In The News

Russia Space Blast Endangers Astronauts, Belarus Border Clashes, Leo’s Beach

👋 ሰላም!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia is under fire for blowing up a satellite in space, clashes erupt at the Poland-Belarus border and Leo's Beach opens again. Courtesy of German daily Die Welt, we also look at the reasons behind the major discrepancies in COVID-19 vaccination rates across Europe.

[*Selam, Amharic - Ethiopia]

Watch Video Show less

Hard Truths, And A Glimmer Of Hope In Haiti

In the wake of the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, Haitian writer Yanick Lahens revisits the history of the island, addressing its fractures, but also seeing a reason for cautious optimism.


Not wanting to respond in the heat of the moment to the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, I declined requests to speak with journalists. Typically, a real-time reaction forsakes nuance, resulting in an answer that severs the event from the deeper factors that caused it. The inevitable shortcuts taken to summarize an event for "front-page news' tend to compound the reservoir of cliches and prejudices that exist around it, despite any attempts otherwise. And when an event worthy of the front page takes place in Haiti, the temptation is even greater to dive into such an abyss.

There's a reason for that. Haiti, more than any other place, has the capacity to boggle the minds of those unable or unwilling to stretch outside of their intellectual comfort zone. This emblematic island nation challenges and disturbs all at once. And yet, those who have not grasped the place Haiti holds in modern history — in its very birth and subsequent transatlantic influence — will only see the fire, poverty and bloodshed. They will only see another coup d"état, and they will only see black skin.

What happens in Haiti must always be placed in conversation with its inescapable history, summarized quickly around its unthinkable independence in 1804, when the country thwarted slavery, colonialism and nascent capitalism, and at a time when the Western powers were preparing to consolidate their world empire. Independence made Haiti the first country of the South, and subsequently the mold and template — I cannot stress this enough — of North-South relations.

Haiti understood before everyone else. Placed in quarantine (today we would call it embargo) by the colonialist powers of the time, the country was forced, as a condition to ending its political and economic isolation, to pay reparations for profits lost to the former French colonizers of Santo Domingo. This would place a heavy burden on Haiti from the beginning, dragged down by a steep mortgage that would send the country spiraling into a debt it wouldn't be able to pay off until the middle of the 20th century. And yet, during its difficult period of isolation, Haiti still helped Simon Bolivar liberate five Latin American countries and even inspired Greece to gain its independence.

Independence made Haiti the first country of the South.

Writer Laurent Dubois, in Les Vengeurs du Nouveau Monde (Les Perséides, 2006), noted that in 1801, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson was already thinking about what would happen should Santo Domingo achieve independence, which he feared would set a bad example for the other slave-holding countries in the region. In a conversation with delegates from France and England, he laid out conditions of engagement: "Not allowing blacks to own ships will be enough." In essence, Jefferson ceded Haiti the right to exist as a large village of maroons, but there was no possibility of accepting it into the concert of nations.

You may shrug and tell me that this happened long ago. But since then? Alas, the spirit and even the very words of this statement have persisted and infiltrated the policies that the great powers enforced on Haiti throughout the 19th century and up to the present day.

U.S. President Bill Clinton, a Democrat and in keeping with Jefferson's vision, did not bat an eye when referring to Haiti as the "backyard," implying a location where garbage is dumped. Donald Trump, the latest Republican president, stooped lower, remorselessly referring to the country as a "shit hole." The former eliminated Haitian rice production in the 2000s by forcing the Haitian market to accept subsidized, and therefore much cheaper, American rice. The latter, seeking the Haitian vote against Venezuela, promised unconditional support for the authoritarian regime of the late president.

But how was all this possible, you may ask? Well, it was made possible due to the complicity of the political and economic sectors that have ruled Haiti since independence.

The departure of the colonizers brought about a double shift that resulted in two different approaches to government and societal organization. The majority of the Bossales, the men and women who had just arrived from Africa, radically rejected the plantation system and liberal economic logic. Throughout the 19th century, they built an original culture that incorporated a common language and religion, prioritized the lakou (the common dwelling) as a basic community space, emphasized the cultivation of gardens and shared everything down to the last piece. It was a culture that would be protected from the beginnings of the neo-colonial project. The rural environment is referred to in everyday language as "the country outside."

Artists performing during a ceremony in honor of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise — Photo: Orlando Barria/EFE/ZUMA

The other group was made up of the Creoles, many of whom were revolutionary leaders and others who accepted and adopted colonial traditions after independence, namely, the French language, the Catholic religion and Western legal foundations. With the two cultures constantly at odds, the chaos truly began with the failure to integrate the state model of the Creoles, across the country, and, as the sociologist Jean Casimir specifies, with the international community's negative view of the Bossale. Now, the country must find a way to build a community out of a centuries-old conflict.

Many of Haiti's struggles since the 19th century originate in this specific disconnect. Back-to-back international and internal crises throughout the 20th century progressively weakened the country's institutions, leading to long-standing distrust in government and placing a large swatch of the population into poverty without any structures intended to offer support, all of which was reinforced in 2010. Global and local crime syndicates have taken advantage of and co-opted these weak institutions. The licit and the illicit ended up merging, establishing corruption as a mode of governance, a process that eventually led to the shocking assassination of President Moïse.

