Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

An kreyòl

In November, 2019, as part of its support for the Haitian National Police (HNP), the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) awarded a $73,000 contract for the provision of “riot gear kit[s]” for the police’s crowd control unit, CIMO, according to information contained in the US government’s contracting database.

Earlier this summer, CIMO and other HNP units used US-manufactured tear gas to disperse activists who had assembled in front of the Ministry of Justice rallying for the right to life amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation. The police repressed the protest even though the organizers had received proper legal clearance. It was an example of why such State Department contracts are concerning — not just because of how the riot gear can be used on the ground, but because of the firm that received the contract: X-International.

USASpending.gov database showing $73,000 purchase order from X-International, LLC for “riot gear kit” for CIMO.

X-International, according to Florida corporate records, is owned by Carl Frédéric Martin, also known as “Kappa.” A Haitian-American and former member of the US Navy, Martin has become increasingly involved in Haiti’s security forces over the last few years, though, his private ventures should raise even more troubling questions about the State Department contract.

In June, local press reported that Martin, together with a relative of Dimitri Herard — the head of Haiti’s palace guard — had formed a new company, Haiti Ordnance Factory S.A. (HOFSA). According to its corporate registration documents, the new company would be authorized to manufacture weapons and ammunition in Haiti. After news of the company’s existence broke, however, the government revoked its business license. But this was just one of Herard and Martin’s new ventures.

In April 2020, before the controversy over HOFSA erupted in public, the two formed another company: Tradex Haiti S.A. Unlike HOFSA, Tradex is not authorized to manufacture weapons or ammunition, but is simply a security company that can buy and sell equipment. Herard and Martin had been trying to break into the arms market for more than a year. Now, according to a source with knowledge of the industry in Haiti, the two are operating one of the most lucrative arms dealerships in the country.

The arrest of an arms dealer … and an opportunity

In late December 2019, the Haitian government arrested businessman Aby Larco, accusing him of being a significant source of arms trafficking in Haiti. Larco had operated a well-known weapons company for years, with contracts with the HNP and also frequently used by the US embassy to repair firearms. But, prosecutors alleged, he was also an important supplier of black market weapons that wound up in the hands of criminal groups.

After Larco’s arrest, the government’s disarmament commission, created to help get weapons out of the hands of civilians, proclaimed it had a list of criminals who had received weapons from Larco. But more than eight months later, the case against Larco has stalled, and no information has been provided about possibly illegal weapon sales. Meanwhile, Larco’s arrest made space in the Haitian arms market for others to move in.

According to multiple sources close to the case, Herard and Martin had been in discussion with Larco for many months with an eye to possibly working together. In the end, however, the sources say Larco rejected their overtures. Seven days after his arrest, HOFSA’s corporate registration was published in Le Moniteur. Though President Jovenel Moïse touted Larco’s arrest as a blow against the proliferation of illegal weapons, the government has remained quiet about the head of the palace guard moonlighting as a private arms dealer.

Le Moniteur showing registration of HOFSA.

Herard himself has been implicated in human rights abuses. The State Department’s own 2019 human rights report notes that Herard:

… shot and wounded two civilians in the Delmas 15 area of Port-au-Prince on June 10. Following this incident, several witnesses pursued Herard’s vehicle toward his residence in Delmas 31. Upon arriving at the residence, Herard and other HNP officers on the scene opened fire on the group of civilians, resulting in two others being wounded.

Though Larco’s arrest may have created space for Martin and Herard to enter the local market, Martin has been an arms dealer for much longer. Among those with knowledge of the local arms market, Martin is known for assembling weapons from disparate parts — in other words, manufacturing weapons that lack serial numbers and cannot be tracked. Some believe it was Martin who provided weapons to US mercenaries arrested in Haiti in 2019. Martin was seen on the streets of the capital embedded with the police during the height of anti-government protests around the same time period. Dozens of protesters were killed, according to local human rights organizations.

US increasing police funding despite worsening rights situation

In June, the day after police broke up the peaceful demonstration in front of the ministry of justice, armed civilians rallied in downtown Port-au-Prince. They were part of a new alliance: the “G9 Family and Allies,” led by a former police officer, Jimmy Cherizier. The police were nowhere to be found, however. The Washington Post reported earlier this month:

When Cherizier’s men took to the streets in June, witnesses claimed to have seen them ride in the same armored vehicles used by the national police and special security forces. Justice Minister Lucmane Delile denounced the gangs and ordered the national police to pursue them; within hours, Moïse fired him.

In the days before the Post article, both the US Embassy and the United Nations mission in Haiti denounced the proliferation and power of armed groups in Haiti. The UN specifically mentioned Cherizier, noting his alleged role in the massacres at Grand Ravine in 2017 and La Saline in 2018, and myriad other abuses since.

Local rights organizations have also denounced the formation of the G9, and have alleged that the alliance is part of a government plan to consolidate control in the densely populated capital ahead of yet-to-be-scheduled elections. Cherizier has denied he is working with the Moïse administration. The Post continued:

But for his long-suffering countrymen, Cherizier’s G9 is evoking the horrors of the Tontons Macoutes, the government-backed paramilitaries that terrorized Haiti for decades under dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude.

“The government has said nothing about [Cherizier’s rise], and the international community has turned a blind eye,” said Pierre Espérance, director of Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network. “There is no rule of law anymore. The gangs are the new Macoutes. It feels like there is a manifest will to install a new dictatorship.”

US Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has condemned Cherizier and the government’s inaction, pointing the finger at the Trump administration’s unconditional support for the Haitian government. “There is no real concern for the plight of the Haitians, whether they are being beaten and killed by the president of Haiti,” she told The Post. “As long as the president is in our pockets, everything is okay.” 

Michele Sison, the US ambassador to Haiti, pushed back. “Rather than pointing fingers,” she told The Post, “our point is to encourage all actors . . . to think about the most vulnerable who continue to bear the brunt of these challenges.”

In a recent report, the National Human Rights Defense Network reported that at least 111 civilians had been killed in gang violence in Cité Soleil in June and July. The December 2019 arrest of Larco, meanwhile, has done little to stem the illegal flow of weapons. In recent weeks, witnesses have seen armed civilians in Cité Soleil carrying automatic weapons that appear to bear the trademark of Carl Martin’s handiwork, raising the possibility that, willingly or not, his guns may be making their way into the hands of civilians. But even as allegations of rights abuses — and police complicity — pile up, the US has deepened its support for the HNP.

Earlier this month, the State Department notified Congress that it was reallocating $8 million from last year’s budget to support the HNP. Since Trump took office, the US has nearly quadrupled its support to Haiti’s police — from $2.8 million in 2016 to more than $12.4 million last year. With the recent reallocation, the figure this year will likely be even higher. US funding for the Haitian police constitutes more than 10 percent of the institution’s overall budget.

The HNP, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, has been chronically underfunded, and many officers do not even receive regular paychecks. But, in the current environment, ramped up US support for the police is unlikely to improve the rapidly devolving security situation. Rather, continued diplomatic and financial support from the Trump administration is likely to only harden the corrupt networks that perpetuate insecurity — with potentially deadly political consequences. The State Department award to X-International makes up only a small portion of overall US support to the police, but nevertheless, it is emblematic of the various ways US assistance empowers Haiti’s status quo. 

An kreyòl

In November, 2019, as part of its support for the Haitian National Police (HNP), the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) awarded a $73,000 contract for the provision of “riot gear kit[s]” for the police’s crowd control unit, CIMO, according to information contained in the US government’s contracting database.

Earlier this summer, CIMO and other HNP units used US-manufactured tear gas to disperse activists who had assembled in front of the Ministry of Justice rallying for the right to life amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation. The police repressed the protest even though the organizers had received proper legal clearance. It was an example of why such State Department contracts are concerning — not just because of how the riot gear can be used on the ground, but because of the firm that received the contract: X-International.

USASpending.gov database showing $73,000 purchase order from X-International, LLC for “riot gear kit” for CIMO.

X-International, according to Florida corporate records, is owned by Carl Frédéric Martin, also known as “Kappa.” A Haitian-American and former member of the US Navy, Martin has become increasingly involved in Haiti’s security forces over the last few years, though, his private ventures should raise even more troubling questions about the State Department contract.

In June, local press reported that Martin, together with a relative of Dimitri Herard — the head of Haiti’s palace guard — had formed a new company, Haiti Ordnance Factory S.A. (HOFSA). According to its corporate registration documents, the new company would be authorized to manufacture weapons and ammunition in Haiti. After news of the company’s existence broke, however, the government revoked its business license. But this was just one of Herard and Martin’s new ventures.

In April 2020, before the controversy over HOFSA erupted in public, the two formed another company: Tradex Haiti S.A. Unlike HOFSA, Tradex is not authorized to manufacture weapons or ammunition, but is simply a security company that can buy and sell equipment. Herard and Martin had been trying to break into the arms market for more than a year. Now, according to a source with knowledge of the industry in Haiti, the two are operating one of the most lucrative arms dealerships in the country.

The arrest of an arms dealer … and an opportunity

In late December 2019, the Haitian government arrested businessman Aby Larco, accusing him of being a significant source of arms trafficking in Haiti. Larco had operated a well-known weapons company for years, with contracts with the HNP and also frequently used by the US embassy to repair firearms. But, prosecutors alleged, he was also an important supplier of black market weapons that wound up in the hands of criminal groups.

After Larco’s arrest, the government’s disarmament commission, created to help get weapons out of the hands of civilians, proclaimed it had a list of criminals who had received weapons from Larco. But more than eight months later, the case against Larco has stalled, and no information has been provided about possibly illegal weapon sales. Meanwhile, Larco’s arrest made space in the Haitian arms market for others to move in.

According to multiple sources close to the case, Herard and Martin had been in discussion with Larco for many months with an eye to possibly working together. In the end, however, the sources say Larco rejected their overtures. Seven days after his arrest, HOFSA’s corporate registration was published in Le Moniteur. Though President Jovenel Moïse touted Larco’s arrest as a blow against the proliferation of illegal weapons, the government has remained quiet about the head of the palace guard moonlighting as a private arms dealer.

Le Moniteur showing registration of HOFSA.

Herard himself has been implicated in human rights abuses. The State Department’s own 2019 human rights report notes that Herard:

… shot and wounded two civilians in the Delmas 15 area of Port-au-Prince on June 10. Following this incident, several witnesses pursued Herard’s vehicle toward his residence in Delmas 31. Upon arriving at the residence, Herard and other HNP officers on the scene opened fire on the group of civilians, resulting in two others being wounded.

Though Larco’s arrest may have created space for Martin and Herard to enter the local market, Martin has been an arms dealer for much longer. Among those with knowledge of the local arms market, Martin is known for assembling weapons from disparate parts — in other words, manufacturing weapons that lack serial numbers and cannot be tracked. Some believe it was Martin who provided weapons to US mercenaries arrested in Haiti in 2019. Martin was seen on the streets of the capital embedded with the police during the height of anti-government protests around the same time period. Dozens of protesters were killed, according to local human rights organizations.

US increasing police funding despite worsening rights situation

In June, the day after police broke up the peaceful demonstration in front of the ministry of justice, armed civilians rallied in downtown Port-au-Prince. They were part of a new alliance: the “G9 Family and Allies,” led by a former police officer, Jimmy Cherizier. The police were nowhere to be found, however. The Washington Post reported earlier this month:

When Cherizier’s men took to the streets in June, witnesses claimed to have seen them ride in the same armored vehicles used by the national police and special security forces. Justice Minister Lucmane Delile denounced the gangs and ordered the national police to pursue them; within hours, Moïse fired him.

In the days before the Post article, both the US Embassy and the United Nations mission in Haiti denounced the proliferation and power of armed groups in Haiti. The UN specifically mentioned Cherizier, noting his alleged role in the massacres at Grand Ravine in 2017 and La Saline in 2018, and myriad other abuses since.

Local rights organizations have also denounced the formation of the G9, and have alleged that the alliance is part of a government plan to consolidate control in the densely populated capital ahead of yet-to-be-scheduled elections. Cherizier has denied he is working with the Moïse administration. The Post continued:

But for his long-suffering countrymen, Cherizier’s G9 is evoking the horrors of the Tontons Macoutes, the government-backed paramilitaries that terrorized Haiti for decades under dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude.

“The government has said nothing about [Cherizier’s rise], and the international community has turned a blind eye,” said Pierre Espérance, director of Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network. “There is no rule of law anymore. The gangs are the new Macoutes. It feels like there is a manifest will to install a new dictatorship.”

US Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has condemned Cherizier and the government’s inaction, pointing the finger at the Trump administration’s unconditional support for the Haitian government. “There is no real concern for the plight of the Haitians, whether they are being beaten and killed by the president of Haiti,” she told The Post. “As long as the president is in our pockets, everything is okay.” 

Michele Sison, the US ambassador to Haiti, pushed back. “Rather than pointing fingers,” she told The Post, “our point is to encourage all actors . . . to think about the most vulnerable who continue to bear the brunt of these challenges.”

In a recent report, the National Human Rights Defense Network reported that at least 111 civilians had been killed in gang violence in Cité Soleil in June and July. The December 2019 arrest of Larco, meanwhile, has done little to stem the illegal flow of weapons. In recent weeks, witnesses have seen armed civilians in Cité Soleil carrying automatic weapons that appear to bear the trademark of Carl Martin’s handiwork, raising the possibility that, willingly or not, his guns may be making their way into the hands of civilians. But even as allegations of rights abuses — and police complicity — pile up, the US has deepened its support for the HNP.

Earlier this month, the State Department notified Congress that it was reallocating $8 million from last year’s budget to support the HNP. Since Trump took office, the US has nearly quadrupled its support to Haiti’s police — from $2.8 million in 2016 to more than $12.4 million last year. With the recent reallocation, the figure this year will likely be even higher. US funding for the Haitian police constitutes more than 10 percent of the institution’s overall budget.

The HNP, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, has been chronically underfunded, and many officers do not even receive regular paychecks. But, in the current environment, ramped up US support for the police is unlikely to improve the rapidly devolving security situation. Rather, continued diplomatic and financial support from the Trump administration is likely to only harden the corrupt networks that perpetuate insecurity — with potentially deadly political consequences. The State Department award to X-International makes up only a small portion of overall US support to the police, but nevertheless, it is emblematic of the various ways US assistance empowers Haiti’s status quo. 

An kreyòl

Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, governing without parliament after terms expired in January without new elections taking place, is facing increasing questions over when, exactly, his own presidential mandate ends. Moïse assumed the presidency after 2015 presidential elections, which had to be rerun after the discovery of widespread irregularities that undermined the credibility of the vote. That fraught electoral process delayed Moïse’s inauguration by a year; now the question has become if that year counts toward the president’s five-year mandate.

