Q & A with Haitian President Renè
Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles conducted an interview
with Haitian President René Préval on Oct. 18. The
following is a transcript of that interview:
• Q: Your government and U.N. peacekeepers known as MINUSTAH
recently launched a program to disarm armed gangs and reinsert
their members into civilian life, known as DDR. How is that working?
• A: We have spoken to the gang leaders and they have turned
in guns. And today, they not only have turned in guns, but they
have sent people into the DDR ... There are 110 people in the
• Q: There is definitely a stepped up police presence in
• A: The police recently entered (the long-violent slum
of) Cité Soleil and the population was happy. This was
done with an accord of the gang leaders and the population. It
was not done in confrontation, but in dialogue. You will see in
the metropolitan zone there are a lot of policemen in the streets.
But we have to give them more materials to do their jobs; that
means more cars, motorcycles and more radios. There are 500 new
police recruits preparing to graduate. There is already a significant
diminishing of insecurity. The police are giving people an increased
sense of security.
• Q: You've said strengthening the police and justice systems
are top priorities. What are your plans?
• A:We are going to do a reform of the police with vetting,
with the changing of certain commanders and giving them more means
to do their jobs ... We need to improve the conditions in which
they eat, improve their health insurance and in the future, increase
their salary. A police officer now receives $200 a month, which
means he can just barely pay his house. This salary makes it easy
for police to be corrupted.
• Q:What about judicial reforms?
• A:You have to strengthen the justice system. The prosecutor
is working with the police to make sure when the police makes
an arrest, it is done so correctly. He's working with the police
in building their cases. We have to make an effort to put kidnappers
and thieves before the law.''
• Q: What about corruption?
• A: This is a government pushing transparency. For example,
each month we will publish on the Internet all of the money that
comes into the government, and all of the money spent by the government.
Even the (presidential) palace will have to say how much the president's
• Q: In addition to the various commissions investigating
corruption complaints, what else is the government doing to address
• A: We have a law we are going to introduce, where the
president, ministers, everybody who has authorization to sign
government checks, will have to declare every year their assets.
Do you have a car, a house, jewelry, bank account, investments?
All of your assets, you will have to declare. It's one of the
weapons against corruption.
• Q: What about the state-owned telephone company, Teleco?
• A: Today Teleco is losing money ...We are going to have
Teleco ... become a mixed company, government/private-owned. When
you are doing telecommunications you want someone who knows what
they are doing and who has money to invest in it ... No deputies,
senators, ministers, are going to put their people in there because
the private sector won't accept it.
• Q: Teleco and others government workers who were fired
during the previous transition government continue to demand their
• A: The people who were fired during the transition, we
won't leave them behind. We will talk to them. Those who are inside
Teleco right now, we are going to make a lot of them leave as
well. So we arrive at the necessary amount of people at Teleco
... We are not going to do demagogy or partisan politics, to put
people in so they can shout Long Live Préval!''
• Q: Haiti has been called one of the most corrupt places
in the world. Do you believe you can change this?
• A: We are underdeveloped in everything, and we are underdeveloped
in corruption too. If they are looking for a country that has
corruption, I don't believe Haiti is the model of corruption.
I believe Haiti has a weakness in fighting corruption but it's
petty corruption; it's not big corruption ... If you put it proportion
to the problems of the country, it resembles big corruption. But
if you look at other countries, we are not yet strong in corruption.
• Q: Why do you believe it's so hard to get foreigners to
invest in Haiti?
A: It's not insecurity that makes people not come and invest in
Haiti. There is an inordinate amount of kidnappings, if not more,
in other countries whose names I won't mention. The problem in
Haiti is a lack of political security ... Once you can guarantee
that there is political stability, that another government is
not going to come and change the game, there will be investments...
It's a problem of the image of Haiti. Once we change it, people
will return to invest.
• Q: During your U.S. visit earlier this year, you lobbied
on behalf of the stalled HOPE trade bill that could bring thousands
of apparel assembly jobs to Haiti. Do you believe the U.S. Congress
will approve it?
