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Haiti: Deportations, a new US Ambassador, Aid Scandals and the Upcoming Elections



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Flashpoints interviews Senior Producer and Haiti correspondent Kevin Pina about the recent move by the Dominican Republic to forcibly repatriate thousands of people of Haitian descent, the new US Ambassador to Haiti and his role in counterinsurgency programs in Afghanistan, aid scandals including the American RedCross and, finally,  how the Clinton's are cashing in on a goldmine contract in Haiti.


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VCS Mining's missing web pages, Hillary Clinton and Haiti's gold




On March 6, 2015, VCS Mining was forced to respond to allegations it received a sweetheart deal in the form of contracts from the Martelly regime to begin exploitation of Haiti's largest gold fields. The allegations arose after it was discovered that Hillary Clinton's brother, Anthony "Tony" Rodham, was on the Board of Directors of VCS Mining.

It should be noted that in February 2013, two years before parliament was dissolved and Martelly started ruling by decree, Haiti's senate stopped the deal claiming it was illegal and not in the interests of the Haitian people.

A search of the VCS Mining website last month, showed no information about its Board of Directors and Advisory Board and further investigation by HIP showed VCS Mining had actually deleted their profiles from the web. Further searches revealed the web pages were still available as cached images shown below.

Just as interesting as Tony Rodham's involvement in VCS Mining is the role on their Advisory Board played by former Obama appointee Cleve Mesidor listed as #7 on the deleted web pages. Mesidor acted early on to justify VCS Mining's exploitation of Haiti's gold. Further investigation revealed that Mesidor not only has direct links to the Obama administration but also has even deeper ties to the Clintons. In addition to being a member of VCS Mining's Advisory Board with Tony Rodham, Mesidor also currently consults for The Raben Group, a DC-based firm founded in 2001 by former Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice under President Bill Clinton, Robert Raben.



The Missing Web Pages - VCS Mining's Board of Director's/Advisory Board






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Are foreigners hijacking Haiti's narrative and national identity?

As Samuel P. Huntington reminds us in this article about his book "The Clash of Civilizations?,"

The clash of civilizations thus occurs at two levels. At the micro- level, adjacent groups along the fault lines between civilizations struggle, often violently, over the control of territory and each other. At the macro-level, states from different civilizations compete for relative military and economic power, struggle over the control of international institutions and third parties, and competitively promote their particular political and religious values.
Is the narrative of Haitian civilization, their national priorities and concerns, being drowned out by the competing vision and narrative projected by the nexus of foreign NGO's, charities, missionaries and celebrities who have seemingly planted their flag on Haiti's national identity?

A snapshot of a Google news search this evening is a perfect illustration of these two competing narratives:

For the first time in weeks, articles addressing national concerns where Haitians are the central protagonists emerged on top of the list generated by Google's news algorithm.  Third, fourth, fifth and sixth on the list are the standard fare of charities, missionaries and NGOs ostensibly working for the benefit of Haiti but where the protagonists are foreigners engaged in charitable acts. While not intended to cast aspersions on the intentions of charities in Haiti, this example clearly illustrates the differences between these two narratives as they compete for attention in their representation of Haiti's national priorities and concerns to the outside world. While the foreigner's narrative is largely one of dependency where Haiti and Haitians need their help, the narrative of Haitians is one of independence where they are fighting directly for social change. This difference becomes even more evident when we contrast images from articles about recent protests in Haiti with the articles promoting charity and recent church missions:


Five years after Haiti earthquake, Hackettstown church still answering the call to help

Missionaries from Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown were in Haiti
for their annual missionary trip last month. It was five years after a church
team experienced a devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince.
Six people from that mission were on the most recent trip.
Contrast that with:

Scene from recent street protests in Haiti

Another example of charity narrative:

Valley kids taking hope to Haiti

A group of students, parents and teachers at All Saints' Episcopal Day School are
collecting school and art supplies and will take them to Haiti later this month.

Contrast that with:

Street battles between police and protesters


So how can the average person discern where the truth lies between these two competing narratives representing the reality and priorities of Haitians? To better address this question we can turn to the theoretical concept of the "indigenous foreigner" offered by curriculum theorist and professor THOMAS S. POPKEWlTZ.