On Friday, May 29, the office of Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro issued a press release taking a stand on the question of Moïse’s mandate, saying: 

The OAS General Secretariat urges all political forces in Haiti to find a cooperative framework in order to comply with the letter and the spirit of their constitutional order, respecting the five-year presidential term in office. In this context, the term of President Jovenel Moïse ends on February 7, 2022.

Amid a domestic political crisis, the OAS’ comments amount to an intervention in the affairs of a member country, which goes against the institution’s own charter. “The Organization of American States has no powers other than those expressly conferred upon it by this Charter, none of whose provisions authorizes it to intervene in matters that are within the internal jurisdiction of the Member States,” Article I of the charter reads. It would be difficult to argue that issues of constitutional interpretation are anything other than the “internal jurisdiction of member states.”

The OAS press release follows an open letter to Almagro from Edmonde Supplice Beauzile, the head of Fusion of Haitian Social Democrats, a centrist Haitian political party. After outlining a history of perceived antidemocratic abuses on the part on the Moïse administration, Beauzile noted that Moïse “is engaged in an all-out campaign” to extend his term to 2022 and expressed her “hope that the regional organization which has distinguished itself in the recent past by applying its seal of approval on at least questionable elections, will not agree to support an apprentice dictator who has demonstrated the little respect he has for the constitution, the rule of law and democracy.”

On June 2, seven Haitian human rights organizations sent a letter to Almagro, condemning his remarks as contrary to the OAS charter and detailing their legal interpretation of the presidential mandate. “President Moïse cannot determine the duration of his term of office, in the same way that the Secretary General himself could not define his own mandate according to his interpretation of the OAS Charter,” the organizations wrote. 

“There is no doubt,” the groups write, “that the mandate of President Jovenel Moïse ends on February 7, 2021.”  

OAS History of Intervention Undermines its Credibility

Questions over Moïse’s mandate stem from the 2015/2016 electoral process, but the OAS’ role in that process, and its previous intervention in the 2010 election, is now undermining the institution’s ability to play a helpful role in the current political crisis.

On election day in 2010, the Core Group in Haiti — which includes the OAS — attempted to force then president René Préval into accepting a plane to take him into exile. The election was marred by significant irregularities — including that more than 10 percent of the vote was never counted. Nevertheless, the OAS initially backed the legitimacy of the vote. Eventually, however, the OAS sent an “expert mission” to analyze the poll returns after Préval’s chosen successor appeared headed to a runoff. The OAS mission, without performing a full recount or even conducting a statistical analysis of the missing votes, recommended overturning the results of the election and placing the third-place finisher, Michel Martelly, into the runoff election at the expense of Préval’s successor. 

The brazen intervention, backed up by threats of aid cutoffs and visa sanctions, has inextricably tied the fate of the OAS in Haiti with Martelly and his political party, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK). The 2015/2016 electoral process did little to dispel those concerns.

The 2015 elections were the first elections held under the Martelly administration — and, similar to today’s situation, only took place after the terms of parliament expired and Martelly was ruling by decree. (The Haitian constitution does not actually allow presidents to rule-by-decree.) The OAS provided funding and technical support for the election, and then sent an observer mission to monitor the vote.   

Despite reports from local observer groups that the election had been marred by widespread irregularities, the OAS observer mission provided the results with its stamp of approval. Opposition parties pledged to boycott the runoff vote, and, under increasing pressure from street protests, the electoral council postponed the election. The OAS eventually acquiesced to Haitian demands for an audit of the vote, and even sent a special mission to negotiate the end of Martelly’s mandate in early 2016 — which paved the way for a transitional government, an audit of the vote, and a do-over election in November 2016. Notably, the rerun election was held under the same electoral law and without reopening candidate registrations. 

The negotiated end of Martelly’s mandate actually provides a precedenct in the current crisis, the seven human rights organizations argue. The beginning of Martelly’s mandate was delayed a number of months by the 2010 electoral fracas, nevertheless, Martelly left office on February 7, 2016 — months before he hit five years. (Notably, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was not allowed to serve his full first term after returning to the presidency in 1994. This followed the 1991 coup d’etat that saw Aristide deposed and exiled for a total of three years.)

In their letter to Almagro, the seven organizations point out that Martelly himself acknowledged this in his parting speech. “[M]y mandate is nearing its end,” Martelly said at the time. “According to Article 134-1 of the Mother Law, the presidential term is five (5) years. This period begins and ends on February 7 of the fifth year of the mandate, regardless of the start date.” 

The key question facing Haiti now is: when did the constitutional mandate of the president actually begin? The Moïse administration has argued the constitution is clear — and confers a president with a five-year mandate. If Moïse took office in February 2017, his term should therefore conclude in February 2022. The rights organizations, however, contend that Moïse should not be able to benefit from the fraud-pocked election which had to be reheld. The constitution, they argue, is clear that the presidential mandate begins following the election — meaning that, constitutionally, the mandate began in February 2016, following the October 2015 vote, and will end in 2021, regardless of when the president himself took office.

The rights organizations also point to the 2015 electoral law, which notes that, if the election is not held in the constitutional timetable, “The term of office of the President of the Republic shall end on the seventh (7th) of February in the fifth year of his term of office, regardless of the date of his entry into office.” 

Further, the organizations point to the recent expiration of parliaments’ terms as an additional precedent. On January 13, in a tweet, President Moïse declared the terms of parliament complete. However, as the organizations note, some deputies and senators had not completed their full mandate. “As the legislature ended on the second Monday of January 2020, all Congressman, regardless of the year in which they took office, left Parliament.”

The focus on a constitutional interpretation, however, obscures a deeper issue. No election has been held under the Moïse administration, no elections are scheduled, and there is no functioning parliament to serve as a check on the presidency.

Last week, the Haitian government requested support from the OAS in organizing elections this year, but opposition politicians — emboldened by nearly two years of popular frustration and protests against the Moïse administration and government corruption — have shown little willingness to participate in elections organized by the current government.

For much of the past two years, the donor community, including the OAS, has advocated for dialogue — a political negotiation to reach agreement around elections, mandates, and governance. Regardless of when exactly the president’s term ends, it has become clear that the only way forward will be through a broad, consensual, and Haitian-led political accord. Allowing Moïse to stay in office until 2022 without addressing the other, related, political issues such as elections, will only serve to kick the can down the road. The statement from the OAS Secretary General won’t help in the slightest, and will only further prove to Haiti’s opposition that the OAS is serving as an overt political actor in Haiti as opposed to a neutral arbiter.

 Moïse Deepens Relationship with OAS Secretary General 

The relationship between President Moïse and the OAS and Secretary General Almagro has deepened in recent years. In January 2019, Haiti sided with the United States and voted at the OAS to condemn the Maduro government in Venezuela and recognize the Juan Guaidó “administration.” In doing so, Haiti broke from the majority of CARICOM countries, which have long voted as a bloc — especially in matters of concern to national sovereignty.

Moïse, at the time, was facing his own internal political crisis over his role in the Petrocaribe corruption scandal; his government’s acquiescence to the interests of Washington and Almagro proved useful in ensuring his own political survival. In the fall of 2018, #KoteKobPetrokaribeA? (where is the Petrocaribe money?) began trending on social media, and in the streets of Haiti. The protest movement was given new impetus in the spring of 2019 when government auditors released a lengthy investigation into Petrocaribe, revealing that multiple companies owned by President Moïse had received government money for work that was never completed.  

In June, Carlos Trujillo, the US ambassador to the OAS, led a “fact-finding” delegation to Haiti. An anonymous official on the trip told the Miami Herald that the OAS was prepared to assist in the PetroCaribe scandal and help determine who should face prosecution. Moïse, the official continued, “said he was ready to go to Washington and sign. He said he has nothing to hide.” 

“This shows a willingness by the OAS to impose a solution without listening to the popular demands of the population,” Nou Pap Domi, an anticorruption collective, said in response. “[But] we at Nou Pap Domi are committed to finding a solution to Haiti with Haitians.”

“The presence of the OAS does not change our position,” the collective added. “But we wrote the OAS on June 8, 2019, to inform them that we do not recognize the legitimacy of President Jovenel Moïse and we have no trust in him leading the country because he has serious allegations that involve corruption.” 

Moïse, facing calls for his resignation, continued to point to the OAS’ work. In July, he wrote in a Miami Herald opinion piece that he was “working with the [OAS] to assemble a team of independent international financial experts for a commission that will work around our broken politics to deliver a fair, credible, objective audit so that Haitian judges can pursue accountability for anyone found to have committed crimes and stolen from the Haitian people.”

But, while the OAS has since begun raising funds for an anticorruption program in Haiti, it was never meant to investigate Petrocaribe. It was later revealed by Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the OAS, Sir Ronald Sanders (who led the OAS team that negotiated Martelly’s exit from office), that Trujillo’s “fact-finding” mission was not actually on behalf of the entire organization, but just on his own behalf as acting president of the OAS Permanent Council. Progress on the Petrocaribe dossier has stalled, and Moïse has remained in office.

While the OAS has now offered its own constitutional interpretation of Moïse’s mandate, it remained alarmingly silent when the terms of parliament expired in January 2020. In fact, Almagro personally traveled to Haiti on January 7, just days before. The expiration of parliament’s terms represented a possible break in Haiti’s democratic order, and there was concern that some countries could push the OAS to invoke the democratic charter against the Moïse administration (as Moïse had helped the OAS do to Venezuela the year prior).

Almagro, however, was in the midst of his own political fight — competing for reelection as secretary general and looking to ensure support throughout the region. The two leaders needed one another. If the quid pro quo wasn’t explicit during the two leader’s conversations, Almagro’s public comments spoke for themselves.

“Today I reiterated to President @Moïsejovenel our staunch support for good governance & political stability in #Haiti, which includes reaching a political agreement, promoting constant and inclusive dialogue,” the Secretary General tweeted. He made no reference to the fact that the president would be in office without a functioning parliament in just five days’ time.

Over the previous decade, OAS leadership has tied itself to successive PHTK governments in Haiti. As the Haitian government once again calls in OAS support, few Haitians will forget the manner in which that relationship was forged, nor are they likely to see the OAS as an institution capable of facilitating an exit to the current political crisis — which in many ways stems from the OAS intervention ten years ago.

An kreyòl

Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, governing without parliament after terms expired in January without new elections taking place, is facing increasing questions over when, exactly, his own presidential mandate ends. Moïse assumed the presidency after 2015 presidential elections, which had to be rerun after the discovery of widespread irregularities that undermined the credibility of the vote. That fraught electoral process delayed Moïse’s inauguration by a year; now the question has become if that year counts toward the president’s five-year mandate.

On Friday, May 29, the office of Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro issued a press release taking a stand on the question of Moïse’s mandate, saying: 

The OAS General Secretariat urges all political forces in Haiti to find a cooperative framework in order to comply with the letter and the spirit of their constitutional order, respecting the five-year presidential term in office. In this context, the term of President Jovenel Moïse ends on February 7, 2022.

Amid a domestic political crisis, the OAS’ comments amount to an intervention in the affairs of a member country, which goes against the institution’s own charter. “The Organization of American States has no powers other than those expressly conferred upon it by this Charter, none of whose provisions authorizes it to intervene in matters that are within the internal jurisdiction of the Member States,” Article I of the charter reads. It would be difficult to argue that issues of constitutional interpretation are anything other than the “internal jurisdiction of member states.”

The OAS press release follows an open letter to Almagro from Edmonde Supplice Beauzile, the head of Fusion of Haitian Social Democrats, a centrist Haitian political party. After outlining a history of perceived antidemocratic abuses on the part on the Moïse administration, Beauzile noted that Moïse “is engaged in an all-out campaign” to extend his term to 2022 and expressed her “hope that the regional organization which has distinguished itself in the recent past by applying its seal of approval on at least questionable elections, will not agree to support an apprentice dictator who has demonstrated the little respect he has for the constitution, the rule of law and democracy.”

On June 2, seven Haitian human rights organizations sent a letter to Almagro, condemning his remarks as contrary to the OAS charter and detailing their legal interpretation of the presidential mandate. “President Moïse cannot determine the duration of his term of office, in the same way that the Secretary General himself could not define his own mandate according to his interpretation of the OAS Charter,” the organizations wrote. 

“There is no doubt,” the groups write, “that the mandate of President Jovenel Moïse ends on February 7, 2021.”  

OAS History of Intervention Undermines its Credibility

Questions over Moïse’s mandate stem from the 2015/2016 electoral process, but the OAS’ role in that process, and its previous intervention in the 2010 election, is now undermining the institution’s ability to play a helpful role in the current political crisis.

On election day in 2010, the Core Group in Haiti — which includes the OAS — attempted to force then president René Préval into accepting a plane to take him into exile. The election was marred by significant irregularities — including that more than 10 percent of the vote was never counted. Nevertheless, the OAS initially backed the legitimacy of the vote. Eventually, however, the OAS sent an “expert mission” to analyze the poll returns after Préval’s chosen successor appeared headed to a runoff. The OAS mission, without performing a full recount or even conducting a statistical analysis of the missing votes, recommended overturning the results of the election and placing the third-place finisher, Michel Martelly, into the runoff election at the expense of Préval’s successor. 

The brazen intervention, backed up by threats of aid cutoffs and visa sanctions, has inextricably tied the fate of the OAS in Haiti with Martelly and his political party, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK). The 2015/2016 electoral process did little to dispel those concerns.

The 2015 elections were the first elections held under the Martelly administration — and, similar to today’s situation, only took place after the terms of parliament expired and Martelly was ruling by decree. (The Haitian constitution does not actually allow presidents to rule-by-decree.) The OAS provided funding and technical support for the election, and then sent an observer mission to monitor the vote.   

Despite reports from local observer groups that the election had been marred by widespread irregularities, the OAS observer mission provided the results with its stamp of approval. Opposition parties pledged to boycott the runoff vote, and, under increasing pressure from street protests, the electoral council postponed the election. The OAS eventually acquiesced to Haitian demands for an audit of the vote, and even sent a special mission to negotiate the end of Martelly’s mandate in early 2016 — which paved the way for a transitional government, an audit of the vote, and a do-over election in November 2016. Notably, the rerun election was held under the same electoral law and without reopening candidate registrations. 

The negotiated end of Martelly’s mandate actually provides a precedenct in the current crisis, the seven human rights organizations argue. The beginning of Martelly’s mandate was delayed a number of months by the 2010 electoral fracas, nevertheless, Martelly left office on February 7, 2016 — months before he hit five years. (Notably, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was not allowed to serve his full first term after returning to the presidency in 1994. This followed the 1991 coup d’etat that saw Aristide deposed and exiled for a total of three years.)

