"What matter who's speaking, someone said, what matter who's speaking."
Haiti's wealthy prosper while the poor declinehttp://www.haitiaction.net/News/HIP/1_29_8/1_29_8.htmlHIP - Port au Prince, Haiti — Cite Soleil, a seaside shantytown ofmore than 300.000 people residing in homes made of cinder blocks withtin roofs, has been described as poorer than India's infamous slumsof Calcutta. On any given day it teems with the life's blood ofHaiti's poorest citizens.Despite the twists and turns of what residents describe as severalforeign interventions, members of the community still recount withpride how they served as a launching site for former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's first election campaign in 1990.Yannick Jean, a frail 70 year-old woman whose longevity is atestament of hope, spoke in hushed tones as she washed her clothes ina ditch of dirty water, "We were the ones who presented Aristide toHaiti when he ran for president. He was our greatest hope. I amwaiting for him again."A controversial figure, Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a former Catholicpriest who was overthrown twice in Haiti's turbulent politicalhistory. His first ouster was at the hands of Haiti's former brutalmilitary with the support of the traditional economic elite who livefabulously wealthy lives as compared to Haiti's average citizens.Where Yannick Jean washes her clothes probably speaks more to Haiti'scurrent reality and the contradictions of the current United Nation'smission than any expert on development possibly could. Rising aboveher and creating shadows over her dirty laundry is a huge edifice ofnew construction that bears the mark GB. It is a new building thatcovers several acres and is home to the business of Haiti'swealthiest man, Gilbert Bigio.While the surrounding residents of Cite Soleil are forced toliterally eat dirt to stave off hunger, Bigio is a billionaire whosefamily supported the first coup against Aristide and reportedlyhelped to back the movement that forced his second ouster in 2004.One need not look very far to see where Gilbert Bigio's interests liein relation to Cite Soleil. According to his own company's web sitehis family maintains controlling interests in 16 of Haiti's largestcompanies. They are also the largest Haitian partner in the wirelesscommunications giant Digicel, a mammoth company based in Ireland thathas nearly cornered the cellular market in the Caribbean. Bigio'sfamily is not merely wealthy amidst a sea of poverty strickenresidents in Haiti, his family represents the uber-wealthy who havebenefited most since Aristide's second ouster in 2004.The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US government blocked allof the Bigio family's holdings in US banks following the brutalmilitary against Aristide in 1991. Since Aristide's second ousting in2004, the financial wealth of the Bigio family along with those ofother well off Haitian clans such as the Mevs, Brandts, Acras andMadsens have nearly doubled.Not to be forgotten is the fact that Aristide's forced departure in2004 was legitimized and enforced by a UN authorized mission duringthe term of former Secretary General Kofi Annan. The fact that a fewfamilies of Haiti's traditional elite continue to exact exorbitantprofits, while residents of Cite Soleil are forced to eat and bathein ditches, has shaken confidence in the non-governmental sectorworking with the poor in Haiti.A young woman who began her NGO career to end poverty in Cite Soleilshakes her head in disbelief as she watches throngs wash theirclothes and bathe next to Bigio's glistening plant. There aresecurity towers protecting every corner of the property with armedguards while UN forces in large armored personnel vehicles patrol theouter perimeter. She asks not to be identified and comments, "Ibought into the development model the UN used to encourage us to comehere and invest in Cite Soleil. The US government funds ourorganization through USAID and I came here to make a difference inthese people’s lives. I am now faced with the reality of ahumanitarian crisis we cannot be expected to solve. The UN's mainthrust seems to be security at any cost. This can only result in theloss of another generation of Haitians in this community being lostto poverty and misery. I am ready to quit unless something changessoon."In another corner of this community and trying not to draw attentionamidst the children with bloated bellies and flow of the poverty, isa representative of Aristide's Lavalas movement. Mr. Jean- MarieSamedi was brutally beaten and tortured after Aristide's ouster in2004. He is the leader of a movement called the Base of LavalasReflection and gave another view to the already disfigured politicsof suffering in this community.Mr. Samedi commented, "At least the people they called bandits andgangsters shared what they had with the community when they werehere. People could eat. They had food and had running water. Theydidn't have to eat dirt to live or have to wash their clothes andtheir bodies in ditches of dirty running water."Several children run by with almost blondish hair, a clear sign ofmalnutrition amongst blacks, to punctuate Mr. Samedi's point. Hecontinued, "They told us that everything would change after they gotrid of the bandits and yet people cannot feed their children. You seethem forced to wash in this dirty water. What did the promise of theBush administration and the UN really mean to the people of CiteSoleil? They have merely continued politics as usual in Haiti. Therich get richer while the majorities are forced to continue to sufferin poverty. I challenge anyone to show me the difference they havemade for the majority of the poor in Haiti." Growing visibly angryand bitter Mr. Samedi concluded, "The UN came in here and slaughteredresidents who supported Lavalas on July 6, 2005 and again on December22, 2006. And for what have to ask? So that Bigio and the HaitianChamber of Commerce could force us back into accepting this level ofpoverty? Nothing has changed for the poor in Haiti."
