Friday, November 25, 2011

Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake

In January 2012, Mark Schuller and Pablo Morales will be putting out Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake - a critical and important review of what happened in Haiti outside of the mainstream media coverage. I was lucky enough to contribute on two chapters to the book.

Here is the description:

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti’s capital on January 12, 2010 will be remembered as one of the world’s deadliest disasters. The earthquake was a tragedy that gripped the nation – and the world. But as a disaster it also magnified the social ills that have beset this island nation which sits squarely in the U.S.’s diplomatic and geopolitical shadow. Particularly, the quake exposed centuries of underdevelopment and recent economic policies and the rampant inequality and exclusion within Haiti.

Tectonic Shifts offers a diverse on-the-ground set of perspectives about Haiti’s cataclysmic earthquake and the aftermath that left more than 1.5 million individuals homeless. Following a critical analysis of Haiti’s heightened vulnerability as a result of centuries of foreign policy and most recently neo-liberal economic policies, this book addresses a range of contemporary realities, foreign impositions and political changes that occurred during the relief and reconstruction periods.

Analysis of these realities offers tools for engaged, principled reflection and action. Essays by scholars, journalists, and activists, Haitians still on the island and those in the diaspora, highlight the many struggles that the Haitian people face today, providing lessons not only for those impacted and involved in relief, but for people engaged in struggles for justice and transformation in other parts of the world.

Universal Human Rights Conference: 500th Anniversary of Antonio de Montesinos

UHR Human Rights 500 Poster[1](1)

On December 3rd I will be presenting on MINUSTAH's role in engaging in human rights in Haiti with Dr. Rishi Rattan @ George Mason University.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Coups, free trade and human rights

Public Forum

Coups, free trade and human rights

The changing face of Canadian foreign policy in Latin America and the Caribbean

Guest speakers:

BETTY MATAMOROS: A Honduran based social activist and representative of the Central American coordination of the Hemispheric Social Alliance, specifically as part of their campaign "Foreign Military Bases out of Latin America - We are a Region of Peace." She has been organizing with social movements regionally on trade and militarization issues for decades and has been key in building international solidarity with the non-violent resistance movement in Honduras that emerged following the coup d'état in June of 2009. She is the former international relations coordinator of the Honduras National Resistance Front, FNRP. She has traveled throughout the Americas and Europe speaking about the situation in Honduras since the coup with respect to human rights, political developments, trade, and militarization.

KEVIN EDMONDS: Is a U of T PhD student and freelance journalist who has also traveled to and reported on Haiti – including serving as a volunteer observer in Haiti’s last election with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. He co-authored recently released report on the UN in Haiti called “MINUSTAH: Keeping the peace, or conspiring against it?” Published through the Harvard School of Public Health and is a review of the human rights record on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti from 2010-2011. He will be exploring the tragic similarities of the recent foreign backed coup d’états in Haiti and Honduras, the critical role of unconstitutional, illegal, but "business friendly" regimes central to implementation of free trade deals with Canada, and the immense human cost to those involved in the popular resistance to 21st century imperialism.

Video - The Deadliest Place in the World for a Journalist - Mini-documentary on the Honduran journalists that have watched 15 colleagues assassinated in 19 months under the Lobo regime, a government Barack Obama praises for its "strong commitment to democracy" ~ by Jesse Freeston

Free Admission

Friday November 18

7:00 – 9:00pm

Beit Zatoun House

612 Markham Street, Toronto

Organized by: Common Frontiers, Toronto Haiti Action Committee and Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network

The Crimes of Canada’s and the World’s 1% Against the People of Haiti

The Crimes of Canada’s and the World’s 1% Against the People of Haiti

Where: St. James Park (Adelaide and Jarvis)

Toronto Haiti Action Committee thanks OccupyTO for the invitation to present a supportive message as part of OccupyTO Community Outreach Day this Sunday Nov. 6, between 2:00 and 5:00 pm.

Today I had the chance to briefly address the great people down at the OccupyTO site and discuss Canada's role in Haiti. I really enjoyed the conversation afterwards, and really thank the organizers, especially Linda for asking me to come down. I look forward to building a stronger relationship with OccupyTO and highlight what terrible things are being done in Haiti in the name of the Canadian people.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

MINUSTAH: Èske se yon fòs k ap mentni lapè, Oubyen k ap conspire kont li?

The October MINUSTAH report is now translated into Kreyol. Many thanks to Other Worlds for the translation. MINUSTAH: Èske se yon fòs k ap mentni lapè, Oubyen k ap conspire kont li? is attached below:

MINUSTAH Study Oct 2011 Kreyol

Cuba for Haiti: Visit by Dr. Balsiero

Today, I was lucky enough to be invited to briefly speak on the MINUSTAH report and the role of NGO's in Haiti at this event. It was great to meet Dr. Balsiero, hear about his extremely important and inspiring work - in addition to meeting lots of people who are already doing their own work to help Haiti.

Attached are my prepared remarks, but I had to freestyle it because time was cut short:

Good evening, my name is Kevin Edmonds and I am a representative of the Toronto Haiti Action Committee, and wanted to thank Elizabeth Hill and the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association for the invitation, in addition to Dr. Balsiero for coming all the way up here to inform us of what great work Cuba is doing in Haiti. Thank you very much.

So very quickly, the reason that I am here is because I and several other doctors and human rights advocates recently finished a report on a group which has made the Cuban medical doctors work much, much harder in Haiti. That group is the United Nations. The report came out last month, and highlights the role of the UN engaging in human rights abuses in regards to sexual assault, rape, child prostitution, engaging in the extrajudicial murder of unarmed civilians and community activists, failing to prevent forced evictions from the IDP camps, and the introduction of cholera into the country. The report is titled “MINUSTAH: Keeping the Peace or Conspiring Against It?” is available online, via the Canada Haiti Action Network site, or that of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

MINUSTAH has been implicated in the murders of hundreds of civilians and social activists in the slums which were loyal to Aristide and his Lavalas party. MINUSTAH has been occupying the country since the illegal 2004 coup of Jean Bertrand Aristide, and has since endorsed and legitimized unconstitutional elections in 2006 and 2010 in which Lavalas was excluded. In 2010, Lavalas and 13 other political parties were excluded, yet the former head of MINUSTAH gave his approval to these farcical elections. The presence of MINUSTAH in Haiti is a direct violation of Haitian national sovereignty – and is directly opposed to their demands for self determination and democracy.

The most well known incident attributed to MINUSTAH is the introduction of cholera into Haiti by a Nepalese contingent based near the Mirebalais River. This link has been confirmed by independent reports by the Center for Disease Control, French medical professionals, and an investigative study by the American Society for Microbiology which confirmed that the Haitian strain was identical to an earlier outbreak in Nepal. The United Nations has yet to take responsibility, or acknowledge their role in the outbreak. At the time of publication the cholera epidemic had killed 6,345 people – infecting hundreds of thousands more.

While unintentional, the cholera outbreak was due to the systemic negligence of the both the troops and the United Nations, as untreated sewage was dumped into one of Central Haiti’s main waterways - a clear violation of camp procedure. The cholera incident also reveals the deeper political economy of peacekeeping, as for many poorer governments such as Nepal, the provision of peacekeepers is an important source of national income – bringing $1,024 per month per soldier. The fact that the Nepalese soldiers themselves came from cholera infected communities reveals how the United Nations is exploiting the poorest elements of very poor countries to suppress the demands for socio-economic justice and self determination in Haiti.

