My last post one whole month ago ended with a CLIFF HANGER about a 54 year old that thought she was pregnant.
She was not.
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Tribòbabò - a Creole/Kreyol word that is fun for all to say.
Go ahead and say it like this with me: Tree - bō - Bob - Ōh.
It means every which way - this way and that way - and all around everywhere.
There is a dog that lives in our neighborhood.
His situation is dire.
This dog has an entire extra set of balls that hang off of the inside of one of his thighs.
When you enter our neighborhood there is one long straight street that goes to the far end of the neighborhood. There are two possibilities to turn left and three opportunities to go to the right. If you don't turn you hit the end of the neighborhood in less than 1/4 mile.
None of that is really all that relative to this story about the dog with auxiliary balls. I guess I just want you to be able to imagine that this dog with extra balls seems to live somewhere in this relatively small neighborhood and he seems to mainly be around when I drive in and out of the neighborhood - he is tribòbabò.
He makes me see him almost daily. Seeing him makes me super embarrassed for him, for me, for us all.
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Later this week, on Saturday to be exact, we will find on our calendars that the date is March 31, 2018.
Believe me. We will.
With the passing of that day, so passes the first quarter of 2018.
I know without a doubt that I have expended 2 years worth of stress and gained three face-lifts worth of wrinkles getting through the first quarter of this year. I'm angry at injustice and angry at broken systems and weary of so much BS and sadness.
Bob Hamp, a kind and gentle counselor and teacher guy in Grapevine, TX said this:
I can only hope that Bob Hamp is right. I hope my anger is normal. If Bob is wrong, someone please come get me and get me off this island and DO SOMETHING to fix me.
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This is Steph meeting with Guerline, a Midwife.
Stephanie is 16. In August of last year Stephanie was drugged and raped by her cousin. Her Aunt drugged her. As in the mother of her cousin and the sister of her own Mom.
Now a baby is due in May.
These sorts of things are not reported in general. Steph for sure did not report it, she simply arrived to the Maternity Center fifteen weeks pregnant, confused, and afraid.
When abuse or rape are reported, we have come to understand that the young woman will be asked to tell the story over and over and over and over again to different interviewers and lawyers and most of them will be men. Those men will pick and choose minor details and tiny discrepancies and it is enough to make a young woman feel totally powerless.
2018 is the year we have learned a lot about the "system" here. It is really not a system, it is a failure to be a system. Learning about the non-system has not birthed a lot of hope or joy in me.
I do know this, to quote Rachael Denhollander, a survivor of abuse.
Obedience means that you pursue justice and you stand up for the oppressed and you stand up for the victimized, and you tell the truth about the evil of sexual abuse and assault and the evil of covering it up.
Then she kicks it up a notch with this ...
That obedience costs. It will cost to stand up for the oppressed, and it should. If we’re not speaking out when it costs, then it doesn’t matter to us enough.
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Last night I listened as my kids agreed to play a game of modified flashlight tag (modified because all the flashlights are broken or lost, per usual). I eavesdropped on them I heard them begin the game.
There was the usual figuring out the rules and such. When it came time to decide who would "be it" to start the first round, I heard Phoebe say, "Put your foot in!"
She began, "Bubble gum, bubble gum, in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?"
It might have been the Moscow Mule or it might have been ACTUAL authentic hope and joy, but I looked at by friend, KJ, and said, "Do you hear that? They are starting a game the same way we started games 35 years ago. Maybe some things are sensible and good in this world?!?"
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Have you heard of Sisyphus?
In Greek Mythology we learn "he was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down when it nears the top, repeating this action for eternity."
Tasks that are both laborious or futile are therefore described as Sisyphean.
I bought myself this watch on Amazon because it makes me laugh and then also because it helps me take vitals on moms and babies at the M.C.
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This particular blog entry has gone from the silly and weird to the dark and depressing and back again.
Just another day in Haiti and inside my mind.
Let me conclude with some random good things:
- Easter is coming.
- We had two healthy babies born at the MC. LOTS due very soon. Ready for storm.
- We love the new nurse we hired at the MC - she's awesome.
- Isaac and Noah have two very good friends coming to visit them on Thursday.
