White House Protest Corps


Haiti: Dumping Ground of the Caribbean

Haiti and Toxic Waste

http://www.counterpunch.org/cohen01222010.html

By MITCHEL COHEN

Two decades ago, the garbage barge, the Khian Sea, with no place in the U.S. willing to accept its garbage, left the territorial waters of the United States and began circling the oceans in search of a country willing to accept its cargo: 14,000 tons of toxic incinerator ash. First it went to the Bahamas, then to the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Bermuda, Guinea Bissau and the Netherlands Antilles. Wherever it went, people gathered to protest its arrival. No one wanted the millions of pounds of Philadelphia municipal incinerator ash dumped in their country.

Desperate to unload, the ship’s crew lied about their cargo, hoping to catch a government unawares. Sometimes they identified the ash as “construction material”; other times they said it was “road fill,” and still others “muddy waste.” But environmental experts were generally one step ahead in notifying the recipients; no one would take it. That is, until it got to Haiti. There, U.S.-backed dictator Baby Doc Duvalier issued a permit for the garbage, which was by now being called “fertilizer,” and four thousand tons of the ash was dumped onto the beach in the town of Gonaives.

It didn’t take long for public outcry to force Haiti’s officials to suddenly “realize” they weren’t getting fertilizer. They canceled the import permit and ordered the waste returned to the ship. But the Khian Sea slipped away in the night, leaving thousands of tons toxic ash on the beach.

For two years more the Khian Sea chugged from country to country trying to dispose of the remaining 10,000 tons of Philadelphia ash. The crew even painted over the barge’s name — not once, but twice. Still, no one was fooled into taking its toxic cargo. A crew member later testified that the waste was finally dumped into the Indian Ocean.

The activist environmental group, Greenpeace, pressured the U.S. government to test the “fertilizer.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Greenpeace found it contained 1,800 pounds of arsenic, 4,300 pounds of cadmium, and 435,000 pounds of lead, dioxin and other toxins. But no one would clean it up.

The cost of the cleanup at Gonaives had been estimated to be around $300,000. Philadelphia’s $130 million budget surplus would more than cover it, but Philadelphia lawyer Ed Rendell — then mayor of that city and later Chairman of the Democratic National Committee — refused to put up the funds. Joseph Paolino, whose company (Joseph Paolino and Sons) had contracted to transport the waste ash aboard the infamous Khian Sea garbage barge owned by Amalgamated Shipping, refused as well.

In July of 1992, the U.S. Justice Department — under pressure from environmental groups throughout the world — finally filed indictments against two waste traders who had shipped and dumped the 14,000 tons of Philadelphia incinerator ash. Similar indictments were brought against three individuals and four corporations who illegally exported 3,000 tons of hazardous waste to Bangladesh and Australia, also labeled as “fertilizer.” But none of the waste traders were charged with dumping their toxic cargo at sea, nor even with falsely labeling it as fertilizer and abandoning it on the beaches of Haiti, Bangladesh, and Australia. They were charged only with lying to a grand jury. (“Indictments Announced in Philadelphia’s Haiti Ash Scandal; Greenpeace Calls for Immediate Cleanup,” Greenpeace News, July 14, 1992, and “Philadelphia and U.S. EPA Get Unexpected Ash Packets,” Greenpeace Waste Trade Update, March 22, 1991.)

A month earlier, similar watered-down indictments were announced against three individuals and four corporations who illegally exported 3,000 tons of hazardous waste to Bangladesh and Australia, also labelled as “fertilizer.” Meanwhile, the government stonewalled, for years; it took more than a decade for the U.S. government to clean up the waste.

U.S. law was interpreted to protect the dumpers, not the dumped on. Unwilling recipients of toxic wastes are offered no recourse. In recent years, much of the waste from industrialized countries is exported openly, under the name of “recycled material.” These are touted as “fuel” for incinerators generating energy in poor countries. “Once a waste is designated as ‘recyclable’ it is exempt from U.S. toxic waste law and can be bought and sold as if it were ice cream. Slags, sludges, and even dusts captured on pollution control filters are being bagged up and shipped abroad,” writes Peter Montague in Rachel’s Weekly. “These wastes may contain significant quantities of valuable metals, such as zinc, but they also can and do contain significant quantities of toxic by-products such as cadmium, lead and dioxins. The ‘recycling’ loophole in U.S. toxic waste law is big enough to float a barge through, and many barges are floating through it uncounted.”

