In the lead-up to the one-year anniversary of Haiti’s January 12, 2010 earthquake, a brutally frank account of the plight of its people was delivered by a highly placed diplomat. Ricardo Seitenfus, the representative to Haiti of the Organization of American States, delivered a hard-hitting assessment of the foreign role in that country in an interview in the December 20 Swiss daily Le Temps. Seitenfus, a Brazilian, was immediately recalled from his posting.
“Haiti’s infamous dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, returned to his country this week, while the country's first elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is kept out”, Mark Weisbrot wrote in the January 20 Huffington Post. “These two facts really say everything about Washington’s policy toward Haiti, and our government's respect for democracy in that country and in the region.”
Of all the commentaries and interviews coinciding with the anniversary of Haiti’s earthquake, none are likely to exceed in significance the interview granted by OAS Representative to Haiti, Ricardo Seitenfus, to the Swiss daily Le Temps on December 20.
Those who counselled against holding a national election in Haiti in the midst of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis will take no comfort in the debacle it became. Our thoughts rest squarely with the tens of thousands of people afflicted with cholera, or the hundreds of thousands of earthquake victims still without shelter, clean water and hope. How much suffering could have been alleviated with the tens of million of dollars spent on a wasted electoral exercise?
Haiti's November 28 election was marred by widespread fraud. Despite the call of all the leading candidates but one to cancel the exercise, officials with the UN Security Council mission as well as the United States, Canada and Europe are voicing satisfaction with the result and urging the country’s electoral commission to press ahead with a second-round runoff vote in January.
Cap Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city, was awakened by demonstrations on November 15 against the United Nation’s occupation force, Minustah, which is accused of being responsible for starting the cholera epidemic in Haiti. Shortly after 6am, thousands of angry demonstrators took to the streets in the city, where cholera has killed more than 200 people. Demonstrators also denounced the Haitian government’s mismanagement of the epidemic.
The statement below was released on November 3 by the Canada Haiti Action Network in preparation for Haiti’s November 28 elections. For more information, visit
. To contact CHAN, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Canada Haiti Action Network is once again expressing its grave concerns about exclusionary elections in Haiti.
A report by the government of Cuba, posted to the United Nations Relief Web website, said representatives of the Union of South American nations (Unasur — which unites all South American countries), met via teleconference on October 25 and agreed to commence emergency medical shipments to the areas of Haiti affected by the cholera epidemic, CanadaHaitiAction reported. Ten countries took part in the conference: Argentina; Chile; Colombia; Peru, Venezuela; Bolivia; Uruguay; Paraguay; Brazil and Ecuador.
An outbreak of cholera has been documented in the area surrounding the lower Artibonite region of Haiti. There had been more than 2000 cases of acute watery diarrhea and 160 deaths reported by October 22. Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness spread by drinking water containing the organism Vibrio cholera. Symptoms typically develop between one and five days after drinking water contaminated by the human feces of persons infected with the cholera bacteria.
“Nothing! Nothing! We’ve seen nothing!”, chanted a crowd of internally displaced people (IDP) on October 6. They were pursuing former US president Bill Clinton from his photo-op in their squalid camp on his way to the third Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) meeting in downtown Port-au-Prince. The crowd protesting against Clinton was from an IDP camp on the golf-course of the former Petionville Club, a bourgeois enclave created by US Marines when they first occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934.
Comparisons must be made between the impact of the September 5 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the quake that hit Haiti in January. In Haiti — with a population of about 9 million — about 250,000 people died in the earthquake. According to government figures, 200,000 were injured and 1 million were made homeless. Eight months later, disaster still grips people’s lives. Fortunately, but in staggering contrast, no lives were lost in New Zealand, although the earthquake was of a similar — but slightly more powerful — magnitude (7 on the Richter scale).
Below is an English translation of an open letter to the French government published in the August 16 French daily Liberation signed by a wide-range of writers and activists. Signatories include writers Tariq Ali, Eduardo Galeano and Naomi Klein, Filipino parliamentarian Walden Bello and US academic Noam Chomsky. The English statement, and the introduction below, are reprinted from The Bullet, where a full list of signatures can be found.
When police in Jamaica launched a bloody assault in May on poor neighbourhoods in the country’s capital city, news outlets in Canada responded with an ignorance and insensitivity that is all too common in their coverage of the Caribbean islands. As with Haiti, Jamaica is portrayed as incomprehensibly violent and not quite civilised.
On July 12, six months to the day after January's earthquake, the Haitian government held a ceremony behind the crumbled National Palace. Before assembled dignitaries from embassies, NGOs, and Haiti’s elite, President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive draped medals of honor on prominent figures ranging from CNN celebrity journalist Anderson Cooper and Hollywood actor Sean Penn to retired Colonel Himmler Rebu and retired General Herard Abraham, officers who have enforced dictatorships and participated in coups over the past 30 years.
Venezuela foreign minister Nicolas Maduro said on June 2 that Venezuela’s announced cancelling of Haiti's debt of US$395 million with Petrocaribe was now official. Petrocaribe is a program under which the Venezuelan government offers discounted oil, to be paid back over long-term low-interest loans, to Caribbean and Central American nations. Maduro made the announcement after the World Summit on the Future of Haiti. The summit was held in the Dominican Republic with the participation of representatives from 50 countries.
The following is a talk delivered by Scott Weinstein to a public forum in Winnipeg, Manitoba on May 7. Weinstein is a Montreal-based nurse who volunteered for five weeks of medical duty in Haiti shortly after the January 12 earthquake. The full speech can be read at Rabble.ca. * * *