing something “life-altering”…

I listened to the entrepreneur and to her perception of the Haitian reality.

Let me first say that she was lovely and kind and genuine.  I could tell that this was a woman whose money and heart were invested in that country and she was a survivor, the kind who would roll up her sleeves and rebuild the business that was, perhaps, destroyed by an earthquake.  I got that.  I also got that the major problem with Haiti is that those who have do not have a clue about the reality of those who struggle.  How is that even possible? In Haiti, where one has the overwhelming sense that cities were kidnapped by overpopulated slums, it is impossible to miss the poverty and the chaos. It is everywhere! In the piles of trash that adorn our crowded sidewalks, in the soiled children making some money cleaning windshields with dirty rags, in the open markets that have claimed most of our streets and in the young men carrying hundreds of pounds of metal on their heads-they will not celebrate 35- (to guarantee today’s meal).  Poverty is an inescapable and conspicuous reality.

So, I asked again.  What has changed? Well, we have two new beautiful hotels in Petion-Ville, some of the squares have been cleared and rebuilt.  A lot of the rubble has been removed.  Some foreign investors are interested in investing in Haiti.  Of course they are! (I said).  I don’t doubt that all business people are always looking for a market.  So, I asked again, more specifically, how has the human condition changed? I was looking for a profound conversation at the end of which both people would walk away satisfied because for 5 minutes they had been enhanced by another fellow human being.  This was not that kind of conversation.

She tried. I was disappointed.  We were speaking oranges and bananas, and unless it is in a carton of juice, those two can never mix.  When I ask, what has changed, I am referring to the number of jobs created, the number of criminals caught and brought to justice, the number of schools built, the square mileage of the areas where new seedlings were planted, the contingency plan to move/shelter people in the event of a hurricane, the new building codes for seismo-resistant structures, the new policies and measures to reform the institutions and the new steps taken to counter institutionalized corruption and curtail unnecessary government expenses…The list is long, longer than the one I’m offering here and, in all fairness, no government with one 5-year term can handle that much work.  Had she picked just one item on that list, I would have left a very happy woman.  As it turned out, progress and change have different meanings for different people.  Ask a woman sitting on the sidewalk selling oranges and bananas (she is more representative of the majority of Haitians) , she will tell you in a minute three things that would make her happy:

1- School for her children

2- More police to catch those criminals who make her life hell

3- Better housing

For another, an entrepreneur, new parks and two hotels are a sign of progress.

Until we take a  long and hard look at how the majority lives, we will never be in a position to enact laws and make policies that will be geared toward progress and development.  We have to look passed the tall manned gates of our comfort to see the reality.  We have to change our perception and give up some of that sense of entitlement.  We cannot change our reality unless we know it.

I will leave you with some statistics of pre and post earthquake Haiti.  I wonder how the victims’ lives have changed in 2014; I’m thinking about those orphaned children.

Cassandra Honorat

cashon1604@hotmail.com

“About 494,600 children under five and 197,840 pregnant and lactating women were affected by the earthquake.

An estimated 302,000 children were displaced to other departments, with an additional 720,000 affected children remaining in their home communities.

Forty percent of the population of Haiti is under 14 years of age; 50 percent of the population is under 18 years of age.

Haiti development statistics (pre-earthquake):

  • 55 percent of Haitians live on less than $1.25 per day.
  • Per capita annual income is $660.
  • 58 percent of children are under-nourished.
  • 58 percent of the population lacks access to clean water.
  • Devastating hurricanes in 2008 affected 800,000 people.
  • Deforestation has left the nation with less than two percent forest cover.

for more info: http://www.lessonsfromhaiti.org/relief-and-recovery/key-statistics/

Haiti: The Post Duvalier Era, from transition to dysfunction

Ask any Haitian if they remember what they were doing on February 7, 1986 and you will get a story.

