Saturday, November 20, 2010

Haiti: Anti-Occupation Protests Boil Over

Most reporting on Haiti gives the impression that MINUSTAH is a humanitarian mission and that its troops are “peacekeepers,” with little reference to a long list of Haitian grievances against the force.

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Supplement to issue #1057, November 18, 2010

1. Protests Shake Hinche, Shut Down Cap-Haïtien
2. UN Blames Protesters for Cholera Aid Delays
3. In the Capital: “It’s Too Much”
4. The Media Ignore the Background

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to . It is archived at

*1. Protests Shake Hinche, Shut Down Cap-Haïtien
Large, militant protests against the presence of United Nations (UN) troops in Haiti broke out on Nov. 15 in Hinche in the Central Plateau and Cap-Haïtien on the northern coast. The protesters demanded the withdrawal of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a Brazilian-led multinational force with more than 13,000 soldiers, police agents and staffers that has occupied Haiti since June 2004. Many Haitians blame MINUSTAH for an outbreak of cholera in October that by Nov. 18 had already caused more than 1,100 deaths. [...]

Read the full Update supplement:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the UN Occupation in Haiti

by Batay Ouvriye Solidarity Network
October 26, 2010

At first glance, one might wonder what the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have in common with a UN “peace” mission on the opposite side of the world, in Haiti, a non Muslim country. Indeed, from the standpoint of US military casualties or US military expenditures, there is little in common.

But for a few weeks earlier this year, after the January 12th earthquake, there were proportionally as many US troops in Haiti as in Afghanistan in 2009, before Obama’s surge. And the death toll of over 300,000 and the devastation which left more than 1.2 million people homeless certainly made Haiti look like a war zone. The militarization of rescue efforts, which gave absolute priority to establishing and maintaining military control rather than to the distribution of critical aid left piling up in airport hangars, and the division of Port-au-Prince into red, orange and green security zones, were eerily reminiscent of US occupation policies. And although military control was soon handed back to a beefed-up UN multilateral mission, the MINUSTAH, this relatively brief US military incursion was quite revealing in terms of US political and strategic interests. Why did the US react with such a massive troop deployment in Haiti? What is at stake for the US in Haiti? Why should the US anti-war movement consider Haiti as another front in the US military campaigns of aggression? What do these policies have to do with the US New World Order globalization agenda? [...]

Read the full article:

Cash for… What?

Do cash-for-work programs help “the recovery”? Is it a good thing that the sidewalks are jammed with people selling mostly imported goods and cast-off clothing and shoes from overseas? And what lurks behind the comments of Clinton and Ban?

by Ayiti Kale Je/Haiti Grassroots Watch/Haïti Veedor
November 8, 2010

Since the January 12 earthquake, multilateral agencies and humanitarian organizations have deployed across Haiti with “cash-for-work” programs, employing tens of thousands.

Taken together, these agencies and “non-governmental organizations” or NGOs – the term is a misnomer, since many are direct subcontractors of the US and other governments – are likely Haiti’s largest employer. [...]

Read the report and watch the video:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NYC, 11/20: U.S. Out of Haiti – Clinton Out of Harlem

Join us for a Day of Outrage in Harlem


WHERE IS THE MONEY FOR HAITI? Under US military occupation former President Bill Clinton serves as Special UN Envoy to Haiti and co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC): Life and death struggles intensify for millions of Haitians: cholera epidemic & 1.5 million still homeless!! And in Harlem Clinton Renews Lease for penthouse office in 55 W. 125th St: More Predatory Real Estate, Gentrification & Displacement!

Schedule of Activities
12 Noon to 1:30 PM: Rally Against former President Bill Clinton directly across from penthouse office 55 West 125th St. (Between Lenox & 5th Avenues.)

1:30 - 2 PM: March across 125th to Old Broadway: St. Mary's Church: 516 West 126th Street (Amsterdam & Old Broadway)

2 - 5 PM: Teach-in on Haiti at St. Mary's : Speakers include Omali Yeshitela (Chair of Black is Back); Glen Ford (Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report); Nellie Hester Bailey (Harlem Tenants Council); Ashley Smith (International Socialist Review); Kim Ives (Editor of Haiti Liberte: Back from Haiti Report); Activist/Organizer Ray LaForest; others to be announced.

7 – 9 PM: EVENING ACTIVITY: Maysles Cinema: 343 Lenox Avenue (128th & 127th): Film & “Voices of Haitians on the Future of Haiti” with Roger Leduc ( KAKOLA: Haitian Coalition to Support the Struggle in Haiti); Marquez Osson (WBAI Radio, "Haiti: The Struggle Continues"); Activist/Organizer Ray LaForest; Colette Pean (December 12th Movement); other TBA. Reception to follow.

For more information contact Harlem Tenants Council: email: or 646-812-5188 or visit website: or (Telephone:202-681-7040 )

Friday, October 29, 2010

Petition to End Violence Against Students and Teachers in Haiti

This petition is in response to a call for international solidarity sent out by the executive committee of a coalition of education organizations in Haiti after the police killing of a protesting teacher, and signed on Oct. 11, 2010, by the coordinators of the coalition François Mario, CNEH (teachers' union), Eugène Jean, UPEPH (parents' organization), and Josué Mérilien, UNNOH (teachers' union).

In signing, you will be standing in solidarity with teachers, students, and parents in Port-au-Prince who are organizing for schooling for Haitian children abandoned by the education system, and for decent living and working conditions for teachers and students.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Citizen Protests, Government Repression Mount in Haiti

by Beverly Bell, Huffington Post
October 19, 2010

"I came to protest so we can find a solution. Misery is killing me," said Mascarie Sainte-Anne, 70, at the edge of a rally in front of Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive's office on October 12.

Haitians have been taking to the streets with increasing frequency since August in calls for redress of the economic and social crisis which has followed the earthquake. The social movements' demands of the government include the right of those living in internally displaced people's camps to permanent, humane housing; accessible education; and an increase in minimum wage. Rallies have also protested the continued presence of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH. [...]

Read the full article:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Beyond Wyclef: What Haitians Want From Elections

“I see the elections of November 28 as an injustice to the population who are victims of the earthquake of January 12. This money [from the campaign] could be used to help people who are in difficulty."

Beverly Bell, Toward Freedom
October 18, 2010

We asked dozens of Haitians from different social sectors how they felt about the November 28 elections, and what they want or expect from a new government. Here are some of their responses. [...]

Read the full article:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Equality and Rights for All Workers – The Key to Organizing Unions

Organizing immigrant workers is not a matter of taking pity on the downtrodden. It requires us to understand what is necessary for the survival of our communities, of our labor movement.

by David Bacon, Monthly Review and Americas Program
October 11, 2010

When I was a union organizer, I had an experience that dramatized for me the importance of the cultural and historical traditions that immigrants from Mexico bring with them when they come to the United States, and how they affect the way people organize.

I was working for the United Electrical Workers, one of the most progressive U.S. unions. We were contacted by workers at a huge sweatshop, Cal Spas. Unhappy with low wages and abusive conditions, they began to organize a union. Then the head of the workers’ organizing committee was beaten up in the middle of the street in front of the plant. It was an obvious effort to scare the workers and make them stop organizing. [...]

Read the full article:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Food Shortage in Haiti

August 16, 2010

TV Link's Claire Doole visits Haiti's drought-stricken Central Plateau, where farmers struggle to feed more mouths.

Watch the video:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mexican Community Theater: A Different View of Immigration

by David L. Wilson, MRZine
September 3, 2010

In a small, crowded theater in New York's West Village the night of August 8, a group of thirty indigenous women from central Mexico finally got a chance to perform their play before a U.S. audience.

The cast, members of the community group Soame Citlalime ("Women of the Star" in Náhuatl), had spent the past year creating "La Casa Rosa," a 90-minute drama about the impact of immigration on their village, San Francisco Tetlanohcan, east of Mexico City in the state of Tlaxcala. An April tour in New York and New Haven, sponsored by the New Haven-based Institute for Social and Cultural Practice and Research in Mexico (IIPSOCULTA U.S.), had to be cancelled at the last minute when the U.S. embassy in Mexico City denied the group's application for visas. [...]

Read the full article:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Days 5 and 6 in Port-au-Prince: Escape From Katrina

By David L. Wilson
August 6, 2010

[This is the second of two reports I wrote after returning to New York from Port-au-Prince on January 18; I didn’t get a chance to edit them until July. For the other report, see "Day 4 in Port-au-Prince: On the Veranda." ]

Founded in 1994 by the Liberation Theology priest Joseph Philippe and a number of local organizations, Fonkoze is Haiti’s main microcredit bank, making small, short-term loans to tens of thousands of ti machann—the street vendors, mostly women, who provide much of the activity in the country’s informal economy.

Like everything else in Port-au-Prince, Fonkoze was devastated by the January 12 earthquake. Many branch offices were destroyed, and structural damage had made the main office unsafe to use. No one died there, but an administrator had to be evacuated to the United States for medical care. The director, Anne Hastings, was calling for volunteers to come by on Saturday morning, January 16, to help retrieve important records from the building.