- Soonish I will see Gideon, my 3rd grandson and celebrate his Birthday.
- The swimming pool has been out of order for a long while and will be filled back up on Thursday.
- We lost power every night for about six weeks and we finally have remedied that and have had several nights of electricity all night. Fans are life.
- Stefanie, the teacher that came this school year, has agreed to teach next school year. In my opinion this is one of those beautiful undeserved gifts that God gives. We cannot believe how much our kids have learned and loved learning thus far with Stef as their teacher and leader and mentor and friend.
- We have decided to include the hot-flashes I am having into the tours we do at the Maternity Center. The crowd seems to love the fountain of spurting sweat and at times you can overhear gasps of impressed approval (I assume this is what is being communicated) as my head and arms spurt liquid while I speak of the maternal mortality rate in Haiti and the work happening at our Maternity Center.
- In March Noah turned 14, Britt turned 28 and our son in law will be 32 tomorrow. March is the only month we celebrate three of our tribe in one month.
On March 13, President Jovenel Moise appointed six individuals to the high command of the recently reinstated Haitian armed forces (FAdH). All of the appointees, now in their sixties, were majors or colonels in the former FAdH, disbanded in 1995 after a long history of involvement in coups, violent repression, and drug trafficking. At least three of the officers appear to have held senior positions within the early-‘90s military coup regime. One of them is a convicted intellectual author of a civilian massacre, and another was a member of a committee that sought to cover it up.
Ministry of Defense press release from March 13, 2018 announcing the FAdH’s new senior leadership.
The makeup of the new leadership has raised concerns among human rights organizations over the trajectory of the new force and its commitment to the rule of law.
“The appointment confirms once again that the Haitian Armed Forces, remobilized by the [ruling Tét Kale party] is a militia whose hidden mission is to have the Haitian people relive the darkest hours of bloodthirsty Duvalierism,” wrote the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in a press release, referencing the illegal arrests, forced disappearances, assassinations, and other abuses that characterized the Duvalier dictatorship.
Haitian Defense Minister Herve Denis responded that the new high-command is “clean,” and that all were vetted for involvement in human rights abuses or drug trafficking.
In 1990, an outspoken liberation theologian priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected in the first democratic election in the country’s history. But within months, a group of Haitian military officers – backed by many of the country’s wealthiest families – overthrew the new government, imposing a military dictatorship that would last three years. It was later revealed that the CIA had supported certain military elements involved in the coup, and that leaders of a paramilitary group that waged a campaign of terror against Aristide supporters and other activists were on the CIA payroll.
The group, FRAPH, helped to prop up the coup regime of Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras, while also at times appearing to undermine and sabotage the official actions of Clinton administration to restore democratic government to Haiti. Thousands of Haitians were murdered under the coup regime and hundreds of thousands fled the country.
Colonel Jean-Robert Gabriel, the new FAdH’s assistant chief of staff, was the secretary of the general staff, and later a public spokesperson, for the Cédras regime.
Following the 1991 military coup, the US and the international community implemented sanctions against the regime, eventually instituting an embargo. After Bill Clinton became president in January 1993, and increasingly in 1994, the Congressional Black Caucus played a leading role in pushing for a more aggressive role against the dictatorship, and solidarity groups in the US and elsewhere also influenced policy.
In June of 1993, the Clinton administration announced individual targeted sanctions against those determined to be a part of the “de facto regime in Haiti.” The initial sanction list, published in July of 1993, named 83 individuals, including 29 military officers. Included in this initial list was Jean-Robert Gabriel.
Screenshot of the Federal Register from July 1993, listing Jean-Robert Gabriel as one of 29 military officers sanctioned for their participation in the coup regime.
In 1993, the UN mediated indirect negotiations between Cédras and Aristide (who had taken up residence in Washington, DC to lobby for his restoration to office). Known as the Governors Island negotiations for the location where they took place, the eventual accord did little to immediately overturn the bloody coup. According to official documents, Gabriel, as well as the newly appointed chief of the general staff, Sadrac Saintil, were members of the delegation, indicating their senior positions within the Cédras regime.
List of members of Armed Forces delegation to Governors Island.