Popkewitz (2000) writes,
While the heroes and heroines circulate as part of global discourses of reform, such heroes  and heroines are promoted in national debates as indigenous or what appears as a seamless movement between the global and the local. The foreign names or concepts no longer exist as outsiders but with an indigenous quality that erases any alien qualities. The invocation of the indigenous foreigner functions to bless the social reform and nation with the images of the harbinger of progress. The discourses in which the foreigner appears are seen as opening up new intentions as new concepts are available for opportunities and interactions.

But when the narrative of the indigenous foreigner is examined closely, it is found to be a narrative without specific historical references and practices. It is a discourse that is empty of history. (p. 10)

Popkewitz (2000) recognizes the power this gives foreigners to subvert the national identity and narrative of others,

The transmogrification of the indigenous foreigner is the effect of power. The indigenous foreigner appears in the form of universal categories that order the interpretations and possibilities of national practices-the paths that one must take toward salvation and emancipation. The universal principles, however, are not universal but embody specific social and cultural forms. The national imaginaries that speak of emancipation and empowerment tend to inscribe principles of a "liberal democracy." These universal, inalienable principles embody particular sets of European, bourgeois norms about human rights and political freedom. (p. 11)
This raises the fundamental difference between organizations that are engaged in "solidarity" with Haitians, always sensitive to them setting the priorities, as opposed to the prevailing culture and approach of the nexus of foreign NGO's, charities, missionaries and celebrities that is not.

Maybe this discussion will contribute to folks watching the content and narrative of news stories about Haiti more consciously. What patterns do you see? It certainly is food for thought.


References

Huntington, S. P. (1996). The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Popkewitz, T. S. (2000). Educational knowledge : changing relationships between the state, civil society, and the educational community. Albany: State University of New York Press.


Other recent post/articles by HIP:

 Haiti: Protests, Strikes and a New Election Council

Who is Reginald Boulos, Martelly's "fixer" in Haiti?

Sean Penn's 'Corner' in Haiti: Don't believe the hype
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Haiti: Protests, Strikes and a New Election Council

A protester holds up a banner with the image of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide 
with text in Creole that reads "You persecute him, you persecute us"

Flashpoints Executive Producer Dennis Bernstein interviews Senior Producer Kevin Pina about a two day transportation worker's strike, ongoing protests in Haiti, a new elections council and the continuing incarceration of Jean Bertrand-Aristide.



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Who is Reginald Boulos, Martelly's "fixer" in Haiti?

 Who is Reginald Boulos, "the Haitian businessman who headed the 11-member presidential commission Martelly appointed in November?"




According to


“It’s the first time a sitting Haitian President has done what you usually see leaders of the modern world do: When something bad happens, say ‘the ultimate responsibility is with the president,’” said Reginald Boulos, the Haitian businessman who headed the 11-member presidential commission Martelly appointed in November to help him find a way out of the turmoil.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article7601129.html


Here's a few facts about Boulos the Miami Herald failed to mention:


Boulos was a prime mover behind the 2004 coup in Haiti-

The G184 was led by two of the country’s most reviled multimillionaires, who are both of middle eastern heritage: (1) Andy Apaid, Jr., a U.S. citizen and the owner of Haiti’s largest sweatshops, and (2) Reginald Boulos, owner of a Haitian pharmaceutical firm whose products had killed dozens of poor Haitians.1 Both are linked to influential media corporations2 belonging to the National Association of Haitian Media (ANMH). (See pp.26-37.)

 http://www.canadahaitiaction.ca/node/286

Boulos has long ties to Washington's elite that supported the 2004 coup-

Boulos, the president of Haiti’s Chamber of Commerce, is another industrialist of Middle Eastern heritage who was a leading light in the reactionary right’s G-184. He, and his brother Rudolph, are also key to the “Haiti Democracy Project,” a right-wing, Washington-based front that used U.S. government “resources and programs and their diplomatic, State Department, Pentagon and UN/OAS [Organization of American States] connections, to help carry out the 2004...coup.” 26

http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/60/60-10.pdf (pg. 48)