If we look at the Haiti’s history of colonial and imperial brutality via slavery, counter-revolutionary repression, planned coups, embargoes, debt bondage and isolation – revolutionary Haiti became the testing ground for many of the policies which were later placed on Cuba and other progressive minded countries. The present justification of the UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has roots which will are familiar to our Cuban friends – that of containment. Despite being weakly justified due to the fact that Haiti poses a potential security risk to the region by gangsters and corrupt government – the reality is that MINUSTAH is in Haiti to contain an idea – that of making social and economic justice a reality. The reality is that the force sent to Haiti to bring security and stability has achieved the opposite. While I don’t endorse any occupation on others by any means, using the same logic there is no international occupation of Brazil with a violent crime rate nearly 6x that of Haiti, or even Washington DC which has a murder rate 3x higher.
With the help of Wikileaks, it was revealed that the new phase of “South-South” peacekeeping operations (as Brazil was and still is the primary partner in MINUSTAH) was exactly that, as it was a front for the realization of US geopolitical interests. The cables revealed that the “UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG [U.S. Government] policy interests in Haiti” and “a financial and regional security bargain for the USG.” Further US cables went on to reveal that “A premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government…vulnerable to…resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces—reversing gains of the last two years”.

A very recent delegation to Cuba on behalf of the School of Americas Watch reported that the majority of Haitians were opposed to the force, and that they were widely seen as the protectors of NGO’s and businesses in Haiti – not the people. This again highlights the systemic failure of MINUSTAH, as a great deal of the patchwork network of NGO’s claiming to do “good work” funnels money away from those who need assistance the most – leaving no public institutions or Haitian nurses or doctors. Depending on an unaccountable network of private interests to provide basic services for a population would be unacceptable in nearly every country, yet this is the basis of “development” in Haiti. The presence of MINUSTAH, and the suppression of popular democratic forces is conducive to making these NGO’s a great deal of money. As Paulo Friere stated in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed “In order to have the continued opportunity to express their generosity, the oppressors must perpetuate injustice as well. An unjust social order is the permanent fount of this generosity, which is nourished by death, despair, and poverty.”

If any gains have been made in Haiti through MINUSTAH, they have come at the expense of the Haitian people and their demands for democracy and social justice. If the United Nations was serious about protecting the Haitian people and respecting democratic processes in Haiti, it would divert the nearly $1 billion annual budget for weapons and troops to sustainable initiatives to develop public sanitation, water, healthcare and educational facilities – initiatives that the Cuban health workers like Dr. Balsiero are already undertaking. Thanks for your time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

“Who protects us from you?” – MINUSTAH and Haiti

Stabroek News,
October 17th, 2011
Available at:

Almost two years after the devastating January 12th earthquake, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH by its French acronym) was given increased funding, personnel and an extended mandate to provide security and stability for the Haitian people. On October 4th, a Harvard based research group comprised of Canadian and US human rights advocates, doctors, journalists and public health experts released an extensively researched report which highlighted that the United Nations force has in fact been a continuous source of human rights abuses, helping to perpetuate the insecurity and instability they had been entrusted to fight.

Prior to the earthquake, MINUSTAH’s record was far from clean, as they had been involved in numerous scandals, related to sexual assault, political repression and the murders of civilians – including women, children and the elderly. In November 2007, 111 soldiers and 3 officers from a Sri Lankan battalion were repatriated due to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of Haitian minors.

A study of human rights abuses from 2004 to 2006 published in The Lancet, an independent, peer-reviewed medical journal, chronicled foreign soldiers issuing threats of death, physical harm, and sexual violence. Save the Children conducted an investigation in 2008, finding minors coerced into sex by UN forces for as little as 100 gourdes (2.50 USD). The murderous raids of Cite Soleil in 2005 (22,000 rounds were used in the 7 hour raid) and 2006 left nearly 100 dead, including a seven year old and four year old who were hit with bullets while they slept.

With this infamous past, one could only imagine that MINUSTAH had hit rock bottom in its involvement in human rights abuses and the popular opposition to the mission. Unfortunately for the Haitian people, this was simply not the case.

While incidents of sexual assault were a problem prior to the earthquake, the utter destruction of January 12th left over 1.6 million people without shelter, with tent or tarp shelters providing women and children a very precarious existence.

While the primary objective of MINUSTAH is to protect the Haitian people, they have failed miserably to provide protection to the residents of the internally displaced camps from sexual assault and rape.

Amnesty International noted that the “lack of security in and around the camps is one of the main factors contributing to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence,” stating that “protection measures have not been fully integrated into the humanitarian response.” According to a study by the United States Institute of Peace, 75% of camp residents interviewed said they rarely or never saw a single MINUSTAH officer in the camps.

This indifference to the attacks on women and children has led to an environment where acts of sexual assault, rape and violence can continue without the threat of punishment. As such, the thousands of cases of rape and sexual assault have led to the development of numerous internal security patrols made up of camp residents. Such organizations point to the total failure of MINUSTAH to provide any element of protection to the Haitian people.

In September, several investigative reports by Ansel Herz broke the story of Uruguayan peacekeepers sexually assaulting an 18-year-old Haitian man in a high-profile incident that was caught on video. Unlike the Sri Lankan contingent however, this time the accused soldiers are currently being held in custody until their trial.

Evidence has also emerged that MINUSTAH troops have frequently engaged in transactional sex with minors, often leading to pregnancy and the burden of raising children without support from fathers who generally leave Haiti after their deployment period.

MINUSTAH’s blatant disregard for the security of Haiti’s internally displaced extends to the very camps themselves. After the earthquake many camps were established on private land under the assumption they would be temporary. As the relief and reconstruction effort totally stalled, over a million Haitian people were subjected to threats of forced evictions – a clear violation of long established humanitarian laws. The first stage of the eviction process occurred through the cutting off of essential services such as water.

If that failed to depopulate the camps, the owners of the land would employ armed gangs to intimidate the residents – often resulting in physical violence and the destruction and burning of tents.

Despite the dedicated coverage by several human rights organizations, and the acknowledgement by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in September 2010 that an estimated “29% of the 1,268 camps studied had been closed forcibly, meaning the often violent relocation of tens of thousands of people” – the UN has yet to actively intervene to stop these forced evictions. Excellent photo journalism by the group Bri Kouri Nouvel Gaye has documented the evictions here:

The most well known incident attributed to MINUSTAH is the introduction of cholera into Haiti by a Nepalese contingent based near the Mirebalais River. This link has been confirmed by independent reports by the Centers for Disease Control, French medical professionals, and an investigative study by the American Society for Microbiology which confirmed that the Haitian strain was identical to an earlier outbreak in Nepal. The United Nations has yet to take responsibility, or acknowledge their role in the outbreak. At the time of publication the cholera epidemic had killed 6,345 people – infecting hundreds of thousands more.

While unintentional, the cholera outbreak was due to the systemic negligence of both the troops and the United Nations, as untreated sewage was dumped into one of Central Haiti’s main waterways – a clear violation of camp procedure.

The cholera incident also reveals the deeper political economy of peacekeeping, as for many poorer governments such as Nepal, the provision of peacekeepers is an important source of national income.

The United Nations is exploiting the poorest elements of poor countries to suppress the demands for socio-economic justice and self determination in Haiti.

When the Haitian people have mobilized and rallied against the destabilizing presence of MINUSTAH, they do so at a tremendous personal risk, as unarmed protestors and bystanders have routinely been shot and killed by the force. In other instances, women and children have been gassed in the tent camps to disband the political demonstrations. These protests have both grown in size and frequency since the cholera epidemic began in October 2010, and carried on throughout the course of the exclusionary Presidential elections in November and February in which 14 political parties were banned.

In addition to protecting the Haitian people, MINUSTAH’s mandate clearly outlines that one of its primary goals is “to support the constitutional and political processes; to assist in organizing, monitoring, and carrying out free and fair municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections” yet it raised no objections to the well-documented electoral irregularities which occurred on November 28th, 2010.

The outcome of the Presidential election that systematically excluded the majority of the population has only contributed to the political instability of the country. Sensing this instability and lack of popular support, President Michel Martelly has expressed his intention to resurrect the currently disbanded Haitian army – a force which was infamous for its violent oppression of the Haitian people.

