Friday, August 28, 2009

Michael Deibert and Elizabeth Eames Roebling Attack IPS Journalists Writing on Haiti




By: Kim Ives


About a week ago, an IPS story reported that Amnesty International called for the release of Ronald Dauphin and described his continued detention as "politically motivated".


In response, Elizabeth Roebling accused IPS of becoming an "outlet for spin" and directed members of the corbett list to a bitter response on Michael Deibert's blog. Deibert is the author of "Notes from the Last Testament," an account of President Aristide's second term, which was cut short by the February 29, 2004 coup.


Normally, I wouldn't bother responding to a mere political difference. But Deibert makes several personal attacks on the IPS piece's authors Wadner Pierre and Jeb Sprague that warrant correction.


Deibert's allegations are irrelevant to the accuracy of the IPS article. Readers can check the facts reported (most importantly, Amnesty's appeal on Dauphin's behalf ). Good journalism, like good scholarship, relies to the greatest extent possible on sources that readers can check.


Deibert wrote that Sprague "...works as a teaching assistant at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Sociology Department, focusing on crime and delinquency, subjects with which his past behavior [sic] no doubt gives him a close familiarity."


This is a baseless ad hominem attack. Sprague's PhD studies are not focused on crime and delinquency, and, if they were, would not justify Deibert's nasty insinuation.[1] Furthermore, teaching assistant duties are not the same thing as a graduate student's area of study, and, much less, evidence of a criminal background.


Deibert also claims that Sprague sent him an email containing "intimations of violence against my person". I asked Sprague to forward me the email from 2005. In it, Sprague merely questions the accuracy of Deibert's writings. Observing that thousands of people were being killed in post-coup Haiti, Sprague attached what he called a "photo of the suffering," which showed victims of one UN-PNH raid [2]. To say that the e-mail "intimated" a threat against Deibert is absurd.


Deibert then accuses Haitian journalist Wadner Pierre of having a "stark conflict of interest" and that "when writing about the IJDH [The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti], Wadner Pierre is quoting his former employer without acknowledging it."


Pierre has never worked for IJDH. Pierre has provided IJDH and many other organizations in Haiti and around the world with photos taken during his time living in and visiting some of the poorest and most victimized Haitian communities. He has often done so for free or for sums barely adequate to live on in Haiti. Providing freelance photographic evidence of human rights abuses to organizations does not make him an employee or former employee.


Moreover, the ideal of an "objective" reporter or source for news does not and cannot exist. Journalism is not science. It is permeated with value judgments.


Pierre and Sprague have both been open about their sympathy for the poor's mobilization for democracy in Haiti. The IPS article cites a number of sources, such as AUMOHD, IJDH and also well-known Lavalas opponents such as RNDDH and Haiti's Ambassador to the US, Raymond Joseph. Moreover, the article was not "about" IJDH. It highlighted Amnesty International's appeal on behalf of Dauphin and reported facts that are mentioned in that appeal. In contrast, Deibert's recent IPS article on the case does not cite a single source critical of his viewpoint. [3]


Revealingly, Deibert makes no mention of Amnesty's appeal for Ronald Dauphin, one of the most balanced accounts of the alleged "massacre" in St. Marc. Does Deibert wish to bury the Amnesty report under his spurious allegations against Pierre and Sprague? Does he wish that IPS had buried it as well?


To close, I direct readers to a few critiques of Deibert's bias in recent years.


a) Justin Podur. 2006. "Kofi Annan's Haiti". New Left Review.


b) ___________. 2006. "A Dishonest Case for a Coup". Znet.


c) Patrick Elie. 2006. "A Few Notes about 'Notes from the Last Testament'".


d) Mark Weisbrot. 2006. "Response to Michael Deibert". The Nation.


e) Diana Barahona. 2007. "U.S. Reporting on the Coup in Haiti: How to Turn a Priest into a Cannibal". Counterpunch.


f) Tom Luce. 2007. "The Proxy War in Martisant and Gran Ravine". HaitiAnalysis.


g) Peter Hallward. 2008. "Response to Michael Deibert's Review of Damming the Flood". Monthly Review.


Readers can weigh the bias of all sources and draw their conclusions about the facts.




Notes:


[1] Jeb Sprague University Website.


[2] The photo that Sprague attached to the e-mail had been taken by grassroots photojournalist Jean Ristil who lives in Cite Soleil and has himself been harassed and jailed illegally in the past (for taking photographs) by Haiti's UN-trained police. See Eric Feise, Jeb Sprague. 2006. "Persecuted Haitian Photojournalist Speaks Out: Jean Ristil & Cite Solely".


[3] Michael Deibert. 2009. "Haiti: 'We have Never had Justice'". IPS.





For further reading:


Hallward, Peter. 2008. Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment. Verso.


Macdonld, Isabel. 2007. "The Freedom of the Press Barons". The Dominion.


Sprague, Jeb. 2006. "Invisible Violence: Ignoring murder in post-coup Haiti". Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.


