Thursday, August 7, 2014

Loyola Graduate Singer and Songwriter Riva Précil's Band Bohio Music Releases Its First Single Song titled "1492"

By Michelle Karshan Communications

Photo from Riva Précil's Facebook page.
Bohio Music releases first single “1492” -- an upbeat World music song in Haitian Creole incorporating traditional Haitian roots/racine, jazz, Ibo rhythms with a Mali influence.

August 5, 2014, Brooklyn, New York – Monvelyno Alexis and lead singer, Riva Nyri Précil, of the recently formed Bohio Music band, are pleased to announce the release of their first single. Written by Alexis, 1492, a 5.25 minute single, is an upbeat World music song in Haitian Creole encompassing Haitian roots/racine, West African Ibo rhythms and infused with jazz and a Mali influence.  1492 is a powerful anthem that will move its audience to jump up and dance as it recounts the history of Haiti's colonization and calls out loudly for renewed sovereignty of Haiti today.  See 1492 on  See English translation of 1492.

The song’s release is timely as Haiti celebrates Bwa Kayiman, the anniversary of the birth of its slave uprising in 1791 that successfully freed Haiti from French rule and slavery in 1804. And, very shortly, the United Nations Security Council will once again vote on whether to continue its controversial peacekeeping mission in Haiti that many Haitians look upon as an occupying force that also brought the deadly disease, Cholera, to Haiti. Bohio Music’s 1492 calls on Haitians for renewed hope, strength and mobilization.

Currently based in Brooklyn, New York, both Alexis and Précil grew up in Haiti during a hopeful time. Following the overthrow of the Duvalier dictatorship, Haiti’s vibrant democracy movement blossomed permitting the flourishing of uncensored arts and music. Both Alexis and Précil enriched themselves studying the diverse arts and culture of Haiti.
Monvelyno Alexis, an acoustic guitar player, singer/songwriter, as well as an artist, originally performed with the prominent Haitian Vodou-rock band, RAM, in Haiti, and has several albums under his belt, including Kouzen AzakamedeConscience State of Mind, and Nou La together with Markus Schwartz. Most recently Alexis sang three songs on the soundtrack of Assassin’s Creed, the Ubisoft game that sold more than 73 millions copies by the end of 2013.
Riva Nyri Précil is a singer, songwriter, dancer, jeweler and author of a forthcoming children’s book in Haitian Creole. Précil attended New York City’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and earned her degree in Music Therapy at Loyola University in New Orleans.
Lois Wilcken, Ph.D., an ethnomusicologist, Executive Director of La Troupe Makandal, and author of The Drums of Vodou and co-editor of Island Sounds in the Global City,  writes that “1492 mixes a sonic brew that blends Haiti's traditional Ibo beat (recalling the resistance to enslavement of Ibo ancestors) with soaring jazz horns, the West African kora (harp-lute), and the magical voices of Monvelyno Alexis and Riva Nyri Précil.  Lifting the silence around the Haitian Revolution, which defeated the world's most powerful army of the day, the song sends out a new and improved ‘Yes we can’ message, evoking history and culture as the necessary means.  Bohio Music, ayibobo!”

Additional Reviews: See 1492 on 

Please contact Michelle Karshan Communications at for additional info, high-resolution images, interviews, etc. 


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Report Details Persecution of Public and Private Sector Union Activists in Haiti