The US temporarily suspended some of the sanctions during the negotiations, but when it became clear that Cédras and his regime would not back down, the sanctions were expanded. In October 1993, the administration revoked US visas and froze the US assets of 41 officials who were determined to be thwarting a return to democratic rule and contributing to the violence in Haiti. Among the 41 individuals was Derby Guerrier, recently named as an assistant chief of staff in the reinstated armed forces ― and then a lieutenant colonel.
Guerrier held a US passport, and a New Jersey address was listed next to his name. According to press reports at the time, Guerrier was the head of the military’s anti-drug unit. Though there is little public information about Guerrier, drug trafficking took off under the military regime.
A 1997 federal indictment in Miami alleged that Joseph-Michel François, a former military officer who helped topple Aristide in 1991 and later become the police chief under Cédras, “placed the political and military structure of the Republic of Haiti under his control” in order to facilitate drug shipments from Colombia. François, by that time, was living in exile in Honduras and managed to avoid accountability.
Back in 1994, with the situation in Haiti continuing to deteriorate, and more and more Haitians fleeing the country, the US expanded its sanctions policy. Some 550 military officers were added to the sanctions list, including all of those recently appointed to the FAdH’s new high command.
In April that year, around the same time the new sanctions were levied, Haitian military and paramilitary forces descended on the neighborhood of Raboteau, where many opposition supporters were apparently seeking refuge. At least eight, and likely far more, were assassinated.
The next month a military-led commission of inquiry was tasked with investigating the allegations that a massacre had taken place in Raboteau. Cédras named Lieutenant Colonel Sadrac Saintil as one of four members, according to official documents made public as part of the Raboteau trial. Unsurprisingly, the commission found no evidence of a massacre and the FADH high command accepted the commission’s recommendation that nobody be punished.
Communique signed by Raoul Cédras, appointing Sadrac Saintil to a commission of inquiry looking into the Raboteau massacre.
But in 2000, in a landmark human rights trial supported by the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (the same organization now denouncing the new armed forces’ leadership), a Haitian court convicted 53 former officers and paramilitaries of involvement in the Raboteau massacre. Among the military officers convicted was Jean-Robert Gabriel. Though he was not implicated in direct involvement, he was charged under the theory of “command responsibility” due to his position within the top echelons of the Cédras regime.
“It’s the same type of case made against the Nazis and (Slobodan) Milosevic,” Brian Concannon, an American attorney who helped form the BAI in the early ‘90s and who worked the Raboteau case, told the St. Petersburg Times in 2002. Concannon is now the executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a partner organization to the BAI.
The Haitian government has pushed back on Gabriel’s involvement in Raboteau. “What I can tell you in all honesty,” the defense minister told the press, “the candidates were subjected to vetting, including Colonel Gabriel. There is nothing negative against him in the vetting with regard to human rights.”
Lettre de Soutien à la Médiation au Venezuela, pas aux SanctionsNous exhortons les gouvernements des États-Unis et du Canada à retirer immédiatement leurs sanctions illégales* contre le Venezuela et à soutenir les efforts de médiation entre le gouvernement du Venezuela et les segments non violents de l’opposition politique.
Nous, les organisations et individus aux États-Unis et au Canada soussignés, soutenons des relations hémisphériques fondées sur le respect de la souveraineté de tous les peuples des Amériques. Nous sommes profondément préoccupés par l’utilisation de sanctions illégales, dont l’effet se fait le plus sentir dans les secteurs les plus pauvres et les plus marginaux de la société, pour contraindre le changement politique et économique dans une démocratie sœur. Nous constatons depuis les années 1990 que les sanctions ne servent qu’à appauvrir les familles ordinaires et à déstabiliser l’ordre public. Nous sommes incapables de citer un seul cas où les sanctions ont eu un impact positif.
Les sondages au Venezuela montrent que la grande majorité des Vénézuéliens s’oppose aux sanctions, indépendamment de leur opinion sur le gouvernement Maduro. Les sanctions ne font que compliquer les efforts déployés par le Vatican, la République dominicaine et d’autres acteurs internationaux pour négocier une résolution de la polarisation profonde au Venezuela. De plus, les sanctions sapent les efforts du gouvernement démocratiquement élu et de l’Assemblée constituante pour résoudre les problèmes économiques critiques et déterminer leur propre destin politique.