Every year, thousands of tons of “recycled” waste from the U.S., deceptively labeled as “fertilizer,” are plowed into farms, beaches and deserts in Bangladesh, Haiti, Somalia, Brazil and dozens of other countries. The Clinton administration followed former President George Bush’s lead in allowing U.S. corporations to mix incinerator ash and other wastes containing high concentrations of lead, cadmium and mercury with agricultural chemicals and are sold to (or dumped in) unsuspecting or uncaring agencies and governments throughout the world. (Greenpeace Toxic Trade Campaign, “United States Blocks Efforts to Prohibit Global Waste Dumping by Industrial States,” December 2, 1992.)

These dangerous chemicals are considered “inert,” since they play no active role as “fertilizer” — although they are very active in causing cancers and other diseases. Under U.S. law, ingredients designated as “inert” are not required to be labeled nor reported to the buyer.

President Clinton — expanding the policies of his ignominious predecessors — continued to obstruct the rest of the world from regulating the disastrous international trade in hazardous wastes. At a critical March 21-25 1994 international conference in Geneva, the United States stood with only a handful of waste-producing countries against the entire world in opposing a resolution banning the shipment of hazardous wastes to non-industrialized countries.

Shadowy covert operations figures spent the next two decades promoting schemes involving the shipment to Haiti of U.S. toxic wastes.

In November 1993, Time Magazine reported that a former U.S. government operative had detailed “an elaborate plan to tap U.S. aid funds for low-interest loans that would be used to transport New York City garbage to Haiti, where it would be processed into mulch to fertilize plants bioengineered to provide high-quality paper pulp. ‘We could collect $38 a ton for the garbage,’ claims [Henry] Womack … who helped oversee construction of the base that the Reagan Administration-backed contras used to stage attacks against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.” Womack has similar dreams for Haiti: “We’d make a bundle, and the government could get enough to pay the whole army’s salaries.” (Jill Smolowe, “With Friends Like These: A Host of Shadowy Figures is Helping Haiti’s Military Rulers Hatch a Plot to Sideline Aristide Permanently,” Time Magazine, November 8, 1993.) Womack lived in a South Miami house with a couple: the sister of Michel François, who headed the death squads in Haiti and served as chief of its national police, and her husband.

Although most agents are not usually as candid as Womack, such plans are common. In August 1991, for example, Almany Enterprises, a company also headquartered in Miami, proposed shipping 30 million tons of incinerator ash from various U.S. cities to Panama over the subsequent four years. Almany would pay the government only $6.50 per ton of toxic waste received in Panama. The ash is believed to be highly contaminated with cadmium, copper, lead and zinc. Almany proposed to landfill the ash in marshlands near the free zone of Colon. Dozens of similar schemes are rampant. Throughout the Caribbean and Central America the devastating health crisis is exacerbated — if not directly caused — by international capital’s “recycling” of toxic wastes. (Indeed, Haitian women who have emigrated to the U.S. have been found to have double or triple the cervical cancer rates as women born in the U.S.)

Said Ehrl LaFontant of the Haiti Communications Project: “Instead of repatriating Haitian refugees to Haiti, the U.S. government should repatriate this toxic waste back to its own country.”

Toxic waste dumping in Haiti was, after all, a lucrative source of income for the Duvalier dictatorship. Former Haitian despot Duvalier profited handsomely in his relationship with the U.S., to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. That relationship included allowing U.S. toxic fertilizer to be dumped in Haiti, at the expense of the Haitian people.

Duvalier’s U.S.-based lawyer, Ron Brown, also did well, economically, by their relationship. In the early 1980s, Brown was a partner at the powerful Washington law firm of Patton, Boggs & Blow. Duvalier secured his services by paying him $150,000 as a retainer, and Brown went to work for the brutal dictator on Capitol Hill. Before his death while flying over Yugoslavia and scouting U.S. investment opportunities, Brown had been personally linked to Lillian Madsen, who had married into an extremely wealthy Haitian family with vast holdings in coffee and beer. (She later divorced.) Madsen lived in an expensive Washington townhouse that had been purchased for her in 1992 by the commerce secretary himself and by his son, D.C. lobbyist Michael Brown. The Madsens were major backers of Duvalier and among the main domestic financial backers of the September 1991 coup against elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Brown uttered nary a word to support the return of Aristide and democracy to Haiti, nor did he protest the U.S.’s toxic practices there.

Brown also represented Fritz Bennett, the brother of Michelle Bennett Duvalier, wife of the deposed dictator, when the brother was arrested in Puerto Rico for trafficking in narcotics. (Michelle Duvalier’s touch with reality herself can be somewhat shaky, as when, in exile, she said: “Flee Haiti? Why do you say we were fleeing Haiti? The president and I decided it was time to leave. Nobody can ever say we had to leave Haiti. We wanted to go.”)