While the rationale for MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti is “justified” by the United Nations through extremely vague technicalities under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, most would agree that the presence of the force violates the sovereignty of the Haitian state. It was after all imposed upon the Haitian people in the aftermath of an illegal coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide, with the United Nations determining that “the situation in Haiti constituted a threat to international peace and security”. Former head of MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet has justified this occupation in such explicit terms, saying that if MINUSTAH left the country it would “just fall apart”, and identified Haiti as “a society, community, a nation that has committed collective suicide.”

The argument against the Responsibility to Protect doctrine can fill many volumes, but it was best summed up by Yves Engler who asked “who gets to decide when a country becomes a ‘failed state’ or when ‘gross human rights violations’ were occurring?

What if a government is failing because powerful countries have destabilized it? What if the destabilization is a result of government policies that challenge corporate and elite interests in those powerful countries? Rather than be a force for good the ‘responsibility to protect’ could just as easily be a cover for imperialism.”

With the help of Wikileaks, it was revealed that the new phase of “South-South” peacekeeping operations (as Brazil was and still is the primary partner in MINUSTAH) was exactly that, as it was a front for the realization of US geopolitical interests. The cables revealed that the “UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG [U.S. Government] policy interests in Haiti” and “a financial and regional security bargain for the USG.” Further US cables went on to reveal that “A premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government…vulnerable to…resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces—reversing gains of the last two years”.

If any gains have been made in Haiti through MINUSTAH, they have come at the expense of the Haitian people and their demands for democracy and social justice. If the United Nations was serious about protecting the Haitian people and respecting democratic processes in Haiti, it would divert the nearly US$1 billion annual budget for weapons and troops to sustainable initiatives to develop public sanitation, water, healthcare and educational facilities.

As it stands, MINUSTAH is a force which has compiled a notorious human rights record in Haiti, and as such has drawn the opposition of the majority of the Haitian people. The way to move forward in Haiti is to recognize and correct the mistakes of MINUSTAH, not to compound them through an extension of the force’s mandate. Since 2004 MINUSTAH has acted with total impunity under the “Status of Forces Agreement” which sets the norms for international peacekeeping standards, and has totally failed to achieve its mandate of protecting the Haitian people.

The mission has deteriorated to such an extreme state that serious considerations must be made about who will protect the Haitian people from MINUSTAH.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Canada in Haiti: The military face of the neoliberal agenda - Workshop @ Canadian Peace Alliance Conference

Conference info here:

On Saturday October 15th, Roger Annis and I will be at the Canadian Peace Alliance Conference @ Ryerson University presenting a workshop on "Canada in Haiti: The military face of the neoliberal agenda" which is essentially a discussion about Canada’s ongoing military/police presence in Haiti, and how it supports Canadian corporate interests in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Time: 10am - 11:15am
Room: TBA - but will be finalized and posted @ event

Monday, October 10, 2011

Radio Basics: Reviewing the Failure of MINUSTAH

Today I had a chance to talk with Kabir of Radio Basics about the role of MINUSTAH in Haiti, and the recently released report on this involvement in human rights abuses. As always, Kabir was on point and brought up the importance of understanding the failure of MINUSTAH to prevent such "peacekeeping" episodes in Libya or Syria.

Audio will be posted here:

Haiti Beyond the Headlines

Haiti Beyond the Headlines
Thursday, October 13th

· Eyewitness reports on weak and inadequate post-earthquake reconstruction
· Paralysis of the presidency of Michel Martelly
· Wikileaks documents exposing role of U.S. government and its allies in subverting Haiti’s sovereignty and development
· Crimes of UN intervention and Haitian resistance to UN military occupation

· Roger Annis, coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network in Vancouver and director of a ten-day fact-finding and solidarity mission to Haiti in June, 2011

· Rosena Joseph, learning coach in Toronto, member of CUPE Local 3393 and member of the fact-finding mission

· Kim Ives, editor of Haiti Liberté, a news weekly based in Brooklyn and Port au Prince

· Kevin Edmonds,THAC member and co-author of "Stabilizing Haiti: Mission Accomplished?" - Forthcoming report on the UN role in Haiti

Date: Thursday, October 13, 7 pm
Location: Sidney Smith Hall, room 2135, University of Toronto

For more information:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

MINUSTAH: Keeping the Peace or Conspiring Against it?

Minustah White Paper(1)

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Power to Impovrish: The WTO and St. Lucia

This major research paper will present a case study of the experience of the small Eastern Caribbean island of St. Lucia which highlights that free trade does not benefit all parties; that this example is a very bold, but unfortunately common case of the most powerful interests reaping all of the benefits while the smaller nation and its vulnerable farmers are left in a state of virtual economic collapse. The first section of this paper, St. Lucia the Historical Context will provide a background of the banana industry from colonialism until the shift away from protected trade in 1993. The second section of the paper, Power and Free Trade, will examine the problematic theoretical arguments underpinning the movement towards free trade, and how the hegemonic economic model proposed through neoliberal policy cannot apply to St. Lucia. The final section of the paper, St. Lucia Today: Worries, Problems and Possibilities, will examine the socio-economic impact of free trade on St. Lucia, and examine the potential for the island’s survival in a post-banana economy.

Kevin Edmonds MRP - The Power to Impoverish. the WTO and St. Lucia

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Haiti and Canadian imperialism |

Podcast: Progressive Voices "Haiti and Canadian Imperialism"

Interview with Riaz Sayani Mulji on July 21st. Discussing Canada's role in Haiti, the reality on the ground and the way forward.

Haiti and Canadian imperialism |

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Michel Martelly's Presidential Power cannot waive Crimes against Humanity

by Kevin Edmonds and Roger Annis, Haiti Liberte, June 22, 2011

The inauguration of Haiti?s President Michel Martelly on May 14 should sound an alarm for those concerned with human rights, justice, and the rule of law in the country. In a pre-inaugural interview with the Montreal daily La Presse on Apr. 18, Martelly put forward a plan of national reconciliation which would include granting amnesty to former Haitian ruler Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Martelly later backed away from this idea on advice from his counsel. But his connections to the former dictator present potential obstacles to ongoing efforts to prosecute him.

In the La Presse interview, reporter Vincent Marissal asked about the return to Haiti this year of Mr. Duvalier and of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Martelly stated: "I say to them welcome, and we favor reconciliation and inclusion..."

On amnesty, he said: "Before thinking about this, we must work on awareness and compassion to understand the victims and respect their feelings. So, we won't take hasty decisions, but I'm leaning toward the side of amnesty and forgiveness so that we can think about tomorrow and not yesterday."

While this sounds admirably conciliatory, the position expressed by Martelly is deeply problematic. First, he cannot legally grant amnesty to Duvalier (or anyone else) for the killings, disappearances, and political prisons for which the former dictator is responsible. They are crimes against humanity under international law.

Secondly, there are no charges against former president Aristide "either in Haitian or in international law" for which he could be pardoned.

Duvalier's crimes are a fact of his 15 years of rule, from 1971 to 1986. They are documented by human rights agencies such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as by the United Nations, the United States government, and hundreds of media reports.

In these circumstances, amnesty would not constitute national reconciliation. It would merely be a favor towards Duvalier. Furthermore, to include Aristide in the same category legitimizes fictitious allegations and tarnishes Aristide's name and reputation.

During the recent election, Martelly "a former konpa singer" campaigned as a champion of 'change,' a 'political outsider.' The reality is much more troubling. In a Mar. 2, 2011 interview with Agence France Presse, the self-proclaimed outsider said he was 'ready' to work with officials who had served under the Duvalier regimes. One of his advisors, Gervais Charles, currently serves as Jean-Claude Duvalier's lawyer. According to a Washington Post article on Feb. 13, 2002, President-elect Martelly was "once a favorite of the thugs who worked on behalf of the hated Duvalier family dictatorship."

A 1996 Miami Herald article reported that Martelly was "closely identified with sympathizers of the 1991 military coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide." Daniel Supplice, coordinator of Martelly's transition team, is a childhood friend and former schoolmate of Jean-Claude Duvalier. He served in ministerial posts under Duvalier, including as Minister of Social Affairs.