In their letter to Almagro, the seven organizations point out that Martelly himself acknowledged this in his parting speech. “[M]y mandate is nearing its end,” Martelly said at the time. “According to Article 134-1 of the Mother Law, the presidential term is five (5) years. This period begins and ends on February 7 of the fifth year of the mandate, regardless of the start date.” 

The key question facing Haiti now is: when did the constitutional mandate of the president actually begin? The Moïse administration has argued the constitution is clear — and confers a president with a five-year mandate. If Moïse took office in February 2017, his term should therefore conclude in February 2022. The rights organizations, however, contend that Moïse should not be able to benefit from the fraud-pocked election which had to be reheld. The constitution, they argue, is clear that the presidential mandate begins following the election — meaning that, constitutionally, the mandate began in February 2016, following the October 2015 vote, and will end in 2021, regardless of when the president himself took office.

The rights organizations also point to the 2015 electoral law, which notes that, if the election is not held in the constitutional timetable, “The term of office of the President of the Republic shall end on the seventh (7th) of February in the fifth year of his term of office, regardless of the date of his entry into office.” 

Further, the organizations point to the recent expiration of parliaments’ terms as an additional precedent. On January 13, in a tweet, President Moïse declared the terms of parliament complete. However, as the organizations note, some deputies and senators had not completed their full mandate. “As the legislature ended on the second Monday of January 2020, all Congressman, regardless of the year in which they took office, left Parliament.”

The focus on a constitutional interpretation, however, obscures a deeper issue. No election has been held under the Moïse administration, no elections are scheduled, and there is no functioning parliament to serve as a check on the presidency.

Last week, the Haitian government requested support from the OAS in organizing elections this year, but opposition politicians — emboldened by nearly two years of popular frustration and protests against the Moïse administration and government corruption — have shown little willingness to participate in elections organized by the current government.

For much of the past two years, the donor community, including the OAS, has advocated for dialogue — a political negotiation to reach agreement around elections, mandates, and governance. Regardless of when exactly the president’s term ends, it has become clear that the only way forward will be through a broad, consensual, and Haitian-led political accord. Allowing Moïse to stay in office until 2022 without addressing the other, related, political issues such as elections, will only serve to kick the can down the road. The statement from the OAS Secretary General won’t help in the slightest, and will only further prove to Haiti’s opposition that the OAS is serving as an overt political actor in Haiti as opposed to a neutral arbiter.

 Moïse Deepens Relationship with OAS Secretary General 

The relationship between President Moïse and the OAS and Secretary General Almagro has deepened in recent years. In January 2019, Haiti sided with the United States and voted at the OAS to condemn the Maduro government in Venezuela and recognize the Juan Guaidó “administration.” In doing so, Haiti broke from the majority of CARICOM countries, which have long voted as a bloc — especially in matters of concern to national sovereignty.

Moïse, at the time, was facing his own internal political crisis over his role in the Petrocaribe corruption scandal; his government’s acquiescence to the interests of Washington and Almagro proved useful in ensuring his own political survival. In the fall of 2018, #KoteKobPetrokaribeA? (where is the Petrocaribe money?) began trending on social media, and in the streets of Haiti. The protest movement was given new impetus in the spring of 2019 when government auditors released a lengthy investigation into Petrocaribe, revealing that multiple companies owned by President Moïse had received government money for work that was never completed.  

In June, Carlos Trujillo, the US ambassador to the OAS, led a “fact-finding” delegation to Haiti. An anonymous official on the trip told the Miami Herald that the OAS was prepared to assist in the PetroCaribe scandal and help determine who should face prosecution. Moïse, the official continued, “said he was ready to go to Washington and sign. He said he has nothing to hide.” 

“This shows a willingness by the OAS to impose a solution without listening to the popular demands of the population,” Nou Pap Domi, an anticorruption collective, said in response. “[But] we at Nou Pap Domi are committed to finding a solution to Haiti with Haitians.”

“The presence of the OAS does not change our position,” the collective added. “But we wrote the OAS on June 8, 2019, to inform them that we do not recognize the legitimacy of President Jovenel Moïse and we have no trust in him leading the country because he has serious allegations that involve corruption.” 

Moïse, facing calls for his resignation, continued to point to the OAS’ work. In July, he wrote in a Miami Herald opinion piece that he was “working with the [OAS] to assemble a team of independent international financial experts for a commission that will work around our broken politics to deliver a fair, credible, objective audit so that Haitian judges can pursue accountability for anyone found to have committed crimes and stolen from the Haitian people.”

But, while the OAS has since begun raising funds for an anticorruption program in Haiti, it was never meant to investigate Petrocaribe. It was later revealed by Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the OAS, Sir Ronald Sanders (who led the OAS team that negotiated Martelly’s exit from office), that Trujillo’s “fact-finding” mission was not actually on behalf of the entire organization, but just on his own behalf as acting president of the OAS Permanent Council. Progress on the Petrocaribe dossier has stalled, and Moïse has remained in office.

While the OAS has now offered its own constitutional interpretation of Moïse’s mandate, it remained alarmingly silent when the terms of parliament expired in January 2020. In fact, Almagro personally traveled to Haiti on January 7, just days before. The expiration of parliament’s terms represented a possible break in Haiti’s democratic order, and there was concern that some countries could push the OAS to invoke the democratic charter against the Moïse administration (as Moïse had helped the OAS do to Venezuela the year prior).

Almagro, however, was in the midst of his own political fight — competing for reelection as secretary general and looking to ensure support throughout the region. The two leaders needed one another. If the quid pro quo wasn’t explicit during the two leader’s conversations, Almagro’s public comments spoke for themselves.

“Today I reiterated to President @Moïsejovenel our staunch support for good governance & political stability in #Haiti, which includes reaching a political agreement, promoting constant and inclusive dialogue,” the Secretary General tweeted. He made no reference to the fact that the president would be in office without a functioning parliament in just five days’ time.

Over the previous decade, OAS leadership has tied itself to successive PHTK governments in Haiti. As the Haitian government once again calls in OAS support, few Haitians will forget the manner in which that relationship was forged, nor are they likely to see the OAS as an institution capable of facilitating an exit to the current political crisis — which in many ways stems from the OAS intervention ten years ago.

The following post is a guest submission from Marc J. Cohen and Tonny Joseph. 

Breakfast in Haiti typically includes manba, the local peanut butter. Unlike the smooth or chunky product found in the United States, it frequently includes a kick from chili peppers!

Haitian peanut butter stands out in another way. In a country where 60% of the food supply—and 80% or more of the rice—comes from abroad, most of the manba is processed locally from Haitian-grown peanuts. Though few Haitian farmers make their living entirely from peanuts, they represent an important income stream, particularly as they can resist the punishing droughts that Haiti has faced over the past few years. For low-income rural women, earnings from artisanal processing of peanut butter and peanut brittle, and from selling unshelled peanuts or peanut-based candy and pastry, mean a degree of economic empowerment and the ability to contribute to family expenses such as school fees and healthcare costs, as well as food.

Two US NGOs, Meds & Food for Kids (MFK) and Partners in Health, work with Haitian farmers to obtain peanuts used to produce ready-to-use foods for treating acutely malnourished children. MFK calls its product “medika manba.”  

The US government has provided substantial support to Haiti’s peanut production. Through the Feed the Future Initiative and other channels, US aid has helped boost Haitian peanut growers’ productivity and assisted them in harvesting goobers free from aflatoxin, a carcinogenic mold that is a major problem affecting Haitian peanuts.

So far, this sounds like a pretty positive story. But things took a nasty turn in 2016. In March of that year, the US Department of Agriculture announced what it called a “humanitarian” donation of 500 metric tons of dry roasted US peanuts to provide snacks for 140,000 malnourished school children. For many Haitians and international advocacy groups following development issues in Haiti, this looked like surplus dumping, or, worse, an effort to pry open the Haitian peanut market at the expense of thousands of local low-income producers, processors, and traders.  

As a new report by PAPDA (the Haitian Advocacy Platform for Alternative Development) and Oxfam shows, this perfectly illustrates the clash between two kinds of agriculture: small-scale farming of arid lands, subject to neoliberal policies and deprived of technical and financial support, and overdeveloped agriculture with cutting edge technology and trade protection for farmers. In the United States, 6,500 prosperous and politically well-organized peanut producers receive annual subsidies of $900 million in an exercise some observers have rightly called “naked rent seeking.” In Haiti 35,000 impoverished farmers receive no government support, generally lack organizations to represent their interests, and have only limited ability to access improved seeds, fertilizer, irrigation water, or herbicides to control aflatoxin.

US peanut farmers receive much more generous subsidies than those who grow other government-supported commodities, and the government agrees to acquire their crop if the market price falls below a certain level. Even mainstream economists call these perverse incentives for overproduction “nuts.” The storage costs have led to pressures from Congress and other quarters to move the surpluses overseas as either exports or food aid. The United States is now the world’s third largest peanut exporter.

For many Haitian farmers and advocacy groups, the donation seemed like just the latest chapter in a long history of US domination of Haitian food markets. This has included US-sponsored efforts to eradicate the Haitian pig population as a preemptive strike against African Swine Fever and the US dominance of Haiti’s rice market that followed the removal of import subsidies in 1995.

Also, the 500 tons of peanuts threatened to undermine a decade of US efforts to support Haitian peanut growers. The inconsistency between US agricultural trade policy on the one hand and agricultural assistance on the other called into question the effectiveness of US aid, going against the principle known as “policy coherence for development,” which holds that donor-country policies should mutually reinforce one another in promoting development.

The PAPDA-Oxfam report recommends that the Haitian government provide significant support to the peanut value chain. It also encourages the United States and other donor-country governments to continue providing aid to Haitian peanut production, while avoiding agricultural trade policies that undermine such assistance. The paper concludes by noting that the peanut value chain in Haiti is worthy of support as it represents a reliable economic, cultural, and nutritional pillar of Haitian society.

Last week, on May 1, Haitians celebrated their annual Agriculture and Labor Day holiday. Amidst the very difficult economic, political, and social conditions Haiti is facing, now vastly complicated by the effects of the coronavirus, it would be wonderful if the country could celebrate by exercising sovereignty over this one piece of its food and agriculture system.

Marc J. Cohen is a senior researcher at Oxfam, based in Washington, DC. Tonny Joseph is a Haitian political scientist and consultant based in Pétion Ville, Haiti. They co-authored the recent PAPDA-Oxfam report with PAPDA colleagues.

The following post is a guest submission from Marc J. Cohen and Tonny Joseph. 

Breakfast in Haiti typically includes manba, the local peanut butter. Unlike the smooth or chunky product found in the United States, it frequently includes a kick from chili peppers!

Haitian peanut butter stands out in another way. In a country where 60% of the food supply—and 80% or more of the rice—comes from abroad, most of the manba is processed locally from Haitian-grown peanuts. Though few Haitian farmers make their living entirely from peanuts, they represent an important income stream, particularly as they can resist the punishing droughts that Haiti has faced over the past few years. For low-income rural women, earnings from artisanal processing of peanut butter and peanut brittle, and from selling unshelled peanuts or peanut-based candy and pastry, mean a degree of economic empowerment and the ability to contribute to family expenses such as school fees and healthcare costs, as well as food.

Two US NGOs, Meds & Food for Kids (MFK) and Partners in Health, work with Haitian farmers to obtain peanuts used to produce ready-to-use foods for treating acutely malnourished children. MFK calls its product “medika manba.”  

The US government has provided substantial support to Haiti’s peanut production. Through the Feed the Future Initiative and other channels, US aid has helped boost Haitian peanut growers’ productivity and assisted them in harvesting goobers free from aflatoxin, a carcinogenic mold that is a major problem affecting Haitian peanuts.

So far, this sounds like a pretty positive story. But things took a nasty turn in 2016. In March of that year, the US Department of Agriculture announced what it called a “humanitarian” donation of 500 metric tons of dry roasted US peanuts to provide snacks for 140,000 malnourished school children. For many Haitians and international advocacy groups following development issues in Haiti, this looked like surplus dumping, or, worse, an effort to pry open the Haitian peanut market at the expense of thousands of local low-income producers, processors, and traders.  

As a new report by PAPDA (the Haitian Advocacy Platform for Alternative Development) and Oxfam shows, this perfectly illustrates the clash between two kinds of agriculture: small-scale farming of arid lands, subject to neoliberal policies and deprived of technical and financial support, and overdeveloped agriculture with cutting edge technology and trade protection for farmers. In the United States, 6,500 prosperous and politically well-organized peanut producers receive annual subsidies of $900 million in an exercise some observers have rightly called “naked rent seeking.” In Haiti 35,000 impoverished farmers receive no government support, generally lack organizations to represent their interests, and have only limited ability to access improved seeds, fertilizer, irrigation water, or herbicides to control aflatoxin.

US peanut farmers receive much more generous subsidies than those who grow other government-supported commodities, and the government agrees to acquire their crop if the market price falls below a certain level. Even mainstream economists call these perverse incentives for overproduction “nuts.” The storage costs have led to pressures from Congress and other quarters to move the surpluses overseas as either exports or food aid. The United States is now the world’s third largest peanut exporter.

For many Haitian farmers and advocacy groups, the donation seemed like just the latest chapter in a long history of US domination of Haitian food markets. This has included US-sponsored efforts to eradicate the Haitian pig population as a preemptive strike against African Swine Fever and the US dominance of Haiti’s rice market that followed the removal of import subsidies in 1995.

Also, the 500 tons of peanuts threatened to undermine a decade of US efforts to support Haitian peanut growers. The inconsistency between US agricultural trade policy on the one hand and agricultural assistance on the other called into question the effectiveness of US aid, going against the principle known as “policy coherence for development,” which holds that donor-country policies should mutually reinforce one another in promoting development.

The PAPDA-Oxfam report recommends that the Haitian government provide significant support to the peanut value chain. It also encourages the United States and other donor-country governments to continue providing aid to Haitian peanut production, while avoiding agricultural trade policies that undermine such assistance. The paper concludes by noting that the peanut value chain in Haiti is worthy of support as it represents a reliable economic, cultural, and nutritional pillar of Haitian society.

Last week, on May 1, Haitians celebrated their annual Agriculture and Labor Day holiday. Amidst the very difficult economic, political, and social conditions Haiti is facing, now vastly complicated by the effects of the coronavirus, it would be wonderful if the country could celebrate by exercising sovereignty over this one piece of its food and agriculture system.

Marc J. Cohen is a senior researcher at Oxfam, based in Washington, DC. Tonny Joseph is a Haitian political scientist and consultant based in Pétion Ville, Haiti. They co-authored the recent PAPDA-Oxfam report with PAPDA colleagues.

