HAITI REPORT FOR JANUARY 22,2006
The Haiti Report is a compilation and summary of events as described
in Haiti and international media. It does not reflect the opinions of
any individual or organization. This service is intended to create a
better understanding of the situation in Haiti by presenting the
reader with reports that provide a variety of perspectives on the
IN THIS REPORT:
- Violence in Cite Soleil, Protests and More People Shot to Death
- Medecins Sans Frontieres Calls for Armed Groups to Respect Safety of Civilians
- Two UN Peacekeepers Killed in Cite Soleil
- Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Visit Port-au-Prince with Wyclef Jean
- Misappropriated Funds Scandal at Promobank
- Group of 184 Sit In to Pressure MINUSTAH
- Ongoing Tensions Between Haiti and Dominican Republic
- Lawyers Call for Halt in Deportations to Haiti
- United Nations Police Announce Anti-Kidnapping Cell with Haitian Police
- Some Brazilians Want Brazil Out of Haiti
- Kidnappings Continue
- Oxfam GB Launching Campaign Against Weapons
Violence in Cite Soleil, Protests and More People Shot to Death:
Chanting protesters filled the narrow streets of a notorious slum on Thursday to denounce violence and political chaos after clashes between gangs and U.N. peacekeepers reportedly killed one person and wounded at least 17. Hundreds of people, including political activists, gang members and children, shuffle-danced to the blaring of horns and banging of drums toward two U.N. armored personnel carriers at the edge of Cite Soleil, then veered off toward the sea without confronting the peacekeepers who patrol the slum's perimeter. Organizers said they feared that U.N. peacekeeping troops would soon attack Cite Soleil, a warren of bullet-riddled shanties with raw sewage flowing in trash-clogged canals. The peacekeepers are under pressure to take more aggressive measures against slum gangs that authorities have blamed for a wave of kidnappings in the Haitian capital. "The population is standing up to say 'No' to U.N. persecution in Cite Soleil," said John Joel Joseph, an activist for Lavalas, the political party of ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "Every day, we are counting dead bodies."
On Wednesday, shooting broke out between the two sides after nightfall, according to aid workers and residents. One of the wounded was a 12-year-old girl who was shot in the thigh. On Thursday, she was sprawled on a dingy mat in the shade of a concrete wall, shielding her eyes from the blazing sun. Sushil Kujur, who works at a Missionaries of Charity clinic at the edge of the slum, said workers treated seven people with gunshot wounds, including a man who was shot in the abdomen and died on the way to a hospital. Another 10 people were treated by the Belgian and French sections of the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, officials said. The aid groups said they couldn't be certain where the gunfire came from. Kujur said his clinic has treated about 70 people for gunshot wounds in the last four months, including 10 who later died, and that some were not involved in clashes with U.N. troops. "They are hitting innocent people," he said. (AP, 1/12)
Four people were shot to death Wednesday and Thursday in the latest surge of violence in Haiti's largest slum. The three men and a woman were killed Wednesday night and early Thursday in the Port-au-Prince slum of Cite Soleil, authorities at Cite Soleil's St. Catherine Hospital said. Seven others were injured. Residents blamed the killings on Jordanian peacekeepers who they said sprayed the area's cinderblock homes with high-powered weapons. U.N. spokesman Damian Onses-Cardona said he had no report on any troop offensives in Cite Soleil since Tuesday and said peacekeepers don't open fire unless attacked. Residents said one victim was a man in his 30s who ran a business carrying goods with a wheelbarrow. His body lay on a walkway Thursday as onlookers showed journalists high-caliber weapon rounds they said were fired by U.N. troops. The 9,000-strong U.N. force is struggling to restore order ahead of the country's repeatedly postponed elections, now set for Feb. 7, and has clashed often with well-armed street gangs blamed for kidnappings and killings. More than 1,500 people -- including 78 police officers and nine U.N. peacekeepers -- have died since former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide left Haiti in February 2004, local human rights activist Pierre Esperance said. (AP, 1/19)
Medecins Sans Frontieres Calls for Armed Groups to Respect Safety of Civilians:
With violent attacks intensifying and spreading to many parts of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, the international medical humanitarian organization MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res (MSF) today called on all armed groups in the city to respect the safety of civilians and allow those wounded during clashes immediate access to emergency medical care. The organization also called for the safety of national and international aid workers to be respected. In the last several weeks, MSF medical and surgical teams have seen an alarming increase of people needing treatment for violence-related injuries, including a growing number of gunshot and knifing victims.