By Saturday, three of us—New Yorkers who’d come to Haiti the week before to visit a peasant movement in the Central Plateau—had decided that the best way to get back home was to take the Santo Domingo bus from a terminal in the northeastern suburb of Tabarre. This sounded easier and more reliable than the evacuation flights the U.S. government was promoting. We were told the terminal was right by the embassy: if we couldn’t get a bus, we could still throw ourselves on the mercies of the Colossus of the North.

So we made arrangements with Milfort Bruno, the proprietor of an art shop across the street from the Hotel Oloffson, where we were staying. He promised to get us a vehicle and a driver for just $40—a major accomplishment in a city where the corporate reporters seemed to have hired every car that still ran—and to pick us up early on Sunday.

This left us free on Saturday to make ourselves at least a little bit useful at Fonkoze.

Rue La Mort
We started late. We’d had some last-minute clarifications to make with Milfort, and I also think a certain lethargy was setting in now, in the fifth day since the quake.

The Fonkoze office was on Avenue Christophe, which comes right up to the Oloffson, but several people told us the best way to get there was to take Rue Capois north to the downtown area and then go east on Avenue John Brown, which intersects Christophe.

So we started off down the hill toward the National Palace. There were four of us now; another guest at the hotel had joined us.

We saw some signs of improvement in the residential areas. Neighborhood people had cleared most of the rubble out of the streets and had fashioned it into barricades so that cars wouldn’t run into the little street encampments—everyone was still sleeping outdoors because of the continuing aftershocks, and those without yards had nowhere to go but the street. The dead bodies were gone; apparently the authorities had gotten organized enough to hire people and trucks to remove the corpses. But this was the only evidence I ever saw of government action, just as the Belgian rescue mission we’d run into on Thursday was the only evidence I’d seen of international assistance. We knew the big U.S. transport planes were regularly lumbering into the airport, but what were they bringing? No aid had come down here to Carrefour Feuilles.

The scene grew grimmer as we moved downtown. Shopkeepers were trying to clean up and get back in business, but there was only so much they could do for the ruined stores without help from outside. Here too the bodies had been removed, but new ones had sprung up in their place. It seemed that people were bringing corpses to the main streets, where the government workers were more likely to see them and haul them off to the mass graves outside the city.

There seemed to be less respect for the dead now; instead of covering the bodies with sheets, as they had done in the first days, people were satisfied with throwing a rag or piece of plastic over the face.

It was around 11 am, and the sun had gotten bright and hot. I understood something I’d read about: the special look of horrors in the tropics. The bright sunlight brings out every detail, infuses everything with gorgeous, exaggerated colors, like the colors in the idealized country scenes of Haitian folk art. The sharp visual reality of a corpse lying in the street becomes too great; you don’t quite believe it.

Like the rest of us, the dead people were in their fifth day since the earthquake. Most Haitians were wearing scarves over their faces as they walked down the street; if they didn’t have scarves, they’d put a line of toothpaste under their noses to offset the smell.

The bright colors of the tropics extended to the clothes. A remarkable number of the people we passed wore clothes that were as bright and colorful as the day itself, and the clothes and the people were clean. How had they done it, living in yards or the street or encampments in places like the Champ de Mars across from the National Palace? I’d given up any idea of washing my clothes, and for days now my personal hygiene had been limited to sponge baths using a big plastic bucket of stale, chlorinated water from the Oloffson’s swimming pool.

We continued down Rue Capois, named for a revolutionary general so fearless that he was nicknamed “Lanmò”—Death. We turned right on Avenue John Brown, named for a man whose body lies a-moldering in the grave, and then right again on Avenue Christophe, named for a megalomaniac king. By now we knew our directions had been wrong; we’d made a long detour through downtown, and we were going to be very late.

I started to sense that like the smell, the mood in the streets had gotten worse. People remained polite, but I noticed how often they told us not to photograph them. I understood of course why you wouldn’t want to have your suffering end up in a tourist’s slideshow—but we weren’t carrying cameras or waving cell phones around; there was no reason to think we wanted to take pictures. I suspected they’d come to think of blan yo, the foreigners, as people who took pictures and never helped. The Haitians had to resent this; I certainly did.

As we were walking up Avenue Christophe, I noticed something about our own deteriorating morale. Two of us were talking as we approached a corpse on the sidewalk. With a slight nod to each other, we broke off our conversation and separated to walk around the body, giving it a wide berth. Then we came together again and resumed our conversation where we’d left off. I realized we’d done similar things several times during our journey.

We’d gotten used to dead people.

Haitian Know-How
The volunteers had already finished when we finally got to Fonkoze. Along with the rest of the international community, our little group from the Oloffson had turned out to be completely useless.

The Fonkoze offices were set back from the street in a large yard; this seemed to be a residential neighborhood. You could see at least one large crack in the building. It must have been hard work, not to say dangerous work, to go in there in the heat to pull out financial records. The volunteers were resting and drinking water under a sheet they’d strung up between trees as a sort of canopy. Most seemed to be Fonkoze staff, and like so many of the people on the street, they’d somehow contrived to be clean and neatly dressed.

Even while resting they stayed busy, sorting files and asking the director questions. Anne Hastings had been a management consultant in Washington, DC before she was recruited to head Fonkoze, and her answers were brief and businesslike. She spoke fluent Creole, but with a wonderfully all-American accent, like Jean Seberg’s French in "Breathless."

The one little bit of encouragement I got that day was watching Anne and the Fonkoze staff working together—the bank’s full name is Fondasyon Kole Zepòl, “Shoulder-to-Shoulder Foundation.” I’d been thinking the day before about how the myth of “American know-how” had been shown up by our government’s incompetence during Katrina. Now I realized that we can be competent after all, especially when we recognize and respect the competence of other people.

On the way back to the Oloffson I noticed a little white cloth bundle on the sidewalk beside Avenue Christophe. It was wrapped tight, like a tiny Egyptian mummy. I took a deep breath, but I didn’t point the bundle out to the others. As always, I felt the cosmic injustice in a grey-haired stranger like me coming out of the disaster without a scratch while this small Haitian was lying in the street waiting to be taken to the mass burial pits outside the city. There are some dead people you can’t get used to.

“The Ghosts of Beauty”
I didn’t sleep well my last night in Port-au-Prince, and I spent a lot of time wandering around beneath the tall palms of the Oloffson’s grounds.

It was a little spooky to walk there, thinking of the hundreds of people who had died in the blocks around the hotel. The first few nights I’d been cheered up by people singing hymns in the intersection in front, but now there were only a few singers, and they sounded like diehard evangelicals moved more by doctrine than by community spirit. They were loud, and one was flagrantly out of tune. The photographer Daniel Morel told me that people had been leaving to stay with relatives in the country, reversing the historic tendency for too many people to crowd together in the capital. That might be, but it was lonely without the hundreds of singers I heard the first nights.

The power was still out and the city was dark. You could see the winter stars in the sky, and that, at least, was lovely. I even caught a glimpse of a shooting star through the trees.

I began to think of all the people who had wandered in these grounds in the past or in fiction—Malcolm Lowry, John Barrymore, and, for comic relief, Charles Addams. Here was the swimming pool where the social welfare minister killed himself in the Graham Greene book. And I thought back to the earlier times before electricity, the 1890s, when the neighborhood had belonged to well-to-do mixed-race families with elegant manners and flawless Parisian accents.

A line from Pope came to mind:

Still round and round the Ghosts of Beauty glide….

Lack of sleep and maybe the stress of the past few days made me a little giddy, and I began fantasizing about the spirits of the old Haitian elite. How did they feel when they found the place crowded with so many fresh, plebeian ghosts—the schoolgirl crushed when the retaining wall fell on her in front of the hotel, the families buried under the houses in the block below the intersection, the sixty students lost in the St. Gérard school up the hill?

At around four in the morning I heard what had to be automatic weapons, three brief bursts off in the distance. This was the first time I’d heard gunfire in Port-au-Prince, despite rumors of escaped prisoners, of looters, and of the U.S.-trained police executing supposed looters.

I climbed up some cement steps to a point where I could look out over the darkened city. I’d thought the sound came from around the Delmas area, to my right, and as I stood at the top of the stairs, there was a fourth round of shots. This wasn’t a fantasy about old ghosts; it was real and it was happening right now. My God, I thought, weren’t there already enough dead people?

Our Fellow Americans?
Milfort came for us around 6:30 am with his driver and what may once have been a pickup truck. The way to the bus terminal went north toward the airport and then east to Tabarre. We bumped through downtown, past the crumpled National Palace, and then through impoverished Bel Air, where people were still trying to sleep and looked at us resentfully from inside the barricaded encampments. As we approached the airport, I noticed a big new sign. Someone had painted a large white square on a wall, and then, in large, professionally formed letters: “WE NEED HELP.” The plea was placed so that no one coming in from the airport could miss it.

