Haiti’s Collective for Mobilization Against the High Cost of Living held a sit-in on July 25 in front of the Hotel Karibe Convention Center in Port-au-Prince to demand cancellation of Haiti’s external debt. The protesters carried signs with such slogans as: “We’re not in debt,” “We have nothing to pay,” “France is the one that’s in debt.” (Haiti was born from a massive slave rebellion against French colonial rule in the late 18th century.) According to the collective’s spokesperson, Guy Numa, Haiti currently pays $60 million each year in interest on an external debt of a little more than $1 billion. (Agence Haitienne de Presse, July 25)
The occasion for the protest was a meeting of international donors in the convention center that day to discuss the $7 billion the government of President Rene Garcia Preval says it needs for its five-year term, which ends in 2011. The donors agreed to a $750 million short-term loan for the period from July 2006 to September; they are to discuss long-term funding at a conference in Madrid on Nov. 30. (AlterPresse, July 25)
On July 28 the Democratic Popular Movement (MODEP) inaugurated a campaign to build opposition to the presence of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 9,000-member force which has been in Haiti since June 2004. The campaign will use forums, posters, sit-ins and photo exhibits to raise consciousness of the cost of the mission and its failure to stop the high crime rate, which MODEP says should be handled by the Haitian authorities. MODEP held the opening event in the Marchaterre area of the southwestern city of Les Cayes, site of a massacre of Haitian peasants during the 1915-34 US occupation; July 28 was the 91st anniversary of the landing of US troops. About 100 local people joined MODEP members as they burned a US flag and raised up the Haitian flag. (AlterPresse July 28)
During a one-day visit to Port-au-Prince on Aug. 3, United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan announced that he would ask the UN Security Council for a one-year extension of MINUSTAH’s mandate, which expires this month. (AlterPresse, Aug. 3)
Former prime minister Yvon Neptune was released from prison on July 27 after two years of detention in connection with the February 2004 killings of opponents of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose 2000-2004 government Neptune headed, in the La Scierie neighborhood of the western city of St.-Marc. According to his lawyer, Mario Joseph, Neptune was released conditionally for “humanitarian reasons,” indicating that the case against him hasn’t been terminated. International officials, including UN envoy Juan Gabriel Valdes, former US ambassador James Foley and 28 members of the US Congress, have called for Neptune’s release over the last two years. (AlterPresse, July 27)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 6
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