If you don’t call it political, you can pretend it isn’t

[from port au prince]

Last week we talked to Desmond Molloy, an old soldier who heads the ‘DDR’ program for MINUSTAH, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti. ‘DDR’ stands for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration. Molloy’s previous experience, among other conflicts, was in Sierra Leone. There, he explained, there were two armed sides – rebels and the government – waging a political and military conflict. In such conflicts opponents try to maximize advantages anticipating a solution, either by negotiation and treaty or total victory for one side and defeat for the other.

Continue reading “If you don’t call it political, you can pretend it isn’t”

The Elections Game is On

The Southeast

We spent the weekend outside Port au Prince in the Southeast – in the city of Jacmel. Jacmel operates according to a slightly different logic. People are keen to tell you that things are a little less polarized there, unlike Port au Prince. Also unlike Port au Prince, there is 24-hour electricity.

That latter is something CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, might want to take credit for. CIDA contracted with Quebec’s energy company, Hydro-Quebec, to improve the electricity infrastructure in and around Jacmel. Impressed, we thought we would visit the hydroelectric facility, a small dam in Jacmel’s hinterland that produces some 1/7 of the capacity for the region (most of the rest is geothermal). The facility hadn’t been working though, since September 12. The man who was watching the place while they waited for a spare part to repair the machinery couldn’t tell us about the Canadian participation in the project.

The road between Port au Prince and Jacmel is in bad shape. We had been told that Canadian firms had a contract for improvement of some of the road, as had the Taiwanese. The Taiwanese section was complete, but the Canadian section was not.

These two problems were enough to upset Dr. Georges Frantz Large, an eye doctor and Senate candidate in the upcoming elections who also happens to be the President of the Chamber of Commerce for the Southeast. We met him at the hotel he owns, where he ensured us that he was no communist – but that he was unhappy with the coup in 2004 and the international community’s participation in it, which he views as punishment for Haiti’s original sin of liberating itself in 1804. Another Jacmel businessman, Eric Denis, wondered how Canada could claim it was helping Haiti when it was the ultimate destination for so much of Haiti’s human resources. There are more Haitian medical doctors in Canada than there are in Haiti, Denis said. If Canada wanted to help, why not hand over money for those doctors to work in Haiti itself? Denis, a member of the elite, said his own class had lost money from the coup. His hotel is operating at 35% of capacity, where it had operated at 65% before. He thinks that even those elites who helped orchestrate the coup are making less money than they had before.

Of course, they also have more power – maybe it is worth taking a hit to profits to prevent loss of control of the future of the country, which is what they believed Aristide threatened.

The Electoral List

On the topic of power, back to Port au Prince, where the list of 54 candidates for president in the November 2005 election has been pruned by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to a short list of 32. They disqualified a Texas millionaire named Dumarsais Simeus, an ex-Lavalas senator named Louis Gerard Gilles, and 22 others. Those who are still on the list: Marc Bazin, who ran against Aristide in 1990 and lost; Rene Preval, who was the only Lavalas president to finish out his term; Dany Toussaint, who is suspected of the murder of famous pro-Lavalas journalist Jean Dominique; Guy Philippe, who organized and led the armed coup against Aristide in 2004.

There are also 316 senatorial candidates and 1123 candidates for parliament.

The publication of the final list of presidential candidates actually takes the strategy that opened with the coup to another stage, according to Patrick Elie, Haiti’s former ‘drug czar’, who led the fight against drug trafficking and who also helped create the Haitian National Police (PNH) under Aristide, who now characterizes himself as a militant in the pro-democracy movement. Elie calls his creation, the PNH, a ‘bastard child’ of Aristide’s government’s need for an independent police force to guarantee security for the public after the disbanding of the Haitian Army, and the ‘international community’ (mainly the US, Canada, and France) desire for an instrument of social control and repression against the people.

