Sunday, June 29, 2014

Worth Cooley-Prost's work on behalf of Haiti lives on in her writings and impact on others by Michelle Karshan


Worth Cooley-Prost

See below for list of important documents re Haiti written by Worth Cooley-Prost (or written in collaboration)


June 29, 2014 (on the occasion of Worth's birthday and the memorial service being held for her today in Arlington, Virginia)


By Michelle Karshan


Honor, Respect! is the traditional greeting in Haiti.  Worth Cooley-Prost, a dedicated social justice advocate, lived by these words in her work on behalf of Haiti.

Worth had the deepest honor and respect for Haitians and Haiti’s faith-based and grassroots organizations and worked alongside some of Haiti’s leading progressive clergy at the time.  

Out of love, commitment, honor and respect for the Haitian people, Worth worked tirelessly in Haiti’s pro-democracy movement using her organizing skills from her earlier years as a political activist in the peace movement, her background in human services and her lengthy career as a biomedical researcher.

Worth recently passed on but has left a legacy that continues to inspire, educate, mobilize and empower others concerned with Haiti and other similarly situated countries. Most importantly, Worth’s work was directed to her own government, the United States, calling for accountability, transparency and justice in its relationship with Haiti.

Worth’s research, revelations, and writings exposed inconsistencies, corruption, human rights abuses and atrocities committed by both the U.S. and Haitian governments, the medical community in both countries, and by International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and NGOs.   

Worth was an active and key board member of the now defunct Washington Office on Haiti (WOH), an independent, ecumenical, nonprofit organization founded in 1984 to support Haiti's grassroots movement for democracy, human rights and self-determined development through public education, information and analysis, especially on the effects of U.S. policy on the Haitian poor.

Worth had a unique ability to “connect the dots” bringing otherwise hidden and complex issues to light.  Worth also connected people and organizations together. She was a highly respected organizer, and wrote several reports and articles making sure that the Washington Office on Haiti and her research and findings were widely available. Worth also sat on the board of the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees.

Worth pioneered research on several hot issues that continue to be controversial such as rice imports, medical experimentation on Haiti’s most vulnerable, elections and electoral observers, and the complex web of U.S. democracy enhancement as it played out in Haiti.

Additionally, with Worth’s leadership, the Washington Office on Haiti played a significant role in organizing and participating as election observers in 1991 in Haiti’s first presidential elections following the ouster of Duvalier. This first democratic election swept Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency despite the international communities dislike of the liberation theology priest. See Washington Office on Haiti. 1991. Report on the Elections of December 16, 1990. Washington, D.C.

Seven months after his inauguration President Aristide was overthrown in a bloody coup carried out by Haiti’s military. Swift action and coordination by the Washington Office on Haiti helped unite thousands of people and organizations internationally in a mobilization for the restoration of democracy in Haiti – namely that President Aristide be returned to his presidency in Haiti.  And, despite aggressive disinformation regarding President Aristide’s human rights record during his short seven months in office, Worth researched, documented and demonstrated through a Washington Office on Haiti report that the facts were to the contrary.

In what is said to be the first time in history that a deposed president was restored to power, President Aristide did return to his constitutional position in Haiti in 1994 through an intervention by the United States government.  Through the coup years (1991-1994) the Washington Office on Haiti had served as the central coordinating organization with its offices in Washington DC. They provided reports and briefings to U.S. Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus, and human rights, faith-based and other organizations. Worth made dozens of trips to Haiti leading fact-finding delegations often at the most dangerous times, or to lead an election observer mission.  

Worth’s work on behalf of Haiti lives on in her writings, and the writings by others influenced by her work. The hot subjects she researched and broke down for all to understand – including reporting on the brutal dictatorship of  President-for-life Jean-Claude Duvalier -- continue to be drawn on by social justice advocates, human rights defenders, elected officials, and litigators.  (A legal battle to try Duvalier for crimes against humanity is currently being waged in Haiti’s courts.)

Worth's combination of knowledge, analysis, persistence, courage, love, spirituality, religion, generosity, inclusiveness and humor made her a true wise woman who never really dies.

Today we see Haiti once again challenged by those who seek to return it to the days of Duvalierism and have already reversed many democratic gains. But the years of experiencing democracy and the incorporation of human rights -- made possible by the Haitian people and their supporters such as the Washington Office on Haiti and Worth Cooley-Prost -- can never be fully reversed.