by CEPR's Relief and Reconstruction Blog

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haiti-based partner Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) have released a report outlining recent cases of persecution of organized workers in Haiti as well as Haitian government complicity in allowing illegal attacks against, and terminations of labor activists to occur without judicial consequences.  The report, titled “Haitian labor movement struggles as workers face increased anti-union persecution and wage suppression,” documents attacks and firings of union organizers by both public and private sector companies. 
In mid-December of 2013, garment workers staged a walkout and demonstrations to protest the low wages and subpar working conditions in Haiti’s garment factories.  As Better Work Haiti revealed in its 2013 Biannual Review of Haitian garment companies’ compliance with labor standards, only 25 percent of workers receive the minimum daily wage of 300 Haitian gourdes (equivalent to $6.81). They also found a 91 percent non-compliance rate with basic worker protection norms.  The BAI/IJDH report explains that on the third day of the December protests, “the Association of Haitian Industries locked out the workers, claiming they had to shut the factories for the security of their employees.”  In late December and January, IJDH/BAI documented “at least 36 terminations in seven factories throughout December and January in retaliation for the two-day protest, mostly of union representatives. The terminations continue.”
The report notes that union leaders at Electricity of Haiti (EDH) - Haiti’s biggest state-run enterprise – have also been illegally terminated and even physically attacked.   As BAI/IJDH describe,
On January 10, 2014, the leaders of SECEdH [Union of Employees of l’EDH] held a press conference at EDH, as they had countless times over the last several years. The purpose of the January 10 press conference was to allege mismanagement and corruption at EDH. At the last minute, EDH management refused to let journalists in the building, although they had given permission for the press conference the day before. SECEdH’s leaders joined journalists on the street outside EDH’s parking lot gate to convene the press conference. EDH security guards pushed down the metal gate onto the crowd, hitting SECEdH’s treasurer in the head and knocking him unconscious. The security guards stood by while the employee lay on the ground bleeding and witnesses urged them to help. Some journalists took the injured employee to the hospital in one of their vehicles. He was released from the hospital but suffers constant pain in his head, shoulders, arms, and back from the heavy gate falling on him.
The following week, SECEdH’s executive committee, including the injured officer, received letters of termination dated January 10, 2014.
The report goes on to describe government complicity with employer infractions of labor laws at the level of the judicial system, where “public and private employers enjoy impunity” and where workers continue to have extremely limited access to the justice system as “court fees and lawyers are too expensive for the poor to afford” and “proceedings are conducted in French, which most Haitians do not speak.”  Moreover, the Ministry of Labor as well as the Tripartite Commission for the Implementation of the HOPE agreement (which mandates garment factory compliance with international labor standards and Haitian labor law) have “backpedalled on the 2009 minimum wage law and issued public statements that support factory owners’ interpretations and non-compliance with the piece rate wage.”  The reports suggests that part of this backpedalling may be caused by President Michel Martelly’s efforts to promote increased international investment in Haitian sweatshops:
Making Haiti “open for business” was a core piece of President Michel Martelly’s election platform that has won him political and economic support from the U.S. government, despite low voter turnout and flawed elections in 2010 and 2011. Part of the Martelly administration’s strategy to attract foreign investment has been to keep wages low so that Haiti can be competitive with the global low-wage market. Haiti has the third lowest monthly wages in the apparel industry, surpassing only Cambodia and Bangladesh. This U.S.-backed “sweat shop” economic model is similar to the model in the 1970s and 1980s under former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

New Charges in Dominique Case are meant to Draw Attention Away from Martelly's Narco Controversy

By: Jeb Sprague - HaitiAnalysis

 Like other cases of political violence in Haiti, it is vital that the killers of Haitian journalist Jean Dominique (murdered in 2000) be brought to justice. Over the years though it is clear that the case has been politicized and exploited for political gain on different occasions. From what I have gathered the new charges related to the Jean Dominique case became known in December and do not implicate Aristide. The charges also appear to rely solely upon one account from a former security official who was implicated in drug trafficking and previously cut deals with the U.S. justice department to shorten his time in U.S. federal prison.

The story and the inaccurate way in which it has been covered has been pushed by Martelly's press agent Guy Delva. Guy Delva formerly worked for Reuters, but currently is a press agent for the Martelly regime. 

The timing of the court charges and the inaccurate way in which Delva has explained the court charges (picked up by Reuters and repeated uncritically and ad nauseum by groups like reporters sans frontiers and rightwing commentators) are meant to draw attention away from the growing crisis over the Martelly government's connections with the narco trade.  By this, I refer to the arrest in late 2013 of Martelly's close friend Daniel Evinks with two dozen kilos of marijuana. Since then Evinks has gone missing. The Martelly government does not want coverage of the missing narco trafficker/Martelly associate Daniel Evenks (sometimes spelled “Evinx”).

Other than a piece in the Sentinel, the Evinks story has not been getting coverage in the international media and the English speaking press, even though it is a big story in Haiti. 

Evinks supposedly threatened to talk if he was arrested and it has been reported that he met with the DEA in late December and disappeared in early January.

The Martelly government does not want this story coming out in the international press, especially in the lead up to elections. They are rushing now to collect voter ID numbers and telephone numbers as the "international community" is pushing for them to finally think about an election. According to a well placed source, Martelly's people by gathering voter IDs  are then able to use these to buy food kits (for distribution) from aid agencies and then resell them to the Haitian government at double or triple the cost. This is one way in which Martelly regime officials have been funneling money to themselves.

