Sunday, December 28, 2014

The un-revolutionary mending of US-Cuba relations


David Roberts

By David Roberts


The recently announced thaw in US-Cuba relations is a boon to all Latin America and to the region's ties with Washington. The issue of US sanctions against Cuba has dogged relations between Latin America and the US for decades, with even the more liberal, pro-market countries in the region calling for the embargo to be lifted.

Some have speculated that Venezuela, Cuba's closest ally in the region, will now be isolated as Havana looks more to the US, leaving Caracas as something of a lone wolf in its ranting and raving against Washington. That appears to be wishful thinking. Cuba and the US are not suddenly going to become the best of chums.

The decision to restore full diplomatic ties and loosen the economic and travel restrictions (including the ability of US citizens to travel to Cuba, a restriction that smacks of a totalitarian state) is highly significant, even historic as Barack Obama put it. But major change is not going to come overnight, and the likes of McDonalds and Starbucks are not suddenly going to pop up in Havana and Santiago de Cuba.

For a start, the US already has a large diplomatic mission in the Cuban capital, and economic restrictions have been partially lifted in recent years, while Cuba itself has been undergoing a process of gradual and very partial economic liberalization. What is more, to end the embargo altogether will require the approval of the US congress, where the Republicans will now control both houses and will surely not vote in favor.

But the hope and expectation is that, as relations improve during the last two years of the Obama administration, support for the embargo will fade with the benefits of closer political and economic ties becoming evident, and whoever succeeds him will have the backing to end the patently ineffective embargo. That, in turn, would mean the Cuban regime would no longer have an excuse – as the embargo has been for the last 50 years – for stifling democratic change and using it as a scapegoat (with some justification) for the country's economic woes.

At the same time, scrapping the embargo would be good for business in the US and elsewhere – given the dire economic straits that Cuba's oil benefactor Venezuela is in, and with crude prices in freefall, shouldn't US companies help Cuba develop its own hydrocarbon resources?

Finally, and almost as an aside, a big unknown in all this is the role of Fidel Castro. Did he approve of the secret talks with Washington and the agreement between his brother Raúl and Obama? Was he involved in the process? Could the agreement have been reached if he were still in charge? We've heard nothing from Fidel so far.

Whatever the case, many have said that real change could not happen in Cuba while the Castro brothers are still alive. It seems those people could, thankfully, be proved wrong, and that would be of benefit to the whole of the Americas.

December 23, 2014

BNAmericas

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bocchit Edmond, Haitian Abassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS) ...expresses concerns about xenophobia and mistreatment of Haitians in The Bahamas

Xenophobia In The Bahamas: Haitian Ambassador Addresses Fred Mitchell



By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
rrolle@tribunemedia.net
Nassau, The Bahamas



THE Haitian ambassador to the Organisation of American States raised concerns yesterday about xenophobia and mistreatment of Haitians in the Bahamas during a special OAS sitting in Washington, DC.

Addressing Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell, Ambassador Bocchit Edmond called on the Bahamas government to consider launching a public campaign designed to underscore the notion that “verbal abuse” of Haitians is “unfair and unjust”.

Mr Edmond frequently emphasised that he did not wish to “cast aspersions” on the decisions of the Bahamian government, but he nonetheless raised several concerns about the policy measures this country has taken to deal with illegal immigration.

In his response, Mr Mitchell rejected suggestions of widespread abuse of Haitians and noted that the Bahamas government does not sanction discrimination.

“...I would like to raise the concern of my government as to the verbal abuse to which Haitian immigrants have been exposed in the Bahamas,” Mr Edmond said. “As you may know, sir, there are many great Haitians presently in the Bahamas, but that indeed have been in line with the immigration requirements for years…and yet too many of them are victims of certain abuse and denigrating (remarks) and I should go as far as to say frankly rankly discriminating behaviour simply because they are Haitians.”

“Then there are black Bahamians who are summarily interpreted as being Haitian and who have been subjected to the same treatment for that reason. I would very much hope that your government would take under advisement to launch a campaign of information of some kind to really underscore the fact that this is unfair and unjust. I believe the vast majority of Bahamian citizens are very good, but when I read the press or have seen a couple of video clips on the Internet or heard and read for myself a number of these statements that have been made, I have to say these are frankly inflammatory and cannot fail but to stir up feelings that are not conducive to peaceful coexistence.

“So I would implore you, sir, to, I won’t say so much to educate, but to inform, to make it clear the measures are being taken, measures in the public domain, measures that I have stated from the outset are absolutely in the purview of Bahamian sovereign decisions, but we also know that the Bahamas as do we all has the obligation to respect basic human rights.”

In his response, Mr Mitchell said much of what is represented in the press about the treatment of Haitians in the Bahamas is false.

“To speak for a moment about the question of prejudice and discrimination and what is said in the press and social media,” he said, “part of the reason we are here is because of the misinformation that was spun either in the press or social media about what this is. The government of the country is not responsible for what is in the press or what the people say in the press, although it might in fact reflect in some instances what public opinion is. But I think every Bahamian understands the nature of prejudice and bigotry and discrimination and certainly the government does not sanction any of these things and I want to separate myself from any effort which is suggesting that one ought to discriminate against any national group. This is a generic policy not expressed in terms of any national group.”

Nonetheless, Mr Mitchell acknowledged that many Bahamians are frustrated with the country’s illegal immigration problem and with having to absorb “hundreds and thousands” of illegal migrants.

“Our prime minister, when he speaks, often recounts a story of the first black member of parliament (who) was in fact a man named Stephen Dillet who was born in Haiti, came with his mother after the revolution as a child,” he said. “Our governor general who just retired, Sir Arthur Foulkes, his mother was Haitian. Haitians and people of Haitian descent are integrated in the country. And my view is that what you are seeing, you say expressed in the press, does not represent the majority view in our country. What is of concern to a small country is the question of can you continue to absorb hundreds and thousands of illegal migrants coming into a country undocumented knowing what your obligations are in the international arena for the security of your border and also for the future identity and safety of your own state. That is simply unsustainable and so we have an obligation, both internationally and within our own domestic borders to our own population to ensure, not that migrant stops, but that those who come to the Bahamas are properly documented to be in the Bahamas and come through the front door and not through the back door. That is what this is aimed at correcting.”

December 17, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Elections on hold in Haiti: Stability versus democracy


By Clement Doleac
Research Associate for the Council On Hemispheric Affairs:


Democracy in Haiti is again at risk, as a fierce political battle has erupted, preventing the scheduling of new elections. The United Nations (UN), the Organization of American States (OAS), along with the US and French governments have all called for the adoption of a new electoral law, which would allow the elections to go forward. However, given the deeply flawed nature of the present Haitian political system, it is far from clear if just holding elections will accomplish much.

An Unsettled Past


Haiti’s political landscape is today comprised of poorly-organized and highly fluid coalitions of parties, a situation which grows out of the troubled nation’s tumultuous recent history. François “Papa Doc” Duvalier was democratically elected – after a fashion – in 1957, although he quickly came to believe that he was indispensable, declaring himself president for life. He delivered on this threat, ruling as a cruel and paranoid dictator until his death in 1971.

With the passing of Papa Doc power fell to his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who continued his father’s authoritarian regime. Opposition gathered and in 1986, Jean-Claude was finally forced to flee Haiti, one step ahead of an armed revolt against his repressive dictatorship.

In the years since 1986, democratically elected presidents have governed Haiti, most notably the charismatic Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991, 1995-1996, and 2001-2004) and today the talented and handsome singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly (2011-present).

Haiti’s Jumbled Party System

However all is not well in the Haitian democracy, where anarchy reigns in the nation’s fragmented political system. A bewildering array of parties are presently represented in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

Overall, a total of 18 parties are represented in the Chamber of Deputies and seven in the Senate. Because of their small size, most Haitian political parties tend to organize themselves into loose political groupings to build electoral alliances. For example, Inité (Unity), which dominates the current composition of Congress, was formed as a political grouping of several smaller parties to support former president René Préval.