Here’s a song that reminds me of Worth’s enormous ability and energy to Kembe fem! Hold strong!



Some of the reflections posted on memorial page relating to Worth's work on Haiti:

"...Haiti has lost a true friend. Worth was a real character: open, generous, hilarious at times." Claudette Werleigh, former Executive Director of the Washington Office on Haiti who went on to become Haiti’s first female Prime Minister, and current Secretary General of Pax Christi International. 
"Worth’s wit and wisdom and commitment were larger than life” and thanks Worth, “for all that I learned from you.” Sister Mary Lynn Healywho had served as the Executive Director at the Washington Office on Haiti.
“I will always remember how tirelessly she worked at the Washington Office on Haiti on behalf of the Haitian people and against the dictatorship in Haiti in the late 80s. Those of us who worked with her to promote democracy will never forget her dedication to the cause of democracy in Haiti, her capacity to organize, her readiness to help. May she rest in peace. Na wè lòt bò,Worth. Fè bon wout…" (We will see you on the other side. Safe journey…)  Serge Bellegarde, who works at the Organization of American States.
“ …In addition to all the amazing love and light she brought to the world, she loved Haiti and worked tirelessly for justice for the Haitian people. She taught me much. Mwen sonje ou." (I miss you)  Leigh Carter, Executive Director of Fonkoze USA, Haiti's Alternative Bank for the Poor.
I will always remember her for her wit about the absurdity of life and her passion for Haiti. Truly an incredible woman! Rest in peace.” Father Jeffrey Duaime, former pastor at church in Arlington, Virginia.
 Your determination to advocate for people marginalized by society was an inspiration for me.” John Engle, a co-founder of Beyond Borders, a faith-based organization working in Haiti, and current Co-Director of Haiti Partners.

Examples of important writings by Worth Cooley-Prost (some in collaboration with others or on behalf of the Washington Office on Haiti). This is not a complete list. Please send other titles to Michelle.Karshan@gmail.com.

  • Research Vaccine Turned Deadly to Third World Babies, by Worth Cooley-Prost, Fact Sheet, Washington Office on Haiti, 1997?, http://www.whale.to/v/prost.html
  • The Haiti AID Scam, The Progressive, Sept. 1995 article by Worth Cooley-Prostand John Canham-Clyne
  • How the U.S. Made Haiti Sick, (U.S. Aid, Go Home!) by John Canham-Clyne and Worth Cooley-Prost, In These Times, 1996, http://www.unz.org/Pub/InTheseTimes-1996jan08-00023
  • Neoliberalism in Haiti:  The Case of Rice, Sept. 1995 Haiti Info Vol 3, No. 24, http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/43a/210.html
  • Haiti Shows It's Ready for Democracy by Worth Cooley-Prost, National Catholic Reporter, July 28, 1995
  • Special Issue Report re:  Rice Corporation of Haiti, October 27, 1995, Washington Office on Haiti
  • Democracy Intervention in Haiti: The USAID Democracy Enhancement Project, by Worth Cooley-Prost, Washington Office on Haiti, 1994
  • Internal Exile in Haiti: A Country Held Hostage by Its Own Army, Coalition for Civilian Observers in Haiti, Washington Office on Haiti, 1993
  • Democracy Intervention: A Who’s Who of NGOs, Washington Office on Haiti, 1992
  • Breaking with Dependency and Dictatorship: Hope for Haiti, Covert Action Information Bulletin (Washington), No. 36, by Fritz Longchamp and Worth Cooley-Prost, Spring 1991
  • Report on the Elections of December 16, 1990. Washington Office on Haiti. 1991

Worth Cooley-Prost and her writings are widely quoted in articles on Haiti, and her writings are cited in books, articles, reports, academic papers, etc. The following is a list of books that cite Cooley-Prost's writings. This is not a complete list. Please send other titles to Michelle.Karshan@gmail.com.  Books cited include:

