RACISM & NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS | NEWS/COMMENTARY


Brazil Protests: The Rise of Activism against Failed Neoliberal Agendas
July 27, 2013, 10:57 am
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Last month’s protests swept through Brazil’s cities, bringing hundreds of thousands onto the streets to protest rampant political corruption, declining government services and rising public costs.

Contrary to the rosy economic picture that the World Bank and the IMF have tried to paint over the past decade, Brazil’s growing discontent with the neoliberal model is now on full display. According to Michel Chossudovsky:

“The standard of living in Brazil has collapsed since the accession of the Workers Party in 2003. Millions of people have been marginalized and impoverished including a significant part of the urban middle class.

While the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) presents a “progressive” people’s oriented image, officially opposed to “corporate globalization”, the macro-economic agenda has been reinforced. The PT government has consistently manipulated its grassroots, with a view to imposing what the “Washington Consensus” describes as “a strong policy framework”.

Find out more in this week’s GRTV Backgrounder on Global Research TV.

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HAITI: Profit-Driven “Slum Reconstruction” Will Cost “Hundreds Of Millions”
July 27, 2013, 10:55 am
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By: Haiti Grassroots Watch, 17 June 2013
 
haiti camp corail

Three years after its star-studded launchby President René Préval, actor Sean Penn and various other Haitian and foreign dignitaries, the model camp for Haiti’s 2010 earthquake victims has helped give birth to what might become the country’s most expansive – and most expensive – slum.

Known as “Canaan,” “Jerusalem,” and “ONAville” – the new shanty-town, spread across 11 square kilometers, is here to stay, Haitian officials told Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW). Taxpayers and foreign donors will likely spend “many hundreds of millions” to urbanize the region, and as much as another US$64 million to pay off the landowners who are threatening to sue the government and the humanitarian agencies.

Three years after the launch of the temporary model camp “Corail-Cesselesse” – located about 18 kilometers northeast of the capital and named after the nearby habitation (plantation) that was once home to sugarcane and sisal fields – the landscape differs from the orderly camp visited by celebrities. Surrounded by tens of thousands of squatters’ shacks and homes, today it is a cause of embarrassment for local and international actors alike.

Before the earthquake, most of this arid, rocky expanse running from the northern outskirts of Port-au-Prince up to Cabaret was largely empty. Much of it is owned by the Haitian firm NABATEC, S.A.. Since 1999, the firm had been developing it into an “integrated economic zone” (IEZ) called “Habitat Haïti 2020” that would have industrial parks, single- and multi-unit housing for various income levels, schools, green spaces, and a shopping mall. A Korean company and a U.S.-based humanitarian group had already purchased land within the perimeter, and NABATEC was in discussions with a number of foreign firms.

...      “It was a 15-year, US$2 billion project, and everyone had already given their approval, including the Haitian government and the World Bank,” according to architect Gérald Emile “Aby” Brun, NABATEC’s president and vice president of TECINA, S.A., a planning and construction firm. A 2011 World Bank study of potential IEZ sites ranked it best out of 21 possibilities around the country, calling it potentially “high-performing” and “the clearest application of the IEZ concept among any proposed project in Haiti.”

But today, the land – equal to about three Central Parks – is home to between 65,000 and 100,000 people: 10,000 in the planned camps and the rest squatters. And they aren’t going anywhere.

“We can’t move them out,” Haitian government planner Odnell David told HGW in an exclusive interview. “The idea is to reorganize the space so that people can live.”

Urbanizing about half of the wasteland will cost Haitian and foreign taxpayers “many hundreds of millions of dollars,” noted David, an architect and the director of the housing section of the government’s Unité de Construction de Logements et de Bâtiments Publics (UCLBP or Unit for the Construction of Housing and Public Buildings). The price tag for initial infrastructure work already tops US$50 million.

Model Camp Leads to Disaster’s Disaster

Opened in April 2010, the Corail “Sector 3” and “Sector 4” camps together represented the reconstruction’s model resettlement. They sit on two sloping parcels of 50 square kilometers of private land declared “of public utility” by the central government in March 2010. Right from the start, the choice to move people to the desert-like plain was controversial, for two reasons. First, some critics accused Brun and NABATEC of seeking to profit from the disaster, and next, many said the land under the camps, and indeed much of the region itself, is not appropriate to any kind of settlement, temporary or permanent, for environmental and economic reasons. [See sidebars Capitalizing on Disaster? and Controversy over Corail Camp.]