The report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) correctly sums up the chaotic situation. The lack of “ideolog[ical] […] clarity leaves citizens unable […] to choose between clearly defined platforms” in this fragmented political landscape. “Over 100 parties and groups have produced the 5,000 signatures required for registration,” the report continues, and yet for all this diffusion of political input, actual power rests in the hands of only a few well-positioned party leaders. As it stands, the Haitian political parties fail at the most basic tasks, failing to articulate institutionalized policies and to effectively reach out to the citizens.

Citizenship Skepticism

The weak democratic institutions and the power vacuum provoked by the 2004 crisis led to the absence of strong parties. The ICG report stated that charismatic personalities and “shallow politicians are unfortunately filling this vacuum”. Rather than holding politicians accountable for not addressing Haiti’s economic and social troubles, these personalities have removed citizens from decision-making, who in turn have rendered public policy suspect because of a lack of confidence in the democratic system.

This political skepticism, as the myriad of small parties who have little organization, inconspicuous ideologies, and murky proposals consequently created a moldable alliance system and indecipherable political game. However, there are some stable identifiable structures in recent Haitian political history.

For example, former President Préval’s platform Inité (Unity, formerly referred to as Lespwa, Hope) counting with a majority in the Senate and partly representing the Fanmi Lavalas tendency (from former elected President Aristide); and the Convention of political parties which brings together 12 political parties and represents the Fanmi Lavalas political group.

Another notable party includes the Mouvement de l’Opposition Démocratique (“Democratic Opposition Movement,” MOPOD), an opposition platform led by Mirlande Manigat, former ex-first lady before 2011 and the unfortunate candidate for the 2011 elections.

To most Haitian citizens, politics seem to be little more than an unseemly scramble by opportunistic charlatans fighting over the spoils of office. To most people, their elected political officials seem to be utterly devoid of any guiding principal, faithlessly switching allegiances overnight, and accepting alliances with the very leaders they so convincingly denounced just the day before. The political effect of this is to remove ordinary voters from the decision-making process. Given the endlessly shifting positions of all politicians, no one have any real idea about what they might be voting for.

It is within this context that the long overdue elections for the Chamber of Deputies and a third of the Senate, along with local and municipal elections, were supposed to take place this year. Initially scheduled for 2012, then 2013, and finally October 26, 2014, the elections have now been delayed once again, this time indefinitely. It is anyone’s guess when, or if they might be held at all.

President Martelly’s Pressure Led to a Legislative Blockage

On September 24, the Haitian Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe, tried to resolve the situation, promising that “we will continue working to ensure that the elections take place as soon as possible. There … [has been a pending] law in Parliament for more than 185 days,” Prime Minister Lamothe explained, “[but it is] awaiting ratification by the Senate, where there are six […] extremists who [are] block[ing] the vote, so that the elections are not [being] held.”

The six senators are from the opposition grouping, mostly from Inite such as Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aimé (elected in the department of the North-East), Jean-Charles Moïse (elected in the department of the North), Francky Exius (elected in the department of the South), John Joël Joseph (elected in the department of the West), Westner Polycarpe (from Altenativ party and elected in the department of the North), and Jean William Jeanty (from Konba party, elected in the department of Nippes).

In the opinion of this so-called “G-6” (group of six), the presidential draft of the Electoral Law was adopted without any respect for the Constitution or the legislative process. Legislators previously proposed a first draft in 2011, but it was never ratified by President Martelly. The G-6 criticize the way the executive power by decree imposed the members of the Conseil Electoral Provisoire (Provisional Electoral Council, CEP) to be in charge of ruling the electoral process.

As The Miami Herald pointed out, “[i]n addition to the senators, several large political parties in Haiti are also opposed to the agreement and were not part of the negotiations [the so-called El Rancho Accord]. In addition to raising constitutional issues, Martelly’s opponents have also raised questions about the formation of the CEP tasked with organizing the vote”. Many feel that it is currently being controlled by the President.”

International Support to an Authoritarian Electoral Process

The Permanent Council of the OAS, weighing in on the matter, blandly and predictably called for the prompt carrying out of the overdue elections. The Permanent Council expressed its, “deep concern for the lack of progress in the electoral process” in Haiti, and urged all political stakeholders to continue dialogue and to fulfill their obligations under the Constitution. The OAS depicted the six senators as the culprits in the electoral hold up.

“The Draft Electoral Act, an essential tool for organizing these elections,” the OAS noted, “was passed on April 1 2014 by Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies and immediately transmitted to the Senate for its consideration and approval.” However, the OAS, pointed out, “no action has been taken by the Senate” on this matter. Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, has echoed this outlook, noting with dismay that “a group of six senators seems intent on holding elections hostage to partisan concerns, even going so far as to prevent a debate on the electoral law.”

However, Mirlande Manigat, Haitian constitutional scholar and runner up in the 2011 presidential elections, blames President Martelly: “for three years, he refused to call elections,” she said. “A large part of this is his fault,” she added, “[and it is therefore] unfair to accuse the six senators for the crisis.”

Last year, Sandra Honoré, the head of the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), explained what caused the G-6 senators to unite: “Despite the executive branch’s repeated public statements in favor of holding the elections as soon as possible […] [it] had intentionally delayed the process to ensure that Parliament would become non-functional.”

Despite this, problems are much deeper regarding political governance in Haiti. The principal opposition party, Fanmi Lavalas, was not allowed to participate in past presidential elections for questionable reasons, which later led to a boycott of legislative elections. Besides the boycott, some political actors of Fanmi Lavalas ran in the last electoral race and got elected thanks to the Lespwa political platform (and joined Inite), and represent now four senators of six who oppose the actual draft of the Electoral Law.

Even with no official representation in the official bodies of the State, Fanmi Lavalas is one of the strongest platforms in the country and should be able to participate in the electoral process. The CEP should also have the support of every political party in the country, in order to avoid future electoral disputes.

Why Hold a Flawed Election?

The Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) concluded last month how the United States and other countries involved in Haiti, having done no more than making speeches each year calling for fair elections, “are now willing to accept any sort of election”, even at the cost of violating the Constitution. One of the ICG’s principle recommendations in their February 2013 report was for Haiti to seek “to develop and promote more genuinely representative, better-structured parties capable of formulating and sustaining substantive platforms and playing a more effective role in the country’s development.”

Only this, the ICG stated, would allow Haiti to achieve “truly inclusive and competitive elections.” This seems accurate. Certainly Haiti needs to hold elections, but after the fiasco in2010, with massive fraud and less than a quarter of potential voters bothering to cast ballots, it is highly doubtful that simply holding an election will resolve the long-term problems of Haitian political life. It may be impossible to have democracy without elections, but, as Haiti is proving, it is all together possible to have elections and still not have anything close to resembling democracy. What Haiti needs is a real democracy, and elections alone will not accomplish that.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, visit www.coha.org or email coha@coha.org

December 11, 2014

Caribbeannewsnow 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

CARICOM-CUBA SUMMIT: Toward the indispensable political, economic and social integration of Latin America and the Caribbean

• Key remarks by President Raúl Castro opening the Fifth CARICOM-Cuba Summit in Havana, December 8, 2014




Honourable Gaston Alphonse Brown, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and Chairman of CARICOM;
 
Honourable Heads of State or Government of CARICOM member countries;
 
His Excellency Irwin Larocque, Secretary General of CARICOM;
 
His Excellency Mr Didacus Jules, Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States; 
 
His Excellency Mr Alfonso Múnera Cavadía, Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States;
 
Allow me to extend a warm welcome and to wish you all a pleasant stay in our country.
 
It gives us great pleasure to receive here the leaders and representatives of the Caribbean family. We share a common history of slavery, colonialism and struggles for freedom, independence and development, which is the melting pot where our cultures have merged. We also face similar challenges that can only be met through close unity and efficient cooperation.



Photo: Juvenal Balán
 

Such is the meaning and purpose of these summits held every three years, and aimed at fostering and strengthening our fraternal engagement in cooperation, solidarity and coordination to move towards the necessary Latin American and Caribbean integration; a dream of the forefathers of our independence deferred for more than 200 years, and which is today crucial to our survival.
 
The successful evolution of CARICOM, the involvement of all its member states and Cuba with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) as well as the participation of some of us in the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA-TCP) and Petrocarib have helped to advance regional integration, and we should continue working for its consolidation.
 