Martelly's nominee for prime minister, Daniel-Gérard Rouzier, is a member of the Haitian elite who vocally supported the 2004 coup against Aristide and even opposed his return to the Western Hemisphere.

Martelly's support of the 1991 and 2004 coups against Aristide clearly shows his selective taste for democracy.

The crimes of Jean Claude Duvalier

With Duvalier's return to Haiti in January 2011, the Haitian government under President René Préval opened two criminal proceedings, one for financial crimes and the other for crimes against persons. Haitian victims have come forward to the state prosecutor to file complaints against Duvalier, and a large group of Haitian and
international human rights attorneys are currently working with the diaspora to build a more comprehensive case.

François Duvalier and his son (who inherited the Haitian presidency in 1971) were responsible for the deaths of an estimated 60,000 people. The vast majority were political opponents or innocents suspected of subversion. Thousands more were brutally tortured at the infamous Fort Dimanche "one of three notorious prisons that formed Duvalier's 'triangle of death'."

Although there is no evidence of Jean-Claude Duvalier's physical presence at murders or assassinations committed under his watch, he is criminally responsible under international and Haitian law as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the paramilitary Volontaires pour la securité nationale. His liability extends to the
vast repressive apparatus that he established and maintained

President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier did not even try to hide his financial crimes. There are dozens of boxes of evidence of these crimes, including copies of checks from the Haitian Central Bank written to 'cash' and endorsed by Duvalier. According to the January 25, 2011 Miami Herald, "lawyers estimated that Haiti's former dictator embezzled at least a half-billion dollars through an elaborate scheme of false companies, phony charities, and transfers in the name of friends and family."

A forensic audit performed after Duvalier's departure by a U.S. accounting firm found that he had personally stolen over $120 million, and his wife Michelle $94 million.

International and Haitian law obliges the Haitian government to seek prosecution of Jean-Claude Duvalier. That obligation, says an April 2011 report by Human Rights Watch, "cannot be undermined by statutes of limitations, amnesties, or other domestic legal obstacles."

There are two criminal proceedings currently underway against Duvalier. There are none against Aristide. If President Martelly can get away with a false Duvalier-Aristide equivalence, it's in part because of so many unproven insinuations and false charges against Aristide floated in media, Internet and political circles.

It is difficult to disprove accusations against Aristide because none have been tested in court. As meticulously documented by author Peter Hallward in Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment (2008), few media or other agencies have made credible investigations. When they do and the accusations are disproven, the detractors don't fight back; they just move on to the next dubious accusation.

Today, there is a very real threat of old accusations or charges against Aristide being resurrected in new forms in order to further mislead public attention and further obstruct a needed reckoning with the crimes of the Duvalier regime. This would not be the first time.

History of false accusations and jailings

Notwithstanding the millions of dollars allocated by the U.S. government to find credible allegations that Aristide looted Haiti's public treasury, misappropriated funds from the national telephone company (Teleco), or engaged in narcotics trafficking, the accusations remain unsubstantiated. Not a shred of evidence has been presented to a court.

In November 2005, 21 months after the second, foreign-sponsored coup d'état against Aristide, the illegal regime of Gérard Latortue loudly presented a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) lawsuit in a U.S. (not Haitian) court, accusing Aristide of corruption and embezzlement of tens of millions of dollars (1). The case was a lost cause from the start. It was not even served on any of the defendants and was quietly withdrawn in July 2006. But it did succeed
in tarnishing the reputation of Aristide.

There was controversy surrounding certain members of Aristide's security unit. Several high-ranking members were convicted in a Miami court in 2005 of "conspiracy to committ money laundering," with sentences ranging from 3 to 14 years (2).

Oriel Jean, who had been Aristide?s security chief until 2003, was arrested in Canada one week after the coup for allegedly entering without a visa. A Canadian judge acquitted him, but, before his release, the United States requested Oriel's extradition. Rather than fight the request, Jean chose to go face his accusers. "According to Oriel Jean, the U.S. government offered him many incentives to testify against Aristide, to say that Aristide was somehow involved in drug trafficking ," said Haiti Liberté journalist Kim Ives, who extensively interviewed Jean after his release in 2007. "But Jean told them that he could not lie, that he had no knowledge of
Aristide being involved in anything of the sort."

In May 2004, the Miami Herald - no fan of Aristide - published a misleading article saying that Jean was "a U.S. government informant" who was bargaining for "a reduced sentence in exchange for information about Aristide's inner circle."

This was a twisted half-truth. Jean did cooperate with federal authorities, but only to convict certain drug traffickers, like Serge Edouard, who had no relation to Aristide. The Miami Herald article killed two birds with one stone. It implied that Oriel was informing the U.S. government about Aristide (he wasn?t) and that Aristide was engaged in something illegal (he wasn't). Both men were unjustly tarnished by journalistic legerdemain.

One of the most striking examples of bias, persecution and demonization of Aristide's Lavalas party colleagues was the charge of genocide leveled against Prime Minister Yvon Neptune in September 2005, more than a year after his initial arrest and detainment in June 2004. The accusation came from a Canadian International Development Agency-funded organization called the National Coalition of Haitian Rights (NCHR, since re-formed under a different name). The NCHR was an
extremely partisan, anti-Lavalas organization which claimed that a "genocidal massacre" had taken place in the town of St. Marc on Feb. 11, 2004. The organization claimed that Neptune had cold-bloodedly ordered the deaths of 50 anti-Lavalas activists.

The only connection between Neptune and the massacre was the fact that he had visited St. Marc two days earlier to appeal for calm and order in the face of the foreign funded paramilitary rebellion that was underway throughout Haiti's north. Neptune was accompanied by journalists from the Miami Herald, AFP, AP, and the New York Times.

The newspapers reported that, indeed, five people had been reported killed during clashes between pro and anti-Aristide forces in St. Marc over a period of several days. Yet the NCHR remained steadfast on its accusations of "genocide." (4) The false allegations contributed to Neptune's illegal and ultimately unjustified imprisonment from June 2004 to July 2006.

The international community turned a blind eye to actual assaults on Lavalas supporters during the Latortue regime. The Sep. 2, 2006 issue of the prestigious UK medical journal The Lancet, published a study documenting some 8,000 killings in Haiti during the two-year coup regime, most of them members or supporters of the Aristide-led Lavalas party and movement.

The prevailing, ideological double standard in reporting was strongly criticized by the media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting in 2006.

Meanwhile, in court session held in the middle of the night, the Latortue regime made quick work of reversing one of the most significant criminal convictions in modern Haitian history, that of Jodel Chamblain, the former FRAPH/FLRN death-squad leader convicted in absentia of crimes against humanity for his role in the Raboteau
massacre. Chamblain surfaced most recently leading Jean-Claude Duvalier's security detail.

Only a Duvalier prosecution can bring justice

President Martelly's ruminations on reconciliation have the appearance of a political ploy to get Jean-Claude Duvalier off the hook. This is given an appearance of neutrality by "forgiving" non-existent charges against Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Comparing the two leaders in this way trivializes the crimes for which Duvalier needs to be held accountable.

The demands of the International Center for Transitional Justice, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to prosecute Duvalier are not without precedent. In 2009, Peru's Alberto Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years for crimes against humanity, including mass murder, kidnapping and corruption.

A failure to prosecute Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier in an impartial court would add insult to the injuries Haiti has already suffered in the form of the earthquake, cholera epidemic, and political unrest related to the November 2010/March 2011 fraudulent election.

Regretfully, the same powers responsible for the 2004 coup (United States, France and Canada) have yet to insist that Haiti respect its obligations to prosecute Duvalier. They should do so, for it is a necessary and symbolic act of justice that will ripple throughout the nation, showing that not all is lost in such difficult times.