Despite the controversies, humanitarian agencies like the International Organization for Migration (IOM), World Vision, and the American Refugee Committee (ARC) together spent over US$10 million to build the two “sectors” – which have schools, playgrounds, latrines, and some electricity, but which still lack water. They had planned to build many more camps, including “Sectors 1 and 2” which sat close by. However, as soon as the first U.S. Army bulldozers started to level the land, tens of thousands of people – some but not all of them earthquake victims – invaded those areas as well as land around and north of the camps, “buying” parcels from racketeers, marking off their plots and pitching makeshift tents.

...

Nobody in the central government said anything to prevent the land seizures, which continue today. Many say the land was offered to supporters of Préval’s “Inite” political party for US$10 per square meter. The new “landowners” got fake “titles” in exchange for cash and their votes in the upcoming presidential elections, according to Brun and other sources who asked not to be named.

“It was an electoral thing,” said Brun.

Planned or not, and political scheme or not, today those tents have turned into houses built every which way, in what the UCLBP’s David calls a “savage urbanization… no infrastructure, no water, no electricity, no sanitation: people just appropriated land and are trying to accomplish their dreams of becoming homeowners.”

“The state has a moral obligation to intervene,” David continued. “You can’t leave it like it is… Those people are living in difficult conditions.”

Police and local authorities have already set up offices in tractor-trailer containers.

Life in the camps

Despite the unforgiving sun and its sweltering heat, Joel Monfiston is working. Hammering a piece of worn plywood to a battered two-by-four, watering flowers, and picking the weeds out from between rocks and pebbles.

The 34-year-old father of three crouches in front of his one-room home in Sector 3. Monfiston and his family first lived in a tent. Now they have a 24-square-meter “temporary shelter” built mostly of plywood and sheet metal by World Vision for US$4,500, according to the agency. Like most Haitians, he survives with a day job here and there and through help from friends and family. And, he tries his hand at commerce.

“Things are not easy. Imagine: they put you here, but there’s no work,” he said.

Monfiston has dreams. He hopes to set up a shop in the little shed he is building. He would like to grow more in his garden. But those remain dreams. For now, all he has are a few flowers and a few walls for his “store”… no shelves, no door, no cooler, no products.

And, like other Corail residents, while he does have access to latrines, electricity (solar-powered street lamps), playgrounds, a clinic, and schools, water is not so easy to find.

Back in 2011, the UN and Oxfam promised that a new system of cisterns and kiosks would soon provide residents with water from the state water agency. Two years later, the faucets remain dry. Residents buy water at 5 gourdes (about US$0.12) a bucket from private vendors or from the committees that manage the few still-functioning water “bladders” left over from the camp’s early days when water and food were free and when agencies provided “cash for work” jobs and start-up funds for would-be entrepreneurs.

Today, all of the big agencies have abandoned the Corail camp and its 10,000 residents. Trumpeting their success and claiming to have prepared a “transition” to the local authorities, IOM, ARC and World Vision all pulled out (although World Vision still supports the Corail School, which it built).

“Mayor of Croix-des-Bouquets is the New Camp Manager,” a cheery article from the UN military mission declared in a May 27, 2011 bulletin. But HGW found no evidence of any local authorities, or assistance, on two different visits. The “City Hall Annex” at the Corail camp was shuttered. Residents told journalists that they could not remember when they last saw anyone from the government. [See Controversy over Corail Camp.]

“Nobody from the mayor’s office has set foot here for many months,” said Racide d’Or, a member of the Corail residents committee. “They were only around when they knew there was land in the area they could ‘sell,’” continued the mother of two, who lost her Delmas home in earthquake. “There is no ‘government’ or ‘state’ for those of us who live here. We have to figure out everything ourselves.”

The Croix-des-Bouquets City Hall annex in Canaan is sweltering at midday. The “office” is an empty container and a “conference room” of plywood and a blue plastic tarp roof. Two men there said they worked for City Hall but refused to give their names or allow their voices to be recorded.

“They just dumped us here,” said one, aged about 30. “We don’t have the means to work. Our supervisor never comes to see how we are doing.”

“I’d like to know what they were thinking when they put this office here,” said the other one, older, who was slouched in a plastic chair. “We don’t do anything.”

The absence of humanitarian agencies has one benefit. When agencies were handing out food, jobs, and cash, gangs and “mafias” ran various parts of the camps. An Oxfam program that handed out up to US$1,000 to some – but not all – small business-people led to disagreements, rumors, protests, and eventually arrests.

“The NGOs divided us. People fought with each other,” Auguste Gregory told HGW. Gregory was sitting with friends next to his telephone-charging business: a table covered with power strips and chargers. “Some people went to prison. Others went into hiding. We were all there for the same reason, but they divided us,” he remembered.

For much of 2010, a gang calling itself “The Committee of Nine” threatened residents and aid providers alike, so much so that ARC Camp Manager Richard Poole quit his job and left the country.

