Haiti and its problems

Linked with Paula Clermont Péan – Haiti.

Legislation approved by Congress earlier this month to give the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere some reach into U.S. textile markets may not qualify as a Christmas season miracle. But it surely is an unexpected victory for the beleaguered Haitian people and for those who overcame formidable obstacles to make it happen. First, some background: The conclusion of a congressional session is, even in the best of times, an untidy affair. And the messy wrap-up to the 109th Congress – the Senate adjourned at 4:40 a.m. on Dec. 9 – was no exception. (Dec. 20, 2006 Catholic.org).UN appeals for more help for Haiti.

In the closing hours of a Congress that did little to distinguish itself, the lawmakers did right by the cause of free trade. They normalized trade relations with Vietnam, expanded trade preferences for Haiti, renewed them for four Andean nations and renewed other trade benefits for sub-Saharan Africa. The Democrats had been making noise about opposing some of the trade deals, but, in the end, half of House Democrats voted for them, including, encouragingly, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi and incoming Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel. Free trade – or, to be exact, freer trade – is a cause peculiarly susceptible to demagoguery and special interests. (Dec. 17, 2006, courrierpress.com).

WASHINGTON (CNS), December 11, 2006 – A trade preference bill included in one of the last bits of legislation passed before the end of the 109th congressional session Dec. 9 is being hailed as having the potential to help start a turnaround in the bedraggled economy of the Caribbean nation of Haiti. In a late-night vote the Senate passed a bill that will give Haiti duty-free access to U.S. markets for products that include materials made from beyond the U.S. or the Caribbean. The bill also included provisions to normalize trade relations with Vietnam and extend trade benefits to four Andean nations and sub-Saharan Africa. (On Catholic).

PORT-AU-PRINCE , Dec 18 (IPS) – Take a stroll through downtown Port-au-Prince today and you’ll find a city that, even by Haitian standards, is in a desperate state. You’ll find schools empty because administrators decided to cancel classes after a spate of student abductions. You’ll find the city’s public hospital full of sick and injured and dead, abandoned since mid-November, when personnel went on strike, saying the government had not paid them in six months. And, if you speak with street vendors, you’ll hear that they’re making less money than ever, and they’re afraid of violent crime. But if an apparent outpouring of international support for Haiti’s new government is genuine, Haitians should be seeing some improvements soon. At a donors’ conference last July, three months after the swearing-in of President Rene Garcia Preval, the international community pledged 750 million dollars to Haiti. This would be added to the one billion already pledged two years ago. (IPS).

The CIA World Factbook: Haiti.

Open season on Haiti’s poor, study finds. Sept, 1, 2006 – A study in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet suggests that, despite the presence of a Canadian-led United Nations police force and UN peacekeepers, 8,000 people have been killed and 35,000 women and girls raped in Port-au-Prince alone since the ouster of then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. (Read all on The Gazette).

Haiti’s Political Prisoners: Not Preval’s Fault, But His Problem, Sept. 5, 2006, Univ. of Pittsburgh’s School of Law.

“Haiti’s Political Prisoners Exemplify Challenges of Democratic Transition”, on PINR, September 11, 2006. Three months into Haitian constitutional President Rene Preval’s term, his government has released most of the high-profile political prisoners jailed by the Interim Government of Haiti (I.G.H.) that was in power from 2004-2006. The releases have been lauded by the international human rights community and are popular with most Haitians. Yet nothing is easy in Haiti, and the release of the more numerous low-profile political prisoners has become entangled in larger class conflicts and poses a serious challenge to the new government. PINR.

Lavalas has been used in the name of two political parties in Haiti. Lavalas is the Kréyňl word for “avalanche” or “flash flood”. The word Lavalas was used as the name of the political party to demonstrate the need for a flood to purge Haiti of the evils of its past and to clean up the mess that had been caused by prior conflict and corruption within the country. (Read all on this wikipedia page).

‘Five years later’, Sept. 10, 2006, The Jamaica Observer.

Thierry Fagart pointed out at a news conference that the Haitian Constitution calls for suspects to be tried in the criminal court sessions with a jury in cases of alleged “blood crimes” (the term “blood crimes” is not defined in the Constitution but is often construed as crimes resulting in death). If this decision stands, said the MINUSTAH human rights official, it would mean that Mr. Neptune and all the other accused will appear in Saint-Marc and will be tried by a single judge who will not only rule on the innocence or guilt of the accused but will also decide the sentence that would be imposed if any defendants are found guilty. It is evident, said Mr. Fagart, that if a trial is held in Saint-Marc, there will be all sorts of pressures exerted, particularly by sectors accusing Mr. Neptune. Thierry Fagart said he hopes that the decision of Judge Cluny Pierre Jules will be reversed on appeal or by the Court of Cassation. The UN official asked the authorities to do all they can to correct the situation because, he said, Haiti is experiencing a catastrophic situation at the approach of the elections scheduled for the end of this year. (Read all on ‘Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti‘).

And last but not least:

There was a meeting on the weekend of December 9-10 in Cochabamba in Bolivia of major South American leaders. It was a very important meeting. One index of its importance is that it was unreported, virtually unreported apart from the wire services. So every editor knew about it. Since I suspect you didn’t read that wire service report, I’ll read a few things from it to indicate why it was so important. The South American leaders agreed to create a high-level commission to study the idea of forming a continent-wide community similar to the European Union. This is the presidents and envoys of major nations, and there was the two-day summit of what’s called the South American Community of Nations, hosted by Evo Morales in Cochabamba, the president of Bolivia. The leaders agreed to form a study group to look at the possibility of creating a continent-wide union and even a South American parliament. The result, according to the AP report, left fiery Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, long an agitator for the region, taking a greater role on the world stage, pleased, but impatient. It goes on to say that the discussion over South American unity will continue later this month, when MERCOSUR, the South American trading bloc, has its regular meeting that will include leaders from Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Paraguay and Uruguay. There is one – has been one point of hostility in South America. That’s Peru, Venezuela. But the article points out that Chavez and Peruvian President Alan Garcia took advantage of the summit to bury the hatchet, after having exchanged insults earlier in the year. And that is the only real conflict in South America at this time. So that seems to have been smoothed over. The new Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa proposed a land and river trade route linking the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest to Ecuador’s Pacific Coast, suggesting that for South America, it could be kind of like an alternative to the Panama Canal. Chavez and Morales celebrated a new joint project, the gas separation plant in Bolivia’s gas-rich region. It’s a joint venture with Petrovesa (PDVSA, Petroleos de Venezuela, SA. Pronounced “pedevesa”), the Venezuelan oil company, and the Bolivian state energy company. And it continues. Venezuela is the only Latin American member of OPEC and has by far the largest proven oil reserves outside the Middle East, by some measures maybe even comparable to Saudi Arabia. There were also contributions, constructive, interesting contributions by Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president, Michelle Bachelet of Chile, and others. All of this is extremely important … (Read all the whole long from countercurrents, Dec. 26, 2006).

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