Brown was also the subject of a scandal involving Vietnamese businessman Nguyen Van Hao, who was the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Development under the corrupt U.S.-backed Saigon dictatorship in the early 1970s. Hao alleged that Brown agreed to be paid $700,000 in exchange for his help in lifting a trade embargo against Vietnam. Hao, who previously lived in Haiti, and Brown had a mutual Haitian friend, Marc Butch Ashton — Lillian Madsen’s brother-in-law. Ashton was a financial advisor to Baby Doc. A large landholder and owner of Haiti Citrus, a lime exporter, Ashton allegedly used a squad of 40 Tonton Macoutes death squads to guard his properties. Poor farmers who leased their land to Haiti Citrus say they were intimidated and tortured by Ashton’s thugs when they tried to get better terms. (Counterpunch, December, 1993)

Brown himself detailed his services to Duvalier in a nine-page memo. Brown’s letter, written in French on Patton, Boggs & Blow letterhead, blamed Monsieur Le President’s problems on an unfair image created by the U.S. media. As to his efforts on Haiti’s behalf, Brown wrote that “We continue to dedicate a considerable amount of time to the improvement of relations between the Republic of Haiti and members of congress and the American government, with the goal of substantially increasing American aid to Haiti. Early success in this regard,” crowed Brown, “is essentially the result of our Washington team.” (Counterpunch, December 1993)

Brown also informed Duvalier that he was looking after Haiti’s long-term interests by maintaining good relations with leading American political figures:

“While we have always enjoyed excellent relations with the government of President Reagan, we have also established personal contacts with almost all the Democratic candidates in order to ensure that we continue to have access to the White House regardless of who wins the presidential election in 1984.” Brown boasted that his “leading role in the Democratic National Committee has served us in these efforts, while a certain number of my colleagues in the Republican Party assure the permanence of our access and the excellence of our relations with the government of President Reagan.”

Juan Gonzalez, writing in the New York Daily News, continued the story:

“When Brown wrote his memo, Amnesty International had accused the Duvalier regime of torture, detentions without trial and `disappearances’.

“Here is some of what Brown reported to Baby Doc:

” ‘Despite the unfair image of Haiti by the American media, and despite the opposition expressed by some members of Congress, it is certain that today … a growing number of people — both members of Congress and government officials — stand ready to defend the interests of Haiti. This … is essentially due to the work of our Washington team. …

” ‘We continue to pay a great deal of attention to the Black Caucus and to other liberal members of Congress … [who] are now, thanks to our efforts, ready to help. Although some of them continue to make negative comments about Haiti, all, without exception, have proved to be cooperative on the issue of aid.’ “

Brown was reporting on his success in getting Congress to say one thing but do another. On foreign aid, he proved more than worth his annual retainer. While he represented Haiti, annual U.S. assistance increased from $35 million to $55 million.

Brown offered not a word in the memo about human rights.

Brown went on to serve as President Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce, which is one of the agencies that oversees toxic waste shipments and promotes corporate investment in Haiti, particularly in the notorious assembly zones established by the International Monetary Fund’s structural adjustment program there. (The assembly zones were populated by the IMF’s removal of 1/3rd of the rural population from their lands, now to be used for export crops to the U.S. and elsewhere).

In his confirmation hearings before the Senate, Brown was not asked a single question concerning toxic wastes, nor of his relationship with the Duvalier dictatorship.

Mitchel Cohen hosts “Steal This Radio,” a weekly show on http://www.NYTalkRadio.net, and is the Chair of WBAI radio’s (99.5-FM) “Local Station Board”. He works with the Brooklyn Greens / Green Party.

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Environment and Food in Haiti: Two Crises, One Solution
http://towardfreedom.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1977&Itemid=0

Environment and Food in Haiti: Two Crises, One Solution

Image

Written by Beverly Bell

Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Peasant Movement GardenIn this interview, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste discusses the role that agriculture can play in Haiti in addressing both the environmental and food crises. Jean-Baptiste is the Executive Director of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP by its Creole acronym) and the spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay (MPNKP). Until this year, he also sat on the international coordinating committee of Vía Campesina, a confederation of organizations of peasant, family, indigenous, and landless farmers from more than sixty countries.

The solutions Jean-Baptiste and many other Haitians propose reside in part in one set of policies and programs which can restore land and other riches of nature, and another set which can protect small-scale, sustainable agricultural production from agribusiness. An additional part of the solution rests in agro-ecology, a model of agriculture based on environmental health. Developed as an alternative to the Green Revolution, agro-ecology urges local production of healthy, organic food for local markets. It values biodiversity and traditional knowledge, and opposes genetic modification and patenting of seeds. Haiti is among the many countries with thriving movements of organized farmers who are advancing this model.