• A: It's one of the things that can help to create job
and stabilize the political situation, by removing the economic
pressure. I hope the U.S. congressmen and the administration will
understand the importance HOPE has for Haiti...I've done all the
lobbying I can.''
• Q: Critics charge that the shift of about $3 million in
the government's budget to study the creation of a better-armed
''policing'' group may be an attempt to re-create the army, which
was abolished in 1995. You've said it isn't.
• A: For me, the public (security) force that we need is
a (defense force) to survey boats, the frontier and intervene
in natural disasters. Protection of the airport, the ports, that's
not the work of the police.
• Q: Sixty-five percent of the $1.6 billion budget Haiti
recently adopted relies on foreign aid. What are you doing to
ensure that promised foreign aid actually arrives?
• A: Money has been promised, but a lot of that money is
going into the non-governmental organizations. That is the first
problem. That is why we insist right now they give us budget support.
Even if they they say the money is earmarked for specific projects,
it's the Haitian government that will decide how to divvy up the
money ... Because the government was weak it had no choice but
to go through the NGOs. But eventually the government needs to
take control of the NGOs without (alienating) them ... They have
to do things in conjunction with the government, otherwise it
won't be effective.
• Q: Some peasant organizations are demanding land reform.
Do you have any plans to address this?
• A: The problem in Haiti is, if you take the titles to
property and put them next to each other, you would find that
Haiti is five times bigger than it is in reality. And all of those
documents are valid. They are official. They are good. But that
leads to fights. You have to resolve the question of property
in the rural zones. Who really owns the land? If a person doesn't
have assurances that the property really is theirs, they are not
going to invest in it .... You see all of the houses in the (slums),
there are no titles for them. It's dead capital because the person
cannot sell it, they cannot take a loan out on it at the bank
... We are going to work on this.
• Q: You definitely have better relations with MINUSTAH
than the interim government. What happened?
• A: What has changed is Haiti right now has a legitimate
government and this legitimate government has a will to take the
country by the hand. That's why at the donors conference, we were
the ones who did the documents. We didn't say give us what you
have or what you want, we put together the documents and said
'here are our needs.' And with MINUSTAH we said here is what we
would like for you to do; they meanwhile did what they were able
to within the limits of their mandates. I believe they are really
happy to find a government that says what it wants.
• Q: The government has been criticized for giving each
of the 129 members of parliament a $15,000 stipend toward the
purchase of a car.
• A: The deputy is someone who comes from the province ....
Just like the president has a car, same as the ministers have
a car, he needs a car so that he can go home, go to work and return
to the province .... He doesn't have any money. Now we have two
choices. Buy a car for every deputy, a car that costs $40,000
... We gave them $15,000, toward the $40,000 to buy a new car.
The government has already saved $25,000.
© 2006 MiamiHerald.com and wire service sources. All Rights
17, 2006, the bicentennial of Dessalines' assassination - Join
HLLN, throughout the month of October, 2006 in celebrating the
life, triumphs, achievements and ideal of Haiti's revolutionary
hero and founding father
17 - A Day of Heroes, (See last years commemoration)
ideals of Dessalines
Ou La Mò
Dessalines' Songs *La
Haiti's National Anthem-
(audio of La Dessalinienne)
in a name?
names horrify enslavers, tyrants and despots, everywhere...
Mannan by Feliks Moriso Lewa
Haiti: Latortue's legacy
published: Sunday | October 22, 2006
Myrtha Désulmé, Contributor
Last month, an alarming new report on human rights abuses in Haiti
under the interim Government, by two social work scholars, Athena
Dr. Royce Hutson of Wayne State University, was published in the
British medical journal The Lancet. The report studied eight types
rights violations: property crimes, arrests and prolonged illegal
detentions, physical assaults, sexual assaults, murders including
extrajudicial killings and politically motivated executions, death
threats of sexual or physical violence.
Households numbering 1,260 were interviewed during the survey
accounting for 5,720 residents. To estimate the total number of
in the region, the researchers applied crude rates to the estimated
population of the greater Port-au-Prince area in 2003 (2,121,000).