Boulos has no democratic credentials-

After the recent election, Boulos, described by the Associated Press as 'one of Aristide's most ardent foes', said the private sector is "prepared to support and to unite behind the president . . . whoever it is, provided the international and national observers sanction this election as a fair one". Before the votes were fully counted, the campaign began to label the elections as "flawed".

http://johnmaxwellshouse-2006.blogspot.com/2006/03/shame-and-scandal.html


Boulos also has ties to the CIA and death squads in Haiti-

CIA linked to FRAPH, coup


PORT-AU-PRINCE — The link between the US government and the founding and running of the Haitian army's death squad and front group, FRAPH (Front pour l'Avancement et le Progres Haitien), was finally exposed in the October 24 issue of the US Nation magazine.

As long suspected, the Central Intelligence Agency created and has advised FRAPH. The link is Emmanuel Constant, a paid CIA employee and informant. Also, at least some FRAPH "members" were paid by the US-government-funded Centres pour le Developpement et la Sante (CDS), run by Dr Reginald Boulos and linked to FRAPH and to anti-democratic activities in the past.

https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/7836


94-95 U.S. SPENDING $24 MILLION ON ELECTIONS. PART OF MONEY IS
GOING TO PEOPLE LIKE MAYORAL CANDIDATE REGINALD BOULOS, WHO SUPPORTS IMF AUSTERITY FOR HAITI. GEORGE SOROS HAS SET UP SHOP IN HAITI. HE HAS WORKED HAND IN GLOVE WITH CIA IN EASTERN EUROPE AND THE FORMER USSR. HIS BACKGROUND IS TO UNDERMINE PROGRESSIVE GVTS THRU THE BALLOT BOX. TH[R]OUGH SOROS' FOUNDATIONS, LIKE ONE RECENTLY OPENED IN HAITI, MATERIAL AID IS GIVEN TO FORCES ALIGNED WITH THE U.S. LINKED TO THE ROCKEFELLERS, SOROS' ROLE IS TO PROMOTE MARKET ECONOMY. WORKERS WORLD ARTICLE BY PAT CHIN
2/23/95

http://www.peacenowar.net/Americas/News/Haiti.htm#8
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Haiti Flashback: Kurzban rebukes charges against Aristide (2005)






This Week in Haiti November 9 - 15, 2005 Vol. 23, No. 35

KURZBAN REBUTS DE FACTO LAWSUIT AGAINST ARISTIDE

Haiti Progres - On Nov. 2, the illegal government of de facto Haitian Prime Minister Gérard Latortue filed a civil lawsuit against exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and eight others in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida "to recover money stolen from the people and Government of Haiti."

Also named in the complaint is a Turks and Caicos-based corporation, Mont Salem Management, Ltd., that the suit claims worked to "defraud Teleco," the Haitian national phone company, "through a pattern of racketeering activities."

The lawsuit, filed when the Washington-installed de facto regime's own corruption, incompetence and unpopularity are increasingly manifest, charges that "Aristide abused his power and deceived and betrayed the Haitian people by directing and participating in ongoing and fraudulent schemes to: (a) loot the public treasury and launder the illicit proceeds; (b) divert and steal revenues rightfully belonging to the Haitian national telephone company; and (c) encourage, protect, participate and profit from illegal drug trafficking in and through Haiti." Through these activities, the plaintiffs allege, "Aristide and his accomplices converted to their own use millions of dollars of public funds."

However, neither the lawsuit nor the de facto government's reports on which it was based can concretely demonstrate who was enriched or how, explains Ira Kurzban, the attorney for Haiti's elected constitutional governments from 1991 to 2004. "Even if everything in this complaint were true," Kurzban told Haiti Progres, "and none of it is - I want to be clear about that - but even if you accepted the facts as stated as true, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by anybody."

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a second report put out by the de facto government's Central Unit on Financial Information (UCREF) two weeks ago. UCREF put out its first report alleging Aristide administration malfeasance in July. The de facto government published a third report also in July through its Commission of Administrative Inquiries (CEA), headed by Paul Denis, the current presidential candidate of the rabidly-anti-Aristide Struggling People's Organization (OPL).

