Haiti protest demands justice for 3 slain deaf women
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Hundreds of protesters marched in Haiti’s capital on Friday to demand justice following the brutal killings of three deaf women who were tortured, stoned and left in a gully by attackers.
Mickelson Jean, leader of a Haitian association for the deaf, was one of roughly 300 people who marched in Port-au-Prince to call attention to the recent slayings. The women lived in the coastal village of Leveque where scores of homes are reserved for deaf people and their families.
“These murders are an act of absolute barbarism and we must have justice,” Jean said.
The three women were killed as they were trying to return home by foot late at night because a bridge had collapsed, preventing public transport from Haiti’s capital. They all worked as street vendors and went into Port-au-Prince that day to stock up on supplies.
Jentullon Joel, the police commissioner in Cabaret near where the killings took place two weeks ago, said arrest warrants have since been issued for two men, and three women are being held for questioning.
Joel said that one of the female suspects told investigators that her husband killed the deaf women because he feared they were “lougawou,” a Haitian Creole word for vicious supernatural creatures who fly at night.
But Nicole Phillips, a lawyer representing the victims’ families, believes that story is “a false defense to try and justify a heinous crime.” Mob violence is common in Haiti and experts say there is a widespread acceptance of the killing of perceived evil-doers.
Phillips alleged that one of the victims was known by members of the family who attacked the deaf women. “They only came to this house late at night and asked for shelter because one of the victims knew them,” she said.
Phillips, an attorney with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, is hopeful that the case can shine a spotlight on the vulnerability of disabled Haitians and the obstacles to justice they face.
“It’s a case that’s emblematic of violence that occurs against deaf people, particularly women who can’t scream if they are attacked,” she said.
Original article written by David McFadden on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dmcfadd
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Bogus Election or Provisional Government?
Article by Yves Pierre-Louis and Kim Ives.
According to Haiti’s Constitution, President Michel Martelly should pass power to his successor on Feb. 7, 2016. However, due to his foot-dragging in holding elections during his five years in power and widespread fraud in the first two rounds of on-going elections, Haiti is in a full-blown political crisis, and the scheduled Feb. 7 transfer of power from one president to the next is not going to be smooth, peaceful, or democratic.
What will happen next is anybody’s guess, but, at this writing (Jan. 19), there are two likely scenarios.
The first is that Martelly, with the support of Washington and its allies, holds a third and final round of elections now scheduled for Jan. 24 (after being postponed previously from Dec. 27 to Jan. 17). The problem is: who will vote?
The entire political opposition and most of the population cried foul after violence and fraud plagued rounds on Aug. 9 and Oct. 25. Election observers, a legal challenge from the Lavalas Family party, as well as a presidentially appointed Evaluation Commission, have confirmed there were almost universal irregularities in both elections. In the past two weeks, four of the nine members of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) have had to resign after being outed for flagrant corruption.
While some of the worst fraud occurred in legislative races, President Martelly’s chosen successor, previously obscure banana exporter Jovenel Moïse, supposedly came in first with 33% of the vote, despite a respected Brazilian exit poll indicating that he came in fourth with just 6%.
Would-be second-place presidential finisher Jude Célestin, part of a “Group of Eight” coalition (G8) with seven other leading runners-up, called the Oct. 25 election a “ridiculous farce” and, despite pressure from a high-level U.S. State Department delegation two weeks ago, has refused to participate in the second-round. He said he wants no part of “a selection aimed at the coronation of a prince.”
This would leave Mr. Moïse going to a presidential run-off unopposed. Already in the last round, only a near record-low 26% of registered voters dared or bothered to show up. A Jan. 24 turn-out would likely be even punier. Any unopposed “victory” Mr. Moïse might score that day would be very controversial and fragile.
The second scenario is that a transitional government would be formed to reorganize elections. The big questions in that case are: how will it be formed, for how long, and by whom? Furthermore, what would be its mission?