219 murders and 1,698 sexual assaults, which were reported to
the survey, they extrapolated that 8,000 people had been murdered
35,000 women and girls had been raped in Port-au-Prince alone,
the 22-month period. The numbers seem shockingly high, and somewhat
exaggerated, but the researchers nevertheless maintain that the
extrapolation formula applied to this random sampling method is
These human rights abuses were allegedly perpetrated by the police,
members of the disbanded Haitian army, organised anti-Lavalas
groups, partisans of Lavalas, criminals, unidentified masked armed
foreign soldiers, and others (including neighbours, friends, and
Under the pretext of encouraging the development of democracy
the U.S. has imposed several disastrous embargoes, which have
its fragile economy and traumatised its people. Unemployment has
soared. Urban violence has spiralled.
Economic stagnation fosters the struggle for scarce benefits,
be exploited by demagogues, the politically ambitious, and vested
interests, foreign and local, intent on monopolising the means
production, the sources of wealth, and of economic and political
Extreme poverty breeds illiteracy and miserable governance, which
turn intensifies hunger and instability. Expectations from rationalist
theories of crime, civil war and social unrest, are that violence
rise as income per capita, education, and economic growth decline.
is due either to the declining opportunity cost of violence, (the
people have to lose, the more likely they are to create mayhem),
the decline in state capacity, which are two competing causal
mechanisms. If the state is weak and cannot effectively police
its territory, a
greater supply of agitators will become available to the rabble
Education reduces the available supply of potential rebels.
Unemployment increases it.
Violent conflict will occur when it is expected to be more profitable
than peace, and there is a difficulty in structuring a credible
agreement, which avoids war or other forms of conflict. Theories
deprivation expect violence to rise as a result of higher inequality.
Persistent inequality leads to anger and despair, which reinforces
demand for political change.
The only lasting solution for Haiti is the same as for every other
destabilised country - stimulation of its economy and wealth creation.
sound framework which combines key public investments - roads,
public health and safe water, with the creation of long-term economic
options, such as the improvement of access to schools, and the
of sustainable agriculture. Great gains need to be achieved in
education, farming, health and income levels.
Preval has his work cut out for him. Last month, Sorel François,
president of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the House of Deputies,
declared that more than U.S. $6 million, not counting luxury vehicles,
misappropriated by the Foreign Affairs Ministry over the two-year
administration of interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue.
Preval has also inherited a disastrous human rights situation,
demands a serious and urgent response. He has so far been successful
liberating the more high profile political prisoners, but there
more he needs to deal with. He does not yet control the judiciary,
however, because in December, 2005, P.M. Latortue unconstitutionally
replaced half of the Supreme Court judges, after the court ruled
in the controversial case of candidates with double nationalities,
were barred from participating in the presidential elections.
Replacements were unilaterally selected by the executive, and
remain on the bench, resisting the liberation of political prisoners.
Haitians see MINUSTAH, the two-year-old U.N. "stabilisation"
occupiers, or worse, "tourists with guns", who are being
paid to kill
them. DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration), was
mandate of the U.N. peace-keeping force, but they have failed
at it. Unless MINUSTAH can live up to its original mandate of
stabilisation, the US$25 million per month, which it is costing,
would be better
utilised in assisting starving and dislocated Haitians, who cannot
a living in the prevailing chaos. With the war of attrition, which
being waged against the Haitian people since the last aid embargo,
dating from 2000, US$25 million per month could go a long way
providing food, water, and basic necessities, rebuilding infrastructure,
sewage systems and utilities, providing social services such as
care, garbage collection, sanitation, education, the list is endless.
precisely the fact that the people are forced to live in such
conditions, which undermine their human dignity, which is exacerbating
No one knows for sure how many weapons are out there. The general
estimate is 30,000. Last month, President Preval warned gangs
based in the
sprawling slums of Port-au-Prince to disarm or face death. Up
rank-and-file gang members, who voluntarily lay down arms and
society, will be eligible for the programme, the biggest disarmament
effort of the U.N. peace-keeping mission yet.
