Morse: Rambling in Haiti
Richard A. Morse
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 6:19 PM';
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It sure has been a long time since I sat down and wrote one of these rambling pieces. I decided a year and a half ago, shortly after I had joined my cousin's bid to become President of Haiti, that it might be best if I lowered my profile a bit. I figured people might become worried that their conversations with me might be quoted on the internet and so as a service to people who have spoken in confidence with me I decided to curtail my rambling (writing) activities.
I must say, it was quite an election campaign. The powers that were in power didn't take us very seriously at first but once they got a notion that the Haitian people were leaning in our direction, people started to die. I guess the logic behind shootings during the campaign season was a bit flawed since those in power lost the election anyway... I remember running from machine gun fire in Aux Cayes. Once you start running, you can't quite tell where the shooting is coming from. The crowd broke up and started running in all directions.. SINGING!! Thats right they kept singing; and they knew who was shooting because they were singing "Yo tire sou nou, yo perdi pouvwa!" "They shot at us, they've lost political power.." I was out of shape, bent over so I would be less of a target, gasping for breath. I felt like i was running but people were running by me as though I was standing still. I've got to start working out!
The previous government left us quite an inheritance. I've visited the women's prison in Petionville a couple of times. Most of the women in the overcrowded but surprisingly clean prison haven't seen a judge yet. Some have been in there for three years, some for five and others for up to seven years and are still waiting to see a judge. This disturbs me. Some women were sentenced and those sentences were never passed on to the prison, so the women wait.... Some of the dossiers were destroyed in the earthquake or some of the judges were killed in the quake.. and those women just wait. How do you describe an overcrowded women's prison? Anywhere you step in the cell, you're stepping on someone's bedding. I've received a letter of authorization to look into these cases so hopefully we'll be able to move forward on this stuff.
I spent a few days at the prison massacre trial in Aux Cayes a couple of months back. The massacre happened shortly after the Quake, 2010. Several dozen prisoners in Aux Cayes tried to escape shortly after the Quake. They were caught, told to lie down on their stomachs and they were executed, shot. The head of the prison was given a promotion shortly afterwards and transferred to run the main penitentiary in Port au Prince. Hmmmm. No one has tried to implicate the then president in the massacre.. Promotion? Transfer? Unbelievable!! I witnessed the first three days of the trial. I somehow wanted those involved to know that they were being watched. The New York Times covered the trial. Eight people were eventually convicted. Most of the people who died disappeared.
When my cousin was campaigning for the presidency, it was all about Universal Education, people in tents, reconstruction, jobs, investment... Somehow the parliament was highjacked in 2009 and 2010 and the main issues today are fake passports and double nationality. I wonder what percentage of Haitian people living in camps or are unemployed, or can't afford school actually have passport or double nationality issues? Kind of reminds me of Washington sometimes.
Shortly after the Earthquake, I started meeting with farmers in the Haitian countryside and recently, after 2 years of effort, I was able, with the help of many others, to unblock 10 or so kilometers of irrigation canals so thousands of farmers and their families could once again have access to water and wouldn't be so reliant on rain...
I've met Congresswomen Maxine Waters several times. She's a wonderful woman. I was in a meeting with her several weeks ago with some Haitian Parliamentarians. She asked how many people were at the recent demonstration in Port au Prince (Lavalas, 29 Feb).. The parliamentarians said one to two thousand. I looked at Congresswoman Waters and said, "Wait a minute; In order to mobilize the Lavalas base, "He" had to have someone announce that "He" was about to be arrested by the current government. Ms Waters looked at me and asked, "Is 'He' still in politics?"... I smiled.. I nodded.. and I bashfully told the Congresswoman "Even some of my musicians were at the demonstration. They needed the money.."
Congresswoman Waters is interested in supporting Haitian governance infrastructure and our conversation proceeded in that direction.
Monday morning, I put my suit on and go back to work at Haiti's National Palace. My strategy is to try and help the people who are the worst off. Sometimes the peasants are looking at me and I know just what they're thinking.."He's not going to be able to do it.." but we did get them their irrigation water! Hahaha!
My sincere condolences to Burton Chenet's family. Burton and I went to the same Junior High School in Connceticut. We had a prep school mixed race Haitian artist vibe going on. It was our secret little code. Last time i saw him he didn't see me. We were driving on different sides of the street.
Violence comes in waves in Haiti.