mercredi 13 mai 2015

French President Hollande pledges Haiti investment

The French president has pledged investment to Haiti, but steered clear of the reparations some in the former colony are demanding from Paris.
In the capital Port-au-Prince, Francois Hollande said France would spend $145m (£93m) on development projects.
It is the first official visit by a French head of state since Haiti won independence in 1804.
The Caribbean country was forced to pay millions of gold francs to compensate slave owners.
'Independence debt'
"We can't change history, but we can change the future," President Hollande said on Tuesday.
He added that French investments in development projects - including education - should be seen as an appropriate effort for "a moral debt that exists".
Mr Hollande's visit provoked small-scale protests with demonstrators demanding France pay damages for its legacy in Haiti.
Meanwhile, Haitian President Michel Martelly said: "No negotiation, no compensation can repair the wounds of history that still mark us today.
"Haiti has not forgotten, but Haiti is not stubborn," he added, referring to the debate in Haiti about whether the country can rebuild relations with its former colonial power without demanding reparations.
By declaring independence in 1804, Haiti became the first black republic in the world.
Protesters in Port-au-Prince unveiled a banner that read: "Hollande: Money Yes, Morals No"
But France demanded that Haiti pay damages and compensation to slave holders for the lost of their profits. Paris warned the new regime that it would face invasion and a return to slavery.
Known as the "independence debt" it was later reduced to 90 million gold francs ($18.9bn; £12bn) which Haiti continued to pay into the 1940s.
In 2004 during Haiti's bicentenary celebrations, the then Haitian President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, demanded compensation from France.
Last year, the 15-member Caribbean Community announced a 10-point plan for seeking reparations from France and other slave-holding European nations on behalf of Haiti and other former colonies.
French administrations have acknowledged the historic wrong of slavery in Haiti and other former colonies but have avoided any real discussion over whether they would return the "independence debt".
But in 2010 after Haiti's devastating earthquake, the then French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, spoke about the "wounds of colonisation" and during his administration, France cancelled all of Haiti's $77m debt.

On Sunday, Mr Hollande acknowledged his country's historic role in the Atlantic slave trade as he helped inaugurate a $93m slavery memorial in Guadeloupe.

Haiti First Lady’s Senate candidacy rejected

Haitian first lady Sophia Martelly’s hopes of a political career in Haiti’s Senate may have been dashed.
Several sources including a local Port-au-Prince radio program, known for breaking scoops, said late Tuesday that the National Bureau of Electoral Disputes (BCEN) has rejected her candidacy.
Richardson Dumel, the spokesman for Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), told the Miami Herald that “a decision hasn’t been announced yet.”
Martelly filed last month to run for the Haitian Senate in the upcoming Aug. 9 elections in hopes of representing the West department, which includes Port-au-Prince. But her candidacy was quickly challenged on the grounds that she was an American citizen, and as someone in charge of a government committee tasked with administering State funds, she lacked the necessary document showing she properly spent the money. She was also accused of voting in the 2010 presidential elections as a U.S. citizen, which wasn’t allowed before amendments to the Constitution recognizing dual nationality were published.
Despite the passing of the amendments and the National Palace leaking a document showing that Martelly had renounced her American citizenship, jurists in Haiti have disagreed on whether she qualifies to run under the changes. Some say she does, while others say she would have had to give up her U.S. passport when she became an adult at 18.
Initially, Martelly’s candidacy was accepted by the elections commission and she was given the green light to proceed. The decision, however, was appealed and the BCEN was formed to hear the dispute. In total, the panel was tasked with ruling on 17 disputes involving 16 candidates; two of the challenges were brought against Martelly.
The decision on Martelly’s fate has been long awaited but it had been held up by money, according to Haiti’s Le Nouvelliste. On Tuesday, the newspaper said that each of the BCEN’s six lawyers were requesting a $31,538 payout while each of the three judges were requesting $25,231 in fees before making their decision public.
The CEP finally settled the dispute by agreeing to pay each of the lawyers and judges about $10,000 each for 30 days worth of work.
Dumel said a total of 2,039 candidates have registered to participate in the upcoming parliament elections for 20 Senate seats and the entire lower chamber, which increased from 99 to 118 seats. On Monday, Haiti began the registration for its presidential elections, which are scheduled for Oct. 25 with a runoff on Dec. 27 if no one wins the vote outright.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article20797062.html#storylink=cpy

Is it time for France to pay its real debt to Haiti?

Is it time for France to pay its real debt to Haiti?