Griffin, Thomas M. 2004. "Haiti: Human Rights Investigation: November 11-21, 2004" University of Miami School of Law.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

HAITI: Calls Mount to Free Lavalas Activist



By Wadner Pierre and Jeb Sprague

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Aug 20 (IPS) - Government authorities in Haiti face recent criticism over allegations that they continue to jail political dissidents.

On Aug. 7, Amnesty International called for the release of Ronald Dauphin, a Haitian political prisoner. Dauphin is an activist with the Fanmi Lavalas movement of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He was seized by armed paramilitaries on Mar. 1, 2004 - the day after Aristide's government was ousted in a coup d'état.

According to Amnesty, "the delay in bringing Ronald Dauphin to trial is unjustifiable and is politically motivated". The organisation "opposes Ronald Dauphin's continued detention without trial, which is in violation of his rights, and urges the Haitian authorities to release him pending trial."

Amnesty noted that Dauphin's health has deteriorated severely in Haiti's National Penitentiary, which is notorious for the appalling conditions to which it subjects inmates. One of Dauphin's co-defendants, Wantales Lormejuste, died in prison from untreated tuberculosis in April 2007.

In May 2009, doctors examined Dauphin and called on the authorities to immediately transfer him to a hospital. But today, nearly five and half years since his original arrest, he has not seen his day in court and remains locked up.

Demonstrations in downtown Port-au-Prince, with hundreds of supporters, occur here on a weekly basis, calling for the release of political prisoners. They are organised by local grassroots groups such as the Kolektif Fanmiy Prizonye Politk Yo, Fondasyon 30 Septanm, Organizasyon AbaSatan, and the Group Defans Prizonye Politik Yo.

At one protest, Rospide Pétion a former political prisoner and Lavalas supporter, told IPS, "It is unjust to keep Dauphin in prison while criminals are on the street working without prosecution. We ask for justice for Ronald and all the unknown political prisoners from the slums."

Last year, the Inter American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ordered the Haitian government to immediately improve prison conditions. That ruling also ordered the Haitian government to pay 95,000 dollars in damages to Yvon Neptune, one of Ronald Dauphins co-defendants, for numerous violations of his legal rights.

The Haitian government has disregarded the ruling to date. Neptune received a "provisional release" in 2006 after spending two years in prison but the case against him has yet to be dismissed, despite an appeals court order in his favour.

Ronald Dauphin is the last of 16 Fanmi Lavalas members and supporters imprisoned based on allegations made by the organisation Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), as well as some relatives of the victims, that a massacre was perpetrated between Feb. 9 and 11, 2004 in St. Marc, 100 kms north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital.

RNDDH received funding from the Canadian government for the prosecution of the supposed perpetrators of the massacre. However, U.N. investigators - despite U.N. hostility to Fanmi Lavalas and support for the coup-installed government that ruled Haiti until 2006 - have not backed the accusations made by RNDDH.

In 2005, the U.N. Human Rights Commission's independent expert on human rights in Haiti, Louis Joinet, concluded that what happened at St. Marc was that armed groups -supporters and opponents of the Aristide government - clashed and that there were casualties on both sides.

In 2006, Thierry Fagart, head of the Human Rights department of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, rebuked RNDDH for never substantiating its allegations by even providing a list of the names of the victims.

Amnesty International's appeal on behalf of Ronald Dauphin also called for an impartial and thorough investigation into the events that took place in St. Marc, and it observed that "The investigating magistrate has only focused on the alleged crimes committed by the group supporting former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and failed to identify the victims among the former president supporters and their alleged perpetrators."

In July, the director of RNDDH, Pierre Esperance, told IPS, "In our system, the criminal becomes a victim because the system doesn't work."

Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) agreed that the shortcomings of Haiti's legal and prison system punish the innocent and guilty alike.

However, Concannon noted that the coup-installed government of 2004-2006 "arrested hundreds of political opponents, some at the insistence of RNDDH. Over five years after the arrests began, not a single political prisoner has been convicted of any crime."

"Some were acquitted at trial, like folk singer Annette Auguste 'So Ann', or cleared by an appeals court, like activist priest Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste, when the prosecution was not able to submit a shred of evidence. Many more remain in prison, or in legal limbo like Yvon Neptune."

On Aug. 9, former President Bill Clinton, now a U.N. envoy to Haiti, addressed influential Haitian émigrés gathered at a luxury resort in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida.

Working class Haitian activist groups like Veye-yo, which is based in Miami, have been calling on Clinton to work on behalf of Ronald Dauphin as he recently did on behalf of U.S. journalists imprisoned in North Korea. A group of Veye-yo activists assembled just outside the resort calling for such action.

Momentum has been growing for Dauphin's release. Evel Fanfan, a Haitian attorney for the Association des Universitaires Motivés pour une Haiti de Droits (AUMOHD), also speaking at the recent gathering in Florida, expressed firm solidarity with the campaign to end illegal detentions such as that of Dauphin.