For me, it is the sad story of missed opportunities.  I remember the euphoria that seized many, both in Haiti and in the Haitian communities abroad.  Even foreigners with very limited knowledge of the island nation had heard of the Duvalier regime, father and son.  The 1980s were an era marked by the fall of dictatorships as were the 1960s a big era of decolonization. For many this was a day to rejoice for others a day to hide, to flee and to fear.  It was the beginning of retaliation, vengeance, “dechoukaj” (widespread ransacking of properties including looting and rioting) and “pe lebrun” (name given to the burning tire, sentence reserved for those who had been collaborators of the regime or had been perceived as such).  The witch hunt began instantly, people were burned alive in the streets with children looking on; homes and businesses were destroyed and some burned to the ground.  The persecuted had become the persecutors, the tortured had been turned into torturers and the army looked passively at the slow descent into hell.  Haiti did not find its Nelson Mandela…We are still waiting.

As a totalitarian government (Duvalier the father)  and later an authoritarian form (Duvalier the son) this regime for nearly 30 years denied basic Human Rights, functioned as a single party system and in essence promoted the implementation of a system based on fear and in which political power did not change hands and neither did the means of  production.   It was a right wing dictatorship supported by the US in exchange for the guarantee that Haiti would not be a breathing ground for Leftist movements.

When the regime fell, the army took over.  The military institution, a remnant of the American occupation of the early 1900s, had been subdued by Francois Duvalier and made the subordinate of the very feared and infamous VSN, “Volontaires de la Securite Nationale” (volunteers for national security) or, as you probably know them, the “tonton makoutes”.  Letting the angry mobs go after the members of that paramilitary corp was essentially payback and would reestablish the Haitian military as the only legitimate arm bearing troops.

In 1986, the demands were great and the expectations were greater.  This country had the arduous task of organizing elections and taking steps to usher in the democratic process.  It was easier said than done.

In the rest of the Western world, the democratic process was not a well defined, well thought of and well organized series of events.  It was rather a case of great economic changes and revolutions in technology, thoughts and education that kept motivating societies that they should take part in the affairs of their countries and should pay close attention to the people they voted into office.  The great economic boom of the post WWII era gave people the standard of living they had not previously enjoyed.  In order to safeguard this new status, they had to elect people whose responsibilities would include promoting peace and stability in order for economic growth to continue.

In the years that followed 1986, Haiti faced great many challenges, among them:

1- A low literacy rate

2-  A high unemployment rate

3- A non existing party system

4- Institutions that were very weak in the knowledge of the democratic process

5- A very large rich-poor gap

6- Millions of people who had been denied basic freedoms and who now perceived any sort of order as a return to dictatorship.

The so-called “Democratic Sector” took the press by storm and established the acceptable language, demeanor and profile of the future Haitian Leaders.  Anyone whose name had been linked to the past 30 years deserved the Guillotine.  There were no exceptions, no attenuating circumstances and no one remembered that thousands of people had worked for the state and the government and had been peaceful law-abiding citizens.  Those were times of extremes and no one realized that they were becoming guilty of the same crimes against which they had fought.

As I said earlier, this is the time I label “missed opportunities”.  In 1986, began a transition that transformed itself into a dysfunctional system where institutions are either very weak or non existing and where violations of Human Rights (perhaps not at the same rate) still go on.  Between 1986 and 2004, there were 6 or 7 coups.  This much sought after democracy remains a dream and 28 years later there has been tremendous growth in population but very little in progress and production.  The unemployment rate remains very high, there are more parties than we care to have, the literacy rate has slightly increased, the institutions are weaker than ever before and the Haitian state, now a ward of the International community, has been under UN tutelage since 2004.