For more background on the Dominique case see my 2007 interview with IJDH attorney Brian Concannon and BAI attorney Mario Joseph on the Jean Dominique murder investigation. Also listen to these recent talks on Flaspoints radio for other perspectives. The flash points interviews are especially important because they look critically at the source of the recent allegations made against Myrlande Liberis-Pavert, Aristide, and others. They also provide more historical context.

Since 2004 Haiti's sovereignty has been undermined. The post-coup regime and its allies ransacked Aristide's house. For years they've had the best possible opportunity, and ample incentive, to find any credible evidence against Aristide and not just for Jean Dominique's murder but for countless other allegations that were made. They've found nothing. They now resort to the same tactics of insinuation that helped set up the 2004 coup that made Haiti safe for Jean Claude Duvalier's return.

Monday, January 13, 2014

In Memory of those Who Died in Jan 12 Haiti’s Earthquake: A New Direction for a Better Haiti

by Wadner Pierre
Yesterday, in Haiti and around the world, people remembered the tragic images of dead bodies on the streets of, Haiti’s Capital, Port-Au-Prince and those who were fortunate enough to survive this natural tragedy.

On the 4th anniversary of this tragedy, Pope Francis gave Haiti its first cardinal, Monsignor Chibly Langlois, the bishop of Southern Haiti, to lead a church that intensely needed new leadership and new blood.

Yet, let us reflect--four years after this tragedy, what have we done to change the living conditions of the people who are still living under makeshifts tents? What we have done to effectively rebuild a better country? Four years later, what and/or how have we learned to do a better job and to bring social change that is needed in this country? The latter is a lot to ask, but it is the right question to pose?

 Haiti’s political establishment needs to come together to present to Haitian people a social project that will fit all classes—poor, rich, and middle class (if there is one). A social project that will include better school for all children, hospitals, universities and better pay for wage-workers.

It is obvious that the country is tired of “Aba,” “fok li ale,” and “rache manyok.” We need a new political approach that is based on the democratic process, which is: “One person, One vote.” Everybody should be in—included.

Our judicial system needs to be challenged to work efficiently and functionally, so those who committed atrocities against the Haitian people can be tried for their wrongdoings, whatever the political group they belong to.

Haiti will rise when all Haitians can have access to their basics needs. We all have to agree that the social inequality that plagues this country is too wide. Something needs to be changed to move this country forward. We have to be more open for dialogue than fighting each other because we do not share each other’s political belief.

It is undoubtedly crucial that Haitians from all walks of life have to stand and say, “We need a new Haiti. And it is possible to have this new Haiti.” We should not look back to only praise those who died in gifting us this nation, but also to build on what they earned to make this country a better place for its people.

May we learn from this Earthquake to come together when our national interest is at stake, and knowing that the wellbeing of each Haitian is the wellbeing of all Haitians. May God bless Haiti, and may He bless Haitian people and the country’s leadership.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nelson Mandel/Madiba (1918-2013): The Leader that Brings the World as One

 by Wadner Pierre

President Nelson Mandela brings the world leaders together to honor him in a memorial service that lasts nearly ten hours. At the forefront of the service was President Barack Obama. President Obama will be remembered for his historical,  passionate and  political speech in a foreign land, and his handshaking with Cuba's president, Raul Castro.

No surprise that President Barack Obama was the right speaker for the memorial service of  late South African President Nelson Mandela.

 What a beautiful and historical day, what an extraordinary moment, what a coincidence that the world had never seen before and will probably never see again. Madela was the first black president of South Africa, and  Obama is the first African-American president of the United States.

President Omaba's speech at President Mandela memorial service will be known as his best political speech in a foreign land, his father's continent for years to come.

President Obama tells South Africans that their leader is unique and that the world will never have another Mandela.

 "We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again," he said in his speech to praise Mandela's fight for freedom and equality in South Africa.

President Obama thanks and praises South African people for their contribution to freedom in the world through  their leader. 

He said, "To the people of South Africa -- people of every race and every walk of life -- the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us."

Even after his death, Mandela can help bring peace in other part of the world. President Obama's handshaking with President Raul Castro was a sign that the US is ready to make peace and reconcile to his political foes. This handshaking adds to the telephone call Obama made  to the Iranian President  Hassan Rouhani last September.