A provisional government, or “transition,” as it is commonly referred to, was first proposed over two years ago, on Sep. 29, 2013, by a national forum of popular organizations organized by the Dessalines Coordination party (KOD). The forum proposed that a 13 member “Council of State” drawn from key sectors of Haitian society form a government with a supreme court judge, similar to the arrangement which successfully carried out the 1990 “transition” from the military dictatorship of Gen. Prosper Avril to the successful election of Pres. Jean Bertrand Aristide on Dec. 16, 1990.
Today, however, Haiti is militarily occupied by the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), which enforces the agenda of Washington, Paris, and Ottawa. They are guns and bayonets behind U.S. pressure to continue on with Martelly’s discredited elections, and, should that fail, would surely try to control the formation of a transitional junta.
This is why the KOD warned during its 2013 forum that free and fair elections were not possible with either Martelly or MINUSTAH. Today, almost the entire country agrees.
As a result, in recent weeks, numerous propositions have been made, in meetings, chat groups, and radio shows, for provisional governments which would last for months or years. Almost all of the proposals include Mirlande Manigat, the former presidential candidate who lost to Martelly in 2011 and who dropped out of the 2016 race early on, perhaps to be “in reserve” for this very moment.
The U.S. Embassy has surely drawn up its Plan B for what a transition might look like, but Haitian progressive organizations are thinking and working hard to counter continued foreign meddling.
“A provisional government might have to be in place for even five years,” said a KOD leader, Henriot Dorcent. “Organizing truly free, fair, and sovereign elections is not something that can be done in a matter of months. It would have to repair all the damage done by the Martelly regime. It would have to be a provisional revolutionary government, rolling back Martelly decrees creating illegal taxes, illegal posts, illegal land seizures, destruction of state institutions, and so forth. And of course, the occupiers must be expelled. Otherwise, we will just repeat the whole fiasco again.”
The skyrocketing salaries of Martelly’s CEP members as a reward for a “job well done” has also galled the population. Their pay have gone from 124,000 gourdes ($2,137) monthly to 240,000 gourdes ($4,137). With an expense account of 150,000 gourdes ($2,585) monthly, that means a CEP member gets 390,000 gourdes ($6,722) monthly income, in a country where a 13% inflation rate and a gourde at 60 to the dollar, is driving people into deeper and deeper misery.
In the midst of this mess, some “parlémentaires mal élus” or PME (wrongly elected parliamentarians) from the Aug. 9 and Oct. 25 elections illegally swore themselves in as Haiti’s 50th Legislature on Sun., Jan. 10, a day before the constitutionally-mandated date (January’s second Monday) for parliament’s renewal. Since the “National Assembly” was carried out in violation of the Constitution’s Article 92.2 and 98.1, Haiti’s 50th Legislature will also likely lose its legitimacy and have to be reelected. In the final third round, 27 deputies (of 119 total) and six senators (of 30 total) remain to be elected.
Not surprisingly, the partial Chamber of Deputies elected a leadership of Martelly allies, which may try to push through some wildcard scenarios, like extending Martelly’s term to May 14, the date when he took office in 2011.
However, the Senate has some opposition leaders, at least nominally: Jocelerme Privert, President; Ronald Larèche, Vice President; Lucas Saint-Vil, First Secretary; Steven Benoit , Second Secretary, and Carlos Lebon, Quaestor. While they, like the G8, have called for an independent commission to verify the Aug. 9 and Oct. 25 pollings, they are compromised by the fact that they mostly occupy their seats thanks to those same elections.
The Haitian people remain mobilized to block a bogus election or a U.S.-formed neo-Martellist provisional government. Thousands took to the streets in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other towns and cities around Haiti on Jan. 18 and 19, chanting their defiance, setting up barricades, and clashing with riot police. Some windows were broken and vehicles burned.
As chaos grows, it has become clear that Washington and Haiti’s ruling class have lost control of the situation, which poses great opportunities and also great dangers to Haiti’s long suffering masses and long struggling progressive organizations and parties.
Reprinted from Haiti Liberte.
