Haiti

“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.

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The president of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced on May 24 that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held on November 28, the constitutionally prescribed date.

“The CEP is up to the task of organising general elections in the country”, said Gaillot Dorsinvil, who is also the handicapped sector’s representative on the nine-member council, handpicked by President Rene Preval.

But tens of thousands of Haitians don’t agree and have been demonstrating in the streets in recent weeks to demand a new CEP — and Preval’s resignation.

Haiti has been devastated in recent weeks by Hurricanes Fay, Gustav and Ike, and tropical storm Hanna. Fay was the first to hit, on August 15, and Ike was the last, on September 7.

An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President

By Randall Robinson

Basic Civitas Books

280 pages, US

Pages

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