 Madiba, Mandela's clan's name,  once again, brought the world together. Thank you Madiba for being such an example of what a powerful leader should do to make his country and  the rest world a better place.

Ayibobo pou ou Madibo.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

President Obama Told Republicans in Congress He Won't Negotiate Obamacare

By Wadner Pierre

Speaking  at the 43rd Annual Congressional Black Caucus Phoenix Awards Dinner, President Obama urged America to pay its debt and to fund his landmark signature, the Affordable Care Act know as Obamacare. The U.S. Supreme  last year upheld the Affordable Care Act and made it the law of the land.

 He said, “You'd be willing to shut down the government and potentially default for the first time in United States history because it bothers you so much that we're actually going to make sure that everybody has affordable health care. Let me say as clearly as I can: It is not going to happen.”

Conservative Republicans/Tea Party, vow to fight to defund Obamacare. Moderate republicans see this battle as a threat for their struggling party, and  could put the GOP at risk in the 2014 and 2016 presidential elections failing to avoid the shurtdown the government.

President has said Obamacare will allow millions of uninsured Americans to buy health care, but others have said Obamacare will hurt some by making them paying more for their premium.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Billions to Haiti, Little to Haitians

60-year-old Georgian, Robert Norman Chantal hands himself to military police at the School of Americas. Chantal as many did in the past, crossed the SOA's fence as via a latter to express himself. Photo by Wadner PierreIn this photo, lawyer Bill Quigley talks to thousands of SOA Watch supporters in Fort Benning, Ga in Nov. 2012. Eh urged the matchers to keep the pressure on until the School of Americas is closed.  Photo by Wadner Pierre.
 By Bill Quigley- Originally published on HuffingtonPost
Despite billions in aid that were supposed to go to the Haitian people, hundreds of thousands are still homeless, living in shanty tent camps as the effects from the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, remain.
The earthquake devastated Haiti in January 2010, killing, according to Oxfam International, 250,000 people and injuring another 300,000; 360,000 Haitians are still displaced and living hand to mouth in 496 tent camps across the country, according to the International Organization of Migration. Most eat only one meal a day.
Cholera followed the earthquake. Now widely blamed on poor sanitation by UN troops, it has claimed7,750 lives and sickened more than half a million. The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and its Haitian partner Bureau des Avocats Internationaux have filed legal claims against the UN on behalf of thousands of cholera victims. Recently the Haitian government likewise demanded more than $2 billion from the international community to address the scourge of cholera.
Haiti was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 55 percent of the population living below the poverty line of $1.25 a day. About 60 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, the primary source of income in rural areas. Haiti imports more than 55 percent of its food. The average Haitian eats only 73 percent of the daily minimum recommended by the World Health Organization. Even before the earthquake 40 percent of households (3.8 million people) were undernourished and 3 of 10 children suffered from chronic malnutrition.
Despite an outpouring of global compassion, some estimate as high as $3 billion in individual donations and another $6 billion in governmental assistance, too little has changed. Part of the problem is that the international community and non-government organizations (Haiti has sometimes been called the Republic of NGOs) has bypassed Haitian non-governmental agencies and the Haitian government itself. The Center for Global Development analysis of where they money went concluded that overall less than 10 percent went to the government of Haiti and less than 1 percent went to Haitian organizations and businesses. A full one-third of the humanitarian funding for Haiti was actually returned to donor countries to reimburse them for their own civil and military work in the country and the majority of the rest went to international NGOs and private contractors.
With hundreds of thousands of people still displaced, the international community has built less than 5,000 new homes. Despite the fact that crime and murder are low in Haiti (Haiti had a murder rate of 6.9 of every hundred thousand, while New Orleans has a rate of 58), huge amounts of money are spent on a UN force which many Haitians do not want. The annual budget of the United Nations “peacekeeping” mission, MINUSTAH, for 2012-13, or $644 million, would pay for the construction of more than 58,000 homes at $11,000 per home.
There are many stories of projects hatched by big names in the international community into which millions of donated dollars were poured only to be abandoned because the result was of no use to the Haitian people. For example, internationals created a model housing community in Zoranje. A $2 million project built 60 houses that now sit abandoned, according to Haiti Grassroots Watch.
Deborah Sontag in the New York Times tells the stories of many other bungles in a critical article which reported only a very small percentage of the funds have been focused on creating permanent housing for the hundreds of thousands displaced. Many expect 200,000 will be still in displacement camps a year from now.
The majority of the hundreds of thousands of people still displaced by the earthquake have no other housing options. Those who were renters cannot find places to stay because there is a dramatic shortage of rental housing. Many of those who owned homes before the earthquake have been forced to move back into their despite the fact that these homes are unsafe. A survey by USAID found that housing options are so few that people have moved back into more than 50,000 “red” buildings that engineers said should be demolished.
Most of the people living under tents are on private property and are subjected to official and private violence in forced evictions, according to Oxfam. More than 60,000 have been forcibly evicted from over 150 tent camps with little legal protection. Oxfam reports many in camps fear leaving their camps to seek work or food worried that their tents and belongings will be destroyed in their absence.
Dozens of Haitian human rights organizations and international allies are organizing against forced evictions in a campaign called Under Tents Haiti.
The fact that these problems remain despite billions in aid is mostly the result of the failure of the international community to connect with Haitian civil society and to work with the Haitian government. Certainly the Haitian government has demonstrated problems but how can a nation be expected to grow unless it leads its own reconstruction? Likewise, Haitian civil society, its churches, its human rights and community organizations, can be real partners in the rebuilding of the country. But the international community has to take the time to work in a respectful relationship with Haiti. Or else the disasters of the earthquake and hurricanes will keep hammering our sisters and brothers in Haiti, the people in our hemisphere who have already been victimized far too frequently.
Bill Quigley is the Current director of Loyola Law Clinic at New Orleans, and CCR Associate Legal Director
 Amber Ramanauskas  contributed to this articleco

