Saturday, November 04, 2006

Amusing hypocrisy while Haiti continues to simmer

Sometimes headlines are just priceless, and a mere recitation of the facts becomes high comedy. Such is the case with the recent article on the travails of Ted Haggard, evangelist and outspoken gay marriage opponent, by Catherine Tsai of the Associated Press. Under the headline "Evangelist Admits Meth, Massage, No Sex," the article goes on the recount that "Haggard admitted Friday that he bought methamphetamine and received a massage from a gay prostitute who claims he was paid for drug-fueled trysts" and that "Haggard denied the sex allegations but said that he did buy meth from the man because he was curious."

"I bought it for myself but never used it,'' the article quotes Haggard as saying. ``I was tempted, but I never used it.''

One can only assume that Haggard's comments were delivered with a "straight" face.

In far more serious matters in Haiti, meanwhile, the terrible violence in Martissant , which seems to be on its way to matching Cité Soleil as Port-au-Prince's most brutal and unforgiving slum, marches on unabated and, again neither Haitian president René Préval nor the U.N. mission in Haiti seem to have any sort of a plan for how to definitively halt it, though they do appear to be at least engaging the gangs of various political persuasions who have been terrorizing residents there since late June.

The new violence comes after Haitian radio reports that members of the Organisations Populaires Lavalas (OPs), representing the political current of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, set up flaming barricades in the Bel Air section of Port-au-Prince, within sight of Haiti's National Palace, demanding the release of what they charged were political prisoners and the rehabilitation of thousands of employees excised from the government payroll during the interim government that ruled Haiti from 2004 until 2006, before the innauguration of René Préval this past May. In late October, Hilaire Prophète, a spokesman closely linked to the OPs, threatened to re-launch Opération Pa Ka Tan-n (Operaion Can't Wait), itself a successor to late 2004's Opération Baghdad, as a violent means to pressure the Préval government into re-integrating thousands of cashiered workers onto the government payroll, something that Préval cannot and likely does not want to do.

There are thousands of people in Haitian jails at present (just as there were under the interim and Aristide governments) who have never had the benefit of trial. Some of them - such as former Lavalas Deputy Amanus Mayette, who lead the Bale Wouze street gang in the central town of Saint-Marc and who witnesses depict helping to murder Rassemblement des Militants Conséquents de la Commune de Saint-Marc (RAMICOS) member Leroy Joseph and terrorizing his family on 11 February 2004 - no doubt deserve to spend the rest of their lives behind bars but, also doubtless, many have been caught up in police sweeps whose involvement in violence was probably marginal at best. Haiti's judicial system desperately needs reform to address this issue, but it is not clear what steps are being taken in this direction at present.

Likewise, in a country with as high an unemployment rate as Haiti's (around 80%), government jobs are often one of the few means to which the country's poor can look for improvement in their situation, a fact skillfully manipulated between 2001 and 2004 (the years of Aristide's second term in office) when Haiti's Direction Générale des Impôts ( DGI), Office Nationale Assurance (ONA) Autorité Portuaire Nationale (APN) and Teleco state industries became repositories for government patronage that was doled out and withdrawn at whim depending on how desperate those in command wanted to keep their troops in the slums. Several gang leaders I knew from Cité Soleil had government identification issued from one or more of these institutions, though there was often little work for them there as they were so far down the totem pole of people the government owed favors to. During a 2003 conversation in Guatemala City, former Secretary of State for Public Security Bob Manuel (now René Préval 's chief political advisor) stated pointedly that " Aristide (couldn't) work with someone who has a base independent of being bought by the state," which rather succinctly describes the situation that existed in Haiti between 2001 and 2004. Unfortunately, nothing has replaced the meager income that thousands derived from this patronage, and with the decision by Republican leaders in Congress to postpone consideration of H.R. 6142, the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) act, our own short-sighted politicians do not seem to be helping matters.

Haiti's Ministre des Affaires Sociales, Gerald Germain, launched an appeal for calm and negotiation, but it remains to be seem what effect it will have.


Wim Nusselder said...

Dear Michael,

Are you sure it is correct to connect Opération Pa Ka Tan-n with threats of violence?
According to other sources Hilaire Prophète stated 31 July that OPK's methods are non-violent (see and
I sometimes have the impression that most French media are biased aganst the OP/Lavalas movement and too easily resort to slander, e.g. by indiscriminately connecting everyone with violence.
If you know about organizations (on any side of any conflict) who do not resort to respecitively try to limit violence and promote non-violent means of conflict resolution, I think they are most deserving of our support. Not in the last place by clearly distinguishing them from less constructive agents.

With friendly greetings,


Michael Deibert said...


Radio Kiskeya is Haitian media (broadcast from Port-au-Prince), not French, and is often broadcast in Kreyol, though the website is written in French to allow for easier international comprehension. You shouldn't allow yourself, Wim, to be distracted and misled by the statements cause de jour, wealthy white liberals who can speak neither language and who are rather transparently the authors of the links you send.

If you would like to find out more about the violent roots of the previous Operation Baghdad and today's Opération Pa Ka Tan, I recommend that you read the January 2005 interview with Lavalas leader Wench Luc on Radio Metropole (also a Haitian radio station broadcast from Port-au-Prince) during which Luc recounts how, at a 25 September 2004 meeting at Jean-Bertrand Aristide's former home of Tabarre, Lavalas members such as Leslie Fareau, Leslie Gustave, Jean Marie Samedi and Dismy César planned the violence and upheaval that was to follow.

The story can be read here:

I agree with you that we should not let a violent minority, whether they be Lavalas partisans or rogue police, scuttle development and opportunity for the poor majority.

On a side note, this post is over a week old. If you could jump into the conversation before this little blog has moved on to other matters, it would be appreciated!