The Haitian government denies that it holds political prisoners. Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Raymond Joseph, denying that he has even heard of Dauphin, says, "There are no political prisoners in Haiti. The fact that Neptune and the others are out of jail and they were the most prominent and that this person... is still in jail, to me underscores... some people are in jail but not for political reasons, but since they belong to a certain party they are shopping this around and saying 'its because I belong to this party that I'm in jail'".

Others argue this is part of a pattern, part of a concerted campaign to silence Haiti's poor that continues today with the blocking by the government's Conseil électoral provisoire (CEP) of Fanmi Lavalas from taking party in recent elections.

Speaking last Wednesday on Free Speech Radio News, Pierre LaBossiere, a founding member of a North American-Haiti solidarity organisation, the Haiti Action Committee, said, "We have petitions to President René Préval to free the political prisoners. People shouldn't be in jail because of their political beliefs."

"Because of their strong feelings that President Aristide is the true spokesman for their aspirations they were put in jail on trumped up charges, never a day in court and they are sitting there for years," he said.

In May, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters wrote to Haitian Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, warning that the failure to provide adequate medical treatment to Dauphin could "cause the injustice [of illegal imprisonment] to become a death sentence."

Dauphin learned about Amnesty's statement on his behalf while listening to a radio interview that his attorney, Mario Joseph (of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux), was giving about his case.

Dauphin's wife told IPS, "Ronald was pleased when he heard the news on the radio". However, she remains distraught over her husband's situation. His ailing mother, Janne, who is 78, is also suffering immensely wondering what will become of her son.

(END/2009)

Haiti Liberte: Diaspora Unity Congress Ignores Class Struggle




By Wadner Pierre

From August 6 - 9, 2009, about 300 Haitians from different corners of Haiti's diaspora - often called the 11th Department - gathered in Miami Beach, Florida for the 2009 Haitian Diaspora Unity Congress. The event was organized by the Haitian League, whose Chairman of the Board is Dr. Bernier Lauredan. He is a Haitian pediatrician living in New Jersey, where the first conference was held last year without, apparently, too much success.

The chair of this year's Congress was Dr. Rudolph Moise, a physician and actor well known in Miami for his more or less conventional activism.

Several former Lavalas government officials took part including former Minister for Haitians Living Abroad Leslie Voltaire, former minister without portfolio Marc Bazin, former Justice Minister Camille Leblanc, former Planning Minister Anthony Dessources, and former inspector of the Haitian National Police Luc Eucher Joseph, now Secretary of State of Justice and Public Safety. These officials are considered by Haiti's masses as politically bourgeois and, excepting Voltaire, were never Lavalas Family party members.

Meanwhile, there were also members or associates of President Boniface Alexandre's and Prime Minister Gérard Latortue's de facto government (2004 - 2006). The most prominent of them was Bernard Gousse, the former de facto Justice Minister, whom the Miami-based popular organization Veye Yo brands as a criminal for his role in ordering several deadly crackdowns on rebellious shanty towns and the first arrest of the late Father Gérard Jean-Juste, Veye Yo's founder.

Several current Haitian government officials were present including Kelly Bastien, the Senate's president, two parliamentarians from the pro-coup social-democratic parties Struggling People Organization (OPL) and Fusion, Youth, Sports and Civic Action Minister Evans Lescouflair, and two mayors from the Center Department.

On the Congress's last day, there were also addresses by Haitian Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis and Special United Nations Envoy to Haiti, former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Like other Haitian conferences of this sort, most of the workshops were focused on development and investment with short shrift given to the political struggles, coups, and military occupations that have made both hard to achieve. There were also sessions on dual nationality, the role of the press, the participation of Haitian youth abroad and in Haiti, and on justice and human rights in Haiti.

In one workshop, Pierre Leger from the southern city of Les Cayes addressed Haiti's lack of infrastructure. He claimed to be Haiti's largest vetiver exporter, with operations based in the southern department. He castigated Haitian President René Préval's "lack of entrepreneurial vision" and the Haitian government's perennial begging. The current government and those of the past have contented themselves with pursuing international aid without really trying to promote national production, he said. Leger recounted the troubles he had in getting fuel to his operations over Haiti's sole artery to the south which was damaged after the 2008 storms. Building shipping ports and airports could resolve such problems, he argued. "You need to have infrastructure before inviting people to invest in your country, even if it is entrepreneurs from the Haitian diaspora," Leger said.

In a workshop on the press, only conservative bourgeois media were represented. Agence France Presse reporter Clarens Renois spoke on the press' role in development, saying the media sometimes misused its power to defend political causes. Of course, he did not point to Radio Métropole, his former employer, which played a key role in the 2001-2004 destabilization campaign against Aristide.

"We should not give only negative news about Haiti," Renois said. "We should also give positive news that can help develop the country."

One of the most interesting workshops was that on human rights, held on August 7. In this meeting, Secretary of State Eucher defended harsh, often-criticized government measures to establish a climate of security in the country. He was also proud of his government's close cooperation with the United Nations Mission for Stability in Haiti (MINUSTAH), as the UN's military occupation force is called. He made no mention of the massacres or abuses committed by UN troops or the police. "Now we have no red zones or areas where people cannot go in Haiti," Eucher said. "The people have regained confidence in the Police. The working conditions of our officers has changed, and we will continue to work on the professionalization of the Police and to purchase equipment."