  • (BOOK) Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies by Mimi Sheller, International Library of Sociology, ‪Routledge, ‪2003
  • (BOOK) When the Hands Are Many: Community Organization and Social Change in Rural Haiti by Jennie M. Smith, Cornell University Press, 2001
  • (BOOK)  Haitian Refugees Forced to Return: Transnationalism and State Politics, 1991 –1994,  by Götz-Dietrich Opitz, published by LIT Verlag, 1999
  • (BOOK) Silencing the Guns in Haiti: The Promise of Deliberative Democracy by Irwin P. Stotzky, University Of Chicago Press, 1999
  • (BOOK) Electoral Observation and Democratic Transitions in Latin America by Kevin J. Middlebrook, ed., chapter by Henry F. Carey, "Electoral Observation and Democratization in Haiti," San Diego: Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, Regents of the University of California, 1998
  • (BOOK) Framing Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women, by Miriam J.A. Chancy, Rutgers University Press, 1997
  • (BOOK) Contested Social Orders and International Politics by David Skidmore (Editor), Vanderbilt University Press, 1997
  • (BOOK) Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention and Hegemony by William I. Robinson, Cambridge University Press, 1996
  • (BOOK) Haiti: The Breached Citadel by Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, (Boulder: Westview, 1996
  • (BOOK) Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II by William Blum, Peter Scott and Larry Bleidner, Common Courage Press, 1995







Sunday, November 14, 2010

FROM DICTATORSHIP TO DEMOCRACY, Haiti: Ten Years After the September 30, 1991 Coup d’état

Note: Written collaboratively and released in September 2001

From: MKarshan@aol.com

Office of the Foreign Press Liaison, National Palace, Haiti
Email:  mkarshan@aol.com
Telephone: (011509) 228-2058


FROM DICTATORSHIP TO DEMOCRACY
Haiti:  Ten Years After the September 30, 1991 Coup d’état

This is not a civil war.  There is no confrontation.  The violence comes from one side alone.  We feel there is a deliberate policy to eliminate Aristide partisans, to break the back of the pro-democracy movement and to terrorize the population.
A Ranking UN human rights official in Haiti, The Miami Herald, April 6, 1994


INTRODUCTION

The September 30, 1991 military coup d'etat in Haiti, the bloodiest coup in 200 years of difficult history is rooted in a continuum of struggle for democratic change in Haiti.  The continuum stretches back from before September 1991, out to today, and into the future.  Although the contours of the struggle change, the objectives have always been liberty and dignity: liberty, of the body and of thought and expression, and the dignity of having the basic materials for human existence: food, shelter, healthcare and education.

This struggle has borne fruit, Haiti's democracy dividend.  Irreversible progress in politics, justice and security has paved the way for fundamental and tangible improvements in the daily lives of Haitians.  The brutal army was dismantled and replaced by a civilian police force, the number of public high schools doubled since 1994. An aggressive campaign to collect unpaid tax and utility bills has generated record revenues for the struggling government, and an extensive land reform program has distributed 2.47 acres of land to each of 1,500 peasant families.  The government has also aggressively pursued an open market approach that has resulted in the development of a competitive and vibrant telecommunication sector and the reopening of the flourmill and cement plant. 

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW: 200 Years of Struggle

Haiti's very existence was born of the struggle for liberty and dignity.  The world's first   independent Black Republic, and only successful slave revolt, emerged in 1804 after a long war with Napoleon's France.  Haiti immediately faced a hostile international community that, in some cases waited a full sixty years before recognizing her.  Some countries only recognized Haiti after payment of a crippling indemnity of 150 million francs to France and the former slave owners.  This amount represented close to ten times the country's annual gross domestic product.  The payment of funds borrowed for the indemnity was not completed until 1922.  The burdensome repayment schedules denied Haiti the opportunity for any real economic development in the early years of the Republic.  Haiti was set on a devastating course of borrowing funds to re-pay an ever-growing debt.

Haiti's chronic indebtedness to foreign banks became a pawn in a scheme of    international financing with political repercussions at home.  Short-lived governments changed often in the years leading up to the nineteen-year United States occupation that began in 1915.  The Armed Forces of Haiti was created during the occupation as a "stabilizing," albeit repressive, force in the country.  The link between the new army and foreign financial interests was made clear when the occupiers seized all customs receipts, and used some of the proceeds to pay the salaries of U.S. officers.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ira Kurzban letter to New York Times re factual errors by Lydia Polgreen (Jan 2, 2004)

Letter from Ira J. Kurzban, Esq.