“My three months at Corail were one of the most difficult periods I have experienced in my 30 years as a humanitarian worker,” Poole later told HGW in an email interview. ARC received about US$400,000 to manage the camp for eight months in 2010.

But, some humanitarian actors say the Corail settlement was not a complete failure.

“It is important to look at where the families were at the beginning of the earthquake and where they are now,” World Vision told HGW in an email. The agency says it spent about US$7 million on 1,200 shelters, a school, playgrounds, and various programs.

People “came from areas which were prone to flash flooding, mudslides, and disease outbreaks, but now they are in a safer and more secure community,” the agency pointed out. “The families have homes and are protected… We are pleased with these outcomes.” [See also Controversy over Corail Camp]

Not everyone is pleased

NABATEC president “Aby” Brun is not pleased.

At first, Brun said he and NABATEC hoped the government and the major reconstruction actors would intervene to eject the squatters and camp residents, or to at least turn the camp’s temporary shelters into permanent houses so that they could become the beginning of Habitat Haïti 2020 [see Capitalizing on Disaster?].

In the meantime however, Brun deplored the fact that the Michel Martelly government decided “follow the same abusive logic” and seize two other pieces of NABATEC land: one at the corner of Highway #9 and Highway #1 to build a waste treatment facility on what was slated to be an industrial park, and another, across the road, to build the offices of the Haitian Olympic Committee. Those two pieces had been valued by the government tax office – theDirection Générale des Impôts (DGI) – at US$10 million, according to Brun.

As months went by, the NABATEC partners – some of them members of Haiti’s most economically powerful families – realized their project would no longer be possible.

“The country lost a great opportunity,” Brun said. “I have been working on that project for 16 years.”

Now, NABATEC wants to be indemnified, according to the law and the Constitution. The company has submitted paperwork to the DGI and to each of the three Finance Ministers who have held office since the “public utility” declaration.

“The last ‘refresher’ meeting was under Marie-Carmelle Jean-Marie about three months ago,” Brun said. Jean-Marie resigned in April, allegedly over differences of opinion concerning a series of no-bid contracts and other expenditures.

All told, if the government reimburses NABATEC for that land and the land currently occupied by the camps and the squatters, NABATEC is due US $64 million.

“We have submitted all the papers and titles,” Brun said in May. “Verbally, in conversations, they say, ‘Yes, we recognize it’s your land,’ and they say they are going to pay us, but… nothing on paper.”

Hoping to confirm Brun’s statements, HGW made almost a dozen requests for interviews with DGI officials, in writing and in person, over the course of three months. Finally, in February 2013, Raymond Michel, head of the DGI’s property division, promised an interview, noting: “This dossier is very, very sensitive.” Michel never contacted HGW again.

Brun, meanwhile, is growing impatient. NABATEC is open to the idea of negotiating, but the company is also thinking about suing both the government and the humanitarian agencies that are continuing to do projects at Corail or are helping the squatters in the areas outside the camps, for “infringing on property owners rights.”

“It’s been three years now,” Brun said. “I understand the difficulties facing people who don’t have a house, or work, or schools… but that doesn’t allow for mafia and extortionists to use people’s distress to make money, and we sit there with nothing.”

Seeking funding from, and for, the promised land

While NABATEC lobbies the Finance Ministry and the DGI for monetary compensation, another branch of the Haitian government is also seeking monies, but not to pay the landowners.

Instead, the UCLBP hopes to take NABATEC’s place and build its own project: the urbanization of about 500 hectares for a population of 100,000.

According to David, an initial plan is ready, thanks to the Canadian firm IBI/DAA and the Haitian firm SODADE. Asked about the plan and how much it cost, the architect declined to give the price tag and added that it had not been put out for bid. Instead, it was tacked onto another plan already being drawn up by IBI/DAA, which is a frequent beneficiary of government contracts.

“It is a very perfect plan. It has roads, it has water systems, it has sanitation,” David added, but he said that HGW could not see because it had not yet been approved.

Preliminary infrastructure work for a site will cost “about US$50 million.” But the proto-slum won’t turn into an organized neighborhood any time soon. Among other challenges, the residents who have marked out “their” land will have to be convinced to move to make way for infrastructure.

“It’s a very long term project,” David admitted.

Finding the money will not be easy, either. “We will need a lot of resources and the state doesn’t have all the funding it would need… We are seeking financing so that we can at least begin,” he said. “It won’t happen tomorrow.”

In the meantime, newcomers continue to arrive at the no man’s land with bundles of belongings, tent stakes, and a few cement blocks.

Haiti Grassroots Watch is a partnership of AlterPresse, the Society of the Animation of Social Communication (SAKS), the Network of Women Community Radio Broadcasters (REFRAKA), community radio stations from the Association of Haitian Community Media and students from the Journalism Laboratory at the State University of Haiti.