Jean-Baptiste gave this interview from Papay, where the MPP has created ecological demonstration gardens. The farmers maximize the productivity of small pieces of land in ways which sustain, rather than exhaust, it. They use all natural resources efficiently in bio-loops. They germinate seedlings inside of discarded tires and use other inventive gardening methodology. They are growing fast-growing plants which yield harvests in six weeks, in addition to other organic vegetables and medicinal plants. Their goats, rabbits, and chickens consume kitchen and garden waste and, from it, produce manure which is then used as fertilizer. Compost serves as additional fertilizer. The operation also involves draining gray water from kitchens and showers, and running it through several ponds filled with sand, gravel, and charcoal; with the cleaned water that emerges, they breed fish and irrigate gardens. MPP also employs cisterns, gravity-fed irrigation, and other catchment and watering systems to conserve and maximize water during dry season.

This interview predated the news that Monsanto has donated 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds to Haiti. For Jean-Baptiste’s and the MPP’s response, see “Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds.”

“In contrast to the destruction that the industrial sector is causing around the world, Vía Campesina and other groups such as Friends of Nature have done studies that show that peasant and family agriculture can combat climate change. I’m in a Vía Campesina commission on climate change, and there we’re clear: to impact climate change, we have to change the mode of agricultural production. Peasants around the world are very vigilant about this. In Haiti we have an advantage, which is that the majority of peasants grow only organically.

“We see the development of Haiti through the production of local, organic food; the conservation of that food; and its transformation into products for the cities. The peasants have said, ‘Let’s talk about storage and transformation and commercialization in local and national markets. Let’s develop an economy where peasants have control.’ This could really develop the riches of the country while bringing Haiti back environmentally.

“We see reforestation as extremely important. Haiti has less than 2% tree cover. Two years ago we asked for each rural section to plant 10,000 trees each, or 56,000 trees each year. That would allow us to cover the country.

“Also, if we could plant fruit orchard plantations, that would have three objectives. It would protect the environment. It would give peasants income so that wouldn’t have to cut down tress to make wood charcoal. It would also mean that we wouldn’t have to depend any more on the Dominican Republic for the lemons, the coconuts, the oranges and other food we consume.

“I talked with an exporter who told me that 200,000 cases of Haitian [Madame] Françique mangos are sold in five square kilometers in Manhattan. That means that there is an enormous market for mangoes in the U.S., which could also help us combat deforestation.

“One thing we need for that to happen is integrated water management systems. Now because of deforestation, when it rains, we get floods. Maybe an earthquake comes every 50 or 100 years, but floods are each year, and hurricanes almost every year. Houses get washed away, animals get washed away, land gets washed away, people get washed away. I was talking with a peasant who said we used to have two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. Now we have two seasons: the dry season and the flood season.

“With good irrigation systems we could produce a lot of food and we could help the environment. In Haiti, we have 300,000 hectares of land that could be irrigated, but we have maybe 30,000 or 40,000 that have a good irrigation system now.

“We’re developing different irrigation systems with wells that you pump with solar panels. You can use cisterns that catch water on the roof. We’ve had great experiences with one or two families capturing 15,000 liters of water that have carried them through the dry season. We have other, more advanced systems of mountaintop catchment lakes, which let you to hold rain in lakes that you make with bulldozers or abundant peasant labor, so that when the dry season comes you can have water and you can still grow food. You can also treat gray water, like in the MPP center; we treat the water that comes from the shower and kitchen with a series of lakes with gravel, sand, and charcoal.

“One of the things we’re doing is creating solar energy, because peasants should have electricity. One member of MPP has two lightbulbs run from a solar panel. He can play his radio, charge his telephone, even watch television.

“All our public positions are clearly against genetically modified seeds and against agro-fuels.

We’re in a heated battle against the introduction of GM [genetically modified] seeds and against jatropha plantations. We’re especially against jatropha, the plant that has a seed that gives oil which you can make agro-diesel from. We don’t call it bio-diesel, because we in Vía Campesina are clear that ‘bio’ means life and that you can’t mix life with diesel and big business. They say jatropha is a miracle plant, but from other studies and my own, I know it’s a catastrophe plant. One thing we want is a law against jatropha and a law against the introduction of GM seeds. Last year we marched to the parliament, and we were well-received. In October we met with the parliament again, and we were going to meet them again in January but now we’re in a national crisis. But peasants are very vigilant about this.

“We in Haiti are committed to staying a county where organic, biological agriculture dominates.

We know that Clinton and the multinationals, the IMF and the WTO, have another plan for us – one based on the import of GM seeds and food aid, one based on making us grow for export, including growing for agro-diesel. But we’re putting on pressure to say: no, that’s not what Haiti needs, here is what popular Haitian organizations want, here is our agenda.”

(See “The Clock is Set to Zero” for the first part of this interview.)