Esteemed Heads of State or Government;
 
Guests;
 
Every year on this day we celebrate the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba by the first four nations of the Caribbean Community to accede to independence.
 
As comrade Fidel Castro Ruz stated at the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of that seminal event, “Probably, the leaders of these countries, also considered the founding fathers of the independence of their nations and of Caribbean integration, –Errol Barrow from Barbados, Forbes Burnham from Guyana, Michael Manley from Jamaica and Eric Williams from Trinidad and Tobago—realised that their decision to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba was paving the way for the future foreign policy of the Caribbean Community, which to this day stands on three major pillars: independence, courage and concerted action.” This statement remains fully valid.
 
Forty-two years after that brave decision, we take pride in our excellent relations with every country in the Caribbean, and keep diplomatic missions in every capital. And you also have diplomatic missions in Havana; the most recent from St. Kits and Nevis was officially opened last June 25th with our dear friend the Very Honourable Prime Minister Denzil Douglas in attendance.
 
This moment seems fit to reaffirm that despite our economic difficulties, and the changes undertaken to upgrade our socioeconomic system, we will honour our pledge to cooperate and share our modest achievements with our sister nations in the Caribbean.
 
Currently, we have 1,806 collaborators working in the CARICOM countries, 1,461 of them in the area of healthcare. Likewise, 4,991 Caribbean youths have graduated in Cuba while 1,055 remain studying in the Island.
 
Additionally, we are cooperating with the Caribbean, and shall continue to do so, in preventing and fighting the Ebola pandemic. This we are doing bilaterally as well as in the framework of ALBA and CELAC, with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).
 
The experts’ meeting held in Havana at the end of October brought together specialists from the entire hemisphere, including representatives of non-independent Caribbean states. In the past few weeks, 61 officials, physicians, experts in healthcare and other areas from CARICOMN countries have been training in Cuba. On the other hand, we are answering the request of nine CARICOM States to provide Cuban assistance in training their countries’ medical staff.
 
As small island states and developing nations we are facing the challenge of surviving and making progress in a world shaken by a global economic crisis manifested in the financial and energy sectors, the environment and the food sector, deadly diseases and war conflicts. Today, I want to reiterate Cuba’s unwavering decision to support, under any circumstances, the right of the small and vulnerable countries to be accorded a special and differential treatment in terms of access to trade and investments. 
 
The challenges of the 21st century are forcing us to unite in order to face together the effects of climate change and natural disasters, to coordinate our approach to the post-2015 development agenda, and particularly, to tackle together the domination mechanisms imposed by the unfair international financial system.
 
We join our voice to those of the Caribbean Community in demanding the immediate removal of our nations from unilateral lists that jeopardize our economic development and commercial exchanges with other countries.
 
Special attention is warranted by cooperation in confronting the effects of climate change. The rise of the sea level is threatening the very existence of many of our countries. The more frequent hurricanes, intensive rains and other phenomena are causing huge economic and human damages. We are left with no choice but to reinforce our coordination in order to confront this reality and reduce its major impact on water resources, coastal areas and marine species; biological diversity, agriculture and human settlements.
 
Cuba has conducted studies of dangers, vulnerabilities and risks and is already implementing a macro-project named “Coastal Dangers and Vulnerabilities 2050-2100”. These include projects on the health condition of the coastal dunes and mangroves as well as an evaluation of the beaches, coastal settlements and their infrastructure; we are willing to share this experience with our sister nations of CARICOM.
 
We have lots of work to do. As we have indicated, in the coming three- year period, with the modest contribution of Cuba, a Regional Arts School will be opened in Jamaica and the Centre for Development Stimulation of children, teenagers and youths with special educational needs will start operating in Guyana.
 
On the other hand, more Caribbean students will be given the opportunity to pursue a college education in our country, especially in the area of Medicine. We will also help in the preparation of experts from the CARICOM countries in topics related to mitigation and confrontation of risks of natural disasters, and the difficult stage of recovery in the aftermath of such events.
 
Likewise, we shall continue offering our fraternal assistance in the development of human resources and in medical care. In the same token, doctors graduated in Cuba and working in their respective countries will be offered the possibility of studying a second specialty free of charge.
 
The development of trade and investments between our countries is still an unresolved issue. The difficulties with air and maritime transportation in the sub-region and the deterioration of our economies as a result of the international crisis are having a negative effect on progress in these areas. We should work toward creative and feasible solutions of benefit to all. In this connection, we welcome the joint efforts to update and review the Bilateral Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which will provide the free access with no customs duties of 297 products from CARICOM countries and 47 from Cuba.
 
I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our steadfast support for the just demand of the CARICOM countries to be compensated by the colonial powers for the horrors of slavery, and for their equally fair claim to receive cooperation according to their real situation and necessities, and not on the basis of statistics of their per capita income that simply characterise them as middle-income countries and prevent their access to indispensable flows of financial resources.
 
It is our inescapable duty to support the reconstruction and development of the sister republic of Haiti, the birthplace of the first revolution in Latin America and the Caribbean fought in pursuit of independence, for we all have a debt of gratitude with that heroic and long-suffering people.
 
As I have said on previous occasions, Cubans are deeply grateful to our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean for your upright stance of respect for and solidarity with our Homeland.
 
We shall never forget your enduring support to the resolution against the blockade nor your numerous expressions of solidarity during the debates at the UN General Assembly and other international fora, rejecting the illegitimate inclusion of Cuba in the List of States Sponsors of Terrorism.
 
Distinguished Heads of State or Government;
 
Guests;
 
I would like to suggest that in this 5th CARICOM-Cuba Summit we exchange viable ideas and proposals to continue working together to increase our bilateral cooperation; to expand and diversify our economic and commercial relations; to confront the challenges imposed by the globalized, unfair and unequal world we live in fraught with grave problems that threaten the very existence of humankind; and, above all, to advance with steadier steps toward the indispensable political, economic and social integration of Latin America and the  Caribbean.
 
We owe it to our peoples and such duty cannot be postponed.
 
With no further delay I declare the 5th CARICOM-Cuba Summit officially opened.
 
Thank you.

December 09, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Moves toward Continental Freedom of Movement ...Venezuela Makes “Equality” Call

By Ewan Robertson:



Mérida, 5th December 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The 12 member Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has taken a step toward creating South American citizenship and freedom of movement. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro also called for strategies to promote continental economic development, social equality and defence sovereignty.

The new proposals for South American integration were made during a UNASUR summit in Guayaquil, Ecuador yesterday. Today regional leaders are meeting in the Ecuadorian capital Quito for the opening of the organisation’s new permanent headquarters.

Taking place over two days, the summit in Guayaquil sought to design strategies to further develop regional integration.

“We have approved the concept of South American citizenship. This should be the greatest register of what has happened,” said UNASUR general secretary Ernesto Samper at the summit yesterday.

Part of this proposal is to create a “single passport” and homologate university degrees in order to give South Americans the right to live, work and study in any UNASUR country and to give legal protection to migrants – similar to freedom of movement rules for citizens of the European Union.

For Samper, who is a former Colombian president, they key word at the meeting was “convergence” to continue integration. “Convergence of citizens, convergence of similarities, and convergence of solidarity are the proposals of this effort to bring us together,” he said.

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, argued that the statutes of UNASUR should be changed and that majorities, rather than absolute consensus, should be the minimum necessary basis on which to advance important areas of integration.

In particular, Correa called for the advancement of financial integration and sovereignty, such as the Bank of the South and Reserve Fund, a currency exchange system to minimise the use of the dollar in intercontinental trade, the creation of a regional body to settle financial disputes, and a common currency “in the medium term”.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro agreed that the creation of new financial instruments was central to advancing regional integration and sovereignty.

“From Venezuela we believe that we must take the agenda of shared economic development into our hands; a new financial architecture [that includes] the Bank of Structural Projects, that converts us into a powerful bloc,” he said to media in Guayaquil before the meeting with other UNASUR leaders.

The two other priorities for the Venezuelan government at the meeting were to promote strategies for social equality and regional defence sovereignty.

On defence, Maduro said that Venezuela would support a “new South American military doctrine” based on a “system of education for South American militaries, below the guidance of the South American Defence Council,” in which the thought of the continent’s 19th century independence leaders would be present.