Capitalizing on Disaster?

Writing about the Corail-Cesselesse disaster in an article and his recent book, Associated Press reporter Jonathan Katz accused NABATEC President Gérald Emile “Aby” Brun of pulling off a “backroom deal” by recommending NABATEC land for emergency refugee camps so that he could eventually offer foreign companies “a ready-made workers community.” Brun was a member of a presidential commission that recommended the site.

In extensive interviews with Haiti Grassroots Watch, Brun did not deny that he had hoped the camps might one day be integrated into “a decent and modern housing scheme that had already been approved” as part of the Habitat Haïti 2020 project. But he also noted that the expanse of territory owned largely by NABATEC is the only open space left near Port-au-Prince, which is bordered on one side by mountains and a lake and by the Caribbean Sea on another.

“When they were looking for land for debris, land for recycling, and eventually land for settlements, they realized that the state did not have any land larger than the size of a soccer field,” Brun said.

Numerous sources, including officials at UN-Habitat, confirmed that “the land problem” was one of the biggest challenges of the reconstruction.

Katz never spoke with Brun in person.

Brun – who resigned from the commission after Katz’s Jul. 12, 2010 article – said he never dreamed squatters would soon overrun the property.

“Why in the world would I have dropped a 14-year planning and investment dream and effort?” he asked HGW in a December 2012 email.

Once the land invasions started, foreign companies that had been negotiating with NABATEC, including Korean clothing firm SAE-A, dropped out of the project. (Today SAE-A is the “anchor tenant” of an industrial park in the north championed by Clinton and Martelly.)

“A dreamed of new city was killed by narrow minded and greedy people, under the tolerant observation of the international community,” according to Brun, who said NABATEC had spent over US$1.5 million on its project. “Habitat Haïti 2020 has been most likely killed by Corail and Canaan!”

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Al-Qaeda Unleashed Against Syria and Iraq With Acceptance of the West
July 27, 2013, 10:51 am
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By: Pepe Escobar, July 26th, 2013 “Information Clearing House”

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – the official denomination of al-Qaeda in Iraq – does not even pretend to be not responsible for the relentless bombing, political assassination and mostly sectarian horror unleashed across Iraq during Ramadan.

But this is exactly what they’re doing, with relish; throwing arrays of crude bombs made with fertilizer enhanced with ball bearings, manipulating a small army of foreign suicide bombers. Most of these, by the way, crossed the desert from Syria.

July has been a deadly month ; over 600 Iraqis killed up to July 25. May was even worse; at least 963 civilians killed and more than 2,000 injured. And now comes the coup de grâce; the already notoriousAbu Ghraib jailbreak

Abu Ghraib is charged with symbolism – indelibly linked with the American occupier. When the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted in 2004 I was on the road in the US. This is what I wrote at the time; in Texas especially, everybody saw the routine humiliation of Iraqi prisoners as the new normal.

To the Syriamobile !

Fast forward to 2013. The al-Maliki government insists anti-terrorist forces are on top of everything going on in Baghdad. Not really. My matchless source in Baghdad, Asseel Kamal, explains how the commander of the 17th Army Division, General Abdul Naser al-Ghanam, apparently did not resign; he fled, before advising al-Maliki that all hell would break loose. The government was stunned by the veritable horde that staged the double attack – on Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, and Taji prison in the north of the city.

The siege of Abu Ghraib started with nine bombs thrown at the entrance, and dozens of mortars, followed by a battle against the guards; a group of suicide bombers attacked the walls while another group of car bombers attacked the main entrance. And then the critical gambit, when a series of car bombs exploded all along the main road up to the bridge that links the prison to the highway leading to Baghdad, cutting all its connections with the capital.

The numbers game is still a mess; everything from 500 to 1,000 and even 1,400 escapees. Same for the official numbers of dead prisoners (65), dead guards (28), injured prisoners (124) and injured guards (43). Kamal quotes prisoners’ families saying prisoners who did not manage to escape were brutally “interrogated”. And helicopters bombed them mercilessly.

According to Hakim al Zamili, a member of Parliament who’s part of the Committee for Defense and Security, this operation has been prepared for at least two weeks – and plenty of guards were onto it. Kamal reveals that at least 15 men dressed in military garb got inside and “released” - as in escorted to freedom – selected al-Qaeda princelings ; and left the rest to fend for themselves. Better yet : this selected group – which includes a bunch of Jihad International foreign fighters captured by the US military in 2006 and 2007 – has fled to, where else, Syria. 

