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The Justice that Jena Demands
by Xochitl Bervera

(the Haiti parallels....)
**************

Haiti's Lost Boys -
Port-au-Prince Children's Prison
reflects Haiti's woes

***************
UN terror kills Haiti's children at night
***************
UN Jordanian Soldier rapes and brutally sodomize Haitian mother of five in Haiti
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Turning Haiti into a (Penal) Colony: The systematic criminalization of young Black males in Haiti, parallels their criminalization in the U.S.
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Media Lies and Real Haiti News
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UN Troops Face Child Abuse Claims, Nov. 30, 2006, Mediafax
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UN troops face child abuse claims: Children have been subjected to
rape and prostitution by United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti and
Liberia, a BBC investigation has found
.
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Fears over Haiti child 'abuse'| BBC News | Nov. 30, 2006
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BBC uncovers sexual abuse of children by UN peacekeepers,
Radiojamaica.com, Nov. 30, 2006

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Rape as weapon of war: World cried out for Bosnia, why not Haiti?
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Haiti 2007: The Struggle Continues under U.N. Occupation

by Akinyele Umoja
, Black Agenda Report

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Caribbean nation, reality or myth?
Myrtha Desulme, Contributor
Jamaica Gleaner News, Sept. 16, 2007

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Vodun Woman
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Dessalines Is Rising!!
Ayisyen: You Are Not Alone!


 



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Ezili Danto Witness Project
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Impounded Fathers, NY Times OP- Ed by Edwidge Dandicat
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"...Haiti is where the African Presence first stood up in the New World, and due to the integrity of its African retentions, Haiti holds the key to the Caribbean's cultural identity.... (Caribbean nation, reality or myth? by Myrtha Desulme )


To subscribe, write to erzilidanto@yahoo.com
campaigns_button
different_button
zilibuttonCarnegie Hall
Video Clip
No other national
group in the world
sends more money
than Haitians living
in the Diaspora
Red Sea- audio

The Red Sea


Ezili Dantò's master Haitian dance class (Video clip)

zilibuttonEzili's Dantò's
Haitian & West African Dance Troop
Clip one - Clip two


So Much Like Here- Jazzoetry CD audio clip

Ezili Danto's

Witnessing
to Self

zilibutton
Update on
Site Soley

RBM Video Reel

Haitian
immigrants
Angry with
Boat sinking
A group of Haitian migrants arrive in a bus after being repatriated from the nearby Turks and Caicos Islands, in Cap-Haitien, northern Haiti, Thursday, May 10, 2007. They were part of the survivors of a sailing vessel crowded with Haitian migrants that overturned Friday, May 4 in moonlit waters a half-mile from shore in shark-infested waters. Haitian migrants claim a Turks and Caicos naval vessel rammed their crowded sailboat twice before it capsized. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Dessalines' Law
and Ideals

Breaking Sea Chains


Little Girl
in the Yellow
Sunday Dress

Anba Dlo, Nan Ginen
Ezili Danto's Art-With-The-Ancestors Workshops - See, Red, Black & Moonlight series or Haitian-West African

Clip one -Clip two
ance performance
zilibutton In a series of articles written for the October 17, 2006 bicentennial commemoration of the life and works of Dessalines, I wrote for HLLN that: "Haiti's liberator and founding father, General Jean Jacques Dessalines, said, "I Want the Assets of the Country to be Equitably Divided" and for that he was assassinated by the Mullato sons of France. That was the first coup d'etat, the Haitian holocaust - organized exclusion of the masses, misery, poverty and the impunity of the economic elite - continues (with Feb. 29, 2004 marking the 33rd coup d'etat). Haiti's peoples continue to resist the return of despots, tyrants and enslavers who wage war on the poor majority and Black, contain-them-in poverty through neocolonialism' debts, "free trade" and foreign "investments." These neocolonial tyrants refuse to allow an equitable division of wealth, excluding the majority in Haiti from sharing in the country's wealth and assets." (See also, Kanga Mundele: Our mission to live free or die trying, Another Haitian Independence Day under occupation; The Legacy of Impunity of One Sector-Who killed Dessalines?; The Legacy of Impunity:The Neoconlonialist inciting political instability is the problem. Haiti is underdeveloped in crime, corruption, violence, compared to other nations, all, by Marguerite 'Ezili Dantò' Laurent
     
No other national group in the world sends more money than Haitians living in the Diaspora
 
 
 
 
 







 

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"...
we must oppose the system in its entirety. We must dismiss, once and for all, the urge to discuss what's wrong with the system – what's broken and needs to be fixed.