Sunday, December 2, 2012

SOA Watch: We’re Still there Until the School of Americas Is Closed DEC 2

By Wadner Pierre- originally published by The Maroon

For the first time in two years, a group of Loyola students traveled to a US military- sponsored school in Fort Benning, Ga. to protest the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and their two workers.
Hundreds of thousands protesters continue as rally against the U.S.-sponsored military school in the Fort Benning, Ga. Photo by Wadner Pierre

It has been 23 years since six Jesuit priests and their two workers were murdered at the Creighton University in El Salvador. The perpetrators of this crime were alleged to be trained at the School of Americas. For more than two decades the School of Americas Watch, a national organization, has begun a campaign to close the military school. The School Of Americas Watch annual protest coincides with the anniversary of the death of the six Jesuit priests.

Business sophomore, Katie O'Dowd had no idea about the protest until her freshman year at Loyola through her involvement in LUCAP. She said she was struck by the many young people engaged in the movement. “I always want to advocate for the School of Americas Watch. I’ll continue to ask students to go in this protest,” she said.

O’Dowd said she hopes the school will be closed. In 1990, former naval officer and Catholic priest Roy Bourgeois started School Of Americas Watch in a house near the gate of the US military school in Fort Benning, Ga.

Twenty-two years have passed, but the goal has remained the same. Some progress has been made with a half-dozen Latin American countries like Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, which withdrew their troops from this school.

Two decades after Bourgeois founded School Of Americas Watch, thousands of students, teachers and human activists including lawyers from all over the world have joined the protest every year with one goal to “Close the School of Americas.”

The School of Americas, which now goes by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is known for training soldiers who have been responsible for killing people in their own countries. Loyola University New Orleans celebrates the lives of the six Jesuits and other victims of some of the School Of Americas allegedly trained military death squads every year through the “Martyrs Mass” in the peace quad. The university planted six trees and named them after each of the six Jesuit priests.
The Rev. Ismael Moreno Coto S.J., left, and the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, and founder of the School of Americas, right ,lead the anti School of Americas protest in Fort Benning, Ga. This year marked the 22nd anniversary of the protest aiming to close thande US-sponsored military school. Photo By Wadner Pierre

The Rev. Bourgeois S.J., in a prayer to bless the protesters said, “May love and mercy go with you, may you speak in solidarity with those who have been silent by death and repression.”

Bourgeois also believes that the voice of the School of Americas’ victims will be heard all over the American continent.

“Through your witness, may their voice be heard, here at the School of Americas, in the White House, in the halls of Congress and the heart of people all across the Americas,” he said.

This year, a delegation of the School Of Americas Watch movement met with President Barrack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough. Loyola’s Law Clinic director, Bill Quigley was among the School Of Americas Watch delegates.

Quigley said McDonough told the delegation that he knows about the School Of Americas and people in his family have been asking him to close this school for years.