Another important event at the summit was the passing of the pro tempore presidency of the UNASUR from Suriname to Uruguay.

Outgoing Uruguayan president Jose Mujica made a passionate speech while accepting the presidency on behalf of his country, where he stated, “There won’t be integration without commitment, willpower, and political will, because the global obstacles are enormous and the past continues to constrain us”.

Meanwhile, respected former Brazilian president Lula Da Silva declared, "Today our main challenge is to deepen the construction of strategic thought of Latin America and the Caribbean. We can construct an integration project that is more daring, that takes advantage of the formation of our rich history, goods and cultures”.

The UNASUR was created in 2008. Its members are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Published on Dec 5th 2014 at 1.07pm 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Have Haitians Declared War with The Bahamas?

By Andrew Burrows 242
Nassau, The Bahamas:



When the young man we now know as Anson Aly said the words “they don’t want to start something they can’t finish”, a lot of Bahamians were up in arms. We got angry, we went to Facebook to vent. We called the radio shows. Everyone had their say.

Anson Aly
The “fire starter” Anson Aly - AKA Mr. Colombian Necktie


Then we calmed down and went back to being typical Bahamians. Nothing mattered again until the November 1st Immigration Policy changes kicked in. By now, we’ve all see the images of immigration officers doing their duty and the negative spin put on it by Haitian activists Jetta Baptiste and others. We’ve also seen the “lurkers” assist in stirring up the “us against them” discord. I have very little doubt that Special Intelligence Branch officers are tuning in and taking notes because the rhetoric and tone has become increasingly hostile.

So much so that you had Ms. Baptiste stirring up the pot with what appears to be the most corrupt politician in south Florida calling for a boycott of the Bahamas. Mind you, she’s seeking economic sanctions on a country where a significant portion of the population are her people. Haitians. What does she think will happen? A boycott of The Bahamas means those menial jobs that Haitians risk life and limb for will evaporate. The poor will become poorer in that community. It was clearly a stupid thought by a stupid person put into words for the benefit of a camera. But it was also a very beneficial thing for Bahamians who seem too comfortable flinging the doors open to whomever and allowing anyone to carry our name, our passport and our patronage.

How was it beneficial? Well, I can speak for myself and say that it exposed the deep rooted resentment many in the Haitian community appear to harbor towards this country and it’s people, although few of the Haitian leaders have been courageous enough to explain why. Why do they hate us so when we’ve given them our hospitality, our concern, our friendship, our country? Why? This series of events have pulled a scab off of a wound that can only be a case of coveting thy neighbor. We all know the problems that country has faced since fighting for it’s independence. Many say it is a cursed land. No need to go there. But the history of our two countries has always been intertwined with this country offering it’s all to the beleaguered who would end up here, even if their ultimate destination was somewhere else.

For me personally, it’s left a very very bitter taste in my mouth. You see, I have always been open minded about the plight of the Haitian people and how integration and assimilation by them into this country could be a good thing if they went all in. I now suspect going all in has not been the case in many in whom I’ve trusted. I’ll tell you a true story about Louby Georges to illustrate what many Bahamians in my position are calling a betrayal.

Louby Georges
Louby Georges' Betrayal
I hired Louby many years ago to do a job. He had braids, the gold tooth, the Sentra with the Haitian flag on it. It didn’t matter to me after the second day on a difficult job when he showed up on time, worked hard and never really complained. I liked him. He put in the work and he earned every dollar he was paid. I hired him again a few weeks later for the same kind of work and once again, he proved himself a hard worker. He brought his older brother, who was also a serious worker. His brother didn’t last as long but still, I was impressed. Fast forward a couple of years later and I’m watching Cable 12 thinking, ‘let me see what folks are putting on TV as shows. ‘

I had not watched local television for years because, let’s face it, it sucks. Imagine my surprise when I saw Louby hosting a kreyol language show on Cable 12. I found him on Facebook and I sent him a note. I told him I would have no problems helping him make his show better and for a few months, we worked on it. We even shot a pilot. For whatever reason, things did not work out but I kept encouraging him to become a voice for his people and those in the position he was in at the time having been born here but had to wait until 18 to apply for citizenship and then wait yet again for it to be approved. As far as I am concerned, we are cool.

I invited him on my show Unscripted on Island FM. We were supposed to do a regular thing and he was eager but that didn’t quite pan out.

We were cool even when he called me and told me he was gearing up to do the radio show. I gave him some advice again. I told him to own his show. Be a partner with the station and to not back down on percentages of ad revenue. I’m quite proud of him.

But a funny thing happened when the Anson Aly incident happened. My other Haitian friends would call and say “if you are not listening to Louby’s show, you should. He’s dissing you.” Being the loyal person I am, I’d say, yeah right. Not my Louby. When Steve McKinney decided this whole incident was an opportunity for him to get more than a dozen people to listen to his lies, he called me “irresponsible”. My other Haitian friends said “he’s joining the bandwagon with Steve. You should call him.” I did. We didn’t get to do the interview however. I know he’s read this blog and I hope he reads this because I feel the community, Bahamians and Haitians, are being misled by people with agendas unknown. I feel that they are being mislead by people with no business seeking to lead them anywhere. My other Haitian friends says he’s one of the leaders.

I don’t draw any conclusions but the evidence is mounting. I’ll leave that there.

There is no problem between us as people. There is, however, a spirit of disrespect that has been fermenting and has been obviously fertilized by people like Jetta Baptiste. What my friend Louby risks is being lumped in in that grouping of angry Bahamian hating Haitians who have now suddenly found a cause to celebrate. They are aggressively patriotic to Haiti but will quickly say “we don’t know that country” when the prospect of being sent there looms. They see Bahamians as the enemy. I’ve read countless posts on Facebook attacking me, my country, my people by folks who live or have lived here. One poor lady prayed for a tsunami to destroy the Bahamas. Two days later, flash floods struck Haiti and 6 died. I’ve had my reporter and myself threatened when we attempted to cover a meeting of Haitians. I’ve had people deny it, even though a camera was in fact rolling.

Jetta Baptiste hates The Bahamas
Hater Jetta Baptiste
The distrust has deepened between our people and I think the aggressors in this are the ones with the most to lose. The Haitians. This is OUR country and by OUR, I mean Bahamians. There will come a time when the hospitality will turn to something else. When that happens, thousands of desperate Haitians will have nowhere to go. They will have no landing point, no second choice if America isn’t the first dry land they touch when they set out on those rickety boats. For them, where disease, starvation and death is a daily struggle, it will be a horrible thing. For them, this country offers hope. For many I am sure, they would trade this country for theirs in a heartbeat. In my heart, I know they don’t support Daphne Campbell, Jetta Baptiste and all the other angry Haitians who hate The Bahamas and it’s people. I know they would take whatever opportunity to be in our country legally seriously and not say the things that Jetta has been saying or doing the things that she and others are doing.

You see, those ones, those are the ones you call the “good Haitians”. This crew? Well, you can judge for yourself.

December 06, 2014

AndrewBurrows242

CARICOM Cuba Leaders to talk trade in Havana on CARICOM-Cuba Day - December 08

Caricom Today: CARICOM Cuba Leaders to talk trade in Havana



Economic and Trade Relations will be among the issues discussed at the Fifth Summit of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Cuba which takes place in Havana, Cuba on Monday 8 December. The Summit will be preceded on Sunday by a meeting of the Foreign Ministers.


In accordance with the Havana Declaration of December 2002, the Summit is held every three ye - ars on the date that the leaders of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago broke a diplomatic embargo and visited Cuba. That date December 8 has been designated CARICOM-Cuba Day.

Monday’s meeting will give the Leaders an opportunity to look at the present situation with the Trade and Economic Agreement which the two parties signed in 2000. They will benefit from the result of discussion held last October in Havana by the CARICOM-Cuba Joint Commission which sought ways of making the Agreement more effective.

The two sides will also discuss strengthening co-operation in multi-lateral fora. This assumes added importance in light of the on-going global negotiations for a Climate Change Agreement and the upcoming negotiations on the United Nations Post 2015 Development Agenda.

Chairman of CARICOM the Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, His Excellency Raoul Castro Ruz, president of Cuba and His Excellency Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of CARICOM will address Monday’s Opening Ceremony at the Place of the Revolution.