What’s next? This is the billion dollar question.  Is the Haitian society ready and able to move past petty differences to build a just system? I wonder. Before we can ponder the great philosophical questions, bellies have to be full and heads have to be educated.  Investments have to be made and jobs have to be created.  The rural sector(so hardworking and so capable), ignored by every government  needs attention and education in the modern techniques of agriculture in order to produce enough for this growing population’s needs.  History has shown us that it is the economics that have forced nations to redefine their politics.  In Haiti we seem to be more concerned with the political outcome and voters put their hopes and aspirations into incapable and clueless hands of people who,though animated by the best intentions, are always the prisoners  and the victims of a dysfunctional system.

Cassandra Honorat

cashon1604@hotmail.com

Haiti: Rebuilding our Symbols, a Pressing Matter

According to Wikipedia, “A symbol is something that represents an idea, a process, or a physical entity. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning.”  On the other hand, Carl Jung, who studied archetypes, proposed an alternative definition of symbol, distinguishing it from the term sign. In Jung’s view, a sign stands for something known, as a word stands for its referent. He contrasted this with symbol, which he used to stand for something that is unknown and that cannot be made clear or precise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbol

In our lives, as individuals or as communities, symbols play an important part.  We all need a flag, regardless of creed, color, religion or might.  That flag represents and embodies the concept of nation, that  which defines,unites and binds us.  At the Olympic Games or in any other situation, seeing that flag flowing with dignity and majesty gives us a sense of pride almost impossible to describe and almost to strong to bear…Well, at least that’s how I feel when I see my flag.

When the January 12, 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, it left the Departement de l’Ouest (Western Department) devastated and the city of Jacmel in total disarray.  In the capital city of Port-au-Prince the Champ de Mars, which is the center of our Government, was totally destroyed.  What remains, and thank God for that, are the many statues of our Independence heroes; they stood and continue to watch as if to remind us that it will take more than an earthquake to topple them.  I appreciate the symbolism of their survival more than words can express.  As for our buildings, they have all been destroyed.  Our beautiful National Palace was brought to its knees as were all of the other offices that housed the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches.  If we refer back to the above definition of symbol, it would be fair to say that as we stand today, all of the sites, structures and buildings that symbolized our Sovereignty have been erased by that quake.  The government today has to function in temporary shelter or borrowed space.  But, for how long?  If the flag must continue to flow even in the face of danger and tragedy it is because it symbolizes the mere existence of a nation and its right to stand free.

I wonder about the symbolism behind a country without governmental structures; both figuratively and literally.  When our Executive branch continues to function in temporary shelter built on the ruins of the National Palace, are they sending a message that their purpose is transient?  While I do understand that caring for the wounded and providing shelter for those rendered homeless was a priority of priorities, the second urgency on that list should have been rebuilding the Center of Government.  Yes, promises have been made for a new downtown.  Yes…blueprints of a new town are circulating all over the net and yes we are all dreaming of a new Port-au-Prince with gorgeous waterfront properties, free of “bidonvilles” (slums) with well manicured parks.  I am not holding my breath.  The International Community, in whose custody we are  these days (what a shame!), is very skilled at making promises and even more skilled at not keeping them.  The truth remains that rebuilding or building anything or any part of our territory must be first and foremost our responsibility as a free and sovereign people.  We have to sever that hand that keeps reaching out for the smallest handout, it diminishes us and it offends our Forefathers.

The current administration has tremendous challenges to overcome.  They have clearly expressed their desire to do and accomplish great things that will in a foreseeable future change the face of Haiti.  The desire is there and the love of country is certainly there, I do not doubt that.  What lacks, it seems, is a coherent plan of action to turn those desires into accomplishments.

After 1 year in power, it is true that many victims of the earthquake have been relocated; but, too many continue to call the various parks and empty lots their home. As for the Champ de Mars, which still resembles a postwar zone, it is imperative that it be completely free of makeshift shelters and that it be given back its rightful place as the heart of the Government.  The National Palace must once more stand majestic and pure in its white robe while willfully beckoning the stare and the pride of the passerby.  If the purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning, today the Haitian Government is saying that it is scattered, temporary, chaotic and incoherent.  Rebuilding the Center of Government is a pressing matter, one that should have the immediate attention of our decision makers.