In the 1990s, on the newly-elected Haitian government's behalf, Kurzban investigated and sought to recover millions of dollars stolen by the dictatorship of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. In the following interview, he analyzes the de facto government's lawsuit and motivations.
Ha*ti Progrès: How would you characterize this lawsuit?
Kurzban: The lawsuit is a political document more than a legal one. It's based on a highly charged political investigation that occurred in

Haiti where both the methodology and the factual findings have been seriously questioned, particularly the claims made on what funds were allegedly taken and what happened with them.
The reason for that, quite simply, is that none of these reports have ever said that money was taken for some illicit purpose. In other words, unlike with Duvalier, there is no money in Swiss bank accounts.

If you recall, a lot of the venom was spewed against President Aristide both before and following the coup - wild accusations that he had $280 million in a bank account somewhere in Europe and so forth. To my understanding, the United States sent seven people from the Treasury Department immediately after the coup to investigate financial wrongdoing, and a number of Haitians have been working day and night to find the money that President supposedly took. But, it's now obvious, there is none.

There are no Swiss bank accounts, no yachts, no Trump Tower apartments, all of which there were with Duvalier. There are none of the things that one classically identifies with the claim that a president has abused his authority and stolen money for his own benefit.

Washington has had teams of people in Haiti investigating this, and the Bush administration, using its considerable resources, has had Treasury officials fanned out all over the world trying to find these bank accounts. Of course, they found none because none exist.

So none of these reports have suggested that Aristide ever took money for his own benefit. There is a very fine line here from violating what is known in the federal rules on civil procedure as "Rule 11," which may impose sanctions against both the attorneys and the plaintiffs for making claims that they can't substantiate. In this case, the UCREF report in Haiti makes claims that money was misappropriated, but they never say, as far as I know, that it was for anybody's personal use.

The lawsuit, really takes the next step, and says that this money was misappropriated for the "Aristide group," which obviously makes it a totally political document.

The so-called "Aristide group" are the people, they claim, that misappropriated the funds, but when they talk about misappropriation, there is no end to the money trail. They never say it is in somebody's bank account. There is no evidence that anybody enriched themselves by doing this.

So what do they have in the end? Even if everything in this complaint were true, and none of it is - I want to be clear about that - but even if you accepted the facts as stated as true, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by anybody.

For example, this complaint alleges that the government gave money to a corporation to purchase a sound system, and that somebody received a commission on that. There is nothing illegal about that under Haitian law or under U.S. law. There is no evidence that there was any wrongdoing by anybody to either purchase a sound system for the Haitian government or to get a commission on the purchase of a sound system. If that were the logic, then every U.S. corporation doing business anywhere in the world would be guilty of a RICO violation, which is what they have alleged here. [The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1970, is what the plaintiffs base most of their charges on.]

If you look further in this, they make claims, for example, that money was given to purchase rice. Even if what they are saying is accurate, the government had every legitimate right to purchase rice at a lower price to provide for its citizens. They could do that any time they wanted to. Governments do that all the time.

There are allegations here that money was "diverted" to give to an NGO [non-governmental organization] like the Aristide Foundation. The U.S. government gives to NGOs all the time in Haiti. The Haitian government has the right to give money to NGOs in Haiti. There is nothing illegal about that.

This raises a whole other issue. Why is this being brought in the U.S. and not in Haiti, when in fact, virtually everything they are talking about has to do with Haiti, not the U.S.?

That is why the lawsuit really skirts the violations of Rule 11, by making claims that there is illegal or unlawful conduct that enriched someone. Even the UCREF report does not suggest that anyone has been enriched, and that's because, if any money was spent by the Haitian government, it is clear that it was not done to enrich any individual. It was done for the sole and express purpose to help people in Haiti, which it did.

Haiti Progrès: Concerning jurisdiction, how is it that affairs in Haiti can be brought before a U.S. court, especially in a civil case?

Kurzban: First of all, there clearly isn't any jurisdiction against President Aristide. He is not here, he is not a party to it, he's not in the U.S.. So when they try to make him a party to a complaint in the U.S., they have to get personal service over him. There is no personal service over a president. He has head of state immunity and so forth.

