Tag Archive | "Haiti"

Haiti: Prime Minister Resigns as Anti-Government Protests Intensify

Laurent Lamothe resigned as Haiti's prime minister on Sunday (Photo via Wikipedia)

Laurent Lamothe resigned as Haiti’s prime minister on Sunday (Photo via Wikipedia)

Haiti’s prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, resigned on the weekend amid an escalation of anti-government protests in the country.

Lamothe announced his resignation in the early hours of Sunday morning, saying he was leaving the post with a sense of “accomplishment”.

On Friday, a special commission had recommended that Lamothe step down as one of a series of steps to address the country’s political crisis. “If it will permit a resolution to the crisis, I present my resignation and that of my government,” said Lamothe in a televised address.

Long-running protests have intensified recently over a political deadlock that has delayed legislative and municipal elections for several years, as well as allegations of corruption. On Friday, an anti-government protest in the capital Port-au-Prince ended in violent clashes with police, leaving one person dead.

President Michel Martelly created the special advisory commission last month in an attempt to set out a road map to resolve the crisis. Aside from the departure of Lamothe, the commissions other recommendations included disbanding the electoral council, freeing “political prisoners”, and the resignation of the Supreme Court president.

Martelly is due to meet with party leaders today, and should nominate a new prime minister by Wednesday, according to the commission report.

The current legislative mandate expires on 12th January, and if elections have not been called by then, President Martelly could rule by decree, raising concerns among many of a return to autocratic rule. Protesters have been calling for both Lamothe and Martelly to resign.

Martelly, meanwhile, has blamed opposition parties for blocking proposed reforms to the electoral law that he says would pave the way for a vote.

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Brazil: 31 People Rescued from Slavery in São Paulo

Those rescued were forced to work 15 hours a day in unhygienic and unsafe conditions (photo via SRTE/SP)

Those rescued were forced to work 15 hours a day in unhygienic and unsafe conditions (photo via SRTE/SP)

Authorities have rescued 31 people found working in “slave-like conditions” in the centre of São Paulo. The 19 Bolivian and 12 Haitian nationals were discovered in two textile workshops after a tip off from the dressmakers’ union.

According to the Regional Superintendence of Work and Employment in São Paulo (SRTE-SP), the 12 Haitian and two Bolivian victims found in one of the workshops were forced to work up to 15 hours a day for two months in unsafe and unhygienic conditions. They slept on old mattresses or on the floor and were not given sufficient food supplies. Those who complained about not being paid were denied food rations. The SRTE-SP added that this is the first time that Haitians have been rescued from slavery in the city.

In the other workshop, in which a 15-year-old pregnant girl was among the 17 Bolivians rescued, food was stored with cleaning products or on the floor. Faulty and exposed wiring also created a fire hazard, according to the SRTE-SP press release. The workers received R$700 a month, less than the minimum wage in Brazil, and had their IDs confiscated to prevent them from leaving.

The workshops produced items used by Brazilian clothing brands, As Marias and Seike, which have been fined, according to authorities. A spokesperson for As Marias told local NGO Reporter Brasil that the company had outsourced production to a third party and was unaware of the workers’ conditions.

“Slavery is a crime and a national disgrace,” said SRTE-SP superintendent Luiz Antonio Medeiros. “In São Paulo we are introducing harsher punishments for companies that use slave labour in their chain of production.” Medeiros claimed that from now on, guilty companies will be entered onto a blacklists and have tax benefits removed. According to the Labour Ministry, there are currently 609 companies blacklisted for subjecting workers to slave-like conditions.

Those directly responsible for holding workers in slave conditions, meanwhile, could face up to eight years in prison.