January 31st, 2008Editorial: When The Poor Die of Hunger Who Speaks For Them, TheFascists?http://haitianalysis.com/2008/1/31/haiti-when-the-poor-die-of-hunger-who-speaks-for-them-the-fascistsBy: Wadner Pierre - HaitiAnalysis.comFor several months there has been a new twist in the history for thepoor in Haiti, but the story has been enveloped in silence. Thestandard of living has been declining, with rising costs of basicgoods and a continued lack of social programs. People cannot affordto eat.Haiti has become a 'republic of NGOs' long dependent on outside aidbecause of the methodical destruction of its own civil enterprisesand popular alternatives.Around the new-year a huge march against poverty and unemploymenttook place in the capital of Port-au-Prince. The protestors demandedreparations and that the government represent the interests of the poor.The most pressing issue for the poor is the most basic commodity oflife, food. This week, particularly in the poorest districts, such asCité-Soleil, people go starving and bathe in muddy streets. In Cité-Soleil, a woman sells small plots of eroded land for a living. Shesays it "is my life, this is where I earn my daily income."Haiti's wealthy in the hills of Pétionville, where most foreignjournalists spend their time, have profited from the growing gap inwealth.NGOs more and more fill the abyss, an abyss left by the eroded state.But one must ask: Should NGOs replace the state? Why is thishappening? What is the plan of the government? Is the governmentfolding in on itself for the sake of global capitalism?The Fascists Are Still CapableA new blow is always being prepared, afraid of what the popular windsmight bring. "Resignation", investigation, imprisonment,interpellation of the rich, we must wait for the results. They willtell us what happens. This is the fake democracy we are living within Haiti. A "democracy" only in rhetoric.The Catholic church too is following a path of silence when it comesto the life of the poor and the possibility of building analternative. The homily of the head of Haiti's bishops, at thecelebrations of the 65th anniversary of the consecration of thecountry at Notre Dame du Perpetual Succor and the 165th anniversaryof the miraculous cure of people infected with the Vérole (Verrette),was a reminder of where the top religious hierarchy stands. Afterpeople had chosen their leaders with dignity, these sons of theHaitian upper and middle classes in the religious hierarchy nowappear as an arm of fascism.They are silent when it comes to unconstitutional governments,jailing, killing, firing, privatization, and coups. This is thestructural reality we face in our society.In the district of Fort-Dimanche one can see the high risingplatforms of factories of wealthy Haitian families. Duvalier onceused this site to torture his impoverished victims. Next to thesesites sit the homes of little children made from piles of garbage.They seek their daily lives in this maze.A man with a sack over his shoulder who I spoke with in Fort-Dimancheexplained that "Life is very difficult, there is no option, we cannot stay at home to die, we come here to find life."We are told over and over that everyone is full, things areimproving, the wheels are turning, the United Nations is here, butthis is hypocrisy. The living situation is worsening and it is clearto those in the slums. In the public markets one can hear the smallmerchants analyze the situation.We are told by the big media that Aristide was an elected dictator,maybe because he cared for the poor? The loads of subsidized rice hisgovernment brought into the poor districts hurt the profits ofindustrialists like Apaid Jr. So today we must eat dirt to let themansions grow. The cost of food rises by forty percent. Pregnantwomen eat mud cookies.Go into the poor neighborhoods, see where the poverty is deep andtell the world what is going on. It is our duty. There is a need fortruth. We must tell people the truth.