In December 2005, MSF treated more than 220 gunshot victims at two facilities - St. Joseph's trauma center in the Turgeau neighborhood and Choscal hospital in CitÃ© Soleil. This included 26 gunshot victims treated at Choscal hospital from December 26 to 27, and was a dramatic increase from the 147 gunshot victims treated at both facilities in November 2005. Nearly 50 percent of all MSF's patients treated for violence-related injuries have been women, children, or elderly. "It is unacceptable that so many civilians are victims of this latest wave of violence," said Ali Besnaci, the head of mission for the MSF trauma center at St. Joseph's Hospital in the city center. "We are receiving patients from St. Martin, Centre Ville, Martissant, Carrefour and other areas of Port-au-Prince. Recently, we treated a 15-month old infant and a 77-year old man for gunshot wounds."
Since December 2004, medical and surgical teams at St. Joseph's have treated nearly 2,500 people for violence-related injuries, including more than 1,500 gunshot victims and 500 knifing victims. MSF re-opened Choscal Hospital and the Chapi Health Center in the heart of CitÃ© Soleil in August 2005, and staff performed nearly 12,000 medical consultations and 800 emergency interventions in the first three months. Since the January 1, 2006, MSF has treated 47 gunshot victims in CitÃ© Soleil. According to patients, people have been both deliberately and unintentionally shot by all of the armed groups in the city. "Various groups, including Minustah, refer to civilian casualties as 'collateral damage,'" said Loris De Filippi, the head of mission for MSF's programs in CitÃ© Soleil. "But it is inexcusable for so many lives to be torn apart every day in the crossfire." The situation in CitÃ© Soleil, an epicenter of the widespread politically motivated and criminal violence, is especially grave for those in need of emergency medical care. "Our ability to work in CitÃ© Soleil is precarious - we never know how much access we will have from one week to the next," said De Filippi. "The safety of humanitarian aid workers must also be respected. If we cannot do our work, a quarter of a million people - or the population of a small American or European city - would have few health care options.". Appalled by a peak of violence in June and July 2005, MSF made a similar call on the city's armed groups to respect the safety of civilians and guarantee unhindered access to emergency care.
"Today's unbearable situation resembles what Haitians faced this past summer and we're worried it is only going to get worse," said Besnaci. "People are living in constant fear, and we know that many injured are either afraid or prevented from getting the treatment they need. This is simply unacceptable." MSF has been working in Haiti since 1991. In addition to emergency trauma care in Port-au-Prince, Choscal hospital and Chapi Health Centre in CitÃ¨ Soleil MSF provides primary health care service to people in the capital's Decayette neighborhood. (MSF, 1/19)
Haiti is limping toward elections in February after more than two months of delays and with critics charging the country still is not ready and that residents of some remote areas will have to walk for five hours to vote. Beleaguered U.N. officials responsible for organizing the vote -- which is expected to elect a former ally of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide -- counter that the complaints are exaggerated and that no one will have to walk more than four miles. Acting President Boniface Alexandre issued a decree on Jan. 7 setting the date for the first round of national elections as Feb. 7, with a second round scheduled for March 19 and local balloting planned for April 30. "Feb. 7 is not negotiable," said Jean Junior Joseph, spokesman for Prime Minister Gerard Latortue. "The elections will take place no matter what." The clear-cut favorite in the race is Rene Preval, president from 1996 to 2001, who is despised by sectors of the elite but popular among the poor who saw him as an honest and efficient administrator. Mr. Preval is perceived to be an ally of Mr. Aristide, a former priest who campaigned as a champion of the disenfranchised, although the two have been estranged in recent years.
