Friday, July 28, 2006

The situation in Haiti Today

July 2006

By Josette Perard from Port au Prince, Haiti

In English and Haitian Kreyol

Touswit apre eleksyon Fevriye 2006 yo, operasyon kidnaping oswa vòl ak zam te fe yon ti ralanti. Sitwayen lan peyi a te konprann sekirite te pral retabli.

Right after the election of February 2006, the kidnapping operations and other armed violence took a little break. It was understood that the country's security situation needed to be re-established

Men, sibitman, apre anviwon yon mwa, operasyon kriminèl yo te rekòmanse lan plizyè vil peyi a, Gonayiv, Senmak, Okay, espesyalman lan Pòtoprens, bandi ame ap rantre lan magazen osnonn lan rezidans prive moun pou kidnape, vòlè, asasine. Lan sèten katye popilè, gwoup ame ap goumen youn ak lòt, lè se pa ak lapolis osnon Minista.

But, suddenly, after about a month, criminal activity started up again in many towns such as Gonaive, St. Marc, Les Cayes and especially in Port au Prince. Armed bandits entered stores or private residences to kidnap people, steal and murder. In certain quarters of the population, armed gangs fight each other, when they aren't fighting the police or MINUSTAH (the UN occupation forces).

Malge eleksyon Préval, tout moun konstate gen yon vid onivo Leta a ki panko konble. Enstitisyon Leta yo frajil; inite ki ta sipoze simante yo onivo politik ak administratif pa egziste. Pa egzanp, lè Andresol, Chef Lapolis la deklare ke bandi Lapolis arete jwenn liberasyon yo, sa gen yon grenn sinifikasyon : gen majistra lan sistèm lajistis la ki lan kondòday ak bandi yo.

In spite of Préval being elected, everyone declares there is a void on the State level which has yet to be filled. The institution of the State is fragile; the unity which is supposed to cement the levels of politics and administration does not exist. For example, when Chief of Police Andresol declared that the bandits the police arrested had been freed, that means the judges in the Justice system are in collusion with the bandits.

Ansyen premye Minis Jera Latòti sove, men li kite kèk kado pwazon pou Preval. Kominote Entènasyonal la di li debouse 960 milyon dola pou Ayiti sou Gouvènman Latòti - Bonifas, men kès Leta a vid, gen plis chomay lan peyi a, pri machandiz premye nesesite miltipliye pa 3 osnon 4 sòti 2004 rive 2006, plis lamizè blayi lan mitan ouvriye, peyizan ak klas mwayèn nan.

The previous Prime Minister, Gerard Latortue – [installed, not elected] – ran away but he left a few poison presents for Préval. The international community disbursed 960 million dollars to the Latortue - Boniface administration, but the State treasury is empty, there is very high unemployment in the country, the price of goods has multiplied 3 or 4 times from 2004 to 2006, there is more misery spread over all functions with the peasants and middle class being very effected.

Lè Préval te monte opouvwa le 14 Me 2006, li te di pèp ayisyen an “gade m lan je, m ap gade w nan je ”. Sa fè plis pase 2 mwa pèp la ap gade misye lan je, men mesaj yo wè lan je l pa di anyen. Ositou, chalè lari a monte, manifestasyon ap boujonnen babò tribò divès fòs sosyal ap chache eksplwate vid politik la selon enterè klas yo, gwoup yo. Atoufè tout kalite pwofite pou antre anaksyon.

When Préval took office on May 14, 2006, he told the Haitian people, “Look me in the eye and I will look you in the eye.” It has been more than two months that the people have looked in his eyes, but the message they see doesn’t say anything.

Immediately, the streets heated up, protests are growing everywhere, various social forces are searching to exploit the political void according to class interests, group interests. And so, all kinds can profit from the inaction of the State.

Jounen jodi a, peyi d Ayiti lan yon kafou difisil. Pwoblèm li anpil e yo konplike. Anpil moun ap defile lan radyo ak televizyon pou pwopoze sa yo kwè ki ka solisyon pwoblèm yo, tankou pa egzanp ogmante efektif lapolis, ba li bon zam pou l ka afwonte bandi, tabli yon lapè sosyal kreye travay, reyòganize administrasyon piblik kòwonpi a, apati yon priz konsyans jeneral.