There is nothing broken in this system. In fact, usually (when it is not disrupted by 50,000 protestors), it is quite efficient at doing precisely what it was created to do. In the Deep South, the criminal justice system as we know it was built after the abolition of slavery, as part of the terror machine which destroyed the briefly federally protected Reconstruction era. Without nuance or subtlety, the system was created by wealthy, land owning whites to
keep Blacks "in line," on the plantation, and working for next to nothing.

Thanks to the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery "except as a punishment for crime," laws and codes were invented that criminalized the very existence of Black people, police were hired to "enforce" those laws, and courts were mandated to send these newly created "criminals" to jail, or better yet, to be leased out to the very plantation owners they had been "freed" from just months before. The "justice" that was once meted out by slave owners who were "masters" of their property, was now taken care of by the law. The word "slave" was replaced by the word "criminal."

...
In Jena, when asked about the incident which led to the arrests of the Jena 6, a white librarian confidently explained to the NPR reporter, "It's not about race. It's about crime." Crime -- the ultimate proxy for race, the ultimate justification for racism. ( The Justice that Jena Demands by Xochitl Bervera)

...
We must make it clear that the issue of public safety is fundamentally distinct from the issue of the criminal justice system. The only thing they have in common is rhetoric. Developing a public safety system which is prevention orientated, based on principles of restorative or transformative justice, prioritizes making the victim and community whole, and creatively resolving conflict is a powerful and noble goal and our communities should know more about these models and fight for them. A public safety system includes community based programs, quality education and the elimination of racism.
( The Justice that Jena Demands by Xochitl Bervera)
********

Prisons and criminalization of Black men replaced lynching, is the new form of slavery....| The Justice that Jena Demands...the Haiti parallels....Haitian Nights, Again

*
**************
Media Lies and Real Haiti News

***************


The Justice that Jena Demands
by Xochitl Bervera
Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC)

http://leftturn.mayfirst.org/?q=node/760I want to tell you about Emmanuelle Narcisse. He was a tall, slim, handsome young man who was killed by a guard at the Bridge City Correctional Center for Youth – a Louisiana juvenile prison – in 2003. Apparently, he was "fussing" in line, talking back to a guard. The guard punched him in the face, one blow, and Emmanuelle went down backwards, slamming his head on the concrete. He took his last breath there behind the barbed wire of that state run facility. The guard was suspended with pay during the investigation. No indictment was ever filed against him.

There is also Tobias Kingsley,[1] sentenced when he was 15 to two years in
juvenile prison for sneaking into a hotel swimming pool (his first offense).

Tobias endured physical and sexual abuse inside the prison. He said that guards traded sex with kids for drugs and cigarettes, and sometimes set kids up to fight one another, making cash bets on the winner. His mama said he was never the same after he came home. She said the nightmares, the violence, the paranoia persisted years after the private lawyers helped him come home early. His battles with addiction and depression are not yet over.

And there is Shareef Cousin, who was tried as an adult and sent to death row in the state of Louisiana for a murder that he didn't commit. Shareef spent from age 16 to age 26 behind bars, the majority of those years isolated in Angola's Death Row, because an over zealous prosecutor didn't care that the evidence didn't really add up. After all, it was only a young Black man's life on the line.

These are young Black men who have encountered Louisiana's criminal justice system who I know because their mothers have become proud members of Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), the organization I have worked for over the last 7 years. These stories are about young men who have experienced incredible injustice, not unlike the Jena 6, only the national spotlight has never shined on them.

There are hundreds more. Thousands. Every day in the state of Louisiana (and in most states in this nation), injustices of epic proportions are taking place in our criminal and juvenile justice systems. We, those of us who live here, fight here, and organize here, know hundreds of families and young people – often our own - who've endured almost inconceivable levels of violence, abuse, neglect. And despite efforts to get someone, anyone to care and to act, these young people most often end up statistics in somebody's dismal report, or an anecdote in an article just like this. Because people don't care. Because these young people are not just poor, they are not just Black, they are criminals. Hallelujah, someone noticed!