Daniel Jean, Deputy Justice Minister for Judicial Reforms, said that the government was working to build and improve courts, to better train judges, and to improve prison conditions around the country. But, he complained, there is a lack of funds to carry out such projects.

Prison conditions in Haiti are inhuman and have been condemned by several international human rights groups.

Among the panelists was Evel Fanfan, an activist lawyer, human rights defender and President of AUMOHD (Association University Students Working for Law in Haiti). He denounced the government officials' account, brandishing reports on several police and UN massacres against the poor, in particular the 2005 Grand Ravine massacre in Martissant, the 2003 Beladeres massacre by the "rebels," and 2005 and 2006 massacres in Cité Soleil. The victims of these massacres are still denied justice while killers like former death-squad leader Louis Jodel Chamblain and former coup-plotter Guy Philippe still circulate freely. The police who carried out the Grand Ravine massacre are still in their posts or living freely. "Here are the letters sent to and received from the President of the Republic, René Préval and members of his former and current government," Fanfan explained. "How can we speak of Haitian law when the majority of people behind bars in our prisons are unconstitutionally imprisoned and their prison conditions are inhumane? For example, the National Penitentiary in Port-Au-Prince was built for hundreds of prisoners, but now it has thousands" He also underlined the case of Ronald Dauphin, a political prisoner and supporter of former President Aristide, the injustice of whose case Amnesty International recently publicized.

Bernard Gousse was also supposed to address the human rights workshop and a number of people from the Miami community came to ask him hard questions. But he never showed up that day, although he did appear the next day in a session on dual citizenship.

The Haitian Constitution's prohibition of dual nationality remains a burning issue for most expatriates living in Haiti's diaspora. Many have become citizens of the U.S., Canada, or France and want the Constitution amended to allow them participation in Haiti's political life. Haitian Senate president Kelly Bastien said dual citizenship reform is possible. "It's an easy battle, since your participation in the nation's social, political and economic life will change many things," Bastien told the Diaspora Congress. "You need to talk to other political leaders in both Parliamentary houses, because they come here to ask for money during the electoral period. Now it's your turn to ask something in return."

There were also moments of entertainment. On Saturday night, there was a long awards dinner ceremony followed by a dance party with Sweet Mickey.

The last day of the Congress - Sunday, August 9 - was a day of protest. Across the street from the Trump International Beach Resort where the conference took place, Veye Yo rallied about 50 people starting at 7 a.m. to denounce the participation of "injustice minister" Bernard Gousse at the event. "Bernard Gousse is a criminal! Bernard Gousse is a murderer! He must be arrested if the USA is against terrorism. Why is a terrorist like Bernard Gousse here?" These were some of the demonstrators' slogans and cries.

"We are here today to demand the release of political prisoners arrested by Bernard Gousse, and justice for all those who have been victims of the injustice machine of the government of Gérard Latortue," said Lavarice Gaudin, a Veye Yo leader. "We hope that President Bill Clinton, who claims to be a friend of the Haitian people, as Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General, will work with the government in place to secure the release of these people."

In the background, demonstrators chanted: "Occupation, No! Democracy, Yes! Titid shall return!"

Meanwhile, inside the hotel, amid extremely tight security, conference members and a restricted handful of about 20 mostly non-Haitian journalists gathered to hear presentations by Prime Minister Pierre-Louis and Clinton.

Pierre-Louis' plea, as was to be expected, was for unity. "There is not enough debate between the different sectors for them to exchange, to discuss, for them to arrive at what they call compromise," Pierre-Louis said, speaking in Kreyol. " We must discover the interests of each person and, in the end, accept to lose a little so that everyone wins... That's what compromise means. It is an essential process and it is that alone which can create the true unity we are seeking." How ironic, after these words, that President Préval's still refuses to compromise and grant Haitian factory workers a meager increase in their daily minimum wage to 200 gourdes ($5.05), insisting instead that it be raised to only 125 gourdes ($3.11).

She also decried the "colonial legacy which we drag behind us" but did not denounce the UN's military occupation of Haiti, the most perfect expression of this "colonial legacy."

Pierre-Louis also invoked some ill-defined unity as a way to resolve growing conflicts with the Dominican Republic and as a means to develop the country. "Unity means believing enough in the country to come invest," she said. "There are lots of opportunities for investment. Creating jobs is a priority."

Her speech had one particularly pious and politically naive remark which will be most remembered: "We have to stop identifying ourselves as Lavalas or as Macoutes and just identify ourselves as Haitians."

She was followed by Bill Clinton, who repeated the same themes and platitudes he has been saying in recent weeks since his UN appointment: he is optimistic, he sees hope for Haiti, this is a time of opportunity for Haiti, and the nation must not fail.

He had the air of being slightly on the defensive, perhaps because of the demonstration going on outside the hotel. He said a series of things that are demonstrably false.