Today, Haiti is at a difficult crossroads. Its problems are many and complex. Many people are putting forth on radio and television the proposals they believe can give solutions to the problems, for example, improving the effectiveness of the police, giving them arms to confront bandits, establishing a social truce, creating work, reorganizing from the beginning, for the corrupt public administration to have a grasp of general conscience.

Sepandan, sa moun yo bliye osnon pè manyen, se rasin tout pwoblèm sa yo, sètadi rapò sosyal ki tabli an Ayiti depi 2 syèk e ki akouche depi lontan yon Leta ak yon klas dirijan an fayit, yon demokrasdi pèpè, yon ekonomi sou lagraba, yon anviwònman delabre, mizè jeneralize, analfabetism, koripsyon, kidnaping, okipasyon etranjè. Moun save nan gwo peyi yo fabrike 2 etikèt pou Ayiti ak peyi ki sanble ak li : “Pays moins avancés” - “Entité chaotique ingouvernable ”!

However, it is that people forget or are afraid to grasp, that the root of all problems, is the social structure established in Haiti for these past two centuries: the ruling class has bankrupt the State, democracy is trashed, the economy is on its last feet, the environment is dilapidated and there is general misery, illiteracy, corruption, kidnapping and occupation by foreigners. Scholars in larger countries have fabricated two labels for Haiti and other countries like Haiti " Countries minimally advanced " and "A chaotic entity ungovernable".

Ajitasyon politik ak voye monte moralizan ki refize touche rasin pwoblèm yo ap rete lan yon virewon pèmanan, yon virewon ki ranje zafè yon klas moun onivo nasyonal ak entènasyonal.Pou n kòmanse sòti lan pwoblèm yo, pèp ayisyen an bezwen yon diskisyon onèt e serye, lan yon kad òganize, sou baz sa a, chimen an va louvri pou n vanse.

Political agitation by some people who refuse to address the root cause of our problems are keeping us in a permanent turnaround, a turnaround which directly profits a few people on a national and international level. For us to get out of these problems, Haitian people need an honest and serious discussion that is organized and inclusive so that the road will open for us to advance.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Book Signing - May 20: Haiti, Rising Flames from Burning Ashes

Haitian writer, author, and political analyst Hyppolite Pierre, Director, Political Affairs and Founder of the Institute for Research in the Sciences of Politics (IRSP), invites you to a book signing ceremony on
SATURDAY, MAY 20, 2006, at 7 P.M. at
Books and Books - map
265 Aragon Avenue
Coral Gables, FL

The book, Haiti, Rising Flames from Burning Ashes, is a publication of the University Press of America. Already being marked as “one of the most important works on Haiti”, this book is a historical study of patterns that have caused and continue to cause the failure of the island nation of Haiti as a state. The strength of the book lies in its final chapters, where the author proposes solutions which, if implemented, will help Haiti find its proper place among nations of the world, as a thriving, vibrant, multicultural, and thoroughly democratic state.

Hyppolite will make a short presentation, followed by a question/answer session with the audience. He will also sign your copy of his book, already available at the bookstore.

For further information about this exciting event and seating availability, please call Books and Books at (305) 442-4408.

Book Signing - May 14: Haiti, Rising Flames from Burning Ashes

Haitian writer, author, and political analyst Hyppolite Pierre, Director, Political Affairs and Founder of the Institute for Research in the Sciences of Politics (IRSP), invites you to a book signing ceremony on

SUNDAY, MAY 14, 2006, at 1:30 P.M.

Hard Bean Coffee & Booksellers
36 Market Space
Annapolis, MD, 21401 - map

The book, Haiti, Rising Flames from Burning Ashes, is a publication of the University Press of America. Already being marked as “one of the most important works on Haiti”, this book is a historical study of patterns that have caused and continue to cause the failure of the island nation of Haiti as a state. The strength of the book lies in its final chapters, where the author proposes solutions which, if implemented, will help Haiti find its proper place among nations of the world, as a thriving, vibrant, multicultural, and thoroughly democratic state.