In 1791, the slaves of France's most profitable Caribbean colony, Saint Domingue, revolted. The uprising was kindled by the appalling exploitation and abuse of the colony's enslaved African population, and stoked by thesame Enlightenment values championed by white anti-monarchic revolutionaries in the United States and France itself.
But the independent republic of Haiti that eventually emerged in 1804 was never an equal among the brotherhood of Western nations. To the north, the United States, a nation of slaveowners, regarded Haiti, a nation of free blacks, with unvarnished horror and boycotted its merchants.
Meanwhile, France, the spurned former colonial ruler, fumed at its losses. In 1825, with a French flotilla threatening invasion, Haiti was compelled to pay a king's ransom of 150 million gold francs — estimated to be ten times the country's annual revenues — in indemnities to compensate French settlers and slaveowners for their lost plantations. The sum would be later reduced to 90 million gold francs, but that was little consolation: Haiti, in effect, was forced to pay reparations for its freedom.
This history is not as distant as it may seem. It set the stage for many decades of Haitian economic misery and underdevelopment to come—the country, one of the poorest nations in the Western hemisphere, did not finish repaying its 19th century debts to France and the U.S. until the middle of the 20th century.
And the legacy of the past was very much alive this week, as French President Francois Hollande landed on Tuesday on a historic visit to Haiti.
On Sunday, Hollande had made remarks in the Caribbean island of the Guadeloupe that he would "settle the debt that [the French] have" with Haiti—a declaration that was rapidly back-tracked by aides, who insisted Hollande was referring to a "moral" debt, not an actual financial one.
In Haiti, Hollande promised large-scale French assistance, including a plan to help modernize the country's education system. He acknowledged that a "moral debt exists," but skirted whether the wrongs of the 19th century would be more directly addressed through reparations.
"You’re not asking for aid, you want development," Hollande said, addressing an audience of Haitian dignitaries in Port-au-Prince. "You’re not asking for welfare, you want investment."
But many in Haiti want more than that, including a group of protesters who greeted Hollande's arrival with placards and chants.
While France belatedly offered public apologies for the history of slavery that shaped the Caribbean, and also canceled Haiti's $77 million debt following the cataclysmic 2010 earthquake, activists say that the indemnities unjustly forced on Haiti more than a century ago must be reversed. Some calculate that returning all those 19th century gold francs would add up to about $17 billion.
Separately, a bloc of 15 Caribbean nations has embarked on a joint quest to obtain reparations from Europe's slave-trading and owning empires, and optimistically seek to win accords with the British, French and Dutch governments.
But such an understanding regarding reparations from Europe is still distant, not least because of the tricky politics that would follow for the former colonial power. There are many skeletons in the closets of Europe's lapsed empires, and one formal act of reparation would likely beget calls for others.
Haiti's President Michel Martelly appeared to recognize this. "No negotiation, no compensation can repair the wounds of history that still mark us today," he told Hollande on Tuesday. "Haiti has not forgotten, but Haiti is not stubborn."
An article in Haiti's main newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, cited by France 24, shrugged off the question of reparations. France, concluded editor Frantz Duval, will have to reckon with its own demons for many years to come:
The moral debt that is owed is for having enslaved the blacks who were uprooted from Africa to transform every drop of their sweat and blood, and each parcel of land on Saint Domingue, into wealth for the imperial center. For this moral debt, Haiti does not seek compensation. We agree that it is irreparable. We leave it to be a stain on the civilized world.
Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.

vendredi 8 mai 2015

UN struggles to stem new rise in Haiti cholera cases

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - A deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti that experts say was introduced by UN peacekeepers from Nepal is on the rise, with hundreds of new cases registered weekly, a UN official said Thursday.
Pedro Medrano, the UN coordinator for Haiti's cholera outbreak, said years of work to beat back the disease are in jeopardy as donors turn away from the emergency.
"Unfortunately because of lack of resources and of the rainy season, in the last six months we have moved from a thousand new cases a month to almost a thousand a week, " Medrano told AFP in an interview.
The UN official predicts more than 50,000 new cases this year, up from 28,000 last year, the lowest level since the outbreak began in October 2010.
More than 8,800 people have died from cholera and 736,000 Haitians have been infected since the outbreak that expert studies have shown was brought to the island by Nepalese troops.
Studies traced the bacteria to the sewage system of a peacekeeping base run by the Nepalese that contaminated a river used by many Haitians for drinking water.
This year alone, 113 people have died and there have been 11,721 new cases in Haiti but there are fears that with the start of the rainy season in June, the number of cases will soar.
At the same time, many aid agencies have left Haiti and treatment centers have shut down.
"The risk here is that all the progress we made so far can be lost," said Medrano.
"For the donor community this is not an emergency, and because it is not considered an emergency, the money, the resources we need to deal with the humanitarian crisis are not coming," he said.
Left unchecked, the epidemic could spread to neighboring Dominican Republic or Cuba, he warned.
The United Nations has officially refused to recognize its responsibility for the cholera outbreak despite lawsuits brought by the victims, but it is leading an effort to rid Haiti of the disease.
The United Nations is hoping to vaccinate 300,000 people this year, but it needs $1.9 million for the effort.
About $37 million dollars in total are needed to fight cholera this year.

Syracuse University graduate student plans to return to Haiti to help fix emergency communication system