The repeated postponement of the elections was a result mainly of delays in the distribution of voter-identification cards, which now have been provided to nearly 60 percent of the 3.5 million registered voters. But critics charge that the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is so plagued by partisanship and incompetence that it may not be capable of holding free and fair elections. "We could be in for a fiasco on Feb. 7," said Patrick Fequiere, a member of the CEP who is highly critical of his colleagues. "I can understand the [U.N.] Security Council wanting to get these elections over with, but we're still not ready." Mr. Fequiere and others point to problems with the 804 voting centers designated by the U.N. peacekeeping mission. They say that many voters have been assigned to the wrong center and others must walk too far because there are not enough centers. A Dec. 27 report issued by Washington-based IFES, which is observing the elections with USAID funds, says the accessibility issue "threatens to disenfranchise thousands of voters." The report says some people will have to walk as many as five hours to vote. But Gerardo Le Chevallier, chief of elections for the United Nations, said, "The most people will have to walk is 6 kilometers" -- about 3.75 miles. "The fact that 2 million cards have been distributed, all 800 voting centers have been identified, we have all the electoral material, and we've recruited nearly 12,000 electoral voting-table workers means that we are ready to hold these elections," he said. Another CEP member, Rosemond Pradel, said: "The only thing that could stop the elections right now is violence." (Washington Times, 1/17)
Haiti's front-running presidential candidate said Tuesday that he has emerged from the shadow of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, his former mentor who fled Haiti amid a rebellion and accusations of corruption. "I don't want to be compared with Aristide or with anybody else. I want to be compared with myself," Rene Preval told The Associated Press in the first interview he has given since he declared himself a candidate. Preval was elected president in 1995 and served until 2001. Many Haitians fear that if Preval wins the presidency again he will bring Aristide back from exile in South Africa. Preval, who turned 63 on Tuesday, insisted he will govern without being influenced by Aristide. Preval, who has never been a member of Aristide's Lavalas Family Party, expressed concern about Haiti's violence. Pointing out the electrified wire and high walls surrounding his home, Preval said: "Fear has isolated everybody." Preval said the U.N. mission "should stay as long as it is necessary" to re-establish security. In his 1996 inaugural address, Preval promised to turn Haiti into "a vast construction site" and "re-establish the authority of the state." He now acknowledges he failed, but said "we didn't steal and we didn't violate human rights." (AP, 1/17)
Members of an organization based in Saint-Marc named RAMICOSM attacked Wednesday the office of the Platform of Hope in this city, destroying a vehicle, a giant poster of candidate RenÃ© PrÃ©val and the podium built for his visit. For his part, MINUSTAHâs spokesperson Damian OnsÃ¨s Cardona reaffirmed the UN missionâs intention to support the electoral process and considered that the date of February 7th is viable. Out of a total of 3.5 millions national identification cards, 2.5 millions have already been distributed, he said, expressing the wish that at least 86% of the cards will be distributed in the entire country by Saturday January 21st, date of the end of distribution operations. Cardona underlined that even in difficult regions, the cards are distributed at a satisfying pace. In CitÃ© Soleil for example, 40.071 cards have already been distributed out of the 60.467 cards available. MINUSTAHâs leader urged those who still havenât taken their cards to do so quickly since they only have three days left. However, he indicated that after this date, potential voters will be able to get their cards in special centers until February 6th.
Several residents of St-Marc (96 km north of Port-au-Prince) called interim authorities Thursday to arrest the authors of the violent acts perpetrated in this city and claimed by members of an organization named RAMICOSM. A podium that was meant to welcome in Saint-Marc candidate for the Platform of Hope RenÃ© PrÃ©val as well as a vehicle and giant poster of the candidate for Hope were set on fire or destroyed Wednesday morning by members of this organization accused of involvement in the violence that put Bas-Artibonite in mourning in February 2004 before and after President Aristideâs hasty departure. Furious St-Marc residents indicated that Wednesdayâs violent acts dirty the cityâs image and that there is no point in talking about a state of law if the authors of these acts are not arrested, they said. Supporters of any party must be free to lead their activities, they also declared, saying that RAMICOSM members want to hold their city in hostage. Supporters of Hope underlined for their part that the new president of Haiti will be elected through voting and everyone must wait the day of the election to vote for their chosen candidate. The victory will come to the one who will get the largest number of votes, they said, calling parties supporters and rival political groupings to reason by putting an end to violence ion the context of the coming elections. (AHP, 1/19)
