- Jerry Tardieu in conference
SPECIAL TO H-O. — It happened at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., last Tuesday evening, April 2, where Député (Congressman) Jerry Tardieu, representing the Pétion-Ville constituency in the Lower House of Parliament, spoke to a full house at the Fong Auditorium of Boylston Hall. The topic, “Haiti.
After the 2010 Earthquake: A Country Still at the Crossroads,” was addressed with statistics showing how much the country has digressed in the last decade. However, going beyond that, delving into Haitian early history, he presented a model for the young future leaders now in training.
The Congressman was very critical of the international community for what happened to the $13 billion pledged for Haiti after the earthquake. Though he did not mention names, it is well known that the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (French acronym CIRH) was jointly chaired by former President William (Bill) Clinton and then Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. We will point out that the CIRH Board of Directors that should have been consulted on various projects was shunted aside, and there has been no accountability of what happened with the money.
Although the Député did not mention names, we feel it important to draw attention to a glaring example of international mismanagement, even embezzlement. Reportedly, the Red Cross raised some $500 million for Haiti after the earthquake and built only six little houses in Haiti, while the money raised in the name of the country went elsewhere. Undoubtedly, others fall in the same category. In addition, no international investigative body has done a thing about it. We will point out those Haitian-American voters, especially in Florida, turned their back on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency in 2016, in great part, for their treatment of Haiti after the earthquake. After all, she was Secretary of State and her husband the UN special representative on Haiti during the Barack Obama administration.
Not only is the international community responsible for the harm done to the country. The Congress man also blamed our leadership “that allowed the situation to deteriorate for nearly a decade.” He provided facts to back up his assertion. From 2011 to 2019, GDP growth went from 5.5% to 2%. The national currency, the gourde, depreciated, going from 40 gourdes to one U.S. dollar to more than 80 gourdes to a dollar presently. The budget deficit, financed by the Haitian central bank, Banque Nationale de la République d’Haïti (BRH), has gone from 2.9 billion gourdes to $10 billion. That kind of depreciation has fuelled inflation, which is at 17.3% as of February, according to a recent statement by the Governor of the central bank. Ten years earlier, inflation was only at 4.7%. During that same period, the PetroCaribe debt has risen to 1.7 billion gourdes from 657 million. Reportedly, the Petro-Caribe heist of more than $4 billion, according to State Auditors, took place between 2008 and 2016 under 3 presidents and various officials –Prime Ministers, Ministers, Directors General and some companies are targeted.
Considering the audience, Harvard students and professors, as well as notable figures in the Haitian community, the event looked like a classroom, with notes being taken feverishly. It is time to tip our hat to the two Harvard organizations, which sponsored the event, the Harvard Caribbean Club and the campus group Politics of Race and Ethnicity. Of the personalities attending, we’ll point out Edens Debas, from New York, publisher of the Tout Haiti popular blog and online news service; Haitian natation Olympic champion Naomie Grand-Pierre who hails from the University of Chicago; the cinematographer Vil Robenson came from Atlanta; Dr. Rodelaire Octavius from Brockton and Colbert Courtois from Connecticut. Others included the writer Jacques Raphaēl, the author Charlot Lucien, Professors Yves Cajuste, Julio Midy and Patrick Sylvain. In addition, in attendance was Réginald James Colimon, who is in charge of international relations for the Mayor of Boston, as well as several Haitian-American elected officials, including Bradley Derenoncourt.
Député Tardieu touched a sensitive chord when he evoked the first two decades of Haiti’s independence, from 1804 to 1820, at a time that the spotlight was on three leaders who dominated the scene: Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who can be called Haiti’s George Washington for having led the fight for Haiti’s in dependence. Unfortunately, Dessalines, who had declared himself emperor, was assassinated only two years after the pioneering feat of defeating Black slavery, the mode of production for four centuries. Then Alexandre Pétion, a key participant in the war of liberation, ruled over parts of the western department (mini state) and southern Haiti which was divided from northern and central Haiti under Henri Christophe who proclaimed himself king until. In poor health, he committed suicide on October 8, 1820.