[Editor’s Note: The day after publication, the Miami Herald reported that Emmanuel Constant had been removed from the deportation flight. An updated version of the article, in Haitian Kreyòl, was published by Ayibopost.]

An kreyòl

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down borders and airports across the world, planes chartered by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continue to fly. Every two or three weeks, a deportation flight operated by Swift Air, LLC has landed at the Port-au-Prince airport. After one such flight in early April, at least three of those deported tested positive for COVID-19. The pandemic is now sweeping through ICE detention facilities, putting the lives of tens of thousands at risk and highlighting the public health ramifications of continued deportations. 

Next week, another ICE Air deportation flight is scheduled to arrive in Haiti. But the controversy will extend far beyond the health and well-being of those on board. According to a flight manifest obtained by HRRW, ICE is planning to deport Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, a former death squad leader who has been in a New York state prison for the past 12 years on grand larceny and mortgage fraud charges. Constant is listed in the manifest as a “High Profile Removal.”

Continued deportations have presented an additional strain on an already overburdened public health system, as the Haitian government has been forced to use scarce resources to quarantine and care for the dozens who arrive every few weeks. In late April, a government-backed scientific commission supporting the country’s COVID-19 response asked president Jovenel Moïse to halt further deportations during the pandemic. Representatives of the Haitian government did not respond to a request for comment.

ICE has announced it will increase testing of deportees after pushback from regional governments but it is unclear how systematic the testing will be. ICE has stated that they would only receive about 2,000 tests per month — far below the estimated number of deportations. Nevertheless, the recent ICE changes have assuaged concerns from some countries in the region, which have been under increasing diplomatic pressure from the Trump administration to continue allowing ICE Air deportation flights. According to data compiled by CEPR, ICE has made at least 246 deportation flights since the beginning of February. After a brief respite, this week the pace of deportations has increased dramatically.

The Haitian government has pushed back on the deportations. Claude Joseph, the foreign minister, told the Miami Herald in April that he had been in communication with his counterparts in the US advocating for a moratorium on deportation flights. He said that the US had agreed to temporarily suspend the deportation of those with “criminal” backgrounds to avoid further crowding Haiti’s already overcrowded prison system. But, the US has thus far rejected an outright stop to the flights. A former Haitian government official said that there had been continued discussions around a moratorium of all flights. It appears that effort has failed.  

On Monday, May 11, the next ICE Air deportation flight is scheduled to arrive in Port-au-Prince, according to the flight manifest. ICE identifies 51 of the flight’s 101 passengers as having criminal backgrounds. One of those is Constant, the 63-year old former death squad leader. ICE did not respond to a request for comment; the agency has a general policy of not commenting on future deportation flights. The flight manifest is a “tentative” list of passengers; it could still be changed before the flight.

Constant was facing up to 37 years in jail, but New York State prison records show that Constant was released to ICE custody on April 7 — 12 years after his conviction — in order to face deportation. Constant’s next parole hearing had been scheduled for August, 2020. ICE records show he is currently being held at the ICE federal detention facility in Buffalo, NY — where at least 45 of those detained have confirmed COVID-19 cases. 


Sources:
http://nysdoccslookup.doccs.ny.gov/ and https://locator.ice.gov/odls/#/index.

The Long Struggle for Accountability, Reignited

Constant was the former head of the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), a paramilitary organization that was responsible for the extrajudicial killing of an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 Haitians in the aftermath of the 1991 military coup — as well as thousands of incidents of rape, torture, and arbitrary detention. Constant, it was later revealed, was on the CIA payroll during this period.

Upon the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in late 1994, Constant left Haiti and settled in the New York City area. In 2000, a Haitian court convicted Constant and 14 others in absentia for their involvement in a 1994 massacre in the small town of Raboteau. A civil action resulted in a $140 million award to victims’ families. In 2005, following the second ouster of Aristide, the high court in Haiti overturned the sentences for those who had been tried in person. The judgement against Constant remains valid, however, according to human rights organizations. 

US courts have also recognized Constant’s responsibility for crimes against humanity, however. On behalf of three Haitian women who had been terrorized by Constant, the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) brought a civil case against Constant in 2004 and eventually won a $19 million civil judgment. Constant appealed the ruling, but the judgment was upheld by a federal court in 2009. 

Separately, in 2008, Constant was convicted on charges of grand larceny and mortgage fraud in New York State Court and sentenced to 12 to 37 years. He remained in state prison until last month, when he was quietly released to ICE custody. In 2016, when Constant was up for parole, lawyers with CCR and CJA wrote to the New York State Parole Board cautioning against such a release: “If Constant were released from incarceration in New York, he would pose a serious flight risk, and might return to Haiti to exploit the tense situation to his political advantage.” 

Now, the Trump administration is putting Constant on an ICE Air deportation flight direct to Haiti. But it remains unclear what will await the former CIA-backed death squad leader upon his arrival.

“If Constant is, indeed, deported to Haiti next week, the obligations of the Haitian criminal justice system are clear,” said Mario Joseph. The state must “arrest Constant as soon as he arrives and ensure that he is held accountable to the people of Haiti.” Joseph, a prominent Haitian human rights lawyer with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), was the lawyer who secured the guilty verdict in the Raboteau Massacre case on behalf of victims’ families. Twenty years later, however, the struggle for justice and accountability remains as distant as ever.

Constant, Joseph said, could either accept the existing judgment against him or demand a new trial as he had been tried in absentia. Joseph noted, however, that Haiti’s justice system has allowed others convicted in the Raboteau Massacre to go free, including Jean Robert Gabriel, who the Haitian government appointed to the high command of the reconstituted Haitian armed forces in 2018. Joseph added that Constant had fled Haiti in 1994 precisely to avoid accountability for his heinous crimes and that the US had failed to execute a judicial order requiring his return to Haiti at the time of the Raboteau trial. 

“As with the Raboteau trials, which no one thought could be successfully prosecuted at the time, BAI will continue to advocate for justice for Constant’s victims,” Joseph said. “The law of Haiti is clear on what must happen next. It is my hope that the Haitian government lives up to its responsibilities.”

Constant is the most notorious among the 101 Haitians that the US intends to deport next week, and the case most fraught with political implications. But there will be 100 others, including 50 who may be facing further jail time back in their native Haiti. The Haitian government has thus far been using hotels in the capital to quarantine those who arrive via Swift Air flights every few weeks. It has provided meals and pledged medical support to deportees, but it is unclear what it will do with those facing criminal charges.

In 2019, Haiti’s prison occupancy rate was 358 percent — the jails are notoriously and chronically overcrowded, holding three-and-a-half times as many as they should be. The pandemic has shone fresh light at the horrid conditions of prisons — including in the US, where COVID-19 is spreading far faster among the prison population than among the general public. Governments across the globe, including in Haiti, are under pressure to remove people from prisons as a matter of public health. From March 19, when Haiti declared a national emergency, to April 15, at least 459 prisoners were released in Haiti, according to the National Human Rights Defense Network. 

“Given the inhumane conditions and overcrowding in Haiti’s prisons, it is important the government release those detained — especially the large number of individuals who have never faced a judge and have been held indefinitely while facing only minor charges,” said Rosy Auguste of the National Network for Human Rights Organizations (RNDDH). Even with Haiti’s prisons overflowing, the country is facing a crisis of impunity — with those politically connected seemingly protected from justice. “Further deportations will only place additional strain on Haiti’s institutions,” Auguste added.  

ICE is facing increasing pressure in the US over its continued deportations as well. Last week, 15 Senators wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf requesting a halt to deportations until ICE can ensure all deportees have been tested first. The letter followed previous efforts in the House, led by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), that had called on ICE to suspend all further deportations to Haiti amid the pandemic.

The deportation of Constant “complicates things on so many levels,” Guerline Jozef, the executive director of the Haiti Bridge Alliance, said. “We don’t know why they are deporting him now, especially understanding the current situation with Haiti’s politics.” Jozef said she is worried that Constant’s return will create even more instability, especially considering his past conviction by a Haitian court. 

But for Jozef, whose organization spearheaded a letter last month from 164 organizations calling for an end to deportations during the pandemic, the bigger picture remains halting all such flights. “No matter how you look at it, continuing with deportations means continued exportation of COVID-19 throughout the region.”

[Editor’s Note: The day after publication, the Miami Herald reported that Emmanuel Constant had been removed from the deportation flight. An updated version of the article, in Haitian Kreyòl, was published by Ayibopost.]

An kreyòl

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down borders and airports across the world, planes chartered by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continue to fly. Every two or three weeks, a deportation flight operated by Swift Air, LLC has landed at the Port-au-Prince airport. After one such flight in early April, at least three of those deported tested positive for COVID-19. The pandemic is now sweeping through ICE detention facilities, putting the lives of tens of thousands at risk and highlighting the public health ramifications of continued deportations. 

Next week, another ICE Air deportation flight is scheduled to arrive in Haiti. But the controversy will extend far beyond the health and well-being of those on board. According to a flight manifest obtained by HRRW, ICE is planning to deport Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, a former death squad leader who has been in a New York state prison for the past 12 years on grand larceny and mortgage fraud charges. Constant is listed in the manifest as a “High Profile Removal.”

Continued deportations have presented an additional strain on an already overburdened public health system, as the Haitian government has been forced to use scarce resources to quarantine and care for the dozens who arrive every few weeks. In late April, a government-backed scientific commission supporting the country’s COVID-19 response asked president Jovenel Moïse to halt further deportations during the pandemic. Representatives of the Haitian government did not respond to a request for comment.

ICE has announced it will increase testing of deportees after pushback from regional governments but it is unclear how systematic the testing will be. ICE has stated that they would only receive about 2,000 tests per month — far below the estimated number of deportations. Nevertheless, the recent ICE changes have assuaged concerns from some countries in the region, which have been under increasing diplomatic pressure from the Trump administration to continue allowing ICE Air deportation flights. According to data compiled by CEPR, ICE has made at least 246 deportation flights since the beginning of February. After a brief respite, this week the pace of deportations has increased dramatically.

The Haitian government has pushed back on the deportations. Claude Joseph, the foreign minister, told the Miami Herald in April that he had been in communication with his counterparts in the US advocating for a moratorium on deportation flights. He said that the US had agreed to temporarily suspend the deportation of those with “criminal” backgrounds to avoid further crowding Haiti’s already overcrowded prison system. But, the US has thus far rejected an outright stop to the flights. A former Haitian government official said that there had been continued discussions around a moratorium of all flights. It appears that effort has failed.  

On Monday, May 11, the next ICE Air deportation flight is scheduled to arrive in Port-au-Prince, according to the flight manifest. ICE identifies 51 of the flight’s 101 passengers as having criminal backgrounds. One of those is Constant, the 63-year old former death squad leader. ICE did not respond to a request for comment; the agency has a general policy of not commenting on future deportation flights. The flight manifest is a “tentative” list of passengers; it could still be changed before the flight.

Constant was facing up to 37 years in jail, but New York State prison records show that Constant was released to ICE custody on April 7 — 12 years after his conviction — in order to face deportation. Constant’s next parole hearing had been scheduled for August, 2020. ICE records show he is currently being held at the ICE federal detention facility in Buffalo, NY — where at least 45 of those detained have confirmed COVID-19 cases. 


Sources:
http://nysdoccslookup.doccs.ny.gov/ and https://locator.ice.gov/odls/#/index.

The Long Struggle for Accountability, Reignited

Constant was the former head of the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), a paramilitary organization that was responsible for the extrajudicial killing of an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 Haitians in the aftermath of the 1991 military coup — as well as thousands of incidents of rape, torture, and arbitrary detention. Constant, it was later revealed, was on the CIA payroll during this period.

Upon the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in late 1994, Constant left Haiti and settled in the New York City area. In 2000, a Haitian court convicted Constant and 14 others in absentia for their involvement in a 1994 massacre in the small town of Raboteau. A civil action resulted in a $140 million award to victims’ families. In 2005, following the second ouster of Aristide, the high court in Haiti overturned the sentences for those who had been tried in person. The judgement against Constant remains valid, however, according to human rights organizations. 

US courts have also recognized Constant’s responsibility for crimes against humanity, however. On behalf of three Haitian women who had been terrorized by Constant, the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) brought a civil case against Constant in 2004 and eventually won a $19 million civil judgment. Constant appealed the ruling, but the judgment was upheld by a federal court in 2009. 

Separately, in 2008, Constant was convicted on charges of grand larceny and mortgage fraud in New York State Court and sentenced to 12 to 37 years. He remained in state prison until last month, when he was quietly released to ICE custody. In 2016, when Constant was up for parole, lawyers with CCR and CJA wrote to the New York State Parole Board cautioning against such a release: “If Constant were released from incarceration in New York, he would pose a serious flight risk, and might return to Haiti to exploit the tense situation to his political advantage.” 

Now, the Trump administration is putting Constant on an ICE Air deportation flight direct to Haiti. But it remains unclear what will await the former CIA-backed death squad leader upon his arrival.

“If Constant is, indeed, deported to Haiti next week, the obligations of the Haitian criminal justice system are clear,” said Mario Joseph. The state must “arrest Constant as soon as he arrives and ensure that he is held accountable to the people of Haiti.” Joseph, a prominent Haitian human rights lawyer with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), was the lawyer who secured the guilty verdict in the Raboteau Massacre case on behalf of victims’ families. Twenty years later, however, the struggle for justice and accountability remains as distant as ever.

Constant, Joseph said, could either accept the existing judgment against him or demand a new trial as he had been tried in absentia. Joseph noted, however, that Haiti’s justice system has allowed others convicted in the Raboteau Massacre to go free, including Jean Robert Gabriel, who the Haitian government appointed to the high command of the reconstituted Haitian armed forces in 2018. Joseph added that Constant had fled Haiti in 1994 precisely to avoid accountability for his heinous crimes and that the US had failed to execute a judicial order requiring his return to Haiti at the time of the Raboteau trial. 

“As with the Raboteau trials, which no one thought could be successfully prosecuted at the time, BAI will continue to advocate for justice for Constant’s victims,” Joseph said. “The law of Haiti is clear on what must happen next. It is my hope that the Haitian government lives up to its responsibilities.”

Constant is the most notorious among the 101 Haitians that the US intends to deport next week, and the case most fraught with political implications. But there will be 100 others, including 50 who may be facing further jail time back in their native Haiti. The Haitian government has thus far been using hotels in the capital to quarantine those who arrive via Swift Air flights every few weeks. It has provided meals and pledged medical support to deportees, but it is unclear what it will do with those facing criminal charges.