"There is no UN agenda in Haiti other than to help advance the plans and the aspirations of the government and the people of Haiti," he said. "I'll be working with the President and Prime Minister, with multinational donors, non-governmental groups, philanthropists, business people, and I hope with many of you to transform those plans into specific actions. My work is and will continue to be in complete alignment and coordination with the Haitian government in so far as I can do that. I will not manage the UN peace-keepers. Nor will I be involved in domestic Haitian politics." As the front man for the UN's military occupation, how can he not be involved in "domestic Haitian politics"?

The Congress's organizers felt their event was a success. But for most of the poor and working-class Haitian community in the United States and Canada, it was a meeting of some businessmen, politicians and mostly conservative activists, all of whom had the ability to pay the $250 participation fee (not to mention travel and a hotel). The issues addressed were entirely traditional and technocratic, avoiding the key political problems such as the foreign military occupation, the struggle for the 200 gourdes minimum daily wage, the crying injustice for political prisoners and hundreds of inmates who have never seen a judge, the continued exile of former President Aristide, and the neoliberal plan that continues to privatize Haiti's patrimony.

"It's basically a glorified business networking conference,"said one participant who wished to remain anonymous.

And others weren't satisfied. For example, well-known Haitian compas artist, King Kino of the group Phantoms did not attend the conference because he felt that the central role of Haitian culture was not on the agenda. "For the past 20 years, Haiti has produced and exported practically nothing," he said in a telephone interview. "It's music that keeps the country afloat. How can we have a conference without the participation of people involved in Haitian music? Jamaica is where it is today because of its music."

Finally, one must wonder if the Haitian government, or perhaps Washington and the United Nations, helped to fund this meeting, especially given the participation of Pierre-Louis and Clinton. Although Congress organizers say it was carried out on a "shoe-string," the budget was big enough to pay for airline tickets for dozens of guest speakers and for their accommodations at the sumptuous Trump Hotel. Whatever the case, the 2009 Haitian Diaspora Unity Congress did nothing to fundamentally challenge the Haitian government's neoliberal direction and may have actually helped to reinforce it.

(Some reporting for this article contributed by Francesca Azzura and Kim Ives.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL IN HAITI




AI Index: AMR 36/003/2009
by:

Amnesty International August 2009

APPEAL CASE: RELEASE RONALD DAUPHIN

Ronald Dauphin, a Lavalas Party activist, has spent four years in prison without trial for his alleged involvement in an armed confrontation between government supporters and opponents where several people were killed. He is the last remaining in prison of
16 Lavalas members and supporters who were arrested in relation to the killings and other crimes that occurred between 9 and 11 February 2004 in St. Marc’s neighbourhood of La Scierie, 100km North of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

Amnesty International believes that the delay in bringing Ronald Dauphin to trial is unjustifiable and ispolitically motivated. The organization opposes Ronald Dauphin’s continued detention without trial, which is in violation of his rights and urges the Haitian authorities to release him pending trial. Amnesty International also calls on the Haitian authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the 2004 events in La Scierie and bring to justice all those responsible for the killings and other crimes committed by both groups involved in the confrontation, in trials that adhere to international standards of due process and fairness. Impunity for these crimes must not prevail but justice is not served by depriving Ronald Dauphin of his rights.

The investigation into the events in La Scierie and thelegal proceedings that prevent Ronald Dauphin’s release pending trial were marred with irregularities and no effort has been made by the Haitian judicial authorities to rectify the situation. As a result, the Haitian state not only has denied Ronald Dauphin his right to a fair and prompt trial but has also denied the victims and their family members the right to justice, truth and redress.

Ronald Dauphin was detained in Port-au-Prince on 1 March 2004 by members of the Resistance Front, a group of armed rebels which launched a rebellion in early February 2004 against Jean-Bertrand Aristide, President of Haiti. President Aristide, leader of the Lavalas Party, was removed from power the day before Ronald Dauphin’s arrest. Ronald Dauphin’s detention was made without any legal grounds: there was no
arrest warrant against him issued by a competent Haitian judicial authority and the Resistance Front had no legal powers of arrest. The Resistance Front transferred Ronald Dauphin to the custody of the Haitian National Police which kept him at Delmas 33 police station before he was transferred to the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince. A St. Marc magistrate in charge of the investigation issued an arrest warrant against Ronald Dauphin and 27 other people on 25 March 2004, three weeks after his detention. The warrant sought the arrest of Lavalas Party supporters allegedly involved in the confrontation and included former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune who was later indicted as an “accomplice” in the La Scierie case.

On 14 September 2005, an investigating magistrate from the St. Marc First Instance Court published, after 18 months, his report of the investigation (ordonnance de clôture) in which charges were formulated against Ronald Dauphin as one of the alleged perpetrators of the killings. The magistrate however failed to establish the individual responsibility of any of the co-accused in the events that took place in La Scierie. The magistrate’s report called for Ronald Dauphin and his co-accused to stand trial on charges of murder, arson and “massacre” although this is not recognized as a
crime in Haiti’s Penal Code. The investigating magistrate has only focused on the
alleged crimes committed by the group supporting former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and failed to identify the victims among the former president supporters and their alleged perpetrators. Furthermore, the magistrate referred the co-accused to stand trial without a jury, contrary to the provisions of Haiti’s Penal Code. All crimes of blood have to be brought to trial with a jury. Ronald Dauphin and his co-accused appealed against the indictment.