Hyppolite will gladly sign your copy of his book, already available at the bookstore.

For further information about this exciting event and seating availability, please call Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers at (410) 263-8770.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Reflections on the Haitian Elections

by Ron Bluntschli of Gwo Jan, Haiti

Considering all that has been going on politically in Haiti over the past few years, what happened here on Feb. 7, 2006 and a few weeks after was both surprising and inspiring. The Haitian people went out in large numbers to make a powerful statement to the elites and the international community, whose combined misrule has had little support among the masses. Their determination overcame the many obstacles put in their way. They did not get discouraged and go home when many polling places remained closed until late in the day, nor did they riot after waiting for so long only to find themselves turned away because somehow their names weren't on the list where they were told to vote. What they did do was demonstrate forcefully but peacefully to demand that the Provisional Electoral Council (PEC) solve the problem, which it finally did under pressure around 2:00PM (voting was supposed to start at 6:00AM and end at 4:00PM) with the declaration that people could vote wherever they were and that the polling places were to remain open until everyone had voted. So the election went off without violence (the four deaths that did occur were not political in nature, rather the kind of incident normal for large crowds of people under uncomfortable circumstances; the real story is that there weren't more) and the people went home to wait for the results. Not that there was any doubt about who won the presidency, but there was concern that the people's will would not be respected.

That fear seemed to be confirmed after the election as the vote count started to come in. Preval was ahead with around 60% initially but then a day later went down to 50%, less than the absolute majority he needed to not have to go to a run-off. It remained hovering around that point for the rest of the week. Preval supporters suspected that the count was being manipulated to force a run-off vote, which they wanted no part of, and began to demonstrate in the streets. The big issue initially revolved around the amount of blank votes recorded, which when included in the total – as mandated by Haitian electoral law – dropped Preval's lead below the needed 51%. It defied reason, given the context, that 4% of the electorate would have deliberately voted for "none of the above" as a protest. The discovery of several thousand ballots dumped in the garbage north of Port-au-Prince added more fuel to the fire. The city was effectively shut down for a few days due to the roads being blocked, but there was no violence or destruction of property to speak of, except when the UN fired on a crowd that wouldn't let their vehicles pass, killing two and wounding four others. To resolve the problem before it got out of hand, the PEC agreed to discount blank votes to give Preval the majority needed to be declared the winner. Other than a few candidates and the small minority of people strongly opposed to Preval, most people welcomed the decision and things returned to normal. Official observers also agreed, declaring the election valid and without significant fraud.

Much of the above story was fairly well reported in the press (a good article to start with would be "The Fight for Haiti", by Kathie Klarreich, in the March 13 issue of The Nation). What wasn't given much attention was what the people understood was going on in this game that was being played with them, and why, and how their response to it deserved much more admiration and respect than they got. What they saw was that the powers were going to try to provoke them to violence in order to have a pretext for taking over the country entirely, or at least to install another puppet government. The election going up in flames would prove that Haiti had become ungovernable, a failed state. The violent masses would take the blame. Did they have reason to believe this, or was it just the paranoia of a backward, uneducated people looking for someone to blame for their misery, as foreigners often view Haitians?

Let's start by looking at a bit of recent history. Two years ago, President Aristide was forcibly removed from power by what was called a popular revolt. While there were certainly many Haitians –although never the majority- who were angry with Aristide and wanted him out, the coup d'etat was given financial, organizational and logistical support by the big players in Haiti: Washington, France and Canada (how it went down is well covered in the book "Canada in Haiti: Waging War On The Poor Majority", co-authored by Antony Fenton). Although the Haitian Constitution mandates elections within three months of the presidency being vacated, for whatever reason, this was ignored by all those staunch defenders of the Constitution that Aristide had been accused of violating. While hungry for power, the elite political class knew that Aristide's political party, Lavalas, was still the dominant political force in the country and would win overwhelmingly were a speedy election to be held. They needed to destroy the party and demoralize its popular base first before daring to organize an election in which any of them would stand a chance of winning. This they proceeded to do over the next two years, under the inept and corrupt leadership of the provisional puppet government cobbled together by the same powers that supported the coup d'etat. During this process hundreds of Lavalas officials and supporters were rounded up and put in prison, almost all of them never even having charges filed against them. Many others were "disappeared". This was all blithely overlooked by the UN, which had taken over the "peacekeeping" mission from the very busy US military, who stayed only long enough to kill several people and "restore order".