The bus terminal turned out to be a small building in what seemed to be the U.S. embassy’s parking lot. Two U.S. soldiers in camouflage greeted us cheerfully as we got our bags out of the truck. “You’re not taking the evacuation?” one asked in a southern drawl. No, we thought going through Santo Domingo would be easier. “Well, you might just be right about that,” he said.

The bus company employees directed us to “standby,” a row of wooden benches in the shade in front of the little building. The waiting passengers were mostly middle-class Haitians and Haitian Americans, with a few Dominicans mixed in. Conversation was a mélange of Creole, English, French, and Spanish; the English was frequently in New York and Florida accents. It was a typically Haitian scene—an apparent chaos in which everything still got sorted out. Three hours later our turn came, and we boarded a large, air-conditioned bus.

As we started on our long but embarrassingly comfortable ride to the Dominican Republic, the bus passed in front of the embassy. A sympathetic murmur came from the other passengers. “Gade, gade!” the woman across the aisle told her companion. “Look!”

There was a long line by the street outside the embassy. It was close to 11 am now, and a hot sun was beating down on the people as they waited in all the different postures of weariness and dejection. Who were they? Were they our “fellow Americans” waiting to get approval to take the evacuation flights? Or were they Haitian citizens who still believed blan yo would somehow help them? I couldn’t pick out a single white face in the long, wilting line. I wondered if everybody else thought what I was thinking: Katrina.

[David L. Wilson is co-author, with Jane Guskin, of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers (Monthly Review Press, 2007), and co-editor of Weekly News Update on the Americas.]

NYC, Aug. 8: "La Casa Rosa," immigration play

From Mexico: the performance the State Department didn't want you to see...

"La Casa Rosa" and Families Without Borders Break Barriers, Reunite Families

Sunday, August 8, 2010
8 pm (doors open 7 pm)

Wings Theater
154 Christopher Street, Lower Level
New York City
(at Washington Street; PATH to Christopher Street, 1 to Christopher Street-Sheridan Square)

More information:

Woman's Theater Project comes to the United States After Battle with State Dept

New Haven, CT / New York, NY (July 27, 2010) After a protracted battle with the U.S. State Department, visas have finally been issued for the members of Soame Citlalime, an all-female theater group from Mexico that has developed "La Casa Rosa" ("The Pink House"), an immigration play. The United States premier performance will take place at Wings Theater on Sunday, August 8th, at 7pm (154 Christopher Street, New York, NY).

"La Casa Rosa" is a collaboration between The Institute for Social and Cultural Practice and Research (IIPSOCULTA), The Migrant Family Support Center (CAFAMI), and Carlton Industries. It arrives in the United States this summer as part of the "Families Without Borders" tour, a multi-state program of workshops and presentations. The productions' goal is to break cultural borders by assembling audiences from all backgrounds to discuss the realities of a globalized world, and to literally reunite the cast of "La Casa Rosa" with their family members working in the United States, many of whom they haven't seen in over 10 years.

How do we protect what's important? How do we advance in a system designed to limit our options? How do we find common ground when the world is intent on keeping us apart?

"La Casa Rosa" is the lesser-told side of the immigration story - that of those left behind. Set against a backdrop of the mysterious disappearance of a local youth and a popular struggle in a rural community, "La Casa Rosa" follows the story of two sisters vying for the control of their ancestral land. In it, two very different visions are realized and the answers to vital ethical questions are approached. Subtitled "Fighting for a Future in a Free Trade World," the play's U.S. tour was stopped by the State Department due to objections regarding the group's mission and the play's content. Visas were finally granted on July 1st after support was offered from New Haven Mayor John Destefano and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

Read more:

Watch an excerpt from the play:

Read about the play in La Jornada del Oriente (in Spanish):

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 4 in Port-au-Prince: On the Veranda

By David L. Wilson
August 3, 2010

[I wrote this shortly after returning to New York from Port-au-Prince on January 18, but I didn’t get a chance to edit it until July. For earlier reports, see “Singing and Praying at Night in Port-au-Prince," “Day 2 in Port-au-Prince: ‘Young Men with Crowbars,'" and “Day Three in Port-au-Prince: ‘A difficult situation.’”]

By Friday, January 15, it was clear that most of the U.S. citizens in the Hotel Oloffson had no business staying in Haiti. It was now the fourth day since the great earthquake had leveled much of Port-au-Prince, and while independent journalists like Tequila Minsky and Daniel Morel had work to do, the rest of us found that all our plans had evaporated and our cash was running out, along with access to electricity and the internet. The two days of interviews I’d arranged were impossible in the general breakdown of communications; it wasn’t until I got back to New York that I knew for sure my Haitian contacts were still alive.

We heard that U.S. citizens were supposed to go to the embassy—off in Tabarre, a suburb northeast of the city—to get evacuated.

Something about that made me uncomfortable. It’s true that the plan sounded logical: the U.S. government was flying big transport planes into the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, presumably with emergency supplies; once they were unloaded, the planes would be flying back to Miami empty, so why not use them to evacuate some of the estimated 45,000 U.S. citizens in Haiti? But I remembered the smugness that always seems to creep into our media’s coverage of natural disasters. The United States has succeeded in evacuating its citizens, we’re told; unspoken but implied is the contrast with all the other countries of the world, which clearly lack our American know-how and our can-do spirit.

I also knew that in the image-world of U.S. corporate media the evacuation of U.S. citizens would somehow become the evacuation of “real” U.S. citizens—middle-class white people like me, not the dark-skinned Haitian Americans who undoubtedly made up the vast majority of the 45,000.

And I thought the U.S. government would probably try to play the other side as well, for the benefit of African Americans and most of the rest of the world. The image of Haitian Americans being rescued by the first black U.S. president might help the world forget how American know-how had turned out for the black population of New Orleans back in 2005.

We all had Katrina on our minds. A Haitian business owner had brought the hurricane up the day before, by the ruins of the Transport Ministry. The man, neatly dressed amidst the devastation in a polo shirt and pressed trousers, approached New York Times reporter Simón Romero as Tequila and I walked with him and the guide Jean Lundy through the downtown area. We had to remind people in the States about Katrina, the man told us in English. Haiti had sent aid, if only a little, to New Orleans after Katrina; we had to remember that.

I wondered if anyone in the U.S. media would pick up on the Katrina angle.

Still, the politics of evacuation mattered less to me than a practical consideration: I figured it would be much easier to get out of Haiti by taking one of the regular bus runs to Santo Domingo. People said there were no problems with the buses, at least for those of us with cash and U.S. passports.

“Reporters of Fortune
The phrase “corporate media” was no longer an abstraction for me. Reporters and photographers were very physically present everywhere I looked in the Hotel Oloffson: eating on the veranda, camped out in the various annexes, crowded around laptops on the grounds, sleeping in deck chairs by the driveway.

The Oloffson started off in the late nineteenth century as a private mansion for the then-powerful Sam family. With its gingerbread architecture, its white gothic flourishes and occasional Vodou symbols, its circular driveway and the towering palms in its grounds, the place looked like the setting for an old movie or a novel of international intrigue—and in fact it was the model for the fictional hotel in Graham Greene’s The Comedians.

The earthquake had hardly touched the Oloffson, so dozens of corporate journalists ended up there as they poured into the city for disaster coverage; many of the newer luxury hotels had collapsed. But it also became a meeting place for many other people: NGO employees, Haitian Americans who’d rushed to the country to find relatives, Haitian professionals looking for internet access.

For Daniel Morel, a Haitian American photographer who’d been covering the country for decades, the newcomers were “reporters of fortune.” A lot were in fact rude and brash, young men who tried hard to give themselves an adventurous, swashbuckling look—as far as it’s possible to look swashbuckling when you’re carrying cameras, computers, and satellite phones. At one point I heard a bunch of them discussing the esthetics of body shots. But a lot of the journalists were quite smart and professional. Some, like Marc Lacey from the Times and Mary Beth Sheridan from the Washington Post, were positively likeable.

That Friday a group of Times people were eating and conferring at the table next to me on the veranda. They weren’t being secretive, so I listened in as they considered story ideas.

I was struck by how similar their reactions were to my own and those of the various left-leaning people I’d come to Haiti with. For one thing, they seemed as dismissive as we were of the U.S. media’s obsession with looting--there must have been some, but none of us had seen it.

Marc Lacey, who seemed to be in charge of the meeting, was listening to story proposals while a photographer was showing him that morning’s pictures on her laptop. I was impressed by his decisions, which favored stories about the disaster’s impact on real Haitians, not the generic victims and imagined looters of most media.

“Look at this!” he said suddenly.

I couldn’t see the photo he was pointing to, but apparently it was an aerial view of one of the big assembly plants near the airport. Lacey told the others that the earthquake had left a huge crack in the roof. “This is perfect!” he said.

The assembly plants—sweatshops, maquiladoras in Spanish, where low-paid workers stitch clothes for the U.S. market—were what I’d intended to investigate while I was in Port-au-Prince. They’d been promoted under Baby Doc in the 1970s and 1980s as a motor for Haiti’s economic development. The industry collapsed in the 1990s, but for the last year Bill Clinton, the UN and the U.S. apparel industry had been promoting the plants again, as if the past had never happened.