January 2, 2004


Ms. Lydia Polgreen
New York Times
New York, New York

Dear Ms. Polgreen:

I write to you and your editors because of numerous factual errors contained in your story on the January 1st celebrations in Haiti marking the 200 anniversary of that country's independence. I assume that the factual errors arose from your lack of familiarity with the political situation in Haiti or because you have been provided a good deal of misinformation. The article that I will address below was published on Friday, January 2, 2004 in the International section of the New York Times.

First, your article states that: "Mr Aristide was re-elected to the presidency in voting that many observers said was flawed" and that as result "the country had been locked in political crisis." You further stated that: "The dispute led international donors to suspend $500 million in aid¶" These statements are inaccurate. Such erroneous statements regarding Haiti often arise from the common confusion between the May 2000 parliamentary elections and the November 2000 presidential election. In May, 2000, there were 30,000 candidates who ran for 7,500 positions ranging from mayors and department representatives to Senators and members of the lower chamber. Of the 7,500 elections, the Organization of American States challenged the methodology used in counting 8 senate seats. While the independent electoral council (called the "CEP" in Haiti) claimed that the methodology used in counting the victors in those elections had been used in previous elections, the OAS observers disagreed. The OAS report is clear that there were no credible allegations of wide spread fraud in the elections.

In any event, no responsible international organization or observers contended that Mr. Aristide's election which occurred in November, 2000 was invalid or tainted in any manner as you suggested in your article. I invite you to review the OAS reports. It was clear in November, 2000 that Mr. Aristide's election was not marred by fraud or allegations of impropriety.

As soon as Mr. Aristide took office in February 2001 he used the power of his Presidency and as the head of his party to encourage the senators from the 8 contested seats to step down and pave the way for a new election. The seven senators from his party, Lavalas, agreed to do so. The eighth senator, who came from an opposition party, declined to do so.

The second error in your article is the claim that the international embargo was the result of Mr. Aristide's election. Again, this is erroneous. The international embargo began toward the end of Mr. Preval's term and had nothing to do with Mr. Aristide's election. Indeed, the United States government has repeatedly taken the position that Mr. Aristide is the democratically elected president of the nation. The embargo was continued under President Aristide's term under the claim that funds would not be released until a settlement was reached with the opposition, notwithstanding the fact that the seven senators had resigned. The embargo, which continues to exist today, and makes it impossible for the government to have any success in alleviating the poverty you address in your article, is therefore not in response to solving the political impasse. That impasse was solved when the senator's stepped down. Nor can the financial embargo be seriously linked to progress in making the country more democratic, because the World Bank, the United States, France and the European Union, who today refuse to provide any direct assistance to the Government of Haiti, provided financial assistance to the Duvaliers during their dictatorship, as well as the military governments that succeeded Duvalier. I leave it to your judgment and good sense as to the true reasons for the embargo. In any event, they are completely unrelated to President Aristide's election.

The third error in your article is simply baffling. I assume you attended the January 1st ceremonies at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince based upon the information contained in your story. The Miami Herald stated that there were "hundreds of thousands" of Haitians at the National Palace. Even the most minimum reasonable estimate of the number of supporters at the National Palace on January 1st, had to range conservatively from 50,000 to 100,000 people. Your description that Aristide spoke to a "small but enthusiastic crowd" simply blinks reality. I have taken the liberty to send photographs to a professional service that will provide me and your editors with a true count as to the number of people who appeared at the National Palace. Although the numbers game can be tricky and I am not assuming you had any bias in writing your article, one would literally have to be blind to say that there was a "small" crowd at the National Palace.

Your article also states that President Mbeki was the only head of state to attend the ceremonies. Your article states: "But it was a measure of Mr. Aristide's political isolation and Haiti's persistent troubles that only one [head of state] showed up." Your own article contradicts this assertion as you state later that the Prime Minister of the Bahamas attended the ceremonies. Indeed, as you were at the National Palace, I am sure you heard Prime Minister Perry Christie state that this was an historic occasion because it was the first time a head of state from the Bahamas had visited the Republic of Haiti. I understand that this may not detract from your general statement, but it certainly is misleading to single out Mr. Mbeki, to ignore Prime Minister Christie, and to ignore the scores of delegations from around the world who attended the celebration.