Cassandra Honorat

June 17, 2012

What Haitians Want, a Plea for Responsible Leadership

“La patrie est aux lieux ou l’ame est enchainee.” ( Our country is that spot to which our heart is bound)  Voltaire

What do we want? Do we know? And if we know what we want, do we know how to transform those wants into attainable goals? And, if we have goals, how do we reach them?

Before I bore you with unanswered questions, let us backtrack a little and let us define the “who and what”.  The “who” mentioned here is none other than us, all of us, Haitians living in Haiti and abroad; that’s who. Those of us who have stayed home continue to exist in malfunction; I do not accuse, I simply observe.  I see overcrowded slums where the business of choice for many is the life of crime, millions of children with very little hope for a better tomorrow, a middle class in full flight investing all existing resources to get the hell  out of there.  I see piles of garbage adorning the streets of the capital that turn into a river at the first sight of rain.  I see despair in the faces that dare to laugh still.  I see hardworking  parents doing their best to guarantee a better future, they are an endangered species.  I see MINUSTAH soldiers lazing around, earning big bucks for very little accomplished.  I see the few rich hiding behind tall gates too afraid to react, to disconnected to care.

There is yet another “Us”, those who have left and who are abroad.  We are everywhere but mostly in North America, the Caribbean and France.  We work hard and most of us do the utmost to benefit fully from what we find elsewhere…opportunities; we hardly had any of those back home.  The truth is, most Haitians abroad have a tough life, not as tough as the one they left, but tough nonetheless.  Here in the US, the vast majority of Haitians are employed in custodial jobs in hotels, restaurants, airports and hospitals.  They break their backs (literally) to take care of their families both here and in the mother land.  Oh yes! Those precious remittances, without them many back home would have already perished.  It has been reported that the yearly amount sent home by Haitians living abroad is greater than all of the aid Haiti receives in a given year.

The “what”, is what we all hold dear, what we share and what defines us, sustains us and distinguishes us.  We are indeed proud of a glorious past, we hold on to our historical legacy and we do not hesitate to clamor, at the very first sight of provocation, that we are the First Free Black Republic in the World.  Indeed!  History…so far and sometimes so pointless.  We hold on to it because that is all we have; we refer back to it because within it lie our only reasons to be proud.  There is another “what”, what we have become…A broken nation and a devastated ecology, a dysfunctional state unable to perform the most routine of tasks, corrupt governments after corrupt governments all remain oblivious to the obvious chaos: we are a civilization in danger of extinction.  WHAT DO WE WANT?! 

Ask any Haitian, here or there, ask them and they will all tell you the same tale.  We want safe streets and electricity around the clock.  We want schools for our children and we want jobs.  We know what we want, that is easy, all we have to do is look at what we do not have.  People are endowed with unalienable rights no matter their color, creed or culture.  Human beings want pretty much the same thing; the possibility to develop and acquire wealth and the proper environment to grow and prosper.  When for centuries, the means of production and all their benefits have been monopolized by the same group, it ensues a distortion so profound that the very core of society is broken and bent, sometimes beyond repair.

If our goals are basic, how to attain them is quite complicated because it involves shaking and dismantling a system and a way of life.  How do we topple a system when those who benefit from it hold on to the reigns with all their power and might?  Is it an impossible task?  I have hope but we must begin somewhere and we must begin soon.  The earthquake of 2010 taught us one valuable lesson, in the face of tragedy we can come together regardless of social position or lack there of.  Those pieces of concrete did not discriminate on the basis of color, gender or wealth, they struck mercilessly and took hundreds of thousands of our precious lives.