Mr. PrÃ©val, who was in an electoral tour in the city of Arcahaie (40 km north of the capital), declared that he wants to attack those scourges with strictness and intelligence. "Security is a prerequisite to investments and to job creation", Mr. PrÃ©val declared, adding that all citizens, no matter what their social class is, must be able to tend their businesses freely. Cases of kidnapping have gone down these last few days, after they had reached a worrying dimension in late December when the phenomenon extended to residential neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince. 12 persons were kidnapped on December 30th alone in the suburb of PÃ©tion-Ville where they were kept. He declared that once he will be at the power, the Platform will also call competent men from other political sectors for a better management of the nation to encourage the private sector to invest in the country and to allow peasants and all other sectors of society to get to work and assume their responsibilities. The former president (1996-2001) great favorite in polls, also reaffirmed his call to non-violence and tolerance. On the same occasion, he minimized certain political sectorsâ repeated attacks against the Platform of Hope. Members of an organization close to the former opposition to Aristide (RAMICOSM) set in fire or destroyed Wednesday goods belonging to that political sector including a vehicle, a podium and a giant poster of Mr. PrÃ©val. "Why is the Platform of Hope victim of all these attacks", Mr. PrÃ©val wondered in a popular dialogue with the population of Arcahaie who answered: "because it is the most popular!". Mr. PrÃ©val invited his supporters not to have the same behavior towards candidates from other parties. He says he believes that the coming elections are an extraordinary occasion to put the country definitively on the path of change. He called the CEP to organize free, fair and democratic elections. In a poll last November and which was supposed to be presented to political parties representatives last week, PrÃ©val was credited with over 52% of voting intentions. (AHP, 1/20)
Two UN Peacekeepers Killed in Cite Soleil:
Gunmen killed two Jordanian U.N. peacekeepers and seriously wounded a third Tuesday at a checkpoint in a slum in Haiti's capital that is a stronghold for supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a spokesman said. The shootings in the Cite Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince occurred three weeks before long-postponed presidential and legislative elections to replace the interim government. The three Jordanian peacekeepers were manning the checkpoint when they came under fire, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said "the security situation there is very, very disturbing." Asked whether the elections should go ahead on Feb. 7, Bolton said, "that's the announced plan of the government of Haiti, and that's what we think ought to happen." The U.N. Staff Union reported earlier this month that deadly attacks against U.N. personnel increased by more than 75 percent in 2005. The highest death toll in 2005 was in Congo, where 13 peacekeepers were killed, and the second-highest was in Haiti, where six peacekeepers lost their lives. (AP, 1/17)
Armed gangs in the dangerous suburban district of CitÃ© Soleil, near Haitiâs capital, have made it difficult to identify the participants in recent fatal attacks on United Nations peacekeeping troops, the UN force in the country (MINUSTAH) said today. MINUSTAH security forces were conducting a reconnaissance mission along National Highway 1 on Monday, with a view to reducing kidnapping cases and improving their own protection from direct attacks, when gang members fired on them, killing two and wounding a third. After other peacekeepers returned fire, they could confirm the deaths of several of the attackers but could not obtain their bodies. âExperience has shown that gang membersâ corpses are often recovered by other gang members during confrontations,â the mission said. MINUSTAH learned that following the violent attack, three people suffering from gunshot wounds were admitted to local hospitals. âNonetheless, it has not been possible to find out the time or the place where they were wounded, or by whom,â it said. (UN Daily News, 1/19)
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Visit Port-au-Prince with Wyclef Jean:
While Brad Pitt's pregnant girlfriend, Angelina Jolie, rested in a Port-au-Prince hotel, he promised the hosts of the couple's whirlwind visit last week that they would return to help poor Haitian children. Pitt and Jolie arrived in Haiti minutes before noon Friday at the invitation of Haitian-born hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean, of The Fugees' fame, who was there celebrating the one-year anniversary of his YÃ©le Haiti foundation and its work with Haiti's youths. Jolie is among a handful of high-profile celebrities -- others include Jonathan Demme and Meryl Streep -- who have lent their name and time to Jean's cause. After a tour of YÃ©le Haiti's various programs that included a visit to a jail for children, the couple stayed the night at the colonial-styled Montana hotel in the tony suburbs of Petionville. They were supposed to appear at an invitation-only reception in their honor on a hotel terrace, but an exhausted Jolie passed on the cocktails and stayed in her suite, said one of the guests. As a curious Pitt mingled, guests -- who included Jean, his fashion designer wife Maria Claudinette Pierre-Jean, along with his mother -- were treated to a traditional Haitian scene with fried goat, sugar cane and a traditional Rara band, which is heavy on the drums. ''He was very interested in Haiti and he said he would keep coming back,'' said Maryse Kedar, president of the foundation's Haiti branch. ``He was very moved by the children in jail . . . He wants to do something. He was not like a tourist accompanying his girlfriend. I was touched by their simplicity.'' Jolie, she said, was equally moved by the Haitian people and said ``she liked the country very much.'' (Miami Herald, 1/17)
Misappropriated Funds Scandal at Promobank:
