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  • U.S. Connivance Alone…

    The people at globalissues.org provide some of the best information available on a wide range of human rights issues. Their page on Haiti is an incredible piece of research, but we believe that it could include a bit more reference to the views of those Haitian social change organizations that have opposed both ex-President Aristide and U.S. military intervention.

    We share here our letter to the creators of this excellent site:

  • A Small Window for Democratic Reform…

    The mainstream news about what is going on in Haiti continues to diminish in scope and reliability. Alternative news sources remain more focused on the circumstances surrounding ex-President Aristide's departure, and his current whereabouts, than events inside Haiti. Across the media board, Aristide's trip to Jamaica has received much more coverage than anything happening in Haiti, itself.

    We support the idea that there should be a full investigation of the US role in Aristide's departure. We also believe that those of interested in Haiti should be paying attention to what Haitians are doing to try to move forward out of the current economic and human rights crisis.

  • Oak Park Reminds Us

    Yesterday, Grassroots and Grantmakers Without Borders organized a conference call between over 20 U.S. funders and the very same Pierre Esperance mentioned in our previous post. The depth of interest in the human rights situation in Haiti was gratifying. Pierre summarized his view of the current situation and outlined his organization's plan to respond to a national human rights emergency.

    Over the past six weeks, thousands of you have taken a peek at Grassroots Journal as we have made a modest attempt to be sure that our Haitian partners have some voice in the international discussion of their country. We've received a lot of feedback on our efforts, much of it very supportive. Some people continue insist that we have been too ready to overlook the nefarious role of the U.S. in changing regimes in Haiti. Amidst all of that and the difficult news each day from Haiti, the following note arrived today from a teacher at a middle school in Oak Park, IL.

  • We Don’t Want Any More Saviors

    In a promising departure from the norm, the March 7 edition of the Houston Chronicle published an article leading with a quote from the director of a Haitian human rights organization. Pierre Esperance of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights and the Haitian Human Rights Platform (POHDH) tells the Chronicle, "We don't need a leader. We don't want any more saviors. We need a structure put in place to satisfy the needs of the population."

  • Echoes of the Past in Haiti?

    Last week we expressed our hope that the armed groups that both supported and opposed President Aristide would quickly disappear from the Haitian scene. Now that hope has moved into the category of an urgent necessity.

    During the past week there have been many reports of threats and killings, the majority involving attacks on supporters of the deposed president. Then, today, armed men--apparently Aristide supporters--visciously attacked a demonstration of the ex-President's opponents, killing six and injuring many more.

  • With All Due Respect, Mr. Wolfensohn…

    As you've seen, Haiti has quickly fallen off the priority lists of the international editors at the major media outlets. That probably makes it more important that we continue to try to shed what light we can on the situation here.

    "Here" has changed from our last posting. I'm now in Palo Alto, California at the annual gathering known as the Global Philanthropy Forum. The GPF brings together a cross section of international philanthropists, including many of the leaders of this country's most influential foundations. We at Grassroots suffer no delusions about our relationship to the philanthropic elite, but we feel that we must try to take our message to anyone who will listen to it. This year, the conference theme is, "Building Partnership Across Sectors."

    Last night, World Bank President James Wolfensohn opened the conference with a reflection on the challenges he sees before the international philanthropic community. Not surprisingly, he declined to mention the case of Haiti in his presentation. I had a question ready for the Q & A, but mine was not one of the questions recognized by Mr. Wolfensohn.

    So....I'll use this log to pose the question to you, and I'll send the question to the Public Relations Unit at the World Bank to see if I can get a reply.

  • Eyes on Haiti

    Forty-eight hours have now passed since the announcement that Jean Bertrand Aristide had left Haiti. This is a very dangerous time in Haiti as armed groups and individuals continue to operate in the context of very little security presence. International peacekeepers are arriving in Haiti as I write this, but they have not yet established any security presence beyond the National Palace, the airport and the seaport. The Haitian National Police have apparently reappeared, but they are unlikely to be any more effective in maintaining security than they have been over the past few weeks.

    Our communications with our partner organizations has been very limited since Sunday. Making contact is difficult and we expect that these organizations are extremely busy right now. As soon as we hear anything of substance, we will share it in this log. We have just posted an analysis of the pre-Sunday situation by the Papaye Peasant Movement. While it is, in a sense out of date already, it provides important insights into how this influential organization will approach the post-Aristide period.

  • Aristide Leaves…The Challenges Mount

    Jean-Bertrand Aristide is no longer the issue in Haiti. Under intense international pressure and threat of a rebel attack on the capital, Aristide left Haiti today. While many will celebrate his departure, the failure of the Aristide experiment cannot be cause for celebration for any supporter of the Haitian people. There will be ample time to debate his legacy, but now is not that time.

    Many observers have noted that the possibility of even greater violence is very real now in the presence of a power vacuum that many will move to fill. That the armed rebels have not yet consolidated control over the entire country is positive from this perspective. It is now the responsibility of the U.S. and the international community, in general, to do whatever they can to support the formation of a stable transitional government leading to new elections as soon as possible.

    As Grassroots International, we will make every effort to step up our support for those social organizations that we have been supporting since 1991.

    In that context, several principles bear mention:

  • Goons and Stooges?

    The situation in Haiti worsens with each passing day. Political chaos is creating economic chaos for a people whose lives were already a daily struggle for survival. Predictably, the opposition has rejected the peace plan that would have kept Aristide in office, preferring to insist on the president's departure as a starting point for a negotiated solution to the crisis.

  • Peace Offer?

    With a new sense of urgency, the U.S. government sent a delegation to Haiti this weekend with the task of working out a deal with President Aristide that the opposition would accept. They managed to work out a deal very similar to the one worked out at the CARICOM meeting two weeks ago. That deal never amounted to anything, and this one might face the same fate.