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Latin America News Roundup: 3rd April 2014

President Michelle Bachelet declared the area that Tuesday's earthquake hit to be a 'catastrophe zone' (Photo: EFE/Ariel Marinkpvic/Télam/lz)

President Michelle Bachelet declared the area that Tuesday’s earthquake hit to be a ‘catastrophe zone’ (Photo: EFE/Ariel Marinkpvic/Télam/lz)

Chile: Strong Aftershocks follow Tuesday’s Earthquake: Chilean authorities are evaluating the impact of Tuesday’s earthquake, which killed six people and led to the preventative evacuation of more than a million as a precautionary measure against a possible tsunami. The earthquake, which measured 8.2 on the Richter scale, hit the very north of Chile, close to the cities of Arica and Iquique, on Tuesday night, causing flooding and fires, as well as structural damage to dozens of buildings. The initial quake has been followed by aftershocks, one of which measured 7.6 yesterday, its epicentre being in the Pacific some 200km from the coastal city of Iquique. President Michelle Bachelet visited the region yesterday, and said that water and power had been restored to most of the areas affected, although two small towns remain stranded as eight roads are still impassable after they suffered massive structural damage and rockslides as a result of the earthquake. Experts are warning that aftershocks may continue for some time.

Costa Rica: Campaigning Closes ahead of Presidential Run-Off: Polls and campaigning officially ended today ahead of Sunday’s second-round presidential election in Costa Rica, which will define who will rule the country until 2018. In 2nd February’s first round, none of the presidential candidates obtained the 40% needed to avoid a run off, which meant frontrunners Luis Guillermo Solís of Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), who obtained 30.8% of the votes, will face Johnny Araya Monge, of the incumbent Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), who obtained 29.6%. In an unusual twist, Johnny Araya pulled out of the race at the start of March, as it seemed Solís had an unsurmountable lead in the polls, but a few days later his party said he would continue running. In Costa Rica, where voting is obligatory, a candidate is unable to pull out of the second round of an election. However, polls indicate that Solís will win the election, and it is said that the social-democrat is already putting his cabinet together.

Haiti: Broad Restructuring of Cabinet Announced: Haitian prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, announced yesterday a restructuring of his cabinet, which will involve almost half of the ministers. Via Twitter, Lamothe announced that ten of the ministries would see a change in leadership, citing the restructuring as necessary to achieve political backing in the midst of negotiations about the delayed municipal and parliamentary elections which should take place before the end of the year. Among those involved in the reshuffle are the Economy, Interior, Foreign, Defence, and Education ministries.

Haiti is also celebrating having reached historic accords with the Dominican Republic in various areas, including immigration, work, environment, agriculture, and tourism sectors. This comes after the neighbouring countries’ ties hit an historic low last year, when the Dominican Republic controversially stripped citizenship from those born to undocumented immigrants, a ruling that affected Haitians inthe most part.

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Latin America News Roundup: 21st February 2014

Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, in 1975.

Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, in 1975.

Haiti – Ex Dictator Could Face Human Rights Trial: An appeals court in Haiti has ruled that the former dictator Jean Claude Duvalier can face trial for alleged human rights abuses between 1971 and 1986. The court overruled the decision in 2012 by first instance judge Jean Carves that the time in which Duvalier could be prosecuted for human rights crimes had expired, and ordered an investigation to determine whether a new trial should be called. The verdict ruled that under international law, crimes against humanity are excluded from statute of limitations. Duvalier, nicknamed ‘Baby Doc’, also faces charges of corruption, theft and embezzlement; he has denied all charges brought against him. During Duvalier’s 15-year rule, thousands of Haitian civilians were murdered, tortured, or disappeared. He was forced into exile for 25 years after a popular revolt in 1986, but returned to Haiti in 2011.

Brazil Calls In Army To Beef Up World Cup Security: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced that the army will be called on “if necessary” to control street protests during the 2014 World Cup. “Brazil is ready to guarantee the safety of its citizens and visitors,” declared Rousseff as she unveiled a R$1.9bn (reais) security programme for the tournament. Civil, Federal, and Military Police forces will also coordinate security programmes in the 12 host cities. The announcement comes soon after the death of a Brazilian cameraman who was hit by a flare during violent protests in Rio de Janeiro, the latest in a series of demonstrations that began in July 2013.

Venezuela – Government Revokes Credentials for CNN Journalists: CNN International and CNN en Español confirmed today that the Venezuelan authorities had revoked the press credentials of seven journalists working in the country. The notification came hours after President Nicolas Maduro criticised the media channel for its coverage of recent protests. “They want to show the world that there is a civil war in Venezuela,” said Maduro yesterday evening. “Enough war propaganda! If you do not rectify things, get out of Venezuela, CNN!” The decision came during another day of protests in cities around the country by opposition group Voluntad Popular, led by Leopoldo López, who was arrested on Tuesday. Last night, prosecutors dropped charges of murder and terrorism against López, though he will remain in custody while other charges – including arson, inciting violence, and damage to public property – are investigated.