It’s the occupation, stupid

Al-Maliki’s government has closed Iraq’s borders with Syria – to no avail; it’s desert on both sides, it’s powerful Sunni tribal Sheikhs on both sides, it’s ‘family’ on both sides. This proves once again that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – with its tactical alliance with jihadis of the Jabhat al-Nusra kind – is already establishing the embryo of a beyond-borders Islamic Emirate. They even have secured territory in northern Syria.

Most of the best commanders on the ground in Syria are Iraqis – and have battleground experience of fighting the Americans. Their long-term wishful thinking strategy is that once Bashar al-Assad’s government falls, the next will be al-Maliki’s.

These jihadis see that fighting a secular, apostate, “infidel” government in Syria – supported by Iran and Hezbollah – is the equivalent of fighting an “apostate” government in Iraq enjoying close relations with Iran. This – a ghastly sectarian war – was always the plan since the bombing of Samarra’s golden shrine in 2006. 

As much as Syrian civilians are caught in the crossfire of the proxy war involving Western powers and Gulf petro-monarchies against the support of Iran (and Russia) to Damascus, Iraqi civilians are now caught in the resurgent civil war. Civilians in Baghdad do fear what these escapees might unleash.

It’s always crucial to go back to the basics. With the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the clueless Bush gang handed out a base to al-Qaeda on a plate.

Yet when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004, the prisoners were not al-Qaeda, but the Sunni resistance. When the Petraeus surge started in 2007, the plan was to buy the leaders of the Sunni resistance to fight al-Qaeda. The Sunni sheikhs took the money and decided to wait. Al-Qaeda dissolved and regrouped.

Now, with Syria as the new magnet of global jihad – once again a direct consequence of a US power play, via Barack “Assad must go” Obama -  al-Qaeda is resurgent on both fronts. Washington has already destroyed the social fabric of Iraq. Now it’s helping to destroy Syria’s. If Abu Ghraib was the new normal in 2004, the jailbreak cannot but be the new new normal of 2013.

 

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“Overwhelming” Evidence of Plot to Assassinate Venezuela’s Maduro
July 27, 2013, 10:43 am
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By: Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, July 25th, 2013

Head of Venezuela’s National Assembly Diosdado Cabello has stated that he will make public “hard evidence of assassination attempts” targeting himself and President Nicolas Maduro “in due course”.

“We know who they are, what they are, what they want, and we will find them,” Cabello told legislators during a special session of the assembly in Zulia state on Wednesday.

The alleged plot was first revealed by Maduro during a street government in Monagas state the day before, when he said that “fascist” groups operating in Venezuela “have crazy plans”.

“I have appointed Diosdado Cabello as political head of the PSUV to find the truth of how they have prepared for attacks against me for months,” Maduro said.

Maduro stated that if he or Cabello were targeted for assassination, “the wrath of god and the people would be unstoppable” adding that the political opposition would be crippled.

“I’m not here to be afraid of anything or anyone,” he said.

However, yesterday opposition leader Henrique Capriles stated on his internet show at Capriles.tv that “the worst thing that can happen to Venezuela is a coup”.

“Here the majority of Venezuelans want a peaceful and democratic change,” he stated, before accusing the government of “fascism”. He also accused Venezuelan authorities of “retaliating” against the Chilean airline LAN. During his recent visit to Chile and Peru, Capriles reportedly flew with the airline.

The Maduro government has been critical of Capriles’ regular international trips. Foreign minister Elias Jaua recently accused Capriles of neglecting his governorship of Miranda state.

Nonetheless, today during a press conference Capriles indicated that he will spend more time abroad denouncing “the reality of the country”. He hinted that his next destinations could include Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador.

During the conference, Capriles reiterated claims that the government committed electoral fraud in April, before urging supporters to vote in December’s municipal elections.

This week, Capriles has also stated that the MUD will “continue to organise society in neighbourhoods, towns and cities, to consolidate an overwhelming majority in the December elections”.

On the other hand, the head of Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) Leopoldo Lopez stated that “we are not going to wait six years to be given change”.

“There cannot be peace… when there is injustice,” Lopez stated, before urging supporters to restart street protests against the government. VP is part of the MUD coalition. Supporters of the opposition held protests across the country following the 14 April elections, after Capriles disputed the results. In some parts of the country, authorities reported that opposition protests turned violent. In the days that followed the election, Venezuelanalysis observed some opposition protesters and pro-government counter-protesters clash in the streets of Merida.

In April, Venezuela’s attorney general Luisa Ortega Díaz, stated that the violence claimed nine lives and dozens of injuries nationwide. Since then, the Maduro administration has accused Capriles of inciting the violence.

“We cannot turn the page of 14A [the 14 April presidential elections] when we said that the elections were stolen. This government does not enjoy majority support of Venezuelans,” Lopez insisted this week.