U.N. envoy, Edmond Mulet, said that gang members participating
programme will receive ID cards entitling them to money, medical
assistance, food for their families and training for jobs. The
targets only rank-and-file gang members. Top gang leaders in the
volatile Cite Soleil slum have indicated a willingness to disarm,
the decision to leave them out sets up a potential showdown with
What Haiti needs is assistance in building up institutions for
governance and democracy. It is imperative that Haiti change its
political culture, and adhere to CARICOM's Charter of Civil Society.
could take a page out of the British Caribbean's political traditions,
as the two-party Westminster system, of which her Majesty's Loyal
Opposition forms an integral part. The main political problem
in Haiti is
that the Opposition is the enemy. When one starts out with that
it is quite difficult to manoeuvre a conflictive situation to
where all parties can sit around a table and negotiate, or even
to disagree, accept the opponent's right to his opinion, and coexist
Higher incomes and educational attainment reduce the risk of political
violence by encouraging political participation, and channelling
conflict through institutional pathways rather than violence.
The U.N., the
OAS, and the international community should be offering economic
assistance for reconstruction, and training in negotiation skills
resolution, in order to achieve a new social contract leading
national reconciliation. Erasing Haiti's debt, restoring constitutional
ending arbitrary embargoes and sinking significant resources into
public health, public education and public infrastructure, would
be central to addressing, and indeed, solving Haiti's social problems.
Myrtha Désulmé is the President of the Haiti-Jamaica
growing up without deported mom
By Dianna Smith
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 22, 2006
WEST PALM BEACH â€” They are ages 5 and 3. Twin
boys and a dainty girl too young to know about the impoverished
country of Haiti, too young to be told that Haiti is where their
mother is now trapped.
"My mommy, she's in the hospital," the boys often say
to those who arrive at their cozy home, where photographs displayed
on shelves give visitors a glimpse of a family with a happy, hopeful
And it was. Until seven months ago.
The boys point to a framed picture of a pretty woman in a yellow
dress with long hair, smiling faintly for a camera. She's coming
home, they say. But no one knows when.
Mommy is Marie Michou Daniel, deported this year for disobeying
a judge's order to return to Haiti, her native country, which
she fled nine years ago. Her children are American citizens simply
because they were born on American soil. They are unaware that
their mother, because she was born on Haitian soil, is no longer
"They used to cry a lot. So I told them she had an accident
and is in the hospital," said their grandmother, Roselene
Massolas, a legal citizen because of a political twist of fate.
She is living in her daughter's West Palm Beach home. "If
they know she's at the hospital, the hospital is in the United
States. If they think she's in Haiti, it is too far away."
Daniel was one of 153,026 people that U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement officers deported between October 2005 and July. Of
those, 3,572 were from Florida. Her children â€”
twin sons Marvin and Garvin and daughter Cherby â€”
are among the estimated 3 million children of undocumented parents
who are U.S.-born citizens, according to the Washington-based
Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social policy research
And these children, who daily face the prospect that their parents
suddenly will be swept away, are some of the more emotional threads
that weave the fabric of the nationwide immigration debate.
Their grandmother cannot read; and does not speak English; nor
does she drive. And though she's lived here for 11 years, she
does not know how to do the simple things expected from American
mothers: teaching the boys to count to 20 in English, celebrating
their birthdays, managing when they're sick.
The Immigration Advocacy Center in Miami learns of families such
as Daniel's frequently, executive director Cheryl Little said.
"We're seeing parents separated from their children on a
regular basis," Little said. "Families are faced with
having to make a difficult decision: Do they uproot their children
and take them where they may not be safe, or do they leave them
in the United States? These are heartbreaking decisions to make."
Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Greenacres is helping Massolas
raise the children the way her daughter did before she was arrested
in January. Members of the congregation help pay the family's
bills, take the children on outings and deliver boxes filled with
American food that Massolas is learning to cook. They also teach
the children how to speak Creole because, until now, English has
been their language of choice.