Some may be quick to highlight the international aid Haiti has received over the years. But this aid perverts those who give as well as those who receive. When the aid does not simply feed corruption on both sides, a substantial portion of it goes back to the donor, leaving the recipient dangerously dependent, even if a few organizations, thank God, escape this model. The aid given after the 2010 earthquake is a perfect manifestation of this dysfunction.

As rapid urbanization unfolded and the centrality of the Creole language spread through various media and social networks, a youth has risen up, eager to stake their claim as the "country within" by showing the world their desire to fully exercise their citizenship, and build community and institutions. It is this young and new "country within a country" that has, with their bare hands, fought back against the unconstitutional referendum project supported by the international community. And they have managed to do this, as the young philosopher Edelyn Dorismond points out, despite the serious assaults on symbolic architecture; despite the massacres orchestrated by gangs, instruments of the powerful; and despite widespread imprisonment and the general exhaustion of so many.

We Haitians must save ourselves from reductive narratives.

It was these young people who were preparing to do the same, to fight against the widely contested elections that were supported by the international community. In the face of such obstacles, building community and democracy will take persistence and time. A lot of time. It will demand the construction of a new political order and fresh representation. There is no speedy solution or quick answer.

We Haitians must save ourselves from reductive narratives whose harmfulness lies in their ability to trap us in sad emotions, as Gilles Deleuze says. It is natural, and we will feel sadness, fear, hopelessness. But let us also remember, using the guiding light of history, how to make room for clear-mindedness and strength and draw from familiar joy. Let us not be defeated twice.

Contrary to what is conveyed in international or even national media, there is hope in the projects that are at work. One is the ecological community project in the lower northwest region, which is building a multifunctional park in a working-class neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Others are artistic endeavors, agricultural activities, building an efficient university, creating innovative models for schooling. All these initiatives share one key point in common: They have been able to integrate the people in their approach. In contrast to our collective misfortunes, they are unfolding far away from the "front-page" sound and fury.

In the Failles, the novel which I wrote in 2010 in the aftermath of the earthquake, I repeatedly asked myself how to write without "exoticizing" misfortune and tragedy. Let's refuse to deny our suffering, but let us not indulge in self-flagellation or use our misfortune as a means of profit. Because if there is misfortune, it is not only Haiti's, it is the misfortune of the first world, the second world, the third world and the fourth world. It is the misfortune of our dominant world-model. It is not exotic; it is the misfortune of all.

Keep reading... Show less

The Latest: Haiti President Assassinated, Iran’s Uranium Plans, Fish On Meth

Welcome to Wednesday, where we're following the breaking news of the assassination of Haiti's president. Also Iran acknowledges it is enriching uranium and the ship that blocked the Suez canal is finally free to sail away. In other news, we look at the rock'n'roll statue controversy that pits Paris greens vs. Harley-Davidson.

• Haitian President assassinated: Haitian President Jovonel Moïse, 53, was killed in his private residence at 1 a.m. local time by armed assailants, amid political instability in the impoverished Caribbean nation. First Lady Martine Moïse was injured in the gunfire. Moïse had been ruling by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections and parliament was dissolved.

• Iran begins enriched uranium production: Iran says it plans on starting the process of enriching uranium metal, a move that could help the country create a nuclear weapon, reports International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. atomic watchdog. The United States and European powers warned that these steps could muddle attempts to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.

• Taliban enter key western Afghan city: As American troops and NATO allies withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban has rapidly advanced through the country, seizing dozens of government controlled districts. Most recently, the group has entered the city of Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Afghanistan's Badghis province, liberating a local prison and continuing to battle government troops as they advance on the center of the city.

• Eric Adams wins NYC Mayoral Primary: Eric Adams, a former police captain, has been declared the winner of the New York City Democratic Primary, beating opponent Kathryn Garcia by a single percentage point. As Adams did not originally receive over 50% of the vote in the city's new ranked-choice voting system, results took longer than usual to count. If elected, Adams will be the city's second Black mayor.

• First indigenous woman appointed Canadian governor-general: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed Mary Simon to be the country's first indigenous governor-general. The move comes amid a national reckoning over the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of indigenous children and the intergenerational harm caused to indigenous communities through the residential school system.

• Ever Given ship finally leaves Suez Canal: After blocking the Suez Canal for six days and severely disrupting international trade routes in March, the Ever Given ship has been released from the waterway. The ship had been held at Great Bitter Lake while the Suez Canal Authority sought compensation for salvaging efforts and losses incurred.

• Meth in water may turn fish into addicts: A new study has shown that Brown trout can become addicted to methamphetamine when it accumulates in freshwater rivers. The research demonstrates that when trout are placed in waters containing trace levels of methamphetamine, the fish develop withdrawal when moved to a clean tank.

Keep reading... Show less

Watch: OneShot — UNICEF France's Water Night For Children In Haiti

Access to safe water is a universal right. Yet, it is far from being a reality. As part of the United Nations' World Water Day on March 22, UNICEF France created with the French Swimming Federation "La Nuit de l'Eau" (Water Night): 230 swimming pools nationwide are holding water sports events and other fun activities Saturday in an effort to raise awareness (and funds) for water access programs in Haiti.