So, Hallelujah! Almost overnight it seems, the nation is looking deep into the heart of Louisiana's criminal justice system and seeing what we've been shouting about all these years! The racism, the blatant and unaccountable abuse of power masquerading as "justice." The slavery-like, Jim Crow-like, Bush-era prejudice and exploitation that has been the bedrock of white supremacy here and all over the Deep South for decades. Young people of color and mothers across the country are rising up saying "We wont take it anymore! We demand justice!"

The myth that the goal of the criminal justice system is protecting public safety is slowly unraveling as youth in Philadelphia, DC, Oakland and mothers in Chicago, Jackson, and Birmingham make that most important of realizations, "that could have been me," "that could have been mychild."

Many are asking, "why now?" Why, of all the horrific incidents we've seen and exposed, is this the one that set off this fire of hope? Our young people have been shot and killed by police in every city in this nation, left to die of dehydration in local jails, railroaded by white juries and judges into serving 20, 30, 40 years in the prison plantations we call Angola, Parchment, and Sing Sing...

Let me tell you what my heart tells me. What really matters is not why, but what we plan to do with this moment now that it has arrived. What will the leaders, the youth, the elders of our movement do now?

Demanding Justice for Us All

Of course we must relentlessly and persistently demand justice for the Jena 6. But we must demand justice, not only in the form of dropping the charges against these specific youth, but in the systematic and thorough rooting out of racism from all wings of the criminal justice systems across the United States of America.

Justice in Jena requires justice for all the others as well – for all those who have suffered (and some who have died) silently behind bars and for their families who have fought without benefit of TV cameras and news reporters. It requires understanding that we will not, we can not achieve racial justice in this country if we do not fight against the criminal justice system, not just in individual instances, but in its institutionalized, systemic form. If we do not understand this – and understand it deeply – then this newly discovered energy, this tidal wave of outrage, this beautiful, intergenerational protesting isn't going to mean a damn thing past next week's news.

Justice in Jena requires all of us across the country to rise up against the racism and exploitation of the criminal justice system in all the places where we've come to see it and grown to accept it whether that's allowing for an abysmal public defender office in your county or turning away when you see a police officer trample the rights, and perhaps the body, of a fellow citizen. We must cast off once and for all, the fundamental lie that the system has anything to do with criminals or justice or public safety. We must not back down, as so many movements have, when we are "crime-baited," accused of defending rapists and murderers, accused of defending crime itself. We must not make excuses for some parts of the system while protesting others. Similar to opposing the war, the whole war, and not simply certain battles or certain strategies, we must oppose the system in its entirety. We must dismiss, once and for all, the urge to discuss what's wrong with the system – what's broken and needs to be fixed.

There is nothing broken in this system. In fact, usually (when it is not disrupted by 50,000 protestors), it is quite efficient at doing precisely what it was created to do. In the Deep South, the criminal justice system as we know it was built after the abolition of slavery, as part of the terror machine which destroyed the briefly federally protected Reconstruction era. Without nuance or subtlety, the system was created by wealthy, land owning whites to keep Blacks "in line," on the plantation, and working for next to nothing.

Thanks to the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery "except as a punishment for crime," laws and codes were invented that criminalized the very existence of Black people, police were hired to "enforce" those laws, and courts were mandated to send these newly created "criminals" to jail, or better yet, to be leased out to the very plantation owners they had been "freed" from just months before. The "justice" that was once meted out by slave owners who were "masters" of their property, was now taken care of by the law. The word "slave" was replaced by the word "criminal."

"Its not about race, it's about crime"

And yet, even with this history known, the stigma of criminality has remained so strong that our own movements have turned their backs on this issue over the years. Too many of our movements today want to dismiss, minimize, or overlook the necessity for a racial justice movement to prioritize organizing around criminal justice. Too often, our members meet others – even those who should be allies – who hold the entrenched belief that if a child is in prison, he must be "bad," he must have done something wrong. Even in progressive circles, organizations prefer to focus on the school children who need an education, the families who want affordable housing, the victims of street violence and drive-by shootings. These people are portrayed as "innocent" and deserving while currently and formerly incarcerated people are "guilty" - of something.

Of course, it's a false dichotomy. Everyone knows that the same communities, the same people, who are most impacted by violence, the lack of health care, education, and housing are those most brutally impacted by policing and prisons. But the idea of the dichotomy has been essential to maintaining the stigma which justifies the system. And it's been a handy and effective tool to explain away a great deal of racial injustice in this country.