Tears streamed down Massolas' face one evening this month as she
spoke remorsefully of these things. She tried to wipe away each
drop for fear the children would see, but her tears fell much
too quickly, just the way her daughter left.
"I don't know what I'm going to do with them. I'm not part
of the culture," said Massolas, 44. "Every day they
ask, 'When will my mother be home?' "
The Rev. Pierre Gregoire Saint-Louis of Sinai Missionary plucked
a phone card from a plastic bag and dialed one of the many phone
numbers that Daniel has left with her mother.
"Hello?" the pastor said. "Marie Michou Daniel?"
This is how her family contacts her now. The church donates phone
cards so Massolas can call at least once a week. They have about
20 minutes to pack in as much conversation as possible, trying
to avoid the tears and the heartache so Daniel can hear how her
children are growing without her.
Marvin and Garvin have lost baby teeth, three from one, four from
the other. Cherby is getting too big for her grandma to carry.
She needs new clothes. The 5-year-old boys want help with their
homework. They're already talking about Christmas and decorating
Sometimes, the children grab the phone from their grandmother,
pressing it tight to their ears like they are hugging their mother.
"Mommy? I love you," Marvin said in his squeaky voice,
pacing the living room floor like a grown-up on a business call.
"How are you? Are they giving you a shot? Let me go with
you. ... I love you."
Conversations like this make Massolas' head spin. But phone calls
like the next one scare her even more.
From a friend's phone in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Daniel's voice
trembles this night. She's quick to talk of the murder she witnessed
in 1997. A man held a gun to her neighbor's head and shot three
times. Daniel began receiving death threats. So she fled the country
of an estimated 8 million, where the uneducated and the poor outnumber
the professionals and the rich.
Daniel came to the United States in 1997 with a photo-switch passport
and was arrested as soon as she tried to make it through customs
at Miami International Airport. She was paroled after stating
that she had fled Haiti because she feared for her life. She filed
paperwork for political asylum, obtained a work permit and started
to work odd jobs in Palm Beach County.
She became a certified nursing assistant, eventually had her twins
and then her daughter. She saved enough money to buy a house and
filled it with furniture and a family she had always wanted â€”
all the while, not knowing how long she could stay.
"I didn't want to return to Haiti because of the political
turmoil and because I'm a single mother," Daniel, 30, said
on the phone that night. "I was very scared."
When her political asylum was denied in 1999, she appealed. And
when she learned the appeal, too, was denied, she made a decision
to remain in the United States anyway. By then, she'd had her
children and was afraid to take them to a country where kidnappings
are common and violence is the norm.
But on Jan. 30, Daniel's happy, hopeful American life abruptly
came to an end when she got into a minor car accident on U.S.
441 in suburban West Palm Beach. She had just dropped the twins
off at school and her daughter at day care. Before they said goodbye,
Cherby asked her mother what she was going to do. Daniel said
she was going to work and planned to buy groceries to try a new
recipe for dinner.
The police officer at the accident noticed there was a lien on
Daniel's driver license. She was taken into custody and sent to
Krome Detention Center near Miami, where she was imprisoned for
almost a month until a guard woke her at 3 one morning. He told
her to gather her belongings because she was going home. Daniel,
at first, was excited.
But "home" meant Haiti.
"We were devastated by this," said attorney Mark Citrin
of Citrin and Goldstein, the Miami firm that handled Daniel's
case. Citrin has practiced immigration law for 19 years. "We
expected an officer to be sympathetic. We were dumbfounded the
government could be that cold."
Paul Goldstein expected Daniel to remain in the United States
under supervision, where she would be required to meet with immigration
officers frequently. Instead, the Department of Homeland Security
immediately denied the request to stay because she did not have
a passport. Goldstein rebutted, explaining why there wasn't one.
A few weeks passed before Goldstein received a phone call from
a friend of Daniel's informing him she was gone.
"We basically said, 'Sending this lady back could be a death
sentence,' " Goldstein said. "Your heart goes out to
somebody like that. The children basically became orphans."