December 05, 2014

Caricom Today

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Death Penalty, Death Penalty Appeals and the London-based Privy Council in The Bahamas

Sean McWeeney
Sean McWeeney, QC


Death Penalty 'Unlikely' Without Legal Challenges


By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune 242 Staff Reporter
rrolle@tribunemedia.net
Nassau, The Bahamas


CONSTITUTIONAL Commission Chairman Sean McWeeney said recent comments about the end of hanging by Court of Appeal justices reflects opposition the London-based Privy Council has to the death penalty.

It reflects, he said, the unlikelihood that the death penalty will be carried out unless substantial changes are made to the legal and judicial system of this country.

Court of Appeal Justices on Wednesday suggested that “hanging is over” as they quashed the death sentence of Anthony Clarke Sr, who was convicted last year of killing his friend Aleus Tilus as part of a contract killing in 2011.

The justices’ statements raised concern among some yesterday who wondered if it set a new precedent for the court as it relates to dealing with death penalty appeals.

When contacted for comment yesterday, Mr McWeeney, a Queen’s Counsel, explained: “The statement (by the justices) was made off the cuff and emerged during the course of give-and-take with counsel. This was not some formal, deeply considered pronouncement. They were correctly characterising the current state of play given the position of the Privy Council.

“Their statements are not fundamentally different from what we in the Constitutional Commission have been saying based on jurisprudence coming out of the Privy Council. There is essentially a philosophical objective guiding this jurisprudence. The Privy Council is philosophically opposed to the death penalty and have curtailed the law to achieve objectives in line with its beliefs. They’ve put a series of obstacles in the way to impede and quite frankly prevent the death penalty from being meted out.”

The mandatory death sentence was changed in 2006 after the Privy Council ruled it was unconstitutional.

In 2011, after a ruling from the Privy Council, the Ingraham administration amended the death penalty law to specify the “worst of the worst” murders which would warrant execution.

A person who kills a police or defence force officer, member of the Departments of Customs or Immigration, judiciary or prison services would be eligible for a death sentence. A person would also be eligible for death once convicted of murdering someone during a rape, robbery, kidnapping or act of terrorism.

In Wednesday’s case, the Court of Appeal suggested there was never going to be a “worst of the worst” case.

“I sympathise with you because there’s never going to be a worst of the worst, because you’re never going to reach that threshold given that there will always be a worse case to follow,” said Court of Appeal President Justice Anita Allen.  

On this issue, Mr McWeeney said: “It’s quite clear (the Privy Council) has been very disingenuous characterising what is the worst of the worst.

“It all points to the fact that the Privy Council has demonstrated consistently that it will not hesitate to find some pretext, some reason, however legally spurious, to achieve their philosophical objective. Against that, Caribbean countries with similar constitutional systems as ours have been looking for ways to overcome this resistance. One thought was to replace the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice. However, nothing in that system exists to give cause for optimism that their position would be any different from the Privy Council. There have been judgments from that court to lead one to believe their position would be no different. So it’s not going to happen just because you get rid of the Privy Council and put in place the Caribbean Court of Justice.

“That leaves only one possibility and that is to think in terms of amending the Constitution in a way that would tie the hands of the Privy Council,” he added. “Remove the very large discretion the Privy Council has in terms of deciding the circumstances which constitutes ‘worst of the worst’. A solution is to (put in the Constitution) the criteria that would have to be applied on a mandatory basis by the Privy Council, which would define what is the worst of the worst cases. Of course, this could only take place after holding a referendum.”

Mr McWeeney said a draft has been created to amend the Constitution in order to define which crimes must be punishable by death.

“That draft is not something that they are dealing with right now because the focus is on gender equality,” he said, referring to next year’s expected constitutional referendum. “Political parties would have to decide where they want that issue to stand in the queue. It’s certainly not in the cards for this round (of proposed constitutional amendments).”

November 28, 2014


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Obama and the death of Honduras' beauty queen

By



Molinari


US President Barak Obama's immigration plan announced Thursday is to be commended for allowing undocumented yet otherwise law-abiding immigrants to "come out of the shadows and get right with the law."

However, it overlooks one important aspect – the reason why Latinos risk their lives to illegally enter the US in the first place. If their living situation back home were decent enough, they would have little reason to want to leave.

But the situation back home for many Latinos is hardly worth sticking around for. Take, for example, the most recent case of the 19-year old Honduran beauty queen María José Alvarado, murdered alongside her 23-year old sister Sofía just days before she was due to compete in the Miss World pageant in London.

The case has helped to shed light on Honduras' plight as the country with the highest homicide rate in the world. The killings highlight the fragility of the security situation and expose the weak institutions in the Central American country.

Homicide rateHomicide rate per 100,000 population2012HondurasVenezuelaEl SalvadorColombiaMexico20120100255075Source: BNamericas.com with data from UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Sadly, this is not the first time the death of a beauty queen has brought attention to violence in some Latin American countries. The region rang in the new year with the untimely demise of former Miss Venezuela, Mónica Spear, and her British ex-husband, murdered by roadside burglars.

Not to mention the nationwide protests gripping Mexico over the apprehension, disappearance and suspected murder of 43 students from Iguala, which has spun into public outcry over the entrenched collusion between state and organized crime, which gives way to human rights violations.

Regarding crime, Obama's policy proposes to deport "felons, not families" and "criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who's working hard to provide for her kids."

While this would seem to make sense for those living in the US, the policy could actually be 'exporting' the gang culture cultivated within US borders to its southern neighbors, who are much weaker and unprepared to confront the influx of violent criminals, thereby exacerbating the problem in Latin America.

So what can the US do to make the situation better south of the border? Given the geophysical proximity, one would think that boosting trade, and thereby increasing business and making more money go around, would behoove both sides.

However, as we previously noted, Obama showed scant interest in Latin America during his first term in office, with a foreign policy focus on Asia and the Middle East. That has largely continued to this day, with the likes of the Islamic State and related issues getting the lion's share of his attention.

In LatAm, according to the World Bank's Doing Business report, countries such as Colombia and Mexico shot up in the 2015 ranking while other more solid economies like Chile and Peru remained relatively stable. The pieces are starting to fall into place, and Obama ought to jump at the opportunity to strengthen the relationship with Latin America as a way to preemptively address the immigration puzzle.

November 21, 2014

BN Americas

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Illegal Migrants are Not Welcome in The Bahamas

COMMUNICATION BY THE HONOURABLE FRED MITCHELL MP
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND IMMIGRATION
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY, NASSAU, THE BAHAMAS (NOVEMBER 19, 2014)
UPDATE TO THE HOUSE ON IMMIGRATION POLICY





Honourable Fred Mitchell, MP - Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, The Bahamas
I wish Mr. Speaker to repeat to the House the policy of the government on Immigration announced on 30th October of this year. This concretized months of work announcing that these changes were coming. This announcement should therefore not have been a surprise to anyone.

The public is reminded that as of 1st November 2014 the following will apply:

No applications will be accepted in The Bahamas for first-time work permit applicants who have no legal status in The Bahamas. All first-time applicants for work permits without legal status in The Bahamas will have to be certified as having been seen by The Bahamas Embassy in their home country or the nearest Consular Office of The Bahamas. There are no exceptions to this rule.

This does not apply to renewals once those are made before the current permit expires.

As of 1st November, 2014 the Passport Office will no longer issue Certificates of Identity to those persons born of non-nationals in The Bahamas. Those individuals who have valid Certificates of Identity must now obtain the passport of their nationality and apply for a residency permit which will show that they have a right to live and work in The Bahamas. There are no exceptions to this except in accordance with our international treaty obligations.

A Special Residency Permit will be available for those individuals who have the right to apply for Bahamian citizenship at the age of 18 and before their 19th birthday. The processing fee is 100 dollars and the annual permit is 25 dollars. These permits will only be issued to those persons whose parents are lawfully in The Bahamas. This will allow the holder to live, work and go to school in The Bahamas until such time as their citizenship status is determined. These are obtained upon application at the Department of Immigration. Applications can be obtained for the special permit beginning on Monday 3rd November.