In Jena, when asked about the incident which led to the arrests of the Jena 6, a white librarian confidently explained to the NPR reporter, "It's not about race. It's about crime." Crime -- the ultimate proxy for race, the ultimate justification for racism.

What the future holds I believe that this moment in history can be a pivotal one if we make it so.

Up to 50,000 people marched in the streets of Jena yesterday – the majority of them Black, many were from the South. All were outraged by the blatant racism evidenced by the criminal justice system. This could be the beginning of the end for a system that should have been dismantled years ago.

But what we fight for and how we fight will make all the difference. The most obvious principle is that we cannot fight for the system to expand – in any way. Asking for the white kids who hung the nooses to be charged, calling for Hate Crime Legislation -- these "solutions" just strengthen the system and give the same players – the DA, the judge, the jury – more powers and more validation. If we understand that the system, at its core, is not designed to promote justice, then why would we ask for anything that expands its reach or powers? At the very least, we must only call for things which shrink the system – closing prisons, freeing prisoners, cutting correction budgets, eliminating the death penalty and Life Without Parole, prohibiting juvenile transfers, and implementing sentencing reform.

We can also call for accountability from our elected officials. DAs and judges who perpetuate injustice, state representatives who are in bed with the corrections department and private prison companies – these people should not be allowed to hold office. They should be ousted whether by recall, regular elections, or public pressure to step down.

But we can – and should - also call for the redirection of funds into a real public safety system. We must make it clear that the issue of public safety is fundamentally distinct from the issue of the criminal justice system. The only thing they have in common is rhetoric. Developing a public safety system which is prevention orientated, based on principles of restorative or transformative justice, prioritizes making the victim and community whole, and creatively resolving conflict is a powerful and noble goal and our communities should know more about these models and fight for them. A public safety system includes community based programs, quality education and the elimination of racism.

The families of the Jena 6 are ahead of the crowd in the list of demands they have made public:

1. Drop (or fairly reduce) All Charges;

2. Reinstate School Credits;

3. No Juvenile Records;

4. Investigate "Noose" Incident of September 1, 2006;

5. Remove Reed Walters from the District Attorney's Office;

6. Conduct Undoing Racism Workshops for Staff, Faculty, Administrators, Students, Parents and Community Members.

These are good demands for Jena. What will you demand in your hometown or
city?

FFLIC is a membership based organization consisting primarily of mothers and grandmothers. These mothers and grandmothers have seen all sides of the farce known as the criminal justice system. They have been victims of sexual and physical violence who have either kept quiet or endured the humiliation and neglect of the DA's office and the so-called victim's advocates. They have been forced to call the police on their children when mental illness or addiction has made them violent and no other services exist. They have visited their children in prison and seen boot marks on their faces. They have walked home alone through dark streets in poor neighborhoods where there are no programs, no services, no activities to keep young men busy and hopeful. They have seen their children beat by police officers, by prison guards, sometimes even by judges and district attorneys.

Standing on both sides of the system, these mothers will tell you that justice exists nowhere in the vicinity. It may sound radical, but its time we start listening to those who have been through it all and tear down the disgrace that is the U.S. criminal justice system.
--------------------------------------------------
Note:
[1] Name has been changed for purposes of confidentiality

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Xochitl Bervera is co-director of Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (www.fflic.org). She can be reached at xochitl@fflic.org.
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Resources:
New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE) and Network of Teacher Activist Groups (TAG) have developed: Revealing Racist Roots: The 3 R's for Teaching About the Jena 6, a curriculum guide for teachers to address what's happening in Jena. Download the resource guide in PDF Version or Word Version for free at: www.nycore.org OR www.t4sj.org.

Donate to support the legal defense fund:
Jena 6 Defense Committee
PO BOX 2798
Jena, LA 71342

Sign the petitions at: http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/

For more information or to offer concrete support, email:

jena6defense(at)gmail.com

The Jena Six and the School To Prison Pipeline:
http://naacpldf.org/content.aspx?article=1208

If you are in nyc and want to get involved Jena Six Support, email:
da_bla2@yahoo.com.

In New Orleans, email: neworleans@leftturn.org.

Support Organizations:
http://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com/
http://www.colorofchange.org
http://www.millionsmoremovement.com
http://www.laaclu.org/
http://www.fflic.org
http://www.leftturn.org The Jena Six and the School To Prison Pipeline:
http://naacpldf.org/content.aspx?article=1208

If you are in nyc and want to get involved Jena Six Support, email:
da_bla2@yahoo.com.