Children or not, parent or not ” that does no't matter to
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Anyone who violates
the law, regardless of their circumstances, will face the consequences.
"It's really unfortunate the parents put their children in
that situation by breaking the law," said Barbara Gonzalez,
an ICE spokeswoman in Miami. "Someone who is ordered removed
... our obligation as a law enforcement agency is to enforce that
Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration
Reform, said parents who break immigration laws deserve no sympathy.
"In any other situation in which a parent violates the law
and the children suffer as a result, we hold the parents responsible,"
He said FAIR, a national nonprofit organization that advocates
tougher immigration laws, questions the interpretation of the
14th Amendment that allows automatic citizenship to children born
in the United States. FAIR does not believe citizenship should
be granted to the children of illegal parents.
"There have been bills floating around Congress that would
change the interpretation," Mehlman said. "We are certainly
in favor of that."
Daniel is living among friends in Haiti's capital. Like many Haitians
denied political asylum who are forced to return, she does not
stay in one place long because she's afraid that those who once
threatened her will come for her.
Work is scarce in Haiti, so Daniel does not have a job. She has
few belongings, just what her mother and church have mailed in
the past seven months. That includes snapshots of her boys on
their first day of kindergarten and the preschool graduation she
regretfully missed. The twins saved the red caps and gowns they
wore that day for their mother to see. Just as they've saved the
seven baby teeth.
"There's no peace for me right now," Daniel said in
the phone call. "The children ask when I'm coming back. They
say, 'Mommy, you've left us.' I keep lying to them. I know I'm
lying to them. I say I'm coming back. I have hope that I will.
But I don't know how it's going to happen."
Massolas sat near the pastor and listened carefully to her daughter
as the tears continued to fall. Daniel told the pastor that while
traveling outside Port-au-Prince this month, her bus was hijacked
by men with machine guns. No one was hurt. She was fine. But that
may not be the case next time.
The pastor suddenly told Daniel they must say goodbye. Their minutes
Massolas buried her head in her hands, while the children, so
lighthearted, so innocent, tried their best to console her.
"It's OK, it's OK," said Garvin, stroking her hair gently
with his tiny right hand. "She's coming home soon."
Massolas fled to the United States in 1995 for political reasons,
and she became a legal resident after President Clinton signed
the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act in 1998. The law
enabled many Haitians who had fled to America before 1996 to apply
for lawful permanent resident status without first having to apply
for an immigrant visa.
Because Haiti is politically unstable, Haitian communities and
activists in the United States repeatedly have demanded that the
government grant Temporary Protected Status for Haitians. TPS
has been granted to refugees from war-torn countries, including
Somalia, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Sudan. It never
has been granted to Haitians, even during the ravaging floods
and mudslides unleashed by Tropical Storm Jeanne in 2004 that
killed more than 3,000 people in the city of Gonaives.
The Immigration Advocacy Center has written numerous letters to
government officials requesting TPS for Haitians. Even Gerard
Latortue, a Boca Raton retiree, sent a letter of support while
serving as Haiti's interim prime minister.
"Haitians don't have political clout that other immigrant
groups do," Little said. "This administration knows
full well they can discriminate against the Haitians and not many
people are going to care."
The pastor said family and friends plan to seek legal action to
see whether Daniel can return on humanitarian parole, usually
granted to people with special circumstances, such as the severely
ill who need medical attention abroad.
But attorneys Citrin and Goldstein said it's doubtful that would
Daniel is banned from the United States for 10 years because she
was ordered to leave. When the children turn 21, they can petition
for her to return, but because she committed immigration fraud
when she used the photo-switch passport, she would need a waiver
for the fraud.
"We've had three from Haiti just like this," Citrin
said. "Nobody wants to give Haitians TPS."
Saint-Louis has sent letters to local congressmen pleading for
help. He plans to visit Daniel during a trip to Haiti this month.
"We are Christians, and we are immigrants," he said
of his congregation. "We understand. People, when they are
facing safety problems in their country, they have a great perception
of America as the land of freedom. You have to bring some hope
for these people. That's all you can count on: prayer and hope."