  • FRAPH Raises the Stakes

    This past weekend, a former leader of FRAPH, the Haitian paramilitary organization famous for doing the dirty work of the military leaders that overthrew Aristide in 1991, apparently led a group of ex-military men as they shot their way into several towns on Haiti's central plateau. These towns included Hinche, the main population center in the region, where ex-military men killed the police chief and several other people in taking over the police station.

    Hinche also happens to be only a few miles from the main base of operations of the Papaye Peasant Movement, GRI's largest and oldest partners in Haiti. FRAPH members were authors of many atrocities against the MPP during the coup period, and their re-emergence in the Central Plateau is a direct threat to the activists of the MPP...not to mention any other pro-democracy activist on the Plateau.

  • We’ve Got Plans for Almost Anything You’d Want to Do in the World

    Asked whether or not the U.S. had any plans to intervene in Haiti, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said just that on the 2/12 broadcast of NPR's "Evening Edition." The U.S., of course, has contingency plans for another invasion of Haiti, but has no plans to use those plans. Such talk makes Haitians nervous, and it should.

  • Changes of Heart…and Mind

    If you've seen any recent news reports from Haiti. You know that mass demonstrations against the Aristide government have become a regular occurrence. You also know that armed supporters of the government have often attacked those demonstrations.

    As I said in the previous post, Grassroots International got involved in Haiti to help those Aristide supporters trying to do underground work against the military leaders who overthrew Aristide in the early 1990s. During that period, we did our part in the creation of an almost messianic aura around Aristide. Our support went to grassroots organizations and activists committed to building democracy, but that work necessarily projected Aristide as the democratic alternative for Haiti.

    Now most of those same organizations and activists are calling for his resignation. One organization, the Haitian Human Rights Platform, has steadfastly guarded its political neutrality, but has consistently been outspoken in its criticism of the government for its failure to protect basic human rights in Haiti.

  • An Insurrectional Situation in Haiti?

    That's how the National Coalition for Haitian Rights described Haiti in their press release on this past weekend's vicious gunfight between the "Cannibal Army" and the police in Gonaives, Haiti. The death toll is increasing daily and the situation is clearly out of control. NCHR is calling on all armed groups to respect the human rights of citizens living in the areas under their control. (Click here to read NCHR's statement, in French.) Clearly, the situation is going from bad to worse...quickly.

  • Turning to Haiti

    Nisrin Elamin at the World Social Forum is a tough act to follow. I hope that those of you who had comments on Nisrin's posts from Mumbai will send them directly to her or to "Grassroots Journal" via the link provided to the left. I hope you will also continue to check out our list of links, where we will be placing other analysis and reflections on this year's World Social Forum.

    I'm Kevin Murray, Executive Director of Grassroots International. In the spirit of sharing GRI's experiences as a social change maverick among international NGOs, I will, over the next couple of weeks, reflect on our experience working in Haiti.

  • WSF Wrap Up

    I haven't had access to the internet in a while and am not quite sure where and how to catch you up on what has been happening. I haven't talked much about cultural resistance at the forum so i'll start there. It has been amazing to see people use music, popular theater, drumming, singing etc...to talk to people about their struggles. I saw plays about women's rights in Pakistan, people chanting and singing for Coca Cola to go back home to the U.S., people dancing and chanting slogans for transgender rights, people stepping to show people the effects of water privitization on their communities; people acting out parodies of the U.S., the WTO and the World Bank's roles in world domination. Seeing all that was probably one of the most inspiring parts of the whole experience for me. As someone from the MST put it though, the popular base and grassroots movement folks were out on the streets of the forum and weren't as well represented in the sessions and panels inside the halls. "Although Mumbai has been less elitist and dominated by intellectuals than Porto Alegre we still have to figure out how to engage with the local popular movements present at this forum. The popular base is still disconnected from the intellectuals and Ngo workers."

  • More from the World Social Forum, Mumbai

    I haven't been able to do much of a personal reflection on what it's been like to be at the WSF and in Mumbai, because I have so much to process before being able to coherently reflect on the whole experience. I will say, that it feels really good; being out of the U.S.; in Mumbai and in a place where my mind is being stretched and I am constantly being challenged. One of the exciting things has been catching up with GRI partners and meeting people that are organizing around different issues in similar ways (migrant, women's and worker's rights for instance) and see them connect and dialogue with eachother and place themselves within larger movements.

  • What do GMOs, Ibdaa and Amandla Have in Common?

    One of my first experiences at the forum today was watching a group of women from Tamil Nadu shout Amandla Awethu! and sing several variations of we shall overcome. It took me a minute to figure out that they were chanting Amandla until I saw a fellow African nod and smile at me while pointing to the women.

    So its another day and I can't quite figure out how my body is holding up. My task for the day: I promised Ziad Abbas (Co-director of the Ibdaa Cultural Center in Dheishe, Palestine) that I would join him at his session on child labor, child trafficking and children in conflict situations but was also scheduled to interview Vandana Shiva (Indian physicist and activist against biopiracy, the production of GMOs and its effects on poor people) during the same time slot.

  • World Social Forum, Mumbai: Day Two

    Each day seems to get a little more overwhelming. So I will try to highlight just a few experiences and interactions here. Just a quick note on organization though... because people talked alot about how the organization and logistical coordination of the last WSF was somewhat of a challenge. Given how many people are attending (My estimate is 100,000+) I think they are doing an amazing job logistically. There are "assistance" centers, food counters and volunteers with badges everywhere that have made my life a whole lot easier. The biggest problems they are facing are around timing, space and translation. The fact that translation isn't working out is to me the biggest problem and it limits the amount of audience-panel dialogue and other interactions that can happen.