On 13 April 2007, the Court of Appeal in Gonaïves (75km to the North of St. Marc) issued a decision criticizing “grave procedural errors,” and “deplorable thoughtlessness” in the pre-trial investigation and requesting a new investigation. It also ordered the cases of Ronald Dauphin and several others to be sent back to the St. Marc First Instance Court “to repair the above-mentioned omissions and abuses of power” and dismissed the charges against some of the co-accused Amnesty International August 2009 AI Index: AMR 36/003/2009 prompting their release from prison. More than two years later, no advances have been made in the case.

The Gonaïves Court of Appeal retains until today the case file without any valid legal reason. In practice, this prevents the chief magistrate of the St. Marc Court to launch a new investigation into the La Scierie case. In the mean time, Ronald Dauphin remains imprisoned while there is no indication that he, or the other coaccused,
will be brought to trial. His lawyer has filed already with the Court in St. Marc four petitions of habeas corpus challenging Ronald Dauphin’s detention. However, the Court in St. Marc did not answer those petitions because the case file was still lingering in the Court of Appeal in Gonaïves. On 19 February 2005, Ronald Dauphin was one of
more than 400 detainees who fled the National Penitentiary when a group of armed men attacked the facility. He remained at liberty until 22 July 2006 when he was re-arrested by the Haitian police and brought back to the National Penitentiary. Ronald Dauphin suffers from a prostate condition and bronchial asthma and his health has deteriorated during his imprisonment. In 2008, the medical deputy director of the Directorate of Penal Administration stated on the case of Ronald Dauphin that “given the detention conditions and the limitations in availability of treatments in a prison, the improvements offered by the medicines administered by the doctors remain
temporary”. In May 2009, private doctors examined again Ronald Dauphin and called on the authorities to immediately transfer Ronald Dauphin to a hospital where he could receive appropriate medical care. While all of the other co-defendants have now been released (one died in prison from untreated tuberculosis), Ronald Dauphin remains imprisoned as a result of the vagaries of the Haitian judicial system.

Background information Between 9 and 11 February 2004 a group of Lavalas
Party supporters called Bale Wouze (“clean sweep”) clashed with members of the opposition group RAMICOS (Rassemblement des Militants Conséquents
de la Commune de St Marc – Assembly of Committed Activists from the Town of St Marc) in La Scierie. Lavalas Party opponents claimed that Bale Wouze killed at least 50 people. However, following his investigation, the United Nations Commission on
Human Rights' Independent Expert on Haiti, Louis Joinet (2002-2008) dismissed allegations that there had been a “massacre” at La Scierie, but instead a clash between two armed groups which resulted in casualties on both sides. No one has ever been convicted, or even tried in connection with the La Scierie killings. The case of former Primer Minister Yvon Neptune, as a co-accused in the La Scierie case was brought before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which ruled that the Haitian state violated, among others, Mr. Neptune’s rights to be heard promptly by a competent court, his right to liberty and personal integrity. Mr. Neptune spent two years in prison without trial and was released on 27 July 2006 on humanitarian grounds.

TAKE ACTION NOW
PLEASE WRITE TO THE HAITIAN AUTHORITIES:

Urging the authorities to release Ronald Dauphin pending trial;
Calling for the judicial authorities to carry an impartial and thorough investigation into the La Scierie killings
and other human rights abuses and bring those responsible on both sides to justice.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS TO:
PRIME MINISTER
Michèle D. Pierre-Louis
Première Ministre
La Primature, Route de Bourdon,
Imp. Prosper, No.1 (Villa d’Accueil)
Port-au-Prince, HAITI
Fax: + 509 2298 3900
Salutation: Madame la Première
Ministre / Dear Prime Minister
MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SECURITY
M. Jean Joseph Exumé
Ministre de la Justice et de la
Sécurité Publique
Ministère de la Justice
19 Avenue Charles Sumner
Port-au-Prince, HAITI
Fax: +509 2245 0474
Salutation: M. le Ministre / Dear
Minister
COPIES TO:
Bureau des Avocats Internationaux
3, 2ème rue Lavaud
B.P. 19048
Port-au-Prince, HAITI

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

COMPARING THE HAITIAN AND HONDURAN COUPS

HAITI LIBERTE
"Justice. Verite. Independance."

* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

August 5 - 11, 2009
Vol. 3, No. 3


by Kim Ives

Anyone who has closely watched Washington's mischief and dirty wars around the globe over the past few decades cannot have missed the uncanny similarity between the June 28, 2009 coup d'état against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and that of February 29, 2004 against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Both men were abducted by an armed commando unit in the dark early morning hours, placed on a waiting plane, and then flown to a destination they had no choice in or foreknowledge of. Both were facing Washington-backed oppositions and pursuing, or at least flirting with, anti-neoliberal policies and anti-imperialist alliances. Both had large followings among their nations' poor majority.