Finally, there is the question of violence. Your article was remarkably silent on the violence perpetrated by the opposition on January 1st and before that date. Opposition members burnt a police car on January 1st. They blocked all three major roads into the center of Port-au-Prince by setting fires in the road and placing boulders throughout the city. I am sure you witnessed all of these events if you were in Port-au-Prince. Yet your article makes the opposition appear as law abiding democratically-motivated individuals who are subjected to tear-gassing by the police on one hand and violence by Aristide supporters on the other. Had you inquired sufficiently, you would have learned that more supporters of Lavalas have been killed since December 5, 2003 than in the opposition. I am not condoning violence on either side. However, it is misleading to suggest that the violence is simply directed at one side as opposed to the other.

In light of the numerous errors in the article and as the counsel for the Government of Haiti in the United States, I kindly request that these errors be corrected publicly in a manner the New York Times deems appropriate.

As I am certain there was no intention on your part to be biased in the presentation of the facts, I would be honored to have the opportunity to discuss with you any of these or other matters that are of interest to you concerning the Government of Haiti.

Sincerely,



Ira J. Kurzban, Esq.


The New York Times corrects two points in its Bicentennial story



LYDIA POLGREEN and has added these two paragraphs as an addendum to the original article:

"An article on Friday about the bicentennial of Haiti's independence misidentified the election that outside observers called flawed, a finding that led to the suspension of $500 million in foreign aid to Haiti and contributed to the current political crisis there. It was the May 2000 legislative election, in which the Organization of American States disputed the counting method used in eight Senate races, not the November 2000 election of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which the O.A.S. said was not fraudulent."

"Because of an editing error, the article also referred imprecisely to the size of the crowd that attended the bicentennial celebration outside the presidential palace. While the government estimated it in the hundreds of thousands, and outside journalists' estimates ranged as low as 15,000, the crowd was not small.'

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Karshan to Vedrine on education (March 2003)

From: MKarshan@aol.com


Karshan to Vedrine on education*

Haiti list, 5 March 2003

Vedrine raises very valid points about the education system in Haiti. Under President Preval the Minister of Education began to address these concerns by creating standardized education.

Paolo Friere, the Brazilian educator who dared to teach literacy to Brazil’s peasants, addressed these critical points in his Pedogogy of the Oppressed (published in numerous languages and once banned in South Africa, punishable by imprisonment), describing such teaching methods as a banking system where a teacher merely deposits the information and the pupil is graded for how well he can spit it back verbatim—usually without concern as to whether the student understood the material or concepts therein.

I think of that book when I hear Haitian children sitting for hours reciting material. Not all schools are operating like this. For two years my daughter went to a middle class Haitian school where the teachers were excited about the materials and the children were engaged in dialogue. Of course this also goes to the issue of how a society views children.

I have been haunted by the fact that very few Haitian students actually read novels, instead learning about novels from the notes of teachers passed from one to another.

I think what Friere was also pointing out, and Bob correct me if I’m wrong (Bob taught a Friere course!) was that such a system, as well as a society that is content to keep its people illiterate, is part of a structure to maintain the status quo in societies such as Brazil, Haiti, etc.

So, by changing the educational system to one where all children will learn and can excel, ultimately transending class lines, you are engaging in a revolution, that will ultimately transform the society. That is why Friere was originally thrown out of Brasil and why literacy was not on the government agenda before Aristide. Instead literacy workers were sought and killed (La Saline 1987?).

With a large percent of the schools in Haiti being private, and many of those being driven just by the desire for profit, or private schools being overcrowded because the government doesn’t provide enough schools, education suffers. That is why it is essential that the government of Haiti continue building schools throughout the country but also essential is teacher training and a new view of children.
 
* post from the Corbett listserve
 
From the Haiti Dream Keeper Archives

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Briefing Paper on Haiti's Deteriorating Health Conditions in Wake of US-Led Financial Embargo (March 2002)

From: MKarshan@aol.com

March 2002


BRIEFING PAPER ON HAITI'S DETERIORATING HEALTH CONDITIONS IN WAKE OF US-LED FINANCIAL EMBARGO

THE UNITED STATES RESISTS HUMANITARIAN CALLS TO RELEASE AID AND LOANS PROMISED FOR HAITI'S HEALTH SERVICES AND SOCIAL CONDITIONS

"There are too many needs in Haiti going unaddressed and we should not be holding up any funds. We are putting politics and process above the needs of the Haitian people." Andrew Cuomo, February 20, 2002 on a recent visit to Haiti where he toured the maternity ward of the ailing State General Hospital

Background:

At the urging of the United States, funds to the government of Haiti are being withheld by the United States, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). In early 2001, the government of Haiti met all the conditions for the approval of the IDB loans, which are for health and accompanying development, including satisfying all arrears owed to the IDB. The IDB subsequently approved the loans to Haiti and were ready to disperse the funds when the US caused them to be halted ( i ). Although the IDB acknowledges that this situation is   unprecedented, the government of Haiti is being penalized with a charge of $79,000 per month in credit commissions to the IDB on loans, which have yet to be disbursed.