Photo: Fast-growing plants and used tires in a demonstration garden of the Peasant Movement of Papay. Haiti’s movement of small farmer advocates ecological agriculture as well as policies which protect both the environment and local production. Photo taken by Roberto (Bear) Guerra.

Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30 years. She is also author of the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories of Survival and Resistance. She coordinates Other Worlds, www.otherworldsarepossible.org, which promotes social and economic alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.



Suffering Haiti: The 1937 Parsley Massacre
May 26, 2010, 3:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Parsley Massacre

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In October 1937, Dominican President Rafael Trujillo ordered the execution of the Haitian population living within the borderlands with Haiti. The violence resulted in the killing of 20,000[1] to 30,000[2] Haitian civilians over a span of approximately five days. This would later become known as the Parsley Massacre from the shibboleth that Trujillo had his soldiers apply to determine whether or not those living on the border were native Dominicans who spoke Spanish fluently. Soldiers would hold up a sprig of parsley, ask “What is this?”, and assume that those who could not pronounce the Spanish word perejil (called pèsi in Haitian Creole, persil in French) were Haitian.[3] Within the Dominican Republic itself, the massacre is known as El Corte (“the cutting”). [4]

//

Events

Trujillo, a proponent of antihaitianismo, had made his intentions for the Haitian community clear in a short speech given at a dance held in his honor on 2 October 1937 in Dajabón, stating:

For some months, I have traveled and traversed the border in every sense of the word. I have seen, investigated, and inquired about the needs of the population. To the Dominicans who were complaining of the depredations by Haitians living among them, thefts of cattle, provisions, fruits, etc., and were thus prevented from enjoying in peace the products of their labor, I have responded, ‘I will fix this.’ And we have already begun to remedy the situation. Three hundred Haitians are now dead in Bánica. This remedy will continue.[5]

Trujillo’s actions were reportedly in response to information regarding Haitians stealing cattle and crops from Dominican residents of the borderlands; therefore, the annihilation of an estimated 20,000[1] to 30,000 [2] living within the Dominican border was clearly a direct order of Trujillo. For approximately five days, from 2 October 1937 to 8 October 1937, Haitians were killed with guns, machetes, clubs and knives by Dominican troops, civilians and local political authorities or “alcaldes pedáneos”, some while trying to flee to Haiti by crossing the Rio Artibonito, which has often been the site of bloody conflict between the two nations.[6] Dominican military personnel directly misled fleeing Haitians by telling them they were being deported; however, after being taken to a secluded location the Haitians were executed.[7] To augment the death toll, the main bridge between the Dominican Republic and Haiti was closed, preventing Haitians from fleeing the country. The Parsley Massacre, however, was motivated by Trujillo’s desire to establish a clear border separating the two nations. He also wanted to exercise more political and economic control of the farthest regions of the country, from the rural border lands, to the center of the nation. In the eyes of Trujillo, the presence of Haitian immigrants in Dominican borderlands — which were largely disconnected from Dominican urban life — prohibited the formation of clear political, cultural and social boundaries. It ultimately weakened his attempts to establish an authoritarian regime.[citation needed]

Contributing factors

The Dominican Republic, the former Spanish colony of Santo Domingo, resides on the eastern portion of the island of Hispaniola and occupies two-thirds of the island’s land while having just five-million inhabitants.[8] In contrast, Haiti, the former French colony of Saint Domingue, residing on the western portion of the island, occupies the remaining one-third of the landmass, and is very heavily settled with an estimated “500 persons per square mile.”[9] This has resulted in many Haitians being forced to settle lands that were “too mountainous, too eroded or too dry for rewarding farm production”. However, instead of staying on lands incapable of supporting them, many Haitians began to migrate onto Dominican soil where land hunger was low. While Haitians benefited by gaining farm land, Dominicans in the borderlands subsisted mostly on agriculture, and benefited from the ease of exchange of goods with Haitian markets. Due to inadequate roadways connecting the borderlands to major cities, “communication with Dominican markets was so limited that the small commercial surplus of the frontier slowly moved toward Haiti”.[10]

This posed a possible threat to Trujillo’s regime, because of long-standing border disputes between the two nations: if large numbers of Haitian immigrants began to occupy the less densely populated Dominican borderlands, the Haitian government could have made a case for claiming part of the Dominican Republic’s land. Additionally, loose borders allowed contraband to pass freely and without taxes between nations, thus depriving the Dominican Republic of revenue. Furthermore, the Dominican government saw the loose borderlands as a liability — in terms of the formation of revolutionary groups which could flee across the border with ease, while at the same time amassing both weapons and followers.[11]

Repercussions

Despite attempts to blame Dominican citizens, it has been confirmed by U.S. sources that “bullets from Krag rifles were found in Haitian bodies, and only Dominican soldiers had access to this type of rifle”.[12] Therefore, the Haitian Massacre, which is still referred to as el corte (the cutting) by Dominicans and as kouto-a (the knife) by Haitians, was ‘a calculated action on the part of Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina to homogenize the furthest stretches of the country in order to bring the region into the social, political and economic fold’,[6] and rid his republic of Haitians.