Several journalists and bloggers have compared the coups, but two pieces stand out. The first is entitled "Haiti and Honduras: Considering Two Coups d'État" by David Holmes Morris, first published July 2 on The Rag Blog (http://theragblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/haiti-and-honduras-considering-two.html).

"The same United Nations that now condemns the coup in Honduras and demands Zelaya's return occupied Haiti militarily during the coup government of Gérard Latortue, often attacking Haitians demonstrating for Aristide's return, and occupies it still," Morris notes in his introduction.

Here are a few more excerpts from the piece:

"The two countries, despite important ethnic, historical and linguistic differences, are similar as well. They are of about the same size, with populations of around 7.5 million, and they are both among the poorest three or four countries in the hemisphere. Seventy percent of Hondurans live in poverty. The average annual income is $1600. Honduras and Haiti both have historically powerful military forces that have often shown a disposition for brutality. And they have both long been controlled by small wealthy elites.

"But the two men are quite different. Aristide, a priest and practitioner of liberation theology, had a long history of direct involvement with the poor before becoming president and had shown great personal courage in their defense on more than one occasion. He received over 70% of the vote in one presidential election, 90% in another. Zelaya, in contrast, is the wealthy landowning son of wealthy landowners. He came to power in 2005 by a narrow margin through the politically centrist Partido Liberal, whose policies he initially supported, favoring CAFTA, for example, the Central America Free Trade Agreement.

"It was only later in his presidency that Zelaya turned leftward, raising the minimum wage by 60% and forming alliances with the leftist and left-leaning Pink Tide governments of Latin America, in particular with that of [Venezuela's] Hugo Chávez. He agreed to join the Alternativa Bolivariana de las Américas, or ALBA, a regional fair-trade alliance, and somehow persuaded the unicameral legislature, dominated by his own Partido Liberal and the rightist Partido Nacional, to ratify his country's membership in it. He became openly critical of the Honduran elite and of U.S. business interests in the region. He suggested, scandalously, that legalization of drug use was a saner approach than the U.S. drug wars.

"Whatever his personal motives might have been, Zelaya, once in office, won the support of the poor of Honduras, who saw promise of improvement in their lives not only through an increase in wages but through membership in ALBA, which offered lower fuel prices through PetroCaribe, for example, and other benefits from an alliance with Venezuela, like the grant of several hundred tractors for Honduran farmers.

"The wealthy of Honduras were not impressed, however, and neither were their armed and uniformed representatives in the military.

"In Haiti a few years earlier Aristide had also sought to raise the minimum wage and had resisted the imposition by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund of the privatization of public enterprises. He had tried to protect Haitian farmers and other producers against subsidized imports from the United States."

After noting these similarities, Morris concludes by noting that "there are some puzzling differences in the reaction to the coup in Haiti five years ago and to the coup in Honduras days ago. Many news accounts in [the U.S.] gave the impression that Aristide had somehow deserved what he got by alienating his own people, who had rebelled against him and run him out of the country or, alternately, that he had resigned of his own volition and fled for his own safety. The United States soldiers were in Haiti merely to keep the peace, as was the United Nations force that replaced them. But the UN forces are seen in Haiti as an army of occupation and there are frequent large demonstrations against them and for the return of Aristide. United Nations troops have been involved in countless acts of violence against Haitians, most recently in the shooting death of one of the thousands of Haitians at the funeral services for Father Gérard Jean Juste, a close associate of Aristide."

The other noteworthy piece is entitled "Otto Reich and the Honduran Coup D'Etat: The Provocateur, his Protégé, and the Toppling of a President" by Machetera, a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity (http://www.tlaxcala.es/pp.asp?reference=8275&lg=en).

As the title denotes, Machetera traces the role played by Otto Reich, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs for George W. Bush, in both the Haitian and Honduran coups. In particular, the author lays out "similarities in the use of telecom as a propaganda tool to turn public opinion against [Aristide and Zelaya] and set the groundwork for them to be prematurely removed from office, and once out, kept out." The Arcadia Foundation, linked to Reich, also is playing a key role in the Honduran coup.

Here are some excerpts from Machetera's analysis:

"From a neoliberal political point of view there are two advantages to a propaganda offensive centered upon telecom corruption. The first is obvious. If telecom corruption can be tied directly to a leader who is not following Washington's agenda, it promotes public support for the leader's removal. The second is a little less obvious, but equally as important. It promotes the argument that telecom companies under state control really ought not to be, especially in underdeveloped countries, and would be better off privatized.

"To make that argument, one must of course ignore the abundant evidence of telecom corruption in the United States, where men like Bernie Ebbers and Joseph Nacchio, who became telecom kingpins thanks to privatization (called "deregulation" in the U.S.) are serving federal prison terms for accounting fraud and insider trading. The fact is that telecom, as an essential service in the modern world, has always been a kind of money printing press, and the fight over state control vs. private control is all about who gets to control the switch, and what will be done with the profits.