The office of the investigative judge submitted to the prosecutor of Port-au-Prince this Tuesday the results of the ongoing judicial investigation into the scandal of misappropriated funds that became public eight months ago at Promobank. The former president of the Board of Directors of Promobank, Ronald Georges, was placed under arrest on an accusation of having embezzled more than four million dollars (U.S.) with the complicity of a man named Gino Bitar. According to Harrycidas Auguste, the deputy government prosecutor, Mr. Ronald Georges is guilty of issuing checks with insufficient funds and of authorizing the cashing of these checks at the cashier's window, as well as creating bogus businesses to which exorbitant sums of money were made available through loans. This was a case of genuine administrative crime committed by Ronald Georges, declared Harrycidas Auguste. An international warrant has been issued, he said, against Mr. Bitar, who has taken flight. Other individuals accused of involvement in this affair will also be called in for questioning, said Mr. Auguste. Harrycidas Auguste guaranteed that every effort will be made to bring this case to its conclusion. The deputy government prosecutor said that the results of the investigation by the office of the investigative judge are presently being studied by the prosecutor before it is returned for definitive action on the case by the judge. (AHP, 1/17)
Group of 184 Sit In to Pressure MINUSTAH:
The Group of 184 Civil Society Organizations [G-184] is maintaining pressure on the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti [Minustah] to ensure the restoration of a climate of security in the metropolitan area. G-184 official Andre Apaid Jr has announced that a sit-in will be held in front of the Minustah office on 16 January as part of the mobilization aimed at demanding urgent action on the part of the forces of order to put an end to the violence sustained by armed gangs in the capital. Apaid said that he has already received the support of political parties such as Cooperative Action To Built Haiti [Konba], Greater Centre Right Front [GFCD], Merging of Haitian Social Democratic Parties [Fusion], and the Christian Movement for a New Haiti [Mochrenha] in this movement. Apaid explains as follows:
[Apaid, in Creole] The G-184 Plus, the platform of civil society organizations and institutions, announces a sit-in for this coming Monday in front of the Minustah office at the Christopher Hotel in the Bourdon area. We have decided to take this initiative after holding talks with several players of civil society, political parties, and representatives of the private business sector so that together we can help resolve the security issue, which is a precondition for holding good elections on the dates set by the Provisional Electoral Council [CEP]. This event is a step and contribution to the call issued for a national awakening and mobilization that should make the political leadership of Minustah, Minustah Chief Juan Gabriel Valdes in particular, understand and realize the following:
First, all the suffering that the Haitian people are undergoing because of the insecurity, the kidnappings, the situation of anguish and terror maintained by gangs with political affiliation and goals. Second, we want to let them know that we are all worried about Minustah's inability to lead its troops as it should to obtain coherence and effectiveness especially with regard to the Jordanian troops that are applying a policy of containment [previous word in English] and restraint, and that, according to all the public statements already made, refuse to execute the orders of their military superior officers. Third, another thing we want Minustah and Chief Valdes to know is that there are plans that are being worked out by certain armed gangs that support certain political parties. If these plans are not thwarted, there will be serious consequences as a result in the working of the electoral process, particularly on election day. Fourth, we want to let them know that we are convinced that the national police, which has its own problems, is hindered in its action by the manner in which the Minustah leadership is handling the security and disarmament issues.
It is appropriate and fitting for us to add that the Haitian National Police [PNH] still continues not to receive the appropriate assistance in matters concerning equipment and materials that are necessary for any police corps of a country to enable them to fulfil their mission, which is to assure peace and order in the country. We have nothing against these young men, these young Brazilian soldiers, or the authorities who have come here to help us. But we have a problem with Minustah's policy and the way in which it is being handled and carried out on the ground. (Radio Metropole, 1/13)
Dr. Frantz Large, Senate candidate for the Southeast Department characterized the sit-in against MINUSTAH held the previous day by the Group of 184 as "indecent". The initiators of the sit-in said they took this action to pressure MINUSTAH to adopt drastic measures to resolve the problem of insecurity in the country. According to Dr. Large "by going ahead with a demonstration in front of the MINUSTAH headquarters to ask for security, the leaders of the Group of 184 are affirming their recognition that the country is under occupation and that it is MINUSTAH that has the official responsibility for security". "It is inconceivable to ask MINUSTAH to resolve problems relating to insecurity", he said, emphasizing that only free, honest and democratic elections leading to a legitimate government can guarantee security. All those who are criticizing MINUSTAH are trying to distract the public's attention from those who are really responsible for its troubles, asserted Frantz Large, who was singling out those who took power the day after February 29, 2004.