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Latin America News Roundup: 12th February 2014

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia – Referendum on Bogotá Mayor Postponed: Colombia’s National Civil Registry announced yesterday that the recall referendum on Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro has been postponed due to “lack of resources.” The referendum, which will decide on the mayor’s fate after he was dismissed by Colombia’s Inspector General, was scheduled to take place on 2nd March. However, the Civil Registry informed in a statement posted on their website, that “without the resources it is not possible to move forward in purchasing the necessary goods and services” to carry it out. The Civil Registry has requested COL$38bn (US$17.8m) from the Economy Ministry, and is still awaiting for the funds to be confirmed. There has been no confirmation as to when the referendum will be held.

Regularisation Plan for Undocumented Haitians: The Haitian government has announced it will launch a survey of undocumented Haitian citizens living in other countries, including neighbouring Dominican Republic. Haiti’s National Identification Office (ONI) will deploy a number of mobile units around Dominican Republic in order to identify undocumented citizens living there and help them regularise their situation. The process will be carried out by Haitian civil servants and members of the Haitian diaspora in Dominican Republic, according to ONI’s director Jean Baptiste Saint-Cyr, though he did not specify whether the Dominican government will also be involved. The survey, which will start next month, will also include Suriname and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The announcement is the result of the dialogue established by the Haitian and Dominican governments after the decision by the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal to strip Haitians of the country’s citizenship. A bill by the Committee of Solidarity with Denationalised People, which proposed to grant citizenship to all people of foreign ascent born in Dominican territory between 1929 and 2010, was introduced in the Dominican parliament.

Uruguay – Human Remains Found in Police Station: Human bones thought to belong to two people disappeared during the last military dictatorship (1973-1985) were found yesterday in a police station in Montevideo. The human remains were found by workers doing excavation works in police station number 8 of the Uruguayan capital. Supreme Court spokesman, Raúl Oxandabarat, explained that “the first characteristics of the findings seem to indicate that there is the possibility that it could be a case of burial of people who were detained and disappeared.” The court will be in charge of conducting DNA tests which will be matched against a registry of disappeared prisoners. A report by anthropologist Horacio Solla found that the bones would have been buried around 30 years ago, or more, and would belong to a man and a woman.

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Latin America News Roundup: 16th January 2014

The Brazilian state of Arce borders Peru in the Amazon

The Brazilian state of Arce borders Peru in the Amazon

Brazil: The north-western state of Arce has asked Brazil’s government to close the border with Peru to stop the flow of Haitian migrants. Since 2010, 15,000 Haitians have arrived into Brazil via the city of Assis, in Arce, on the border with Peru. Local media reports that the flow of migrants has increased considerably in recent days, leading to a situation Arce’s Secretary for Justice and Human Rights, Nilson Moruão, called “unsustainable” and “chaos”. He is asking the government to find a diplomatic solution to the problem. The latest incident come weeks after a diplomatic crisis erupted between Haiti and neighbouring Dominican Republic, after the latter withdrew citizenship to Haitians living in the country. Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, a situation that worsened after the 2010 earthquake killed over 220,000 and left 1.5m homeless. According to the United Nations, over 800,000 Haitians are still in need of emergency aid.

Honduras: The leaders of the Libre, PAC, and PINU opposition parties signed the ‘Great Opposition Agreement for the Governability of Honduras’ yesterday. The pact aims to establish strategies between the parties’ newly-elected politicians to abolish laws which will negatively affect the Honduran people. Through the bloc, the united opposition have a majority in Congress, with more than 80 deputies, something former president Manuel Zelaya called “a healthy counterweight for Honduran democracy, based on what we can assume the national party will do when in government.” Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara de Zelaya, was the presidential candidate for Libre in the 28th November elections, and contested the results, claiming victory. She now heads the opposition.