Well, Haiti today is a tragedy, and it commands our unity for a common purpose.  The time to act is now in order for future generations to have better than what we have.  In the history of every people, there are times for struggle and chaos, there are times for building and there are times for prosperity.  We have done and redone struggle and chaos, we have perfected the art of destroying one another; perhaps it is time to think about nation building which is inextricably linked with establishing the rule of law and educating the youth.  Let us then begin with the arduous task of finding responsible leadership that will make space for competence, knowledge and integrity which will lead to effective and efficient policy-making.  I believe it is possible.

Cassandra Honorat

April 30, 2012

cashon1604@hotmail.com

Haiti: The Senate Vs President Martelly

In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, two wrongs make a right.  Yesterday, amidst the usual rumor ridden atmosphere, that has characterized Haitian politics for a long time, President Martelly announced a press conference for 4pm.  He would be accompanied, we were told, by members of the Diplomatic Corp, among them, possibly the American ambassador to Haiti and the Papal Nuncio.  The purpose of this was to, once in for all, bring light to the controversies around the president’s alleged dual citizenship.  Shortly before, three senators, Buissereth, Lambert and Latortue, now die-hard fans of President Martelly, earned their own little place in the spotlight by announcing that they had resigned from the Senate Committee in charge of the investigation.  In his interview, Senator Lambert predicted a “kouri” (creole word for panic) in the hours that followed.  Needless to say that, after the small earthquake of the previous night, the population with nerves already weakened indeed fell prey to the “panic” and in a matter of seconds the capital had been turned into a state of uncontrollable frenzy.  It appears that reason and logic continue to evade us as a society and we still desperately await the leadership that will bring on real change.

If the accusations of Senator Moise Jean-Charles provoked a senate investigation, the way   it was handled is at best embarrassing.  The committee did not proceed with professionalism, gave in to propaganda, casually accepted any evidence, did not distance itself from manipulation nor did it denounce the attempt to bring into this prestigious body a falsified document.  As a result, many were inclined to dismissing these allegations; others still wanted the president to end the folly and to put all questions to rest.  That press conference could have been a God sent, though a little late, would have still been welcomed by those who have Haiti’s interests at heart and who are eager to see all branches of Government really hard at work to bring about much-needed change.

The substance that was missing from the Senate investigation, should have come from the Presidency.  Instead, we were graced yesterday, circa 4:30pm, with a performance the likes of which can easily be seen, on any given, day in a Broadway production.  President Martelly, with the Prime Minister nominee on his right, his former Minister of Interior on his left and surrounded by members of the “Religion pour la Paix” (Religion for Peace), put on a show.  He flashed a total of eight (8) Haitian passports as proof of his citizenship and informed that on May 2nd 2011, he had returned his American Green Card in exchange for a tourist visa.  The shock came when the American ambassador, Mr. Kenneth Merten, stood up to proclaim before the press and the world that Michel Joseph Martelly was a Haitian citizen.  We understand that Haiti is under UN occupation, we get it; and although President Martelly claims that the ambassadors are there to “help and assist” Haiti, we know that representatives of the international community are there to serve and protect the interests of the countries they represent.  But we digress; if President Martelly wanted to put this matter to rest, why did he not use a Haitian institution to do so?  What is the role of the Haitian Office of Immigration?  Why couldn’t the director of that said entity, vouch before the Senate with supporting documents in hand that Mr. Michel Joseph Martelly was indeed a Haitian citizen who had never renounced his Haitian citizenship?  Mr. Kenneth Merten is only able to speak on behalf of American citizens, he does not have the legal authority to declare anyone a Haitian citizen.

By involving the American Ambassador to Haiti, President Martelly is contributing to weakening the very institutions he has sworn to protect and he is declaring before the world that the institutions of his own country are not good enough; in so doing, he has set a very dangerous precedent.  President Martelly took his oath of office before the Senate, obtained ratification of Dr. Gary Conille from that body and is hoping that his actual Prime Minister nominee receive approval from that same institution.  However, he has so very little respect for them that he did not deem it necessary to submit to them the documents that would establish his Haitian citizenship.  He chose to give a performance made in Hollywood and publicly made a mockery of a procedure that should have been handled with the utmost level of professionalism.