For his part, the coordinator of the Group of 184, AndrÃ© Apaid Jr, refrained from demanding that force be used against the populations of populist districts of Port-au-Prince. Commenting Monday on the show Espace Pluriel on Radio SolidaritÃ©, AndrÃ© Apaid took the opposing view from what the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, RÃ©ginald Boulos, had said. Mr. Boulos was in favor of setting up a fund of several million gourdes to compensate victims from any raid by UN soldiers and police in CitÃ© Soleil. Mr. Apaid declared that he would instead prefer to take action against those who possess illegal weapons in CitÃ© Soleil. (AHP, 1/17)
Ongoing Tensions Between Haiti and Dominican Republic:
U.N. peacekeepers fired at a crowd of enraged Haitians on Thursday trying to cross into the Dominican Republic to protest the deaths of two dozen Haitian migrants who suffocated while being smuggled in a van, police said. At least one Haitian was killed when Spanish peacekeepers opened fire to stop the angry mob from crossing the border, said Ernst Dorfeuille, a Haitian police commissioner in the impoverished and chaotic Caribbean country's northeast. Maj. Gen. Rafael Radhames Ramirez, head of intelligence for the Dominican Armed Forces, told Reuters he believed two Haitians were killed and several U.N. troops wounded in the confrontation on the border near Dajabon, 200 miles (320 km) northwest of Santo Domingo. U.N. spokesmen in Port-au-Prince could not immediately be reached for comment. Ramirez said the incident occurred as Dominican officials were burying 24 dead Haitians in a mass grave in Dajabon. "It was decided to bury them in a mass grave because of their advanced state of decomposition," Ramirez said. The number of dead Haitian illegal immigrants rose to 25 on Thursday after a survivor died in a hospital. Dominican police say the victims suffocated in the back of a van on Tuesday and their bodies were jettisoned by the side of the road while the vehicle was still in motion. Several people have been arrested and Dominican authorities have vowed to crack down on people smugglers. (Reuters, 1/12)
The United States is willing to mediate between the Dominican Republic and Haiti over the issue of undocumented workers, U.S. Ambassador Hans Hertell said Tuesday. "If they ask us to do it, we will," Hertell said. Meanwhile, a police and military commission announced it had completed an inquiry into the deaths of 25 Haitians who suffocated in a sealed truck last week on their way to the Dominican city of Santiago. The commission will release details of the report on Wednesday, said Gen. Bernardo Santana Paez, chief of the National Police. Relations have been strained between the two countries, which share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, over allegations of mistreatment against Haitians who illegally cross the border to work. There was no immediate word if either government would accept the U.S. mediation issued by the ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Hertell said that trouble-free Haitian elections scheduled for Feb. 7 would be a critical start to bringing stability and easing the countries' relationship. Meanwhile, tensions are high. Following the suffocation deaths, Haitian protesters lined the border at Dajabon, where the truck filled with 69 Haitian workers crossed. Protesters were shown on Dominican television burning tires and hurling rocks at a U.N. vehicle. At least two deaths were reported. (AP, 1/18)
Lawyers Call for Halt in Deportations to Haiti:
As an increasingly violent Haiti staggers toward long postponed elections, lawyers representing Haitian migrants will ask immigration judges in the coming weeks to halt all deportations to Haiti temporarily. The coordinated effort on behalf of Haitians facing deportation comes after unsuccessful attempts by immigration advocates -- and Haiti's own interim prime minister -- to get the Bush administration to grant temporary protected status, known as TPS, to thousands of undocumented Haitians living in the United States. By filing individual motions on behalf of their Haitian clients, lawyers would be leaving it up to immigration judges and not the federal government to decide whether to grant a temporary stay until conditions in Haiti improve. Although it isn't unusual for attorneys to ask a judge to issue a continuance or administratively close a case, Miami immigration attorney Ira Kurzban said the current effort is ''extraordinarily unusual,'' because it's happening as part of a concerted effort by immigration lawyers nationwide. It is unclear how many lawyers will file the request on behalf of an estimated 20,000 undocumented Haitian migrants living in the United States or whether immigration judges will adhere to the motions by attorneys.
Still, the coordinated effort, which is officially being launched in key U.S. cities today, including Miami, may be the best hope for undocumented Haitians at a time when anti-immigration sentiments are sweeping Washington and when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is considering ending temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Hondurans. ''This is a very small Band-Aid, but a giant recognition there is a problem in Haiti,'' said Thomas Griffin, a Philadelphia immigration attorney, who spent hours drafting the motion and has traveled to Haiti extensively since 2000. The motion, which Griffin said has already been requested by about 200 lawyers across the country, states that ``despite the ongoing chaos that continues in Haiti, including brutal civil strife, documented bloody political conflict, indisputable countrywide insecurity and the proven inability of the Haitian state to protect its own people, the United States continues to refuse refuge to fleeing Haitians.''