"ITT, which owned the Cuban phone company at the time of the revolution in 1959, was the first foreign owned property to be nationalized in Cuba, in 1961. In 1973, ITT was so fearful of repeating the experience in Chile that John McCone, a board member and former CIA man promised Henry Kissinger a million dollars to prevent Salvador Allende's election. According to the U.S. Ambassador to Chile at the time, Edward Korry, ITT did pay $500,000 to a member of the compensation committee for expropriated properties in Chile, until Allende found out about the payments and nixed the compensation entirely.

"In Venezuela in 2007, privatization was also reversed, and Verizon was paid $572 million for its share in the Venezuelan phone company, Cantv. This sent chills down the spine of every U.S. politician and telecom executive or consultant (like Reich) invested in expanding telecom privatization extra-territorially. And the chill was bipartisan. Democrats as well as Republicans had benefitted equally from global privatization of the telecom mint.

"As someone who counted AT&T and Bell Atlantic (Verizon) among his former (acknowledged) clients and a proven antipathy for leftist governments, Reich had plenty of motive. A front group disguised as a foundation would provide the opportunity. (...)

"The one thing this type of front group must be certain to do is file for non-profit status in the U.S. They therefore must make at least a passing effort to put together a plausible board of directors and a credible mission statement, and comply with tax and other public disclosure requirements. The Arcadia Foundation has the mission statement - a rambling treatise on democracy and civil society, but little else. [Reich protégé Robert] Carmona-Borjas shares billing at the group with Betty Bigombe, a Ugandan World Bank consultant who appears to have lent Arcadia nothing beyond her name. Although Carmona-Borjas has insisted the group's activities are entirely legal, he has concealed the documents he is required to make available to any member of the public upon request and is reportedly hostile to those who ask to see them. (...)

"In the fall of 2007, the El Universal newspaper in Mexico printed a story based on a report it had received from the Arcadia Foundation. Interestingly, the report itself is not available at the Arcadia website, but there are clues to its contents and objectives in the newspaper stories which followed.

"The report evidently contained allegations about corruption in the Honduran phone company, peppered with innuendo, a Reich trademark. It claimed that income to Honduras's phone company, Hondutel, had declined by nearly 50% between 2005 and 2006. (...)

"It was an old horse that had seen service once before, in Haiti, against Aristide.

"All international telecom traffic is subject to interconnection fees with the phone company in the country where the call is terminated. These interconnection fees are split 50/50 between the company sending the call and the company receiving the call so that they are only paid if there is an excess of traffic in one direction or another.

"With underdeveloped countries such as Honduras or Haiti, there is an overwhelming excess of one-way traffic as a result of emigrants to the U.S. or other Western countries calling their families back home. It is precisely in these extremely poor countries, where the telephone company has not been privatized, that interconnection settlements represent a vital source of revenue to the state. Until recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intervened on behalf of the multiple carriers who'd emerged as a result of privatization (deregulation) in the United States, to negotiate interconnection rates with other countries that would apply equally to all carriers. In 2004 the FCC's intervention began to be phased out, and since 2006 it has vanished entirely except for a short list of countries that does not include Haiti or Honduras.

"During the fixed-rate years, some U.S. companies still tried to get a better deal regardless, and while state-owned companies such as Haiti's Teleco and Honduras's Hondutel were free to offer lower interconnection rates than those set by the FCC, they were supposed to be offering them equally to all carriers, not just a privileged few, so as not to make a mockery of the FCC's system. If payments from the U.S. carrier were involved in securing the discount it would also be a violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

"This appears to be what occurred with IDT, a New Jersey telecom company that negotiated a special rate to interconnect with Haiti's Teleco. The FCC's rate at the time was supposed to be 23 cents per minute for connections to Haiti, but IDT negotiated and received a contract for 9 cents a minute. When a former IDT employee claimed that part of that fee was a kickback to Aristide, the anti-Aristide lobby went crazy.

"The Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady, followed by Lucy Komisar writing for another non-profit front group sponsored by a Haitian oligarch, the Haiti Democracy Project, claimed that Aristide knew of and personally benefitted from the kickback. Before, corruption allegations against Aristide had tended to be confined to equally unproven insinuations about profiting from drug trafficking, such as those Reich provided to O'Grady when he sat down with her for an interview in 2002.

"None of the defamatory allegations about Aristide's involvement in any of the schemes could be proven, and a much publicized court case brought against Aristide by the Haitian (U.S.) puppet government was quietly shelved. But proving the case was secondary to floating the allegations, both as a propaganda tactic against Aristide, and political intimidation of his supporters in the U.S. Congress."

Marchetera's analysis is particularly relevant given the current efforts of President René Préval to privatize Teleco.

In short, the hemisphere's two latest coups in Haiti and Honduras show how U.S. administrations, both Republican and Democrat, are growing ever more sophisticated in their subversion of Latin American and Caribbean states working towards democracy and sovereignty. However, popular resistance has risen to the challenge in both cases and threatens to turn back the coups, even in Haiti, five and a half years later.

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