Now the Haitian citizenry awaits.  We are all eager to hear from the Senate Committee in charge of the investigation.  They found that three members of the cabinet indeed are foreign nationals and their names were released to the press.  Today, they owe us an explanation in the case of the alleged dual citizenship of the Haitian President.  They will certainly owe us an apology for having proceeded with such maladdress.  They and President Martelly, after all, have to answer to those who have voted them into office; that is, if we hope to ever build this democracy in the name of which we commit such blunders.

Haiti is a minor child, abandoned by his parents, who now is the ward of the international community with the United States of America as the powerful Godfather.  For those who ever doubted, yesterday’s play was designed to dispel the ambiguity.  If those who have sworn to uphold the Law have no respect for it, how can we ever hope to move from dysfunctionality to functionality and eventually to efficiency?  We do not pretend to have the answer to this conundrum; but, it is evident that as a society we desperately lack the drive, the motivation, the commitment and the will to initiate gradual change toward building a just and law-abiding society.  We hope one day for a new generation of Haitian men and women who will have the level of education necessary for the implementation of the democratic process and who will have the foresight to elect in office those men and women who will have the very delicate task of protecting all democratic ideals.  Today we have before us a classical case of a dream deferred but never lost.  Haiti will survive.

Cassandra Honorat

March 9, 2012

Haiti: A Case of Irresponsible Leadership

Nationality:

When Senator Moise Jean-Charles told the press that President Martelly was not a Haitian citizen, a gasp of astonishment could have been heard from Haitians everywhere.  What! The president is allegedly holding multiple nationalities, reportedly Italian and American.  Now, coming from Senator Jean-Charles, accusations are no surprises.  He’s accused the current administration of careless spending, violations of Human Rights and even of secretly plotting the creation of a Militia called the “Milice Rose”.  He feels this is his job as a member of the opposition to contribute to destabilizing the current administration by every means necessary.  It is clear that he has a very limited understanding of what the Opposition should do.

A couple of weeks after the allegations of the senator, the Senate convened a formal meeting at the end of which a committee was formed and an investigation ordered.  We could only conclude that the Senate, in all its Majesty, had enough substantial evidence to warrant an investigation that would not stop at the head of state but would reach deep into the many folds of his Cabinet, or so we thought.  A passport bearing a photograph of President Martelly was submitted and has been circulating on the net.  A letter was released by the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince: “the passport presented has nothing to do with President Martelly and the embassy will never release any personal information on US citizens (what!); this would be a violation of privacy laws”.  It was later reported that the said passport may belong to a Haitian-American woman who had lost her documents in 2010 while visiting Haiti during which trip she and her husband had been the victims of kidnapping.

In the meantime, in the midst of the “investigation”, the Haitian Office of Immigration decided to set archived files on fire.  Among the burned victims, a countless number of boarding cards, filled by all persons en route to Haiti.  On it, pertinent information such as length of stay, purpose of visit and (oh yes!) nationality.  The director of Immigration who was heard in the Senate claimed that every 3 years such “old and useless” documents had to be burned and the incineration usually took place before two Justices of the Peace who, we assume, write a report.

If the Senate wants to retain a shred of dignity, if its distinguished members want to display the level of leadership this country needs, they should dismiss this case for lack of evidence or they should produce, and fast, credible evidence to back the accusations.  For now, we retain the right to classify this investigation as bogus and a waste of valuable time and energy that need to be spent in a more productive manner.