Haiti Deserves a Legitmate Election
There is an electoral crisis in Haiti. An election in October to choose a successor to President Michel Martelly was so marred by reports of ballot tampering, illegal voting and other abuses that the result has been widely denounced as illegitimate.
Not just by the dozens of losing candidates — there were 54 people on the presidential ballot — but by independent election observers, human-rights groups, Haitian religious leaders, organizations of the Haitian diaspora and ordinary citizens who have taken to the streets in angry, sometimes violent, demonstrations.
The country is supposed to hold a runoff election on Dec. 27 between the first-place finisher, Jovenel Moïse, and the first runner-up, Jude Célestin. But Mr. Célestin has called the October results a “ridiculous farce” and threatened to withdraw from the runoff. He has formed a coalition of eight presidential candidates who are demanding an independent investigation of the first election and reforms to assure the integrity of the second…
Full New York Times article here: Haiti Deserves a Legitimate Election »
Violent protests erupt in Haiti over preliminary presidential results
3 Syrians with Fake IDs Detained in St. Maarten, came on an Insel Air flight from Haiti
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NOV. 21, 2015
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten — Three Syrians traveling with fake Greek passports are being held in the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Maarten, authorities said, while officials in the Central American nation of Honduras reported detaining a Syrian and two Pakistanis traveling by bus Saturday.
The St. Maarten public prosecutor’s office said that the three Syrians were detained Nov. 14 and that an investigation was still trying to determine their identities and how and where they obtained the fake documents. Officials said they did not believe the Syrians are tied to any terrorist groups and had not asked for asylum.
Honduran officials said a Syrian woman and two Pakistanis were detained after they crossed into the country by bus from Nicaragua.
Police spokesman Anibal Baca told The Associated Press that authorities were looking for any links between the trio and five Syrian men who were detained in Honduras’ capital Tuesday for traveling with passports allegedly stolen in Greece. Four of those five apparently were students.
Immigration officials were investigating to determine the validity of the travel documents presented by the three people detained Saturday, and the prosecutor’s office said Interpol had been asked for help in checking their identities.
Kathya Rodriguez, director of immigration in Costa Rica, said the five Syrians held in Honduras did not appear to have any terrorist links. She said they entered Honduras from Costa Rica, after stops in Lebanon, Turkey, Brazil and Argentina.
In St. Maarten, prosecutor spokesman Norman Serphos told the AP that the three men being held there had arrived on an Insel Air flight from Haiti. Officials said the Syrians had traveled from Europe to Brazil, then gone to the Dominican Republic and Haiti before entering St. Maarten. It was unclear where they were headed.
Landmark Haiti Elections Go Ahead Without Violence
Reprinted from Vice News
By Jake Johnston
October 26, 2015
After violence and fraud marred legislative elections in August, voting was significantly smoother throughout the country as Haitians went to the polls to elect a new president on Sunday. A total of 142 mayoral positions were also up for grabs, and second round elections were held for deputy and senate seats where the vote had not been cancelled in August.
“Decisions were taken to increase the security,” which led to a decrease in violent incidents, said the head of the Organization of American States observation mission, Celso Amorim, expressing his satisfaction with the process thus far. Heavily armed, masked police officers were visible throughout the day in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities.
Of 119 races for deputy, 25 had to be re-run after voting centers were ransacked or votes were thrown out due to fraud in the chaotic August vote. In three of Haiti’s ten departments, final senate results were postponed pending the outcome of the electoral reruns. But on Sunday, only 8 centers were closed, according to the government.
Haiti has had no parliament since a political crisis sparked its dissolution last January, meaning the legislative vote is crucial. Haitians are also hoping the new president can bring an end to the poverty and chaos that plague the poorest country in the Americas.
Prime Minister Evans Paul took to the radio in the afternoon to congratulate the police on the improvements. Criticized for passivity during the last election, the police took an active roll in maintaining order in polling centers.