“We thank his family and people he went to school with and the other folks. But it’s clear that this is just a step of this journey we are on. We have to push him,” Quigley said to the protesters.

Quigley urged School Of America Watch supporters to keep the pressure on with hope that Obama’s second administration may close the military school. “We are going to close the School of Americas,” said Quigley.

Loyola students hope the School Of Americas will be closed one day, though they do not know when and how long it will take. They also know their actions to support the School Of Americas Watch movement matter.
Sociology seniors Ellen Rice, left, and Camille Fiess, right, carry a symbolic coffin with cross at the 2012 SOA Watch protest. The annual protest coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the deaths of the six Jesuits and two workers in El Salvador. Photo by Wadner Pierre

Biology senior Carissa Marston, who attended the protest for the first time, said she will use her experience in her upcoming presentation for her Latin American class and continue to advocate for the closing of the School of Americas.

“I think I have more to contribute as far as the conversation about militarism and what SOA actually does and why it should be closed,” she said. LUCAP adviser, Joseph Deegan said students had to pay a $25 fee this year and special funding was available for those who could not afford to pay. Deegan said LUCAP financed this trip through a donation from Kevin Poorman, who currently serves as a chair on the Board of Trustees.

The School of Americas Watch protestors have made a promise that has become their slogan: “We will be there until this school is closed.”

Mass communication senior and The Maroon Photo Editor Wadner Pierre traveled with LUCAP to SOA Watch. He can be reached at

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Paramilitarism and the assault on democracy in Haiti