All people who live and work in The Bahamas are reminded that it is prudent to have a document on your person, at all times, which shows that you have a right to live and work in The Bahamas.

The public is asked to be patient as the new policies unfold.

Any comments on the policy may be addressed to the Director of Immigration.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration thanks the public for their support and cooperation.
Since that time there have been unfortunate reports mainly by way of social media which have the effect of poisoning the well with regard to these policies. Let me repeat: The policies are generic. They are not targeted at any particular national group.

The policies are a logical consequence of the constitution which we have which does not confer citizenship by birth on children born in this country whose parents are not Bahamian. That is what we inherited and that is what we work with.

The policies have been described in various ways by people who seem not to wish The Bahamas any good. The names do not bear repeating. The Prime Minister has described one critics' statements as nonsense so I will go no further than that. That characterizes in my view so much of the ill-informed commentary about this.

If you will permit me a personal observation however while one must be cognizant of the international dimension, these policies are for The Bahamas and the only question Bahamians need to ask is whether it is in the best interest of the country.

My surmise of the reaction to the chord which this has struck in The Bahamas is that this strikes at the very identity of the country and many feel that the country’s future is threatened if actions are not taken to stem the tide of illegal and I stress illegal migration.

I do not speak in those apocalyptic terms but what I know is that law and order requires us to act to stem the tide of boat after boat after boat coming to this country seemingly unimpeded with hundreds of people on those boats with no visa, no means of taking care of themselves and no jobs. That becomes a national security problem. No government can stand still in the face of that. We faced that situation in at least two months during this past year.

We have repatriated over 3000 people to their home countries this year. The cost is unsustainable.

The Detention Centre is again at capacity, just two weeks after a repatriation exercise.

There are two flights scheduled to depart next week.

So mathematics dictates this course of action.

I repeat: immigration is a blunt instrument. It is not social work. It is a policing action and requires difficult and hard decisions. Decision making goes in this cycle: the policy, its implementation, the reaction. The first reaction is resistance in some quarters. This test of the officials by those who oppose it is to see if it will shake your resolve by creating alarm in the society, the press and the world community. If we do not flinch, then that is the first indication to them that the psychological climate in which the law enforcement is operating has changed. It sends out a signal that this is a place that illegal migrants should not come. It is that psychological mindset that we are seeking to break.

While many have concentrated on the campaign of misinformation, I would rather share with you what has been said about the policy that is positive:

I quote: “It concerned us greatly when we heard the vicious and unfair comments fielded against The Bahamas by Mrs. Daphne Campbell. Neither Mrs. Campbell or Mrs. Jetta Baptiste reside in The Bahamas, and therefore, we do not feel that they have the authority to speak on behalf of Haitians and people of Haitian descent in this country in the tone and manner in which they have spoken. While they are free to express their opinions, we wish to make our position clear that we oppose their suggestions that the Bahamas should be boycotted by Americans and other nationalities via its tourism product." – United Association of Haitians and Bahamians.

I wish to share the results of the poll published by Umwale Rahming of Public Domain and reported by Candia Dames of the Nassau Guardian on Monday 17th November 2014:

The sample size is 520; this is scientifically an accurate predictor of general public opinion I am advised for our population size:

Do you approve of the policy?

85.4 per cent said yes

With 69.4 strongly approving and 16 per cent somewhat approving and 11.8 per cent disapproving.

Do you think the new policy should be applied to both parents and children or just parents?

71 per cent said to both parents and children.

Do you think the government is doing the right thing despite the criticism in some quarters of it being too harsh?
63.2 per cent said yes, 27.9 per cent agree with the policy but wishes it were executed in a another way.

Does this new policy make you feel that the government is showing leadership?
59.5 per cent said yes

33.9 per cent said no

6.6 per cent didn’t know

The writer is Candia Dames, not known to support the work of this government, and she wrote: “National Review has no doubt that local support for the immigration policy will continue to hold strong. We hope that it is sustained and intensified. On the immigration issue the Government seems to be getting it right.”

The Leader of the Opposition made the following statement yesterday:

“We are one when it comes to the protection of our sovereignty. The FNM believes that in the main, the actions being taken by the administration are right and will redound to the benefit of The Bahamas in the long term.”

Mr. Speaker, this suggests that this policy has as close to a universal approval that you can have in this country. I believe that is an historic first and I believe that this House and this generation ought to salute itself for this unique accomplishment in our history.

It is a consensus that we should not misuse or abuse but we should seek to keep the consensus and to act in a humane but dispassionate way to ensure that the sovereignty of our country is protected.

I undertake to protect that consensus and to work with my opposite number, the Shadow Minister, in that regard.

I have been authorized by the Cabinet to speak with the Bahamian community in Miami on Saturday at a meeting at St Agnes Church Hall at 6 p.m. and to meet with the Secretary General at the Organization of American States and the CARICOM Caucus in Washington at the earliest opportunity.

I have already met with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) here in Nassau. I asked them whether they can play a role in supporting the capacity of our neighbours to the south to produce their national passports. We have been advised by the press that some difficulties may arise with that. For the record, we had earlier received assurances as early as the 28th July that the production of passports would not have been a problem.

The Prime Minister has met with the leaders of certain national groups in this country and they have made various suggestions that are being examined. However, it is important to say that The Bahamas should do nothing which signals to the world that our resolve on this issue is slackening or weakening. That would be a grave error and sabotage our future best interests.

I spoke to the 32 men and women of the Enforcement Unit of the Department of Immigration this morning who are headed by Kirk at the Department of Immigration in the presence of the Director William Pratt. They are concerned about whether their work is supported. I assured them that it is. The Leader of the Opposition in his statement has gone out of his way to make the point of their professionalism in carrying of their jobs. They have the support of the government.

I thanked them for their work and asked them once again to be safe, to be respectful to be humane but be disciplined and apply the law without fear or favour.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

end

CrossFire - Facebook

Human rights in Haiti

By Clément Doleac
Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

 

Dictatorship and human rights violations in Haiti

In the past five decades, Haitian people have suffered systematic human rights violations that were rarely condemned, thus preventing any state from having real democratic institutions and impeding any democratic political regime to exist.


From 1957 to 1986, the Duvalier family exerted a harsh dictatorship in Haiti without respect for fundamental human rights, such as rights of association, social rights, of economic rights and cultural rights. These dictatorships received millions in US government aid under various security and humanitarian reasons because of their role as a bulwark against communism (such as the Trujillo dictatorship in Dominican Republic).[1]

After being elected in 1957 and having served in office for seven years, Francois Duvalier proclaimed himself president for life in 1964. When he died in 1971, his son Jean-Claude dynastically took office, who was strongly supported by the US as part of an anti-communist shield in the country.[2] Jean-Claude fled the country due to mass protests and political opposition against the authoritarian rule.[3] He departed on February 7, 1986, flying to France in a US Air Force aircraft, illustrating how he consistently benefited from the intrusive behavior of neo-colonial powers.[4]

During the Duvalier dictatorship, thousands of recalcitrant opponents of Duvalier were murdered, directly or indirectly by the military and the Tonton Macoute, while abductions, extra-judiciary execution, rape, and torture were also common practices as well. The state and its agents were responsible for humiliating treatment, thefts, extortions, and expropriations.[5] Around 100,000 Haitians sought asylum in foreign countries, such as the Dominican Republic, the US base of Guantanamo, and Florida, as well as Europe and other Latin American countries. Nearly 300,000 persons sought refuge from Port-au-Prince to more remote parts of Haiti.

After a transition period, the democratically elected popular priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide came to office. In a constitutionalist action, his ascension happened against a background of right-wing death squads and the threat of military coups. As Haiti expert Paul Farmer once stated, “Aristide was seen as a threat in the US.” The New York Times wrote, in one of is more pathetic moments, pictured Aristide as “a cross between the Ayatollah and Fidel”.[6] The Haitian economic elite shared this dislike. As one Haitian businessman put it: “If it comes to a choice between the ultra-left and the ultra-right, I’m ready to form an alliance with the ultra-right”.[7] Nonetheless, Aristide was elected on December 16, 1990, by an overwhelming 67 percent of the vote in a field of 12 candidates.[8] No run-off was required.

