4 September, 2009 — Project Censored
The US government plans to expropriate and demolish the homes of hundreds of Haitians in the shantytown of Cité Soleil to expand the occupying UN force’s military base. The US government contractor DynCorp, a quasi-official arm of the Pentagon and the CIA, is responsible for the base expansion. The base will house the soldiers of the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH). Cité Soleil is the most bullet-ridden battleground of the foreign military occupation, which began after US Special Forces kidnapped and exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on February 29, 2004. Citizens have since been victimized by recurring massacres at the hands of MINUSTAH.
DynCorp’s $5 million contracts include expansion of the principal base, the rebuilding of the Cité Soleil police station and two other militarized outposts, as well as training support and procurement of equipment.
According to Cité Soleil mayor Charles Joseph and a DynCorp foreman at the site, the State Department’s US Agency for International Development (USAID) provides funding for the base expansion—a very unorthodox use of development aid.
Lawyer Evel Fanfan, the president of the Association of University Graduates Motivatd For A Haiti With Rights (AUMOHD), says that about 155 buildings would be razed as the base expansion moves forward. As of March 2009, eighty homes have been demolished. Most of the buildings targeted are homes, but one is a church.
“They started working without saying a word to the people living there,” Fanfan said. “The authorities have not told them what is being done, if they will be relocated, how much they will be compensated or even if they will be compensated.”
Alarmed residents of the area formed the Committee for Houses Being Demolished (KODEL), which contacted AUMOHD. Fanfan put out a press release and KODEL held a press conference.
“MINUSTAH soldiers came to our press conference and told us to get a lawyer to talk to the American Embassy because the American Embassy is responsible for the work,” said Pastor assistant, Eddy Michel.
“Legally, the Haitian government has not authorized anybody to do anything,” said Fanfan. “The Cité Soleil mayor, Charles Joseph, supposedly authorized the construction, but there is no paper, no decree, no order which authorizes it.”
On March 25, 2009 US Ambassador to Haiti, Janet Sanderson, was joined by the head of MINUSTAH, Hedi Annabi, in a ceremony to inaugurate the newly overhauled base, which will house thirty-two Haitian policemen, including a specialized anti-riot counter-insurgency unit, as well as a larger number of UN troops.
A March 31, 2008 a DynCorp press release explained. “Under the Haiti Stabilization Initiative task order, DynCorp International will provide training support for up to 444 Haitian National Police. The task order includes DynCorp International procurement of the Haitian police force’s basic and specialized non-lethal equipment, vehicles and communications equipment. The value of this work is $3 million. DynCorp International has also been tasked to refurbish the main police station in Cité Soleil. This station will function as the primary location for this new specialized unit. The refurbishment work will be more than $600,000.”
Related evidence of US tampering with Haiti’s sovereignty and democratic processes surfaced on June 23, 2008, when human rights groups, Zamni Lasante (Partners in Health’s flagship program in Haiti), the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, and The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights (RFK Center) released a report revealing the Bush administration’s blocking of “potentially lifesaving” aid to Haiti in order to meddle in the impoverished nation’s political affairs.
In addition to being the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti also has some of the worst water in the world, ranking last in the Water Poverty Index.
The RFK Center released internal US Treasury Department documents on August 4, 2008, exposing politically motivated actions by the US government to stop the dispersal of $146 million in loans that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved for Haiti. The IDB originally approved the loans in July 1998, including $54 million for urgently needed water and sanitation projects.
However, documents show that IDB and US Department of Treasury staff sought ways to tie the loans’ release to unrelated political conditions that US leaders wanted the Haitian government to comply with. This intervention was in direct violation of the IDB’s charter, which bars the Bank from basing decisions upon the political affairs of member states.
“After several years of investigating the withholding of these loans, we now have clear and detailed evidence of egregious intervention by the US government and the IDB to stop life-saving funds to Haiti,” said Monika Kalra Varma, Director of the RFK Center. “With their transgressions now public, they must heed the call for monitoring and transparency. We urge them to implement the necessary oversight mechanisms to prevent a reoccurrence of behind-the-scenes malfeasance, and above all, to fulfill their obligations to the Haitian people.”
Update by Cyril Mychalejkou
When the Bush administration withheld aid to Haiti intended to fund water and sanitation projects designed to improve “the quality of life?particularly for women and children?and to reduc[e] incidence of disease and child mortality,” it did so in a country that according to Washington DC-based International Action, is where “water is the leading cause of infant mortality and illness in children . . . Haiti now has the highest infant mortality rate in the western hemisphere . . . [and] more than half of all deaths in Haiti were due to water-borne gastro-intestinal diseases.”
