Haiti: Foreign Press Liaison

Highlights of MAY 2002

National Literacy Campaign reinforced.  More literacy centers opened as each ministry explained the value of literacy in relation to their particular field.  The Ministry of Social Affairs announced the opening of 16 “alpha restaurants” in Port-au-Prince, where a breakfast will cost only 5 gourdes.

The Department of the West opened an “Info Alpha” center.  All 1,327 environmental workers from the Ministry of Environment are being trained in literacy training.  The Ministry of Environment opened a literacy center at the Ministry.  The theme of the May 1st Agriculture Day Street fair, which
covered all of Champ Mars, was “resto alpha.”  The fair featured restaurants, literacy training classes, artisan, and information booths.

International Day of Liberty of the Press.   The President, Palace Press Office, Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Communications, a newly created position that also works to reinforce rights and responsibilities of the press, all issued statements of homage to the press.

Fighting Drug Trafficking. On May 15th, Haiti signed a memorandum to the comprehensive counter narcotics maritime agreement with the US.  The President created a National Commission Against Drugs as part of the overall strategy to combat drug trafficking, money laundering, and substance abuse.
The Commission is headed by Rene Mangoire, the  Special Advisor to the President on Drugs and Drug Abuse, and its members are Frantz Gabriel and Frederick Télusma.

International Experts Visit Haiti to Advise on Fight Against Drug Trafficking.  At the initiative of the Haitian government a commission of experts formed to help the government strengthen its efforts in countering narcotics transhipping through Haiti. The Commission visited Haiti meeting with President Aristide and several government offices as well as with a non-profit substance abuse program.  The Commission includes Lee Brown, current mayor of Houston and former US Drug Czar as well as Raymond Kelly, former and current New York City Police Commissioner. President Aristide said, “A democracy should not let drugs turn it into a narco-democracy. Institutions should therefore be reinforced. The information services should be increased. We need to have national and international allies so that, within the framework of the law, we can carry out prevention while preventing the country from being held hostage by drugs.”

Police Chief in North dismissed and investigated for possible prosecution for release of prisoner held for drug trafficking.

Inter-Ministerial Reparations Commission into the events of December 17, 2001 (the attempted coup d’etat on the National Palace and the destruction of buildings in the aftermath) continues its investigation and considers reparations for those properties damaged as a result of reaction to coup
attack. This commission is working in close collaboration with the OAS Special Mission to strengthen Democracy in Haiti.

Zero Tolerance Against Corruption in Public Administration.  President Aristide mobilized the nation against corruption in Public Administration calling on all citizens to assist.  Concrete steps thus far include dismissals, arrest of former director of electricity company, and with the help of government employees the government was able to recover a bulldozer valued at 300 thousand US dollars and the matter turned over to the justice department for investigation for possible prosecution. Citing Customs, the Tax office (DGI) Teleco, the water services (CAMEP and SNEP), the President said there is a small mafia operating within government offices, a system left over from the period of dictatorship.  The President said, “Honesty and efficiency are what must prevail in the Civil Service.”  It is not normal that the taxpayers continue to pay bribes for services to which they are entitled.”

Protecting Citizens Against Abuses by Government Offices.  A new director of the Office of Citizen Protection, Necker Dessables, was named, replacing Dr. Louis E. Roy, who retired recently. This office is charged with receiving, investigating and adjudicating complaints lodged by citizens with respect to
abuses by government offices or workers.

President Aristide Calls for Peace and Disarmament. In a series of meetings with gangs, neighborhood residents, and popular organizations from areas recently in armed conflicts such as Cite Soleil and La Saline, the President announced a disarmament campaign in two stages, which went into effect this
month. The first stage is a weapons buy back program.  If people present their illegal arms to their local police station, they will receive cash at twice the value of the weapon, and the second stage, to be conducted after one month of buy back will include police searches of homes in conflict
areas.  This program has received praise from many sectors of society including human rights’ groups.

The Minister of Environment started program to remove  abandoned vehicles and other materials from the streets.

President Aristide Inaugurates Subsidized Housing developments: In Zoranje at Cite Soleil, which will house 80 families and a 112 unit affordable housing development in Mont Fleury in Tabarre.