“This sums it all up,” Lacey said, shaking his head. “This plant was Haiti’s future—and now look at it….”

I suddenly understood something about reporters. They can write what they write because at least sometimes they actually believe their own hype.

“Take Lake Péligre”
A different view of Haiti was on display at a nearby table.

“Take Lake Péligre,” another “fellow American” was telling a Latin American reporter, who frantically scribbled notes as a Haitian American doctor looked on.

Lac de Péligre is a huge artificial lake created in the 1950s when U.S. engineers and contractors built the Péligre Dam, the source of Port-au-Prince’s electricity. I’d seen Lac de Péligre on Tuesday, hours before the earthquake, as our group returned from a visit to the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP), a peasant cooperative movement in the Central Plateau.

The runoff from the dam was wasted, according to the speaker, a man about my age whose homemade business card identified him as an “environmental response” specialist. The lake could easily have provided potable water to the capital, he said. Instead, the people of Port-au-Prince had to buy their water in plastic bags and bottles from trucks. No one had been interested in the people, he added.

This man was a character. He was bald on top, with long white hair on the sides, making him look, as an old acquaintance of his told me, like Bozo the Clown. He talked in quick bursts of sound bites, like the people who sell things on late-night TV—except that he was talking about Haiti’s environmental problems and he actually seemed to know what he was talking about.

Why had so many new cement buildings collapsed while others suffered no damage? he asked rhetorically. Corruption, of course, and cutting corners on the cement and the rebar. This was especially true of the schools, he noted, where thousands of students and teachers had died.

Argile,” the man said, and paused dramatically. “Clay.” Haiti is filled with different varieties of excellent clay, he said, explaining ways to construct earthquake-resistant buildings from bricks made out of the local clay.

I was fascinated. Long before the earthquake, the peasant movement in the Central Plateau had been encouraging people to use locally produced clay bricks instead of cement.

Still, like Marc Lacey, this man couldn’t shake off a certain faith in American know-how, a sense that the world’s problems could be solved with a little tinkering by people from the North, by the folks who brought you Katrina. Another of his projects was having the U.S. Navy put President Préval’s government on a ship in the harbor. “You want transparency?” he asked in his late-night commercial tone. “Put Préval and company right there where everyone can see them. And if the Haitians really get fed up with them, they can just weigh anchor and go somewhere else.”

The reporter scribbled faster.

And what about rebuilding, what about planning an environmentally sound capital that would never again collapse on its people? Tequila and I had been talking about the need for building inspectors and proper building codes, and a way to bring back the many Haitian architects and engineers who’d been brain-drained to the States. The environmental expert’s response was to cut Haitian contractors out of the rebuilding completely. “Everything needs to be built by people from outside,” he announced.

Right, I thought. We need to replace the corrupt Haitian contractors with corrupt contractors from Miami.

The Unnamable
Jean Lundy, our guide from the day before, dropped by the veranda around suppertime, still wearing a green shirt and a blue baseball cap. A thin man with a slight stoop, he always had a sad look—something about the lines on his face suggested that he’d had the look even before the disaster—but that evening he also had a look of accomplishment.

He’d told us on Thursday he would take Friday off to search for his brother’s body. Had he found it? we asked. Yes, he said. He and some others had dug it out of the rubble and had arranged for a proper burial.

That was the sort of thing that counted as a success on Day 4 of the earthquake—making sure your brother’s body wasn’t carted off in a truck and dumped in a mass grave somewhere outside the city.

At dinner on Thursday I had asked Serge, a retired Haitian American musician, the Creole for “earthquake.” He nodded. “I was wondering that too,” he said. Was it something from the French séisme? asked a Swiss woman who works with an NGO. “No, I think it’s tranblemanntè,” Serge answered. “But you’re right,” he added, looking at me and guessing my unspoken thought. “I haven’t heard anyone say the word.”

When I got back to New York, I was told that people were calling the event bagay la, “the thing,” or else just 12 janvye, “January 12.” But in those first few days the people of Port-au-Prince seemed not to call the earthquake anything at all. For visitors like me at least there was a narrative: we’d been in one of the worst catastrophes of human history, with tens of thousands killed, maybe hundreds of thousands. But what was it for the people whose whole lives were there? It was something so vast, so all-encompassing that it was nameless, and almost unnamable.

But of course life goes on. A worker at the Oloffson was keeping her two daughters with her at the hotel. She’d noticed I could speak some French, and she ordered the younger one, who seemed to be around eight, to sit with me on the veranda and practice.

I felt my French probably wasn’t a good model for an eight-year-old, but I went ahead and asked the girl the questions adults always ask children. She was bright and inquisitive; you’d never guess she’d survived a world-historic cataclysm just three days before.

Eventually I asked where she went to school.

Her face fell, and I knew at once what an idiot I’d been. “Mon école a été écrasée,” she said sadly, carefully enunciating her words. And of course her school had been destroyed; hadn’t they all?

They’d build a new school, I told her, maybe a better one. Peut-être une meilleure. She cheered up and said, in her clear, formal French, that then she would go back to school.

I felt guilty. I felt I was just another Yankee huckster selling a second-hand optimism I couldn’t really believe in.

[David L. Wilson is co-author, with Jane Guskin, of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers (Monthly Review Press, 2007), and co-editor of Weekly News Update on the Americas.]

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Support the Mexican Electrical Workers

This is a Critical Moment -- Please help us respond to SME's request for solidarity!

UE International Action Alert
July 29, 2010

In what appears to be a breakthrough, the SME has lifted its hunger strike based on the government's commitment to engage in negotiations. The union sat down for the first time on Monday, July 26. On July 27 there was an assembly which resulted in a plan to send a caravan to Cananea in solidarity with the third anniversary of that strike on Friday, July 30.

SME has requested that we make our concern clear to the Mexican government.

In an unprecedented show of solidarity, the UE, CEP, USW, ICEM and IMF all agreed to co-sponsor a LabourStart campaign to encourage the Mexican government to honor its commitment to negotiate and to resolve the conflicts with SME and with the miners at Cananea.

We Are Now Asking You to Do Three Things:

1) Help us generate a flood of letters by joining the LabourStart campaign. This will take less than a minute -- simply click on

2) If you belong to an organization, send a letter on behalf of your organization as soon as possible. The letter prepared by the UE appears below, so that you can use or modify the text.

3) Get this information out and circulating! Pass this alert on to your co-workers, family and friends. If you have access to a web site, please put up this information.

A Brief History of the Recent Struggles of the SME and Cananea Miners

Following the Mexican presidential election in 2006 of Felipe Calderón, the attack on workers’ rights escalated sharply, especially against independent unions that have taken a strong stand against its attempts to pursue the neo-liberal policies of privatization and labor law “reform.”
Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME)

On the night of October 10, President Calderón ordered 6,000 federal police to seize the power plants operated by the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), while simultaneously liquidating the second largest state-owned Light and Power Company (Luz y Fuerza del Centro), and firing the entire workforce of approximately 44,000 employees. Five days earlier, the government refused to accord legal recognition to the democratically elected president of the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union, Martín Esparza, although this should have been a routine matter.

The union responded in a variety of ways – through mobilizations, legal cases on the domestic and international levels, political pressure and a hunger strike. Two recent developments make it appear that a resolution may be possible. First, earlier this month the Mexican Supreme Court ruled on two issues. Although the court upheld the President’s Constitutional right to liquidate the company it also ruled that SME is the legitimate representative of the workers and that it may continue to represent those workers before government courts, labor boards and other agencies. The SME continues to demand that the Federal Electrical Commission (CFE), another state-owned company that absorbed the Light and Power company, be recognized as the successor employer and fulfill the union contract, rehiring the fired workers. The Federal Labor Board (JFCA) returns from its summer vacation next week.

Meanwhile, the union had engaged in a hunger strike which has increasingly gained public attention. Going on 90 days, pressure increased on the government as several workers neared death.

In what appears to be a breakthrough, the SME has lifted its hunger strike based on the government's commitment to engage in negotiations. They met for the first time on Monday. On Tuesday there was an assembly which resulted in a plan to send a caravan to Cananea in solidarity with the third anniversary of that strike.

Los Mineros Strike in Cananea

The Mexican Miners and Metal Workers Union (SNTMMRM) launched the strike in 2007 and occupied the mine to protest the company’s refusal to remedy extreme safety hazards. In February 2010, a Mexican appellate court gave the green light to the Calderón government to terminate 1,200 copper miners and to break a three-year old strike at Grupo Mexico’s Cananea mine in northern Mexico. The court’s decision threatens to effectively eliminate the right to strike in Mexico. It also set the stage for the government’s recent invasion of Cananea, dislodging the striking workers, attacking them in their local union headquarters and closing it down. As if that weren’t enough, they also dislodged families of 65 miners killed several years ago at the Pasta de Conchas mine, where an explosion took their lives and Grupo Mexico and the government have yet to recover the bodies. The families had been camped out by the mine demanding that the federal government and Grupo Mexico return their husbands' bodies for burial.