UNICEF France's 2019 Nuit de l'Eau for children in Haiti — ©Marco Dormino/UNICEF/OneShot

Keep reading... Show less
Giacomo Tognini

Protests In Haiti As President Reestablishes National Army

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haiti's national army was abolished 22 years ago after a disastrous period of military rule ended in a U.S.-led intervention that restored democracy in the Caribbean country. Now, recently elected President Jovenel Moïse is launching a new recruitment drive and re-establishing an institution that's still widely unpopular, as evidenced by protests in the capital, leading Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste reports. The government is moving ahead with the plans regardless.

President Moïse announced Nov. 16 that he would appoint interim commanders for a newly constituted Haitian armed forces. The next day he appointed former army colonel Jodel Lesage as acting commander-in-chief pending approval in the Haitian Senate, entrusting him with the task of recruiting and building the new Haitian military.

Watch Video Show less
Agathe Logeart

A Wretched Journey Into Haiti's Clandestine Abortion Trade

Haiti has the highest maternal mortality rate in the Americas. Where female sexuality is taboo and abortions illegal, it all happens clandestinely, and in the worst possible health conditions.

PORT-AU-PRINCE — She came alone this morning at the crack of dawn. She winces in pain when she sits, after Dr. Jean-Edouard Viala, chief of the obstetrics department in Haiti's state university hospital, welcomes her in his office.

The doctor takes her hand, calls her "chérie," and speaks in Creole. Sandrine is 25 years old but has the voice of a frightened little girl. She's in shock. She doesn't know that upon her arrival she was categorized as an "IIA," for "interrupted induced abortion."

Watch Video Show less
Jean-Michel Caroit

Four Years After The Earthquake, Haiti Looks To The Sun

A solar-powered hospital offers a glimmer of hope in a country still mired in poverty, and the after-effects of the massive 2010 earthquake.

MIREBALAIS — Four years after the earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people and continues to weigh on one of the poorest countries in the world, the University Hospital of Mirebalais has become the symbol of what could be regarded as a “happy” reconstruction of Haiti.

Mirebalais, just outside the capital of Port-au-Prince, opened in May 2013 and is the world’s largest solar-powered hospital, according to the groups Partners in Health (American) and Zanmi Lasanté (Haitian) that built the facility and manage it with the Haitian Health Ministry. The 300-bed hospital, which uses advanced equipment in its emergency and neonatal care units, has some 1,800 solar panels that produce enough energy for all the building’s needs. The surplus is redistributed by the national grid.

Watch Video Show less
Grégoire Allix

Three Years After Earthquake, Why So Much Of Haiti Still Lies In Ruins

PORT-AU-PRINCE – What’s left of Haiti’s dreams of reconstruction? Three years after the earthquake that devastated the country – one of the world’s poorest – 360,000 people are still living in displaced person camps and shantytowns. The cholera epidemic is spreading and more than 80% of the population is still living below the poverty line.

This is “an indication that the policies applied by the Haitian authorities and international organizations that intervened massively in Haiti have so far largely failed,” the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) wrote in a highly critical report to be presented to Haitian authorities on Jan. 24.

Watch Video Show less

After Sandy: Meanwhile In Haiti...And Staten Island



Watch Video Show less

Why Is Sean Penn Tearing Down Haiti's Presidential Palace?



Watch Video Show less
Serge Michel

The Historic Proportions Of Japan’s Nuclear Disaster

Editorial: In the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake, we see that human progress may be hardwired to turn nature's potential for catastrophe into something so much worse.

Is Fukushima the catastrophe of the century? The 21st century has only just begun, and yet it has already had its full share of tragedies: the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami with its 226,000 victims, the 2010 Haiti earthquake that killed 222,500, the 15 million displaced by the 2010 Pakistan floods. Yet not all catastrophes are measured solely by the number of victims, and the disaster currently unfolding in Japan may well claim a uniquely troubling place in history.

What is now happening in Japan is reaching historic proportions as events continue to follow the path of worst-case scenario. On Saturday, the No. 1 reactor (of a total of six reactors) was first rocked by an explosion. The blast blew off the walls and the ceiling, but the confinement system was left undamaged. Then on Monday, the No.3 reactor was shaken by two explosions, which had the same effects and were followed by attempts to cool down the rods with water pumped from the sea. On Tuesday, the No. 2 reactor exploded too, this time causing the containment steel and concrete vessel to crack.

Watch Video Show less

Earthquakes And The Wealth Divide: Comparing Japan, Italy, Haiti

An Italian geologist explains disaster tolls' links to poverty and bad planning, and why Japan's quake damage could have been much worse. But the tsunami is a reminder that even prevention has its limits.

Japanese quake (Yuichiro Haga)

Watch Video Show less

Confronting Rape In The Rubble Of Haiti’s Earthquake

Meet the only woman running a tent city in Haiti for survivors of earthquake. Can she stop the sexual violence?

Watch Video Show less