Latin America: The London-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance research group released their annual report on investment in clean energy yesterday, with some Latin American surprises. Brazil once dominated the sector, but saw its investment in clean energy slip from US$7.1bn to US$3.4bn, the main cause of this drop being a large decline in new investment, which more than halved to US$2.5bn. Outside of Brazil, investment increased slightly, with almost US$5bn being put into the sector across the region, with both Chile and Mexico seeing high figures in solar and wind investment respectively. However, Argentina suffered a sharp decrease in investment in the green energy sector, falling from US$539m in 2012 to US$94m in 2013. Globally, investment was down for the second year running, falling 12% to US$254bn. 

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Latin America News Roundup: 13th January 2014

Haiti, plagued by natural disaster and second on the list of population in slavery (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas four years since the earthquake (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Haiti: Yesterday Haitians commemorated four years since the earthquake that left 220,000 dead, 300,000 injured and 1.5 million homeless. The anniversary was marked by a peaceful march to the Champ de Mars, in the capital Port-au-Prince, where a memorial has been constructed in commemoration of the victims. Organisers of the march used the occasion to call for more transparency in the use of reconstruction funds, and to reiterate their call for dignified housing for all. Between 147,000 and 170,000 people are still living in some 270 camps around the country, which is the poorest in the Americas. According to the United Nations over 800,000 Haitians still need humanitarian assistance, due to poor living conditions and risks of forced evictions from the camps, food insecurity, malnutrition, and the cholera epidemic.

Colombia: A new round of peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) began today in Havana, Cuba. The talks are due to last until the 23rd January, which coincides with the end of the 30-day unilateral truce announced by FARC in December. This round of discussions will focus on the subject of illegal drugs and trafficking, including replacement programmes for illegal growing, integral development plans with community participation in the design, execution and evaluation of the programmes of replacement and environmental recuperation of the areas affected. Also on the table will be the issues of public health programmes and drug consumption. Working groups began analysing the points in December, with the aim of reaching an agreement during this round of talks. The on-going peace talks between the government and FARC have six key points, with accords already reached on the issues of land reform and political participation of the rebels. The issues yet to be tackled are disarmament, rights of the victims and the peace deal implementation, all of which are on the agenda for 2014.

El Salvador: El Salvador held its first ever presidential debate last night, ahead of the elections due to be held on 2nd February in the Central American state. The debate, which took place in the capital San Salvador, was sponsored by the association of Salvadoran broadcast media and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and moderated by Mexican journalist Armando Guzmán from Univsion. The five candidates, including current vice president Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who is one of the frontrunners, discussed education, security, healthcare, and the economy.  Meanwhile, through a communication, the main gangs in the country have confirmed that the peace process would continue at a national level throughout the campaigning period, and pledged to help the elections go ahead without problems.

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Dominican Republic: Diplomatic Relations Re-established with Haiti

Danilo Medina

President of the Dominican Republic Danilo Medina (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Presidents of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Danilo Medina and Michel Martelly, have agreed to engage in discussions once again about issues of mutual interest for their nations.

The presidents met on Monday evening in Caracas, Venezuela, during the second extraordinary ALBA-TCP-Petrocaribe summit. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro acted as a mediator between the two presidents during the dialogue.

Relations between the Dominican Republic and Haiti broke down when the Dominican Constitutional court controversially ruled to withdraw Dominican citizenship from Haitians and their descendants. Haiti rejected the ruling.

Following this, just weeks ago, the two countries the broke off any dialogue after Haiti’s alleged role in Caricom’s decision to suspend the Dominican Republic’s membership bid until the country took measures to resolve its migration conflict with Haiti.

After the Monday meeting between the two countries, the Venezuelan Presidential office released information stating that “The Dominican Republic and Haiti believe that engaging in talks again is of vital importance and they agreed to work together in good faith to deal with and mutually draw benefit from immigration, trade, security, and environmental issues, amongst others”.

The statement revealed that both countries had decided to invite Venezuela, the United Nations, the European Union and Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom) to accompany them during the dialogue process. The two countries also agreed to create an executive committee made up of five members of each of these observers groups to organise the agenda and chronology of the issues of mutual interest to be discussed during future talks.

During the summit, Medina thanked Martelly and Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe for “the effort” they had made to re-start dialogue with the Dominican Republic, adding: “We cannot separate our current problems which have arisen and which must be resolved, sitting at a table through dialogue, each country accepting the sacrifice the they must accept, but always advancing.”