The case of Duvalier is a moment of moral clarity. It offers a much-needed opening to further a process of healing and rebuilding in Haiti. Justice delayed is not always justice denied.

An ongoing memorial to the thousands of victims of the Duvaliers can
be accessed here:

Kevin Edmonds is a freelance journalist and graduate student at McMaster University's Globalization Institute in Hamilton, Ontario.
Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network and resides in Vancouver. He can be reached at rogerannis (at)


1) Peter Hallward. Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics
of Containment. Verso Books, 2007, pg. 150
2) Ibid. pg. 148
3) Ibid
4) Ibid. pg. 159

All articles copyrighted Haiti Liberte. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Liberte.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Haiti's foreign-orchestrated election hands power to neo-Duvalierist Michel Martelly

Haiti's foreign-orchestrated election hands power to neo-Duvalierist Michel Martelly

April 14, 2011
Michel Martelly, Haiti's new leader.

Michel Martelly is closely associated with the extreme right in Haiti that twice overthrew elected government (in 1991 and 2004). He has vowed to reconstitute the notorious Armed Forces of Haiti, disbanded in 1995 due to its record of massive human rights violations (elements of which are in training and waiting for the call). He says that Haiti's economic and social development depends on convincing more foreign investors to set up shop.

He told CBC Radio's The Current on April 7 that Haiti has been "going in the wrong direction for the last 25 years," a reference to the long and difficult struggle by the Haitian people to move beyond the terrible legacy of the Duvalier tyranny.

The two-round electoral exercise that landed him in power was foreign-funded and inspired. The United States, Canada and Europe paid at least $29 million to finance it. The victor acknowledges his campaign costs -- $1 million in the first round and $6 million in the second round -- were largely covered by "friends" in the United States. He refuses to say who they are.

His campaign was run by the same Spanish public relations firm that managed the successful and highly controversial election to the presidency of Mexico by Felipe Calderon in 2006.

It was an exclusionary political process. Haiti's largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was ruled off the ballot by Haiti's unconstitutional electoral commission. The election was also a vast disenfranchisement of much of the Haitian electorate. Voter registration was partial for the first round of voting on Nov. 28, 2010. No additional registration was permitted for the second round vote on March 20. Polling stations were inaccessible to many on both dates. Balloting was marked by fraud and irregularities.

Much of Canada's media has done an astonishing about-turn in its coverage of these events. On Nov. 30, the Toronto Star published an editorial condemning the first round vote as a "fraud" and said the whole exercise should be rescheduled for a later date. CBC reporters on the ground in Haiti variously called the vote a "sham" or a "complete fraud."

A Star editorial on April 9 now welcomes Martelly's selection, saying, "The election of political outsider Michel Martelly as Haiti's president is the first sign in many months that the impoverished nation still has a chance to rebuild itself..."

In the Current interview with Martelly, program host Anna Maria Tremonti pitched one soft question after another. Martelly comfortably replied with vague generalities of what he will do for Haiti.

The pop culture CBC program Q interviewed a correspondent for Time magazine on April 7. "He (Martelly) did seem to run with people who had supported Duvalier...", admitted guest Rich Benjamin. He then hastened to add that this did not mean that Martelly's politics were "right wing."

"Sweet Mickey is the candidate of change in the sense he stands outside the political establishment... Depending on the issue, one might call him a progressive and not a conservative."

CBC's Dispatches interviewed CBC Radio's reporter in Haiti, Connie Watson, on the same date. Sounding like a public relations spokesperson for the new president, Watson said Martelly had received "overwhelming support" from the Haitian people and has a solid plan to move Haiti forward.

Meanwhile, the return from exile of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his family on March 18 was met with near-silence in Canada's print and broadcast media. Perhaps it believes the words of Canada's ambassador in Haiti last year, that the former president is 'yesterday's story.' But the thousands of Haitians who filled the streets to welcome the Aristides home would beg to differ.

The UN secretary general's deputy special envoy to Haiti, Nigel Fisher, voiced the Security Council's satisfaction with the election outcome when he spoke to CBC Vancouver on April 5. While acknowledging "quite a bit of fraud" in the November 28 balloting, he said that all is forgiven in the second round.

Mr. Fisher, his colleagues at the UN Security Council and so many journalists would have us believe that a first-round election that exhibited "quite a bit of fraud" or was a "sham" could magically produce a fair result in a second round. But the rules of the electoral game were unchanged in the second round, so how could this be?

The most damning evidence of all for the absence of legitimacy of this exercise is its exceptionally low participation. Initial reports show another, record low voter turnout on March 20, perhaps lower than the 23 percent recorded on November 28. According to the Center for Economic Policy Research in Washington DC, these re the lowest voter turnouts in a national election in the western hemisphere since at least 1945.

Martelly's accession constitutes an electoral coup d'etat. It continues the aims of the paramilitary coup of 2004, namely, to exclude the Haitian people from their own political institutions and to further weaken their aspirations for social justice (voiced so eloquently by Jean Bertrand Aristide upon his return to Haitian soil).

All of this bodes poorly for the massive rebuilding effort that still lies ahead. Aid and reconstruction remain a largely unfulfilled promise. As the hype surrounding the electoral exercise fades, popular discontent will come more and more to the fore. This latest coup will no more extinguish their aspirations than previous ones have failed to do.

Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network and resides in Vancouver BC. Kevin Edmonds is a freelance journalist and graduate student at McMaster University's Globalization Institute in Hamilton, Ontario.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Rejection of Dependency: Popular Mobilization in Haiti

The Rejection of Dependency: Popular Mobilization in Haiti

original link:

April 4, 2011

By: Kevin Edmonds

The people of Haiti continue to struggle against rigged elections, systemic human rights abuses, foreign occupation and an NGO led development model which has fallen flat in regards to reconstruction and relief efforts.

At the same time there has been many signs of popular mobilization articulating that the Haitian people are fed up and will not stand idly by with the international community’s attempt to install a puppet government and continue a deeply flawed and self serving reconstruction program.

The March 20th presidential elections were an attempt by the international community to give some legitimacy to an electoral process that had been widely discredited and tarnished by massive fraud and the exclusion of 15 political parties. The election, popularly referred to as a selection, had been between two right wing candidates attempting to portray themselves as “the people’s choice”. The voter turnout proved that they are anything but. Haiti Liberté has reported that the voter turnout for the March 20th elections was at a paltry 17.7%, evidence of a popular boycott. Similarly, the first round of elections held on November 28th only managed to draw out 23% of the population – a record low for both Haiti, and all of Latin America, since record keeping began 60 years ago.

Much to the dismay of the two presidential candidates, the electoral masquerade was largely overshadowed by the return of former president, Jean Bertrand Aristide – who had spent the past seven years in exile due to a coup d’etat orchestrated by the United States, Canada, France and the Haitian elite. Recently released cables via Wikileaks revealed that the United States and Brazilian governments feared that the return of Aristide to Haiti would threaten the emergence of popular democracy, stating that “all efforts must be made to keep Aristide from returning to Haiti or influencing the political process”.

Upon his return, Aristide condemned the exclusion of the country’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas. Maryse Narcisse, the spokesperson for Fanmi Lavalas called for a general boycott of the elections – and from all appearances the Haitian people listened. The reason for the continuing popularity of Fanmi Lavalas and Aristide is that they refused to bow to the pressure of the Haitian elite and the international community. Aristide and Lavalas did the unthinkable; they called upon the Haitian elite to pay their taxes, refused further privatization of the Haitian state, invested in public health and education and called for a $5 daily minimum wage.

Aristide’s return is widely seen as a victory for popular grassroots movements. Yves Pierre Louis of Haiti Liberté stated that “Aristide’s presence alone will be like a serum. It will revitalize the popular movement and the struggle against occupation and neo-liberalism.” In response to the horrific conditions in the tent camps and failed relief efforts, the vast number of problems has led to a revitalized popular mobilization against human rights abuses, foreign occupation and a reconstruction process which has marginalized both the voices and rights of the Haitian people.