The Audit:

Dr. Gary Conille, now former Prime Minister of Haiti, took office about 5 months ago and resigned on Monday February the 20th.  One of his major undertaking during his short administration was to set in motion a series of reforms and new measures that would in time be instrumental in strengthening the State by promoting much-needed transparency and accountability.  What could be wrong with that? In a country where the status quo is constantly at war with progress and the rule of law, Dr. Conille’s agenda may have angered more than one.  He ordered an audit of the administration of his predecessor Jean-Max Bellerive who is allegedly a current adviser to President Martelly.  Reportedly, contracts were signed with extremely lenient terms and conditions for the Dominican companies, and to the detriment of Haiti.  Furthermore, some claim that kickbacks from these deals were used to finance President Martelly’s campaign.  Oh boy!

For further details please refer to the following article: http://www.prlog.org/11807971-scandal-and-corruption-threatens-political-stability-on-both-sides-of-haiti.html (article in English)

The Prime Minister:

Today, Haiti is plunged in yet another crisis.  It has become a system.  Another Prime Minister has to be chosen by President Martelly and approved by Parliament.  The Constitution stipulates that if there is no party holding majority in Parliament, the president after consulting the Presidents of both Chambers chooses a Prime Minister.  Contrary to Constitutional provisions, President Martelly submitted three names to the attention of Parliament. He has since chosen among the three names his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Laurent Lamothe.

In the meantime, Senator Wesner Polycarpe has submitted a project to the Senate.  If adopted, the Senate will cease all forms of consulting and dialogue with the president until he bends to the following demands:

1-  The president must truly commit to respecting the Constitution of 1987

2- Disarm and prosecute all paramilitary groups

3- Publish the electoral calendar

4- Publish and promulgate the most recent constitutional amendments

oh yes, last but not least

5- Provide all clarification concerning certain obscure points in contracts awarded by the administration of Jean-Max Bellerive and brought to light by the audit ordered by former Prime Minister Conille.

For further details please refer to the following article http://www.lenouvelliste.com/article.php?PubID=1&ArticleID=102947&PubDate=2012-02-29  (article in French)

Some have argued, and I am one of them, that President Martelly should have long ago stopped the madness surrounding his alleged dual citizenship.  After all, to display responsible leadership is to avoid unnecessary conflicts and to offer, when needed, top-notch leadership skills to resolve ASAP any issues that may  potentially destabilize the state.  A lesson President Martelly has yet to learn.  He is willfully contentious,  has shown  disrespect for the rule of law and has a penchant for propaganda.  That being said, it doesn’t mean that the last 8 months in office have been a total waste.  No, not at all.  Hundreds of families victims of the 2010 earthquake have been relocated, some even got new houses and are now proud home owners in a country where access to credit is denied to most.  This is certainly a step in the right direction.  Furthermore, President Martelly has made it a point to meet former Haitian heads of state who, for the first time in our history, find themselves all living in Haiti.  It is an important gesture of good faith toward a possible national reconciliation if we are ever to have one.

Eight months in office, it would be safe to say that all is not lost for the current administration.  But certain important adjustments have to be made if the remainder of their term in office is to be an improvement of the last months. All hope that the current administration has yet the ability to muster up the courage to put Haiti first and ahead of their own petty interests.  Some remain optimist, most are tired of waiting and continue to be frustrated and discouraged with governments that can never deliver.  President Martelly’s campaign slogan of choice was “change”.  We are still waiting for this Haiti they claim is “open for business”.  The lack of support shown to Dr. Conille on his quest for accountability and transparency, denotes a propensity for “business as usual”.  As I hum the very enthralling tune “dekole” (take-off), that was the musical theme for the 2012 Carnaval, one cannot help but come to the sad realisation that Haiti’s take-off is not for tomorrow.

Cassandra Honorat

March 1st 2012

UN (MINUSTAH) Pakistani Soldiers Rape 13 Year Old Haitian Boy in Gonaives

It happened again! This time, in the Département de l’Artibonite in the city of Gonaives.  The victim, 13-year-old Roudy Jean; the pedophiles, three Pakistani UN soldiers.  The MINUSTAH, for those who are unaware, is the Mission of the United Nations to Stabilize Haiti.  They have been there since 2004 and they arrived shortly after former president Aristide was whisked away in an American airplane en route to South Africa.  Yes, the MINUSTAH…powerful multinational deployment comprised of nearly 40 different countries represented by their military units.  Each with a mission, carefully written down and drafted with the utmost care.  What goes on in Haiti is a different story and has very little to do with what is on paper.