Malgré la rhétorique de haut niveau des fonctionnaires de Washington et d’Ottawa, ce n’est pas un véritable souci de démocratie, de droits de l’homme et de justice sociale qui pousse cette position interventionniste belliqueuse à l’égard de Caracas. Du décret du président Obama qui, de l’aveu général, est faux, sur le Venezuela représentant une menace pour la sécurité nationale aux États-Unis, à la déclaration de l’ambassadeur Nikki Haley disant que le Venezuela est un « narco-état de plus en plus violent » qui menace le monde, l’utilisation de l’hyperbole dans les situations diplomatiques contribue rarement à des solutions pacifiques sur la scène internationale.
Ce n’est un secret pour personne que le Venezuela, contrairement au Mexique, au Honduras, à la Colombie, à l’Egypte ou à l’Arabie Saoudite, est la cible d’une mission de changement de régime par les États-Unis précisément à cause des qualités de leader du Venezuela dans la résistance à l’hégémonie américaine et à l’imposition du modèle néolibéral en Amérique latine. Et bien sûr, le Venezuela détient les plus grandes réserves de pétrole au monde, ce qui attire encore plus l’attention non désirée de Washington.
Les États-Unis et le Canada ont essayé puis échoué à utiliser l’Organisation des États Américains (OEA) pour construire un bloc qui évoque la Charte démocratique contre le Venezuela de façon hypocrite. Récemment, Luis Almagro, le secrétaire général véreux de l’OEA, est allé jusqu’à soutenir publiquement l’assermentation d’une Cour suprême parallèle, nommée de façon inconstitutionnelle par les législateurs de l’opposition et leur a permis d’utiliser le siège de l’OEA à Washington, DC pour leur cérémonie (sans l’approbation de quelconque état membre de l’OEA). Almagro a ainsi délégitimé l’OEA, enhardi les éléments les plus extrêmes et les plus violents de l’opposition vénézuélienne, et mis de côté les efforts de médiation.
Les sanctions canado-américaines sont une utilisation cynique du pouvoir économique coercitif pour attaquer une nation qui fait déjà face à l’hyperinflation et à la pénurie de produits de base. Bien que prétendument faites au nom de la promotion de la démocratie et de la liberté, ces sanctions violent le droit humain fondamental du peuple vénézuélien à la souveraineté, tel que cela est énoncé dans les Chartes des Nations Unies et de l’OEA.
Nous appelons les dirigeants politiques des États-Unis et du Canada à rejeter la rhétorique déchaînée et à contribuer à la recherche de solutions réelles aux problèmes politiques et économiques du Venezuela. Nous exhortons les gouvernements américain et canadien à annuler leurs sanctions et à soutenir les efforts de médiation déployés par le chancelier de la République dominicaine Miguel Vargas, le président de la République dominicaine Danilo Medina, l’ancien premier ministre espagnol Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, le Vatican et soutenus par un nombre croissant de nations latino-américaines.* L’Article 19 du Chapitre 4 de la Charte de l’OEA stipule :Aucun état ou groupe d’états n’a le droit d’intervenir, directement ou indirectement, pour quelque raison que ce soit, dans les affaires intérieures ou extérieures d’un autre état. Le principe précédent interdit non seulement la force armée, mais aussi toute autre forme d’ingérence ou de tentative de menace contre la personnalité de l’état ou contre ses éléments politiques, économiques et culturels.