Despite the report released in June by the RFK Center which labeled the action as “one of the most egregious examples of malfeasance by the United States in recent years,” and the internal US Treasury Department documents released in August that prove the blocking of the loan was politically motivated, there was a virtual media blackout of the findings. The New York Times published a 487-word article (”Rights Groups Assail US for Withholding Aid to Haiti, Citing Political Motives,” June 24, 2008) covering the release of the report, but it never followed up. And despite admitting that the Bush administration was displeased with former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and that President Bush encouraged the coup that removed Aristide from office in 2004, the Times was either unable to, or refused to, recognize that the blocking of aid may have been a deliberate action to create a climate that would cause political and social unrest?conditions that could encourage parts of the Haitian population to acquiesce to an overthrow of their democratically-elected government. But this was something Jeffrey Sachs, former advisor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, recognized. In an article in the Los Angeles Times (”From His First Day in Office, Bush Was Ousting Aristide,” March 4, 2004) Sachs wrote, “US officials surely knew that the aid embargo would mean a balance-of-payments crisis, a rise in inflation and a collapse of living standards, all of which fed the rebellion.”1
The fact that the Bush administration may have caused the deaths of thousands of Haitians by blocking aid for cynical and self-interested political purposes was not a story worthy of coverage by the US mainstream media. Neither was the Bush administration’s role in the violent coup that removed President Aristide, or the fact that selectively rewarding or withholding aid is used as a foreign policy tool in order to influence, destabilize and overthrow governments. But there are media outlets and organizations readers can turn to in order to follow developments like these as they happen. For more information on
1. Dan Beeton, “What the World Bank and IDB Owe Haiti,” Global Policy Forum, July 25, 2006.
Update by Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights
RFK Center and Zamni Lasante’s investigation published in Upside Down World on August 26, 2008 provides new insight into the role of US officials in stalling loans destined to Haiti. The article contains an overview of documents released by the United States government, after a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center) and Zanmi Lasante (ZL). This FOIA request sought to expose the actions of officials at the United States Treasury Department and the Inter American Development Bank to illegally block potentially life-saving social sector loans to Haiti. The public release of the documents marked the end of a years-long battle to expose the United States government’s role.
However, it also marked the beginning of the call for accountability. This article and the related report published by RFK Center and ZL, along with the Center for Justice & Human Rights at the NYU School of Law and Partners In Health, brought a renewed level of awareness of this issue among non-governmental organizations, the Haitian diaspora, and officials in the Governments of Haiti and the United States. This summer, the report will be released in Haiti in both Kreyol and French.
The groundbreaking report, “Wòch nan Soley: The Denial of the Right to Water in Haiti,” examines the FOIA documents and the impact of the behind-the-scene actions they detail as well as providing an account of the human costs of these actions and analyzing whether human rights were violated. This report, including the FOIA analysis, was profiled by the New York Times, Miami Herald, and other major media.
Since the release of this report, members of Congress have begun to investigate possible malfeasance around the loans and explore policy solutions to prevent it from happening again. The experience and information gained in writing the report and advocating for accountability in this instance has assisted RFK Center in developing wider advocacy efforts regarding foreign assistance reform and the human rights-based argument for donor accountability.
Despite the article and report, the people of Haiti continue to suffer due to actions taken by the United States, through the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The community of Port-de-Paix, first scheduled to receive funds from these loans as early as 2001, still awaits the rehabilitation of its public water system. The delays in disbursement added a new set of obstacles to the existing hurdles faced by development projects in Haiti. The lasting impact of the US interference with the loans is felt most by the young children in Haiti, as they continue to survive without access to safe, sufficient and clean water. However, the release of the FOIA documents and report has created a constructive space for dialogue with the IDB. In the time since the report was released, the IDB in Port-au-Prince has finally and has worked hard to implement the water projects without further delay. While progress on the ground is slow, steps taken since the release of the report finally show signs that water will one day come to Port-de-Paix, and hopefully other parts of Haiti which have sought these resources since 2001.
Haiti Liberté, September 4, 2008
Title: “UN Military Base Expanding: What is Washington up to in Cité Soleil?”
Author: Kim Ives
Upside Down World, June 25, 2008
Title: “Bush Administration Accused of Withholding ‘Lifesaving’ Aid to Haiti”
Author: Cyril Mychalejko
Upside Down World, August 4, 2008
Title: “RFK Center Releases Documents Outlining US Actions to Block Life-saving Funds to Haiti”
Authors: RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights
Student Researchers: Elizabeth Vortman, Leora Johnson, and Rob Hunter
Faculty Evaluators: Karen Grady, PhD and Sasha Von Meier, PhD
Sonoma State University
For more information, see:
Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights: www.rfkcenter.org/
Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante: www.pih.org/where/Haiti/Haiti.html
Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law School:
Or read the entire report at: www.rfkcenter.org/files/080730_HaitiRighttoWater_FINAL.pdf