Much of the work was initially carried out by elements of the Haitian Army, which had been organizing and training in the Dominican Republic for months prior to the onset of anti-Aristide demonstrations (one wonders why they were allowed to operate so freely there and where they got their money) in anticipation of providing the violence necessary to push Aristide out when other means proved inadequate. Although by any reasonable standard these rebel forces would be classified as terrorist, they not only were allowed to ravage northern cities and threaten Port-au-Prince, enabling the coup d'etat to happen, but were also given free range to re-establish bases and keep their weapons afterward. Most Haitians, even many of those who wanted Aristide out, were appalled to see the Army reasserting itself again, considering their brutal history. Had the international objective been to truly stop violent conflict, the rebels should have been disarmed and their leaders arrested; instead, they were told to keep a low profile and wait for a newly elected government to decide whether the Army would be reconstituted or not. They were unable to remain disciplined, however, and proceeded to try and establish themselves operationally in defiance of the occupying powers. When their depredations went too far, the UN and the Haitian police finally shut them down about a year ago.

A lot of the preparatory work needed to begin organizing elections had already been done by this time in any case. Lavalas was unable to function and most of its leaders were in hiding, in prison or dead. The political violence was much worse than it had been under Aristide. Poor neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince like Cite Soleil and Belair had turned into armed fortresses in response to repeated attacks; first by the US, then by the Haitian military and police, as well as the UN. The gangs that Aristide had armed to be his own security forces began a campaign of kidnapping which terrorized primarily the business class and elites, who had overwhelmingly supported Aristide's ouster (it should be noted, however, that many of the kidnappings occurring during this period were not committed by gangs and had nothing to do with politics). This justified further incursions by UN forces, since the population of the armed neighborhoods had now become "terrorists". In one such attack in Cite Soleil, UN forces killed at least 27 people, mostly women and children. The people in these neighborhoods were fully convinced that it was the intent of both the Haitian authorities and the international community to eliminate them, but they were determined not to give up without a fight, shooting at any invading police or UN personnel. While the politically motivated kidnappings were terrible and beyond justification, the responsibility for them should be acknowledged as shared by those in power as well as by the actual perpetrators. The rulers, of course, accept no responsibility, preferring to blame Aristide as somehow orchestrating the whole operation from South Africa.

With Lavalas on the run and its main strategic areas of popular support under the constant threat of siege, the stage was now set for moving ahead with elections. Anti-Aristide forces looked forward to an election they might finally have a chance of winning, but the poor majority was totally uninterested unless Lavalas was allowed to operate freely and present its own candidates. Desirous of legitimacy and knowing that this would not be recognized if Lavalas –still the party of the people- was not involved at least superficially, the authorities negotiated with individuals from within Lavalas willing to play the game and present a candidate for the presidency, which resulted in the laughable choice of Marc Bazin as the Lavalas candidate (laughable because Bazin never had any popular support, especially after accepting the post of Prime Minister during General Cedras' reign of terror). The main body of the Lavalas party rejected this outright, instead pushing for Father Gerard Jean-Juste to represent them. The authorities responded by arresting him on bogus charges to prevent him from being able to register as a candidate. Without a candidate they could believe in, popular interest in the elections remained low.

Then the surprise. On the day before the deadline for candidates to register, Rene Preval entered the race under the banner of the newly formed party Espwa, which means hope in Kreyol. This changed everything. The whole country, including many strongly anti-Aristide people, suddenly got fired up to participate. People started registering to vote en masse, feeling that now they had a candidate they could truly support. The ruling class had not anticipated this and was not at all happy about it, because everyone knew from the moment he entered the race that Preval would win hands down in a fair election. Preval's edge was that he had already been president, had not been accused of corruption while in power (although he was unable to stop rampant corruption in the government), ended his term able to remain in the country and continue to live as a private citizen (a rarity in Haiti) and was accepted and respected by the masses as being solidly "of the people and for the people". His former close association with Aristide made him popular with Aristide supporters, his commitment to popular causes without being tainted by Aristide's power plays and corruption made him popular with pro-democracy people who had been disillusioned with Aristide, and his business-friendly politics made him acceptable to some of the powerful families who dominate Haitian commerce. That he was not known as a competent administrator or very charismatic didn't matter at all.

Another reason for his popularity is that he is hated by the ruling elites and political class, as much if not more for his style as for his politics. Preval is the sort of person who will sit on the ground to talk to a group of farmers, dresses casually, dances with grandmothers, drinks and plays dominoes with regular folks and prefers to speak Kreyol rather than French. The elite view him with the kind of disdain that a New York socialite would have for some good old boy living in a trailer park in Alabama. He is not a politician, yet he has had two presidencies handed to him without even trying, so the political class hates him as well. The people like this about him, though, and by voting for him sent a strong message to the ruling class about just how little they admire them.

Once Preval became a candidate, those in power tried what they could to scuttle or at least forestall the elections, pushing the date back again and again until they worked out some sort of plan and could no longer offer an excuse for the delays. When it finally became clear that the elections were indeed going to be held, the people mobilized and prepared themselves for whatever might be thrown at them. By this time it was obvious to many that there were going to be attempts made to provoke mob violence to spoil things. For one thing, many of the elite were afraid enough to leave the country or send their kids out for the week of the election. Also, during the week before, UN patrols went into Cite Soleil and marked many houses with skull and crossbones symbols, which the inhabitants understood as marking where to shoot when the troops entered. (It would be hard to imagine what other purpose these markings could possibly serve.) Then, on the day before the election, US warships appeared in the harbor off Port-au-Prince, and the news arrived that there were around 800 US soldiers stationed in Barahona, close to the border in the Dominican Republic, supposedly to build four polyclinics (why so many armaments were in their camp was not explained). The only question was how were they going to incite the violence. A lot of people, including myself, thought that thugs hired by opposition parties would start shooting up polling places to set things off. As it turned out, a different approach was used.

It became clear on election day what the strategy was. To start with, the polling places set up for poorer neighborhoods were located in exposed areas with no shade and next to piles of stinking garbage. As previously mentioned, the offices opened very late and were badly disorganized and short of materials. Previous elections, when there was even less experience in holding them, somehow went much more smoothly. The UN, charged with material and logistical support and security, was noticeably absent in many places, especially where the people of Cite Soleil and Belair were to vote. All this did have its effect; people became frustrated and angry and ready for action. But the anticipated violence did not happen. There was no gunfire from those violent "terrorists" of the targeted neighborhoods. People endured the humiliation to cast their votes, foiling the expectations of those who apparently made their plans on the assumption that the people were little more than violent animals unable to control their emotions. At the end of the day, when it was plain what had been attempted and how the people overcame it, my admiration for the Haitian people rose to a level it hasn't been at in years.

The shenanigans after the election were even more potentially explosive than the humiliations of election day. Especially disturbing was the complicity of the UN in continuing to play the role of spoiler. That ballot boxes had been dumped in the garbage before the count was complete was bad enough; that the trucks that dumped them were UN trucks was worse. Unaware of such details, an outside observer of the demonstrations that followed might be pardoned for thinking, "Why don't they just let the process go on, even if that means a run-off if Preval doesn't get a clear majority? Can't they behave in a more civilized fashion?". But from my perspective, having felt the anger upon seeing how people were treated for simply exercising their rights, I was deeply impressed with how well they kept discipline and avoided destroying not only life but property as well. In comparison, there is usually much more mob violence in the US during a post-Super Bowl victory celebration than what we saw here. After the way people comported themselves on election day they should have been given the respect they deserved; instead, they were treated with contempt. And the people rose to the occasion with dignity, maturity and disciplined determination.

Spirits are still high in Haiti, and there is hope in the air like there hasn't been since 1994. You could feel it in this year's Carnival, which was noticeably free of the sporadic fighting that usually breaks out with so many people together dancing and jostling each other in tightly packed crowds. People are no longer as naïve as they were before, however, so they remain wary. There are already signs that efforts will be made to cripple Preval's presidency. For now, though, the people have the satisfaction of having scored a big point against the forces that continue to try dominating them. I hope they can hold on to this spirit, this energy, and with it start to heal and rebuild the country.

Ayibobo for the Haitian People!

Monday, February 20, 2006


"Anfen !! Apre anpil sispans epi gras ak detèminasyon Pèp lan ki te achte lari a lajan kontan, KEP lan jedi 16 Fevriye a 3zè nan maten ba rezilta definitif eleksyon Prezidan.

"Finally! After much suspense and grace and determination, the People took to the street as if they owned them. The CEP (electoral commission), on Thursday February 16 at 3 AM in the morning, gave a definite result of the Presidential election.

René Préval pase Prezidan Peyi a ak yon pousantaj 51.10% Moun yo te Dòmi devna Palè Nasyonal tout lannwit epi maten an yo sòti nan Lari Pòtoprens ak nan pwovens yo, pou chante, danse kontantman yo, nan lòd ak disiplin."

Rene Preval became President of the country with 51.10 %. People slept in front of the National Palace the entire night and in the morning they took to the streets of Port au Prince and in the provinces, singing, dancing with happiness, with order and discipline."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Women's eNews names Josette Perard Leader for the 21st Century

(NEW YORK Jan. 1, 2006) Women's eNews announces today its 21 Leaders for the 21st Century 2006: women and one man who are dedicating their lives to improving the lives of all women at home, in the workplace, in school and on the playing field.

Out of a pool of hundreds of impressive candidates nominated during the past several months, these 21 determined and passionate trailblazers stand out for their extraordinary visions and commitment to working on behalf of women. Josette Perard, Haiti Director of the Lambi Fund of Haiti, was one of the award winners.

Josette Perard, Haiti's Center Pole

Josette Perard's heart has never been anywhere but her home, Haiti. Her great laugh and greater works, though, have affected the lives of thousands elsewhere.

At 25 years old, faced with the daily threat of violence in Haiti, she went to the Congo (now Zaire) to help women adjust to their new lives, finally free of colonialism. She was given the opportunity to go because they needed French-speaking social workers.

Six years later, she left "those troubled, but strong African women," as she puts it, to take up residence in New York City.

She went to school and pursued accounting to support her two young boys, who adjusted quickly to the United States. But Perard never felt like she belonged despite 20 years of living in the city. "New York is a city where you have to be young and grow there," she says. "I was always waiting to go back to my Haiti."

After two decades as an accountant in New York, Perard finally got her homecoming.

In 1987, after president Jean-Claude Duvalier fled, she returned to still-turbulent Haiti and embarked on a lifelong dream of providing social work in her native land. After a chaotic U.S.-installed military regime, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president in 1990. Most of his term was usurped by a military coup d'etat (i.e. more violence), but he returned to office in 1994, the same year that Perard co-founded the Lambi Fund of Haiti in Port au Prince, a nonprofit created to help poor women create economically and environmentally sustainable communities throughout Haiti.

Today the Lambi Fund of Haiti has supported over 100 projects throughout Haiti's nine regional departments with foundational support and private donors.

These days, Perard spends most of her time organizing regional groups of women to create self-sustaining agricultural and community projects.

Most recently, for example, the Lambi Fund of Haiti helped a rural community build its own sugar cane mill, which provides jobs and income to local workers. Before that, community members—mostly single mothers—walked miles and paid exorbitant prices charged by a rich landowner who controlled the other local mill. "When the situation is bad where I live and I'm concerned, I go on location," Perard says, "and when I meet the women my spirit goes up."

Women, Perard believes, are the heart of Haiti, especially given that violence has left so many families fatherless. "In a voodoo temple," she says, "there is a pole in the middle and everything goes around that pole. The women are that pole in Haitian society."

— By Courtney Martin