Jackin Alix Bien-Aime was on the eighth floor of the tallest building in Haiti when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck in January 2010.
The earthquake hit at 4:53 p.m., and Bien-Aime spent about the next three hours assisting those who needed help.
“I think that at least we lost one person because that person after the earthquake couldn’t send information to other people to say exactly where they are,” said Bien-Aime, who also lost his godmother and many of his friends in the natural disaster. More than 230,000 people died as a result of the earthquake.
He worked for a company in the country’s capital, while his mother was in Cap-Haitien, located a few hours away. Bien-Aime wasn’t able to contact his mother until two days after the earthquake, not because he left his cell phone at home, but because communication in Haiti at the time wasn’t up to par.
His experience with the earthquake inspired him to apply to the Syracuse University–Université d’État d’Häïti Student Exchange Program, which began in 2011 as a way for the university to help Haiti after the earthquake as a result of efforts by the Syracuse University Haiti Support Committee.
For Bien-Aime, the program has proven opportune. As a student in the School of Information Studies, Bien-Aime is working toward a master’s degree in telecommunications and network management, as well as a certificate of advanced studies in information security management.
According to the SU website, the committee that established the exchange proposed an “educational exchange program” with the State University of Haiti, to support Haitian students in continuing graduate studies.
Now a second year-graduate student in the iSchool, Bien-Aime plans to return to Haiti after graduation and use what he learned to help his home country.
“After the earthquake, the communication world was just bad, and I said, ‘Maybe we can find solutions in technology,’” Bien-Aime said, “because if you can’t communicate with someone, you can’t share the important information.”
Paula Johnson, a professor in the College of Law, began the program with Dr. Linda Carty, a professor of sociology and African American studies said she and the committee believed that it was important for SU as an educational institution to go beyond the immediate relief effort.
“We called for bringing students from Haiti to come to SU in order to get advanced degrees in areas that were deemed to be particularly important to the longer term rebuilding of Haiti,” Johnson said.
Johnson said this year’s class might be the last group that SU will be bringing in from Haiti because the university hasn’t committed to financially supporting the program in the future. But she believes the program is worthy of external funding.
Bien-Aime wants take what he learned in the program and aid in improving the country’s emergency communications. After he returns home post-graduation, he hopes to get government help when implementing his capstone.
His final project involves improving wireless communication in the event that providers like T-Mobile or Verizon aren’t working.
“This is just one of the ways that I can help Haiti if something like that happens again,” Bien-Aime said. “I am a technology guy. Because we had a communications issue and a technology issue, I’m just trying to find a technological solution that we can use to face those types of situations.”
Bien-Aime, along with five other students, is part of the second group that SU brought in from Haiti in 2013. Like the others who were selected for the program, Bien-Aime stood out in his field, Johnson added.
“Jackin Alix has a particular awareness, pre-earthquake and post-earthquake, of what his country needs to increase the telecommunications within the country and across countries…” Johnson said. “He is precisely the type of person that we saw benefiting from this program and taking what he learned back to Haiti and building on it there.”

Contact Clare: clramire@syr.edu

Arcade Fire Opening Haitian Restaurant in Montreal

Win Butler and Régine Chassagne will launch Agrikol this summer with celebrated Toronto restaurateurs


Read Arcade Fire's Win Butler and Régine Chassagne are opening a new Haitian restaurant, agrikol, in Montreal this summer with the help of celebrated Toronto restaurateurs (and fellow husband-wife duo) Roland Jean and Jen Agg, The Globe and Mail reports.
Agrikol will feature Haitian cuisine, visual arts and, of course, music. Butler and Chassagne's friendship with Jean and Agg got off to an inauspicious start. After Butler commandeered the stereo in Agg's Toronto restaurant with a Haitian Creole festival music called rara, he accidentally blew up the PA system.

dimanche 3 mai 2015


Le 7 avril dernier je suis resté à l’affut, en quête d’information concernant  les activités commémoratives du 212 ème anniversaire de la mort dans le Jura du gouverneur, général TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE.
Les échos dans la presse traditionnelle étaient sombres pour ne pas dire inexistants.
Je me suis normalement dirigé vers quelques contacts jeunes des réseaux sociaux. Là non plus je n’ai décelé aucun enthousiasme.
Ces jeunes, sortant d’une sorte de léthargie profonde ou encore plongés dans le sommeil prolongé de la désorientation identitaire, ne semblaient surtout pas concerné par une question traitant de l’anniversaire de la mort de TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE.
A l’heure où j’écris ces lignes, je suis incapable de dire si cette commémoration a eu lieu ou pas. La presse faisait, en cette occasion, le débat sur l’intention du premier ministre de modifier les paroles de l’hymne national pour le « féminiser ».
Ce n’est certes pas la première fois que la société haïtienne affiche cette antipathie autour de la mémoire de celui qui est et restera le plus grand des  Noirs.
Il y a quelques années de cela, un célèbre journaliste haïtien avait écrit un papier pour mettre en exergue et fustiger l’amnésie collective que souffraient les haïtiens dans ce sens et face à cette réalité historique.
L’article avait attiré mon attention. J’en fis part à une grande amie qui rechercha et me trouva les coordonnées du travailleur de la presse qui avait poussé, ce qui pour moi représentait, un cri du cœur sensé, sincère, légitime et  réel.
Je le contactai en le félicitant sur le contenu de son papier et l’invitai à travailler pour que cela ne se renouvelle plus.
Ma proposition ne sembla pas trop l’intéresser. Il était plutôt dans la dénonciation. J’ai compris que ce sujet, il le gardait en silence pour le ressortir en cas de besoin. L’effort pour changer et corriger la situation devait venir des autres !
Nos échanges téléphoniques devinrent carrément agaçants.
A l’époque, motivé par ce besoin, dans mon esprit j’avais conçu ‘idée d’un espace pour parler de TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE. J’avais imaginé comme il en existe des mouvements de ce genre autour de personnalités historiques nationales, « l’Institut Toussaint Louverture ».
Pendant quelques mois j’ai garni les rayons de ma bibliothèque de la grande majorité des œuvres inspirées par le précurseur. J’ai créé un site internet comme organe de diffusion (http://www.institut-toussaint-louverture.org)
Bousculé par le travail et une actualité haïtienne toujours  brûlante, je n’ai pas su gérer comme il faut mon idée.
Cependant, un travail sur la descendance de TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE retranscrit sur le site m’a mis en contact avec un historien français très connu qui a écrit sans doute les livres les plus objectifs sur le personnage.
Il nota de son côté le fondement plutôt intéressant de ma démarche. Comme lui, d’autres amis comprirent mon intérêt pour faire « revivre » TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE  surtout dans la conscience collective haïtienne dans un contexte ou tout le monde est unanime à accepter qu’il nous manque cruellement des modèles.
C’est ainsi que mon nom arriva à La Rochelle en France, port négrier, ville enrichie par la traite et le commerce basée sur l’exploitation des esclaves.
Cette ville travaillait en coopération avec la ville de Port-au-Prince. Dans le domaine de l’éducation semble-t-il. De Mairie à Mairie.
Après les résolutions politiques du pouvoir exécutif se concrétisant dans le remplacement des maires en attendant des élections qui n’ont jamais été réalisées, la Mairie de La Rochelle orienta sa collaboration avec une fondation créée par une ancienne cadre de la Marie de Port-au-Prince.
La Mairie de cette ville française va inaugurer le 20 mai prochain une statue de TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE comme concrétisation d’un projet conçu il y a quelques mois déjà.
J’avais été dès le début invité à être l’un des conférenciers qui prendraient la parole en cette occasion.
Le projet est ambitieux et assez  honorable. L’objet est l’œuvre d’un célèbre sculpteur sénégalais, OUSMANE SOW. La statue sera placée à l’entrée de l’hôtel Fleuriot…
J’attendais depuis quelques jours les détails autour de cette activité pour prendre les dispositions concernant mon travail car je ne pouvais pas rater une telle occasion, si je veux rester cohérent avec mon idée de fédérer des gens et des idées autour du général TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE.
Le coup de fil attendu arriva hier après-midi.
Un responsable m’appela pour m’informer du déroulement des évènements :
-          le 13 mai, lors de son allocution officielle en Haïti, le Président François Hollande annoncera l’inauguration de la statue de TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE à La Rochelle
-          le 18 Mai, grande conférence dans un amphithéâtre universitaire avec trois autres conférenciers : (1) un célèbre historien et auteur de plusieurs ouvrages sur TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE, (2) un historien béninois mandaté par le président de sa nation pour travailler sur « la route de l’esclavage… », (3) un historien haïtien, (4) ancien ministre de l’éducation nationale, (4) et moi…
-           le 19 mai, une séance de travail entre des professeurs d’histoires français et haïtiens pour l’élaboration de FICHES qui seront utilisées pour ENSEIGNER TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE DANS LES ECOLES EN FRANCE ET EN HAITI !!!
-          Le 20 mai, cérémonie officielle et inauguration de la statue.