While much is said about Dessalines, the Haitian Liberator, and Pétion, the Republican, who provided arms, weapons, soldiers, even a printing press to Simon Bolivar to liberate great swaths of South and Central America, Henri Christophe is relegated to a third position. The Député said, “I regret that this great hero of independence, this great builder, this visionary is often relegated to second, even third rank in today’s political debate.”
Indeed, under King Henri I, Haiti was on the move. Imagine that this visionary man set out to consolidate power by preparing to face the defeated slave masters who might have wanted to come back to reclaim what they said they had lost —slaves and vast properties that made Haiti the wealthiest colony of France. Thus, he built the Citadelle Laferrière, on top of the highest peak around, controlling the entrance to the bay of Cap-Haïtien. Two centuries later, the Citadelle remains a world wonder. In addition, the Sans Souci Palace in Milot and the church in which he worshiped still stands as testimonials of the grandeur of the kingdom under this former slave-turned-soldier and eventually king, who had the reputation of a great administrator. By the way, the Sans Souci Palace recently won first prize in an international competition of architectural greatness of times gone by.
While honor is due to those three “exceptional men who fought to make us free,” says Député Tardieu, “I believe that the path chosen by Henri Christophe was the best and already had put Haiti on the path of economic growth and modernization.” Therefore, the Congressman points to this ancestor as a model for those future leaders in training who will need guidance in their undertakings.
Certainly, a new field of research should explore in depth the accomplishments of King Christophe and the means by which he got things done, especially his use of the corvée (forced labor) that somewhat tarnished his reputation. How compatible is that with a country trying to find its way to a working democracy ? Would it be possible to adopt the Republican ideals of Alexandre Pétion and the work ethic of Henri Christophe to put Haiti on the path to economic growth and modernization ? The debate is open.
A failed operation by the HNP boost the reputation of a gang leader
Last Thursday, April 4, Marchand-Dessalines, in the north-central Artibonite region, was a war zone. Dozens of police vehicles disgorged soldier-like police men in camouflage attire. They quickly fanned out in search of the notorious gang leader Arnel Joseph, who usually operates in the Village de Dieu shantytown in the southern part of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Apparently, Joseph, no relation to the Josephs of the Haiti-Observateur, who is said to be from the Artibonite, has another base in Marchand, the former capital of Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
At least the police acknowledged that one policeman was shot dead and several others were wounded. Reports from local sources said that several of the gang leader’s men were killed. But Arnel Joseph escaped unscathed. That same evening, he was even heard on radio, saying “I would like my peace,” a reference to previous skirmishes with the police. Police Chief Michel-Ange Gédéon upbraided the press for allowing bandits to use the airwaves to disseminate their propaganda. Late last year, the Police chief had put a bounty price of one million gourdes, the national currency, for any information leading to the arrest of Arnel Joseph. The latter retorted by saying he offers six million gourdes for the chief of Police’s head.
During the demonstrations in February, Arnel Joseph was out in the streets in Port-au-Prince and the Police didn’t dare arrest him. Now that he’s entrenched in his original community, one would think his protection is more guaranteed, but the police thought otherwise. Apparently, the gang leader’s intelligence network has allowed him to escape, thus far, police attempts to catch him. Though the police made no official announcement, information on social networks mentions the arrest of Police Inspector Désir Faveur Gabriel, who seems to have been the gang leader’s mole at Police headquarters.
Le Médiateur, a publication close to high-level government officials, reported on Monday, April 8, that the Police inspector was arrested two weeks earlier. His arrest followed a police confrontation with Arnel Joseph and his men in Cité de Dieu. Through the gang leader and some of his associates had escaped, in the ongoing dragnet the police confiscated several cellphones, some of which had the name of the Police inspector.