Children’s Rights.  President Aristide Addressed UN Special Session on Children’s Rights and talked about Haiti’s recent victory with passage of legislation prohibiting violence against children.  In press conference before departing for the UN the President appealed to the nation to search
for ways to raise children without corporal punishment, which is now illegal under the new law. The Minister  of Social Affairs held a two-day workshop with journalists regarding the conditions of children living in domestic servitude (restavek). The seminar was held together with the  international Labor Organization (ILO) and The International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC).

OAS Assistant Secretary General, Luigi Einaudi and St. Lucia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julian Hunte headed a delegation that came to Haiti on May 12, 2002, for two and a half days of consultation with the President, members of the government, Convergence, as well as a cross section of civil society
groups, including the church.  Their mission was to establish a framework for the re-establishment of political negotiations.

President Aristide Announces Legislative Elections for November 2002 or Early 2003 for all the seats of the Chamber of Deputies and two-thirds of the Senate.

Solidarity and Memorial for Persons with AIDS.  First Lady Mildred Aristide visited patients at Mother Theresa’s Hospice/ Sisters of Charity for the International Memorial Day on AIDS.

Investigations:  Jean Dominique, Brignol Lindor and other matters.  The Ministry of Justice requested that Judge Claudy Gassant, who traveled to Florida, return to Haiti to continue working on the investigation into the assassinations on April 3, 2000 at Radio Haiti Inter of Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Louis saint. Judge Gassing’s mandate was renewed as the investigating judge in this case. President Aristide expressed his hopes that Judge Gassant would return and said that all materials necessary would be immediately at his disposal, including a government car and security personnel. Other investigating judges were provided with cars and other materials necessary in the course of their work.  Two additional arrests were made in the  Brignol Lindor and Ceus Duverger case which took place in Peitit Goave last December.

President Aristide made sweeping judicial reforms which went into effect immediately providing for: Increase in number of judges and prosecutors, station judges and prosecutors at prisons to review dossiers to assure that judicial process advances and to determine whether there are prisoners who
should be released.  Increases justice system’s ability to hold trials without juries, calls for creation of an Anti-Drug Commission, and calls for people to be named to the Unit of Control of Financial Resources, the anti-money laundering office.  Calls for immediate reduction of prisoners in the prisons and police station holding cells after reviewing their files, and calls for opening of a court in the Eastern section of Port-au-Prince, as well as the adoption of additional clauses to reinforce the Constitution in respect to protection of personal property.

Release of 26 Women and 60 Men Prisoners After Review Panel Consisting of Judges and Prosecutors Reviewed Cases taking into consideration length of their detention and case in general.

The technical committee of the Haitian-Dominican Commission Reconvened to Work on Development of Free Trade Zone located at the border.

The Ministry of Agriculture announced installation of four irrigation systems for 700 hectares in Roche a Bateau, Les Anglais, Chardonnieres, & Port-a-Piment, costing 50 million gourdes.

Beating Back Polio and Measles in Acclaimed Vaccination Campaign. Kicking off the third round of polio vaccinations in Haiti in the last year, the First Ladies of the Dominican Republic and Haiti met at the border together with their Ministers of Health for a ceremony in honor of the joint campaign being waged by both countries, particularly in border towns.  First Lady Mildred Aristide said, “This ceremony shows the commitment of our two countries to the health of our children,” in eradicating polio and measles, and pointed out that the Americas, including Haiti, had been declared polio-free in September 1994, and the recent outbreak was the first since 1991. With 5,000 health workers and volunteers, Haiti will continue to vaccinate approximately 2 million children under five against these two diseases.  The World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization praised the earlier round of vaccinations in Haiti, which occurs in schools, residential neighborhoods, and clinics.

Haiti’s Parliament Votes for Integration into CARICOM.  Parliament ratified the Chaguaramas Treaty providing for Haiti’s full integration into CARICOM, as its 15th member country.  Integration will strengthen Haiti’s presence in the region including in the areas of economy, trade, health, culture, health and security.

Haitian Government in Dominican Republic Provided 17,000 Birth Certificates to those born to Haitian parents in the Dominican Republic, saying there are approximately 400,000 in total without documentation.  These children are not recognized as Dominicans and until now were unable to receive services without birth certificates.

Haitian Government Moves to Regulate Cooperatives.  Proposed legislation before Parliament for consideration.  Government interdicts various heads of cooperatives from leaving country.