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Forwarded by the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network
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Prisons and criminalization of Black men replaced lynching, is the new form of slavery....| The Justice that Jena Demands...the Haiti parallels....Haitian Nights, Again

Recommended HLLN Links:

- Haitian Nights, Again: Haiti's Children Suffer More under the Bushes'
policies and Colonial Regime changes
.
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/despots.html#penalcolony

- Haiti's Lost Boys -
Port-au-Prince Children's Prison
reflects Haiti's woes
By Manuel Roig-Franzia | The Washington Post, March 8, 2007
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/despots.html#children


-
Haiti's children die in UN crossfire by Sandra Jordan, The Observer, April 1, 2007 http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2047451,00.html#article_continue

-
Fears over Haiti child 'abuse'
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6159923.stm


- UN terror kills Haiti's children at night
http://www.haitiaction.net/News/HIP/2_2_7a/2_2_7a.html


- Tyrants and Despots in Haiti dressed-up by the Internationsls
(Neocolonialists) as peacemakers and police cleansing Haiti of thugs and
"bandits"
by Ezili Danto, HLLN Haitian Perspectives, Jan. 2007
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/despots.html#despots

- Turning Haiti into a (Penal) Colony: The systematic criminalization of young Black males in Haiti, parallels their criminalization in the U.S. by MargueriteLaurent | http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/damocles.html

- Cops: America's #1 employment agency goes headhunting
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/despots.html#feeding

- Tyrants and Despots in Haiti dressed-up by the Internationsls (Neocolonialists) as peacemakers and police cleansing Haiti of thugs and "bandits" by Ezili Danto, HLLN Haitian Perspectives, Jan. 2007
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/despots.html#despots

- Report: 7 million Americans in justice system
One in every 32 U.S. adults behind bars, on probation or on parole in 2005
| Kasie Hunt/Associated Press |Friday, December 1, 2006
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/despots.html#record


American Torture Chambers - A report on Today's Prisons and Jails, Part 1 & 2
by Kiilu Nyasha, Black Commentator
http://blackcommentator.com/215/215_american
_torture_chambers_prisons_nyasha.html


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Other HLLN Links on white sexual abuse of the Black poor and powerless in Haiti:

- UN Jordanian Soldier rapes and brutally sodomize Haitian mother of five in Haiti | http://www.margueritelaurent.com/campaigns
/campaignone/testimonies/jordanrape.html


- White pedophiles from abroad participating in sexually abusing
forsaken, abused and already much exploited Haitian street children: On the Street
by Tim Collie
https://lists.riseup.net/www/arc/ezilidanto/2006-11/msg00006.html

- Republican Congressman, Mark Foley, the US Congressman who insulted the Haitian majority by sponsoring a Congressional bill to honor the Gerald Latortue for his hatchet job as the unconstitutional Prime Minister in Haiti, and who sponsored HR611 which gives coup d'etat USAID more support in Haiti, has just RESIGN from Congress over "improper conduct" with a teenage boy.
http://lists.riseup.net/www/arc/ezilidanto/2006-09/msg00010.html

- Rape as weapon of war: World cried out for Bosnia, why not Haiti?
by Wilma Eugene as told to Lyn Duff
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/kokot.html#rapeweapon ;

- DECLARATION of the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFAVIV) Port-au-Prince, Haiti, September 1, 2006
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/kokot.html#kofaviv


Sexual Tourism in Haiti on Film:
Heading South, a film depicting White Women predators in Haiti:
imperialist sex tourism/exploitation of young, black and poor Haitian men
http://lists.riseup.net/www/arc/ezilidanto
/2006-09/msg00001.html


Laurent Cantet's 'Heading South' Shows the Ache of Blinding Lust in a
Sexual Paradise Lost
By STEPHEN HOLDEN | July 7, 2006, New York Times

MOVIE REVIEW
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/
pressclips/kokot.html#sextourism


Ghost of Site Soley: Site Soley's well-endowed young Black "mandingo bandits" exploited by a white woman there to, as usual in Haiti, "do good" but just merely exercised her "white" cultural heritage from slavery, spreading more HIV and death in Haiti (Comment by Ezili Danto, HLLN)
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/
pressclips/kokot.html#rapeweapon

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Commentary: Preval of Haiti - A provisional report card: Grade B+
Saturday, September 15, 2007