Le premier souci que me manifesta l’organisateur fut autour de la façon de me présenter dans un programme aussi alléchant. Mon titre de Docteur en Médecine voire, Neurochirurgien, ne faisait pas bon ménage sur liste ou se trouvent d’éminents historiens pour parler de TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE. On arriva à se mettre d’accord sur un titre qui ferait intervenir mon engagement au sein de la diaspora, initiateur de l’Institut (mort-né) Toussaint Louverture etc…
J’ai fait comprendre à mon interlocuteur que le terrain du combat que je pense mener en faveur de TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE se trouve surtout en Haïti. Et que ma présence à La Rochelle aura un sens très particulier et que je pouvais me passer de faire partie du panel des conférenciers.
Je suis resté dans une continuité argumentaire pour lui expliquer pourquoi je n’avais pas signé une pétition qui circulait sur le net pour exiger que la statue soit place sur le quai, face à la mer au lieu de la rentrée de la cour d’un hôtel particulier converti en musée.
 Un peu plus loin dans la conversation,  il revint sur le programme du 19 mai en me ressassant le fait que les fiches élaborées en France sur TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE étaient destinées à être utilisées en Haïti pour dire aux professeurs haïtiens comment enseigner TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE.
Il était très loin de se douter que ce qu’il me présentait avec un ton de satisfaction dans sa voix comme un exploit était ressenti dans mes entrailles comme le plus ignoble des affronts.
Je n’hésitai pas à lui demander pourquoi il revenait aux français de dire aux haïtiens comment il faut présenter notre TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE aux haïtiens ?
Le hasard fit qu’en ce précis moment, cet homme animé de la meilleure des volontés dut interrompre la conversation pour recevoir des visites inattendues. Il me promit de m’appeler cet après-midi (dimanche 3 mai).
Ce qu’il n’a pas compris, c’est qu’il venait d’ajouter encore un étage à l’immeuble de soucis  qui m’habite avec tout ce que j’entends et je vois à propos d’Haïti.
Je me suis dit encore cette PUTAIN DE DEPENDANCE !
Le monsieur, par le fait de faire dons de quelques cahiers et de quelques crayons, il se croit autorisé à s’arroger le droit de s’immiscer impunément dans les structures profondes de notre société pour les modifier et les adultérer.
Qui pis est, à cause de ces cahiers et de ses crayons, nos professeurs attirés par cette tendance « blancophile » accepteront comme paroles d’évangiles que nos jeunes s’imprègnent de la vision étrangère de ce personnage illustre de notre histoire, une histoire écrite biaisée par leurs intérêts.
Je suis rentré chez moi, mes enfants ont pensé que j’avais eu un accident de voiture, en observant mon faciès démonté et déformé.
A quoi ça sert de leur dire que :
-          les étrangers nous envoient du riz,
-          les étrangers financent la farce qu’ils organisent eux-mêmes pour choisir les dirigeants qui soient capables d’allégeance avec eux
-          les étrangers s’occupent de notre santé à travers « zanmi lasante,  Partner in Health ou Medishare »
-          les étrangers ont la haute main dans le pays  à travers une myriade d’organisations non gouvernementales
-          Les étrangers sont protégés par une force d’occupation, le bras armé de cette tutelle officieuse
-          Tandis que bon nombre d’entre nous, courrons après un rôle dans cette vaste comédie

