February 7, 2012 -- Kim Ives, an editor of Haiti's largest circulation weekly newspaper, Haiti Liberté, recently completed a speaking tour to Winnipeg, Victoria and Vancouver, Canada, and Seattle, Washington in which he described the current political situation and outlook in post-earthquake Haiti.
The theme of his speaking engagements was Haiti: The Wikileaks Files. Ives is one of the lead writers, along with Dan Coughlin and Ansel Herz, of the series of articles published last year in Haiti Liberté and The Nation magazine based on revelations contained in nearly 2,000 U.S. government diplomatic cables that were provided to the two publications by the Wikileaks organization.
In his talks, Ives examined the ordeal that the survivors of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti have endured in the past two years. Recovery and reconstruction in the country is proceeding at a snail's pace. More than half a million people are still living in squalid survivor camps, hundreds of thousands more have moved back into damaged or condemned buildings or are living in plywood box temporary shelters. More than 7,000 people have died from the largest outbreak of cholera in the world in recent history that began nine months after the earthquake due to the negligence of the United Nations.
Ives traced the post-earthquake difficulties to the long history of destructive political intervention and interference by the U.S. and other big powers in Haiti. He says it is continuing today, characterizing the current president and government of Haiti as "neo-Duvalierist."
The Wikileaks articles detail the recent history of destructive, foreign political interference in Haiti that lies at the root of so much of the country's difficulties. This includes the conspiracy to overthrow Haiti's elected government in 2004 (in which Canada played a leading role) and the U.S./Canada/Europe-funded electoral exercise in 2010/11 that delivered Michel Martelly into the Haitian presidency.
The "WikiHaiti" series also sheds much light on the role that the United Nations Security Council has played as a pliant tool of United States policy. In May of 2004, the Security Council established a police/military occupation force in Haiti known by its French acronym as MINUSTAH. Police and military officers from the U.S., Canada and Europe play a lead role in the force but most of its foot soldiers, an estimated 11,000 today, are drawn from the less developed countries of the world; fully half from the countries of Latin America.
MINUSTAH forces were boosted by 50 percent following the January 10, 2010 earthquake. As well, the U.S., Canada and Europe dispatched close to 30,000 soldiers in the weeks following in order to assure that the post-2004 coup political regime remained in place.
Ives told a public forum in Victoria, B.C. on January 27, "The U.S. rulers and their allies have used the UN to place a beachhead in Haiti that serves, in turn, as a threat to the continent, particularly to Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. The UN force is also making an example of Haiti, placing this rebellious people of the first independent nation of Latin America in a political chokehold."
Ives explained how Brazil came to play the lead military role in MINUSTAH. "Brazil was enticed by the U.S. with a promise that it would, eventually, be granted a permanent seat on the Security Council. Eight years later, Brazil is still waiting."
He added, "By the way, this promise will never be kept. The UN was an institution largely created by the U.S. and it remains under its dominance."
Pressure is mounting in Brazil for the country to withdraw from MINUSTAH. Last November, Ives attended a large rally calling for this in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Participants including leading voices from Brazil's trade unions, peasant organizations and governing Workers Party.
"We are entering a period of extreme volatility in Haiti," Ives continued in his Victoria talk. "This is due to the fact that the fellow who has become the president in Haiti -- Michel Martelly -- was rushed into office in a process that was completely illegal. The U.S. often makes this mistake in Haiti, rushing into matters.
"The election was a mess -- improper registration, ballot boxes stuffed, candidates and parties illegally ruled off the ballot. Martelly finished third in the first round (November 2010). Only the top two finishers were to move on to the second round. The U.S. put its foot down and manoeuvred with the OAS to replace the second place finisher, Jude Celestin, with Martelly. In so doing, they overrode the decision of Haiti's electoral council."
"Now, it appears that Martelly holds U.S. citizenship," he continued. "The Haitian constitution is very clear on this-the citizen of a foreign country cannot hold national office in Haiti. This throws a monkey wrench into the works, for if his foreign citizenship is proven, the Haitian parliament will likely move to impeach him.
"But who will impeach who? Martelly has long said that if he were ever in office he would dissolve the parliament and rule by presidential decree."
"So we are expecting a showdown between Martelly and the parliament. He doesn't have an official army with which to carry out such a coup, but he does have his paramilitary base and their training camps that I showed you earlier in the slide show. So we will see where this all leads..."
Ives also described the political struggle in Haiti today over whether the former tyrant, Jean-Claude Duvalier, will ever face criminal charges for the crimes against humanity committed during his rule from 1971 to 1986. Recently, a Haitian judge ruled that Duvalier should face charges for embezzling state funds (an estimated $1 billion) but not for murder, torture and illegal detentions. Haiti's attorney general is appealing that decision.
Ives spoke at public forums as well as classes and seminars at six universities in the four cities he visited -- the University of Manitoba, the University of Victoria, the Schools of Journalism at the University of British Columbia and Kwantlen University in Vancouver, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and the University of Washington. The public forum in Seattle took place at the Seattle Town Hall, a venerable institution in that city.
He was also a guest speaker at a public forum of the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association in Vancouver marking the birth date of Cuba's founding father José Marti.
Ives was interviewed by University of Winnipeg Radio, the Red Eye program of Vancouver Cooperative Radio (listen to that interview on the Rabble Podcast Network), Gorilla Radio program at the University of Victoria and NPR Radio in Seattle. His talk in Winnipeg can be viewed here.
The largest attendance at Ives' events was at the Universities of Washington and Victoria, with more than 75 people at each. Throughout the tour, some $3,000 was netted in financial support to Haiti Liberté.
You can read the full "WikiHaiti" series from Haiti Liberté at this link (in English or French).
There are a number of Haiti information and solidarity events taking place in Montreal on Feb 7 and 8 and in Toronto on Feb 15, 16, 17, including reports by this writer of the fact-finding delegation I directed in Haiti last year. You can read all about them here: http://canadahaitiaction.ca/events.