Thereafter, Trujillo began to develop the borderlands to link them more closely with urban areas.[13] These areas were modernized with the addition of modern hospitals, schools, political headquarters, military barracks and housing projects, as well as a highway to connect the borderlands to major cities. Additionally, after 1937, quotas restricted the number of Haitians permitted to enter the Dominican Republic, and a strict and often discriminatory border policy was enacted; Haitians continued to be deported and killed in southern frontier regions, while refugees died of exposure, malaria and influenza.[14]

Of the tens of thousands of ethnic Haitians who were killed, a majority were born in the Dominican Republic and belonged to well-established Haitian communities within the borderlands, thus making them citizens.[15]

In the end, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Haitian President Sténio Vincent sought reparations of $750,000, of which only $525,000 (US$ 7,955,581.4 in 2010) were ever paid: 30 dollars per victim, of which only 2 cents were given to survivors, due to corruption in the Haitian bureaucracy.[16]



Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds
May 21, 2010, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds

Tuesday 18 May 2010

by: Beverly Bell, t r u t h o u t | Report

photo
Jonas Deronzil from Verrettes has been farming since 1974. Like small producers throughout Haiti, his meager income from corn, rice and beans is threatened by new competition from Monsanto. (Photo: Beverly Bell)

“A new earthquake” is what peasant farmer leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called the news that Monsanto will be donating 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds, some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides. The MPP has committed to burning Monsanto’s seeds, and has called for a march to protest the corporation’s presence in Haiti on June 4, for World Environment Day.

In an open letter sent May 14, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the executive director of MPP and the spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay (MPNKP), called the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds … and on what is left our environment in Haiti.”(1) Haitian social movements have been vocal in their opposition to agribusiness imports of seeds and food, which undermines local production with local seed stocks. They have expressed special concern about the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

For now, without a law regulating the use of GMOs in Haiti, the Ministry of Agriculture rejected Monsanto’s offer of Roundup Ready GMOs seeds. In an email exchange, a Monsanto representative assured the Ministry of Agriculture that the seeds being donated are not GMOs.

Elizabeth Vancil, Monsanto’s director of development initiatives, called the news that the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture approved the donation “a fabulous Easter gift” in an April email.(2) Monsanto is known for aggressively pushing seeds, especially GMOs seeds, in both the global North and South, including through highly restrictive technology agreements with farmers who are not always made fully aware of what they are signing. According to interviews by this writer with representatives of Mexican small farmer organizations, they then find themselves forced to buy Monsanto seeds each year, under conditions they find onerous and at costs they sometimes cannot afford.

The hybrid corn seeds Monsanto has donated to Haiti are treated with the fungicide Maxim XO, and the calypso tomato seeds are treated with thiram.(3) Thiram belongs to a highly toxic class of chemicals called ethylene bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs). Results of tests of EBDCs on mice and rats caused concern to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which then ordered a special review. The EPA determined that EBDC-treated plants are so dangerous to agricultural workers that they must wear special protective clothing when handling them. Pesticides containing thiram must contain a special warning label, the EPA ruled. The EPA also barred marketing of the chemicals for many home garden products, because it assumes that most gardeners do not have adequately protective clothing.(4) Monsanto’s passing mention of thiram to Ministry of Agriculture officials in an email contained no explanation of the dangers, nor any offer of special clothing or training for those who will be farming with the toxic seeds.

Haitian social movements’ concern is not just about the dangers of the chemicals and the possibility of future GMOs imports. They claim that the future of Haiti depends on local production with local food for local consumption, in what is called food sovereignty. Monsanto’s arrival in Haiti, they say, is a further threat to this.

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“People in the US need to help us produce, not give us food and seeds. They’re ruining our chance to support ourselves,” said farmer Jonas Deronzil of a peasant cooperative in the rural region of Verrettes.(5)

Monsanto’s history has long drawn ire from environmentalists, health advocates and small farmers, going back to its production of Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. Exposure to Agent Orange has caused cancer in an untold number of US veterans, and the Vietnamese government claims that 400,000 Vietnamese people were killed or disabled by Agent Orange, and 500,000 children were born with birth defects as a result of their exposure.(6)

Monsanto’s former motto, “Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible,” has been replaced by “Imagine.” Its web site home page claims it “help[s] farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We help farmers grow yield sustainably so they can be successful, produce healthier foods … while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.”(7) The corporation’s record does not support the claims.