With respect to some of the other defendants, some of them are in the state of Florida, so there may be jurisdiction if there are truly events that involved people in Florida. But I think the reality is that all of these events occurred in Haiti. What they are saying, in a very vague way, is that some money was wire-transferred through accounts in the United States, and therefore there is jurisdiction in the United States.

I think that's a pretty open question of whether there is jurisdiction in the Southern District of Florida simply because there were some financial transactions which used U.S. banks somewhere along the way, without of course any specificity.

Haiti Progrès: The complaint also talks about Aristide and his "accomplices" providing safe-passage for transshipments of illegal drugs to the U.S.. What do you think about that?

Kurzban: There are a lot of patently false statements in there. For example, they say that the percentage of drug trans-shipments increased by 20% under Aristide. That is just false. In fact it decreased to about 8% in the last year that President Aristide served before the coup, at which point the U.S. Ambassador said that you really can't rely on those statistics.

This complaint alleges falsely - again a Rule 11 violation - that there was a 20% transshipment of drugs through Haiti, which no one had ever claimed before.

Haiti Progrès: Since the de facto government's status is essentially illegal under the Haitian Constitution, do they, in fact, have the authority to bring a suit?

Kurzban: That is an interesting issue. Traditionally under U.S. law, the courts have deferred to the executive on questions of who is the proper government. In this case, the perpetrators of the coup, the Bush administration, would vouch for the de facto government. So it's almost circular. The U.S. takes this Chalabi-like character, Latortue, from Boca Raton, Florida, airlifts him into Haiti, and makes him the prime minister after arranging the coup against the democratically elected president. Then he goes into a U.S. court, and the same Bush administration says he is the legitimate Haitian government.
Ha*ti Progrès: Can you tell us anything about the Mont Salem Management Company, which is the one corporation identified in the suit?

Kurzban: Yes, that's the only defendant against whom there are any concrete allegations. I don't know anything about it. I know that the FBI has been conducting an investigation about it, as the result of allegations made by a disgruntled employee of IDT [a telecommunications company] some time ago.
What I do know is that Teleco was trying to recoup funds by getting companies to purchase large amounts of minutes. There is something called the grey market in telecommunications, where a company will buy 50 or 100 million minutes of time from Teleco. They then turn around and go to companies like Sprint, MCI and other large U.S. companies, and work deals with them to purchase those minutes. Part of that had to do with the fact that the large U.S. companies were not paying their bills.

I know. I was involved in trying to collect funds from MCI and others because they were not paying what they were supposed to pay to the Haitian government. So maybe Teleco decided to go with smaller companies that were willing to make those payments and have them make the arrangements with larger companies.

Now, they've made allegations in this that seem very serious on their face, but probably have a very benign explanation.

Haiti Progrès: If there was a verdict found against the defendants, what would be the result? Fines?

Kurzban: Yes, this is just a civil case. People should understand that this is not a criminal case. There are no criminal charges involved. It' s a civil lawsuit to recover money on a claim that these people appropriated money improperly. It seems to me that one of the things they are going to have to prove, which no one has ever said until this lawsuit - and even in this lawsuit, they have skirted the issue, maybe because they are afraid of a Rule 11 sanction - but nobody has ever said that they misappropriated money for their own use.

In other words, all of these claims are that somehow money was misappropriated, but it is not clear who got the money. The only place where they claim that there was money set aside, was the Mont Salem arrangement, which had to do with a claim that 3 cents of every transaction was put in a bank account in the Turks and Caicos islands, but they don't say for whom the money was put in the account, who received the money, who was enriched by it, or what happened to it.

And that is because there was no illegal conduct by anybody in the Haitian government, there was no corruption, there was no fraud. When you look at this complaint, in the end, ultimately what they are claiming is that money was diverted from the Haitian government and given to NGOs to help the Haitian people.

The first question is whether it even occurred. Secondly, if it did occur, is it even an illegal act under Haitian law to take money from the Haitian government and give it to NGOs to help the Haitian poor. That's what they are going to have to prove.