Les États-Unis d'Amérique
Danny Glover, Citizen-Artist
Estela Vazquez, Executive Vice President, 1199 SEIU
Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, Archdiocese of Detroit
Jill Stein, Green Party
Peter Knowlton, General President, United Electrical Workers
Dr. Frederick B. Mills, Department of Philosophy, Bowie State University
Dr. Alfred de Zayas, former Chief, Petitions Dept, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Medea Benjamin, co-founder, Code Pink
Dan Kovalik, Counsel, United Steelworkers Union
Clarence Thomas, ILWU Local10 (retired)
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, President, National Lawyers Guild
Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice
James Early, Articulation of Afro Descendants in Latin America and the Caribbean
Gloria La Riva, coordinator, Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity CommitteeKaren Bernal, Chair, Progressive Caucus, California Democratic Party
Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, co-directors, Popular Resistance
Chris Bender, Administrator, SEIU 1000, retired
Mary Hanson Harrison, President Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section
Alfred L. Marder, President, US Peace CouncilTamie Dramer, Executive Boardmember, California Democratic Party
Greg Wilpert, journalist
School of Americas Watch (SOAW) Coordinating Collective
Gerry Condon, President, Board of Directors, Veterans for Peace
Tiana Ocasio, President, Connecticut Labor Council for Latin American AdvancementLeah Bolger, Coordinator, World Beyond War
Alexander Main, Senior Assoc for Intl Policy, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund
Dr. Robert W. McChesney, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Berthony Dupont, Director, Haiti Liberté NewspaperMarsha Rummel, Adlerperson, City of Madison Common Council, District 6
Monica Moorehead, Workers World Party
Kim Ives, Journalist, Haiti Liberté
Cindy Sheehan, Cindy’s Soapbox
Claudia Lucero, Executive Director, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
William Camacaro, Venezuela activist
Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter Veterans For Peace
David W. Campbell, Secretary-Treasurer, USW Local 675 (Carson, CA)
Alice Bush, retired Northwest Indiana Division Director SEIU Local 73
Teresa Gutierrez, Co-Director International Action CenterClaire Deroche, NY Interfaith Campaign Against Torture
Eva Golinger, journalist and writer
The Cross Border Network (Kansas City)
Antonia Domingo, Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
David Swanson, Director of World Beyond WarMatt Meyer, National Co-chair, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Rev. Daniel Dale, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), CLRN Board of Directors
Daniel Chavez, Transnational Institute
Kathleen Desautels, SP (8th Day Center for Justice*)
Michael Eisenscher, National Coord. Emeritus, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)Dr. Paul Dordal, Director, Christian Network for Liberation and Equality
Dr. Douglas Friedman, Director International Studies, College of Charleston
Fr. Charles Dahm, Archdiocesan Director of Domestic Violence Outreach
Blase Bonpane, Director, Office of the Americas
Larry Birns, Director, Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Task Force on the Americas
Dr. Sharat G. Lin, former president, San Jose Peace and Justice Center
Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity
Alicia Jrapko, U.S. coordinator, International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity
National Network on CubaDiana Bohn, Co-coordinator, Nicaragua Center for Community Action
Joe Jamison, Queens NY Peace Council
Jerry Harris, National Secretary, Global Studies Association of North America
MLK Coalition of Greater Los Angeles
Charlie Hardy, author, Cowboy in CaracasDan Shea, National Board, Veterans For Peace
Houston Peace and Justice Center
Dr. Christy Thornton, Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
Code Pink Houston
Workers Solidarity Action Network.orgRochester Committee on Latin America
Patricio Zamorano, Academic and International Affairs Analyst
Cliff Smith, business manager, Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, Local 36
Michael Bass, Convener, School of the Americas Watch-Oakland/East Bay
Joe Lombardo, Marilyn Levin, Co-Coordinators of United National Antiwar CommitteeDr. Jeb Sprague-Silgado, University of California Santa Barbara
Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC)
Dr. Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer Chair in Indigenous Governance Ryerson University
Lee Gloster, Steward IBT 364, Trustee, N. Central IN Labor Chapter, N. IN Area Labor Federation
Celeste Howard, Secretary, WILPF, Portland Branch (Oregon)Mario Galván, Sacramento Action for Latin America
Hector Gerardo, Executive Director, 1 Freedom for All
Jorge Marin, Venezuela Solidarity Committee
Ricardo Vaz, writer and editor of Investig’Action