In 2019, Haiti’s prison occupancy rate was 358 percent — the jails are notoriously and chronically overcrowded, holding three-and-a-half times as many as they should be. The pandemic has shone fresh light at the horrid conditions of prisons — including in the US, where COVID-19 is spreading far faster among the prison population than among the general public. Governments across the globe, including in Haiti, are under pressure to remove people from prisons as a matter of public health. From March 19, when Haiti declared a national emergency, to April 15, at least 459 prisoners were released in Haiti, according to the National Human Rights Defense Network. 

“Given the inhumane conditions and overcrowding in Haiti’s prisons, it is important the government release those detained — especially the large number of individuals who have never faced a judge and have been held indefinitely while facing only minor charges,” said Rosy Auguste of the National Network for Human Rights Organizations (RNDDH). Even with Haiti’s prisons overflowing, the country is facing a crisis of impunity — with those politically connected seemingly protected from justice. “Further deportations will only place additional strain on Haiti’s institutions,” Auguste added.  

ICE is facing increasing pressure in the US over its continued deportations as well. Last week, 15 Senators wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf requesting a halt to deportations until ICE can ensure all deportees have been tested first. The letter followed previous efforts in the House, led by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), that had called on ICE to suspend all further deportations to Haiti amid the pandemic.

The deportation of Constant “complicates things on so many levels,” Guerline Jozef, the executive director of the Haiti Bridge Alliance, said. “We don’t know why they are deporting him now, especially understanding the current situation with Haiti’s politics.” Jozef said she is worried that Constant’s return will create even more instability, especially considering his past conviction by a Haitian court. 

But for Jozef, whose organization spearheaded a letter last month from 164 organizations calling for an end to deportations during the pandemic, the bigger picture remains halting all such flights. “No matter how you look at it, continuing with deportations means continued exportation of COVID-19 throughout the region.”

Jou ki te 19 Mas la, prezidan ayisyen Jovenel Moïse te konfime 2 premye ka Kowonaviris nan peyi a. Depi lè a, nimewo a ogmante a 8. Pou li reponn a sitiyasyon an, prezidan an deklare yon eta dijans sou peyi a; li mande pou tout lekòl, faktori, legliz, peristil, ak lòt espas relijye yo fèmen; li mete entèdiksyon pou moun soti ant 8è nan aswè ak 5è nan maten, epi li fèmen fwontyè peyi a. Gouvènman anonse demach sa yo apre li te finn kanpe tout vòl kap soti nan plizyè peyi.

Premye ka ki te repòte yo te soti nan de moun ki te vwayaje nan lòt peyi. Li enpòtan pou nou note ke leta pa gen anpil kapasite pou li fè tès yo. Mèkredi 25 Mas, te gen 58 tès ki te fèt nan tout peyi a selon dènye rapò epidemyolojik yo. Ministè Sante Piblik anonse yon plan 37.2 milyon dola ameriken pou li konbat pandemi sa a. Òganizasyon lokal ak entènasyonal deja kòmanse travay sou yon repons.

Apre près 2 lane manifestasyon san repons nan men gouvènman an, sitiyasyon ekonomik Ayiti a te rann lavi a difisil pou majorite popilasyon an. Goud la pèdi valè, to a kontinye monte e gouvènman an pako jwenn mwayen pou li ogmante lajan kap fè ekonomi a mache. Gouvènman ayisyen an pa gen anpil resous fiskal ki pou ede l fè fas a pandemi Kowonaviris sa a, e fanmi ayisyen yo ki te deja ap fè fas ak lavi chè ap kontinye viv san yo pa konn sa k ap tann yo demen.

Gen plizyè fasèt ki konplete youn lot nan repons a viris la nan peyi dayiti. Youn dwe konsantre sou sistèm sante peyi a epi kapasite l pou li detekte, trete, epi kontni viris la. Lòt la dwe gade kapasite gouvènman an pou li etabli e aplike lwa ki ankouraje distans sosyal. An sa ki gen rapò ak dezyèm fasèt sa, li enpòtan pou gouvènman an konsidere kijan popilasyon ayisyèn lan viv, entèraji epi siviv, pou lwa ak desizyon gouvènman an ka efektif nan kontni viris la, pwoteje popilasyon an epi asire ke li gen aksè a byen nesesè yo.

Nan moman an, ka ki repòte yo se ka enpòte, men avèk difikilte gouvènman ayisyen an ap genyen pou li enpoze yon karantèn, gen anpil chans pou COVID-19 la gaye nan peyi a. Menm ke deklarasyon eta dijans peyi a te nesesè, fòk efò yo pa kanpe la. Fòk gouvènman an bay pèp la bourad ak sipò legal pou travayè ak pòv yo epi lajan pou sistèm sante peyi a. Nan sans sa a, kominote entènasyonal la jwe yo gwo wòl. Bank Mondyal, Fon Monetè Entènasyonal ak lòt òganizasyon devlopman entènasyonal dwe libere resous pou Ayiti ak lòt peyi k ap devlope pou yo ka byen reponn a pandemi sa a.

Sistèm sante a

Depi avan pandemi Kowonaviris la te rive Ayiti, sistèm sante peyi a te deja gen gwo difikilte. Dapre yon etid ke Research and Education Consortium for Acute Care in Haiti (REACH) fè, Ayiti posede sèlman 124 kabann swen entansif ak 64 respiratè atifisyèl pou yon popilasyon ki gen plis pase 11 milyon moun. Lòt ekspè nan sante piblik Ayiti estime chif sa yo ka pi piti. Se yon gwo pwoblèm paske anpil ayisyen antre nan kategori moun ki a gran ris pou maladi sa a.

Depi kounye a, gen rapò ki sot nan Lopital Inivèsite Deta Ayiti (HUEH) ki di pa vreman gen preparasyon ni resous pou pwoteje moun k ap travay nan lopital yo. Sa se lakòz anpil moun refize travay. HUEH te youn nan edifis ki pou te rekonstwi ak lajan devlopman entènasyonal men apre plis pase 10 lane, plan sa yo poko reyalize.

Sistèm sante Ayiti a depann anpil de aktè prive, ONG epi asistans ak don entènasyonal. Dr. Youri Louis di jounal Haitian Times la ke depi 2013, 64 pousan nan bidjè lasante Ayiti a baze sou èd entènasyonal. Nan plizyè pati nan peyi a, aksè a swen soti sèlman nan ONG ak aktè ki pa nan leta.

Nan yon sistèm ki fragmante, fòk kowòdinasyon an byen fèt. Nan sans sa a, li bon anpil ke òganizasyon nasyonal ak entènasyonal deja ap rankontre pou diskite epi kowòdone mekanis repons. Moun ki enplike nan koze lasante an Ayiti kapab kowòdone repons yo pa rapò a jan yo te reponn epidemi Kolera a, ki te simayen nan peyi a apre sòlda Nasyon Zini te entwodui l nan peyi a. Menm ke repons a epidemi Kolera a pa t bon, dènye lane sa yo wè efò ki pi byen òganize e ki mennen kèk devlopman pozitif.

Sandra Wisner ki travay nan Enstiti pou Jistis ak Demokrasi an Ayiti (IJDH) di jounal Haitian Times la ke fòk repons gouvènman an bay kominote yo plis ankadreman:

Sa vle di aksè epi asire sèvis yo disponib poi kominote yo – kidonk rann tès, trasaj, ak tretman yo disponib kote moun yo ye; asire ke sant sante yo gen resous ak ekipman nesesè, e pou moun k ap travay sou teren yo gen resous yo bezwen pou yo bay pasyan yo bon jan sèvis.

Depi tranblemanntè 12 Janvye 2010 la, Ministè Sante Piblik la te toujou youn nan enstitisyon gouvènman an ki resevwa plis don. Malgre sa, on gwo pòsyon nan asistans entènasyonal la pa rive sipòte sistèm sante peyi a. Li enpòtan pou efò k ap devlope pou fè fas a kriz sa a akse sou ranfòse sistèm sante nasyon an. Byen ke nan 10 dènye lane yo vinn gen ti amelyorasyon, depans pou sante piblik ak nasyonal pako ase e li redui anpil tou

Nan kad batay kont COVID-19 la, gouvènman ayisyen fè apèl a peyi Kiba pou asistans li. Gouvènman an anonse ke te gen 348 profesyonel lasante Kiben nan peyi a pou ede a repons lan, anpil nan yo te deja nan peyi a nan kad asistans jeneral a lasante nan peyi a.

Ekonomi a

Byen avan Kowonaviris la rive nan peyi a, ekspè yo te deja prevwa ekonomi ayisyen an te pral redui de 1% pou chak moun an 2019. Desizyon gouvènman an pran pou li fèmen biznis pral ajoute plis difikilte ekonomik. Strès ekonomik Kowonaviris la ap afekte dyaspora a tou e li posib tou pou nou wè yon rediksyon nan lajan dyaspora a konn voye Ayiti tou, ki se yon gwo sous pou ekonomi peyi a. Ekonomi ayisyen an depann de vèsman sa yo ki yo menm ka redui pandan kominote dyaspora a fè fas a pwòp difikilte pa li ak karantèn epi biznis ki ap fèmen.

Jesyon kriz sa a ap vinn pi difisil paske ayisyen depann anpil de ekonomi enfòmèl la. 60 pousan popilasyon an viv ak mwens ke 2 dola ameriken chak jou. Malgre gouvènman an mande pou tout biznis fèmen, reyalite a se ke anpil moun depann de ekonomi enfòmèl la pou yo siviv.

Nan sans sa a, malgre anons gouvènman yo, mache ak transpò piblik kontinye fonksyone. Mank direktiv pou chofè ak pasaje yo enkyete jounalis nan peyi a. Menm si piblik la okouran de viris la, sa pa chanje anyen, popilasyon an kontinye itilize transpò piblik pou li deplase ak mache piblik pou li manje. Gen plizyè sendika transpòtasyon ki fè rekòmandasyon pou chofè yo redui kantite pasaje pou bis ak taxi pran, men malgre sa leta poko pran inisyativ klè pou li bay direktiv pou ranfòse rekòmandasyon sendika yo epi jere koze transpòtasyon an.

Pandan gouvènman an mande pou tout faktori fèmen tou, li pako klè si gouvènman an ap bay sipò finansye bay travayè yo ki pral afekte. Antèn Ouvriye, ki se yon òganizasyon ki reprezante ouvriye ki travay nan fakotri, kritike gouvènman an poutet li pap asire salè yo pandan faktori yo fèmen. Mèkredi 25 Mas, Premye Minis Joseph Jouthe te anonse ke travayè piblik ak moun ki travay nan sektè tekstil la t ap resevwa lajan pou on mwa men li pako klè kilè sa t ap rive ni ki kantite lajan leta dispoze pou inisyativ sa a.

Pou li ka asire ke kominote yo ka pran aksyon pou yo pwoteje tet yo, fòk gouvènman an kontinye bay sèvis de baz tankou aksè a manje, dlo epi kouran. Kèk peyi deja kòmanse demach ki nesesè epi ogmante depans leta nan sèvis de baz ak pwogram sosyal. Anpil nan yo priyorize sibvansyone salè travayè yo epi lòt deja kòmanse distribye manje bay moun ki depann de aktivite jounalye pou yo siviv. Byen ke resous Ayiti limite, fòk repons gouvènman an gen mezi ladan l pou bay popilasyon an yon souf ekonomik, espesyalman pou machann, ouvriye, ak ti komèsan ki depann anpil sou ekonomi enfòmèl la pou yo viv.

Malgre tou, leta ayisyen depann anpil sou lwa fiskal tankou ogmante kredi atravè bank santral epi f on ti lage sou orè peman, byen ke s on bon bagay, demach sa yo pa p gen gwo enpak sou majorite ayisyen. Si pa gen vre asistans entènasyonal,  gouvènman an ka pa gen resous fiskal nesesè pou li asiste popilasyon an kòrèkteman nan kriz sa a.

Fenomèn monte pri a deja kòmanse e l ap mete plis strès sou yon popilasyon ki deja frajil. Youn nan rezon ki lakòz sa se ke chèn distribisyon manje an Ayiti repoze anpil sou manje enpòte, ki gendwa vin pi difisil pou jwenn nan sitiyasyon moman an. Pandan gouvènman an asire ke ap gen distribisyon manje, fòk li priyorize regilasyon pri manje yo tou pou yo pa monte twòp epi pwoteje moun k ap achte manje. Sa t ap on bon opòtinite pou leta envesti nan sektè agrikilti peyi a, sa t ap on rezon pou stabilize lavi agrikiltè ak machann epi yon bon opòtinite pou ranfòse pwodiskyon nasyonal.

Èd entènasyonal

Li enperatif pou nou rekonèt ke enkapasite pou leta ayisyen byen reponn a kriz sa relye a yon listwa dominasyon, okipasyon ak eksplwatasyon entènasyonal, an plis de plizyè lane move politik sou èd entènasyonal ki destabilize kapasite leta. Malgre sa, menm jan ak tranblemanntè 12 Janvye a, nou ka wè gouvènman ayisyen an pa p ka byen reponn ni jere kriz sa a san sipò kominote entènasyonal la.

Fon Monetè Entènasyonal la ak Bank Mondyal di nan yon deklarasyon ke y ap ankouraje tout “kreditè bilateral yo pou yo kanpe peman dèt peyi IDA ki mande abstansyon.” Byen ke majorite det Ayiti a konsesyonèl (prè yo akòde a to ki swa trè piti oubyen ki a zewo), sponnsò bilateral ak miltilateral ta sipoze kanpe tout koleksyon ak sèvis sou dèt pandan pandemi sa a. BID deja anonse ke yo etabli yon fasilite prè espesyal pou peyi ki enpakte nan pandemi Kowonaviris la.

Fon Monetè Entènasyonal la gen posiblite pou li bay yon vèsman san presedan bay peyi k ap devlope tankou Ayiti, gras ak yon alokasyon spesyal (an angle li rele Special Drawing Rights – SDR). FMI poko deside sou sa men se yon bagay l ap konsidere. Poutèt Ayiti gen yon ti rezèv ak on depandans sou pwodui enpòte, alokasyon sa a t ap bay leta yon bourad ki nesesè anpil.

Li trè pwobab ke si kriz la pwolonje, l ap mete plis presyon sou yon sityasyon ensekirite alimantè frajil nan peyi a. Anpil timoun depann de pwogram manje lekòl yo ki anpil fwa finanse pa òganizasyon entènasyonal. Asistans entènasyonal ap enpòtan nan asire ke gouvènman an ap ka touche kouch popilasyon ki pi vilnerab yo, men fòk aktè entènasyonal yo fè atansyon pou yo pa repete menm erè yo fè deja. Asistans manje ta sipoze ajanse pou li asire pwokiman manje lokal epi pou li sipòte pwodiksyon nasyonal.