Late in January 2012, in Gonaives, at around 8:00 Pm, in a van parked near the Place d’Armes des Gonaives (symbol of our Independence), 13-year-old Roudy Jean was raped by three (3) Pakistani soldiers.  That vile act was witnessed by 3 of Roudy’s friends who happened to be looking for him that night.  Roudy, nicknamed Ti Tet (small head) is a victim of choice for those soldiers; not only is his family very poor but he suffers from some type of developmental delay.  It appears that this rape was not the first one; the Pakistanis would give him either money or food to bring home every time they forced themselves on him; reportedly this ignominy happened 6 or 7 times.  This time, unbeknownst to them, there were three witnesses who went to the local Police and told the story.

When the  commander of the Pakistani unit found out the story had reached local authorities, he and a Haitian accomplice (who is now in jail) kidnapped Roudy Jean and took him to Cap-Haitien to another MINUSTAH unit where he was asked to be kept until February 27th.  The Gonaives head of Police acted quickly and was able to locate the Haitian accomplice who confessed and Roudy was brought back from Cap-Haitien two days later and was seen by doctors.  The medical report confirmed that the 13-year-old had been repeatedly raped and was suffering from multiple lesions and bruises in the anal area.  Kudos to Senator Youri Latortue who was in Gonaives to assist and witness the investigation; these details I have, come from the Police and Medical reports which he shared with the population during a live interview on Vision 2000 (Haitian radio) this morning.

What are Haitian authorities going to do?  According to Senator Latortue, this is the 12th (reported) case of rape by MINUSTAH soldiers.  Not one soldier has been prosecuted to date; in a similar case in Cap-Haitien couple of years ago, the UN Secretary General refused to lift the immunity of the criminals.  Senator Latortue hopes for a different outcome, he feels that this case is stronger because of the many witnesses.  The Haitian Senate is going to officially request that the immunity of the Pakistani soldiers be lifted by the Secretary General.

We Haitians have to raise a very loud voice to denounce these crimes. Our children who are already prey to kidnapping and poverty have to contend with one more dangerous predator…the MINUSTAH.  This is certainly not limited to the Pakistani unit; Uruguayan, Peruvian and Brazilian units have all been involved in similar cases.  Why is it that the Cap-Haitien unit agreed to keep this 13-year-old boy, a minor, without his parents/guardians consent?  In so doing, they involved the entire organization.  Senator Latortue asks (and so do I) whether there is within the MINUSTAH an understanding to hide and conceal such occurrences.

Haiti is a small economy, 2/3 of the population is living with less than $2 per day because most citizens don’t have a stable income.  The middle class is small and most children do not have access to basic healthcare and education.  This is how we are seen by the International community which has decided that the best thing is to turn an entire nation into a charity case.  We see ourselves differently, we are the proud descendants of slaves who won their independence in blood.  We sponsored and financed freedom wars throughout the Americas, we have a beautiful culture…We have tripped but we’ve not fallen, we have dignity and we deserve respect.

It is inconceivable that such things continue to happen and it is a shame that the UN continues to dismiss those cases as unimportant in order to save their reputation.  Roudy Jean is the proof that we have not taken care of our children, we Haitians have not worked hard enough to empower the less fortunate.  It is our responsibility as Haitians to not let these rapes and other crimes go unnoticed.  The International Community will not rebuild Haiti, the MINUSTAH will not protect Haiti, NGOs will not promote development….Those are things we Haitians must do if we ever hope to reclaim this land as ours.  “Ki yes kap di ou mo pou Roudy Jean”?

Cassandra Honorat

February 6 2012