More extensive background material

You will find a lot of background material about the on-going struggle of the Mexican Mineworkers and Electrical Workers Unions in English in previous issues of Mexican Labor News and Analysis at . You will find much more in Spanish in the progressive Mexico City paper, La Jornada at .

Sample organizational letter:

If you belong to an organization, please support SME and the Cananea miners by sending a letter. This is the letter sent by the national officers of the United Electrical, radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). Feel free to use it as a model or draft your own!

July 29, 2010
Felipe Calderón Hinojosa
President of Mexico
Los Pinos
Mexico D.F.

Dear President Calderón:

We are writing to you on behalf of the tens of thousands of U.S. workers who are members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). It is with grave concern that we have been following the developments regarding the discharge of some 44,000 members of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME) and of the1,200 copper miners in the three-year old strike at Grupo Mexico’s Cananea mine. Indeed, the escalating attack on workers’ rights is one of the topics that most frequently appear in the news regarding Mexico. We were therefore very pleased to learn that your government has entered into a written commitment to engage in negotiations and that in return the SME has lifted its hunger strike.

We trust that such negotiations will move forward in good faith and stress the critical importance of a resolution that includes the reinstatement of the thousands of fired workers as required under Mexican law pursuant to the doctrine of substitute employer; that recognition (toma de nota) be accorded to the 26 members of the legally elected leadership of SME; and that all arrest warrants that have been issued against workers involved in this dispute be withdrawn.

Similarly, we are aware that the SME has sent a Caravan to Cananea, the site of another egregious violation of workers’ rights. Unions in the United States, Canada, and throughout the globe stand in solidarity with the demand of the Cananea strikers for reinstatement and resolution of that dispute.

Our union and other organizations around the world will be closely monitoring your government’s actions in the coming period, and look forward to learning of the successful resolution of these matters which have severely tarnished the image of your government.


Bruce J. Klipple John H. Hovis,Jr Robert B. Kingsley
General Secretary-Treasurer General President Director of Organization

cc: SECRETARIA DE GOBERNACIÓN Lic. Francisco Blake Mora
Martín Esparza, Secretario General, Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME)
Carlos Esquer, Comite Nacional desde de la Sección 65, Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros,Metalúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana
Benedicto Martínez, Coodinación Nacional, Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT), Vicepresidente, Union Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT)

Please email your letters to: , , ,

Robin Alexander
UE Director of International Affairs
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)
One Gateway Center, Suite 1400
PGH., PA. 15222-1416

412-471-8999 FAX

Labor and related news from Mexico is reported monthly in Mexican Labor News and Analysis. Check it out on our web site:

Sign up to receive Mexican labor News and Analysis on a monthly basis and occasional action alerts at:

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The UE International Action Alert mailing list is managed by the
International Department of UE, the United Electrical Radio and
Machine Workers of America.

VISIT UE's international page at
or the UE's main page at

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to Write About Haiti

By Ansel Herz, Huffington Post
July 23, 2010

Port-au-Prince, Haiti--Actor Sean Penn, who is helping manage a camp of displaced earthquake victims in Haiti, is making pointed criticisms of journalists for dropping the ball on coverage of Haiti. He's wrong. I've been on the ground in Port-au-Prince working as an independent journalist for the past ten months. I'm an earthquake survivor who's seen the big-time reporters come and go. They're doing such a stellar job and I want to help out, so I've written this handy guide for when they come back on the one-year anniversary of the January quake!

For starters, always use the phrase 'the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.' Your audience must be reminded again of Haiti's exceptional poverty. It's doubtful that other articles have mentioned this fact. [...]

Read the full article:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

MPP Delegation, January 2010, and Monsanto Protest, June 2010

This is a slideshow of photos independent photojournalist Tequila Minsky took while on a delegation to the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (Papaye Peasant Movement) center near Hinche in Haiti's Central Plateau in January 2010, and then a protest against Monsanto in Hinche in June .

The first part shows various projects at the center: an artificial lake (with aid from the European Union), recycling, a nursery, cassava production, a community radio station, buildings constructed with bricks made out of local clay. There are also a few pictures of refugees from the January earthquake who were temporarily housed at the MPP center and with local peasant families.

The second part shows the huge demonstration rejecting Monsanto's hybrid seeds. The mural in the background of the stage commemorates Hinche-born resistance Charlemagne Peralte, who died fighting the 1915 U.S. occupation.

The music is by Boukman Esperyans .

Watch the slideshow:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"We've Lost the Battle, but We Haven't Lost the War:" Haiti Six Months After the Earthquake

By Beverly Bell, Truthout
July 15, 2010

Haiti during the World Cup is much like my hometown of New Orleans was during the Superbowl. Don't try to make plans with anyone to do anything during a game. (In the more cash-rich New Orleans, the ban on non-game-related activity stretched back a day or two before a game, because there was food and alcohol to be purchased and a feast to be cooked.) I make the mistake of trying to go to a cell phone office during that time; employees sit hypnotized in front of the big-screen TV, unwilling to be distracted by clients.

When Argentina, a favorite in Haiti, loses the soccer match, I can finally conduct my business and leave the store. People are pouring out from their tents and houses with a thing or two to express about Argentina's loss. A group of skinny men parades in bikinis and wigs. Noontime drunks shout nonsense at each other. Throngs of mourners dance through the streets of Port-au-Prince, waving Argentine flags and palm fronds. Among them, loyalists still smarting from Brazil's loss wrap cloths with that country's flag around their heads.

"Thank God it's almost over," my friend Maryse, director of a special education school, said this morning. [...]

Read the full article:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Petition to Monsanto Corporation to stop shipping contaminated seeds to Haiti

Mr. Hugh Grant
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer
Monsanto Corporation

Dear Mr. Grant,

In mid May of 2010, it was announced in Haiti that your company, Monsanto Corporation, decided to give 475 tons of seeds to Haiti. In fact, 60 tons had already been distributed in some areas. Perhaps you have been surprised at the criticism of this donation and at the protests against your company and the Haitian government for accepting what many people call a “poisonous gift.” On behalf of thousands of local farmers in Haiti, we demand that you halt further shipments of hybrid seeds to Haiti. [...]

Read and sign the online petition:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An Open Letter on Haitian Agriculture to the CEO of Monsanto

By Peter Costantini, Huffington Post
July 5, 2010

To: Hugh Grant, President and CEO, Monsanto

As you are no doubt aware, your offer to donate hybrid corn and vegetable seeds has stirred up quite a controversy in Haiti.

I'd like to call your attention to an article I wrote on this issue recently for Inter Press Service. While I was in Haiti for the month of May, I had a conversation with Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the head of a major Haitian peasant organization and a leader of the international confederation La Via Campesina. He criticized your donation from a perspective on seeds and agriculture based on a very different world view that might be worth your time to understand. [...]

Read the full article:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mayor Builds Palace Among Haiti Rubble

More Than 1 Million Remain Homeless in Haiti Six Months After the Quake
WPLG Local 10, Miami
July 12, 2010

[Le magistrat de Delmas (Port-au-Prince, Haiti) y construit une mansion alors que la zone pullule de milliers de sans-abri frappés par le séisme du 12 janvier 2010. Pour en voir plus, cliquez en bas.]

DELMAS, Haiti -- Among the cracked roads and broken-down lives of the Haitian city of Delmas rises a palace.

There, the emerald lawn is cut by hand. Walls are constructed with hand-laid limestone. Floors are lined with imported marble. The palace even features an amphitheater. When construction is done, the building will be the new city hall and the part-time residence of the mayor.

"This is our response to what happened," Delmas Mayor Wilson Jeudy told Local 10's Jonathan Vigliotti. "The state has to be well represented. It has to be royal."

Jeudy said the last city hall was undamaged by the January's 7.0-magnitude quake. Still, he built the new edifice as the people who elected him into office fought for their lives on the streets.

"In order for us to respond, we need a city hall like this one," he said.

According to Jeudy, when the doors open full-time later this year, it will function as a place to host visitors.

"It's beautiful. Did you see the floors?" said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson.

On Friday, Edmonson and other Miami-Dade County officials visited Delmas to announce their donation of fire trucks and ambulances. The county also will fly Haitian citizens to Miami for training.

The group gathered in one of the palace's unfinished rooms, where a Haitian man modeled new fire equipment brought over from Miami.

Following the ceremony, commissioners took a tour of how the other side lives in the western hemisphere's poorest country.

"The palace we just left was very grandiose. When you come down here where the people are, it just looks like there has been no movement," said Commissioner Dorrin Rolle.

Life is much different on the other side of city hall's gates. It has been six months since the quake first hit and still an estimated 25 million cubic yards of debris remain. Officials said it could take more than five years to remove the rubble. Only 10,000 of an estimated 1.2 million people have been found housing, and 1,300 new tent cities dot Haiti.