On March 24th, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti released a damning report which highlighted the role of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in committing human rights abuses. The “peacekeeping” force has been routinely accused of engaging in sexual abuse and exploitation, introducing cholera into Haiti, and engaging in extrajudicial killings. Grassroots organizations such as the popular community media collective Bri Kouri Nouvel Gaye have been instrumental in spreading the news to the Haitian people and mobilizing them to become educated about their rights.

On April 1st, 40 popular Haitian organizations called for the dissolution of the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Committee (HIRC), the organization in charge of “building Haiti back better”. The reason for their statement is that after more than a year of promised reconstruction and billions of dollars pledged, “nothing significant has really been undertaken”. The organizations go on to state that “Our analysis and evidence leads us to conclude that Haitian society continues to be locked into the same traps of exclusion, dependency, and ignorance of our strengths, our resources, our identity… The structures of domination and dependence have been reproduced and reinforced by the constellation of agencies including MINUSTAH, the HRIC and large international NGOs”.

Despite the mainstream portrayal of the Haitian people waiting to be helped by handouts, the reality is that the Haitian people have never stopped organizing their communities. Despite the mounting obstacles they face, they are in competition with foreign NGO’s which siphon away funding which could potentially support their projects. However, the sad truth is that the popular Haitian organizations are advocating against the deepening dependency, putting them at odds with the goals of the major donor countries, multinational corporations and Haitian elite who stand to profit handsomely from the status quo.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights



I was lucky enough to work on this report with the Unity Ayiti team. The report highlights the role of MINUSTAH in human rights abuses in Haiti. The document provides a legal argument against the force, bringing forth evidence about their failure to protect the Haitian people, complicity in abuses, and an overall ineffectiveness of their mandate. Over $850 million has been spent on MINUSTAH for their 2010-2011 budget, yet the same "peacekeeping" force has been documented in engaging in rape, extrajudicial killings, and the introduction cholera to the country. We hope that this will spark some debate about the legitimacy of the UN in Haiti. Haiti needs doctors, nurses, engineers, agronomists - not soldiers.

Make sure to check out and see the tons of work they have been doing on human rights work in Haiti. They're a really amazing, dedicated team!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hamilton Haiti Action Committee in Effect

Today was the first event of the newly formed Hamilton Haiti Action Committee. Riaz and myself attended the Build a Change Development Symposium at McMaster University in order to spread the word of our new advocacy group.

The participants in the symposium were interested in what we had to say, and we had numerous half hour conversations. People couldn't believe what was happening in Haiti. Once we discussed the failure of the development model in Haiti, they began to question their own ideas of development. It's more than just simply showing up and throwing money at a people. There has to be recognition of the structural factors which undermine REAL development in countries like Haiti.

As a local branch of the Canada Haiti Action Network, the main goals of the Hamilton Haiti Action Committe is to advocate for the right of the Haitian people to enjoy meaningful, inclusive democracy, freedom from human rights abuses, and engage in opportunities for sustainable grassroots development. Our blog is coming up soon, you can reach us for now at

Friday, March 25, 2011

Killing Democracy' in Haiti, Canadian-Style

Killing Democracy' in Haiti, Canadian-Style

Mar 24 2011
Kevin Edmonds
Originally Published:

“I make a distinction between the Canadian government, which I accuse of killing democracy in Haiti, and the people of Canada and Quebec. We need partners, friends. We need the kind of aid which will permit Haitians to lead their country.” L’Aut Journal (Montreal), January 27, 2011

The words of Mario Joseph, Haiti’s most prominent human rights attorney may have come as a complete surprise to many—a misunderstanding, perhaps, built upon anger and misinformation. How could Canada, after all, one of the world’s most peaceful and charitable countries, be killing democracy? But Joseph’s angry words contain a great deal of truth. Canada has played a significant role in the political and economic undermining of Haiti’s democratic institutions. This role, however, is purposefully glossed over in the media coverage more focused on promoting stories of Canadian “peacekeeping” and global “charity.” Despite this concerted spin by the media, Canada has been complicit in promoting and participating in a framework of aid that deepens the dependency of the Haitian people, and profits Canadian businesses.

In general, we Canadians, when discussing the concepts of imperialism or international intervention, tend to point the finger of blame towards our southern neighbor for its well-publicized exploits around the world. Yet Canada played a key role in the 2004 coup that ousted democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide, providing ideological context, planning, troops, and training to Haitian paramilitaries.

After the coup, Canada was integral in the drafting of the Interim Co-operation Framework (ICF), which created the blueprints for Haitian development through a commitment to neoliberal economic policies that would create an environment favorable to foreign economic interests and the disputed post-coup government, but increasingly harmful to the poor majority of Haitians. In addition to massive cuts in social spending, including health, education and public infrastructure, the ICF called for a further round of privatization which would sell off the Haitian electricity company, Port au Prince Water Board, the telephone company, and the port authorities. The ICF’s fundamentalist free-market vision for Haiti was looked upon by transnational corporations as a platform from which Canadian corporations such as S.M. Group International Inc. would be able to benefit from both the privatization and construction contracts.

The interference of the Canadian government in Haiti has continued up to this day. Canada contributed logistical and political support, in addition to CAN$5.8 million towards the execution of the flawed November 28 elections, despite forewarnings of widespread fraud and the exclusion of several political parties, as documented by various Haitian and international human rights groups.

The silence among the members of the Canadian government regarding the electoral mess can only be taken as complicity in co-signing and validating the fraud, in contrast to some of their more vocal U.S. counterparts. Fifteen political parties were excluded from participating in the election, including the party of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Aristide's Miami-based lawyer, Ira Kurzban, denounced the election as being the equivalent of a U.S. presidential contest between "an unpopular Republican and an unpopular 'tea party' candidate, with no Democrat allowed to compete." In the interview with L’Aut Journal, cited above, Mario Joseph remarked that “In the United States, a group of 45 members of Congress have condemned the fraudulent elections held in Haiti on November 28. In Canada, all members of Parliament—including the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP (New Democratic Party)—have accepted the framework in which the first round was held.”

The neoliberal economic model thrust upon Haiti in the days after the 2004 coup, and ratified by the illegal coup government has not disappeared either. In fact, the ICF shares many striking resemblances to the current proposals for Haitian reconstruction put forward by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Committee led by Bill Clinton, as it calls for a free-trade development model, drafted without popular consent, and lacking any aspects of transparency. Canadian aid to Haiti has largely been channelled through Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)—as the policies enforced by the United States, Canada, France and the International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank and IMF have stripped the Haitian state of its ability and capacity to provide health, education, and other public goods to the Haitian people.

The shift from government to NGO funding has become so commonplace in Haiti that it has reached the point where less than one cent of every aid dollar is given to the Haitian government. This strategy is the continuation of a political project whereby state institutions are bypassed, putting essential services in the hands of unaccountable, unelectable, and non-transparent organizations—many of which are suspected of seeing continued poverty in Haiti as a lucrative business opportunity.

The Canadian International Development Agency website lists the approved projects for Haiti, the vast majority of them in the hands of Canadian/International NGOs such as Canadian Red Cross, World Vision, Care Canada, and Oxfam Quebec. By not working in partnership with Haitian organizations, these NGOs are taking away jobs and resources that could be given/redirected to the Haitian people in a time of nearly 80% unemployment. This model of aid and development by Canada (and other major donor nations) is significantly increasing the levels of dependency in Haiti under the guise of assistance. There are numerous contracts ranging from one to 20 million Canadian dollars.

There are also critics of this model who are close to the Canadian government, such as the Haitian-Canadian former Governor General of Canada, Michaelle Jean, who told the Globe and Mail that “Haiti has become in the last decades some kind of huge laboratory for all kinds of projects.… What Haiti needs is investment in people’s capacities, in governance, investing in education. What Haiti is about, really, is supporting a population.… Otherwise, we’ll continue with the same system that is not productive, not constructive, that same cycle of dependency that is very detrimental.” While the criticism from such a high ranking former Canadian official is welcome, it must be remembered that Jean also assumed her position of Governor General in August 2005—and remained mute about Canada’s role in the 2004 coup.

