Haiti: human rights activist gunned down

An unknown assailant shot Haitian human rights activist Daniel Dorsinvil (or Dorsainvil) dead in Port-au-Prince's Canapé Vert neighborhood the afternoon of Feb. 8; Dorsinvil's wife, Girdly (or Gerly) Larêche, was also killed. Dorsinvil was the coordinator of the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) and a founder of the recently formed Patriotic Democratic Popular Movement (MPDP), a coalition of 30 groups; Larêche's brother Ronald Larêche is a legislative deputy from Northeast department for the Unity party of former president René Préval (1996-2001 and 2006-2011).

Official sources suggested that robbery was the motive; according to the police, the couple had been in a bank, and the killer reportedly took Larêche's handbag. POHDH executive secretary Antonal Mortimé questioned the official explanation and demanded a full investigation. "For us this was an execution," he told reporters. "This is a harsh blow for the human rights sector in Haiti." Human rights attorneys Newton St-Juste and André Michel called the killing "a political crime meant to intimidate the human rights sector, which is considered embarrassing for the powers that be." (AlterPresse, Haiti, Feb. 9; Haiti Press Network, Feb. 9)

The double murder came shortly after Haitian president Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky") ended a Feb. 4-7 visit to Washington, DC, receiving what the Miami Herald called "rave reviews" from US officials. At his first meeting with the Haitian president, US president Barack Obama indicated that he was pleased with Martelly's commitment to holding the long-delayed senatorial and municipal elections this year, saying that this will "help resolve some of the political roadblocks that stalled some progress." Obama is facing criticism for failing to disburse all the funds designated for helping Haiti recover from a devastating January 2010 earthquake, while South Florida immigration activists and 100 Congress members have called for him to approve a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program that would let 110,000 Haitians join their families in the US. The president admitted that "we have a lot more work to do." Martelly thanked the US "for always standing by the Haitian people." (MH, Feb.6)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, February 9.