Several thousand Haitians marched for four hours through much of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area on Nov. 7 to protest the government of President Joseph Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky") and Prime Minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe. The march, which riot police dispersed on two occasions with tear gas, was sponsored by several groups, including the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (Fopak), a base organization close to the populist Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004).
Parties that make up Mauritania's Coordination of the Democratic Opposition (COD) have announced a boycott of November's legislative and municipal elections after talks with the government collapsed without agreement earlier this month. The ruling Union for the Republic is the only party fielding candidates in every district, with the next highest representation from Islamist group Tewassoul, the only member of the 11-party COD that will field candidates. Tewassoul calls its participation a form of struggle against the "dictatorship" of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who took power in a 2008 coup. The opposition is demanding the polls be postponed until April to allow time for a voter census and guarantees of the independence of the electoral commission. A vote was due in 2011 but has been repeatedly delayed due to disagreements between the opposition and government. The last legislative election was held in 2006. (AFP, Oct. 29; Reuters, Oct. 4)
According to Mexican health authorities, 171 cases of cholera had been confirmed as of Oct. 18 in Mexico City and states north and east of the capital; one person had died from the disease. The outbreak, first identified on Sept. 9, apparently involves the South Asian strain of the cholera bacterium responsible for an epidemic that started in Haiti in October 2010. Scientific studies indicate that poor sanitary conditions at a United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) base used by Nepalese troops caused the outbreak in Haiti, infecting at least 682,573 people as of Oct. 10 this year and causing 8,330 deaths and almost 380,000 hospitalizations.
A failed attempt by Haitian police to search the car of a prominent lawyer, André Michel, the evening of Oct. 22 quickly turned into an embarrassment for the government of President Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky"). Riot police stopped Michel in the capital's Martissant neighborhood after 6 pm, in violation of a constitutional ban on nighttime arrests except in cases of active crimes. Joined by Port-au-Prince Government Commissioner Francisco René, the city's chief prosecutor, the agents tried to search Michel's car. A crowd of local residents gathered to protect the attorney. The agents dispersed the crowd with tear gas and took Michel to the police headquarters, where he spent the night.
The Guyana-based Secretariat of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an organization of 15 Caribbean countries, issued a statement on Oct. 17 criticizing a ruling by the Dominican Republic's Constitutional Tribunal (TC) that denied citizenship to people born in the country to undocumented immigrant parents. Immigrant rights activists say the TC's Sept. 23 ruling affects more than 200,000 Dominicans, mostly the descendants of Haitian immigrants, and includes people born as early as 1929 who have been recognized as Dominican citizens for more than a half century. The ruling makes people "stateless in violation of international human rights obligations," the CARICOM statement charged; the Secretariat called on the Dominican government to protect the rights of "those made vulnerable by this ruling and its grievous effects." Haiti is a CARICOM member; the Dominican government has indicated that it plans to join. (New York Times, Oct. 17, from AP)
On Oct. 9 several advocacy groups filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in the Southern District of New York against the United Nations on behalf of victims of a deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti. The outbreak started in October 2010 because of poor sanitary conditions at a military base used by Nepalese troops in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), an 8,690-member UN "peacekeeping" force that has been in Haiti since June 2004. The 67-page complaint, filed by groups including the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haitian affiliate, the Bureau of International Lawyers (BAI), charges the UN military force with gross negligence. The epidemic has killed more than 8,300 people and sickened more than 650,000; about 1,000 people continue to die each year.
In a decision dated Sept. 23 the Dominican Republic's Constitutional Tribunal (TC) in effect took away the citizenship of all people born in the country to out-of-status parents since June 20, 1929. The court noted that the authorities are currently studying birth certificates of more than 16,000 people and have refused to issue identity documents to another 40,000; the justices gave electoral authorities one year to determine which people would be deprived of their citizenship. Since most undocumented immigrants in the Dominican Republic are Haitians, the ruling mainly affects Dominicans of Haitian descent. The TC is the highest court for constitutional issues, and the decision—TC/0168/13, in the case of the Haitian-descended Juliana Deguis Pierre—cannot be appealed.
Eleven months after it was officially opened, the Caracol Industrial Park (PIC) in Haiti’s Northeast department has failed to live up to the promises made by its promoters, according to an article by Jonathan Katz, a former Associated Press correspondent in Haiti. The project, for which the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB, or BID in Spanish) have set aside $270 million, has only generated 1,500 jobs to date, far short of the 65,000 jobs the US State Department claims will eventually appear in Caracol. Wages for piece-rate workers at the industrial park are based on a minimum wage of $4.56 a day, even though under a Haitian law that took effect last October their minimum wage should be about $6.85 a day.