In addition to Miami, the effort is being launched today with scheduled press conferences in key cities with growing Haitian populations, such as Philadelphia, Boston, Washington and New York. It comes a little less than three weeks before Haiti's Feb. 7 presidential election, which has been postponed repeatedly. Fifteen months ago, interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue formally asked the homeland agency to grant temporary protected status for Haitians, but to no avail. The privilege, which would allow Haitians temporarily to live and work in the United States legally, has not been granted. ''The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State continue to closely monitor the situation there,'' said State Department spokesman Peter Eisenhauer. Miami attorney Ariol Eugene, who is spearheading the campaign on behalf of the Haitian Lawyers Association, said he plans to file the motion on behalf of 10 of his Haitian clients. ''It is very clear the conditions in Haiti are horrendous,'' Eugene said. ``The government right now cannot protect its own people. It is in the best interest of the U.S. government and Florida to have stability in Haiti. When there is no stability in Haiti, there is a mass exodus.'' (Miami Herald, 1/19)
Attorneys for hundreds of Haitian immigrants nationwide on Thursday asked judges to halt deportation proceedings to avoid returning their clients to a country wracked by political turmoil, violence and devastating natural disasters. "What we are asking the government to do is to temporarily stop the deportations to give Haiti some time recoup, to settle the internal conflicts," said Ariol Eugene, a Miami attorney who said he would be filing the motion on behalf of 50 clients through next week. Thomas Griffin, a Philadelphia attorney who filed the motion on behalf of three clients, said between 200 and 300 attorneys nationwide have inquired this week about filing the motion for their clients. The motion also criticized the Department of Homeland Security's decision not to grant Haitians the "Temporary Protected Status" that allows immigrants fleeing civil strife or natural disasters to remain in the United States. The protected status has been granted to immigrants from a handful of African and Central American countries. "All these countries have a temporary halt to deportations because it is immoral to deport anyone to such conditions. Why aren't Haitians good enough for such basic protections?" said Steve Forester, an attorney and senior policy advocate for Haitian Women of Miami.
The U.S. government is closely monitoring the situation in Haiti, said Dan Kane, a Washington-based spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "We don't feel at this time that Haiti fulfills the very narrow criteria provided by Congress," Kane said. "I believe that racism is at the root of this because if there is any country that qualifies for TPS, it is Haiti. We've met all the criteria and beyond. We've suffered natural disasters, we suffered political disasters and now we have a country at the brink of civil war," said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, an immigration advocacy and social services agency. (AP, 1/19)
United Nations Police Announce Anti-Kidnapping Cell with Haitian Police:
The United Nations Police (UNPL) announced this Thursday the set up of an anti-kidnapping cell together with the National Police of Haiti, in order to fight this phenomenon in Haiti. Hundreds of people from all social classes have been kidnapped these last few months by gangs operating in populist and residential neighborhoods of the capital. During a press point, UNPOLâs spokesperson Marc Jacquet declared that this cell is made of 28 specialists including 14 UNPOL agents and 14 PNH agents. According to Mr. Jacquet, the anti-kidnapping cellâs job will be to advise and to support the PNH anti-kidnapping cell and to support victimsâ families in negotiations with kidnappers. Its job will also be to find kidnappers bases and to release victims, Mr. Jacquet also informed. The UNPOLâs spokesperson indicated that only 21 cases of kidnapping were registered this month of January. According to him, kidnappings are going down, compared to these last 8 months, he said. (AHP, 1/19)
Some Brazilians Want Brazil Out of Haiti:
From army barracks to government ministries and Congress, Brazilians are beginning to look for a way out of a messy U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti. The apparent weekend suicide of Gen. Urano Bacellar, the Brazilian heading the force, has highlighted intractable conditions for peacekeepers and raised questions about Brazil's diplomatic ambitions. "We cannot see a real international effort in Haiti and the U.N. structure is confused," said one high-ranking army officer in Brasilia, who served under Bacellar and asked not to be named. "It's becoming more and more difficult for me to understand why we are deploying troops abroad when we have so many problems with violence and drug traffickers at home." Brazil jumped at the chance to lead the U.N. force 18 months ago to
show it was a regional power worthy of a seat on a revamped U.N. Security Council. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva conditioned leadership of the
force on international aid to rebuild Haiti after an armed revolt toppled Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. Some $1 billion in promised funds have largely failed to materialize and crime and kidnappings are on the rise before Haiti's planned Feb. 7 election, the first since the revolt. Brazilian officers who hoped to mediate solutions with Haitians as fellow Latin Americans face pressure from other U.N. member forces to go into combat against armed gangs. Peacekeepers say they are seen as foreign occupiers or proxies of the United States, which helped engineer Aristide's flight. "It's a complete disaster, you've got troops not able to do anything for the people of Haiti and they're costing Brazil millions of dollars," said Luiz Carlos Hauly, a congressman for the opposition Social Democrats and former president of the lower house foreign relations commission.