Ironically, critics said the delay in cleanup and rebuilding stems from the United Nations' close oversight of the distribution of funds.

For every dollar donated of the $1.2 billion so far, 99 percent goes directly to aid organizations. Only about 2 percent has been released. The remaining 1 percent, or about $10 million, has gone to the Haitian government.

"How much does this palace cost?" Vigliotti asked Jeudy.

"I cannot tell you how much it is because we're still under construction," he said.

While the price tag is unknown, Jeudy said American cities personally wrote him checks for $150,000.

"We're going to have to talk about this," Edmonson said.

"If you're not moving the people and making a better quality of life for them, then to us, on our side, it looks like nothing has been done. Nothing is being done," Rolle said.

As rebuilding continues, donors said breaking down the walls between the wealthy and those who are barely getting by is important to Haiti's recovery.

After seeing Local 10's story online Monday, a representative from Jeudy's office called to correct a statement. Now, the mayor's office says donations are not being used for the construction. Instead, Jeudy's office said, Haitian taxpayer dollars are being used.

The representative said that following the earthquake, the property was used for patients injured in the quake. The patients moved out as construction continued.

Since the people of Haiti are paying for the construction, according to the mayor's office, Vigliotti asked if the mayor's office would open its gates and allow people who are sleeping in the streets to set up tents on the lawn. The representative said the office would get back to Local 10.

Copyright 2010 by Post-Newsweek Stations. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 12, 2010

NYC: Haiti Events on 7/28 and 7/31

(Creole version below)

Haiti Emergency Committee
Wednesday July 28, 2010:
Anti-Occupation Demonstration in Front of the United Nations

43rd St/1st Ave, New York, NY
5:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.


Batay Ouvriye Solidarity Network
Saturday July 31, 2010:
Anti-Occupation Forum

Community Hall
Jean-Jacques Dessalines
836 Rogers Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11226
(Between Church Ave & Erasmus St; #2 Train to Church Ave)
6:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M.

On Friday July 2nd, 2010, we met and decided to continue to work in the framework of the Haiti Emergency Committee, an organization many groups and individuals created in response to the tragic earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010. As can be noted above, we also agreed on a time and specific area for the anti-occupation Demonstration. We are calling on all progressives, justice-minded people and groups to join us and build these events during the month of July 2010

For more information, please call 646-829-9519


Komite Ijans Pou Ayiti
Mèkredi 28 Jiyè, 2010:
Manifestasyon Anti-Okipasyon Devan Nasyon Zini
43èm Ri/1e Avni, Nou Yòk, NY
5:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.


Rezo Solidarite ak Batay Ouvriye
Samdi 31 Jiyè, 2010:
Fowòm Anti-Okipasyon
Kay Jean-Jacques Dessalines
836 Rogers Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11226
Ant Church Ave ak Erasmus St
(Tren #2, Desann nan Church Ave)
6:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M.

Vandredi 2 Jiyè 2010, nou te rankontre e deside travay sou banye Komite Ijans Pou Ayiti (Haiti Emergency Committee), yon gwoup dives òganizasyon ak endividi te kreye an repons a latè tranble trajik ann Ayiti 12 Janvye 2010 la. Kòm nou ka wè pi wo a, nou te dakò tou sou yon lè ak yon kote espesifik pou Manifestasyon an. Nou fè apèl a tout pwogresis, tout moun ak gwoup ki renmen jistis, pou rejwenn nou nan jefò pou bati aktivite sila yo pandan mwa Jiyè 2010 la.

Pou tout enfòmasyon, rele 646-829-9519

Friday, July 9, 2010

NYC & New Orleans: Haiti Events 7/10 and 7/15

Author Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts intended to spend most of 2010 traveling in Haiti to start research on her second book. With that project postponed but her mind and heart very much on Haiti, Sharifa is organizing fundraisers in New Orleans and New York City for two grassroots organizations working in the environmental sector.

The events will feature a French-English bilingual reading of Martinican Negritude poet Aimé Césaire’s epic poem “Cahier d’un retour au pays natal” (“Notebook of a Return to My Native Land”).

When: Saturday, July 10, 7pm
Where: GRIS GRIS LAB, 2245 Brainard Street, Central City

When: Thursday, July 15, 7pm
Where: THE SHRINE, 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd, Harlem

Suggested donation $10-$25. No one will be turned away.

The beneficiary organizations are:

Seeds for Haiti ( ) works in concert with Mouvman Peyizan Papay (Peasant Movement of Papay), to support farmers in Haiti’s Central Plateau in achieving social justice and asserting food sovereignty. With the reverse migration from the city back to the countryside since the earthquake, their work is even more urgent. Recently farmers of MPP made headlines when they promised to burn any seeds donated by Monsanto, a gift-horse of seeds that will not reproduce and are laced with pesticides, thus subjecting farmers already facing a state of emergency to the vicious cycle of industrial agriculture.


SOIL Haiti ( ) focuses on ecological sanitation, working alongside communities to create composting toilets that remove dangerous pathogens from the water supply and provide nutrient rich compost to farmers. Since the earthquake, SOIL Haiti has been working in Port-au-Prince along with OXFAM and the Haitian government to implement environmentally sound sanitation strategies urgently needed to serve the 1 million+ people living in tent cities since the disaster.

Come raise voices, spirits and funds at this liberatory literary gathering in the name of rebuilding Haiti!

Stay tuned for updates on Facebook at:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tear Gas in Cananea

by David Bacon, The Nation
June 17, 2010

When the Mexican government moved to bust the three-year miners' strike in Cananea on June 6, it brought 2,000 Federal Police into the tiny mountain town in the state of Sonora -- two cops for every striker. As darkness fell and helicopters clattered overhead, they charged the gate with riot shields and batons, filling the streets with tear gas. Miners retreated to the union hall with their families, and the police followed, barricading the doors and lobbing more tear gas inside. [...]

Read the full article:

Friday, June 25, 2010

NYC, 6/26/10: Haiti in Crisis

Fowòm Ouvriye and The Batay Ouvriye Solidarity Network
Invite you to a progressive community gathering

What is the current situation for working people?
In whose interest is the reconstruction plan?
What needs to be done?

Saturday, June 26, 6:00 PM

Community Hall
Jean-Jacques Dessalines
La Différence Auto School
836 Rogers Ave, Brooklyn
(between Church and Erasmus, take #2 train to Church Ave.)

Video about Haiti
Political Analysis
Refreshments & Debate

for information call: 646-829-9519

Haitian Farmers Leery of Monsanto's Largesse

By Peter Costantini, Inter Press Service
June 21, 2010

PÉTIONVILLE, Jun 21, 2010 (IPS) - Haitian farmers are worried that giant transnational corporations like Monsanto are attempting to gain a larger foothold in the local economy under the guise of earthquake relief and rebuilding.

"Seeds represent a kind of right to life," peasant leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste told IPS. "That's why we have a problem today with Monsanto and all the multinationals who sell seeds. Seeds and water are the common patrimony of humanity." [...]

Read the full article:

Friday, June 11, 2010

NYC, 6/12 and 6/14: "Fighting Monsanto in Haiti"

Chavannes Jean-Baptiste will be in New York this week speaking about the campaign against the Monsanto seeds in Haiti. Jean-Baptiste is the coordinator of the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP), the Papaye Peasant Movement; a leader in the international Via Campesina movement, he was one of the winners of the 2005 Goldman prize for environmental activism.

Saturday, June 12, 2010 - 5:00 pm
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, 85 South Oxford Street in Brooklyn

Monday, June 14, 2010 - 6:00-8:00 pm
Martin Luther King, Jr. Labor Center, 310 West 43rd Street in Manhattan, between 8th & 9th Avenues

Contact: Seeds for Haiti, , , (917) 378-2192

For more information on Monsanto in Haiti:

Haiti: Thousands of Farmers Reject Monsanto Seeds

Groups Around the U.S. Join Haitian Farmers in Protesting "Donation" of Monsanto Seeds

Batay Ouvriye Communiqué May 18, 2010

Port-au-Prince, May 27th, 2010

In the context of the Workers Mobilization Month launched during the camps’ first march on April 28th, 2010, and following up on the various activities developed May First, May 18th was a major date (see our previous document: “The mobilization is launched!”).

In Haiti, May 18th is Flag Day. 1803 was when the revolutionary forces decided to have a flag of their own, of struggle and freedom. A crucial date, to establish once and for all direct confrontation with the already open state of occupation-trusteeship upon us today. [...]

Read the full communiqué:

Friday, June 4, 2010

Groups Around the U.S. Join Haitian Farmers in Protesting "Donation" of Monsanto Seeds

By Beverly Bell, Huffington Post
June 4, 2010

"We're for seeds that have never been touched by multinationals. In our advocacy, we say that seeds are the patrimony of humanity. No one can control them," said Doudou Pierre, national coordinating committee member of the National Haitian Network for Food Sovereignty and Food Security (RENHASSA), in a recent interview. "We reject Monsanto and their GMOs. GMOs would be the extermination of our people."