Ils me diraient sans doute : et alors ?
Et alors ! C’est justement ce que je me dis …


3 Mai 2015

dimanche 1 mars 2015

Haiti: Why tourists are returning to this misunderstood country

 Rain lashed the tropical forest and thundered off the cobblestone track. A group of four of us had been embroiled in an animated discussion with a posse of local horsemen for the past half-an-hour.
Above us, shrouded in raincloud, was Haiti's – and possibly the Caribbean's – most staggering landmark: the mountain-top fortress of Citadelle Laferrière. The track was now too slippery for the horses – the standard tourist taxi – to make it the final few hundred metres up to the fort. Instead our guide, Pierre Chauvet, had conjured up open-top motorised buggies to get us to the top. This did not please the horsemen.
"Take a horse. Those buggies are not safe. Better you take a horse," one man said. You couldn't blame him for trying. Despite a few short-lived flourishes in the 1980s, Haiti has struggled to attract tourists. Change, though, is coming.
Five years after the devastating earthquake that killed 250,000 people and displaced 1.5 million more, tourism is returning, cautiously. The northern city of Cap Haitien, gateway to the gargantuan Citadelle, has a new international airport and hotels in the capital Port-au-Prince include a new Best Western and a soon-to-open Marriott. Tour operators are coming back, too, while a tourist office recently launched to promote Haiti in Europe.
I was part of Exodus's first ever trip to this fragile fragment of the Caribbean. It is one of a small handful of UK operators that has been encouraged to introduce or reintroduce trips to Haiti by increasing stability and new infrastructure. My group of 11 had chosen to holiday in what is often cruelly dismissed as "the basket-case of the Caribbean" for a number of reasons. One had come to explore family roots, another had come to seek out an alternative to the Caribbean of honeymoon clichés, while a well-travelled couple simply said: "Why not?"
At last, the red buggy turned a corner. Standing on the back, I gripped the handrail. We bounced over the cobbles, my knuckles turning white while an end-of-days-rain lashed my face – a bizarre sensation not unlike surfing.
Fifteen minutes later, we had climbed 900 metres and were at the top. Soaked through, I gawped upwards as slices of the Caribbean's largest fortress appeared through shifting clouds.
Conceived by slave-turned-self-proclaimed-king Henri Christophe in 1805 after he had defeated the French, the Citadelle was built by 20,000 newly freed slaves. Its 40-metre high walls were built to defend against a potential return of the French army, which Haiti's new rulers feared had ambitions to re-capture the country. Their fears were unfounded, however, and not one of the 50,000 cannonballs – still piled in pyramids today – was fired in battle.
Once inside the ramparts we weaved past burnt-orange, lichen-plastered walls and dripping drawbridges. Colossal, ghostly wood-beamed galleries and mossy stone arches towered around us. Pallid light filtered through arrow-slits, shining on to the cannons and illuminating the grotesque human faces engraved on the end of their barrels. One, decorated with the coat of arms of George I, had belonged to the Duke of Marlborough. The eerie atmosphere was intensified by a silence punctuated only by the pouring rain.
Anywhere else in the world, this phenomenal military spectacle might have been overrun with tourists. But here, even on sunny days, there are few visitors. I left in awe of the engineering as we trundled 27km southwest to Cap Haitien – the richest city in the Caribbean during the French colonial era – passing girls wearing shower caps to protect against the rain.
That night, on the black-and-white tiled terrace of the Hotel Roi Christophe, waiters in bow-ties served us divine fish with thyme and pirate quantities of local Barbancourt rum. The torrential rain continued to provide a thumping drumbeat on the canopy above the dining tables.
The following day we dropped down to the coast to the capital, Port-au-Prince, described as "a kind of slum Venice" by travel writer Norman Lewis in 1959. Today the city appears to have retained at least some of this forlorn air. The streets and canals are part-theatre, part horror-show. The newly rebuilt Iron Market marks the city's resurgence, but tented camps still dot the parched city limits, a grim reminder of the 2010 earthquake. Around 85,000 Haitians still live in makeshift settlements, but even before the tragedy up to 70 per cent of people in the capital lived in slums.
Haiti – especially its capital – has historically suffered a hard-boiled mix of slavery, dictatorships, occupation, political instability and natural disasters. The Haitian proverb "dèyè mòn, gen mòn" which means "after the mountains, more mountains" is not just a geographical reference. Its hardships seem all the more poignant when you consider that it makes up a third of old Hispaniola, the island it shares with the relatively prosperous Dominican Republic. However, there is more to Haiti than its troubles; after just a day in Port-au-Prince, it was hard not to succumb to its infectious charms.
Rap Kreyol music blares from cafés and the brightly painted lottery stands squat next to barbershops with names like Baby Chop. In the bustling streets, a shipping container becomes a shop and artists prop paintings against railings. I wanted to see more. Come sundown, it was time to go out.
Sedate Petionville was originally a separate city, but is now merged with Port-au-Prince proper. This smart-ish area, up on a hill, is where anyone who had the means fled to after the earthquake. "You can only talk about what downtown used to be," Pierre explained, referring to the flattened banks and office buildings in the former business district, still waiting to be rebuilt.
Brasserie Quartier Latin, in the heart of Petionville, was full of couples waltzing to a live jazz band. After filling up on plates of fried plantain and pikliz – an innocuous looking coleslaw laced with volcano-hot scotch bonnet chillies, we joined in with the dancing.
Just before midnight, we decided to move on. It was a Thursday and downtown, at the Hotel Oloffson, the resident "vodou rock" band RAM promised to be in full flow. A virile soundbed of maracas and tambours (hand-drums) played by a dozen musicians greeted us as we climbed the stairs.
Inside, in front of the stage, a hard-dancing, sweaty, half-way-down-the-bottle crowd bounced to reeling basslines that shook the walls. Men in sharp suits looked on as women wound up and down to the boom of the drums. Punchy rum sours made time elastic. By 3am, everyone cleared out and headed on to the next place.
The next few days were filled with more surprising encounters. On the Côte des Arcadins, an hour's drive from Port-au-Prince, the Ouanga Bay hotel served sublime fresh lobster and rum punch as we were serenaded by the sound of waves lapping at the shore
. A classic Caribbean scene, yet my guidebook informed me that this azure-blue seascape holds a tantalising secret. Submerged in the ocean is the wreck of the Mary Celeste "ghost ship", deliberately abandoned here in 1872. Discovered in 2001 by a team led by the author and marine archaeologist Clive Cussler, it is hoped that one day the wreck might become a magnet for divers. Just as the island hopes to become a magnet for tourists once again, too.
Visiting there
Caroline Eden travelled with Exodus. Its 12-day Haiti Revealed group tour to Haiti costs from £2,499 including return flights from Heathrow (0845 287 3752; exodus.co.uk/haiti-holidays). Departures this year in March, May, November and December.
More information
Haiti, by Paul Clammer, published by Bradt (2012), is an excellent guidebook (£16.99).
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jeudi 26 février 2015

Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel Opens in Haiti

 • February, 25 2015
The new Marriott Port-au-Prince Haiti Marriott Hotel today checked in its first guests. Among the 200 new Haitian hotel workers who welcomed them were young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and Haitian-Americans who want to share their hospitality skills to help boost Haiti’s tourism economy. The new Marriott Port-au-Prince Haiti Marriott Hotel today checked in its first guests.
Among the 200 new Haitian hotel workers who welcomed them were young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and Haitian-Americans who want to share their hospitality skills to help boost Haiti’s tourism economy.
The stories of these new associates include Luccardo, who was recruited to work at the hotel’s front desk from the Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs orphanage, and Hermine, who was part of the hotel’s intern program and will be an entry-level supervisor. In addition to members of a Haitian-American executive team, the Haiti Marriott is led by a veteran Marriott general manager who was previously at the Marriott Champs Elysees in Paris.
 Joined today by Haiti President Michel Martelly and former U.S. President Bill Clinton at a celebration ceremony, Digicel Group Chairman and Founder Denis O'Brien and Marriott International (NASDAQ: MAR) President - Caribbean; Latin America Region Craig S. Smith thanked the Kier Construction Company workers, sub-contractors and skilled Haitian construction workers who built the hotel and the Marriott associates who will host its guests.
The hotel officially opens March 1st. A formal grand opening event is planned for June.
The journey to build the Marriott Port-au-Prince began four years ago when Marriott International reached out to the Clinton Foundation to propose a new hotel to help Haiti rebuild its tourism industry after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
The company found an eager partner in Digicel Group, which has invested US$45 million to build the 175-room hotel. “The opening of the Marriott Port-au-Prince is an important milestone as the people of Haiti work to revitalize and diversify their economy,” said President Bill Clinton.
 "I am grateful to Marriott and Digicel for their commitment to this project, and hope that its success will inspire further investment and opportunity in Haiti.”
 The Clinton Foundation worked closely with Marriott and Digicel Group to develop the hotel project.
The Foundation visited proposed construction sites with the parties, facilitated introductions to the Haitian government and the Haitian Tourism Association, and encouraged all parties to use the hotel as an opportunity to create an economic anchor for the community.
In addition to creating good, sustainable jobs for Haitians, the hotel incorporates Haitian art and artisan products into the hotel’s design and integrates green technologies such as solar to reduce the hotel’s environmental footprint.
The Clinton Foundation also worked closely with Marriott and Digicel Group to identify and contract with Haitian entrepreneurs, small businesses and agricultural cooperatives that could provide goods and services to the hotel.
This local procurement component has been an important aspect of the hotel’s development for all parties. Digicel Group and its Chairman, Mr. O’Brien, are committed to attracting foreign direct investment to Haiti and to helping the country rebuild in the wake of the earthquake.
 Mr. O’Brien is Founder and Patron of the Digicel Foundation, which to date has constructed 150 schools in Haiti, and rebuilt the iconic Iron Market in Port-au-Prince.
He is also the Chairman of the Clinton Global Initiative’s Haiti Action Network and has been instrumental in driving the activity of 80 support organizations in Haiti to deliver on their commitments.
 “All along, we’ve said that we were committed to Haiti’s recovery and to delivering on its potential as a great place to invest, and as such, we are thrilled to be opening the doors of the Marriott Port-au-Prince here today,” said Mr. O’Brien.
 “We hope that the opening of the hotel will signal that Haiti is truly open for business and is ready to welcome investors and travelers alike.”
TDSA, the development company established by Digicel, managed the design/build contract and chose Marriott International’s flagship Marriott Hotels brand as its operating partner under a long-term management agreement.
The hotel created more than 1,100 jobs throughout the construction stage. Marriott’s interest in investing in Haiti was inspired in part by its associates, including thousands of Haitian-Americans who, after the earthquake, urged the company to help Haiti rebuild by planting the Marriott flag.
Said Arne Sorenson, Marriott International President and CEO, “We believe we can make a difference in Haiti by promoting tourism, and developing local talent that can help lift this country, over time, back to being one of the top travel destinations in the Caribbean.” Through this project, Marriott is demonstrating how a hotel can be a model for social innovation and community investment. Working with Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism, Marriott selected 8 Haitian youth to train in hospitality operations at the new JW Marriott® Hotel Santo Domingo.
The youth recently returned to Haiti after their 12-week internship in Santo Domingo and have been hired as entry-level supervisors at the Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel.
 Marriott is also collaborating with Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism and World Central Kitchen to build the skills and training of Haiti’s hospitality workforce through newly designed hospitality curriculum for local culinary students.