For Brazilian analyst Reginaldo Nasser, Lula's "obsession" to win a Security Council seat naively led him into a flawed U.N. peackekeeping mission. Nasser said the U.N. deployed troops to Haiti when the country required police forces, financial aid and humanitarian workers to rebuild infrastructure and institutions destroyed by decades of coups and revolts. Bacellar's death has given U.N. members a chance to reconsider their financial commitment and speed reconstruction of Haiti after the Feb. 7 election. "Brazil needs support, from the U.S. and France in particular. Without this it has to withdraw," said Nasser, professor of foreign relations at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo. (Reuters, 1/12)
The Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ) informed Friday that it has broken up this week an important kidnapping network in PÃ©tion-Ville, a residential district of Port-au-Prince. According to DCPJ General Inspector MichaÃ«l Lucius, this is the gang which had kidnapped on December 30, 2005 Carine Rouzier, the wife of a businessman of Port-au-Prince, who was released on January 8th. The 11 persons abducted by this gang were held in a luxurious home evaluated to hundreds of thousands of dollars, M. Lucius declared. He says he regrets that the bandits had time to run away. The discovery of this hiding place in the heart of PÃ©tion-Ville proves that important groups are involved in kidnapping activities, the DCPJ director declared. Several sectors, including the business sector, have been severely criticizing the United Nations Mission of Stabilization (MINUSTAH) these last few days for its reluctance to carry out forceful operations against CitÃ© Soleil. Michael Lucius calls the population to remain careful and to beware of well-dressed people, saying that the shantytown of CitÃ© Soleil is not the only hiding place for kidnappers. "Appearances are sometimes deceptive", he warned, affirming that besides CitÃ© Soleil and PÃ©tion-Ville, acts of kidnapping are committed in other non-populist districts of the capital, including Pernier, Meyer, Delmas, FrÃ¨res, CanapÃ©-Vert as well as in the second largest city of the country, Cap-HaÃ¯tien.
PÃ©tion-Ville residents expressed their worries Friday after they had learned that kidnappers also have hiding place in this town. They say they are almost convinced that very soon, we will put pressure on the MINUSTAH to carry out strong operations in PÃ©tion-Ville and in other residential districts. Chief of the Haitian police Mario Andresol and Head of MINUSTAH Juan Gabriel ValdÃ¨s indicated recently that there are candidates to presidency who use kidnapping money for their campaign and to try to destabilize the electoral process underway. Michael Licius assured that dispositions had been taken by the PNH to stop kidnapping activities throughout the country and to allow the population to live in peace and tranquillity.
Oxfam GB Launching Campaign Against Weapons:
The international organization, Oxfam Great Britain, is ready to launch a national campaign against the illegal and unregulated influx of small arms and light weapons. Yolette Etienne, the OxfamGB representative in Haiti, told AlterPresse that the proliferation of small arms in Haiti urgently needs to be brought under control. As part of the national campaign against armed violence, a national commission composed of members of different parts of Haitian society will be set up.
The targeted sectors will be human rights organizations, and women's and youth groups, as well as other Oxfam partners working in the filed of civic education. "At the international level, the campaign was launched three years ago. As far as Haiti is concerned, it is beginning with a report published by three organizations", including Oxfam, declared Yolette Etienne. The aforementioned report, which denounces the armed violence that continues to claim lives in Port-au-Prince, was published jointly with International Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and Amnesty International in London on 9 January 2006.
The Oxfam awareness-raising campaign in Haiti will kick-off in Carrefour-Feuilles, a poor area in south-west Port-au-Prince. Yolette Etienne said that discussions with the State authorities will take place with a view to asking them give their agreement on the question of the regulation of the arms trade on a national and international level. "We haven't yet entered into official discussions with the Haitian government. As an international organization, we don't want to it ourselves, but now there is a national commission that is going to try to develop a national campaign on armed violence," indicated the representative of the British
non-governmental organization. This national commission, supported by Oxfam, will submit a number of recommendations on the control of arms in Haiti to the government. According to Etienne, discussions will also take place with representatives of the United Nations, representatives of other international organizations and with the media so that they can participate in this important project. According to certain observers, the struggle against the illegal trade in small arms must from the start involve governments. In Haiti, the authorities are hesitating to engage in this means of struggling against the estimated 210,000 arms in circulation, as proved by the fact that the Haitian government is not represented at the UN PrepCom currently being held in New York. (Alterpresse, 1/13)