Haiti: UN to probe cholera source, protester killed

One protester was killed on Dec. 18 and three were arrested when Haitian police dispersed hundreds of residents demanding that the authorities close down a dump near the Duvivier neighborhood in Port-au-Prince’s impoverished Cité Soleil section. The victim was identified as “Robin Raymond” or “Ramon Robert,” the owner of a hardware store.

This was the fourth protest the Duvivier Recovery Committee had organized against the dump. The group charged that both private and public companies had been depositing untreated human wastes there, leading to a rise in cholera cases in Duvivier. A cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti in mid-October had caused 2,535 deaths as of Dec. 18, according to the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP). The cholera bacterium generally spreads through human fecal matter.

National Police of Haiti (PNH) agent Réginald Larosilière has been accused of the killing; Duvivier Recovery Committee members say police the fired at the protesters to disperse them. The PNH claims there was an exchange of gunfire. The executive secretary of the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), Antonal Mortimé, called for the appropriate punishment for Larosilière if his guilt is established. (AlterPresse, Haiti, Dec. 18; Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Dec. 18)

On Dec. 17 United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon announced “the creation of an international scientific panel to investigate the source of the cholera epidemic.” UN spokespeople had previously dismissed accusations that the disease came from infected Nepalese troops in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) [see Update #1060], but Ban said in his announcement, made at a press conference in New York, that “there remain fair questions and legitimate concerns that demand the best answer that science can provide.” Ban didn’t name the panel members. He also noted that so far donor nations had only contributed 21% of the $164 million the UN had asked for to fight the epidemic. (UN press release, Dec. 17)

Donor nations have been just as slow to contribute to the fund that is supposed to help rebuild Haiti after a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. Only $897 million of the more than $5.7 billion pledged for 2010-11 had been delivered as of Dec. 14, when the international group that monitors the funds, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (CIRH), held its fourth meeting. Haitian CIRH members complained in a letter that they had been left out of decision-making and that projects the group had approved “do not advance the reconstruction of Haiti and long-term development.” “I share their frustration,” UN special envoy and CIRH co-president Bill Clinton, the former US president (1993-2001), said at a press conference on Dec. 15 in Port-au-Prince, “but I think they will see a big increase in the pace of movement next year.”

The Associated Press wire service noted that the CIRH meeting had to be held outside Haiti, in Santo Domingo, “after violence broke out following Haiti’s disputed Nov. 28 presidential election” [see Update #1060]. The Dec. 14 meeting approved projects worth $3.1 billion, including one for an industrial park that reportedly could generate 60,000 jobs—presumably low-wage assembly jobs. (AP, Dec. 15, via WTOP, Washington, DC; AlterPresse, Dec. 16)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 19.

See our last post on Haiti.