 Marriott has provided funding to help support the innovative new program, which is currently being delivered to its first culinary class of nearly 40 students in a school located near the Marriott Hotel Port-au-Prince.
 The program will be expanded when a new Ecole Hotelier, currently under construction, is completed in 2015.
 In addition to the 200 new hotel jobs and hospitality training, the hotel is sourcing goods, food and amenities from local small businesses, social enterprises, farms and Haitian artisans.
The unique craftsmanship of more than a dozen Haitian-based artisans, including the hotel’s art curator, Philippe Dodard, is showcased throughout the hotel’s guest rooms, corridors, great room, conference areas, restaurant and courtyard.
From signature metalworks, paper mache masks and voodoo flags, to contemporary photography and stone and wood sculptures using natural and recycled materials, the deep, vibrant art culture of Haiti is on display.
The hotel will also feature weekly art markets where guests can purchase art from local artists on the hotel grounds.
TOMS is a key supplier to the Marriott Port-au-Prince, with the company providing custom-designed shoes made in Haiti for each of the hotel’s staff. Additionally, TOMS is producing shoes in Haiti as part of its commitment to help establish and support a responsible shoe industry in the country. As a locally staffed and operated facility, TOMS and its manufacturing partner, LXJ Golden Pacific, economically empower individuals while giving international businesses an opportunity to invest in Haiti’s future.
Marriott Port-au-Prince is sourcing 100 percent of its coffee from Haitian company, Rebo Coffee, which employs several hundred women who carefully select the beans for quality. Rebo is a socially responsible business that is investing in agricultural and financial training for small and independent farmers.
 Marriott Port-au-Prince is pleased to be the first hotel in Haiti to source produce from Afe Neg Combite, a Kenscoff-based co-op made up of 5,500 farmers employing a total of 8,000 people. Marriott’s procurement team has been working with the farmers for more than a year to help them produce, package and transport fruits and vegetables in ways that meet the quality, yield and lower waste standards of the hospitality industry. The hotel is sourcing sustainable, fair-trade soaps and amenities from local producer Ayiti Natives.
 The products are made by Haitians using local Haitian herbs, nuts and fruits. Ayiti Natives was founded by Caroline Sada, a Haitian American social entrepreneur who left a job with a well-known U.S. cosmetics company after the Haiti earthquake struck – she wanted to give back to the local community. All of her employees are women, and most come from the most destitute villages in Haiti.
The Marriott Hotel Port-au-Prince was sustainably designed and constructed, providing stand-alone utility services while applying energy efficient building technologies.
Its features include:
 • A densely insulated building envelope, with low solar gain glazing complemented with additional direct sun screens;
 • A high-efficient energy plant producing 6 megawatts of electricity from 6 x 1100kw diesel generators. The plant is connected to a 1 megawatt solar farm located near the site;
 • On-site water storage and treatment systems to provide for a five-day water supply; 60 percent of the hotel’s hot water supply is provided through thermal solar panels installed on the roof;
 • A 60,000 gallon waste water treatment plant; and
 • A state-of-the -art space cooling plant with all building services controlled by a central building management system.
 “Merci, merci,” said Haiti Minister of Tourism Stéphanie Villedrouin.
 “Marriott International and Digicel Group’s dedication to completing this project is to be commended. The opening of this hotel is a huge vote of confidence in the future economic viability of Haiti.
The Marriott Port-au-Prince, which will be located in the Haut Turgeau area of the city, will offer 170 rooms including 5 suites with Marriott’s signature amenities and features, including premium bedding, high-speed Internet (LAN and wireless) and flat-screen televisions.
 Dining options will include La Sirene Restaurant, a casual restaurant and La Sirene Bar, a lobby bar and lounge and 24-hour room service.
 The hotel will include about 604 square meters (6,501 square feet) of flexible meeting space, a 150-square-meter (1,614-square-foot) fitness center, swimming pool, and sundries shop/marketplace. About Digicel Group: Digicel Group is a total communications and entertainment provider with operations in 33 markets in the Caribbean, Central America and Asia Pacific. After almost 14 years of operation, total investment to date stands at over US$5 billion worldwide.
The company is renowned for delivering best value, best service and best network. Digicel is the lead sponsor of Caribbean, Central American and Pacific sports teams, including the Special Olympics teams throughout these regions.
 Digicel sponsors the West Indies cricket team and is also the presenting partner of the Caribbean Premier League. In the Pacific, Digicel is the proud sponsor of several national rugby teams and also sponsors the Vanuatu cricket team.
Digicel also runs a host of community-based initiatives across its markets and has set up Digicel Foundations in Haiti, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and Trinidad and Tobago which focus on educational, cultural and social development programs. Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners. http://www.hotelnewsresource.com/article82326.html