The strategy for the elections, Elie explained, goes like this. Militant leaders like So Ann and Fr. Jean Juste are in jail. Others are in hiding. Aristide is in exile. The capacity to mobilize is much reduced. With the PNH, United Nations troops are crushing resistance in the poor areas neighbourhood by neighbourhood by killing and terrorizing civilians. Bel Air, according to some UNPOL officials, has been ‘pacified’ in just this way. Cite Soleil is next. Meanwhile, the elections approach. What are those remnants of the Lavalas organization, those who are not in hiding and not in jail, to do? Should they avoid registering to vote? Should they register and then not vote? Should they boycott elections until the political prisoners are freed? If they call for a boycott and participation is high, they lose. If they participate in a rigged election – and it is rigged already because of the jailings and killings of their leaders and destruction of their organization – they legitimate it and lose.

Elie, like So Ann (who we talked to in prison last week), believed the Lavalas base should call for their people to register to vote, holding both the threat of abstention over the elections as a bargaining chip for freedom from repression for their people, and the possibility of uniting behind a Lavalas candidate and winning the election at the last minute, as occurred under Aristide in 1990.

So far, though, the strategy of trying to divide the electorate is effective. Regional Lavalas organizations like the one in Jacmel are endorsing Marc Bazin, the former World Bank employee who lost to Aristide in 1990. Since the 2004 coup, Bazin has spoken out against the repression of Lavalas. This was why Lavalas organizer and former senator Jn. Mary Luisner said he was telling his people in the Southeast to vote for Bazin. Many other Lavalas voters will vote for Rene Preval, a candidate who has a mixed record as a former president (which, when contrasted with an unmixed record as a paramilitary implicated in massacres, can look quite good). Others will abstain, in protest that Jean Juste was not allowed to run.

If the strategy works, there won’t be any need for blatant rigging at the polls or violence to drive people away from them, even though it is too early to discount those possibilities. Instead, by smashing Lavalas, setting up a bewildering array of candidates, and letting the machinery run its course, the governments of the US, Canada and France will have legitimated their coup, with a lot of help from so many of the countries of the UN.

The Elections Game is On


September 26, 2005

The Southeast

We spent the weekend outside Port au Prince in the Southeast — in the city of Jacmel. Jacmel operates according to a slightly different logic. People are keen to tell you that things are a little less polarized there, unlike Port au Prince. Also unlike Port au Prince, there is 24-hour electricity.

Continue reading “The Elections Game is On”

The Polls of Bel Air


The post-coup Haitian presidential election, currently planned for November 20, has a list of 54 candidates. The Canadian Prime Minister’s ‘special advisor on Haiti’, Denis Coderre, suggested yesterday that this sprawling list of candidates was a good thing, a sign that ‘democracy is like a flower that needs to be constantly tended’.

Continue reading “The Polls of Bel Air”

The Bel Air Polls

The post-coup Haitian presidential election, currently planned for November 20, has a list of 54 candidates. The Canadian Prime Minister’s ‘special advisor on Haiti’, Denis Coderre, suggested yesterday that this sprawling list of candidates was a good thing, a sign that ‘democracy is like a flower that needs to be constantly tended’.

Continue reading “The Bel Air Polls”

Hello from Haiti

I came to Haiti on a short trip to study a country that doesn’t really understand its place in the world or in the Americas. A country whose people feel too much pride and not enough responsibility for what has been done, what is being done, by their government and elites. A country that it seems very difficult to keep or understand in perspective.

Of course I am talking about Canada.

So since Paul Martin went to the United Nations last week and won the ‘Responsibility to Protect’, which is a declaration that the sovereignty of weak countries has officially lost all international legal protection, it’s interesting to see what a case study in ‘Responsibility to Protect’ looks like.

Given that agenda it only seemed fitting to start my trip at the Canadian Embassy, a shiny new building with a tennis court and a pool, built by SNC-Lavalin, the Canadian engineering company famous for its bullet contract with the US military and its many other global ventures.

I was there for a press conference by Denis Coderre, the ‘special councillor’ to the Canadian government on Haiti. Coderre, like SNC-Lavalin, pops up in the darndest places. He did a turn as Minister of Immigration. Another special appointment dealing with the question of ‘non-status Indians’ in Canada.