Belen Fernandez
Belen FernandezAl Jazeera English
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin Magazine.
Paramilitarism and the assault on democracy in Haiti
Haiti's brutal paramilitary campaigns received scant media coverage, while "political violence" was decried at length.
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2012 10:20
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The Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti was instrumental in the 2004 coup d'état that deposed Aristide [EPA]
In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, certain media outlets painted a picture of a country overrun by looters and at the mercy of gang members and other criminals, including thousands of prisoners jolted free by the quake.
Relevant details were ignored, such as the contention by prominent Haitian human rights attorney Mario Joseph that80 per cent of said prisoners had never been charged. The media effort perhaps aided in rendering less incongruous in the eyes of the international public the deployment of a sizeable US military force to deal with quake-affected people who did not seemingly require military attention.
Reuters dispatch from one week after the disaster - which reported "marauding looters", "scavengers and looters swarm[ing] over damaged stores", "increasingly lawless streets" and "[h]eavily armed gang members" - offered the following plea from policeman Dorsainvil Robenson:
"Haiti needs help ... the Americans are welcome here. But where are they? We need them here on the street with us." 
The whereabouts of the ever-elusive Americans are of course hinted at two paragraphs later, when we learn that "the White House said more than 11,000 US military personnel are on the ground, on ships offshore or en route". Elsewhere, French Co-operation Minister Alain Joyandet was quoted as commenting in reference to seemingly skewed US priorities: "This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti". As foreign military monopolised the Port-au-Prince airport, teams of paramedics and first responders were delayed in the critical hours immediately following the earthquake. 
Subscribers to the fantasy that the US is somehow qualified to counteract violence and install order in the Caribbean nation would do well to peruse a new book entitled Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti, in which author Jeb Sprague masterfully documents - among other topics - the detrimental role of US and fellow international actors in Haitian history.
Offering new evidence obtained through interviews and a massive amount of formerly classified US government documents, the book clarifies how Haiti's post-quake reconstruction rests on a foundation of total impunity achieved by the country's most brutal paramilitaries and their financiers.
Legacy of violence
As Sprague notes, the US occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934 under "the pretext of possible German encroachment during the First World War… caused the deaths of an estimated 15,000 Haitians and saw the imposition of slave labour". It also imposed "a modern army, one that would continue the US occupation long after US troops were gone", functioning on behalf of the Haitian elite and their American counterparts. Observes Sprague: "The US occupation wedded the country’s future to North American business interests."  
 Witness - Stranded: The Stateless Haitian
Later, during the reign of Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier in the 1960s, US Marines trained the dictator’s Tonton Macoutes paramilitary force, known for "leaving bodies of their victims hanging in public, a clear warning to anyone stepping out of line, most especially leftists, socialists and pro-democracy activists". Linked to the business elite and the military itself, the Macoutes were "vital for upholding a system based on severe inequality and class privilege". 
Following the transfer of power to Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, a brutal counter-insurgency force known as the Leopards was trained and equipped "by former US marine instructors who were working through a company (Aerotrade, Inc and Aerotrade International, Inc) under contract with the CIA and signed off by the US Department of State". 
Prior to becoming Haiti's first democratically elected president in early 1991, the young liberation theologian, Jean-Bertrand Aristide "denounced the historic role of the United States in founding, arming and training Haiti's military, which had been responsible for so much of the violence in Haitian history".
Sprague quotes Aristide: "They [the United States] set up the Haitian Army, they trained it to work against the people". Indeed, it would be difficult to argue that the army was working for the people by massacring citizens attempting to vote in 1987, or by overthrowing the newly elected Aristide in September 1991 and slaughtering his supporters. 
Aristide's coup-inducing crimes included inviting street children and homeless persons to breakfast at the National Palace and endeavouring to raise the daily minimum wage from $1.76 to $2.94. As Joanne Landy wrote in the New York Times in 1994, the latter effort was "vigorously opposed by the US Agency for International Development because of the threat such an increase would pose to the 'business climate', particularly to American companies paying rock-bottom wages to workers in Haiti". 
Aside from USAID, another relevant euphemism from the coup period was the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), a paramilitary organisation intimately linked to the Haitian military that assumed the task of terrorising the non-elite masses under the military junta. "Internal US government documents reveal that FRAPH was founded in part at the behest of the US Defence Intelligence Agency," Sprague notes. 
Recycling brutality 
After years of brutality and corruption, the military dictatorship faced growing resistance at home and abroad. Aristide was thus reinserted in his lawful post in 1994 in exchange for, inter alia, committing to be more attentive to the needs of the US agriculture industry and drastically slashing tariffs on imported rice. 
Upon reinstatement, he logically moved - with overwhelming public support - to disband the armed forces and the section chiefs (the hated rural constabulary). His government, and the elected governments that followed him, also gathered testimonials from thousands of victims of paramilitary violence and undertook judicial proceedings to prosecute military and paramilitary criminals. 
However, as researcher Eirin Mobekk has critically pointed out and Sprague has underscored, "only the army as an institution was dissolved… In a country where the army had run political life for decades it was an illusion to think that its networks would disappear with the removal of uniforms and the use of its buildings for other purposes".
US contributions to the dissolution of the army included maneouvering to insert allied Haitian ex-military officials into what was supposed to be a civilian police force and eliminating officers seen as overly loyal to Aristide or less than enthusiastic about the coup. Some Haitian police officers were trained in the United States, where they were susceptible to overtures by the CIA, which also funded various FRAPH leaders and other paramilitaries. 
Given the high level of impunity enjoyed by military and paramilitary members who had committed atrocities - not to mention US insistence on a full amnesty for the coup perpetrators - it is somewhat less than astonishing that Aristide's re-election in 2000 also culminated in a coup d'état. Instrumental in the overthrow was the Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti (FLRN), which as Sprague explains was "led by renegade police officials who were from among the same ex-FAd'H [Haitian Armed Forces] pushed into the country’s new security force by the United States in the late 1990s". 
Backed by some wealthy Haitians, neo-Duvalierists, sweatshop owners, and government and army officials from the neighbouring Dominican Republic (who didn't want Aristide's anti-military, pro-human rights rhetoric rubbing off on their own citizenry), the FLRN staged incursions into Haiti from Dominican territory with the ultimate goal of forcing the re-establishment of the Haitian army.
Of course, the sign of any good army is its ability to safeguard the domestic population, and these incursions provided the FLRN with an opportunity to showcase its skills - which it did by massacring and assaulting supporters of Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party, often with sickening tactics. Citing formerly classified US embassy cables, Sprague uncovers how a small but powerful fifth column within the government was also working to undermine Aristide. 
 WikiLeaks documents probe US-Haiti relations
According to Sprague, it is likely that French and US intelligence facilitated the paramilitary insurgency in some way, while "the International Republican Institute (an organisation funded by the US government that promotes 'democratisation programmes' around the world) provided a forum through which the [Haitian] political opposition strengthened its ties with the paramilitaries".
As journalist Max Blumenthal has documented, the IRI benefitted in its underhanded dealings from the diplomacy of Roger Noriega, an Iran-Contra-era figure recycled into the Bush II administration along with his Cold War Manichean fantasies according to which Aristide and anyone else with less than extreme right-wing political convictions is a communist demon.  
Sprague aptly comments that US' "knowledge that [sectors of] Haiti's 'business community' [were] strongly backing paramilitary terror underscores the cynicism of Washington’s constant demands that Aristide seek 'compromise' with his 'peaceful opponents'". In the end, the compromise consisted of Aristide's removal on a US military plane to the Central African Republic in 2004 and the installation of Gerard Latortue as head of state. The ensuing peace is recalled by historian Greg Grandin: 
"During Latortue's brief stint in office, 2004 - 2006, Haiti experienced some 4,000 political murders, according to The Lancet - while hundreds of Fanmi Lavalas members, Aristide supporters, and social movement leaders were locked up - usually on bogus charges. Latortue's friends in Washington looked the other way." 
Sprague, meanwhile, observes that "Bill Clinton's [former] policy of inserting a handful of ex-FAd’H criminals into Haiti's police force… was now put on steroids" and that "in 2004 -5 the United States and the UN oversaw the recycling of 400 ex-army paramilitaries into a revamped police force" - paving the way for yet more repetitions of history. 
Media coups 
Why is it that Haiti's brutal paramilitary campaigns received scant international press attention while quantitatively and qualitatively inferior political violence by a small number of Fanmi Lavalas supporters (which occurred in the context of clashes with the opposition) was decried at length? 
Obviously, media coverage is shaped by geopolitical and financial interests, with the terms of events defined by the powerful. This is how, for example, terrorism conducted by the US and Israel becomes "counter-terrorism", "self-defence" and "democracy promotion" in the Western mainstream media. 
Sprague documents how, in the case of Haiti, the press in the US, France, Canada and other locales undertook to demonise Aristide and rebrand the violent and unpopular uprising against him as non-violent and popular. As US-trained FLRN commander Guy Philippe remarked to journalist Isabel McDonald following the coup: "[The] international media, the media leaders helped us a lot. And thanks to them we were able to overthrow the dictator. And without them I don't think that we could have".
"Obviously, media coverage is shaped by geopolitical and financial interests, with the terms of events defined by the powerful."