Together with Syngenta, Dupont and Bayer, Monsanto controls more than half of the world’s seeds.(8) The company holds almost 650 seed patents, most of them for cotton, corn and soy, and almost 30 percent of the share of all biotech research and development. Monsanto came to own such a vast supply by buying major seed companies to stifle competition, patenting genetic modifications to plant varieties and suing small farmers. Monsanto is also one of the leading manufacturers of GMOs.

As of 2007, Monsanto had filed 112 lawsuits against US farmers for alleged technology contract violations of GMOs patents, involving 372 farmers and 49 small agricultural businesses in 27 different states. From these, Monsanto has won more than $21.5 million in judgments. The multinational appears to investigate 500 farmers a year, in estimates based on Monsanto’s own documents and media reports.(9)

“Farmers have been sued after their field was contaminated by pollen or seed from someone else’s genetically engineered crop [or] when genetically engineered seed from a previous year’s crop has sprouted, or ‘volunteered,’ in fields planted with non-genetically engineered varieties the following year,” said Andrew Kimbrell and Joseph Mendelson of the Center for Food Safety.(10)

In Colombia, Monsanto has received upwards of $25 million from the US government for providing Roundup Ultra in the antidrug fumigation efforts of Plan Colombia. Roundup Ultra is a highly concentrated version of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide, with additional ingredients to increase its lethality. Colombian communities and human rights organizations have charged that the herbicide has destroyed food crops, water sources and protected areas, and has led to increased incidents of birth defects and cancers.

Vía Campesina, the world’s largest confederation of farmers with member organizations in more than 60 countries, has called Monsanto one of the “principal enemies of peasant sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty for all peoples.”(11) They claim that as Monsanto and other multinationals control an ever larger share of land and agriculture, they force small farmers out of their land and jobs. They also claim that the agribusiness giants contribute to climate change and other environmental disasters, an outgrowth of industrial agriculture.(12)

The Vía Campesina coalition launched a global campaign against Monsanto last October 16, on International World Food Day, with protests, land occupations and hunger strikes in more than 20 countries. They carried out a second global day of action against Monsanto on April 17 of this year, in honor of Earth Day.

Nongovernmental organizations in the US are challenging Monsanto’s practices, too. The Organic Consumers Association has spearheaded the campaign “Millions Against Monsanto,” calling on the company to stop intimidating small family farmers, stop marketing untested and unlabeled genetically engineered foods to consumers and stop using billions of dollars of US taypayers’ money to subsidize GMOs crops.(13)

The Center for Food Safety has led a four-year legal challenge to Monsanto that has just made it to the US Supreme Court. After successful litigation against Monsanto and the US Department of Agriculture for illegal promotion of Roundup Ready Alfalfa, the court heard the Center for Food Safety’s case on April 27. A decision on this first-ever Supreme Court case about GMOs is now pending.(14)

“Fighting hybrid and GMO seeds is critical to save our diversity and our agriculture,” Jean-Baptiste said in an interview in February. “We have the potential to make our lands produce enough to feed the whole population and even to export certain products. The policy we need for this to happen is food sovereignty, where the county has a right to define it own agricultural policies, to grow first for the family and then for local market, to grow healthy food in a way which respects the environment and Mother Earth.”

Many thanks to Moira Birss for her assistance with research and writing.

1. Group email from Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, May 14, 2010.
2. Email from Elizabeth Vancil to Emmanuel Prophete, director of seeds at the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture, and others; released by the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture, date unavailable.
3. Ibid.
4. Extension Toxicology Network, Pesticide Information Project of the Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University and University of California at Davis.
5. Jonas Deronzil’s comments are from an interview in April. He was not specifically discussing Monsanto.
6. “MSNBC,” January 23, 2004. “Study Finds Link Between Agent Orange, Cancer.” The Globe and Mail, June 12, 2008. “Last Ghost of the Vietnam War.”
7. www.monsanto.com
8. La Vía Campesina, “La Vía Campesina carries out Global Day of Action against Monsanto,” October 16, 2009.
9. Center for Food Safety, “Monsanto vs. US Farmers,” November 2007.
10. Andrew Kimbrell and Joseph Mendelson, Center for Food Safety, “Monsanto vs. US Farmers,” 2005.
11. La Vía Campesina, October 16, 2009, Op. Cit.
12. La Vía Campesina, “La Vía Campesina Call to Action 17 April 2010 – Join the International Day of Peasant Struggle,” February 23, 2010.
13. Organic Consumers Association, “Taxpayers Forced to Fund Monsanto’s Poisoning of Third World,” Finland, Minnesota.
14. Center for Food Security, “Update: CFS Fighting Monsanto in the Supreme Court,” May 11, 2010.