The first phase of the IDB loans is to address quality and access to healthcare through targeted tasks such as construction of low-cost community health centers, training of personnel, purchase of basic materials, providing of healthcare services to 2 million Haitians (25% of population), including pre-natal, post-natal care, primary dental care, treatment of contagious diseases. The ultimate objective is to reduce the high infant mortality rate, reduce the high juvenile death rate, and reduce the birth rate ( ii ).

Current Status of Healthcare in Haiti:

With the current financial sanctions taking a toll on Haitians and the delivery of healthcare, the original statistics cited in 1998 with the signing of the loan agreements between the IDB and the government of Haiti pale when compared with today's realities as follows ( iii ):

· Child mortality rose from 74 deaths per 1,000 to 80;

Issue Papers, Feb 7 2003: Education & Adult Literacy

 LFrom: MKarshan@aol.com

Education and Adult Literacy
Issue Papers, 7 February 2003

EDUCATION

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Historically the Haitian government placed little emphasis on primary education, and even less so for children in rural area, with the first rural school established 40 years after the country’s independence. Public schools were scare and requirements for schooling, such as shoes, textbooks, school supplies, transportation, uniforms, were out of reach for the majority of children. As a result, those children fortunate to access schooling usually only reached third grade.

Haiti’s 1987 Constitution provides for schooling for all children, a concept consist with the democratic movement that swept the country at that time. President Aristide set education as a priority and set out upon his inauguration in 1991 to create conditions for all children to go to school.

After President Aristide returned to Haiti, following the three year coup d’etat period, he immediately put in place a government program that would increase the number of schools, provide support services and materials for schooling, and provided 90,000 scholarships for primary school children, who unable to access a public school, relied on private schools in their regions. 200 primary and secondary schools were eventually built or renovated and the Ministry of Education standardized primary education.

With President Aristide’s return to the presidency in 2001, his platform of Universal Schooling was implemented by dedicating 20% of the national budget to education. Renovation and construction of schools continues with the aim of providing one school in each of Haiti’s 565 communal sections. Additionally, a study was conducted to better understand what obstacles prevented rural children from accessing schooling in four major rural areas. Findings from that study created recommendations which when implemented allowed an additional 160,000 children to enter school Fall 2001.

EFFORTS

•Created conditions which enabled an additional 160,000 children to enter school in Fall 2001;

•By end of school year 2002, 13 new public schools were created;

•Provided support services to schooling including school buses;

•Subsidized textbooks and supplies by 55% Fall 2001 and 2,275,400 textbooks subsidized by 60% in Fall 2002;

•Provided 150,000 free uniforms in Fall 2001 and again in Fall 2002;

•Breakfast and hot lunch program to reach 200,000 children school year 2002-2003;

•Installed libraries and cyber cafes in public high schools;

•Assistance with school tuition;

•57 schools renovated and 38 to be built school year 2002-2003.

LITERACY

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Illiteracy stood at an abysmal rate of 85% while the people’s movement for literacy (or alphabetization) training was repressed by the military under the Duvalier regime. Illiteracy, one of the major obstacles to full human development, continued to handicap the majority of Haitians. Haitians remained limited to manual labor, unable to participate in tasks that required reading and writing skills, and preventing the majority from understanding documents, reading newspapers, business contracts, or their children’s school work.

President Aristide created a Secretary of State for Literacy office after his return in 1994 laying the groundwork for a national campaign.

AIMS

The adult illiteracy rate currently stands between 55 to 60 percent. The government has set as one of its primary goals for Haiti’s 200th anniversary of independence in 2004 to significantly decrease the literacy rate. The linking of literacy with development motivates the population to participate in literacy centers, both in urban and rural settings. The success of this campaign will ultimately develop the nation as the poor, once they become literate, move into the business and social service sectors. Additionally, poverty reduction is achieved through literacy when, for example, parents can better participate in their child’s healthcare, farmers and merchants become better informed, and democracy strengthened when citizens are more fully informed.