During a speech in front of the Presidents of ALBA-Petrocaribe, Maduro called this agreement between the two leaders “historic.”

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Haiti: UN Engages With Family of Paralysed Boy

UN troops in Haiti (photo courtesy of UN Flickr page)

UN troops in Haiti (photo courtesy of the UN Flickr page)

The UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti has engaged in talks with the parents of a young Haitian boy allegedly shot by Argentine UN troops two years ago. According to an investigation by the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN), a day after publishing an article about the boy’s serious condition and the UN’s unwillingness to provide compensation, the international organisation made contact with the boy’s father, Remy Gena.

Wilderson Gena, then 14, was taking part in a protest at his school in Verretes, 112km north of Port-au-Prince when Argentine UN military officers allegedly opened fire and shot him five times. He was left paralysed and still has a bullet lodged close to his spine.

The protests had started as a result of the appointment of a new physics teacher by the local education system, who was not welcome by students. The teacher who was replaced had previously been accused by local authorities of inciting students to riot. According to eye witnesses, the protests turned violent when students started throwing rocks at the Argentine UN patrol cars. The troops apparently responded by opening fire on the young protesters.

According to HCNN’s investigation, on the day of the protest two years ago, the UN’s regular security alert system mentioned the unrest and confirmed a joint patrol of Haitian police and UN military were dispatched to handle the situation. A UN report on the alert system from the end of the day failed to mention any injuries, although police reported that Gena and another boy had been shot.

HCNN claims sources close to the UN military alleged the shots could have been fired by the Haitian police, as UN soldiers only carry rubber bullets to control crowds. The police chief in Verrettes, however, claims officers were not at the scene yet when Gena was shot. The UN’s spokesperson in Haiti has not publicly addressed the incident. Other eye witnesses also claimed police were not present when Gena was shot.

Over the past two years, Gena has had to leave school. According to Dr. Joanna Cherry, head of the Spinal Cord Injuries Unit at Bernard Mevs Hospital: “He will be a wheelchair user for the rest of his life and forced to live with complications of paralysis. In my opinion the UN mission has a moral and financial obligation towards Widerson and his family that they have failed to uphold.”

After Gena’s father repeatedly made contact with the UN to demand compensation, the UN conducted an internal investigation but has not made the report public.

Following HCNN’s investigation and the UN’s initiation of contact with the family, Gena’s father said: “We have been waiting for this day for a long, long time. This is a good sign that they finally contacted us, but I hope something concrete could come out of this move.”

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Dominican Republic Recalls Ambassador, Shelves Talks With Haiti

Danilo Medina

President of the Dominican Republic Danilo Medina (Photo: Wikipedia)

Just ten days after signing an agreement with Haiti to prioritise dialogue between the two countries, the Dominican Republic government decided yesterday to end all talks and recall its ambassador from Haiti for “consultations”. This decision came just hours after the Caribbean Community (Caricom) suspended the Dominican Republic’s request for membership.

On 19th November, Haiti and the Dominican Republic signed an agreement in Caracas, under the mediation of Venezuela, to prioritise dialogue between the two countries. However, Government Minister Gustavo Montavlo announced yesterday that the Dominican Republic would not be attending the next meeting between the two countries, due to take place on Saturday in Caracas.

“We understand that the Haitian government has not complied with the agreement we signed last week, in which we prioritised dialogue between our countries to find solutions to any issue in our common agenda. Haiti has chosen to go down a different path,” he said.

The decision is based on Haiti’s alleged role in Caricom’s decision to suspend the Dominican Republic’s membership bid until the country takes measures to resolve the migration conflict with Haiti.

The regional bloc threatened to present a resolution to the United Nations to condemn the recent constitutional court’s ruling against immigrants and their children living in the Dominican Republic. The group also announced that it would revise the Dominican Republic’s status in other regional organisations such as the Caribbean Forum, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Organisation of American States (OAS).

In response to the decision the president of the National Migration Committee and minister of the interior and police, José Ramón Fadul, said: “I believe that no one has the right to intervene in decisions concerning our national sovereignty, unless they are Dominican.”

The latest diplomatic spat comes after a weekend of violence and mass repatriation in the Dominican Republic.

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