Dr. T.M. Scruggs, University of Iowa, Professor Emeritus
Dr. Mike Davis, Dept. of Creative Writing, Univ. of CA, Riverside; editor of the New Left Review
Dr. Lee Artz, Dept of Media Studies; Director, Center for Global Studies, Purdue University Northwest
Dr. Arturo Escobar, Dept. of Anthropology University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Cheri Honkala, Director, Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign
Suren Moodliar, Coordinator, Encuentro5 (Boston)Dr. Jack Rasmus, Economics Dept., St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California
Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Rich Whitney, Co-chair, Green Party Peace Action Committee
David Bacon, independent photojournalist
Dr. Kim Scipes, Department of Sociology, Purdue University NorthwestJeff Mackler, National Secretary, Socialist Action
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
Henry Lowendorf, Co-chair, Greater New Haven Peace Council
Judith Bello, Ed Kinane (founders), Upstate Drone Action
Dr. Daniel Whitesell, Lecturer in the Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese, UCLADr. William I. Robinson, Sociology and Global and International Studies, UC-Santa Barbara
Emmanuel Rozental, Vilma Almendra, Pueblos en Camino, Abya Yala
Ben Manski, President, Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution
Frank Pratka, Baltimore-Matanzas Association/Maryland-Cuba Friendship Coalition
Dr. Hilbourne Watson, Emeritus, Department of International Relations, Bucknell University
Dr. Minqi Li, Economics Department, University of Utah
Christina Schiavoni, PhD researcher, Boston
Dr. Robert E. Birt, Department of Philosophy, Bowie State University
Topanga Peace Alliance
Judy Somberg, Susan Scott, Esq., Co-chairs, National Lawyers Guild Task Force on the AmericasAudrey Bomse, Esq., Co-chair, National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee
Daniel Chavez, Transnational Institute
Barby Ulmer, Board President, Our Developing World
Barbara Larcom, Coordinator, Casa Baltimore/Limay; President, Nicaraguan Cultural Alliance
Nick Egnatz, Veterans for PeaceDr. Marc Becker, Latin American Studies, Truman State University
Dr. John H. Sinnigen, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
Dr. Dale Johnson, Professor Emeritus, Sociology, Rutgers University
Sulutasen Amador, Co-coordinator, Chukson Water Protectors
Mara Cohen, Communications Hub, Trade Justice AllianceDorotea Manuela, Co-Chair Rosa Parks Human Right Committee
Efia Nwangaza, Malcom X Center – WMXP Community Radio
Dr. Chris Chase-Dunn, Sociology, University of California-Riverside
Dr. Nick Nesbitt, Comparative Literature, Princeton
Timeka Drew, coordinator, Global Climate ConvergenceJack Gilroy, Friends of Franz & Ben www.bensalmon.org
Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, Social Justice Committee
Victor Wallis, Professor, Liberal Arts, Berkeley College of Music
Jerry Dias, President, UNIFOR
Mike Palecek, National President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Harvey Bischof, President, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
Mark Hancock National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees
Stephanie Smith, President of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ UnionLinda McQuaig, journalist and author, Toronto
Raul Burbano, Program Director, Common Frontiers
Miguel Figueroa, President, Canadian Peace Congress
Heide Trampus, Coordinator, Worker to Worker, Canada-Cuba Labour Solidarity Network
Rights Action (U.S. and Canada)Joe Emersberger, writer, UNIFOR member
Nino Pagliccia, Jorge Arancibia, Marta Palominos, Frente para la Defensa de los Pueblos Hugo Chavez
Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign – Vancouver
The Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War
Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC)
Maude Barlow, Chairperson, Council of Canadians
Canadian Network on CubaMobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) – Vancouver
Dr. William Carroll, University of Victoria, Canada
Andrew Dekany, LL.M, LawyerDr. Leo Panitch, Professor Emeritus, York University, Toronto
Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR)
Alma Weinstein, Bolivarian Circle Louis Riel Toronto
Maria Elena Mesa, Coord, Sunday Poetry and Festival Internacional de Poesia Patria Grande, Toronto
Dr. Radhika Desai, University of Manitoba
Sergio Romero Cuevas, former Mexican Ambassador to Haiti
Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de los Pueblos, Oaxaca, Mexico
When Donald Trump allegedly referred to Haiti as a “shithole” country earlier this year, the US Ambassador was called in to explain the comments, but the Haitian government stopped short of any type of retaliation. But since last week, the government has been up in arms after a UN mission with a mandate to support the Haitian justice system went so far as to welcome a judicial inquiry into corruption allegations. The government has recalled its ambassador to the UN in response.
In November, a Senate commission released a 650-page report on Petrocaribe-related corruption. The report implicated top officials from previous administrations in inflating government contracts, funneling money to ghost companies, no-bid contracts for projects that were never finished, and a host of other financial crimes. Even current president Jovenel Moïse was named, allegedly overbilling the government on a $100,000 contract to install solar lamps back in 2013 when he was a relatively unknown businessman.
Moïse has rejected the allegations as politically motivated, as have others implicated. And rather than follow up on their colleague’s report, the Senate has worked to bury it.
On February 8, four civil society organizations released a statement condemning the efforts to obstruct further investigation into the allegations contained in the Petrocaribe dossier. The organizations noted that the Senate had blocked a vote on the report for four months and then, in a “clandestine” session conducted once the opposition had left the building, passed a resolution condemning the report as politically motivated and sending the dossier to the Superior Court of Accounts ― a governmental body that had already signed off on the contracts in question at the time they were awarded. The civil society organizations wrote that these actions “expose the cowardice” of the Senate, and their desire to bury the report.
Anticipating the Senate’s lack of action, a private citizen, Johnson Colin ― backed by lawyer and government critic André Michel ― filed multiple cases at the Port-au-Prince Court of First Instance on January 29 and February 20. (The original filing is available here.)
The UN Statement
On February 25, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) issued a press release welcoming “the assignment of investigating judges to pursue the Petrocaribe court cases filed by private citizens.” The mission noted that Haiti is ranked near the bottom of Transparency International’s corruption report.
“I welcome the initiative and the active role of Haitian citizens and civil society who are engaged in the fight against corruption and impunity. Their actions demonstrate that the population is standing up for accountability and justice,” said the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of MINUJUSTH, Susan D. Page.
The UN also expressed its regret that no investigating judge had been assigned to two cases of alleged human rights violations on the part of the Haitian police; one in Lilavois on October 12, 2017 and one, the alleged summary execution of civilians, in Grand Ravine on November 13, 2017. (The Grand Ravine operation was planned in coordination with the UN mission).
The mandate of MINUJUSTH, which took over for the previous UN mission, MINUSTAH, this past October is to “help the Government of Haiti strengthen rule-of-law institutions, further develop and support the Haitian National Police and engage in human rights monitoring, reporting and analysis.”
Of course, as many observers have pointed out (including here on this blog), the UN has its own terrible track record in terms of avoiding accountability for its actions. The UN’s introduction of cholera has killed more than 10,000 and sickened a million while the UN continues to dodge legal accountability or properly fund eradication efforts. Hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse involving UN personnel have been identified ― however in the overwhelming majority of those cases, the perpetrators were simply moved out of Haiti and avoided prosecution. How can the UN have the moral authority to call for justice in Haiti when the UN itself has yet to face justice for its crimes there?
Yet the UN statement was not so much surprising for its content, but for going against the Haitian government. Throughout its controversial history, the UN has rarely even hinted at criticism of the Haitian government. Then again, in this case the UN simply welcomed a judicial investigation.
Given its mandate to support anticorruption efforts and strengthen the judicial system, and its creation under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, the mission was within its rights to make those comments, argued university professor James Boyard.
The UN did not express an opinion on the content of the Petrocaribe dossier, and given the current state of Haiti’s judicial system, the likelihood of the current case leading to any meaningful accountability is slim. The statement posed little threat to those implicated in the dossier (who, if they believe they are innocent, should be welcoming an investigation into the allegations rather than letting the dossier be used by politicians for political reasons).
The Government’s Reaction
The first response to the UN statement came from Haitian foreign minister Antonio Rodrigue. Reuters reported that Rodrigue “said in a statement on Tuesday that Page had exceeded her authority and that her comments reflect an ‘attitude harmful to the political and institutional stability acquired during the past few years.’”
The Haitian government, rather than address the allegations in the Petrocaribe dossier, has doubled down on this response. “The country is fighting to defend its image,” President Moïse said. “People have to speak well of the country,” he added. (The Haitian government recently hired an international PR firm to held with “media relations services.”)