lundi 23 février 2015

Bahamas Told to Improve Conditions at Center Housing Haitian Immigrants

An international human rights commission has told the Bahamas that it must take measures to protect people housed at the country’s detention center for immigrants, where a “serious and urgent situation” places migrants’ “lives and physical integrity at risk.”
Human rights groups have accused the government of housing mostly Haitian immigrants in inhumane conditions at the Carmichael Road Detention Center in Nassau, the capital.
Migrants incarcerated there were not given fresh clothing, women lacked feminine hygiene products, and there is a single functioning toilet for all the men, according to a complaint filed in December by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights in Washington and the Caribbean Institute for Human Rights in Puerto Rico.
The critical remarks, part of a resolution by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the Organization of American States, follow the introduction of new immigration policies in the Bahamas that have been criticized internationally.
According to a strict new immigration policy, schoolchildren like these two friends of Haitian descent who were born in the Bahamas will be required to have a student residency permit to attend school next fall.Immigration Rules in Bahamas Sweep Up HaitiansJAN. 30, 2015
In an effort to suppress illegal immigration, in November the Bahamas enacted new rules requiring noncitizens, including those born in the Bahamas, to obtain passports from their parents’ country of origin. Hundreds of people, including some born on the islands, have been detained in sweeps targeting Haitian neighborhoods.
One Haitian woman gave birth on the detention room floor after the authorities at the center gave her injections to delay her contractions, the human rights groups said.
On Friday, the Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration said in a statement that it was reviewing the commission’s findings but it reiterated the government’s rejection of the accusations. “We believe that many of the concerns are overstated and inaccurate,” the ministry said, describing them as “based on untested tendentious anecdotal material.”
In a previous statement, the ministry said that activists had staged events to unfairly present some people as victims.
“Victimhood is often a practiced art,” the government statement said in response to a report on the new immigration approach published last month by The New York Times.
“Often the stories told are exaggerated, outright false and many times self-serving,” the statement said. “It is not the policy of the government to violate the rights of any individual and at all material times this country will act in a manner consonant with its international obligations toward children and the stateless. We make no apology, however, for enforcing the laws and protecting its borders in the national interest and in the interests of the Bahamian people.”
The commission said it had asked the government to provide hygienic conditions and adequate medical treatment to detainees. The commission also asked for measures to address overcrowding and the special needs of unaccompanied children.
The O.A.S. also scheduled a hearing next month to discuss the Bahamas’ new immigration policies.
“It is not very common for the commission to grant these kinds of precautionary measures. It is very serious,” said Santiago A. Canton, executive director of RFK Partners for Human Rights, a program of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Ninety-nine percent of the people at that center are Haitians, and this is also important because it is related to the situation of vulnerability of the Haitian people everywhere.”
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/21/world/americas/bahamas-told-to-improve-conditions-at-center-housing-haitian-immigrants.html?_r=0

Digicel targets US company with lawsuit and enlists Haitian police

O’Brien-owned telecoms firm enlists Haitian police to investigate alleged fraud
Mark Paul
Mon, Feb 23, 2015, 01:15
First published:Mon, Feb 23, 2015, 01:15
Digicel, the Caribbean mobile phone company owned by Denis O’Brien, has stepped up its war on internet telephony firms it accuses of profiting from a “free ride” on its networks by not paying fees to connect with its customers.
Digicel has launched a lawsuit in the United States alleging that an internet telecoms company has been engaged in a multimillion-dollar organised crime racket designed to defraud its unit in Haiti, one of the largest and most most profitable parts of Digicel’s empire.
According to recent court filings, Mr O’Brien’s company enlisted the help of the Haitian police to help it investigate the alleged “bypass fraud”. It says this is being carried out by UPM Telecom, an Oregon internet telephony group that has yet to respond to the allegations.
Haitian police have arrested people in Haiti that Digicel described in the court documents as “co-conspirators” of UPM.
The police investigation, Digicel told the court, had also turned up evidence of wire transfers between UPM executives and the “co-conspirators” in Haiti, as well as copies of shipping documents that it claims prove the US company has targeted it for bypass fraud.
Mr O’Brien’s company has also hired private investigators Shields Crime and Security Consultants to help it investigate the fraud allegations.
Normally, when one telecoms company connects a call to a customer of another network, the receiving network is paid a “termination fee”. Digicel has long harboured a grievance against companies which offer cheap or even free calls over the web without paying it termination fees.
Lobbying The government in Jamaica, for example, where Digicel has its headquarters, recently said it would regulate the activities of internet telephony companies following lobbying by Digicel and others.
In Haiti, termination fees are at 23 cents per minute – 18 cents for receiving networks like Digicel and a five cent levy towards a state education fund.
Digicel has accused UPM of bypassing its Haitian systems to terminate international calls on its network for free using a sophisticated technique.
It has submitted to the US court what it claims is evidence UPM sent its Haitian alleged “co-conspirators” equipment to engage in bypass fraud. It has also submitted documents it says show Digicel Sim cards were shipped to it from Haiti.
It is now suing UPM for punitive damages in Oregon and has also invoked claims under Rico racketeering laws, which were originally enacted in the fight against organised crime. UPM could be not reached for comment.