The latest poll from private firm Hinterlaces indicates that support for the opposition has fallen to 31%, while the PSUV now has the backing of 48% of the population. The results of another poll by International Consulting Services (ICS) earlier this month indicated that 55.9% of Venezuelans approve of Maduro’s presidency.

Cabello responded to Lopez’s statements on Wednesday, urging the opposition to not provoke violence.

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Caribbean integration: can cultural production succeed where politics and economics have failed? – By: Norman Girvan
July 27, 2013, 10:30 am
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Caribbean integration: can cultural production succeed where politics and economics have failed? – By: Norman Girvan

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HAITI: Massive March Signals Resurrection of Aristide’s Lavalas Movement
June 19, 2013, 3:42 pm
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Well over 15,000 people poured out from all corners of Haiti’s capital to march alongside the cortege of cars that carried former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to his home in Tabarre from the Port-au-Prince courthouse he visited on May 8.

Thousands more massed along sidewalks and on rooftops to cheer the procession on, waving flags and wearing small photos of Aristide in their hair, pinned to their clothing, or stuck in their hats.

Led by Fanmi Lavalas party coordinator Maryse Narcisse through a gauntlet of jostling journalists, Aristide had entered the courthouse (the former Belle Époque Hotel) at exactly 9:00 a.m., the time of his appointment to testify before Investigating Judge Ivickel Dabrésil. Aristide had waited with Narcisse in a car outside the court’s backdoor for about 45 minutes. It was only the second time that Aristide had left his home (and the first time publicly) since returning to Haiti on Mar. 18, 2011 from a seven-year exile in Africa following the Feb. 29, 2004 Washington-backed coup d’état which cut short his second government.

Lawyer Mario Joseph said that he was “very satisfied” with the reception given by Judge  Dabrésil, who is investigating the April 2000 murder of radio journalist Jean Dominique and his radio’s caretaker Jean-Claude Louissaint, for which Aristide is one of many prominent Haitians, including former President René Préval, interviewed for testimony. Joseph said the three hour deposition was very “cordial and relaxed.”

But many Haitians feared that the summoning of Aristide – even if only for testimony –  was a trap set by President Michel Martelly, who, as the former vulgar konpa musician “Sweet Micky,” was the principal cheerleader of both the 1991 and 2004 coups d’état against Aristide.

“This summoning of Aristide is a political act remote-controlled by the Martelly government, the same as the now discredited legal suits brought a few months ago by Ti Sony [a former resident of the Lafanmi Selavi orphanage who claimed that Aristide had “exploited” him and other orphans] and some who lost money when the cooperative banks went bust [while Aristide was in power in 2002 and 2003],” said outspoken Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles. “Those previous efforts to smear and destroy Aristide failed, so now they are trying this.”

Many Haitian radio commentators point to Judge Dabrésil’s postponement of Aristide’s deposition from its original date of Apr. 24 as proof that there is a political hand in the judge’s proceedings. The deposition, and the expected anti-Martelly pro-Aristide outpouring, would have taken place during the 5th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) from Apr. 23-26 held in Pétionville and attended by many regional leaders.

Furthermore, on Mar. 7, the Defend Haiti website reported that “Presidential Adviser Guyler Delva admitted, earlier this week, to giving Judge Ivekel Dabrésil a car, and Senator John Joel Joseph said on Radio Scoop FM on Wednesday [Apr. 30] that the administration had purchased a house in Florida for the judge.”

Another impetus for the massive turn-out came on the evening of May 7 when Haitian National Police (PNH) Director General Godson Orélus took to the airwaves to announce that the PNH had “received no formal notification of the demonstration” as required by law and that therefore “any demonstration is formally forbidden” along the route between Aristide’s house and the courthouse.

“The police don’t want any demonstration,” he concluded, throwing down a gauntlet which the Haitian people took up the next morning.

Lavalas leaders, including Narcisse, responded that the march was not a “demonstration” but an “accompaniment” of Aristide by the Haitian people. Many Lavalas leaders came to the courthouse to show their solidarity including Senators Moïse Jean-Charles, John Joel Joseph, Francky Excius, and Jean Baptiste Bien-Aimée; Deputy Saurel Hyacinthe; former senator Gérard Louis Gilles; former deputies Jacques Mathelier and Lionel Etienne; former Justice Minister Calixte Delatour; activists Farah Juste, Claudy Sidney, and Volcy Assad.

About 100 people had spent the night in a vigil across the street from Aristide’s home. At 6 a.m., hundreds more joined them to mass on the sidewalks in front of Aristide’s house.

But the real “accompaniment” began after the hearing. Leaving the courthouse at noon, Aristide’s ride home took five hours, passing slowly through downtown Port-au-Prince, the Champ de Mars, the hillside slum of Belair, Delmas 2, then the roads through the old military airport and past the international airport.