While promoting the model of NGOs providing Haiti’s most essential services, there is one area in which Canada is investing heavily in the Haitian government: its ability and capacity to incarcerate the Haitian people. Some CAN$58 million of Canada’s aid to Haiti has been directed to the building of prisons, and the training and equipping of the police. According to Haitian-Canadian activist and historian Jean St. Vil, this should not come as a surprise, as the Haitian people have not been viewed as an asset in the reconstruction process, but rather as a threat to be contained through military and police activity.

Haiti is Canada’s second largest international commitment (after Afghanistan), yet all evidence shows that it is failing to promote democracy and economic independence. Canada is often given a pass in international affairs, because in the words of former Prime Minister Paul Martin, “We inspire confidence...because we are neither a former colonial power nor a superpower.” Despite the rhetoric of offering a helping hand to Haiti in a time of need, the actions of Canada prove otherwise: It has been lending credibility to Mario Joseph’s statement that Canada is “killing democracy in Haiti.”

Kevin Edmonds is a NACLA Research Associate. For more details on Canada and Haiti read A Very Canadian Coup by Richard Sanders, Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority by Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton, or visit the Canada Haiti Action Network.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Discussing Haiti's Elections on 105.5 CHRYfm

Radio Basics Election Interview

Today I had the opportunity to quickly talk about the Haitian elections with Steve D'Souza of Radio Basics on CHRY 105.5fm.

Steve is a really informed man, we got into the exclusionary nature of the election, the widespread boycott, and the need for the international community to stage elections in order to give legitimacy to their reconstruction plans. Oh yeah, we also talked about the return of this Aristide character, and what this means for both Lavalas and progressive civil society in Haii. I'll post up the audio as soon as it's available.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Global Citizenship Conference: Haiti - Canada's Role in the Failed Development Model

Today, I and Riaz Sayani Mulji presented on Haiti at the McMaster University Global Citizenship Conference. Despite technical difficulties we managed to make it through, highlighting Canada's infamous role in Haiti - in addition to why the current development model for Haiti is failing.

There was a decent turnout on a rainy Saturday morning. People asked questions, and were both engaged and disturbed why what they learned. Hopefully it will spread. I will post the powerpoint presentation on here as soon as I can figure out how to.

The website can be accessed here:

Monday, February 7, 2011

McMaster Global Health Initiative & Hamilton Nurses for Haiti

Today I met with the McMaster Global Health Department and the organization Hamilton Nurses for Haiti. They have started an initiative to help the Haitian nursing school which collapsed during the Jan. 12th earthquake. I met two of the amazing students, Barbara and Nicole. They are looking for assistance in organzing the students at the school. Hopefully this initiative lasts, as Barbara and Nicole both had a great and inspiring vision for helping Haiti rebuild. As things develop I will post updates on this blog.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Man-made Aftershocks of A Natural Disaster: Haiti One Year Later

The Man-made Aftershocks of A Natural Disaster: Haiti One Year Later

Originally posted on:


Jan 26 2011
Kevin Edmonds

More than a year has passed since Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, along with one of the largest international relief efforts in modern history. Yet, for many people in Haiti today, little has changed, and for many others life has become worse. While the uncontrollable forces of nature can be blamed for the death and destruction of the earthquake (in which an estimated 300,000 Haitians perished), the extreme vulnerability of the nation both before and after the disaster was entirely man-made.

One year after the quake, 1.3 million people still are living in unsanitary and makeshift tent camps despite $10 billion dollars of aid pledged by the international community. Many Haitians think that instead of an international aid effort, they are witnessing the continuation of a lengthy history of self-interested foreign intervention in their country.

Instead of relief efforts, the more concrete plans coming from the international community are the construction of giant factories. While there is no argument about whether Haiti needs jobs, the $3 a day minimum wage offered in such factories will do little to help Haitians help themselves or rebuild their homes, as they will earn just enough to stay alive and return to work the next day. Taken together, the combination of an as-yet undelivered $10 billion in reconstruction funds promised for Haiti, the nearly 80% of the Haitian people without stable work, and a recently disclosed timeline estimating that only 40% of the rubble will be cleared by August 2011 (19 months after the quake) means that the lack of coordination and vision of the planners has now become deadly.

Haitian activist and historian Jean St. Vil told me that he was “disappointed, but not surprised,” with the lack of progress. ”Years before the quake, every indicator told us that the foreign players who hold almost all significant power in Haiti (political and economic), refuse to change the basic paradigm under which they operate. Therefore, the Haitian population is seen and treated as a threat, not an asset. Thus, the heavy investments in tools of repression (military, police, and prisons) rather than true reconstruction is not surprising.”

Since the quake nearly one billion dollars have been put towards the military. Aristide disbanded the Haitian military, but the UN forces are the de-facto force, and their 2010-2011 tour will cost $865 million – and still more money will be invested in the police, and prison apparatus.

St. Vil went on to say that, “The actions of the foreign diplomats and of the UN personnel in Haiti are often illegal. For instance, the IHRC [Interim Haiti Recovery Commission], co-chaired by Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive is dominated by its foreign membership. (See revealing letter by Haitian members of the IHRC. It has no accountability to the Haitian people, in whose name it is soliciting billions of dollars. So far the focus is not to invest in people, in Haitian-capacity building. We are witnessing the worst form of disaster capitalism at play and the Clinton Global Initiative is a major player at the heart of it all.”

Instead of relief efforts, the billions of dollars promised at the March donor conferences for reconstruction have been going to the payments of Haiti’s debt, sitting in the bank accounts of NGO’s like the Red Cross and World Vision, and held up in Congress, while the United Nations was unable to secure an additional $164 million from international donors to combat the spread of cholera.

Brazilian academic and Special Representative to Haiti for the Organization of American States, Ricardo Seitenfus, strongly criticized the development strategy in Haiti to the Swiss Daily Le Temps, saying that “It is unacceptable from a moral standpoint to treat Haiti as a laboratory. The reconstruction of Haiti and the shimmering promise of $ 11 billion inspire lust. It seems that a lot of people come to Haiti, not for Haiti but to do business. For me as an American it is a disgrace, an affront to our conscience.”

Norman Girvan, a professor and Professional Research Fellow at the University of the West Indies agreed and told me that “The record of the international community in Haiti in the past year is actually quite disgraceful, as the Seitenfus interview shows. They have established a virtual trusteeship over Haiti, instead of helping Haitians build their own institutions and capacity to manage their way out of the catastrophe. So the cycle of neo-colonial dependency has been perpetrated and strengthened.” Indeed, one year after the quake more than one million people still live in squalid conditions of the internal displacement camps.

“Aside from the earthquake, the two biggest problems facing Haiti right now are cholera and the exclusionary and undemocratic elections held on November 28,” comments Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. “The International Community injected the cholera into Haiti,” says Concannon, “and provided generous logistical, financial and political support to the unfair elections, knowing that they were unfair. So the International Community certainly brought harm. Whether that harm was offset by the earthquake reconstruction and other help is a tough question.”

At the time of this writing, the death toll from the cholera epidemic nears 3,600 people, with a recent increase in the total number of deaths per day as a troubling sign that relief efforts cannot effectively contain the spread of the outbreak.. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the strain of cholera spreading throughout Haiti matches a strain from an earlier outbreak in Nepal – the home country of a large contingent of UN soldiers at the Mirebalais base, next to the river where the cholera originated in Haiti.

The efforts to contain the cholera epidemic are hampered by the absence of the Haitian government and strong state institutions, as evidenced by November’s severely questioned elections in the country.