By Michael Glenwick, COHA Research Associate
Council on Hemispheric Affairs

More than 18 months have passed since René Préval was overwhelmingly elected president of Haiti in what many regional analysts considered one of the country’s most crucial elections in decades. Within a period of only six years, Haitians had experienced a number of tumultuous events. It started with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s chaotic second term, in which international aid was suspended mainly due to accusations of election fraud surrounding his 2000 victory. Shortly thereafter, the 2004 coup d’état designed to oust Aristide and his government, led to two wasted years under the unstable government of Interim-Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and President Boniface Alexandre, whose accomplishments were meager at best. In short, Haiti was in desperate need of an effective and democratically elected leader who would govern fairly and help inch the poverty-stricken state out of its traditional despair. Expectations were large, and it was Préval, in his second stint as president, who was expected to deliver on some, if not all, of those expectations beginning in February 2006.

Eight days after the 2006 election, international observers almost unanimously validated Préval as president and the elections as free and fair. It was hoped that the unblemished manner in which Préval won—through an entirely monitored democratic process that upheld the Haitian constitution—would establish a mindset for his rule. Whether that democratic process would be the hallmark of Préval’s time in office, or just an early and later erasable blip on the screen, would be essential to know in evaluating the effectiveness of his presidency.

Now, more than a year and a half following what must have been Haiti’s fairest election in decades, it is time to take a look at what has transpired on the island in the intervening period. Was democracy as practiced by Préval to be just a calling card for international respectability, or was it intended as a constant thread of President Préval’s time in office? Following the period under Aristide defined by its endemic corruption and the equally rocky interim period under Alexandre when hundreds—if not thousands—of opposition party members were murdered, only a true, stable democracy, it was believed, would be able to start a long and difficult healing process.

Past and Present
Six years ago, President Aristide appeared to have relegated to second place any determination to rule the country with intense energy, constitutional devotion, or a tireless commitment to building democratic institutions. Perhaps due to the attempted coup in late 2001—or, just as likely, his own insensitivity to inclusive rule—Aristide seemed to manifest a show of lassitude to the rule of law as well as indifference to democratic institution building. He encouraged citizens to use violence when needed to fight the nation’s armed opposition, and civil liberties and political/human rights were in short supply. For all intents and purposes, there was a constitution in name only, something which newly elected President Préval, whom it should be noted was a close friend and political comrade of Aristide, promised to change.

At the time of Préval’s inauguration, the situation on the ground did not look entirely different than it did in 2001. But within a few months, some significant steps were taken in order to implement a series of necessary changes geared toward getting closer to the ideal of creating a democratic, law-abiding society and a fair-minded administration. The most important step taken was the first one—the implementation of free and open balloting, whose results no one contested. As much as that might be scoffed at due to Préval’s overwhelming popularity—he won with 51% of the vote, while runner-up Leslie Manigat obtained only 12% of the vote—it was an important signature that put Haiti back on track to democracy. Most importantly for average Haitians, this meant the reestablishment of much of the international aid that had been cut off during Aristide’s time in office; Préval’s government was earmarked to receive an additional $750 million in assistance from donor nations, to be dispensed to Haiti’s population, indicating a major vote of confidence in his government by the world community.

Baby Steps for Democracy
With Préval’s decisive victory in the election, many analysts expected his Lespwa (Front of Hope) Party to also carry the day in the two legislative bodies, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies (or lower house). Lespwa’s opponents shocked Préval and his backers, as his party was able to win only 13 out of 30 Senate seats and elect 23 out of 99 representatives in the Chamber of Deputies. Thus, Préval was thrown a curveball at the outset of his administration. Whereas the margin of his personal victory in the presidential race might have been enough to give him a mandate to rule as a strong leader, the disappointing results of the parliamentary elections were a stark reminder to him that, even if he wanted to introduce dramatic reforms, he would face major obstacles and likely would have to reach a variety of compromises with the Haitian parliamentary opposition. In addition, while Préval has gone some length to shape the legislature to cooperate with his agenda, he was unable to generate a working majority on day-to-day voting.

Préval’s Powers Are Less Than Monarchic
As a result of this early check on Préval’s power, few major pieces of legislation have been passed as of yet. In addition, since no other party held more seats than Lespwa, coalition building was, during much of the period following the election, a slow and laborious process, as in each instance Lespwa’s elected members tried, with little success, to achieve a working majority coalition. To a large extent, this was another important sign that, although the legislative accomplishments might be slow in coming due to the lack of a working majority, it would, at least, be democratic.