Parallel solidarity demonstrations were held in Cap Haïtien, Aux Cayes, and Petit Goâve.

Alongside the 20 or so cars that followed Aristide’s silver jeep, young and old walked, jogged, and ran, singing, chanting, and laughing. The river of humanity included motorcycles, bicycles, wheelchairs, and the occasional person on crutches.

Marchers also tore down pink government propaganda posters from lampposts along the way. Several posters declaring “With the Martelly/Lamothe government, Haiti is advancing” were torn up and left in pieces in the street for vehicles and marchers to pass over. (Martelly’s long-time business partner Laurent Lamothe is Haiti’s Prime Minister.)

Three times Aristide got out of his car to wave to the crowd — outside the courthouse gate, in Belair, and in front of his home — causing people to sprint toward his car and raise their arms, creating a sea of hands. Afterwards, people hugged and high-fived each other, some laughing, some crying.

One man dressed in rags moved down the line of cars following Aristide, wiping each car clean with a dirty cloth but asking for no money in return.

“Se pa lajan non, se volontè wi,” (It’s not for money, I’m here of my own free will) was the refrain of crowds which turned out for Aristide’s massive campaign rallies when he first ran for President in November and December 1990. The song was heard again on May 8, 2013 in the largely spontaneous march, which grew in size and volume as it made its way through the capital.

In contrast, when Martelly organized a carnival-like rally of a few thousand in the Champ de Mars on May 14, many participants were paid 1000 gourdes (US$24) a head to turn out. They were also given a t-shirt – either pink or white – to put on. But after taking the money, many “celebrants” discarded their t-shirts in the street, Haïti Libertéreporters observed. (A Haiti Liberté photographer was prevented from accessing a media stand at the May 14 rally after presenting his press credentials.)

Some pundits tried to banalize the historic march, saying it was merely the beginning of the electoral campaign of the Lavalas Family (FL), the party that Aristide founded in 1996. (Many Haitian political leaders, including those in the FL, strongly doubt whether free and fair elections can be held under Martelly, or whether he even wants to hold them. “No matter what, Martelly has to go” was another chant heard during the march.)

But May 8, 2013 was much more than a mere campaign rally. It was a watershed event, a popular show of force which has changed the political calculus of Haiti in the near-term. Haitian history has shown that when the Haitian people begin to move in such numbers, major political change is imminent. The weeks ahead will reveal exactly what that political change will be.

By: Kim Ives, 15 May 2013
(Additional reporting was done by Haiti Liberté staff reporters Wendell Polynice and Daniel Tercier)

See: http://www.haiti-liberte.com/

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HAITI: Massive March Signals Resurrection of Aristide’s Lavalas Movement
June 19, 2013, 3:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Well over 15,000 people poured out from all corners of Haiti’s capital to march alongside the cortege of cars that carried former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to his home in Tabarre from the Port-au-Prince courthouse he visited on May 8.

Thousands more massed along sidewalks and on rooftops to cheer the procession on, waving flags and wearing small photos of Aristide in their hair, pinned to their clothing, or stuck in their hats.

Led by Fanmi Lavalas party coordinator Maryse Narcisse through a gauntlet of jostling journalists, Aristide had entered the courthouse (the former Belle Époque Hotel) at exactly 9:00 a.m., the time of his appointment to testify before Investigating Judge Ivickel Dabrésil. Aristide had waited with Narcisse in a car outside the court’s backdoor for about 45 minutes. It was only the second time that Aristide had left his home (and the first time publicly) since returning to Haiti on Mar. 18, 2011 from a seven-year exile in Africa following the Feb. 29, 2004 Washington-backed coup d’état which cut short his second government.

Lawyer Mario Joseph said that he was “very satisfied” with the reception given by Judge  Dabrésil, who is investigating the April 2000 murder of radio journalist Jean Dominique and his radio’s caretaker Jean-Claude Louissaint, for which Aristide is one of many prominent Haitians, including former President René Préval, interviewed for testimony. Joseph said the three hour deposition was very “cordial and relaxed.”

But many Haitians feared that the summoning of Aristide – even if only for testimony –  was a trap set by President Michel Martelly, who, as the former vulgar konpa musician “Sweet Micky,” was the principal cheerleader of both the 1991 and 2004 coups d’état against Aristide.

“This summoning of Aristide is a political act remote-controlled by the Martelly government, the same as the now discredited legal suits brought a few months ago by Ti Sony [a former resident of the Lafanmi Selavi orphanage who claimed that Aristide had “exploited” him and other orphans] and some who lost money when the cooperative banks went bust [while Aristide was in power in 2002 and 2003],” said outspoken Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles. “Those previous efforts to smear and destroy Aristide failed, so now they are trying this.”