The exclusion of the most progressive and the most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas (in addition to 14 others), from the election created a significant obstacle to a reconstruction in tune with the needs of Haiti’s poor majority. Fanmi Lavalas was strong within Haiti’s most impoverished communities because it promoted the widespread building of primary social services such as health care and education, attempted to halt the privatization of public utilities, and worked to raise the country’s low minimum wage—all policies that remain widely absent from any of the international community’s reconstruction proposals.

“How can you expect the international community to do something good for Haiti while the same international community supports coup d’etats and flawed elections . . . ,” says Haitian journalist Wadner Pierre. “There has been only empty promises, biased conferences and economic self interest put forward.”

One year later, if Haiti is to see any significant progress in reconstruction, the entire relationship between the international community and Haiti must be radically reconfigured. As it stands, the Haitians living in the internally displaced persons camps, have seen little progress, despite the billions of aid pledged. Their precarious existence hinges on the relief effort that has widely been criticized as poorly organized, self serving, and indifferent.

The international effort to restore rebuild Haiti under the auspices of charity, justice and democracy is carried out through destructive, undemocratic and self serving means. It is hard to imagine that the already tested patience of the Haitian people will last much longer.

Kevin Edmonds is a NACLA Research Associate.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Aftershock: After the Quake (TVO's The Agenda)

Today was my first apperance on television. It was on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin. Niraj at the Toronto Haiti Action Committee forwarded my name to the producer who invited me on. It was both a unique and stressful experience - always second guessing my answers as I was speaking. Thankful for the opporunity to speak about Haiti. Hopefully next time they will include Haitians in their discussion about the lack of reconstruction about their own country.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Radio Basics: Haiti One Year Later - CHRY 105.5fm

Today I had the opportunity to go on the Radio Basics show on CHRY 105.5fm in Toronto. The hosts were great, giving me the time and space to express the questions in depth. They really knew their stuff. Looking foward to doing it again.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Critic of Western Policy in Haiti Loses his OAS Job

Originally Posted on:

Posted on: January 6th, 2011

Link to Original:

A Critic of Western Policy in Haiti Loses his OAS Job
By: Kevin Edmonds
January 6, 2011
Brazilian peacekeepers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) distribute water and food in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 22/Jan/2010. Port-au-Prince, Haiti. UN Photo/Marco Dormino/Flickr

On December 25, the Organization of American States removed their special representative, Ricardo Seitenfus, from Haiti. The reason was very simple. He told the truth.

In an interview four days earlier with the Swiss newspaper Le Temps, Seitenfus bluntly expressed the popular discontent which the Haitian people have been saying since the arrival of MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Force in Haiti) on June 1, 2004 -- simply put, that their presence " solves nothing, it makes things worse. [They] want to turn Haiti into a capitalist country, an export platform for U.S. market, it's absurd." The French language article can be read here.

Looking back at MINUSTAH's record, it is hard to disagree with Seitenfus. Since the arrival of the force in Haiti, MINUSTAH has been consistently documented operating under a political agenda, actively oppressing and executing followers of Jean Bertrand Aristide's political party -- Fanmi Lavalas -- and their accompanying demands of democracy, self determination and respect for the human rights of Haiti's poor majority.

MINUSTAH's trigger-happy tactics have been rigorously compiled by Haiti scholar Peter Hallward in his book Damming the Flood (pp. 275-310). According to Hallward, Haiti has been experiencing "one of the most prolonged and intense periods of counter-revolution anywhere in the world. For the last 20 years, the most powerful political and economic interests in and around Haiti have waged a systematic campaign designed to stifle the popular movement and deprive it of its principal weapons, resources and leaders."

The undermining of Haitian democracy by MINUSTAH reached a climax during the recent elections on Nov. 28. MINUSTAH, in partnership with the international community, openly supported the deeply flawed elections in which 15 political parties, including Fanmi Lavalas, were excluded from taking part. Both domestic and international organizations warned the Haitian electoral council and the international community far in advance of the political turmoil a rigged election would unleash in already fragile Haiti. A June report by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti was stunningly accurate in their warnings, but were disregarded, and the international community continued to finance and support the elections. The outright acceptance of the election process on Nov. 29 gave undeserving legitimacy to a sham, and further highlighted the efforts of MINUSTAH to operate in Haiti to further the demands of the international community and not the Haitian people.

If outright exercise of politically motivated violence and oppression was not enough, the occupation force has come under additional domestic and international scrutiny for importing the deadly cholera strain into the earthquake ravaged nation. At the time of writing, the epidemic had already claimed the lives of over 2,500 people. Epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux, working on behalf of the Haitian and French governments concluded that "there was no doubt that the cholera originated in contaminated water next to a UN base outside the town of Mirebalais along a tributary to Haiti's Artibonite river." In addition to the report by Dr. Piarroux, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the strain of cholera spreading throughout Haiti matches a strain from an earlier outbreak in Nepal -- the home country of a large contingent of soldiers at the Mirebalais base. The United Nations has since announced that they will be launching their own investigation into the source of the outbreak which will be "completely independent" while in the same breath disputing the previously mentioned studies and statements saying that "There are several theories of the origins of the cholera outbreak in Haiti -- not all reports have reached the same conclusion."

Seitenfus goes on to criticize the fundamental premise of MINUSTAH's modus operandi in Haiti, stating that "When the level of unemployment is 80 per cent, it is unbearable to deploy a stabilization mission. There is nothing to stabilize and everything to build." These comments are disturbingly poignant when contrasted with the patchwork -- albeit well meaning -- operation of many medical charities on the ground. The $600 million per year cost of MINUSTAH's presence since 2004 could no doubt be channelled towards the construction of basic preventative healthcare infrastructure across the country. The money spent on bullets and tanks by MINUSTAH in one year could almost fund the entire $690 million plan by Cuba to rebuild the nation's medical system. However, according to Seitenfus, such plans are not the intention of MINUSTAH or the international community -- as Haiti "offers an open field to any and all humanitarian experiences. It is unacceptable from a moral standpoint to treat Haiti as a laboratory. The reconstruction of Haiti and the shimmering promise of $ 11 billion inspire lust. It seems that a lot of people come to Haiti, not for Haiti but to do business. For me as an American it is a disgrace, an affront to our conscience." Seitenfus later stated that "If there is a proof of the failure of international aid, it is Haiti."

Despite the plethora of heartbreaking truths contained in Seitenfus' interview, perhaps the most important aspect of the article is his understanding of MINUSTAH's present undermining of Haiti as a continuation of the naked brutality and hypocrisy which has dominated Haiti's relationship to the international community. The historical context provided by Seitenfus is much needed in the current dialogue on Haiti dominated by the distortions of short memories. He goes on to state that:

"The original sin of Haiti on the world stage is its liberation. Haitians committed the unacceptable in 1804: a treasonous crime for a troubled world. The West was then a world of colonialism, slavery and racism that based its wealth on the exploitation of conquered lands. So the Haitian revolutionary model scared the superpowers. The United States did not recognize Haiti's independence until 1865. And France required the payment of a ransom to accept this liberation. From the beginning, its independence was compromised and the development of the country obstructed. The world has never known how to deal with Haiti, so it ended up ignoring it. Thus began 200 years of solitude on the international stage."

While the interview by Seitenfus has yet to receive much media attention in the English language, we can only hope that his courage will become contagious amongst his fellow colleagues at the OAS, and more insiders step forward in such an honest way. Seitenfus stated that he spoke out because "I wanted to express my profound doubts and tell the world that is enough is enough." Without a doubt he is correct. The Haitian people fought and earned their right to self determination over 200 years ago. The fact that the Haitian people have been continually punished for simply demanding their right to exercise the ideals our nations claim to represent is an ongoing insult to any conception of liberty, democracy and equality. It is time for the international community to be held accountable for their self serving actions and hypocritical intentions in Haiti. While Seitenfus' interview may simply be ignored within the wider misguided discussion on Haiti, it is no doubt a step in the right direction.

Kevin Edmonds is a freelance journalist and graduate student at McMaster University's Globalization Institute in Hamilton, Ontario.