(This merits a bit of discussion itself. The state of Canada’s system for ‘granting’ or revoking ‘status’ to the indigenous peoples on whose land the state of Canada exists, is carefully built to disappear the indigenous in a couple of generations. You see, Canada’s legislation provides two kinds of status. The child of a full-status Indian with a full-status Indian has status. But the child of a status Indian with a non-status Indian, while having status, does not have the same kind of status – because if this child in turn has a child with a non-status Indian, the result is a non-status child. By creating two levels of status, the Canadian state has ensured that indigenous people must marry only status people (which is almost impossible in a small population) or see their children and grandchildren eventually lose ‘status’. At any rate, Coderre’s career, between the immigration ministry and the ‘status’ question, seems to have everything to do with status.)

Coderre was announcing $2.25 million more dollars for Haiti’s elections. This money was going to go to pay 25 retired Canadian police officers. These Canadian police officers will, according to Coderre, help to ‘stabilize’ the country in advance of the elections that are to take place on November 20.

Coderre also announced a ‘concert for hope’ on October 23 at the Rex Theatre. We took a sample CD.

Several of his lines deserve to be noted.

When asked whether 54 Presidential candidates was bewildering, Coderre said that ‘democracy is like a flower that needs constant tending’.

When asked whether registration seemed low, with 2.4 million registered out of some 4.5 million possible voters, Coderre replied that he respects the process of the Haitian people and more people are registering all the time.

When asked whether the Haitian government would actually see any of the money, Coderre suggested to the journalist that he take that question up with CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency.

Coderre’s speech, made to a group of about 2 dozen mainstream Haitian journalists (from radio and television) who seemed hard-pressed to find anything exciting going on there, was liberally peppered with the word ‘terrorist’. The terrorists wanted to prevent elections, but we have won that battle, and in February 2006 we will have a historic event in Haiti, ‘we are at the crossroads, so to speak’. Even Fanmi Lavalas were now getting involved in elections, he said, as if to prove his point.

(Not Yvon Neptune though. The constitutional Prime Minister has been in jail for over a year, accused of a ‘massacre’ in St. Marc on sketchy evidence, provoking UN officials to ask for his release or at least due process to be followed. So, put in jail in June 2004, Yvon Neptune was formally charged… yesterday, September 20, 2005.)

In any case, no need to worry, since whoever won the elections, Canada promised a ‘long-term commitment’ to accompany the Haitian people. 15 minutes of announcing, 3 questions, and Coderre was gone.

From there it was just a short trip to the police station where Annette Auguste, or So Ann, has also been imprisoned – since May 10, 2004, when US Marines kicked down her door, shot her dogs, handcuffed her 5-year old granddaughter, and took this 70-year old grandmother and singer away.

So Ann is locked in a police station, locked up with 147 other women. When we asked her, sitting in a corner in the open area between locked hallways of cells under the eyes of guards and young women prisoners, how many of these women were political prisoners, she told us – all of them. They were all rounded up from the poor neighbourhoods, and facing charges of ‘associating’ with malcontents – something out of the napoleonic legal code.

As for So Ann herself, she told us the bizarre twists and turns of the case against her. The first set of charges the Marines brought were that she was colluding with Muslims in a local mosque to attack the Marines. Given that this was May 10, 2004, we concluded there must have been a mixup in the American occupation filing system and they accidentally pulled out an accusation file for Iraq. When the absence of a mosque in So Ann’s neighbourhood cast some doubt on this accusation, they tried to charge So Ann with attacking the anti-Aristide opposition in September 2003. She was in the hospital at the time. Next they produced an eyewitness stating that So Ann had ground a baby with a mortar and pestle in order that Aristide could drink the baby’s blood. The eyewitness said So Ann called her for the ritual and even produced the phone number – for a number which So Ann did not acquire until months after the ritual supposedly took place. Now at least this last charge has a witness, even though that witness is apparently in France and has not been heard from in some time, and so that’s the charge they are sticking with.

We were not So Ann’s only visitors. She told us that months before, US Ambassador Foley had sent former Fanmi Lavalas senator Gilles and another Lavalas figure, Heriveaux, to seek her support (Gilles is running for President in the upcoming elections). So Ann said she would not support them.

Even more surprising, So Ann reported that paramilitary leaders Guy Philippe and Louis Jodel Chamblain had visited her, also seeking her support for their bids for election. Suspecting a problem in the translation, I asked that this be repeated. ‘You can’t believe what you hear? I told them, “you are the reason I am here”‘, So Ann said. Jodel Chamblain was one of the key authors of the Gonaives massacre under the 1991-94 coup regime, and his prosecution was one of the few laudable achievements of the Haitian justice system in the years Lavalas was in power (it was lauded by Amnesty International for example. Amnesty was also quite upset when the verdict against Chamblain was reversed by the current government months ago).

With all these people seeking her support, what was So Ann’s take on elections? She wants Lavalas supporters to register. “If we register, we will be prepared, whatever happens,” she said. She herself has no intention of being a candidate because she thinks Lavalas should stick to the position that it will not participate until the political prisoners are free. Even though the authorities are making voter registration particularly difficult in the popular, pro-Lavalas neighbourhoods like Bel Air and Cite Soleil, So Ann still thinks that if Lavalas unites, Lavalas can win. Even among the 2.4 million subset of current voters, even without the other 2 million who, So Ann thinks, are all Lavalas supporters, Lavalas would win.

Before we left, we asked her about the preposterous charges against her and whether they would let her out in order to provide some semblance of reasonable-ness before elections. “If they let me out, they are in trouble,” she replied, “because they know that people will mobilize.”

So Ann was brilliant, bright, alive, and in a miserable prison. Coderre was cold, bureaucratic, and defensive – in a multimillion-dollar compound. What’s his excuse, do you think?

From the Embassy to the Prison: Hello from Haiti


I came to Haiti on a short trip to study a country that doesn’t really understand its place in the world or in the Americas. A country whose people feel too much pride and not enough responsibility for what has been done, what is being done, by their government and elites. A country that it seems very difficult to keep or understand in perspective.

Of course I am talking about Canada.

Continue reading “From the Embassy to the Prison: Hello from Haiti”

Pina – the only reporter with an agenda

If it weren’t such serious business, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists’s little bulletin on Kevin Pina would elicit a wry chuckle.

It goes like this:

Editor’s note: The original text of this alert has been changed to clarify Pina’s relationship with Lavalas.

New York, September 12, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists today expressed concern at the arrest on Friday of a U.S. filmmaker and a Haitian reporter who were covering a police search in the capital

Continue reading “Pina – the only reporter with an agenda”

Kevin Pina, kidnapped…

Consider writing letters, though it might well be a ‘fool’s call’ as the writer of the alert (Marguerite Laurent I think) says. It’s a ‘fool’s call’ but there’s no alternative. And a lot of attention quickly does help…


Urgent Action Alert
(Please distribute widely)

Masked Haitian police took Kevin Pina and Jean Ristil away today.

Demand immediate release of Kevin Pina and Jean Ristil

Around 5:15 this afternoon the Haitian Lawyers Leadership received a call from Haiti telling us that Haitian police, from the Delma police station, in a car marked with licensed plate # 0879, had entered Father Jean Juste’s presbytery, and was searching it, “destroying the place and generally creating trauma” to the people who were at the church at the time of the police invasion. Apparently, the men had black masks on and were accompanied by an investigative judge to give the exercise a semblance of legality.

The people from the Church and in the area of the Church, fearing the police would plant some evidence against Father Jean Juste to justify his continued imprisonment, alerted us and as many journalists as they could reach.

A half-hour later, we got a call that Kevin Pina and Haitian journalist Jean Ristil where inside the presbytery, asking questions and recording event as they were unfolding. We listened to a recording made by a journalist inside the presbytery and beamed out for broadcast to Haitian radio in the Diaspora as the search and rampage was taking place and learned, practically as it was happening, that the Haitian police had put Kevin Pina under arrest. There were other journalist there but Kevin Pina was placed under arrest. We don’t know the charges.

Later, we learned that after their rampage through the church, both Kevin Pina and Haitian journalist Jean Ristil were put in the police car, both under arrest, taken away by the Haitian police.

Please sound the alarm. We all know that UN soldiers arrested Father Jean Juste. We know that the Haitian police are under the supervision of the UN soldiers in Haiti. More importantly, we know that the grassroots in Haiti, with their leadership dead, in prison or in exile, have declared the people of Haiti, of Site Soley, Bel Air, Cap Haitien, St. Marc, and throughout Haiti, will only go to these sham elections if the killings and arbitrary arrests stop, the political prisoners released, Latortue government resigns and the people in exile return. Obviously, the Coup D’etat contingent can’t allow Father Jean
Juste out of prison, and certainly the UN have shown how cheap Black Haitian life is.

Frankly, it’s a fool’s call to go to the UN for help to release Kevin Pina and Jean Ristil or any of the political prisoners being held by the government the UN helped to bring to power, supports and helps to carry out its repressions, killings and arbitrary arrests. There’s enough evidence and U.N. history in Haiti, since the Coup D’etat, that underlines the U.N. are indeed complicit in the arrests and mayhem in Haiti. (See, the Harvard Report, Small Arms report, Miami Law Center Report, Amnesty International Reports) however, what’s the choice? UN talking heads, like Juan Valdes and Kofi-(n) Annan, say publicly they are in Haiti to bring peace and security. Let them know we know that they know the only way to bring more peace and security to Haiti is to stop the killings, to stop all arbitrary arrests including the current arrests of white American journalist, Kevin Pina and Haitian journalist Jean Ristil, to release the political prisoners including Father Gerard Jean Juste, to facilitate the departure of the Latortue government and the return of the Haitians in exile – those would be concrete and positive UN actions in accordance with international laws of justice, the UN charter, OAS Charter, the Haitian Constitution and the Geneva Convention, all of which acknowledges a nations right to sovereignty, self-reliance, dignity and self-determination.

Call, fax and write MINUSTHA in Haiti and the UN headquarters in NY and
in Geneva. Remind them of their legal duties as a world body for peace,
justice and human rights. Remind them of the people of Haiti’s 5-points: the only real foundation for the restoration of peace and security to Haiti.

Sound the alarm to stop the arrest, torture or even murder of
journalists Kevin Pina and Jean Ristil by this UN/US death regime
brought to Haiti.

Contact information is below and on our website at

Marguerite Laurent, Esq.
Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network
September 9, 2005

Dear U.N. officials and Amnesty International

To: pereira17@un.org, kongo-doudou@un.org, beer@un.org,
cisse-gouro@un.org, fagart@un.org, inquiries@un.org, BanksD@state.gov,
presidentga58@un.org, president@whitehouse.gov, ngochr@ohchr.org

CC: louborda@delbrasonu.org, argentina@un.int, chile@un.int,
chinamission_un@fmprc.gov.cn, france@un.int, canada@un.int,
prnce@international.gc.ca, puechguirbal@un.org,
KonareAO@africa-union.org, embassy@haiti.org, kerryp@state.gov

Subject: Urgent: Release journalist Kevin Pina and Jean Ristil

(Fax and telephone numbers of UN representative in Haiti are on our
website at: )


For CANADA: Contact information for UN Officials and Canadian Members
of Parliament

Urgent: Help Prevent Further Massacres in Haiti! – Letter to UN

Dear U.N. officials and Canadian Members of Parliament

To: valdesj@un.org, suzukia@un.org, inquiries@un.org,
urgent-action@ohchr.org, pereira17@un.org, Martin.P@parl.gc.ca,
mcdonough.a@parl.gc.ca, Pettigrew.P@parl.gc.ca, laytoj@parl.gc.ca,

CC: medili@un.org, christian.do.rosario@undp.org,
amadou.kamara@fao.org, agonzalezregueral@unicef.org,
bonnevaubea@hai.ops-oms.org, Mamadou.mbaye@wfp.org,
kizito.bishikwabo.nsarhaza@undp.org, clavijo@unfpa.org,
marched@imf.org, roelandk@unopsmail.org, allenc@un.org, andy@acn2.net,
szejnera@un.org, banciu@un.org, bmalebranche@unicef.org,
buescher@un.org, bonnevauxbea@hai.ops-oms.org, cecchinir@un.org,
duvalrobert2003@yahoo.fr, elise.benoit@wfp.org, emilioc@iadb.org,
fanfanmel@yahoo.fr, fondpaixdev@hotmail.com, girardengo@un.org,
glherisson@yahoo.fr, goodsamtan@hotmail.com, ji.espinal@unesco.org,
joclau61@hotmail.com, machieng@iom.int, marcher@usaid.gov,
mouillefarine@un.org, msff-port-aux-princes@paris.msf.org,
myrlandeplb@yahoo.fr, paulgmagloire@aol.com, pccraig2004@yahoo.com,

Subject: Urgent: Release journalist Kevin Pina and Jean Ristil


Call and write the United Nations: 212-963-4879, presidentga58@un.org

UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)
PHONE: 011.509.244.9650.9660
FAX: 011.509.244.9366/67
Or, Fax, Office of General Secretary (New York) – 212.963.4879

Hon. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General
United Nations
United Nations Headquarters
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
inquiries@un.org; press office: (509) 510-2563 ext. : 6343

Ambassador Anne Patterson
Acting Permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations:
212-415-4050 or Peggy Kerry: kerryp@state.gov

Bacre Waly Ndiaye
Director-New York Office of the UN Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights
ph: 212-963-1583 or 212-963-5930
fax: 212-963-3463

Louise Arbour
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
1211 Geneva 10
ph: 41-22-917-9000
fax: 41-22-917-9011
email: ngochr@ohchr.org

Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: 41 22 917 9006
email: urgent-action@ohchr.org

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General
Juan Gabriel Valdés
United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)
385, Ave. John Brown, Bourdon, B.P. 557,
Port-au-Prince, Haiti (W.I.)
Fax: +509 244 3512

Special Representative Valdés
Head of Human Rights Division

Thierry Fagart
Human Rights Division, MINUSTAH

385, Ave. John Brown, Bourdon, B.P. 557
Port-au-Prince, Haiti (W.I.)
Fax: +509 244 9366
+509 244 9367


Fax No. (212) 963-4879
Hon. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General
United Nations
United Nations Headquarters
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
Additional contact information:

Embassy of the Republic of Haiti
2311 Massachusetts Ave.NW.
Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 745 7215
Email: embassy@haiti.org

U.S. Charge D’affairs, Timothy Carney
United States Embassy
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Telephones: 011-509-223-4711, or 222-0200 or 0354
Fax: 011-509-223-1641 or 9038

Email to Dana Banks, Human Rights Officer:
Canadian Ambassador to Haiti, Claude Boucher
Embassy of Canada
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Telephone: 011-509- 249-9000
Fax: 011-509-249-9920
Email: prnce@international.gc.ca

Ambassador of France in Haiti, M. Yves GAUDEUL
Embassy of France
51 place des Héros de l’Indépendance – BP 312
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Telephone: 011-509-222-0952
Fax : 011-509-223 5675

cc: Fax or send copies to:

Fax. No. 011-509-245-0474
Me. Henri Dorlèans
Ministre de la Justice et de la Sècuritè Publique
Ministère de la Justice
19 Avenue Charles Sumner
Port-au-Prince, Haiti


General Director of the Haiti National Police
Mario Andresol
Directeur Général de la Police Nationale d’Haïti
Grand Quartier Générale la Police
12 rue Oscar Pacot, Port-au-Prince, Haiti (W.I.)
Fax: 011-509 245 7374


Prime Minister
Gérard Latortue
Ministère de l’Intérieure, Villa d’Accueil, Delmas 60
Musseau, Port-au-Prince, HAITI (W.I.)
Fax: +509 298 3901
Salutation: Monsieur le Premier Ministre/Dear Prime Minister
Minister of Justice and Public Security