Many Haitian radio commentators point to Judge Dabrésil’s postponement of Aristide’s deposition from its original date of Apr. 24 as proof that there is a political hand in the judge’s proceedings. The deposition, and the expected anti-Martelly pro-Aristide outpouring, would have taken place during the 5th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) from Apr. 23-26 held in Pétionville and attended by many regional leaders.

Furthermore, on Mar. 7, the Defend Haiti website reported that “Presidential Adviser Guyler Delva admitted, earlier this week, to giving Judge Ivekel Dabrésil a car, and Senator John Joel Joseph said on Radio Scoop FM on Wednesday [Apr. 30] that the administration had purchased a house in Florida for the judge.”

Another impetus for the massive turn-out came on the evening of May 7 when Haitian National Police (PNH) Director General Godson Orélus took to the airwaves to announce that the PNH had “received no formal notification of the demonstration” as required by law and that therefore “any demonstration is formally forbidden” along the route between Aristide’s house and the courthouse.

“The police don’t want any demonstration,” he concluded, throwing down a gauntlet which the Haitian people took up the next morning.

Lavalas leaders, including Narcisse, responded that the march was not a “demonstration” but an “accompaniment” of Aristide by the Haitian people. Many Lavalas leaders came to the courthouse to show their solidarity including Senators Moïse Jean-Charles, John Joel Joseph, Francky Excius, and Jean Baptiste Bien-Aimée; Deputy Saurel Hyacinthe; former senator Gérard Louis Gilles; former deputies Jacques Mathelier and Lionel Etienne; former Justice Minister Calixte Delatour; activists Farah Juste, Claudy Sidney, and Volcy Assad.

About 100 people had spent the night in a vigil across the street from Aristide’s home. At 6 a.m., hundreds more joined them to mass on the sidewalks in front of Aristide’s house.

But the real “accompaniment” began after the hearing. Leaving the courthouse at noon, Aristide’s ride home took five hours, passing slowly through downtown Port-au-Prince, the Champ de Mars, the hillside slum of Belair, Delmas 2, then the roads through the old military airport and past the international airport.

Parallel solidarity demonstrations were held in Cap Haïtien, Aux Cayes, and Petit Goâve.

Alongside the 20 or so cars that followed Aristide’s silver jeep, young and old walked, jogged, and ran, singing, chanting, and laughing. The river of humanity included motorcycles, bicycles, wheelchairs, and the occasional person on crutches.

Marchers also tore down pink government propaganda posters from lampposts along the way. Several posters declaring “With the Martelly/Lamothe government, Haiti is advancing” were torn up and left in pieces in the street for vehicles and marchers to pass over. (Martelly’s long-time business partner Laurent Lamothe is Haiti’s Prime Minister.)

Three times Aristide got out of his car to wave to the crowd — outside the courthouse gate, in Belair, and in front of his home — causing people to sprint toward his car and raise their arms, creating a sea of hands. Afterwards, people hugged and high-fived each other, some laughing, some crying.

One man dressed in rags moved down the line of cars following Aristide, wiping each car clean with a dirty cloth but asking for no money in return.

“Se pa lajan non, se volontè wi,” (It’s not for money, I’m here of my own free will) was the refrain of crowds which turned out for Aristide’s massive campaign rallies when he first ran for President in November and December 1990. The song was heard again on May 8, 2013 in the largely spontaneous march, which grew in size and volume as it made its way through the capital.

In contrast, when Martelly organized a carnival-like rally of a few thousand in the Champ de Mars on May 14, many participants were paid 1000 gourdes (US$24) a head to turn out. They were also given a t-shirt – either pink or white – to put on. But after taking the money, many “celebrants” discarded their t-shirts in the street, Haïti Libertéreporters observed. (A Haiti Liberté photographer was prevented from accessing a media stand at the May 14 rally after presenting his press credentials.)

Some pundits tried to banalize the historic march, saying it was merely the beginning of the electoral campaign of the Lavalas Family (FL), the party that Aristide founded in 1996. (Many Haitian political leaders, including those in the FL, strongly doubt whether free and fair elections can be held under Martelly, or whether he even wants to hold them. “No matter what, Martelly has to go” was another chant heard during the march.)

But May 8, 2013 was much more than a mere campaign rally. It was a watershed event, a popular show of force which has changed the political calculus of Haiti in the near-term. Haitian history has shown that when the Haitian people begin to move in such numbers, major political change is imminent. The weeks ahead will reveal exactly what that political change will be.

By: Kim Ives, 15 May 2013
(Additional reporting was done by Haiti Liberté staff reporters Wendell Polynice and Daniel Tercier)

See: http://www.haiti-liberte.com/

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