Devlopman pandemi Kowonaviris la an Ayiti mande aksyon imedya e konsète de aktè lokal ak entènasyonal, men nan yon peyi kote echèk asistans ak entèvansyon entènasyonal evidan, fòk moun ki konsène nan repons lan fè tout sa yo kapab pou asire yon pi bon fiti pou peyi a.

Jou ki te 19 Mas la, prezidan ayisyen Jovenel Moïse te konfime 2 premye ka Kowonaviris nan peyi a. Depi lè a, nimewo a ogmante a 8. Pou li reponn a sitiyasyon an, prezidan an deklare yon eta dijans sou peyi a; li mande pou tout lekòl, faktori, legliz, peristil, ak lòt espas relijye yo fèmen; li mete entèdiksyon pou moun soti ant 8è nan aswè ak 5è nan maten, epi li fèmen fwontyè peyi a. Gouvènman anonse demach sa yo apre li te finn kanpe tout vòl kap soti nan plizyè peyi.

Premye ka ki te repòte yo te soti nan de moun ki te vwayaje nan lòt peyi. Li enpòtan pou nou note ke leta pa gen anpil kapasite pou li fè tès yo. Mèkredi 25 Mas, te gen 58 tès ki te fèt nan tout peyi a selon dènye rapò epidemyolojik yo. Ministè Sante Piblik anonse yon plan 37.2 milyon dola ameriken pou li konbat pandemi sa a. Òganizasyon lokal ak entènasyonal deja kòmanse travay sou yon repons.

Apre près 2 lane manifestasyon san repons nan men gouvènman an, sitiyasyon ekonomik Ayiti a te rann lavi a difisil pou majorite popilasyon an. Goud la pèdi valè, to a kontinye monte e gouvènman an pako jwenn mwayen pou li ogmante lajan kap fè ekonomi a mache. Gouvènman ayisyen an pa gen anpil resous fiskal ki pou ede l fè fas a pandemi Kowonaviris sa a, e fanmi ayisyen yo ki te deja ap fè fas ak lavi chè ap kontinye viv san yo pa konn sa k ap tann yo demen.

Gen plizyè fasèt ki konplete youn lot nan repons a viris la nan peyi dayiti. Youn dwe konsantre sou sistèm sante peyi a epi kapasite l pou li detekte, trete, epi kontni viris la. Lòt la dwe gade kapasite gouvènman an pou li etabli e aplike lwa ki ankouraje distans sosyal. An sa ki gen rapò ak dezyèm fasèt sa, li enpòtan pou gouvènman an konsidere kijan popilasyon ayisyèn lan viv, entèraji epi siviv, pou lwa ak desizyon gouvènman an ka efektif nan kontni viris la, pwoteje popilasyon an epi asire ke li gen aksè a byen nesesè yo.

Nan moman an, ka ki repòte yo se ka enpòte, men avèk difikilte gouvènman ayisyen an ap genyen pou li enpoze yon karantèn, gen anpil chans pou COVID-19 la gaye nan peyi a. Menm ke deklarasyon eta dijans peyi a te nesesè, fòk efò yo pa kanpe la. Fòk gouvènman an bay pèp la bourad ak sipò legal pou travayè ak pòv yo epi lajan pou sistèm sante peyi a. Nan sans sa a, kominote entènasyonal la jwe yo gwo wòl. Bank Mondyal, Fon Monetè Entènasyonal ak lòt òganizasyon devlopman entènasyonal dwe libere resous pou Ayiti ak lòt peyi k ap devlope pou yo ka byen reponn a pandemi sa a.

Sistèm sante a

Depi avan pandemi Kowonaviris la te rive Ayiti, sistèm sante peyi a te deja gen gwo difikilte. Dapre yon etid ke Research and Education Consortium for Acute Care in Haiti (REACH) fè, Ayiti posede sèlman 124 kabann swen entansif ak 64 respiratè atifisyèl pou yon popilasyon ki gen plis pase 11 milyon moun. Lòt ekspè nan sante piblik Ayiti estime chif sa yo ka pi piti. Se yon gwo pwoblèm paske anpil ayisyen antre nan kategori moun ki a gran ris pou maladi sa a.

Depi kounye a, gen rapò ki sot nan Lopital Inivèsite Deta Ayiti (HUEH) ki di pa vreman gen preparasyon ni resous pou pwoteje moun k ap travay nan lopital yo. Sa se lakòz anpil moun refize travay. HUEH te youn nan edifis ki pou te rekonstwi ak lajan devlopman entènasyonal men apre plis pase 10 lane, plan sa yo poko reyalize.

Sistèm sante Ayiti a depann anpil de aktè prive, ONG epi asistans ak don entènasyonal. Dr. Youri Louis di jounal Haitian Times la ke depi 2013, 64 pousan nan bidjè lasante Ayiti a baze sou èd entènasyonal. Nan plizyè pati nan peyi a, aksè a swen soti sèlman nan ONG ak aktè ki pa nan leta.

Nan yon sistèm ki fragmante, fòk kowòdinasyon an byen fèt. Nan sans sa a, li bon anpil ke òganizasyon nasyonal ak entènasyonal deja ap rankontre pou diskite epi kowòdone mekanis repons. Moun ki enplike nan koze lasante an Ayiti kapab kowòdone repons yo pa rapò a jan yo te reponn epidemi Kolera a, ki te simayen nan peyi a apre sòlda Nasyon Zini te entwodui l nan peyi a. Menm ke repons a epidemi Kolera a pa t bon, dènye lane sa yo wè efò ki pi byen òganize e ki mennen kèk devlopman pozitif.

Sandra Wisner ki travay nan Enstiti pou Jistis ak Demokrasi an Ayiti (IJDH) di jounal Haitian Times la ke fòk repons gouvènman an bay kominote yo plis ankadreman:

Sa vle di aksè epi asire sèvis yo disponib poi kominote yo – kidonk rann tès, trasaj, ak tretman yo disponib kote moun yo ye; asire ke sant sante yo gen resous ak ekipman nesesè, e pou moun k ap travay sou teren yo gen resous yo bezwen pou yo bay pasyan yo bon jan sèvis.

Depi tranblemanntè 12 Janvye 2010 la, Ministè Sante Piblik la te toujou youn nan enstitisyon gouvènman an ki resevwa plis don. Malgre sa, on gwo pòsyon nan asistans entènasyonal la pa rive sipòte sistèm sante peyi a. Li enpòtan pou efò k ap devlope pou fè fas a kriz sa a akse sou ranfòse sistèm sante nasyon an. Byen ke nan 10 dènye lane yo vinn gen ti amelyorasyon, depans pou sante piblik ak nasyonal pako ase e li redui anpil tou

Nan kad batay kont COVID-19 la, gouvènman ayisyen fè apèl a peyi Kiba pou asistans li. Gouvènman an anonse ke te gen 348 profesyonel lasante Kiben nan peyi a pou ede a repons lan, anpil nan yo te deja nan peyi a nan kad asistans jeneral a lasante nan peyi a.

Ekonomi a

Byen avan Kowonaviris la rive nan peyi a, ekspè yo te deja prevwa ekonomi ayisyen an te pral redui de 1% pou chak moun an 2019. Desizyon gouvènman an pran pou li fèmen biznis pral ajoute plis difikilte ekonomik. Strès ekonomik Kowonaviris la ap afekte dyaspora a tou e li posib tou pou nou wè yon rediksyon nan lajan dyaspora a konn voye Ayiti tou, ki se yon gwo sous pou ekonomi peyi a. Ekonomi ayisyen an depann de vèsman sa yo ki yo menm ka redui pandan kominote dyaspora a fè fas a pwòp difikilte pa li ak karantèn epi biznis ki ap fèmen.

Jesyon kriz sa a ap vinn pi difisil paske ayisyen depann anpil de ekonomi enfòmèl la. 60 pousan popilasyon an viv ak mwens ke 2 dola ameriken chak jou. Malgre gouvènman an mande pou tout biznis fèmen, reyalite a se ke anpil moun depann de ekonomi enfòmèl la pou yo siviv.

Nan sans sa a, malgre anons gouvènman yo, mache ak transpò piblik kontinye fonksyone. Mank direktiv pou chofè ak pasaje yo enkyete jounalis nan peyi a. Menm si piblik la okouran de viris la, sa pa chanje anyen, popilasyon an kontinye itilize transpò piblik pou li deplase ak mache piblik pou li manje. Gen plizyè sendika transpòtasyon ki fè rekòmandasyon pou chofè yo redui kantite pasaje pou bis ak taxi pran, men malgre sa leta poko pran inisyativ klè pou li bay direktiv pou ranfòse rekòmandasyon sendika yo epi jere koze transpòtasyon an.

Pandan gouvènman an mande pou tout faktori fèmen tou, li pako klè si gouvènman an ap bay sipò finansye bay travayè yo ki pral afekte. Antèn Ouvriye, ki se yon òganizasyon ki reprezante ouvriye ki travay nan fakotri, kritike gouvènman an poutet li pap asire salè yo pandan faktori yo fèmen. Mèkredi 25 Mas, Premye Minis Joseph Jouthe te anonse ke travayè piblik ak moun ki travay nan sektè tekstil la t ap resevwa lajan pou on mwa men li pako klè kilè sa t ap rive ni ki kantite lajan leta dispoze pou inisyativ sa a.

Pou li ka asire ke kominote yo ka pran aksyon pou yo pwoteje tet yo, fòk gouvènman an kontinye bay sèvis de baz tankou aksè a manje, dlo epi kouran. Kèk peyi deja kòmanse demach ki nesesè epi ogmante depans leta nan sèvis de baz ak pwogram sosyal. Anpil nan yo priyorize sibvansyone salè travayè yo epi lòt deja kòmanse distribye manje bay moun ki depann de aktivite jounalye pou yo siviv. Byen ke resous Ayiti limite, fòk repons gouvènman an gen mezi ladan l pou bay popilasyon an yon souf ekonomik, espesyalman pou machann, ouvriye, ak ti komèsan ki depann anpil sou ekonomi enfòmèl la pou yo viv.

Malgre tou, leta ayisyen depann anpil sou lwa fiskal tankou ogmante kredi atravè bank santral epi f on ti lage sou orè peman, byen ke s on bon bagay, demach sa yo pa p gen gwo enpak sou majorite ayisyen. Si pa gen vre asistans entènasyonal,  gouvènman an ka pa gen resous fiskal nesesè pou li asiste popilasyon an kòrèkteman nan kriz sa a.

Fenomèn monte pri a deja kòmanse e l ap mete plis strès sou yon popilasyon ki deja frajil. Youn nan rezon ki lakòz sa se ke chèn distribisyon manje an Ayiti repoze anpil sou manje enpòte, ki gendwa vin pi difisil pou jwenn nan sitiyasyon moman an. Pandan gouvènman an asire ke ap gen distribisyon manje, fòk li priyorize regilasyon pri manje yo tou pou yo pa monte twòp epi pwoteje moun k ap achte manje. Sa t ap on bon opòtinite pou leta envesti nan sektè agrikilti peyi a, sa t ap on rezon pou stabilize lavi agrikiltè ak machann epi yon bon opòtinite pou ranfòse pwodiskyon nasyonal.

Èd entènasyonal

Li enperatif pou nou rekonèt ke enkapasite pou leta ayisyen byen reponn a kriz sa relye a yon listwa dominasyon, okipasyon ak eksplwatasyon entènasyonal, an plis de plizyè lane move politik sou èd entènasyonal ki destabilize kapasite leta. Malgre sa, menm jan ak tranblemanntè 12 Janvye a, nou ka wè gouvènman ayisyen an pa p ka byen reponn ni jere kriz sa a san sipò kominote entènasyonal la.

Fon Monetè Entènasyonal la ak Bank Mondyal di nan yon deklarasyon ke y ap ankouraje tout “kreditè bilateral yo pou yo kanpe peman dèt peyi IDA ki mande abstansyon.” Byen ke majorite det Ayiti a konsesyonèl (prè yo akòde a to ki swa trè piti oubyen ki a zewo), sponnsò bilateral ak miltilateral ta sipoze kanpe tout koleksyon ak sèvis sou dèt pandan pandemi sa a. BID deja anonse ke yo etabli yon fasilite prè espesyal pou peyi ki enpakte nan pandemi Kowonaviris la.

Fon Monetè Entènasyonal la gen posiblite pou li bay yon vèsman san presedan bay peyi k ap devlope tankou Ayiti, gras ak yon alokasyon spesyal (an angle li rele Special Drawing Rights – SDR). FMI poko deside sou sa men se yon bagay l ap konsidere. Poutèt Ayiti gen yon ti rezèv ak on depandans sou pwodui enpòte, alokasyon sa a t ap bay leta yon bourad ki nesesè anpil.

Li trè pwobab ke si kriz la pwolonje, l ap mete plis presyon sou yon sityasyon ensekirite alimantè frajil nan peyi a. Anpil timoun depann de pwogram manje lekòl yo ki anpil fwa finanse pa òganizasyon entènasyonal. Asistans entènasyonal ap enpòtan nan asire ke gouvènman an ap ka touche kouch popilasyon ki pi vilnerab yo, men fòk aktè entènasyonal yo fè atansyon pou yo pa repete menm erè yo fè deja. Asistans manje ta sipoze ajanse pou li asire pwokiman manje lokal epi pou li sipòte pwodiksyon nasyonal.

Devlopman pandemi Kowonaviris la an Ayiti mande aksyon imedya e konsète de aktè lokal ak entènasyonal, men nan yon peyi kote echèk asistans ak entèvansyon entènasyonal evidan, fòk moun ki konsène nan repons lan fè tout sa yo kapab pou asire yon pi bon fiti pou peyi a.

On March 19, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse confirmed the first two cases of the novel coronavirus in Haiti. The number has since increased to eight. In response, the president has declared a state of emergency and ordered schools, factories, and religious entities to close; established a curfew; and closed the country’s borders. The government announced the new policies after previously suspending air travel from most countries.  

The initial reported cases both related to individuals who had traveled internationally. There has, however, only been limited local testing. As of March 25, 58 tests had been administered nationwide, according to the latest epidemiological update. The Ministry of Health has outlined a plan to combat the pandemic in Haiti, estimating a budget of $37.2 million. Already, international and local organizations have been meeting to coordinate the response.

After nearly two years of sustained protests and government inaction, the economic situation in Haiti has already made life exceedingly difficult for the vast majority of the population. The currency has rapidly depreciated, inflation has remained elevated, and the government has been unable to increase revenues domestically or through international assistance. The Haitian government has few fiscal resources to draw upon in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and Haitian families, many already pushed to the edge, are facing an increasingly perilous future. 