In an essay for the London Review of Books, Paul Farmer describes how Aristide was made the scapegoat for crimes committed by the very people who overthrew him. Summarising Philippe's pre-coup history, which involved reincarnation as a police chief following the demobilisation of the military, Farmer writes: 
"During his tenure, the UN International Civilian Mission learned, dozens of suspected gang members were summarily executed, most of them by police under the command of Philippe's deputy. The US embassy has also implicated Philippe in drug smuggling during his police career. Crimes committed in large part by ex-military policemen are often pinned on Aristide, even though he sought to prevent coup-happy human rights abusers from ending up in these posts." 
Farmer also noted that "Philippe has been quoted as saying that the man he most admires is Pinochet". The bloody legacy of the Chilean dictator offers a reminder of how helpful US-backed coups and violence can be when it comes to introducing neoliberal reforms. 
After the second overthrow of Aristide, Sprague writes, the temporary regime set about "securing [Haiti] as a platform through which global capital could flow freely", in accordance with instructions from the IMF and other interested parties: 
"The interim government laid off between eight and ten thousand civil sector workers, many from the poorest slums of Port-au-Prince. Other programmes under the Aristide government, such as subsidised rice for the poor, literacy centres and water supply projects, came to a halt following the coup d'état." 
The long-fantasised-about mass privatisation of Haitian state assets, however, appeared more difficult to pull off - until, that is, the country was shattered by the 2010 earthquake and control over Haiti's energy, water and other sectors was divvied up between international players like the World Bank and USAID. The 2011 debut of singer-turned-head of state Michel Martelly, elected with the support of a mere 16.7 per cent of the electorate and described by former Financial Times journalist Matt Kennard as a "shock president" prepared to enforce economic shock therapy, seems to have set the stage for the conversion of Haiti into a neoliberal fairytale kingdom. 
It is fitting that Martelly, whose presidential objectives include a resurrection of the Haitian armed forces rather than the pursuit of projects benefitting the majority of the nation's citizens, is himself a longtime close associate of Duvalier's paramilitary Tonton Macoutes. 
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released by Verso in 2011. She is a member of the Jacobian Magazine editorial board, and her articles have appeared in the  London Review of Books blogAlterNet and many other publications.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.