A march is being held in Haiti today for World Environment Day, called by at least four major national peasant organizations and one international one. The march's purpose is to protest the new arrival of Monsanto seeds. The day's slogans include, "Long live native seeds" and "Down with Monsanto. Down with GMO and hybrid seeds." [...]

Read the full article:

"We are at a Crossroads" - Yannick Etienne on Sweatshops as a Development Model

By Beverly Bell, Huffington Post
June 3, 2010

The U.S. and U.N. have based their plan for Haiti's redevelopment on the expansion of the assembly industry. Toward this end, the U.S. Congress passed legislation last month which would expand benefits and income for U.S. investors yet again. Haitian workers will continue to earn $3.09 a day.

Worker rights groups and other sectors of Haiti's social justice movements are adamant that a sweatshop-based development model cannot advance either the country or its workers. First, the investments are unstable, and companies can and do pull out at a moment's notice. Second, the work does not offer a living wage, benefits, possibilities for advancement, or skills training. Third, with the primary products and the machinery imported and the finished products exported, assembly does not stimulate Haiti's economy.

Here Yannick Etienne, an organizer with the labor rights group Batay Ouvriyè (Worker's Struggle), talks about the assembly sector and why it is neither a sustainable nor humane development model. [...]

Read the full interview:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Haiti: Images

During the coverage of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the mainstream media further perpetuated Haiti's image as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. This 8-min documentary explores this representation and uncovers what mainstream journalists have neglected to tell us about Haiti's history.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Haiti: Struggle and Solidarity After the Cataclysm

An Interview with Batay Ouvriye

by David L. Wilson, World War 4 Report
June 1, 2010

It is now more than four months since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, leveling much of the Port-au-Prince area and killing nearly a quarter of a million people. Haiti has dropped out of the headlines—predictably—but the crisis hasn't gone away. Earthquake survivors still have very limited access to food, employment, and medical care; most of the 1.7 million people left homeless by the earthquake (according to new figures from the United Nations) go on living in the hundreds of improvised encampments in and around the capital.

I had an email conversation in April with Paul Philomé, a spokesperson for the leftist group Batay Ouvriye (Workers' Struggle), about grassroots organizing in Port-au-Prince since the earthquake. Batay Ouvriye is best known outside Haiti for its unionization efforts over the past two decades in the tariff-exempt apparel assembly plants—the sector that the "international community" is again promoting as an engine of economic development. [...]

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For a video of Conlutas’ March delegation to Haiti, go to:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Agriculture and Haiti's Long-Term Future: An Analysis

By Beverly Bell, Lambi Fund Newsletter
May 2010

What would it take to transform Haiti's economy such that its role in the global economy is no longer that of providing cheap labor for sweatshops? What would it take for hunger to no longer be the norm, for the country no longer to depend on imports and hand-outs, and for Port-au-Prince's slums to no longer contain 85% of the city's residents? What would it take for the hundreds of thousands left homeless by the earthquake to have a secure life, with income? [...]

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monsanto: "A Dangerous New Earthquake"

Open letter from Chavannes Jean-Baptiste
Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP, Papaye Peasant Movement)
May 14, 2010


There is a dangerous new earthquake more dangerous for the long-term than than which occurred on January 12. It is not a threat but a very strong attack on peasant agriculture, on the farmers, on biodiversity, on native seeds that we are defending, on what remains of our environment in Haiti.

The Haitian government is using the earthquake to sell or give away the country to the imperialist forces and their principal instruments which are the multinationals. La Via Campesina identified the transnationals as one of the most powerful enemies of the people, and the pesticide businesses as principal enemies of peasant agriculture, the environment in general and the climate in particular.

I remember at the last meeting of the CCI, I said that in Haiti, our campaign against the transnationals begins with the struggle against the agrofuels businesses because the people do not know much about Monsanto, which still doesn't have operations in Haiti. The news of Monsanto's presence through WINNER and USAID arrived about 15 days after COCHABAMBA.
Monsanto is using the earthquake with the anti-national criminal complicity of the government of Rene Preval to enter Haiti to enter through a "gift of death," which is 475 tons of GMO maize. This gift of death has as its objective: to open the door of the country to this powerful company that is destroying the planet, which is destroying peasant agriculture, with the farmers.

We cannot accept that. We must begin to mobilize against this project, against Monsanto in Haiti. We need a strong unit in Haiti and a strong international solidarity to confront Monsanto and all the forces of death that want to end the full sovereignty of this small country that took its independence in the blood of its sons and daughters since 1804.

The MPP gave the sign of the struggle with a statement on RADIO (VWA Peyizan) VOICE OF THE PEASANTS and other Radios asking farmers to bury and burn all the maize seeds given by the Ministry of Agriculture. We are planning a big march from the CEDE of the MPP of Papaye to the city of Hinche on the occasion of International Environment Day on June 5. We will make the march on Friday June 4th. We will invite the the organizations of the LVC and others to be present. It's one step among many that we must take.

We will contact all the peasant organizations and allied organizations to design the strategy of struggle. We ask now for the solidarity of sister organizations and international allies.



Chavannes Jean-Baptiste
Spokesman for the MPP and MPNKP
Member of the CCI of LVC

Monday, May 24, 2010

Poverty-Wage Assembly Plants as Development Strategy in Haiti: An Interview with the Center for the Promotion of Women Workers

By Beverly Bell and Tory Field, Other Worlds Are Possible
May 20, 2010

The U.S. Congress has passed bi-partisan legislation, the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act, that would extend and expand current trade law with Haiti to increase U.S. imports of Haitian assembled textiles. Passed May 5 and 6 by the House and Senate, respectively, the bill is part of the push by U.S., U.N., other international leaders, and businesses to expand the low-wage assembly industry as the linchpin of Haiti's post-earthquake recovery. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

"This important step responds to the needs of the Haitian people for more tools to lift themselves from poverty, while standing to benefit U.S. consumers,'' said a statement by former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton about the bill. [...]

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See also:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Relief Organizations Help Haitians Fight Hunger

Ten years later, the program feeds 2,000 kids a day, 10,000 meals a week, year in and year out. Trost raises the money, but what makes this program stand out from many international relief programs is that all operations are totally run by a Haitian staff, which Trost says is key.

PBS NewsHour
May 18, 2010

JEFFREY BROWN: Now: Haiti four months later, still coming to grips with the aftermath of the earthquake.

Dave Iverson of KQED San Francisco has the second of two reports on the role of aid groups in the recovery -- tonight's focus, helping Haitians feed themselves. [...]

View video (with transcript):

See also:
"Haitian Communities Need to Be Involved in the Distribution"

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds

By Beverly Bell, Huffington Post
May 17, 2010

"A new earthquake" is what peasant farmer leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called the news that Monsanto will be donating 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds, some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides. The MPP has committed to burning Monsanto's seeds, and has called for a march to protest the corporation's presence in Haiti on June 4, for World Environment Day.

In an open letter sent of May 14, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the Executive Director of MPP and the spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay (MPNKP), called the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti "a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds..., and on what is left our environment in Haiti."[1] Haitian social movements have been vocal in their opposition to agribusiness imports of seeds and food, which undermines local production with local seed stocks. They have expressed special concern about the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). [...]

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ignoring the Grassroots in Latin America

Our independent media tend to ignore grassroots struggles in Latin America and the Caribbean until something happens that gets them covered by NPR or the New York Times.

by David L. Wilson, World War 4 Report
May 1, 2010

During several days in early August 2009, thousands of Haitian workers walked off their jobs at assembly plants near the airport in northern Port-au-Prince and marched into the center of the city to demand an increase in the national minimum wage. Supported by public university students—who back in June had added the wage increase to their own list of demands—the strikers tied up traffic, surrounded government offices, tore down United Nations flags, and threw rocks at vehicles of the 9,000-member UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a military force which has occupied Haiti since 2004. At one point the vehicle carrying US embassy chargé d'affaires Thomas Tighe was damaged, although the embassy insisted he hadn't been a target of the protests.

These dramatic protests barely got a mention in the US corporate media. This is not surprising: US opinion makers want us to believe that the workers, mostly young women who stitch garments for big US and Canadian apparel companies, are grateful for the chance to work at backbreaking jobs for starvation wages (they were calling for a raise to $5 a day). In fact, just as the workers were protesting, former U.S. president Bill Clinton, now the UN special envoy for Haiti, was pushing a plan to expand Haiti's assembly plant sector. Thousands of wildcat strikers marching on the capital clearly had no place in the corporate narrative.

What is more surprising is the apparent silence of the progressive US media about the protests. [...]

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

From Charity to Solidarity in Haiti: Lessons for the Policy Makers (Part III)

Beverly Bell, Truthout op-ed
Friday 30 April 2010

Humanitarian aid initiatives organized by Haitian communities offer respectful, democratic contrasts to the multibillion-dollar aid effort of the international community, much of which is wasted at best and destructive at worst. "Embedded in the local humanitarian responses is the model of a society premised on generosity and dignity," says a report released April 27 by Other Worlds: "From Disaster Aid to Solidarity: Best Practices in Meeting the Needs of Haiti's Earthquake Survivors."

