Haiti: storm hits “safe” camp for quake survivors

On July 12, exactly six months after an earthquake devastated much of southern Haiti, a storm caused serious damage in a camp authorities had set up for quake survivors in Corail-Cesselesse, a deserted area about 24 km north of Port-au-Prince. Some 1,700 of the camp’s 7,000 residents were left without shelter when the storm ripped up or otherwise damaged 344 ShelterBox tents, which are supposedly designed for resistance to storms. About six people were injured by debris, and a woman and her baby were hit by lightning; the woman was badly burned, and local radio reported that the baby died.

Critics said the camp in Corail—which the government and international agencies set up in April for some of the more than one million people left homeless by the earthquake—was poorly planned and built in haste. There are no trees, and it is exposed to flooding from a nearby mountain range. “Nature came and said Corail is not a good place for tents,” a resident told the New York Times. (Montreal Journal Métro, July 13 from AP; New York Times, July 14 from correspondent)

The first people moved to Corail had been living since the earthquake in an improvised settlement at a golf course in the upscale southeastern suburb of Pétionvillle; the government claimed they would be unsafe at the golf course when the rainy season came. People being moved to Corail complained that the area was isolated and far from their jobs or schools [see Update #1029] The labor organizing group Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”) charged that there were plans to build low-wage assembly plants at remote places like Corail where there would be few jobs except at the plants [see Update #1034].

On July 11, the day before the storm, Jonathan Katz of the Associated Press wire service reported that the person the government initially appointed to head relocation efforts was Gérard-Emile “Aby” Brun, president of Nabatec Development, “a consortium owned by some of Haiti’s most powerful families.” The Corail camp is on land owned by Nabatec, which “now stands to gain part of $7 million the government will spend compensating landowners,” according to Katz. “Nabatec is also a lead negotiator with South Korean garment firms to build factories that Haitian officials say will likely go into Corail-Cesselesse, and the camp [Brun] set up is a potential source of workers for those factories, which can take advantage of generous US import laws for Haitian-assembled textiles.”

Government planner and envoy to the United Nations Leslie Voltaire–a US-trained economist who has worked for several Haitian administrations since 1994–said Corail-Cesselesse will eventually become the key industrial city of the Caribbean, with some 300,000 inhabitants. (Austin, American-Statesman, Texas, July 11 from AP)

Demonstrations against the government of President René Préval resumed on July 13, after a month-long break during the World Cup finals in South Africa. Several thousand people joined a march in Port-au-Prince, including Rosny Smarth, a prime minister in Préval’s 1996-2001 administration, and supporters of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004); other protesters reportedly carried pictures of former dictator Jean Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier (1971-1986). There were also demonstrations in Petit-Goâve, Miragoâne and Jacmel. Senator Edmonde Supplice Beauzile of the Fusion party and Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste headed up a demonstration in Hinche, capital of the Central Department. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, July 13; Agence Haïtienne de Presse, July 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 18.

See our last post on Haiti.