The inspector, Le Mediateur said, didn’t deny anything. In fact, he confessed that he was forced into cooperating with the gang leader to protect himself and his family because his house is in a compound under the gang’s control. An investigation is under way at the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police to find the extent of the harm caused by Police Inspector Gabriel and what his fate will be.
Considering the PNH Humiliation in Marchand Dessalines, Will the UN Security Council pull out the MINUJUSTH from Haiti on schedule?
The day before the foray of the Haitian National Police (French acronym PNH) into Marchand-Dessalines, in New York there was much discussion at a meeting of the UN Security Council about the mandate of the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (French acronym MINUJUSTH). Based on progress registered by the PNH, several speakers noted, it can insure the security of the country without a UN peacekeeping component, a situation existing since 2004. Thus, would Haiti finally be out from under the restrictive Chapter 7 of the Security Council.
Apparently, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was of the same opinion. In a report to the Council last month, he said, “It is my assessment that unless there are mounting challenges to the government’s capacity to respond to the crisis, the National Police will be able to fully assume responsibility for the security and protection of Haiti by October 15.”
On that basis, the Secretary General recommended that the MINUJUSTH’s mandate, which was to expire April 15, be phased out during the next six months, until October 15. However, the UN will remain in Haiti with “a small strategic office” to advise the government in “specific areas of political reform, elections, justice, development of the Police, reducing community violence and human rights.”
The Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix was, somewhat cautious as he mentioned the total withdrawal of the peacekeepers. “The situation is fragile on the heels of violent demonstrations,” he said, but added, “The economy has gotten a boost from an International Monetary Fund loan package. Yet, humanitarian needs remain a concern.”
Mr. Lacroix made some recommendations. “As the drawdown continues between now and October 15,” he called on the Council and countries in the region to “boost cooperation with Haiti, including through bilateral support to address a variety of issues, such as stemming the spread of cholera and ensuring good security.”
Apparently, Mr. Lacroix was not aware that on March 22, an IMF official told reporters attending a briefing in Washington that due to “political uncertainties” in Haiti the IMF package is put on hold. As reported, at the behest of President Jovenel Moïse, Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant was dismissed by the Lower House of Parliament on March 18, and on March 21, the Culture and Communications Minister, Jean Michel Lapin, named interim Prime Minister. After a 10-day mission in Haiti where negotiations were carried with Mr. Céant and his key cabinet ministers, an IMF Staff mission had proposed a $229 million interest-free loan over three years, pending IMF Board approval. Pursuant to the IMF action, the Inter-American Development Bank froze a $41 million loan and other institutions are waiting for the decision of the IMF Board to know what to do.
Some delegates who participated at the Security Council meeting last Wednesday were not convinced about the rosy picture presented by Jonathan Cohen, the United States delegate. He quoted recently released reports on human rights by the U.S., which noted “positive changes in Haiti” which is on “a positive trajectory.” He added that his country “anticipates a smooth transition, including establishing a human rights pillar.”
However, others were rather skeptical, as a posting of the UN “Meetings Coverage & Press Releases” shows. “Delegates from the wider UN membership agreed with the Head of the De legation of the European Union sharing concerns about the Haitian National Police’s capacity to take full responsibility for security following the Mission’s departure which is occurring at the same time as planned elections.”
Other than, those already mentioned, several other delegates participated at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Security Council about Haiti. We propose to publish excerpts from their statements in the next issue of the Haiti-Observateur. For the record, delegates from the following countries participated: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, China, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Germany, France, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, Peru, Poland, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Also participating were Loune Viaud of Zanmi Lasante, a crusader for women’s rights and Haiti’s Foreign Minister Edmond Bocchit who said, “Haiti is fully aware that it bears the responsibility for adapting the necessary strategies to respond to the needs of its population.”(TO BE FOLLOWED) RAJ, April 10, 2019.
cet article est publié par l’hebdomadaire Haïti-Observateur, édition du 7 avril 2019 et se trouve en P. 1, 3, 7 à : http://haiti-observateur.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/H-O-7-april-2019.pdf