There are multiple complementary aspects of the response to this virus in Haiti. One centers on the health care system and the ability to adequately detect, treat, and contain the virus. The other relates to the government’s ability to establish and enforce policies that encourage physical distancing. In addressing the latter, it is important to consider how the Haitian population interacts, lives, and survives in order to implement effective policies to contain the virus, protect the population, and ensure access to essential goods.

The cases reported have so far been marked as imported, but with the difficulties of enforcing a sustained national quarantine, Haiti is facing the very real risk of COVID-19 spreading locally. While declaring a state of emergency nationwide was a necessary step, it needs to be boosted by provisions for workers and the poor, and allocations for the health care system. The international community must also play a role, with the World Bank, IMF, and other multilateral development organizations immediately freeing up resources for Haiti and other developing nations to respond to the pandemic.  

The Health Care System

Prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Haiti’s health care system faced many challenges. According to a 2019 study by the Research and Education consortium for Acute Care in Haiti (REACH), Haiti only has an estimated 124 ICU beds and 64 ventilators for a population of more than 11 million. Other public health experts have put those figures even lower. This is a serious concern, especially given the relatively high proportion of the population considered to be at an elevated risk.

Already, there have been reports from the State University Hospital (HUEH) of inadequate preparation and supplies of protective equipment, which has led to some health professionals refusing to work. The HUEH was one of the marquee post-quake international reconstruction projects, but, more than ten years later, those plans remain mostly unrealized.

Haiti’s health care system overall is extremely reliant on private actors, including foreign assistance and NGOs. Dr. Youri Louis told the Haitian Times that, as of 2013, 64 percent of Haiti’s health budget derived from international assistance. In many parts of the country, access to health care is only provided by nonstate actors.

In such a fragmented system, coordination will be critical. In this regard, it is positive that national and international organizations are already meeting and discussing coordinated response mechanisms. Health actors in Haiti can draw upon their experiences combatting the cholera epidemic, which spread in Haiti after its introduction by United Nations troops in 2010. While the response to cholera was woefully inadequate, more coordinated and concerted efforts in recent years have led to some positive developments. As Sandra Wisner of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti told the Haitian Times, empowering communities must be a key aspect of any successful response:

This includes access and ensuring services are available to communities ― so having available where people are, tracing, treatment; health facilities resources with the necessary supplies, and ensuring front line workers have the resources and tools they need to provide safe and effective care and treatment for patients.

Since the 2010 earthquake, the Haitian Ministry of Health has been one of the only government institutions that has received direct donor support. Nevertheless, a significant portion of foreign assistance bypasses national health systems. It is vitally important that efforts to respond to the current pandemic also focus on strengthening the government’s health care infrastructure. Though some improvements have been evident over the previous decade, national health spending remains woefully inadequate and has actually decreased in recent years

The government has also appealed to Cuba for assistance in fighting the pandemic. The government announced there were 348 Cuban health professionals in the country to respond, many of whom were already in the country as part of Cuba’s decades-long assistance in providing health care in Haiti.

The Economy

Even before the arrival of the novel coronavirus, the Haitian economy was projected to shrink by 1 percent on a per capita basis in 2019. The government’s directive to close businesses will bring additional economic hardship. Remittances, on which the Haitian economy relies, may also see a reduction as diaspora communities struggle in their own communities with quarantines and business closures. 

Haitians’ reliance on the informal economy will make responding to the crisis even more difficult. Some 60 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Though the government has directed businesses to close, the reality is that many rely on the informal economy to survive.

In this regard, despite the government’s announcements, public markets and public transportation continue to operate. Local journalists have raised concerns about the lack of guidelines for drivers and passengers. While the public might be aware of the virus, most people still depend on public transportation and public markets to survive and get around. Unions have taken the lead by recommending a reduction in the number of passengers allowed on taxis and buses, but there has yet to be any clear initiative from the state to enforce the unions’ recommendations and regulate transportation. 

While the government has ordered factories closed, it is unclear what, if any, financial support from the government will go to impacted workers. Antèn Ouvriye, an organization representing factory subcontractors, has criticized the government for not ensuring salaries will continue to be paid during closures. On March 25, de facto prime minister Joseph Jouthe announced that public workers and those working in the textile industry would receive one month of wages; however, it remains unclear exactly when that would take place and how much the government will be able to afford. 

In order to ensure communities are able to take action to protect themselves and are able to stay at home, the government must act to provide the resources necessary to sustain people’s livelihoods, including access to food and water. Some countries have acted to reinforce and increase government spending on essential services and social safety net policies. Some have prioritized subsidizing revenue by ensuring salaries are maintained, while others are providing meals to those who rely on daily activities for their basic needs. Although Haiti’s resources are limited, the government response needs to incorporate economic relief for the population, especially for street vendors, factory workers, and small business owners, many of whom rely on the informal economy to make a living.

The government, however, has thus far relied on monetary policy ― increasing access to credit through the central bank and relaxing repayment schedules. This, however, is likely to have only a limited impact for the vast majority of Haitians. Without greater international assistance, it is unlikely the government will have the fiscal resources available to properly support the population throughout the crisis.

Price gouging has already started, putting a strain on an already fragile population. This is partly due to the fact that the Haitian food supply depends largely on imports, which are likely to decline during the current situation. While the government has announced measures to ensure food distribution, it must make a priority of protecting consumers from price spikes. This also presents an opportunity to invest in and expand the agricultural sector, which could provide stability for farmers and sellers, and increase national production.

International Aid

It is imperative to recognize that the Haitian state’s inability to adequately respond to the crisis is tied to a legacy of foreign domination, occupation, and exploitation, and to decades of foreign aid policies that have eroded the state’s capacity. Nevertheless, it is increasingly clear, as with the 2010 earthquake, that the Haitian government will not be able to adequately respond to the current crisis without increased support from the international community. 

The IMF and the World Bank have issued a statement urging “all official bilateral creditors to suspend debt payments from IDA countries that request forbearance.” Though most of Haiti’s debt is concessional (loans provided at very low or even zero interest rates), bilateral and multilateral donors should immediately suspend any debt servicing requirements for the duration of the pandemic. The Inter-American Development Bank has also announced a special lending facility for countries impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The IMF could also provide an unprecedented influx of reserve assets to developing countries, including Haiti, through a Special Drawing Rights allocation. The IMF is reportedly considering this. With its dwindling reserves and reliance on the importation of goods, such a boost would be extremely valuable to Haiti.

It is also likely that a prolonged crisis will exacerbate an already fragile food security situation in much of the country. Many children rely on school feeding programs, which are often funded by international organizations. International assistance will be key in ensuring the government is able to reach the most vulnerable in responding to the pandemic, but international actors must be wary of repeating past mistakes. Food assistance should be designed to ensure local procurement of available goods, and to support investment in national production.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic in Haiti requires immediate and concerted action by local and international actors; but in a country where the failures of international assistance and intervention are so readily apparent, those involved in the response must make every effort to ensure a more sustainable future.

On March 19, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse confirmed the first two cases of the novel coronavirus in Haiti. The number has since increased to eight. In response, the president has declared a state of emergency and ordered schools, factories, and religious entities to close; established a curfew; and closed the country’s borders. The government announced the new policies after previously suspending air travel from most countries.  

The initial reported cases both related to individuals who had traveled internationally. There has, however, only been limited local testing. As of March 25, 58 tests had been administered nationwide, according to the latest epidemiological update. The Ministry of Health has outlined a plan to combat the pandemic in Haiti, estimating a budget of $37.2 million. Already, international and local organizations have been meeting to coordinate the response.

After nearly two years of sustained protests and government inaction, the economic situation in Haiti has already made life exceedingly difficult for the vast majority of the population. The currency has rapidly depreciated, inflation has remained elevated, and the government has been unable to increase revenues domestically or through international assistance. The Haitian government has few fiscal resources to draw upon in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and Haitian families, many already pushed to the edge, are facing an increasingly perilous future. 

There are multiple complementary aspects of the response to this virus in Haiti. One centers on the health care system and the ability to adequately detect, treat, and contain the virus. The other relates to the government’s ability to establish and enforce policies that encourage physical distancing. In addressing the latter, it is important to consider how the Haitian population interacts, lives, and survives in order to implement effective policies to contain the virus, protect the population, and ensure access to essential goods.

The cases reported have so far been marked as imported, but with the difficulties of enforcing a sustained national quarantine, Haiti is facing the very real risk of COVID-19 spreading locally. While declaring a state of emergency nationwide was a necessary step, it needs to be boosted by provisions for workers and the poor, and allocations for the health care system. The international community must also play a role, with the World Bank, IMF, and other multilateral development organizations immediately freeing up resources for Haiti and other developing nations to respond to the pandemic.  

The Health Care System

Prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Haiti’s health care system faced many challenges. According to a 2019 study by the Research and Education consortium for Acute Care in Haiti (REACH), Haiti only has an estimated 124 ICU beds and 64 ventilators for a population of more than 11 million. Other public health experts have put those figures even lower. This is a serious concern, especially given the relatively high proportion of the population considered to be at an elevated risk.

Already, there have been reports from the State University Hospital (HUEH) of inadequate preparation and supplies of protective equipment, which has led to some health professionals refusing to work. The HUEH was one of the marquee post-quake international reconstruction projects, but, more than ten years later, those plans remain mostly unrealized.

Haiti’s health care system overall is extremely reliant on private actors, including foreign assistance and NGOs. Dr. Youri Louis told the Haitian Times that, as of 2013, 64 percent of Haiti’s health budget derived from international assistance. In many parts of the country, access to health care is only provided by nonstate actors.

In such a fragmented system, coordination will be critical. In this regard, it is positive that national and international organizations are already meeting and discussing coordinated response mechanisms. Health actors in Haiti can draw upon their experiences combatting the cholera epidemic, which spread in Haiti after its introduction by United Nations troops in 2010. While the response to cholera was woefully inadequate, more coordinated and concerted efforts in recent years have led to some positive developments. As Sandra Wisner of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti told the Haitian Times, empowering communities must be a key aspect of any successful response:

This includes access and ensuring services are available to communities ― so having available where people are, tracing, treatment; health facilities resources with the necessary supplies, and ensuring front line workers have the resources and tools they need to provide safe and effective care and treatment for patients.

Since the 2010 earthquake, the Haitian Ministry of Health has been one of the only government institutions that has received direct donor support. Nevertheless, a significant portion of foreign assistance bypasses national health systems. It is vitally important that efforts to respond to the current pandemic also focus on strengthening the government’s health care infrastructure. Though some improvements have been evident over the previous decade, national health spending remains woefully inadequate and has actually decreased in recent years

The government has also appealed to Cuba for assistance in fighting the pandemic. The government announced there were 348 Cuban health professionals in the country to respond, many of whom were already in the country as part of Cuba’s decades-long assistance in providing health care in Haiti.

The Economy

Even before the arrival of the novel coronavirus, the Haitian economy was projected to shrink by 1 percent on a per capita basis in 2019. The government’s directive to close businesses will bring additional economic hardship. Remittances, on which the Haitian economy relies, may also see a reduction as diaspora communities struggle in their own communities with quarantines and business closures. 

Haitians’ reliance on the informal economy will make responding to the crisis even more difficult. Some 60 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Though the government has directed businesses to close, the reality is that many rely on the informal economy to survive.

In this regard, despite the government’s announcements, public markets and public transportation continue to operate. Local journalists have raised concerns about the lack of guidelines for drivers and passengers. While the public might be aware of the virus, most people still depend on public transportation and public markets to survive and get around. Unions have taken the lead by recommending a reduction in the number of passengers allowed on taxis and buses, but there has yet to be any clear initiative from the state to enforce the unions’ recommendations and regulate transportation. 

While the government has ordered factories closed, it is unclear what, if any, financial support from the government will go to impacted workers. Antèn Ouvriye, an organization representing factory subcontractors, has criticized the government for not ensuring salaries will continue to be paid during closures. On March 25, de facto prime minister Joseph Jouthe announced that public workers and those working in the textile industry would receive one month of wages; however, it remains unclear exactly when that would take place and how much the government will be able to afford. 

In order to ensure communities are able to take action to protect themselves and are able to stay at home, the government must act to provide the resources necessary to sustain people’s livelihoods, including access to food and water. Some countries have acted to reinforce and increase government spending on essential services and social safety net policies. Some have prioritized subsidizing revenue by ensuring salaries are maintained, while others are providing meals to those who rely on daily activities for their basic needs. Although Haiti’s resources are limited, the government response needs to incorporate economic relief for the population, especially for street vendors, factory workers, and small business owners, many of whom rely on the informal economy to make a living.

The government, however, has thus far relied on monetary policy ― increasing access to credit through the central bank and relaxing repayment schedules. This, however, is likely to have only a limited impact for the vast majority of Haitians. Without greater international assistance, it is unlikely the government will have the fiscal resources available to properly support the population throughout the crisis.

Price gouging has already started, putting a strain on an already fragile population. This is partly due to the fact that the Haitian food supply depends largely on imports, which are likely to decline during the current situation. While the government has announced measures to ensure food distribution, it must make a priority of protecting consumers from price spikes. This also presents an opportunity to invest in and expand the agricultural sector, which could provide stability for farmers and sellers, and increase national production.

International Aid

It is imperative to recognize that the Haitian state’s inability to adequately respond to the crisis is tied to a legacy of foreign domination, occupation, and exploitation, and to decades of foreign aid policies that have eroded the state’s capacity. Nevertheless, it is increasingly clear, as with the 2010 earthquake, that the Haitian government will not be able to adequately respond to the current crisis without increased support from the international community. 

The IMF and the World Bank have issued a statement urging “all official bilateral creditors to suspend debt payments from IDA countries that request forbearance.” Though most of Haiti’s debt is concessional (loans provided at very low or even zero interest rates), bilateral and multilateral donors should immediately suspend any debt servicing requirements for the duration of the pandemic. The Inter-American Development Bank has also announced a special lending facility for countries impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The IMF could also provide an unprecedented influx of reserve assets to developing countries, including Haiti, through a Special Drawing Rights allocation. The IMF is reportedly considering this. With its dwindling reserves and reliance on the importation of goods, such a boost would be extremely valuable to Haiti.

It is also likely that a prolonged crisis will exacerbate an already fragile food security situation in much of the country. Many children rely on school feeding programs, which are often funded by international organizations. International assistance will be key in ensuring the government is able to reach the most vulnerable in responding to the pandemic, but international actors must be wary of repeating past mistakes. Food assistance should be designed to ensure local procurement of available goods, and to support investment in national production.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic in Haiti requires immediate and concerted action by local and international actors; but in a country where the failures of international assistance and intervention are so readily apparent, those involved in the response must make every effort to ensure a more sustainable future.