EFFORTS

•Launched nationwide literacy campaign in September 2001;

•Waging public information campaign engaging population in literacy training;

•Opened approximately 20,000 literacy centers;

•The Secretary of State for Literacy has created training materials for teachers and students with more than 2 million manuals printed;

•Trained thousands of literacy facilitators and guides, including high school students;

•Approximately 320,000 people currently enrolled in literacy classes in urban and rural areas;

•State offices, including National Palace, have established literacy training centers for employees or the public;

•In addition to government funds dedicated to literacy campaign, a fund was created through donations made by government officials and employees;

•Distance training techniques for rural areas including radio classes with accompanying manual.
 
From the Haiti Dream Keeper Archives

‘Economic Terrorism’: Ignoring the Debt Issue in Haiti Part 1 by Michelle Karshan

Jubilee's Blog the Debt (Member blogs from Haiti)
01 October 2007 

‘Economic Terrorism’: Ignoring the Debt Issue in Haiti Part 1
by Michelle Karshan

[Michelle Karshan, a member of ONE Partner Jubilee USA and former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide foreign press liason, is fasting right now for Haiti. She blogs her perspective on how Haiti’s struggle with debt and economic recovery was ignored by the international press.]

In May 2007, while in Haiti, friends told me of the rising cost of living. As I spent what seemed like a lot of money purchasing food to cook three meals a day, I wondered how folks were feeding their families even one meal a day at those exorbitant prices.

Michelet, a young man, considerably thinner since 2004, pointed out that he had personally seen a rise in TB in his own neighborhood. He explained that with the increase in the cost of living people could not nourish themselves enough to fend off disease.

Dr. Paul Farmer has so eloquently drawn this connection between infectious disease and poverty, yet the international financial institutions have yet to reprioritize their economic plans.

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide often referred to structural adjustment and the debt as “Economic Terrorism”, because globalization and the way it revolves around creating and keeping impoverished countries impoverished results in starvation, disease, illiteracy and death. And, in the end millions of dollars spent on poverty reduction cannot turn a country around without debt reduction and forgiveness.

Last week, while Haiti and each Haitian there still suffers from the backbreaking debt inherited from the Duvalier regime, former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was heard on the airways apologizing for the atrocities and corruption during his administration.

Not coincidentally, his plea for forgiveness came immediately following Switzerland’s announcement that they would extend the Haitian government’s period of time to wage their legal battle to recover the millions of dollars in Duvalier’s Swiss bank accounts.

Haitian President Rene Preval rightly responded to Duvalier’s maneuvers, stating that while forgiveness is good, justice must prevail. Preval made it clear that his government would continue its pursuit of the monies, and that if Duvalier chooses to return to Haiti he will certainly be brought to justice.

It was extremely frustrating working as the Foreign Press Liaison to presidents Aristide, Preval and Aristide again. All the while, the international press ignored the debt that shackled any efforts towards recovery, ignored the U.S.-led embargo against Haiti’s government, and the economic “death plan” Aristide tried to resist. The U.S. Embassy waged a campaign denying that there was any financial embargo and they harassed press who dared to call the embargo an embargo!

The international press, distracting its readers from the real talking points, lay all blame at Aristide’s door, and characterized Haiti as: “spiraling downward;” “a basket case;” “a failed state;” and “a people unable to govern themselves.”

Yet inside the storm, at the eye of the storm, was globalization, the endless debt, the imposed impoverishment of a country up against a proud nation that believes that justice — economic justice — means accessible, universal health care, schools, literacy programs, and the right to work and farm.

It will not be hard for me to begin my fast today. What has been hard is to eat, knowing that more than 8 million people in Haiti cannot eat one meal a day.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

We Will Not Forget. The Achievements of Lavalas in Haiti by Laura Flynn and Robert Roth

To see or print actual full booklet with images: http://www.teledyol.net/WWNF/wwnf.pdf

We Will Not Forget. THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF LAVALAS IN HAITI by Laura Flynn and Robert Roth, published by the Haiti Action Committee

(Includes lists of achievements by subject)

In February 29, 2004, the constitutional government of Haiti was  overthrown, bringing Haiti’s ten-year experience with democracy to a brutal end. Orchestrated by the United States, France and Canada, the coup forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile and removed  thousands of elected officials from office.