HP: What do you think about the timing of this suit?

Kurzban: That's very interesting. I think Latortue and the others panicked and realized that they are now caught between a rock and a hard place. They see that Bush is trying to have [Haitian-born Texan businessman Dumarsais] Siméus become the president of Haiti. So their own game of corruption that's been going on in Haiti since the coup is going to end. They also see the possibility of [former Haitian president and now presidential candidate] René Préval winning the election. If Préval wins, the base of LAVALAS, which is apparently now supporting him and have made demands for the return of President Aristide, may get their way and the president may be back.

So in my view, they prematurely filed this lawsuit because this opens them up. If I was the attorney for one of these people, I would demand to have Latortue's deposition taken in Miami, as well as all the people in Teleco, all the people who were members of the de facto government of Haiti. I think they jumped the gun and are subjecting themselves to a huge amount of discovery. When you make claims like this, you are going to have to back them up. I don't think they can just show the UCREF report, which itself is a political document, and claim that it's the basis for the lawsuit. They are going to have to show facts and figures.

They're going to have to show where the money was actually misappropriated, who got the money, whether any of these individuals accused actually received any money, and there is no indication that this is so.

All articles copyrighted Haiti Progrès, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED. Please credit Haiti Progrès.
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Haiti: Aristide's lawyer denounces "politicized" judiciary

Ira Kurzban holds passport he negotiated for the return of former president
 Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti from exile in South Africa in 2011

Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio's Senior Producer Kevin Pina interviews the attorney of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti. Kurzban details the decades long campaign against Aristide by the US government and its intelligence agencies. He also denounces recent moves by Haiti's politicized judges to attack his client.



 
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Haiti: IJDH Director dismisses allegations against Aristide as false

Brian Concannon of IJDH and Mario Joseph who serves as legal
representative for former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio's Senior Producer Kevin Pina interviews Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. They discuss current moves by the US-backed government of Michel Martelly to subpoena and arrest the leader of the Fanmi Lavalas political party in Haiti. Concannon dismisses allegations against Aristide for embezzlement and corruption as politically motivated and false.




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Revolving Door of Criminal Charges against Aristide in Haiti



A summons was reportedly issued for former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti on Tuesday that was said to be related to corruption charges and a litany of well-known accusations for which evidence has never been presented in a court of law. It is part of long list of charges in the US and in Haiti that regularly appear whenever there are moves towards serious elections. Aristide and his supporters believe this is part of a documented campaign of character assassination against the former president that is designed to exclude the Lavalas party from free and fair elections in Haiti.

Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio Senior Producer Kevin Pina interviews Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee for an update.  



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Sean Penn's 'Corner' in Haiti: Don't believe the hype



Demonstrators march during an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 5 June 2014
An estimated 5,000 people marched in 
Port-au-Prince on Thursday, June 5, 2014
There are regular demonstrations in Haiti demanding the resignation of President Martelly, protests against the leveling of homes in downtown Port au Prince, protests against the confiscation of lands for tourism projects on the island of Île à Vache , protests demanding new national elections, protests against the high cost of living and yet more protests on the horizon. 




A National Police officer fires tear gas at protestors during an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince,  on 10 June, 2014
Police fired tear gas at protesters and live ammunition 
into the air during demonstrations on June 10, 2014
Despite this rising tide of discontent, the messages most Americans hear about Haiti are filtered through the voices of celebrity experts like Sean Penn who recently denied anything is wrong and pronounced the small Caribbean nation has finally “turned a corner.”  In a recent tome published June 18 in Newsweek magazine Sean Penn wrote, “Haiti's economy is among the fastest-growing in the Caribbean, as the government continues to make economic development a priority.”

 At first glance, one might think Penn is correct for crowing about the handling of Haiti’s economy by his pals in the Martelly government given a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) press release. On May 30 the IMF proclaimed, “Preliminary data for the first half of the fiscal year 2014 (i.e. October 2013 - March 2014) suggest that economic activity (as measured by gross domestic product, GDP), has advanced in line with projections, at a pace of about 3 – 4 percent. Inflation remained low, and it is projected to be in the mid-single digits by the end of the fiscal year (i.e. September 2014).” 

A closer examination of historical statistics on the World Bank’s website shows that Haiti’s annual GDP growth was actually at 5.6% when Martelly came to power through highly controversial elections in 2011. GDP growth in Haiti then dropped to 2.8% in 2012, rose to 4.3% in 2013 and is currently calculated at 3.6% for 2014 by the World Bank. Even if we take the IMF’s higher estimate of 4% GDP for 2014, that would mean that Haiti’s annual GDP actually shrank by 1.2% since Martelly assumed office. And while inflation may have dropped from 8.4% in 2011 to 5.9% in 2013, the World Bank’s official assessment of the overall economic condition in Haiti is far less rosy, “Over half of its population of 10 million lives on less than US$1 per day, and approximately 80% live on less than US$2 per day. It is also one of the most unequal countries, with a Gini coefficient of 0.59 as of 2001.” 

Although arguably outdated, this last admission of income inequality has remained demonstrably true for as long as Haitians alive today can remember. It is perhaps the reality of the Gini coefficient that exposes Penn’s blind spot, namely that Haiti’s national economy still remains hostage to the dictates of a powerful wealthy elite. Given this, it appears Sean Penn's description of Haiti's current economic juncture as “turning a corner” is an exercise in hyperbole. This is especially true in the context of the billions of dollars in international development aid pumped into Haiti’s economy under the mantle of earthquake relief since Martelly became president.

While citing roads being paved and homes built, rebuilt and retrofitted since the earthquake is all well and good, Penn also offered this statement to demonstrate his bullish view of Haiti’s progress, “Crime rates have dropped, and in May 2011, one political party transferred power to another peacefully after an election for the first time in modern history.” Penn’s assertion that crime rates have dropped is not borne out by any available data as made clear by this Haiti 2014 Crime and Safety Report offered by the US Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security which states, “Reliable crime statistics are difficult to come by; Haitian National Police (HNP) numbers indicating a modest drop in crime during 2012 were undercut by those from other security entities operating in-country that continued to show a steady rise since 2010. A comparative analysis of figures from various police/security entities operating throughout Haiti reflects a continuation of the trend in which incidents of crimes are inaccurately or under-reported. Haiti’s perennially weak judiciary exacerbates an already unsteady security environment.” 
Penn’s next  assertion, that Martelly’s election in 2011 represented a peaceful democratic transition, appears to be an absurd attempt to rewrite history. The violence preceding and following the first round of the November 2010 presidential elections in Haiti is well documented. In fact, it is equally documented that most of the violence was perpetrated by the supporters of Michel Martelly after it was announced by the electoral council that Jude Célestin and Mirlande Manigat would face each other in a second round of balloting. This violence led to an infamous intervention in Haiti’s election process by the Organization of American States (OAS), backed by the US, to overturn the results. The legitimacy of the election was already in question as “nearly three-quarters of the electorate didn’t vote…” according to Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).  Both rounds of the presidential elections that brought Martelly to power were marked by low voter turnout as a result of the banning of Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas.

Based on what the OAS called a “re-tabulation”, Martelly went on to the second round that also saw its share of documented violence and intimidation. Weisbrot described the outcome resulting from, “The OAS’ actions in taking the unprecedented step of overturning an election, without a recount or evidence for its action...”. Judging by the thousands of demonstrators who regularly take to the streets calling for Martelly’s resignation only to be dismissed by Sean Penn, it wasn’t just the credibility of the OAS that was lost in this process. 

Penn and Michel Martelly in Haiti

Finally, Sean Penn has done much to transform Haiti into a cause celebre through his own intervention including his acceptance to act as an Ambassador-at-large for the Martelly government. Blurring the line between humanitarian and political operative, he has married his reputation to that of Martelly and the success of the regime. This has arguably colored his interpretation and judgment of what “turning a corner” really looks like in Haiti. Penn's bias becomes more obvious when we take into account the facts he chooses to ignore and the social forces he regularly dismisses. It seems that in Penn's mind they are unworthy of equal billing when compared to his own relatively short-lived experience there.



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