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Haiti: “Great Unmet Needs Continue to Be Identified Every Day”
April 27, 2010, 7:56 pm
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Haiti: “Great Unmet Needs Continue to Be Identified Every Day”
Written by Dominique Griffith

http://www.lawg.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=692&Itemid=68

Thursday, 22 April 2010
Although months have passed since the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti, our partners believe that a lot more should be done to help Haitians recover and rebuild.

Oxfam America’s Coco McCabe reports that even months after the earthquake, some communities have not seen any change at all in their quality of life.

“My colleague, Kenny Rae, sent an email message from Haiti last week—a stark reminder that for many of the people of Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities, little has changed in the nine weeks since a massive quake leveled much of the Haitian capital.

“‘2 months later, great unmet needs continue to be identified every day,’ said the brief e-mail, before summarizing in one, short-hand-like sentence, the sweep of challenges people there face: ‘3 babies have been born in this small camp of 40 families since the earthquake.’

“The reality is this: newborns are living outside with their families on a hill too rocky to accommodate latrines and too steep for water trucks to climb. When Oxfam staffers reached the camp on Monday, they learned that the people there had received virtually no assistance since the quake.”

In the temporary camps, where many people are still living, sexual violence against young Haitian women is on the rise.

“Thousands of women living in temporary camps around Haiti are threatened by sexual violence and have inadequate protection from any authorities,” Amnesty International said after a three-week visit to the country in March.

“Sexual violence is widespread across the hundreds of spontaneous camps that sprung up in the capital and other affected areas of Haiti following the massive earthquake that struck the country in January…There is a general feeling of insecurity inside and around the camps, particularly at night. Women and girls living in makeshift shelters feel vulnerable and are afraid of attacks.”

“Most victims of sexual violence interviewed by Amnesty International were minors. One 8-year-old girl was raped when alone in her tent at night. Her mother had gone out of the camp to work and did not have anybody to look after her daughter during her absence. A 15-year-old was raped when she went out of the camp to urinate, as there were no latrines within the camp.”

According to the American Jewish World Service, many Haitian farmers have been left jobless as a result of the influx in food aid.

“Emerging reports are verifying what civil society groups have been saying for years: the influx of cheap U.S. rice as food aid is disrupting local agricultural markets. In many rural areas in Haiti, farmland remained intact after the earthquake. But the well-intentioned introduction of free U.S. rice now threatens to undercut the ability of local farmers to sell their crops, depriving them of their livelihoods at a time when strengthening the country’s agricultural sector is key to overall recovery.”

And even as money for reconstruction projects flows in, according to Oxfam’s blog, many unemployed Haitians who are willing and able to work on these projects have not been given access to these jobs.

“‘Haitians are telling us loud and clear that they want to get back on their feet and start working for the reconstruction of their country,’ says Marcel Stoessel, Oxfam’s chief of mission in Haiti… ‘Haitians are not expecting charity. They want to get jobs, to educate their kids, and to make sure they have a roof over their heads at night.’

“There’s a lot of work to do in Haiti—a stunning amount, from the physical reconstruction of the capital to the building up of a more responsive government, a robust civil society, and a strong economy for the entire country. And there is the will among citizens, thrown together in unexpected ways because of this calamity, to tackle that enormous job and get it done.”



March 13, 2010, 1:51 pm
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Haiti’s Excluded

By Reed Lindsay

This article appeared in the March 29, 2010 edition of The Nation.

March 11, 2010

Ruth Derilus had seen her share of tragedy. A 33-year-old iron-willed social worker trained by Haiti’s Papay Peasant Movement, she twice helped organize relief efforts when massive floods devastated the city of Gonaïves and the surrounding countryside. In September 2004 she worked with women’s and youth groups after Tropical Storm Jeanne killed more than 3,000 people. Four years later, she lost her home when a second deluge, unleashed by Tropical Storm Hanna and augmented by Hurricane Ike, once again brought the city to its knees. Ruth kept on going, working to organize rice farmers whose crops had been destroyed. But nothing would prepare her for the tribulations she would face after the earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince on January 12 of this year. Ruth was in Gonaïves, and she got a phone call within minutes. Her 20-month-old son, Chevano, who was living with her husband in the capital, had suffered a blow to his head when their family’s house collapsed. The line went dead. The next morning, Ruth took a bus to Port-au-Prince and went straight to the hospital. She could not find her son. She returned home and found her mother in tears. The nearby hospital had stopped operating after the earthquake, and by the time Chevano was taken to a United Nations military hospital on the morning of January 13, it was too late. Ruth recovered her son’s body ten days later. Her husband was never found.