In 2000, Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party had “won” 26 of 27 senate seats and 73 of 83 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, leading to distrust of both the president and his agenda inside and outside the country. On the other hand, in 2006 and early 2007, individual Haitian political thinkers and international observers alike expressed their confidence that Préval, after he was elected, would have no choice but to govern democratically. While political developments and the policies that he wanted to push through the National Assembly have been slow in coming, the respect that he attracted and his acknowledgement of constitutional guarantees, which he freely offered to respect (unlike both authoritarian and professed democratic chief executives) were attributes that had been ignored for decades.

A closer look at how the National Assembly has functioned will help shed a little light on the status of democracy in the country. Its first—and, in many ways, most important—function was to approve Préval’s cabinet choices. Due to the nature of the competing political factions, this became a somewhat complex process. In the end, however, a cabinet that included members of six political parties was approved in a near unanimous vote; this was considered by both Préval’s supporters and opponents alike to be a vote of confidence for Préval’s rule. This process protected Haiti from the one-sided rule that had dominated the country for so long, and most importantly, it demonstrated Préval’s willingness to strive for consensus and govern in a democratic fashion.
Soon after the cabinet was formed, the Assembly began taking a few of the necessary baby steps to effect political changes of its own. Many of the elected officials in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies have begun to craft pieces of legislation that would help curb corruption in the courts.

Although they have been far from entirely successful, the National Assembly is still trying to push legislation through in a democratic manner is an encouraging sign. This is something for which, in a recent visit to Port-au-Prince, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was moved to praise the National Assembly, as he encouraged lawmakers to adopt legislation reinforcing—if not establishing for the first time—the rule of law in the country. In previous years, the combination of corrupt, strongman presidents and the powerful influence of neighborhood gangs and association of elites, have made doing so all but impossible. However, as the UN secretary general’s confidence in the National Assembly suggests, Haiti has a unique opportunity to change course. This is an opportunity that cannot be squandered, a fact which is recognized by both Préval and the opposition members of the legislative branch. When, in 2008, one-third of the Senate seats will be contested, the continued strengthening of the legislative process will likely be at the forefront of many candidates’ platforms.

Many Problems Remain on the Road to Democracy


Although the current state of president-assembly relations might suggest that all is well with democracy in Haiti, there are still significant problems that remain, suggesting that the island’s political process has traveled only a few miles on the long road to democracy. With the lack of a standing military force and the systemically problematic Haitian National Police, Haitians who oppose the government, or voice thoroughly popular opinions defaming the police force (which was founded only when the military was disbanded) for being unreliable and corrupt, the law has not always proven to have been there to protect them.

Even when the law does come into play, its inefficiencies and unreliability usually don’t allow it to do much public good. The court system is weak, outdated, and just like the tainted police and other fouled Haitian organizations, corrupt.
Prisons themselves are old and unspeakably bleak. Prisoners live in overcrowded jails with only scraps of food; according to an Amnesty International report, more than 2000 prisoners are being held in Haitian jails without ever having been charged. At least 100 of those detained are said to be political prisoners.

Furthermore, because there is a lack of resources to properly train personnel and provide decent conditions for the inmates, a significant turn of events would be necessary to allow for a truly democratic judicial and penal system to emerge.

The old-fashioned, poorly managed, and chronically venal judicial system is not the only aspect of Haitian society that suggests that Préval and his legislative associates have a long way to go if they are intent on ensuring the establishment of a long-lasting, genuinely democratic state. Labor conditions in Haiti continue to reflect a disdain for human rights and general democratic principles. For example, Haitian authorities have done little to change the old Haitian tradition of restavec, in which young Haitian children are sent away from their parents to work, for all intents and purposes, as domestic slaves for wealthier families in often far off communities.

Although one can very well make the case that cultural traditions and values should be upheld whenever they can, such archaic practices do little to boost Haiti’s quest for a genuine democracy or a caring society. Meanwhile, along Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic, little has been done to reinforce border security, with the illegal trafficking of Haitian laborers continuing to be a chronic problem with which the Port-au-Prince government has ineffectively dealt. To date, Haiti has done little to project its demands to implement border reforms with its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. This may prove to be a significant challenge in the next few years, given the troubled history that the Haitians have had with the Dominicans, as well as the array of problems that Haitian refugees have brought upon its neighbors, including fighting for access to the resources that can be found there.