In fact, the Haitian elite allied with high-ranking members of the Haitian army and Haitian National Intelligence Service (SIN) to conspire against the elected president. They were able to successfully overthrow Aristide in a military coup the following year.[9]

Return to Democracy and Interference in the Hopeful Elected Presidency of Haiti

After three years of terror, Mr Jean Bertrand Aristide came back into office in 1994 for a short amount of time in order to finish his term as elected president. During his two years in office, Aristide abolished the Haitian army, and in 1996 became the first elected civilian to see another elected civilian, René Préval, succeed him as president. Préval himself had the distinction of becoming Haiti’s first president ever to serve out his term, neither a day more nor less than was his due.[10] In November 2000, Aristide was reelected again for a four-year term.

Aristide’s second term, however, was undermined by the governments of the US and France. US government hostility had been no secret since 1991, and the historical support that Washington had for the Haitian military was clearly evident. Rebel leader Guy Philippe, for example, had received training during the last coup at a US military facility in Ecuador. Philippe was known to have executed several pro-democracy activists, including Louis-Jodel Chamblain. Philippe had fled Haiti in October 2000, when the authorities discovered him plotting a coup with a group of security forces officials.[11]

For its part, the French government was insulted by Aristide due to his ongoing claims about a debt France owed to Haiti. Aristide stated that France “extorted this money from Haiti by force and should give it back to us so that we can build primary schools, primary healthcare, water systems and roads”.[12] He had done calculations, adding in interest and adjusting for inflation, “to calculate that France owes Haiti US$21,685,135,571.48 and counting”.[13]

In 2002 and 2003, several incidents occurred in the countryside during by the US-backed right-wing militia. These included the killing of a number of Aristide’s supporters and members of the far left-wing militia (the so-called chimeres, “chimeras”). A raging civil war was soon underway. In 2003, the Canadian government hosted the Ottawa Initiative for Haiti in Montreal in order to determine the future of Haiti’s government. Officials from Canada, France, the US and various Latin American countries were present, yet no Haitian officials attended. The conference resulted in an expressed preference for regime change in Haiti in less than a year.[14]

The right-wing militia took over control of several cities in 2003 and Cap-Haitien, the second most important city in the country, in February 2004.[15] The militia received support from sectors of Haiti’s elite as well as from sectors of the Dominican military and government cohorts at the time. It is also believed that they had contact with U.S. and French intelligence.[16]

Despite massive protests supporting Aristide in Port-au-Prince and the acceptance of an international peace plan by President Aristide on February 21, the US and French governments, “invited” Aristide to leave the country in order to bring peace and security again to the country. In fact, the US military “accompanied for his own security” the constitutionally elected president on a US Air Force flight.

The Dissident Voice reports that since then “a quasi UN trusteeship had begun. Since that time the Haitian National Police has been heavily militarized and steps have been taken towards recreating the military”.[17] With the end of Aristide’s second presidential term, human rights violations have begun to rise again. [18]

Impunity in Haiti under United Nations’ MINUSTAH presence

In 2005, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations stated that the human rights violations that were being found in Haiti still exist but did not derive from the state or government but the system. More specifically they emanated from two antagonistic and elderly armed sectors of the population. The first consisted mostly of paramilitaries and ex-militaries (the Army had been disbanded in 2005) with the objective of destabilizing the leftist government. The second was composed of Aristides’s supporters rebelling against him through the creation of the Front de Resistance Nationale (FRN, “National Liberation Front”). The resulting insurrection had led to the interposition of a United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, also known as MINUSTAH, over the last nine years.

Twenty-two lawsuits dealing with crimes against humanity were filed against Jean-Claude Duvalier regarding the crimes perpetrated during his dictatorship when he returned to Haiti in 2011. Nonetheless, Judge Jean Carves waived every lawsuit against him within a short time. In 2014, an appellate court declared that the lawsuits for crimes against humanity were valid, but Duvalier died in October 2014, which was before the statement was made. As for the violations committed by private groups and Aristide’s supporters and opponents, most cases still go unpunished but his estate of many millions remains an irresistible lure.

From “Yes, We Can” to “No, You Can’t”: U.S. Military Occupation after the 2010 Earthquake

The election of President Obama led to high hopes for a dramatic change in US foreign policy in Haiti, but these were crushed by the harsh reality of the continuity of American foreign policy, which has proven not to roam from their grim past.

In January 2010, just after a major earthquake shook the country, President Obama sent the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to Haiti in order to “secure” Port-au-Prince’s airport. After three days, SOUTHCOM’s deployed around 22,000 members of the US military throughout the country and a US Navy and Coast Guard flotilla surrounded the island as if perhaps Haiti had decided to declare war on the United States, an unsheathed memory of a troubled past.[19] The United States took full command of Haiti’s airport and airspace without any regards to questions of national sovereignty, and the US government restricted all entry and exit from the country. The actions did little to improve the country’s recovery efforts.[20]

The heavy US military presence in Haiti after the earthquake turned out to be but a part of Obama’s larger strategy of containment of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were chosen to lead the US civilian response, and the US government established an Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission with Clinton as co-chair in order to effectively control every aspect of Haiti’s economics and politics.[21]

The Violation of Democracy in the Name of Stability: The 2011 Elections in Haiti

Additionally, one of the priorities of the Obama administration was to effectively hijack the Haitian electoral process in 2011. The Center for Economic and Policy research (CEPR) released a report after the 2011 elections displaying many of the problems that had occurred with the election.[22] The Organization of American States (OAS) concluded that the elections represented a political decision rather than an electoral one. Many citizens displaced by the earthquake were not allowed to vote, and fewer than 23 percent of registered voters had their vote counted.[23] In addition, numerous electoral violations were reported including ballot stuffing, destroyed ballots, and intimidation.

Former First Lady Mirlande Manigat won the first round of the election and had to run off against a second opponent. OAS election observers chose to “examine the results”, which led to the removal of the governing party’s candidate Jude Celestin of the Inite (“Unity”) party in favor of a pop musician candidate Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly who, in the end, was elected president.[24]

Ricardo Seitenfus, a special representative for the OAS in Haiti, states that a secret ‘core group’ of foreign dignitaries sought to force the president of Haiti out of office in a clean-cut coup. He stressed that this core group also “engineered an intervention in Haiti’s presidential elections that year that ensured that the governing party’s candidate would not proceed to a runoff.”[25] It appears then that this disruption was backed by illegal foreign intervention against the Haitian government as well as by a series of human rights violation in which the US government, the United Nations Secretary, and the OAS all shared responsibility.

When Aristide tried to return to his country in 2013 after nearly ten years in exile in South Africa, President Obama personally called South African President Jacob Zuma twice in order to block Aristide’s return.[26]. President Obama also effectively persuaded the French government and UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon to join efforts in order to prevent further “threats.” Even after the return of former Haitian President Aristide (thanks to South Africa’s resistance to American imperialism), the US government all but installed the neo-Duvalierist Michel Martelly as president as a mere puppet to defend US interests. Bill Clinton’s former aide, Mr Garry Conille, was later named Haiti’s prime minister.[27]

After Ten Years of Military Occupation, Human Rights in Haiti are in a Much More Deteriorated State

These political intrigues and this spoliation of democracy by the US government has not served the best interests of the Haitian people. One of the most emblematic cases is the cholera epidemic in the country. Even despite the fact that the United Nations constantly negated its responsibilities, many families of victims have launched lawsuits against the UN, stating that the epidemic were prompted mainly by some UN soldiers from Nepal. The result of cholera epidemic was the killing of around 10,000 Haitians in the past four years.[28]

Furthermore, several natural disasters such as the earthquake in January 2010, Storm Isaac in August 2012, and Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, have led to the displacement of two million people who have since been installed in refugee camps.[29] More than one year later, in December 2013, there were still nearly 150,000 persons housed in these camps. Only 72 of these camps were built on public spaces while 229 were built on private property.

Around 18 percent of these camps were eventually closed because of governmental orders and 10 percent were closed due to evictions. The evictions, carried out by police or military force without secured alternative housing options, were a human rights violation. Most of those evicted still have yet to find new accommodations and are still living in the street or in miserable camps.