On February 20, the UN Security Council held a meeting to discuss the situation in Haiti. The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports: 

Both U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ representative in Haiti, Helen La Lime, and Marie Yolene Gilles, a leading human rights activist in the country, painted a climate of deteriorating human rights and disappearing rule of law. Gilles said Haitians are subject to raging malnutrition, kidnappings for ransom, rapes and gang violence that have forced the courts in Port-au-Prince to be closed since September.

“The two associations of magistrates in the country have deserted the tribunals until safety returns,” she said.

Gilles, who heads the human rights group La Fondasyon Je Klere [FJKL], said while there are 23 known armed gangs in the capital, around a third of Haiti is under gang control.

La Lime, who heads the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), had hoped to arrive at the Security Council meeting bearing news of progress in long-stalled efforts to break the political deadlock in Haiti. However, in nearly two years of protests and political conflict, the Haitian government and international actors have failed to lead meaningful talks. At the Security Council, La Lime once again appealed for all political actors to enter into dialogue. While supporting those efforts, ambassadors from the United States, France, and Germany, among others, called for the timely planning of legislative elections — and the prioritization of elections over constitutional reform, the latter of which President Jovenel Moïse began promoting after parliamentary terms expired in January. 

“The Haitian people must have a voice in selecting its leaders. And further, while constitutional reforms are necessary and welcomed, they must not become a pretext to delay elections,” US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Kraft said.

Incidentally, the UN Security Council met a few days after BINUH and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) released a report on gang violence and human rights abuses in the popular Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bel Air. This report detailed events that took place last year between November 4 and 6. Bel Air residents had erected barricades and participated in a two-month period of protests known as “Peyi Lock.” According to the UN report, three different gang leaders entered Bel Air in an attempt to get residents to remove barricades in exchange for money. Those efforts failed, and were followed by a series of attacks over a period of three days. 

More than 50 armed men were seen opening fire on civilians and setting fire to private vehicles and at least 30 homes, the UN found. At least three people were killed and six were wounded. Local rights organizations have put the toll even higher

The violence in Bel Air, as Gilles told the Security Council, was not a new development. Local rights organizations, including Gilles’s FJKL, have documented a series of violent attacks, often with the involvement of police officers, in popular neighborhoods throughout the capital. In the case of Bel Air, the UN report mentioned the presence of at least three police officers, signaling that there were political motives behind this attack. 

The UN report also alleged that a former police officer, Jimmy Cherizier, also known as “Barbecue,” led the November Bel Air attacks. Local human rights organizations, as well as the UN itself, have also alleged the involvement of Barbecue in the La Saline massacre in November 2018, in which dozens of civilians were massacred. More than 100 members of the US Congress condemned that attack in early 2019. 

The UN report notes: 

… more than a year after the fact, the lack of progress is particularly worrying and the involvement of Jimmy Cherizier, alias Barbecue, in other similar acts demonstrates the direct impact of impunity on the recurrence of violence and on the population. Of the thirteen recommendations made in the June 2019 report on the La Saline case, none has been fully implemented. 

But while the UN is now calling for an end to impunity and the political protection that perpetuates it, the organization’s own record reveals the shallowness of these pleas. 

In November 2017, UN police officers “secured the perimeter” of a school in the Grand Ravine neighborhood of Port-au-Prince as part of a joint raid with the Haitian police. Inside that school, Haitian police officers, including Jimmy Cherizier, massacred nine civilians. 

That Cherizier has been able to continue to operate, and led the raid on Bel Air even after his involvement in two previous massacres, is a testimony to the privilege of immunity that many politically protected gangs enjoy. These reports show that gangs have unlimited access to a supply chain of both arms and money when it comes to political repression and violence. But the UN’s own actions relating to Cherizier reveal the hypocrisy of their recent calls for accountability, and may point to one of the reasons the institution has failed to play a productive role in the current situation. 

In early 2018, Susan Page, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) and head of the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), applauded progress made in regard to the Petrocaribe investigation and called for accountability for the victims of the Grand Ravine massacre. She was seriously criticized by the Haitian government and the UN quickly acquiesced, replacing Page with Helen La Lime. 

In its report on Bel Air and at the Security Council meeting last week, officials pushed for accountability and a more consistent fight against impunity in Haiti. But the road to empowering local authorities and institutions must start with the culture of impunity within international institutions. UN police were involved in the raid that resulted in Cherizier and other officials massacring nine civilians in 2017, but violent UN raids are not simply a recent phenomenon. After the deployment of thousands of foreign military soldiers to Haiti in 2004, UN troops repeatedly led raids into poor neighborhoods of the capital, often resulting in civilian deaths. Though the Dominican Republic’s representative to the UN pointed to recent violent actions as the “result” of the departure of UN soldiers in 2017, the more appropriate lesson is that a policy of combating violence with violence has been an abject failure. 

The UN’s credibility crisis, however, goes even deeper. It took six years for the UN to accept any responsibility for introducing cholera in 2010, which has since killed at least 10,000 Haitians and sickened hundreds of thousands more. The UN has still failed to properly respond to the epidemic. 

Far from addressing root causes, the billions the UN spent on “peacekeepers” in Haiti has instead consolidated a political and economic system that bears significant responsibility for the on-going violence and instability of the country. 

That the UN is now willing to expressly call for accountability in response to incidents such as Bel Air may be a positive development, but it must also be deepened to reflect a recognition of the responsibility of international organizations. This entails depicting a more complete picture of repeated attacks on popular neighborhoods. The police force in Haiti continues to be politicized with the tacit support of international actors, who have supported it with billions of dollars.  Meanwhile the institution has proven itself more at the service of the sitting government than the population it is meant to protect. 

An honest accounting of the violence in Haiti must also address the political and economic elite who sponsor these violent outbursts with arms, money, and protection — a phenomenon that transcends political affiliation. Nevertheless, the UN investigations into the massacres of La Saline and Bel Air, as well as research by local human rights organizations, make abundantly clear the relationship between the current government and its allies and the ongoing repression in popular neighborhoods throughout the capital. 

To move forward, the international community must first recognize its own role in stoking Haiti’s current political, economic, and social crisis. Until they do, international calls for accountability — and pleas for dialogue — will continue to ring hollow. 

On February 20, the UN Security Council held a meeting to discuss the situation in Haiti. The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports: 

Both U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ representative in Haiti, Helen La Lime, and Marie Yolene Gilles, a leading human rights activist in the country, painted a climate of deteriorating human rights and disappearing rule of law. Gilles said Haitians are subject to raging malnutrition, kidnappings for ransom, rapes and gang violence that have forced the courts in Port-au-Prince to be closed since September.

“The two associations of magistrates in the country have deserted the tribunals until safety returns,” she said.

Gilles, who heads the human rights group La Fondasyon Je Klere [FJKL], said while there are 23 known armed gangs in the capital, around a third of Haiti is under gang control.

La Lime, who heads the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), had hoped to arrive at the Security Council meeting bearing news of progress in long-stalled efforts to break the political deadlock in Haiti. However, in nearly two years of protests and political conflict, the Haitian government and international actors have failed to lead meaningful talks. At the Security Council, La Lime once again appealed for all political actors to enter into dialogue. While supporting those efforts, ambassadors from the United States, France, and Germany, among others, called for the timely planning of legislative elections — and the prioritization of elections over constitutional reform, the latter of which President Jovenel Moïse began promoting after parliamentary terms expired in January. 

“The Haitian people must have a voice in selecting its leaders. And further, while constitutional reforms are necessary and welcomed, they must not become a pretext to delay elections,” US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Kraft said.

Incidentally, the UN Security Council met a few days after BINUH and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) released a report on gang violence and human rights abuses in the popular Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bel Air. This report detailed events that took place last year between November 4 and 6. Bel Air residents had erected barricades and participated in a two-month period of protests known as “Peyi Lock.” According to the UN report, three different gang leaders entered Bel Air in an attempt to get residents to remove barricades in exchange for money. Those efforts failed, and were followed by a series of attacks over a period of three days. 

More than 50 armed men were seen opening fire on civilians and setting fire to private vehicles and at least 30 homes, the UN found. At least three people were killed and six were wounded. Local rights organizations have put the toll even higher

The violence in Bel Air, as Gilles told the Security Council, was not a new development. Local rights organizations, including Gilles’s FJKL, have documented a series of violent attacks, often with the involvement of police officers, in popular neighborhoods throughout the capital. In the case of Bel Air, the UN report mentioned the presence of at least three police officers, signaling that there were political motives behind this attack. 

The UN report also alleged that a former police officer, Jimmy Cherizier, also known as “Barbecue,” led the November Bel Air attacks. Local human rights organizations, as well as the UN itself, have also alleged the involvement of Barbecue in the La Saline massacre in November 2018, in which dozens of civilians were massacred. More than 100 members of the US Congress condemned that attack in early 2019. 

The UN report notes: 

… more than a year after the fact, the lack of progress is particularly worrying and the involvement of Jimmy Cherizier, alias Barbecue, in other similar acts demonstrates the direct impact of impunity on the recurrence of violence and on the population. Of the thirteen recommendations made in the June 2019 report on the La Saline case, none has been fully implemented. 

But while the UN is now calling for an end to impunity and the political protection that perpetuates it, the organization’s own record reveals the shallowness of these pleas. 

In November 2017, UN police officers “secured the perimeter” of a school in the Grand Ravine neighborhood of Port-au-Prince as part of a joint raid with the Haitian police. Inside that school, Haitian police officers, including Jimmy Cherizier, massacred nine civilians. 

That Cherizier has been able to continue to operate, and led the raid on Bel Air even after his involvement in two previous massacres, is a testimony to the privilege of immunity that many politically protected gangs enjoy. These reports show that gangs have unlimited access to a supply chain of both arms and money when it comes to political repression and violence. But the UN’s own actions relating to Cherizier reveal the hypocrisy of their recent calls for accountability, and may point to one of the reasons the institution has failed to play a productive role in the current situation. 

In early 2018, Susan Page, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) and head of the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), applauded progress made in regard to the Petrocaribe investigation and called for accountability for the victims of the Grand Ravine massacre. She was seriously criticized by the Haitian government and the UN quickly acquiesced, replacing Page with Helen La Lime. 

In its report on Bel Air and at the Security Council meeting last week, officials pushed for accountability and a more consistent fight against impunity in Haiti. But the road to empowering local authorities and institutions must start with the culture of impunity within international institutions. UN police were involved in the raid that resulted in Cherizier and other officials massacring nine civilians in 2017, but violent UN raids are not simply a recent phenomenon. After the deployment of thousands of foreign military soldiers to Haiti in 2004, UN troops repeatedly led raids into poor neighborhoods of the capital, often resulting in civilian deaths. Though the Dominican Republic’s representative to the UN pointed to recent violent actions as the “result” of the departure of UN soldiers in 2017, the more appropriate lesson is that a policy of combating violence with violence has been an abject failure. 

The UN’s credibility crisis, however, goes even deeper. It took six years for the UN to accept any responsibility for introducing cholera in 2010, which has since killed at least 10,000 Haitians and sickened hundreds of thousands more. The UN has still failed to properly respond to the epidemic. 

Far from addressing root causes, the billions the UN spent on “peacekeepers” in Haiti has instead consolidated a political and economic system that bears significant responsibility for the on-going violence and instability of the country. 

That the UN is now willing to expressly call for accountability in response to incidents such as Bel Air may be a positive development, but it must also be deepened to reflect a recognition of the responsibility of international organizations. This entails depicting a more complete picture of repeated attacks on popular neighborhoods. The police force in Haiti continues to be politicized with the tacit support of international actors, who have supported it with billions of dollars.  Meanwhile the institution has proven itself more at the service of the sitting government than the population it is meant to protect. 

An honest accounting of the violence in Haiti must also address the political and economic elite who sponsor these violent outbursts with arms, money, and protection — a phenomenon that transcends political affiliation. Nevertheless, the UN investigations into the massacres of La Saline and Bel Air, as well as research by local human rights organizations, make abundantly clear the relationship between the current government and its allies and the ongoing repression in popular neighborhoods throughout the capital. 

To move forward, the international community must first recognize its own role in stoking Haiti’s current political, economic, and social crisis. Until they do, international calls for accountability — and pleas for dialogue — will continue to ring hollow. 

Magnitude of earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010: 7.0 Years since an earthquake of that magnitude struck Haiti: 168 Number of aftershocks, over 4.5 magnitude, in the week after the initial tremor: 51
Magnitude of earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010: 7.0 Years since an earthquake of that magnitude struck Haiti: 168 Number of aftershocks, over 4.5 magnitude, in the week after the initial tremor: 51
In August 2015, President Michel Martelly inaugurated the Delmas viaduct, a four-lane overpass designed to ease the capital’s grid-locked streets. “This viaduct proves once again that together we can achieve great and beautiful things,” Martelly told the
In August 2015, President Michel Martelly inaugurated the Delmas viaduct, a four-lane overpass designed to ease the capital’s grid-locked streets. “This viaduct proves once again that together we can achieve great and beautiful things,” Martelly told the

On February 17, Haitian police arrested seven Blackwater-like security contractors a few blocks from the country’s Central Bank. Driving in unmarked vehicles and transporting semi-automatic rifles, drones, and other tactical equipment, the contractors claimed to be on a government mission. Four days later the US “rescued” them. None are expected to face charges.

Over the course of just a few days, the case took on political significance much greater than the detention and release of the contractors. The chain of events initiated by the detention revealed the weakness of the nation’s justice system and the precariousness of the current Haitian administration; it exposed the close ties between criminal networks and the ruling party; and casts doubt on the idea that this was a simple security operation gone wrong.

Launch the investigation below.

Nan kreyòl

Our Boss Will Call Your Boss
An investigation into American security contractors arrested in Haiti and their “rescue” by the US government

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On February 17, Haitian police arrested seven Blackwater-like security contractors a few blocks from the country’s Central Bank. Driving in unmarked vehicles and transporting semi-automatic rifles, drones, and other tactical equipment, the contractors claimed to be on a government mission. Four days later the US “rescued” them. None are expected to face charges.

Over the course of just a few days, the case took on political significance much greater than the detention and release of the contractors. The chain of events initiated by the detention revealed the weakness of the nation’s justice system and the precariousness of the current Haitian administration; it exposed the close ties between criminal networks and the ruling party; and casts doubt on the idea that this was a simple security operation gone wrong.

Launch the investigation below.

Nan kreyòl

Our Boss Will Call Your Boss
An investigation into American security contractors arrested in Haiti and their “rescue” by the US government

Enter

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