In recent years, Haiti’s gangs have posed serious problems for the country’s political leadership, and Préval, too, has not escaped from this problem. However, instead of choosing to let them dominate various street corners of Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti, Préval recently decided that he would take the matter into his own hands, something that Aristide (who chose to negotiate with the gang leaders) never did. Due to the lack of an efficient police force, Préval has had to rely on the current contingent of 7500 U.N. troops stationed in Haiti to do his bidding. Although this has brought about some success, the impaired state of the country’s judicial system means that many of the gangsters who have been arrested might not ever face justice. This series of recent actions concerning gangs raises a number of important questions that are likely to be resolved only after significant time has elapsed. Certainly, negotiating with the heads of brutal and power-hungry gangs has not advanced a society hoping to be orderly, exemplified by the ineffective results in Aristide’s dealings with the Cite Soleil gangs. However, with corruption abounding in the courts, with the gang leaders’ pockets running deep, and with the jails already overflowing with citizens who haven’t even faced a trial, Préval’s does not have a wide range of choices.

A Long Road Ahead

Faced with the aforementioned gang problems, the acceleration of drug-related issues, and the ongoing practice of media self-censorship, Préval and the National Assembly have much work to do in shaping how the first elected government following Aristide’s ouster will ultimately be perceived by the public.

However, if the recent is any indication, there is some ground for hope.
Certainly, the government has quite a bit on its plate—passing legislation that might lead to an improvement next year of the country’s last-place finish in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, might not be a bad place to start. But at least the Préval government is doing things democratically. In both the executive and legislative branches, the signs are there: there is a growing respect for the law and the democratic process that were first spelled out in the country’s nearly 20-year-old constitution but never really honored until now. Democracy is not a word that should ever be toyed with, and we should not expect Haiti to turn into a shining model of democracy overnight. What we can expect, however, is that the country’s modernization and humanization will continue and that Préval and the Assembly will be respected as they try to repair the nation.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being “one of the nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.” For more information, visit www.coha.org or email coha@coha.org

Visit of Mrs. Rama Yade to Haiti (September 14-15, 2007)

 

zilibuttonAuthor Edwidge Danticat reads an excerpt from her new memoir 'Brother, I'm Dying' (3:25)

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 Examples of Neocolonial Journalism on Haiti 

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“Be true to the highest within your soul and then allow yourself to be governed by no customs or conventionalities or arbitrary man-made rules that are not founded on principle.”
Ralph Waldo Trine

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HLLN's Work
from the HLLN pamplet

"...HLLN dreams of a world based on principles, values, mutual respect, equal application of laws, equitable distribution, cooperation instead of competition and on peaceful co-existence and acts on it. We put forth these ideas, on behalf of voiceless Haitians, through a unique and unprecedented combination of art and activism, networking, sharing info on radio interviews, our Ezili Danto listserves and by circulating our original "Haitian Perspective" writings. We make presentations at congressional briefings and at international events, such as An Evening of Solidarity with Bolivarian Venezuela.

With the Ezili Danto Witness Project, HLLN documents eyewitness testimonies of the common men and women in Haiti suffering, under this US-installed regime, the greatest forms of terror and exclusion since the days of slavery; conducts learning forums on Haiti (The "To-Tell-The-Truth-About-Haiti" Forums), and , in general, brings the voices against occupation, endless poverty and exclusion in Haiti directly to concerned peoples worldwide - people-to-people and then to governments officials, international policymakers, human rights organizations, journalists, the corporate and alternative media, schools and universities, solidarity networks. We are often quoted in major alternative and even the corporate papers and press influencing the current thinking of readers today."
HLLN, November 9, 2005
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See, The Nescafé machine, Common Sense, John Maxwell Sunday, November 06, 2005 , quoting HLLN's chairperson, Marguerite Laurent, Esq.


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Ezili Dantò's Note: Bwa Kayiman 2007 and the case of Lovinsky Pierre Antoine Pierre by Ezili Dantò, For Haitian Perspective, and The FreeHaitiMovement, August 23, 2007
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Media Lies and Real Haiti News
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Vodun: The Light and Beauty of Haiti
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/ezilidanto_bio.html

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Dessalines Is Rising!!
Ayisyen: You Are Not Alone!


"When you make a choice, you mobilize vast human energies and resources which otherwise go untapped...........If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want and all that is left is a compromise." Robert Fritz

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