A year after the coup, the Haitian people continue to demand the restoration of democracy. On September 30, 2004, tens of thousands of Haitians took to the streets of Port-au-Prince. Braving police  gunfire, threats of arrests and beatings, they marched while holding up their five fingers, signifying their determination that Aristide complete his five-year term.

On December 1, 2004, while then-Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Haiti to express support for the coup regime, Haitian police massacred dozens of prisoners in the National Penitentiary who had staged a protest over prison conditions. Despite this repression, more than 10,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Cap-Haitien on December 16, 2004, calling for the release of all political prisoners and the return of their elected president. On February 7, 2005, thousands more once again demonstrated in Port-au-Prince and other cities, raising the same demands.

Why are Haitians so insistent on Aristide’s return? Why have they been so resolute in their opposition to the coup and the subsequent U.S./U.N. occupation? Answering these questions requires a close look at what actually occurred during the years of democratic rule in Haiti.

To view entire booklet. To see or print actual full booklet with images:

http://www.teledyol.net/WWNF/wwnf.pdf

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

HAITI'S BICENTENNIAL: What's to Celebrate? by Adele DellaValle-Rauth (The Catholic Virginian)

HAITI'S BICENTENNIAL: What's to Celebrate?


By Adele DellaValle-Rauth, The Catholic Virginian, March 17, 2003

As part of our January Richmond Diocese retreat mission in Haiti, jointly led by myself and Bob, our group of nine met with Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison in Haiti. Michelle hosted us in her home in Port-au-Prince where she lives with her daughter Riva.

In the course of our conversation Michelle brought up the celebration of Haiti's bi-centennial in 2004. "The whole country is gearing up for this," she said excitedly.

Having just experienced the depth of the poverty in the capital city and in the rural countryside, and having visited Haiti many times since 1983, I couldn't resist asking: "What is there for Haiti to celebrate?" The economy is on a downward spiral, the Gourde has gone from 5Gde/$1US to 38Gde/$1US; Aristide is under attack from the foreign press (beginning with his presidency in 1991) but even internally there is some civil unrest and the subject of "regime change" comes up occasionally albeit from a vocal minority; some street violence by gangs has occurred attacking both demonstrators and opposition politicians; international donors have frozen $500 million in aid because of alleged irregularities in the 2000 Parliamentary elections; a U.S.-led embargo since January 2001 has prevented 146M in loans from being disbursed - loans marked and desperately needed for humanitarian use. Of course there is the gnawing challenge and responsibility in all of this to seek the truth and to separate truth from fiction, myth or propaganda.

So - what's to celebrate?

Lots - according to Michelle and others. The struggle for democratic change in Haiti, she declares, has borne fruit. The objectives of this struggle have always been liberty and dignity: liberty, of the body and of thought and expression, and the dignity of having the basic materials for human existence: food, shelter, healthcare and education. There are some undeniable, tangible improvements, fruits of this struggle that dates back to Haiti's emergence in 1804 as the world's first independent Black Republic after a long war with Napoleon's France. Telescoping beyond early transitional years of oppression by self-appointed, punitive leaders, chronic indebtedness to foreign banks, U.S. Thomas Jefferson's embargo until 1862, a demeaning 19 years of U.S. occupation, 29 years of cruel Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier dictatorships starting in 1957 and followed by an unstable series of short-term rulers - Haiti has made significant strides toward democracy since 1990:

The Birth and Struggle of Democracy:

- Haiti achieved the first free and fair elections in 1990 - with an overwhelming 67% of the electorate voting for Aristide.

Despite a brutal coup d'etat on Sept. 30, 1991, the bloodiest of 33 coups in 200 years of difficult history, democracy was restored in October 1994 with the return of Aristide.

Dissolution of the army in 1994, by President Aristide, has been called the most significant step forward for democracy in Haiti. The army was replaced by Haiti's first civilian police force.

On Feb. 7, 1996 President Aristide became the first Haitian president to leave voluntarily at the end of his original term (5 years minus 3 years of the coup), passing the mantle to President Rene Preval, Haiti's second freely elected president.