Around 15,000 officers and United Nations (UN) peacekeepers were on duty, reported the BBC. The UN said 224 arrests were made, including a candidate for the lower chamber of Deputies and two Haiti National Police officers. In Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city, an individual was arrested with 73 voter ID cards.
The head of the electoral council, Pierre Louis Opont, thanked the police for learning from August’s experience. “Today the police were up to the task,” he said. Opont called on political parties to remain calm and show patience while the votes were tallied.
Bruny Watson, a voter in the Cite-Soleil neighborhood, said he didn’t vote in August “because there was too much violence,” but he was determined to cast his ballot for president on Sunday. Turnout was a paltry 18 percent in the first-round election legislative election, but Amorim cited reports from observer teams throughout the country that indicated a significantly higher turnout this time around.
US congressional representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) were also in Haiti to observe the vote. The US has contributed $30 million to an electoral process that is expected to cost more than $70 million.
The three were among 61 members of congress to write to Secretary of State John Kerry to “send a clear message to the Haitian government underscoring the need to guarantee the security of voters.”
“What I saw today filled me with optimism about the future of Haiti,” Rep. Conyers told VICE News. The youth of Haiti had filled the polling booths, both as workers and voters, he said, adding that the majority “approached the process with seriousness and goodwill to support the democratic process.?”
Still, problems cropped up throughout the day. Many centers were late to open and in some areas Haitians were unable to find their names on voter lists. In some cases, there simply was nowhere to vote.
In Wharf Jeremie, one of the largest polling centers in August was simply gone, leaving residents unsure of where they were supposed to vote. Building 2004, another large voting center, was also non-existent on Sunday.
In Canaan, a sprawling hillside slum home to hundreds of thousands of people, including many of those displaced from the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti nearly six years ago, voters sometimes had to travel miles to the nearest voting center.
Once again, political party monitors were a source of tension and possible fraud. At 6am a long line had already formed outside the Horace Etheard voting center in the Solino neighborhood. In Haitian elections, political parties’ representatives, called mandataires, are allowed to monitor the vote inside polling centers. More than 100 were in line jockeying for position before the doors even opened.
One monitor was arrested at the Dumersais Estime voting center. Police caught him with two passes from two different political parties. Monitors were also witnessed exchanging passes outside centers, hoping to have multiple people vote with the same pass.
In another center, a monitor was kicked out after voting three times, according to poll workers. Some were not there to monitor at all. “They paid me to be a mandataire,” one monitor from the Fusion party commented, “but I’m voting Fanmi Lavalas today,” he said, while milling about outside a voting center.
Unlike in August when the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) failed to distribute enough accreditation passes to every party and allegations of favoritism were heard throughout the day, on Sunday, monitors from a plurality of parties were present and appeared to outnumber voters at many centers in the capital, occasionally overwhelming poll workers.
Because of the additional police forces expected to be present, many observers were optimistic that election day itself would be improved from August, yet pointed out that that is not the end of the process.
“It was better than August 9, but at the same time we must be very careful when it comes to the counting of votes and what happens at the tabulation center over the coming weeks,” said Pierre Esperance of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNNDDH). RNDDH is part of a coalition of civil society groups that had more than 1,800 observers present throughout the country.
As night fell on Sunday, poll workers and political party monitors were still counting votes at the 13,725 voting booths throughout the country.
Preliminary results are not expected until at least November 3, though many expect it to take even longer as votes are collected from rural areas throughout the country and brought to the central tabulation center in Port-au-Prince. There, technicians will determine which votes count and which are discarded due to fraud or other irregularities.
Haiti’s electoral decree bans the publication of any results until an official announcement is made. The transparency and perceived fairness of the counting process is likely to be the ultimate test of the election’s success.
Though public opinion polling in Haiti is notoriously unreliable, most observers agreed that the presidential race had come down to a handful of frontrunners out of the field of 54. A total of 128 political parties are fielding candidates for all the seats and positions being elected.
Swiss-educated mechanical engineer Jude Celestin, who was eliminated from the 2010 presidential race after international pressure, is expected to perform well in the presidential election. Current president Michel Martelly’s handpicked successor Jovenel Moise, who owns a banana exporting business, and outspoken government critic Moise Jean Charles are also expected to come out on top.
On the campaign’s final day, twice-ousted former president Jean Bertrand Aristide made a rare appearance to campaign with Fanmi Lavalas candidate Dr Maryse Narcisse, giving supporters hope that Haiti may elect its first female president. No candidate is expected to achieve enough votes to avoid a run-off on December 27.
“Today the Haitian people have exercised their right to vote,” the ex-senator and presidential candidate Moise Jean Charles told VICE News. “I hope that the CEP will respect their vote, and we wait for the results. Myself, as a candidate with a progressive vision for our country, hope to have gained the country’s confidence to begin working on the social and economic changes that Haiti needs.”
But while most eyes were on the presidential race, the effects of the electoral debacle in August on legislative races will have a significant impact on the next government. Local human rights groups have raised concerns about candidates who were involved in electoral violence and fraud yet were not sanctioned or kicked out of the race. No party is likely to obtain a majority of seats, leaving a divided government no matter who wins the presidency.
Jake Johnston is a research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington DC. He is the lead author for CEPR’s Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog. Follow him on Twitter: @JakobJohnston
Haiti News Flash: Violent Clashes in Cité Soleil
Cité Soleil experiencing again hours of violence. Friday morning, armed groups clashed particularly in Project Drouillard and Bois Neuf, neighborhoods that families have deserted fearing for their lives.
Friday in Bois Neuf at least two people were executed in an inter-gang conflict. Throughout the day gunshots were reported. Faced with what looked like an urban guerilla the Brigade of Operation and of Departmental Intervention (BOID), a specialized unit newly formed of the Haitian National Police (June 24, 2015 http://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-14314-haiti-security-boid-a-new-specialized-police-brigade.html ) intervened in force later in the day, n several neighborhoods to restore order particularly in Fort Dimanche, Belekou and Boston where several shootouts broke out between the security forces and gunmen.
According to witnesses, the forceful intervention of BOID would have caused many casualties in the ranks of gangs. Several ambulances have transported many bodies at the Hospital of the State University, several people dead and many injured.
In the evening, in Projet Drouillard where BOID has also intervened more than a hundred people have been arrested.
It was reported to us that several houses were burned and motorcycles.
So far no official record of the PNH was provided on those events.
Reprinted from HL/ HaitiLibre
Charity Works to Save Young Haitian Lives
By Jessie Moniz Hardy for the Royal Gazette
Haitian teenager Jean Berry has trouble sleeping. His home in Port-au-Prince has no gate and crime is rife. kosovo . The only time he feels truly safe is at his school, run by American charity HaitiChildren. website change monitor . He is learning maths and French, subjects which he thinks will help him find a job in a big company when he grows up.
Bermudian Robin Hamill, president of HaitiChildren, believes that children like Jean are the way forward for Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world. The charity runs an orphanage, three schools, a feeding programme and clinics. Their work touches more than 5,000 Haitians a year.
“[Founder] Susie Krabacher and I believe, firmly, that Haiti will not be lifted up based on any amount of foreign aid,” said Mr Hamill. “It has to come from within. It has to come from kids who have been educated and taught really good values. We believe we are raising Haiti’s future business leaders, spiritual leaders and community leaders.”
He got involved with the charity last year, and became its president in February. Mr Hamill went to Washington DC with HaitiChildren earlier this year to lobby policymakers to pay more attention to elections in the Caribbean nation.
“It’s not really our mission,” he said, “but it’s very important. When the country is in turmoil, more children end up in our hands as orphans.”
August elections were plagued with low voter turnouts and violence. Mr Hamill hopes a second set of elections next month will go better. The role is a big change for the businessman. The former eMoo CEO and Merrill Lynch Reinsurance Solutions Ltd president grew dissatisfied with the corporate world six years ago. It was then that he and his wife Shelly and their three teenagers left Bermuda for Aspen, Colorado. He met HaitiChildren’s Mrs. Krabacher and her husband, Joseph, in a Bible studies group while there.
“With my work in Haiti, the bottom line is that very young children will die unless we do our jobs well,” said Mr Hamill. “My paycheque may be looking smaller now, but the job is very satisfying.” The position comes with its own special perks, including a flood of birthday greetings from his young clients when he turned 50 earlier this month. “To open my e-mail and see that was very moving,” he said.
He now handles the charity’s American operations, and co-runs the rest with the Krabachers. He spends a week each month in Haiti monitoring the organisation, courting potential donors, and getting to know HaitiChildren Village’s 130 orphans. Many of them are disabled.
“In voodoo culture, children with physical disabilities are often viewed as imperfect and cursed,” Mr Hamill said. “Many of our children were left somewhere to die.”
The orphanage is located in Williamson, 30 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince. The charity’s 17 acres of land includes residential care buildings, a school, a chapel with office space, a generator, a guard tower, security gate with perimeter security walls and two water wells. A 10,000-gallon per day water filtration system is open to the community daily, and provides clean water for 150 families. The HaitiChildren Learning Academy hosts 250 students, including 40 orphans in the morning and in the afternoon acts as a trade and technical school. HaitiChildren is hoping to send some of its older residents to Cuba to university when they graduate high school. The charity also runs a school in Cité Soleil, a violence-plagued slum in Port-au-Prince. The area’s 500,000 residents are packed into 25 square miles.
“One of our schools has about 225 students,” he said. “The students’ homes often have no electricity, running water or sanitation. The lunch they receive at school might be their only meal for the day. Many of them have family members involved in gangs, and they protect us. Often, if there is about to be a gunfight, the school will get a call warning teachers to get the children to safety.” Two police officers were killed near the orphanage this week. Visiting the area can be dangerous and employees of HaitiChildren often travel with armed security guards.
“My family do worry about me,” said Mr Hamill. “There’s no guarantee, but I try to be as careful as possible.”
Sometimes danger comes from unexpected quarters. In 2010, Haiti was rocked by a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake and part of the orphanage collapsed.
“It is estimated that 223,000 people were killed instantaneously in Haiti,” said Mr Hamill. “Thirty-two of our orphans were missing after the quake. Susie immediately flew from the United States to the Dominican Republic to buy supplies and then drove over the border into Haiti to help. Most of the children were found, but six were killed in the earthquake.”
Bipartisan Group of Senators Call for Free and Fair Elections in Haiti
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators David Perdue (R-GA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are urging President Obama to collaborate with the international community to ensure the Haitian people have the ability to freely and fairly elect their leaders.
In a letter to President Obama, the Senators highlighted the assistance the United States provided the Haitian government to rebuild the country after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Due to corruption and a lack of good governance, the Haitian government is long-overdue for free and fair elections. As parliamentary and presidential elections near, there are serious concerns about whether these elections will be inclusive and transparent.
“The United States has invested almost four billion dollars in relief aid in Haiti since the devastating 2010 earthquake,” wrote the Senators in a letter to President Obama. “If long-term political and economic stability are to be achieved, it is imperative that the United States work with Haitian officials to promote good governance, uphold democratic values, and ensure that the Haitian people have the ability to freely select their own leaders.
“We request that your administration join with the Organization of American States and other international organizations to support electoral monitoring and observation in Haiti. We also request a detailed update about what your administration is doing to promote free and fair elections in Haiti.”
The 2010 elections in Haiti were marred by reports of fraud, violence, voter intimidation, violations of electoral laws, illegal exclusion of political parties and candidates, and problems with the composition of the electoral council. Municipal elections have been delayed since 2011 because President Martelly and opposition parties have failed to agree on terms, and Constitutionally mandated parliamentary elections were delayed in 2012. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe resigned amid anti-government protests in December 2104, and the following month the terms of the majority of Haitian members of parliament expired.
Senators David Perdue (R-GA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Photos of Senator Perdue in Haiti: