Haiti Update Sunday midnite
- Ram�n Espinosa's photo for AP, January 28, in front of the Presidential Palace. This is what is meant when the New York Times employs the phrase "often chaotic food distribution."
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Protecting Haiti's Interest
by John Maxwell
Sunday, January 31, 2010
IT would be ironic, if you like your irony flavoured with blood and disinfectant, to discover that moored off Port-au-Prince at this moment is the US hospital ship, the USS Comfort, one of two employed in 1994 as floating slave barracoons in Kingston Harbour. Today the Comfort is providing medical care for people injured in the great earthquake of January 12.
In 1994, the Comfort and its consort functioned as temporary 'processing facilities' for Haitian refugees fleeing from a US-supported coup and attendant tyranny. The refugees had been picked up either on the high seas or in Jamaican waters, running for their lives from a US-backed hoodlum-state, whose favourite law and order procedures were murder by dismemberment and disembowelling with bodies left in the streets; and women and children beaten, publicly raped and disfigured and otherwise terrorised to encourage the others. Of those kidnapped either in Jamaican waters or on the high seas, 78.5 per cent were sent back to their murderers while the rest were sent to Guantanamo Bay.
This barbarous triage was a joint venture operated by President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States and Jamaican Prime Minister Percival James Patterson. It was ended by Clinton, who decided that he couldn't afford the death of a prominent black American leader on his record, if not on his conscience. Randall Robinson, president of TransAfrica, in one last desperate initiative, began a fast to the death in protest against his president's callous behaviour.
Clinton had inherited "the Haitian problem" from his predecessor who could tolerate any number of fair-skinned Cubans dropping in on Miami Beach, but was revolted by the idea of Haitians doing the same thing. It didn't matter that the Cubans, like Jamaicans and Mexicans, were economic refugees while the Haitians were literally in fear of their lives.
This point was made explicit in 2002 by a former US Ambassador to Haiti, Timothy Carney, at the launching of the Haiti Democracy Project, the most important US NGO operating in Haiti. The launching was at the Brookings Institution, one of the most eminent right-wing 'think tanks' in Washington. Carney said:
"Ambassador Roger Noriega mentioned that one of our interests is to defend human rights, but he didn't mention the fundamental interest, which is to defend Miami Beach. We don't want Haitians on Miami Beach ... That is a fundamental interest of the United States ... Now that you have realised that interest, you hopefully will have policies by which Haitians can realise their prosperity and their future at home. " How do you do that? Well, we haven't figured that out yet, have we?"
That was a job for the Haiti Democracy Project and other US-backed subversive NGOs whose function was simply to make sure that the president of Haiti, legally elected, would be unable to govern. These NGOs, dozens of them, using tactics honed in the 'peaceful overthrow' of former Communist states, didn't work well in Haiti; violence and provocation were introduced. The most effective weapon against Aristide were the press releases of the NGOs, swallowed whole by a criminally compliant US press. Even now, six years after Aristide was kidnapped by the then US ambassador, US news agencies are printing garbage about "Aristide, deposed amid a violent uprising." These days, the USS Comfort, Bill Clinton and PJ Patterson are back in the organised hypocrisy game, along with new players like Ban Ki-Moon who is proving as clueless about Haiti as his predecessor, Kofi Annan. Obama has brought back G W Bush, Condoleezza Rice's mouthpiece. No doubt there is room for old Haiti hands like Roger Noriega and Otto Reich. Pity they can't reanimate Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, both eminent authorities on black people. But there's always Luigi Einaudi: "The only thing wrong with Haiti is that it is being run by Haitians."
There is good news for those people, and there are many who worried that valuable American cash was being squandered on hapless Haitians who specialise in provoking Acts of God. The Associated Press reports: Only one cent of each dollar the US is spending on earthquake relief in Haiti is going in the form of cash to the Haitian government, according to an Associated Press review of relief efforts. Less than two weeks after President Obama announced an initial $100 million for Haiti earthquake relief, US government spending on the disaster has tripled to $317 million at latest count. That's just over $1 each from everyone in the United States. Relief experts say it would be a mistake to send too much direct cash to the Haitian government, which is in disarray and has a history of failure and corruption. "I really believe Americans are the most generous people who ever lived, but they want accountability," said Timothy R Knight, a former USAID assistant director who spent 25 years distributing disaster aid. "In this situation they're being very deliberate not to just throw money at the situation but to analyse based on a clear assessment and make sure that money goes to the best place possible." The AP review of federal budget spreadsheets, procurement reports and contract databases shows the vast majority of US funds going to established and tested providers, who are getting everything from 40-cent pounds of pinto beans to a $3.4-million barge into the disaster zone.
So, the worry warts can rest. For one thing, the Canadians and Europeans have donated more per capita to Haitian relief than the US and deserve a larger part in the immediate relief works. Organisations like the Haiti Democracy Project and John McCain's International Republican Institute will make certain that American money is spent on strengthening American democracy and defeating the populist interests which have made governance in Haiti a problem ever since the peasant rebellion 90 years ago, which required the machine-gunning of entire villages to restore law and order. Meanwhile, the United States, Canada, France and the rest of the (rapidly diminishing) civilised world met in Montreal a few days ago to devise a plan for developing a Haiti for the Age of Globalisation. The participants were more or less the same countries who plotted to depose Aristide. "Shortly after Aristide's overwhelming victory in Haiti's first democratic presidential election in 1990, the relicts of the Jim Crow Marine occupation managed to convince the Americans, first John McCain's International Republican Institute and then elements of Bill Clinton's government and various Canadian politico and officials, that Haiti under Aristide was a threat to civilisation as they knew it...
"Denis Paradis, a Canadian minister, convened a coven of like-minded fascists, "who decided that Aristide must go, and the Canadians and Americans through the Canadian aid agency (CIDA), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and John McCain's International Republican Institute financed a whole panoply of Haitian francs tireurs, pimps and wannabe-presidents and face-card NGOs to support the programme of the elites which was simply to grab back from the Haitian people the Universal Human Rights promulgated 200 years earlier for the first time on Earth by Jean Jacques Dessalines and the other illustrious fathers and mothers of the Haitian Revolution." (Common Sense, "Canada's Bloody Hands" - April 19, 2009). This is the juncture where things get really tricky. It would appear to me that a people who fought for their freedom incessantly, for 300 years, and finally won it 200 years ago deserve to be accorded considerable respect. Moreso, because they fought as slaves, entrapped and circumscribed by the system itself and despite this, defeated three of the world's most powerful armies, one of them twice. They are the only people in history to have broken their shackles themselves. Spartacus who tried valiantly but failed is revered as a European hero. Bouckman, Toussaint and Dessalines are ignored by the same historians. It is not so odd: TIME recognised Margaret Thatcher but not Fidel Castro as a revolutionary.
Those Haitians whose savagery, indiscipline and general lawlessness the western "press" celebrated in slavering anticipation failed to show. The Haitians who survived behaved as those who know them expected: patient, disciplined, and displaying an exemplary solidarity, sharing their crusts while starving.
It was these same people who declared universal emancipation and universal human rights two centuries ago and who have told anyone who wants to listen that they know what they want and who they want to lead them and speak for them.
They know how to develop their nation, if only, for the first time at last, they are allowed to do what they want. They need help, but help on their own terms. They want work, real work, not plastic 'jobs' in freezone sweatshops.
They want to go back to feeding themselves. They want to be complete Haitians again; the people who helped Bolivar liberate South America.
The world needs to get out of the way. France, the United States and Canada owe the Haitians billions in damages. It is not for them to tell the Haitians what to spend it on. France used Haitian money to conquer Algeria. Haitians want that money to conquer child hunger and maternal mortality. If the General Assembly wants to prove its worth, it should move quickly to take the Haitian initiative away from the clueless and overtaxed Security Council. The Assembly can -- guided by the Haitians and with the expert help of Cuba, Venezuela, South Africa, Kerala (India), Brazil, China and other parts of the developing world -- map out an agenda and organise help from wherever it is available without strings. The object is not to defend Miami Beach but to protect the vital interests of the Haitians, and, by extension, the vital interests of humanity.
And if anyone wants to know what to do right now: Land 10 thousand wheelbarrows on the streets and hand them over to neighbourhood groups. Let the groups decide how they are going to move the rubble and what they are going to do with it. Give the groups money and supplies to set up 10 thousand street kitchens, say about $200 a group. Let the groups pay the wheelbarrow men if necessary. In three weeks the casual journalist would be hard put to find any of the 'usual' stories. Total cost: $2 million, plus $1 million for wheelbarrows. Meanwhile, the UN can be assembling a real security force to protect the Haitians and particularly their president, and under his direction, design and install the apparatus allowing Haitians to run their own country and to make their own mistakes, for the first time at last.
Copyright � 2010 John Maxwell
* * *
American church group arrested on Haitian border accused of abducting children
Will Pavia in Port au Prince
Ten members of an American Baptist Church are to appear in a Haitian court this morning after being accused of running an illegal adoption scheme.
The group from Idaho said that they were carrying out a rescue mission and had accompanied more than 30 children as part of a plan to take at least 100 orphans out of Port-au-Prince to an orphanage that they run in the neighbouring Dominican Republic.
It was claimed last night that most of the children had living relatives and did not appear to know where they were going.
A government official described the group�s action as an �abduction�.
The controversy came as the UN mounted a massive food distribution effort to feed two million people in Port-au-Prince. Nearly three weeks after the earthquake, the World Food Programme said that it would open 16 fixed collection sites, with only women allowed access.
The Idaho group, who are being held at the judicial police headquarters in the capital, said that their intentions were honourable and that they had gained access to the children through a well-known Haitian pastor.
Laura Silsby, the group�s spokeswoman, said: �In this chaos the Government is in right now, we were just trying to do the right thing.�
She said that the group had documents from the Dominican Governmen but did not seek any paperwork from the Haitian authorities, adding that only those without close family would be considered for adoption.
Yves Christallin, the Haitian Social Affairs Minister, said that they did not appear to have the proper documentation or authorisation for the children, and accused the group, who belong to a charity called the New Life Children�s Refuge, of more sinister motives. �This is an abduction, not an adoption,� he said.
The children, aged from a few months to 12, seemed to have little idea where they were being taken when The Times met them, with some saying that they had parents in Haiti.
George Willeit, of SOS Children�s Village, a care centre on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince where the children are now staying, told The Times: �What we know is that some of these children still have their parents. There was an older girl, aged 8 or 9, and she was crying and saying, �I�m not an orphan. I still have my parents�. This girl was thinking that she was going to a summer camp or boarding school. She didn�t know what was happening to her. �One of the babies was completely dehydrated. She was not able to drink. It looks like this was because she was used to drinking from her mother�s breast. We had the Red Cross here and we had to immediately take this baby to the hospital.�
The SOS Children�s Village includes a school and small houses where groups of children are raised by allocated �mothers�. One of them, Jusane Hasie Agath, 40, was looking after five of the children. �They are all OK now,� she said. �This baby has a fever, she came in last night. There is one who says he knows his family but we don�t yet know if it�s true or not.�
Many children in Haitian orphanages have living relatives but have been abandoned because they cannot be cared for. �There were 380,000 children living in orphanages before the earthquake,� Deborah Barry, a child protection adviser for Save the Children, said. �The majority of them were there for economic reasons rather than because they didn�t have family.�
The Government has limited the number of adoptions amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to child trafficking. �By no means are we any part of that. That�s exactly what we are trying to combat,� said Ms Silsby.
The Americans include members of the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, and the Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, as well as people from Texas and Kansas.
The group described their plans on a website where they also asked for contributions, saying that they would �gather� 100 orphans and take them by bus to the Dominican resort of Cabarete, before building a more permanent orphanage in Magante.
�Given the urgent needs from this earthquake, God has laid upon our hearts the need to go now versus waiting until the permanent facility is built,� the group wrote.
* * *
It would have been nice if the editors of the UK Independent could spell the word according to present-day practice: vodou, not "voodoo."
the pull quote: >"We are being discriminated against. The aid distribution is being done by American Protestants who seem to have taken over the airport."
Voodoo: The old religion rises from the rubble in Haiti
In the aftermath of one of the world's worst earthquakes, priests and
missionaries are competing for the souls of a traumatised population.
Kim Sengupta reports from Port-au-Prince
Monday, 1 February 2010
Every evening, Monique Henri offers thanks to the voodoo deity Ogu Feray at
a shrine in her home for sparing her family from the earthquake. She used to
be a regular worshipper at her local Catholic church. But these days she
goes there less often.
The disaster has moved voodoo centre-stage in Haiti. Yesterday, 1,000
members of the national convention of voodoo priests met in an emergency
session to formulate their response to it. Failure to take decisive action,
they warned, could bring down another disaster on the shattered country.
The devastation in Haiti has led many in the traumatised population to seek
solace in faith and mysticism and there has been a move by some to turn back
towards the old religion, with a marked rise in the numbers taking part in
voodoo ceremonies and rituals.
The "day of calamity", as Haitians call it, was greeted by some Christian
fundamentalists in the US with sanctimonious Schadenfreude rather than
compassion. Pat Robertson, the former presidential candidate and spiritual
guide of the Republican right, declared that the thousands dead an injured
got what they deserved because they had made a "pact with the devil".
And in the quake's aftermath, the island has seen a surge of religious
organisations, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and even Sikh, mostly offering
relief, but some also proselytising.
The Scientologists have the highest profile, with one of their most
prominent members, Hollywood star John Travolta, flying in members of the
church and supplies, on his private jet. An outfit called Faith Comes By
Hearing have sent 600 solar powered Bibles. The Church of the True Path
recommends that Haitians should cleanse themselves by fasting � something
which many are already doing, albeit involuntarily.
But the foreigners have trouble competing with voodoo, the fusion of African
religions and Christianity which found its first adherents among the
original slave population, and which is now deeply ingrained in the culture
of the country.
It's a faith that leaps barriers: as the Haitian saying goes, people here
are "60 per cent Catholic, 40 per cent Protestant and 100 per cent voodoo."
"If everything is good, they go to church," said Pierre Andre Laguerre, a
parish priest at Sainte Bernadette Church in Port-au-Prince .""If something
bad is happening to them, they go to the voodoo priest to get help."
Ms Henri, 36, who has three children, sees no contradiction between her
voodoo and her Christian worship. Wearing a silver crucifix over her brown
jumper, she said "We all believe in God. But I also feel voodoo is powerful.
We feel the luas [deities] will protect us from further dangers. We are all
seeking answers to what happened."
Standing beside her, Clavius Philisquer, 72, was keen to point out "Voodoo
is part of our history, our culture. It unified us when we fought in the war
of independence against the French. Voodoo gave power to the black people,
that is why some Western countries say bad things about the religion. I have
seen how the luas can cure people who have become mentally ill because they
were possessed. It is real."
Max Beauvoir, the chief hungan, or priest of the voodoo hierarchy, was busy
at his home in Mariani, near Port-au-Prince, distributing bags of rice to
his followers. "This is the first relief that the voodoo people have
received," he said. "We are being discriminated against. The aid
distribution is being done by American Protestants who seem to have taken
over the airport. We know what Pat Robertson said, it was ignorant, but it
is part of trying to denigrate voodoo and promote evangelism".
Mr Beauvoir, 75, a biochemist trained at the Sorbonne and in New York, said
"We have suffered from the Hollywood version of voodoo, with blood
sacrifices and pins being stuck into dolls. They try to denigrate us, the
man from Hollywood who became president talked about 'voodoo economics' and
he left America with one of the worst budget deficits in its history.
"In reality, what has happened in the earthquake is the end of an era. It
has turned many more people towards us. They realise that we cannot go on
the way we were. There are changes taking place spiritually throughout the
world. We have had white people joining us from the US, Britain and Germany.
Many of them are successful people, but belief in voodoo has made them even
"But the way the Christian missionaries are doing their conversion is wrong.
They are going after the most vulnerable people. They are going after
children. Why do you think they want to take so many of our children away
The UN and relief agencies have warned of an increase in child smuggling.
Nadine Perrault, Unicef's child protection officer for the region, says
"This is a huge, huge opportunity for the gangs. There's lots of evidence of
the traffickers moving fast, using all sorts of means." A Canadian priest,
Pastor Noel Asmonin, said he was offered a young boy for $50 at a refugee
Growing Haitian anger at their children being taken across the border was
fuelled by the arrest of 10 American Baptists at Port-au-Prince as they
tried to take 33 young orphans, aged from two months to 12 years, into the
The Haitian authorities claim that the group, the Haitian Orphan Rescue
Mission, from Idaho, lacked authorisation. The government now requires the
personal authorisation of the Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, for the
removal of any child.
Defending the group's action, its leader, Laura Silsby, said: "In this
chaos, we are just trying to do the right thing." Sean Lankford of Meridian,
Idaho, whose wife and 18-year-old daughter are due to appear at a court
today charged with trafficking, protested. "Nothing can be further from the
truth. The children were going to get the clothes, food and love they need."
Haitians bitterly point out that while trying to take their young to
America, the US authorities have imposed restrictions on earthquake victims
being taken there for medical treatment. Medical air-lifts came to a halt
after Charlie Crist, the Florida Governor, warned that hospitals in his
state, which has been receiving most the of the patients, are "quickly
reaching saturation". However, there was a beacon of hope for many with the
announcement last night that Medevac evacuation flights to the US would
resume "within 12 hours".
"Having received assurances that additional capacity exists both here and
among our international partners, we determined that we can resume these
critical flights," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said, adding that
Florida was identifying hospitals to receive the patients.
American doctors working in Haiti have warned that the only hope of survival
for many critically ill patients lies in removal to a US hospital. Dr Barth
Green, who has come from Miami, said at a field hospital near the
international airport: "We have a hundred patients who will die in the next
day or two if we don't Medevac them." His colleague, Dr David Pitcher,
pointed to five-year-old Betina Joseph suffering from tetanus lying on a cot
with flies buzzing around her. "If we can't save her by getting her out
right away, we won't save her".
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said: "There has been no policy decision
to suspend evacuee flights. This situation arose because we started to run
out of room."
Some evangelical relief workers have seized on reports which appear to show
that voodoo's "real dark side" has begun to show itself. One prevalent
belief, it is claimed, is that loup-garou have emerged from the torn earth
to prey on humans. The word is French for werewolf, but it also applies to
other animals which possess men and women and impel them to suck the blood
According to the same reports night-time patrols have been organised in some
neighbourhoods against the malignant spirits, and there have been reports of
a lynching at a refugee camp, La Grotte. Michaelle Casseus, one of the camp
residents, said "After the earthquake, the loup-garou fled from prison. He
was boasting that he was in jail because he was caught eating children.
During the night, he went into the tents and tried to take someone's child.
He was killed."
The Independent could not find any loup-garou patrols in Port-au-Prince, and
Haitian officials say the death at the refugee camp was the result of an
attempted child snatching for trafficking rather than vampirism.
Anthony Pascal, a senior hungan in the capital Port-au-Prince, stressed "
Voodoo is not about black magic. It is a combination of various religions
including Christianity and it was started partly as a reaction to the
brutality of slavery. It is not there to harm people, but to help and
"We have a lot of beliefs modern people should believe in. For example, we
believe that trees have spirits which we should not harm otherwise we will
all suffer. But then we had deforestation here and the ecology suffered."
Mr Pascal is better known as Kompe Filo, the host of a popular television
show. He and his fellow priests, he claims, foresaw the earthquake. "We knew
something big was going to happen six months ago and it would involve an
God's anger with man was the cause of this upheaval, Mr Pascal insisted, a
view echoed by Protestant and Catholic priests on the island. "People have
turned away from spiritual values. They have become too obsessed with money.
They are losing their humanity. That is why this happened. People realise
that and that is why they are joining us more and more."
Exactly how many are joining, however, is open to conjecture. Among the
hundreds gathered outside Mr Beauvoir's house waiting for the food
distribution was 76-year-old Andy Jameau. "All the people around here are
supposed to be Voodoo believers," he said. "But I would say around 40 per
cent are not that and I am one of them. I would say I am Voodoo, Catholic or
anything if it means I would get food for my family. I believe in any God
who fills my stomach."
* * *
Africa mulls resettling Haitians
Senegal's president said African countries should naturalise any Haitians seeking new nationality [AFP]
The African Union has agreed to consider a proposal to resettle thousands of Haitians left homeless by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, and possibly create a state for them in Africa.
The idea was suggested by Abdoulaye Wade, the Senegalese president, who said that the history of Haitians as descendants of African slaves gave them the right to a new life on the continent.
Jean Ping, the African Union (AU) chairman, told African leaders at the body's annual summit that it would discuss the proposal during the three-day event in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia.
"It is out of a sense of duty and memory and solidarity that we can further the proposal to create in Africa the conditions for the return of Haitians who wish to return after the effect of the disaster that ravaged Haiti," Ping said.
"What happened to Haiti is a tragedy that transcends borders. We have attachment and links to that country.
"The first black republic in 1804, that carried high the flame of liberation and freedom for the black people and has paid a heavy price for so doing".
Wade said Senegal and other African states should naturalise any Haitians who sought new nationality following the quake, which is thought to have killed about 170,000 people and left one million homeless.
He also called for a mass adoption programme across the continent for children who had been made orphans in the wake of the january 12 disaster.
The idea for a new state is reminiscent of the 19th century creation of the West African state of Liberia for freed US slaves.
The AU commission has already opened a special account for Haiti at the African Development Bank.
Attending the summit in Addis Ababa, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, thanked the regional body "for reaching out to Haiti in this time of need".
"The nation of Haiti is an ocean away, yet I know it is close to every African heart," he said.
"Today the Haitian people are enduring one of the greatest humanitarian challenges in recent years and loss of life on an unimaginable scale."