The institutional fragility of the Haitian state has clearly led to unstable an undermining of economic, social, and cultural rights of the Haitian people. The authorities are not able to provide the deserved rights in respect the availability of fields such as alimentation, housing, education, health or and access to jobs which are all but ignored.

An extreme example is that child exploitation continues to remain a reality in Haiti. Since the earthquake, some poor families have “given” their children to rich families. The children receive education, food, and housing in exchange for domestic tasks. In full daylight, these children, called the “restaveks,” are exploited, deprived of their rights, exposed to physical and verbal abuses, and are obligated to engage in forceful and painful work under conditions slightly better than slavery. UNICEF reported in January of 2012 that there are around 225,000 “restaveks” in Haiti.[30] Sexual violence is also a big issue in Haiti, with around fifty cases each year, many likely to go unreported[31].

Furthermore, the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN has reported that human rights defenders have been prosecuted throughout the country.

Civil and political rights remain fragile due to weakness of governing state and institutions. The poor access to the judiciary system and high crime rates in Haiti are evidence of this. The murder rate has risen from 5.6 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009 to more than 14.3 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012. Cases of public lynching have become more prevalent with more than 100 a year occurring between 2010 and 2012, illustrating the low confidence in the judicial system.

Moreover, the local and legislative elections initially scheduled for 2012 have yet to occur and there is still no date for these elections to be staged.

The Haitian president has sought to appear as to be the one fulfilling his duty by purposing a new draft electoral law, which members of the Senate refuse to ratify citing the unconstitutionality of the process leading to this draft.

In addition, the situation of the Haitian people living abroad is also of concern because they represent a very high level risk of dangerous statelessness. In fact, many Haitian people abroad are victims of the denial of their rights to identity, nationality, and personal dignity.

For example, in September 2013, the Dominican Republic Supreme Court declared that the people born from illegal immigrants in the Dominican Republic would be subject to nationality “degradation”. This Supreme Court statement was made retroactive, since 1929, meaning Haitian descendants born in Dominican Republic since then were being deprived of their nationality, being neither Haitian nor Dominican.[32],[33]

Conclusion

As stated by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Haiti, the situation of human rights in the country is very serious. The Independent Expert presented five ways for improving the situation: “a strong political will, civil society active participation, a consensus on prioritized problems to solve, a congruent coordination and concentration of efforts, and a strong perseverance of these efforts in order to achieve these goals.”[34] The statement may be a bit naive considering the unremitting history of a plague of sadness, which now haunts Haiti.

The current situation in Haiti is a result of the foreign policies of the French, Canadian, and American governments and their allies’ (UN, OAS, etc.) with the ongoing illegal military intervention in the country. These interventions have brought about human rights violations, state destabilization and massive suffering. With the current illegitimate president inducted by the US government with the support from the OAS, how can the situation be any different?

Military invasion, occupation, and foreign intervention has not helped to return the country to democracy or to uphold human rights. In fact, it has been a disaster. Today those responsible don’t want to accept accountability for this situation and choose instead to criticize Haitian political actors for the current condition without no regard for these crimes. True solutions lie in respect for fair elections, popular will, democratic life, and putting an end to military occupation.

References
[1] “François Duvalier, 1957–1971″, The Library of Congress, Country Studies, December 1989.
[2] ABBOTH, Elizabeth. Haiti: The Duvaliers and Their Legacy, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1988,
[3] Report of the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, E/CN.4/1987/61, August 5th 1987, par. 1 to 3, 18 and 87.
[4] MOODY John “Haiti Bad Times for Baby Doc, ss violent protests grow, a besieged dictator imposes martial law” in Time Magazine, Feb. 10, 1986
[5] Report of the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, E/CN.4/1996/94, January 24th 1996, par. 8.
[6] FRENCH Howard W. “
Front-Running Priest a Shock to Haiti” in The New York Times, December 13, 1990
[7] FARMER Paul “
Who removed Aristide” in the London Review of Books, Vol. 26 No. 8 • 15 April 2004 pages 28-31
[8] FARMER Paul “
Who removed Aristide” in the London Review of Books, Vol. 26 No. 8 • 15 April 2004 pages 28-31
[9] FRENCH, Howard W.; Time Weiner (14 November 1993). “C.I.A. Formed Haitian Unit Later Tied to Narcotics Trade”. New York Times. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
[10] FARMER Paul “
Who removed Aristide” in the London Review of Books, Vol. 26 No. 8 • 15 April 2004 pages 28-31
[11] FARMER Paul “
Who removed Aristide” in the London Review of Books, Vol. 26 No. 8 • 15 April 2004 pages 28-31
[12] MACDONALD Isabel “France’s debt of dishonour to Haiti” in The Guardian, Monday 16 August 2010
[13] FARMER Paul “
Who removed Aristide” in the London Review of Books, Vol. 26 No. 8 • 15 April 2004 pages 28-31
[14] The details of the meeting were reported by Michel Vastel in “Haiti put into trusteeship by the United Nations?” L’Actualité, 15 March, 2003 or in ENGLER Yves, “
Media Cover-up of Canada’s Role in the Overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide”, Part 1 of a 4 Part Series, Dissident Voice, January 30th, 2014
[15] SDA-ATS News Service, 29 février 2004 “
La Maison blanche appelle Jean-Bertrand Aristide à quitter le pouvoir” in Interet General, on February 29, 2004
[16] SPRAGUE Jeb, Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti, Monthly Review Press, 2012.
[17] ENGLER Yves, "
Media Cover-up of Canada’s Role in the Overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide", Part 1 of a 4 Part Series, Dissident Voice, January 30th, 2014
[18] [18] For more information regarding the role of US and French government in Aristide destitution, see Paul Farmer, “
Who removed Aristide” in the London Review of Books, Vol. 26 No. 8• 15 April 2004 pages 28-31:
[19] As stated by the
US Secretary of Defense
[20] BAR editor and columnist JEMIMA Pierre “
Don’t Blame Republicans for Obama’s Actions in Haiti” in Black Agenda Report (Information Blog)
[21] BAR editor and columnist Jemima Pierre “
Don’t Blame Republicans for Obama’s Actions in Haiti” in Black Agenda Report (Information Blog)
[22] JOHNSTON Jake and WEISBROT Mark “
Haiti’s Fatally Flawed Election” in CEPR, January 2011
[23] As stretched by a
US Secretary of State report “Although turnout was higher than in 2009, it was only about 22 percent in the first round of the current election process.
[24] JOHNSTON Jake and WEISBROT Mark “
Haiti’s Fatally Flawed Election” in CEPR, January 2011
[25] In an interview with Dissent Magazine, with information cited again by CEPR
here and here
[26] WEIBSROT Mark, “
Haiti must decide Haiti’s future “ in the Guardian, on March 17, 2011
[27] ENGLER Yves, “
Media Cover-up of Canada’s Role in the Overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide”, Part 1 of a 4 Part Series, Dissident Voice, January 30th, 2014
[28] PILKINGTON Ed “Haitians launch new lawsuit against UN over thousands of cholera deaths” The Guardian, March 11 2014
[29] GALLON Gustavo, Independent UN expert report on the situation of Human Rights in Haiti, A/HRC/25/71, February 2014, Human Rights Council.
[30] GRUMIAU Samuel, «
UNICEF aids restavek victims of abuse and exploitation in Haiti», Port-au-Prince, Haïti, 31 janvier 2012
[31] GALLON Gustavo, Independent UN expert report on the situation of Human Rights in Haiti, A/HRC/25/71, February 2014, Human Rights Council.
[32] According to his data, the number of Haitians living abroad would be about 4.5 million people. In 2007, the International Crisis Group estimated that a population of more than 3.71 million Haitians and descendants of Haitians residing abroad. The reference is International Crisis Group, “Construire la paix en Haïti: inclure les Haïtiens de l’extérieur”, Rapport Amérique latine/Caraïbes no°24, Port-au-Prince/Bruxelles, December 14 2007.
[33] GALLON Gustavo, Independent UN expert report on the situation of Human Rights in Haiti, A/HRC/25/71, February 2014, Human Rights Council.
[34] GALLON Gustavo, Independent UN expert report on the situation of Human Rights in Haiti, A/HRC/25/71, February 2014, Human Rights Council.

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November 19, 2014

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