The report examines the problems of the US- and UN-dominated aid operation in Haiti and documents ten effective alternatives created by Haitian community and peasant groups and by ally organizations throughout the world. The cases are just a sampling of many more. The report offers ten recommendations for how international allies can be most effective and respectful in supporting Haitian-led recovery and reconstruction.[...]

Read the full article:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

US Military Enforces Attacks on Haitian Unions

The Real News
April 29-May 1, 2010

Didier Dominique: US military helping to repress organizing of textile worker's unions in Haiti

Didier Dominique is a trade unionist and a prominent spokesperson for Batay Ouvriye. Batay Ouvriye is an organization that regroups factory unions and committees, workers’ associations and militants, all struggling in Haiti for the construction of an independent, combative and democratic union movement, and to organize wage-workers, self-employed workers as well as the unemployed for the defense of their rights.[...]

View the interviews:

Friday, April 16, 2010

NYC, 4/18-4/25: Haiti and Mexico Solidarity Events

1) The Immigration & New Sanctuary and Adult Education Committees Invite You to a Special Discussion . . .

"HAITI AND US: How Do U.S. People of Faith Support Haiti and Haitians?"

Haiti’s devastating earthquake has put the western hemisphere’s poorest country in the headlines for the first time in years. During those years, U.S. people of faith have worked quietly behind the scenes to provide aid and support Haitian people-to-people projects, including First Presbyterian Church’s 2009 Mission Service Trip to Cap-Haïtien. How have these efforts been effective, and how not? How does Temporary Protected Status for Haitian immigrants affect rebuilding efforts in Haiti as well as communities here in New York? What responsibility do we bear regarding the role of U.S. foreign policy in Haiti’s continuing poverty?

Please join the Immigration & New Sanctuary Committee and the Adult Education Committee for a special forum. Speakers will include Haitian community and labor activist Christian Lemoine, solidarity writer and activist Carl Lindskoog, and a Haitian-American faith community representative. The panel will be moderated by Richard Korchak of FPC’s Mission Service Committee, who will also present an update on the Cap-Haïtien project.

Sunday, April 18th
12:30-2:00 PM at First Presbyterian Church
12 West 12th Street, Manhattan

For more information:


2) Haiti Sunday Social

APRIL 18, 2010 from 3 to 7 p.m.
at St. Francis Xavier Lyceum
752 President Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn

(near 6th Avenue, 2/3 to Grand Army Plaza, F/G to 7th Avenue at 9th St, M/R to Union St, Q to 7th Ave-Flatbush Ave))

Fundraiser for Haiti. Entrance fee: $10 Adults/$5 Child.
Potluck supper. Entertainment. Raffle.
Haiti Update from the St. Augustine Haiti Support Group.

Want to buy a book of raffle tickets to benefit Haiti? Contact Jean at
Book of 6 tickets for $5
First prize: $300; Second prize: $200; First prize: $100
Drawing on April 18th. Not necessary to be present.

For more information:


3) "Mexico 1810-1910-2010--Will the Revolution Come Again?"

Thursday, April 22, 7 pm
King Juan Carlos Center Auditorium
53 Washington Square South, Manhattan
(A/C/E, B/D/F/V to West 4th Street, R/W to 8th Street-NYU)

With John Ross, Mexico City-based author, poet and rebel journalist.


4) "Mexico and the U.S.: Social movements, neoliberalism and state violence"

Friday, April 23, 2010, 6:30-8:30 pm
Sixth Street Community Center
638 East 6th Street, Manhattan
(between Avenues B & C, F/V to 2nd Avenue, 6 to Astor Place

Join Friends of Brad Will for a public talk, discussion, video screening and photo exhibit with:

John Ross, Mexico City-based author, poet and rebel journalist. John will discuss the manipulation of the case of Brad Will in U.S.- Mexico relations, the broader attacks against journalists in Mexico, and the lethal U.S. 'drug war' aid package to Mexico known as Plan Mexico.

Mark Read, from Friends of Brad Will. Mark will discuss his March trip to Oaxaca, where he met with Juan Manuel Martínez Moreno, the Oaxacan activist falsely charged for the murder of Brad Will, and will screen footage of his interview with him.

Hinrich Schultze, Hamburg, Germany-based photographer with the Ya Basta Zapatista Solidarity Network and Cafe Libertad. Hinrich was with Brad in Oaxaca in 2006 and will be displaying photos of the 2006 protests and street art. The photo exhibit will be opening Tuesday, April 20 at 8pm and run through Friday evening of April 23.

Brad Will was an Indymedia journalist killed by government paramilitaries in the Mexican state of Oaxaca in 2006, while documenting a teachers' strike and popular uprising against corruption and impunity and for democratic change.

For more information see: or contact Scott Campbell:


5) Reading: John Ross "El Monstruo" & "Iraqigirl"

Sunday, April 25th @ 7PM
Bluestockings Books
172 Allen St, Manhattan

(at Stanton Street, 1 bk S of Houston, F to 2nd Ave).

Join John Ross for a reading and discussion his book "El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City" and the book "IraqiGirl: Diary of a Teenage Girl in Iraq," which he edited. "El Monstruo" provides impassioned tales from America's most complex, boisterous and corrupt city. Ross is a long-time peace activist and first broke the story of the Zapatista rebellion in 1993.
Free. Info: 212-777- 6028, &

Contact John Ross at 206-419-7957, to set up other readings during his NYC visit.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brooklyn, 4/15: Forum on Haiti

Discuss how the progressive community can express solidarity with the Haitian people.

Thursday, April 15th, 6:30 to 9:30 pm
Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture
53 Prospect Park West at 2nd Street
Park Slope, Brooklyn

(#2 or #3 train to Grand Army Plaza)
Contributions appreciated

"Images of the Earthquake"
Tequila Minsky, photo-journalist who was in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck

"The Latin American Response"
Dr. Luther Castillo, Honduran graduate of the Latin America Medical School in Havana who is in the coordination of the Cuban medical team in Haiti

"The U.S. Response"
David L. Wilson, co-editor of Weekly News Update on the Americas and co-author of The Politics of Immigration

"The Haitian Response"
Bazelais Jean-Baptiste, Seeds for Haiti and Mouvman Peyizan Papay (Papaye Peasant Movement), and
Marie Yoleine Gateau of NEGES Foundation, a community project to rebuild Léogane, the epicenter of the earthquake

Organized by the Latin America Committee of Brooklyn For Peace
For more information:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Aid and Reconstruction for Haiti: The Grassroots Perspective

Three articles by Beverly Bell.

Raising Up Another Haiti
Common Dreams, February 23, 2010

As Haiti moves forward from the current point of devastation of its population, capital city, and economy, what could a different nation look like?

Who knows better than the Haitian majority? Why not ask them what they need and want?

Their perspectives have been sorely lost from the post-earthquake plans of some of the world's strongest powers. [...]

Read the full article:

Haiti: Peasant Organizations Provide Humanitarian Aid
Daily Kos, February 24, 2010

Yon sèl dwèt pa manje kalalou,” says Christroi Petit-homme, a member of a peasant farmer organization. You can’t eat gumbo with one finger. Peasant groups throughout rural Haiti form the fingers of the hand, reaching out with humanitarian aid for those left bereft after the earthquake.

U.S. Ambassador Ken Merten said at a February 12 State Department briefing, "In terms of humanitarian aid delivery, frankly, it's working really well, and I believe that this will be something that people will be able to look back on in the future as a model for how we've been able to sort ourselves out as donors on the ground and responding to an earthquake." Judging from hundreds of interviews, that impression is not shared by survivors of the earthquake. [...]

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A Future for Agriculture, A Future for Haiti
Upside Down World, March 2, 2010

"We plant but we can’t produce or market. We plant but we have no food to eat. We want agriculture to improve so our country can live and so we peasants can live, too."

- Rilo Petit-homme, peasant organizer from St. Marc, Haiti

What would it take to transform Haiti’s economy such that its role in the global economy is no longer that of providing cheap labor for sweatshops? What would it take for hunger to no longer be the norm, for the country no longer to depend on imports and hand-outs, and for Port-au-Prince’s slums no longer to contain 85% of the city’s residents? What would it take for the hundreds of thousands left homeless by the earthquake to have a secure life, with income? [...]

Read the full article:

Beverly Bell coordinates Other Worlds, , which promotes social and economic alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Reminder: People in the New York metropolitan area can learn more about grassroots perpectives at "Haiti Beyond Disaster: Planting Seeds of Change," a discussion about Haiti's Mouvman Peyizan Papay (Papaye Peasant Movement, MPP) and the Seeds for Haiti campaign, with special guests Joanne Veillard and Bastien Jean-Baptiste, Haitian-American New Yorkers who visited Haiti's Central Plateau with a Seeds for Haiti delegation January 7-11, then survived the earthquake in Port-au-Prince.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More information: