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Haiti: Lavalas Family propaganda and The Lancet

Charles Arthur | 04.09.2006 14:01 | Repression | Social Struggles | World

Results of a new survey have just been published in the prestigous magazine, The Lancet. The 'survey' claims that huge numbers of people were killed and sexually assaulted in Port-au-Prince in the 20 months following the collapse of the Aristide/Lavalas Family (FL) government. It further contends that the perpetrators of the abuses were the criminals, police, former soldiers and anti-FL gangsters, and that hardly any abuses were committed by pro-FL gangsters. Has pro-Lavalas Family propaganda struck again?

Re: 'Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households' by Athena R Kolbe, Royce A Hutson, published in the current issue of The Lancet, Volume 368, Number 9538, 02 September 2006.

Although perhaps closer examination will reveal exagerrated extrapolations of the results of the survey, it does confirm reports from civil society organisations in Haiti and from some parts of the Haitian media indicating that human rights violations and criminal violence in Port-au-Prince have significantly increased in number over recent years.

However I have some doubts about the credibility of the research with regard to the perpetrators of these acts. These doubts focus on the contention that very few of the human rights violations have been attributed to "Lavalas members or partisans" (by which I assume the authors mean members or partisans of the Lavalas Family party led by Jean-Bertrand Aristide).

The main reason why I doubt this finding is that it contradicts the information that I have received from independent human rights investigators working in some of the most violent areas of Port-au-Prince. There is no dispute that many of the violations have been committed by criminals without any apparent political affiliation, by members of the Haitian National Police, by former members of the FAD'H and by armed men affiliated to anti-Aristide, anti-Lavalas Family groups. But I am informed that local people also blame Lavalas Family/Jean-Bertrand Aristide supporters for committing serious acts of violence, including rape.

My concern is that the either the conduct or the interpretation of the research has been skewed or biased in some way in order to exonerate Lavalas Family/Aristide supporters from accusations of invovlement in human rights violations. This concern is heightened on discovering that there is good reason to believe that the coordinator of the research, and one of the two authors of the Lancet article, Athena Kolbe, is in fact a pro-Lavalas Family journalist who uses the name, Lyn Duff.

To reiterate, I have reason to believe that Athena Kolbe and Lyn Duff are one and the same person.

1) At the end of the article "We Won't Be Peaceful and Let Them Kill Us Any Longer" - Interview with Haitian Activist Rosean Baptiste, interviewed by Lyn Duff, 4 November 2005, San Francisco Bay View, there is an email link to the author:

Email Lyn at

2) In a newsletter posted by the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit, 4605 Cass Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201, dated October 16 2005, one can read the following passage:

Meet Athena Kolbe
Journalist and Activist
Athena Kolbe, 29, has attended 1st UU for a little over a year now and her enthusiasm for Unitarianism and Judaism (both part of her religious upbringing) has spurred some exciting happenings. The sukkah in McCollester Hall was built on First Friday under her tutelage, and she led last spring’s Passover Seder with her parents, who are active in the Worcester, MA UU Church. She is also one of the planners for the October 23rd Soulful Sundown service and is starting a UU student group at Wayne State. Currently working on her MSW in preparation for a doctorate, Athena already has a MDiv and an MA in theology and Adult RE from San Francisco’s Golden Gate School of Theology, as well as a BA in International Relations and Labor Law. Since 1995, she has lived and worked extensively in Haiti as a Pacifica radio correspondent and has also lived in Israel. Athena loves the cultural and religious diversity at 1st UU but wants to see the “under 40 crowd” and persons with nontraditional styles more enthusiastically welcomed into the church community. She has many worthy ideas to share and she’s fun to talk to. End quote

Then there are the following bits of information to be found at

In 1995, Duff traveled to Haiti where she established Radyo Timoun ("Children's Radio"), that country's first radio station run entirely by children under the age of 17. She reportedly worked closely with Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide. End quote

By the late 1990's, Duff was a well-established international journalist with postings in Haiti, Israel, Croatia, several African countries, and Vietnam.
End quote

I February 2004, Duff, who was then living six months out of every year in Jerusalem, was home in the United States on a brief visit when a group of ex-soldiers overthrew the democratically elected government headed by President Jean Bertrand Aristide. She quickly traveled to Haiti, arriving in Port-au-Prince when the coup was only days old and reporting on the situation extensively for several national media outlets.

Since that time, Duff has regularly covered the situation in Haiti for the San Francisco Bay View, Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints, and Pacific News Service. Her reporting is a blend of in-depth investigative reports and "as told to" first person commentaries by Haitian nationals. Subjects have included politically motivated mass rape, the United Nations mission in Haiti, killings by American Marines in Port-au-Prince, civilians taking over the neighborhood of Bel Air, murders of street children by police and ex-soldiers , presidential/legislative elections, and the general human rights situation.

She currently splits her time between Detroit, Michigan, and a home in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
End quote

Put this all together and there is pretty strong proof that the Lancet survey was coordinated by Lyn Duff (known here as Athena Kolbe)

Acording to Lyn Duff's article, 'Jean Bertrand Aristide: Humanist or Despot?' published by Pacific News Service on 2 March 2004:
In 1995 when, I was 19 years old, I traveled to Haiti to help set up Radyo Timoun, a radio station run by street children in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Over three and a half years I worked and often lived with the children of Lafanmi Selavi, a shelter for some of the nation's quarter of a million homeless children. It was there that I came to know Jean Bertrand Aristide, not just as the president of the poorest country in the western hemisphere, but also as a father, teacher, a friend, and a surrogate dad for hundreds of parentless street kids. The Jean Bertrand Aristide I know is markedly different from the one that is being portrayed in the media.
End quote

Lyn Duff is described as "a friend of Aristide" in Justin Felux's article, 'Debunking the Media's Lies about President Aristide', published by on 14 March 2004.

Recently, Lyn Duff has written a number of reports on the issue of rape in Haiti. On 3 March 2005, The Black Commentator published Duff's article, 'Political Rape Rampant in Haiti', reporting on the rape of the 14-year old girl, Majory. Duff wrote,
Marjory is part of a growing number of girls and young women who human rights investigators say have been victims of mass rape committed by members of the disbanded military and their compatriots who patrol the countryside and Haiti’s cities, hunting down supporters of Haiti’s pro-democracy movement.
End quote

On 23 December 2005, the San Francisco Bay View published Duff's article, "Police use rape to terrorize women and girls in Haiti", in which she wrote;
Since the Feb. 29, 2004, coup overthrowing the democratic government of Jean Bertrand Aristide, reports have surfaced of a growing problem: politically motivated mass rape. Women in the popular neighborhoods – which are known for their support of Aristide and the democratic movement – have accused members of the police force and U.N. soldiers, as well as members of the demobilized Haitian army, of targeting them for sexual attacks.
End quote

How can Kolbe/Duff's research into the issue of human rights violations and the perpetrators be regarded as objective when she herself states that for three and half years she worked with Aristide's Lafanmi Selavi centre for street children where she befriended Aristide himself and presumably some of the boys who later left the centre and who, according to some sources, then acted as armed enforcers for the Lavalas Family party in certain parts of the capital?

How can the findings be regarded as objective when Kolbe/Duff plainly states her sympathies for what she describes as "Haiti's pro-democracy movement - her loaded short-hand for Aristide supporters - and already states her opinion about the political affiliations of the victims and the perpetrators of rape and sexual assaults before the research is finished?

Above all else, how can the survey be regarded as objective if the main person coordinating the survey hides her very pronounced political sympathies by using a different name?

There is a concerted international campaign to distort news and manipulate information about Haiti with the apparent aim of repairing the reputation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and of winning support for his Lavalas Family party. The publication of this article in The Lancet has already attracted a lot of media coverage, and some of that coverage reports the non-involvement of Lavalas Family party supporters in human rights violations in Port-au-Prince. For example:

Democracy Now, 31 August, 2006:
A shocking new report published in the British medical journal The Lancet has found widespread and systematic human rights abuses in Haiti following the ouster of democratically-elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.(...) Those responsible for the human rights abuses include criminals, the police, United Nations peacekeepers and anti-Lavalas gangs.
End quote

The Independent, 4 September 2006:
More than 30,000 women and girls - half under the age of 18 - were raped in Haiti's capital city in the chaotic two years following the ousting of the country's democratically elected president, a survey has suggested. About 8,000 people were killed during the same period.(...)The survey does not identify Lavalas supporters as being involved in any rapes or killings...
End quote

The Lancet article was published at the very moment when rape victims were marching in Port-au-Prince to draw attention to the issue, and specifically to the fact that no political party had said anything to condemn the attacks. Coincidence? I don't know, but clearly the publication of the article shifts attention away from any accusations of Lavalas Family party members' or supporters' involvement and/or criticism of the lack of condemnation of crimes that are still going on to this day, and instead puts the focus on the interim government of 2004-6, on anti-Lavalas Family entities and on the UN forces in Haiti.

I am concerned that The Lancet has unwittingly been used as part of the pro-Aristide propaganda campaign.

Charles Arthur

Charles Arthur
- e-mail:


Hide the following 19 comments

US propoganda .

04.09.2006 15:42

i am concerned that charles arthur is deliberately part of a pro-US/french imperialist propoganda campaign.

it is shameful that indymedia UK has publishes this shite.

porto prince

porto prince - help us out

04.09.2006 17:42

Hi Porto Prince,

Indymedia is an open publishing site - so people can post their news how they want. Our team of admins works around the clock to keep the crap out of the wire (sometimes we do an alright job, other times we mess up).

As far as I know, none of us have any expertise in the political situation in Haiti. It is clear that the removal of the Aristide government by US and Canadian troops was an act of imperial aggression, but I am not familiar enough with the Haitian situation to judge the articles of Charles Arthur.

So, to Porto Prince: if you have specific concerns about articles relating to Haiti, you can email the site administrators - We have recently gone through an episode with the biotech newswire, where some guy was posting a series of stories that contained his own brand of make-believe science, and other biotech campaigners were concerned that all of the inaccuracies in his articles were seriously discrediting the work of the broader anti-biotech movement. Once we were able to confirm a pattern of inaccuracies, we hid all of the posts from the newswire. This wouldn't have happened if someone hadn't emailed us to let us know what was going on, and it wouldn't have happened if we didn't know people in the biotech movement that we could ask to confirm things (we weren't just going to take one person's word for it).

Basically, if site readers are unhappy about the quality levels in the newswire (and I am, for sure, a lot of the time, although I think it's been better recently), then please try to help us out on specific subjects, or get involved in newswire admin yourself - the easiest way to start is to email the imc-uk-features list if you spot something you think is untrue.

IMC person

Aristide, his 'removal' and sifting through the propaganda

05.09.2006 07:30

Hi IMC person

You write about the "removal of the Aristide government by US and Canadian troops". Are you referring to Aristide's body-guards from the private security firm, based in San Francisco, called the Steele Foundation? It is made up of former US special forces soldiers, intelligence officers and other security experts. The company was on a State Department-approved contract with the Haitian government since 1998. (information from the US Democracy Now radio programme) According to all reports that I have read, including interviews with Aristide himself, it was the Steele Foundation guards who 'escorted' Aristide to the airport and went with him on the plane to the Central African Republic. According to government officials in Haiti and Washington, Aristide was paying between US$6 million and US$9 million annually for 60 or so bodyguards provided by the Steele Foundation (source: The Miami Herald)


Charles Arthur
mail e-mail:

questions for arthur

05.09.2006 09:38

I can hypothetically believe Aristide hired private security guards, and they turned against him-probably offered more cash by the US to do so. But showing the evidence of this would also help others verify such claims.

My concern is that this article is an attempt to justify the military coup, that toppled a democratically elected president, and led to the deaths and rapes of thousands of people. Do Haitians not have the right to determine how and when they overthrow their government and not the US imperialists. Did not the UN collude with the coup, in order to put a stop to Aristide's socialist programme? The replacement regime can hardly be seen as an improvement, other than for US corporate interests.

The crimes recorded in the Lancet study are horific, but even if Aristide supporters where also involved, how many such crimes occured before the coup? Isn'y the point that the violence has increased as a result of the coup, rather than who committed the crimes.

Arthur has some axe to grind against Aristide and Kolbe, and just as he claims Kolbe is biased, he obviously is himself. Kolbe was part of an academic research team, and was not working alone (unlike arthur). Kolbe was peer reviewed by one of the most respected scientific journals in the world (unlike arthur).

If there is a question of conflict of interest, this should be adressed first to the Lancet. What do they say about these allegations? I'm sure they have policies about writers declaring personal interests.

If Kolbe has not declared to the Lancet that she is also Lynn Duff (if that is the case) then there may be an issue, but otherwise this is simply a personal attack, on the work of a dedicated and engaged journalist, for questionable political reasons.


Reply to reviewer's questions

06.09.2006 13:37

I condemn the Haitian elite and conservative political parties and their allies in the US, France and Canada for bringing a permature end to the Lavalas Family government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. I condemn the armed insurrection against that government by former soliders and police coming from the neighbouring Dominican Republic. The Aristide government should have been brought down by the moblisation of progressive forces. Unfortunately the poor majority had become so demoralised by the constant betrayals and deceptions by pseudo-leftist leaders, that they preferred in the main to look on rather than take action. The demoralisation of the poor majority was so great that all across the country, apart from the capital, the right wing was able to impose itself by deployment of small numbers of armed men. In the capital, the Lavalas Family had armed significant numbers of lumpen proletariat youth but the expected showdown between these armed men and those led by Guy Philippe never materilaised because Aristide left and the US troops moved in.

I also condemn the hopelessly reactionary interim government installed by the foreign powers and backed by the Haitian elite and conservative politicians.

I hope I make myself clear,

When you mention Aristide's socialist programme, I can only marvel at the success of the Lavalas Family supporters' propaganda campaign. Which socialist programme was this? By the time the Lavalas Family party was elected into power in 2000, Aristide was no socialist - if only. Had he and his government enacted any significant socialist polices, then that government would not have been allowed to fall - the Haitian masses would not have allowed it to happen. As it was, the Lavalas Family government applied the austerity measures demanded by the IMF and IDB, cut spending on education and public services, did nothing for the two-thirds of the population engaged in subsistence farming, set up a sweatshop FTZ on the border and had plans for others, attacked the most dynamic workers' organisation in the country, alienated middle class intellectuals and NGO activists, tried to strip the State University of its autonomy, condoned human rights abuses, allowed the police force to wither under the onslaught of gangsterism and corruption, etc. etc.

The Lavalas Family government failed to deliver anything but austerity and repression, chosing to establish its base not on the poor masses who voted for it but instead relying almost entirely on income from drug trafficking and the purchased loyalty of the armed lumpen youth.

The fact that many of the poor living in the Port-au-Prince shanty-towns can be mobilised around such bankrupt slogans as "Aristide is King" and "Our President must return" merely underlines the abject failure of the Latortue administration to make any improvement in their living conditions. Nostalgia is the last resort of desperate people.

Charles Arthur

Charles Arthur does not speak for slum dwellers in Port-au-Prince

07.09.2006 03:50

1. If Lyn Duff is in fact Athena Kolbe that does not mean she cannot take part in an impartial survey. Numerous other people took part in this survey and it was held up to the proper research standards. Are you saying someone who reports for Pacifica Radio and has helped Aristide's orphan children in Haiti cannot do a proper human rights report?

2. My belief is that, yes, FL people have taken part in human rights violations but these abuses have been drastically less than the violence committed by interim police and anti-Lavalas gangs. The violence you could associate with FL aligned gangs would primarily be against the armed un/police forces entering poor communities. The violence from the poor as been primarily in reaction to the violence against them. This is a fact and something charles arthur will always ignore. You can also show some examples of kidnappings and killings but these are very few compared with the killings by authorities and anti-Lavalas forces. Also in no way can you argue that these horrible murders have been sanctioned by Lavalas. No state sanctioned campaign of violence took place. Unlike the latortue and cedras governments.

It is my belief that the killings carried out by people that somehow can be associated with FL (or alleged associates) have had large coverage in the press because human rights groups and journalists in Haiti essentially work closely with elites, French speaking, and educated people. These people cannot judge what is going on daily in the slums. Everyone has only two eyes-they have a distinct perspective. If you live in one area and assocaite with certain people you cannot see what is going on in the rest of the communities. The poor kreyol speaking slums are an world to themselves.

What I find is that Haiti has two worlds. The world of the French speaking middle-upper class educated people with close connections with UN and foreign funded organizations and even so called "solidarity" groups like Charles Arthur’s organizations. This is even the world that academics writing on Haiti look to. And then you have the other world in which the vast majority of Haitians live in poor slums. These people have nothing. This is the base of Lavalas. They have no educated academics to speak for them. They are not spouting ideology or speaking to journalists in various languages. And compared to the violence leveled against them they have acted out in violence rarely.

Aristide made two mistakes- to allow some dangerous opportunists like Danny Toussaint to remain in his party and to allow for the opposition to take so much power and overpower the elected government. In any other country this would be illegal to poor all that foreign money and training into an opposition. Aristide was too kind and unsuspectful. He was too trusting.

I believe the Lancet report sheds important light on the human rights story, which has gone untold.
I think for people like Charles Arthur it is basically in their best interest to discredit the survey because it shows the truth. It shows the truth that websites like Haitisupportgroup have constantly ignored.
Today groups that Haiti Support groups works with such as PAPDA, BATAY OUVRIYE, and MPP are closely aligned with foreign governments that backed the coup. This is the voice of an elite left that is totally disconnected from the reality of poor Haitians.
The poor Haitians who had for the first time literacy programs and medical help under Preval and Arisitde.

"Wherever they stand on the political spectrum, most 'well-educated'
critics of Aristide and Lavalas share similar values and priorities,
and suffer from similar limitations. Their lack of any popular
appeal, their reluctance to work in the neighbourhoods where most
people live, their contempt for what they call 'populism,' deprives
them of any significant political strength. The left-leaning critics
of Aristide and Lavalas who work for media-friendly groups like PAPDA
or Batay Ouvriye are now regularly cited as 'alternative' voices in
the international press, but when they hold a sit-in or demonstration
in Haiti's capital, perhaps fifty to a hundred people are likely to
attend. " -Peter Hallward

read hallward's full article at

Hallward's writing shows how the supposed "left" and academics the media friendly chalres arthur types are actually a tiny group in Haiti. The poor people do not connect with them. So how can you expect charles arthur and these people to actually know what is going on in the slums? Yes he can write books and sell them on amazon but this does not mean he speaks for haitians. I believe his attack on this human rights report is a new low point, exposing his anti-poor sentiments.



07.09.2006 03:55

I can only marvel at the sucess of Charles Arthur's lying in regards to Aristides government.
If you go to Port-au-prince you will see school after blood school built by aristide/preval governments.
you will see a giant medical university. this is the story he does not tell.
we saw hundreds of literacy volunteer programs and soup kitchens. this was lavalas in power.

Also I can only marvel at Arthur's lying about the IMF, IDB, and FTZ>

He writes
"When you mention Aristide's socialist programme, I can only marvel at the success of the Lavalas Family supporters' propaganda campaign. Which socialist programme was this? By the time the Lavalas Family party was elected into power in 2000, Aristide was no socialist - if only. Had he and his government enacted any significant socialist polices, then that government would not have been allowed to fall - the Haitian masses would not have allowed it to happen. As it was, the Lavalas Family government applied the austerity measures demanded by the IMF and IDB, cut spending on education and public services, did nothing for the two-thirds of the population engaged in subsistence farming, set up a sweatshop FTZ on the border and had plans for others, attacked the most dynamic workers' organisation in the country, alienated middle class intellectuals and NGO activists, tried to strip the State University of its autonomy, condoned human rights abuses, allowed the police force to wither under the onslaught of gangsterism and corruption, etc. etc. "

In fact the IDB and IMF hated aristide. that is why they desatbilzed him. Arisitde refused to privatize. paul farmer said it created a medical crisis by the aid cutt off leveled against aristide. the FTZ was the only way for the Aristide government to free up the aid and he knows this.

Please read dan beeton's excellent article on the bank attack on aristide:

What the World Bank and IDB Owe Haiti

By Dan Beeton*

Global Policy Forum
*Opinion Forum
July 24, 2006
For several years Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has been left out of the World Bank’s “Heavily Indebted Poor Country” (HIPC) debt relief initiative. At last, Haiti may soon see some of its IMF and World Bank debt cancelled. [1] (Haiti also has $550 million in Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) debt – 13% of its GDP - and this too is expected to be cancelled).

U.S. Representative Maxine Waters hopes to fast track Haiti’s debt relief process with legislation she recently introduced that would instruct the U.S. Treasury to push for full cancellation of Haiti’s debt without conditions at the Multilateral Development Banks. The Bush Administration and some Latin American countries (including Chile as well as debtors like Bolivia) have encouraged the IDB to be part of debt relief efforts and IDB members have formed an ad-hoc committee to negotiate the terms of canceling debt for HIPC countries. [2] Cancellation of the IDB debt is crucial to freeing up much-needed funds for health needs and basic social services, and the IDB debt represents 41.2 per cent of Haiti’s total external public debt. [3]

Following President Rene Preval’s May 14 inauguration, the World Bank and the IDB are preparing to quickly reengage with Haiti. There is no doubt that Haiti desperately needs an influx of capital – with some 65% of the population below the poverty line, infant mortality rates at 7.4%, and public health crises raging. [4] Funds from the multilateral development banks could serve a crucial need. But who will guarantee that new loans from the banks will actually serve Haiti’s poor without perpetuating its debt crisis? Can Haiti receive debt relief without having to undertake new policy conditions that would hinder its economic recovery? An examination of these Multilateral Development Banks’ relationship with Haiti over the past several years shows why the IDB and World Bank’s activities in Haiti will require considerable scrutiny and ongoing pressure to ensure that the needs of the Haitian people come first, and that economic growth and development are top priorities. [5]

Haiti is one of four countries that may qualify as HIPC’s by the end of 2006 “under the HIPC ‘sunset clause’,” and which could also qualify for debt cancellation when it reaches its HIPC completion point in the future. [6] Despite its dire poverty, its grave HIV/AIDS epidemic (5% of the population), and attendant problems, Haiti was excluded from HIPC for years under the Lavalas party-led governments of Aristide and Rene Preval based on the argument that the country would be able to bring its debt down to a “sustainable level” through “other sources of debt relief.” [7] (The World Bank also cited Haiti’s need to “show a commitment to reducing poverty” as another reason). Bank officials now hope that Haiti will complete a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP)[8] that could require the country to undergo more painful economic conditions. As part of the process, some World Bank board members want to open the participatory process to “a wide range of civil society groups and political actors, especially those with ties to the military and the rural population.”[9] [emphasis added]

Preval’s predecessor, democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown in a violent military coup in February 2004 in which the U.S. military physically flew him out of Haiti. Both the 2004 coup and the International Financial Institutions’ (IFI’s) new plans for Haiti are the culmination of several years of severe economic pressure from Washington.

While Aristide was in exile after being overthrown for the first time in a 1991 coup, the U.S. exerted strong pressure on him to implement a structural adjustment plan prior to returning him to power in 1994. Yet the World Bank notes that from 1994-1997 it continued to butt heads with both the Aristide and the subsequent Preval Administrations, who found that some of the Bank’s projects were “never accepted by the government…seen as too hasty a push for structural adjustment and privatization.” [10] Among other components of its plan for Haiti, the Bank “recommended privatizing key infrastructure and entrusting the delivery of education, health, family planning, and water supply and sanitation to NGOs.” [11] Yet the Bank noted “privatization had already proved to be contentious in Haiti. …Clashes over [privatization and downsizing] were very visible.” [12]

After failing to get their way, the International Financial Institutions began to disengage from Haiti beginning in 1997. This disengagement then became an outright development assistance embargo imposed on the Haitian government after Aristide returned to the presidency in 2001.[13]

The IDB had approved loans between 1996 and 1998 for critical social needs: health, education, potable water, and education, including a loan for “Reorganization of the National Health System.”[14] But approval of the loans depended on the outcome of new elections and subsequent parliamentary approval, and the government had trouble organizing new legislative elections until May 21, 2000, when Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas swept to victory. [15]

The U.S. and the IFI’s used these elections as a justification for blocking disbursement of any new aid money. Although the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Organization of American States (OAS)-led observer mission gave an initial stamp of approval to the elections, a challenge to the elections’ credibility soon emerged - from the “Democratic Convergence” – an opposition group funded by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (in turn funded by the US Congress) that would later support the 2004 coup. [16]

The challenge to the elections’ legitimacy then crept into the OAS’ subsequent position. After initially stating that voting irregularities were limited to technical errors that had affected neither the vote tally nor the outcome, the OAS subsequently changed its assessments. In the end, under pressure, the OAS reversed course and contended that the election tally had been manipulated--and that as a consequence at least seven candidates from Aristide's Lavalas Family party were able to avoid runoff elections. [17]

When Haiti’s 47th legislature was sworn in at the end of August 2000 and quickly thereafter voted to ratify the four IDB loan agreements, the IDB did nothing to release the funds. Between January and March 2001, the World Bank also “suspended” most grants to Haiti and “all IDA [International Development Association, an arm of the World Bank] disbursements.”

In the case of the IDB, there is overwhelming evidence of U.S. involvement. An April 6, 2001 letter from Lawrence Harrington, the U.S. Representative to the IDB at the time, to IDB President Iglesias, confirms this, referring to the approved loans and stating, “we do not believe that these loans can or should be treated in a routine manner and strongly urge you to not authorize any disbursements at this time.” [18] As journalist Tracy Kidder noted in The Nation, “This was unusual. No [IDB] member nation is supposed to be able to stop the disbursement of loans that are already approved.” [19] Indeed, it was in direct violation of the IDB’s charter. Article VIII, Section 5(d) states: “The President, officers, and staff owe their duty entirely to the Bank and shall recognize no other authority. Each member of the Bank shall respect the international character of his duty.” [20] Kidder notes, “The Haitian government also lost access to loans it could have received from the IDB over the next several years, worth another $ 470 million.” The Haitian Government then stopped making payments to the IDB after April 2001 when the Bank did not release the funds. [21]

The IDB was acutely aware of the devastating impact that the withholding of assistance was having on the country, as it noted in a 2001 report: “the major factor behind economic stagnation is the withholding of both foreign grants and loans, associated with the international community’s response to the critical political impasse. These funds are estimated at over $500m.” [22] The IDB also underscored the danger to the projects if their implementation was delayed: “long delays in project start-up may have a negative impact.” [23]

Nonetheless, the IDB continued to withhold the funds, and, according to Paul Farmer, even began to demand that Haiti begin making payments on the undisbursed loans, to the tune of $5 million in arrears plus a 0.5% “credit commission” on the entire balance of undisbursed funds, effective 12 months after the date the loans were approved. [24] A spokesperson for the IDB claimed, “We generally have waived those fees [for countries borrowing on concessional terms].” But the spokesperson also suggested it would not have been unusual, even under such circumstances, for the IDB to charge Haiti the commitment fees.

No matter what steps Aristide took to resolve the controversy, it was not good enough for Washington. On June 2, 2001 the Associated Press reported, “Aristide promised that the seven senators whose elections were disputed by the OAS would resign and new elections would be held for those seats before the end of the year. The senators resigned Monday. …Aristide also agreed to cut short the terms of all members of the House of Assembly and of a third of the Senate, with elections in November 2002. Another third of Senate seats would go up for early election in November 2004.” [25]

Yet in February 2002, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell was quoted in The New York Times saying the United States would continue to oppose loans from the IDB: “We are terribly concerned about the political unrest that continues to haunt Haiti. We are concerned about some of the actions of the government, and we do not believe enough has been done yet to move the political process forward. …We believe we have to hold President Aristide and the Haitian government to fairly high standards of performance before we can simply allow funds to flow into the country,” he added. [26] Although the article went on to note that, “Earlier this week, Mr. Aristide offered to hold new elections in November for seven disputed Senate seats,” the World Bank nonetheless echoed Powell’s sentiments in a report that same month, citing unmet “conditions” as a pretext for the ongoing withholding of assistance. [27]

Despite the fact that seven of the disputed Senators had already resigned, and despite Aristide’s willingness to hold new elections for the contested seats, the article notes that not only the U.S. but also the E.U. would continue to cut off aid promised to Haiti, the E.U. “offering $350 million in aid over the next five years if the political situation is resolved.” [28] In October 2002, the IDB reiterated its demands that Haiti must make payments on the loans that had yet to be disbursed. [29]

The Aristide Administration took other steps in attempts to see the aid money released. In 2003, the government agreed to meet the IMF requirements for the Staff Monitored Program - including, despite the devastating impact it would have on the populace - lifting its petrol subsidy. Then, seeing that no IDB funds would be forthcoming as long as the Bank demanded the arrears payments, Aristide’s government nearly emptied their national reserves to pay $32 million in arrears in mid 2003. [30] After these payments, the IDB finally relented, reactivating the loans in July 2003 and releasing $35 million of an investment sector loan (which left the Haitian government with a net gain of only $3 million). The old social sector loans remained undisbursed, however. [31] By then, time was quickly running out for the Aristide government.

Coup d’etat
In December 2003, “civil unrest” intensified, including raids across the Dominican border by former Haitian army soldiers and former members of the death squads that had terrorized Aristide supporters during the dictatorship of the early ’90s. Jeffrey Sachs, former advisor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, wrote, “U.S. officials surely knew that the aid embargo would mean a balance-of-payments crisis, a rise in inflation and a collapse of living standards, all of which fed the rebellion.” [32] The Washington Post noted some of the motivating factors behind the violent opposition: Aristide’s “populist agenda of higher minimum wages, school construction, literacy programs, higher taxes on the rich and other policies that have angered an opposition movement run largely by a mulatto elite that has traditionally controlled Haiti’s economy.” [33]

On February 29, 2004, after months of bloodshed, Aristide was flown out of the country in a U.S. plane and taken to the Central African Republic – an event that he has famously described as a “kidnapping” in the service of a coup d’etat. [34] The next day Andrea Mitchell reported on NBC Nightly News that, “With Aristide gone, Haiti can now qualify for millions of dollars in aid, frozen since 1997 because of Haiti's political chaos.” [35]

Mitchell may have stated something bluntly that U.S. Government, World Bank, and IDB officials preferred to imply in more subtle terms: the problem always was Aristide and Lavalas – their policies, and the lenders’ refusal to work with them anymore.

Meanwhile, the bloody rampage and coup of early 2004 finished the job of destroying Haiti’s economy that the IFI’s had begun, as the IDA described in July 2004. “While many businesses have not yet restarted operations, it is becoming clear that many others will not recover at all, resulting in the loss of direct and indirect jobs. The government’s financial position further deteriorated as revenues declined substantially due to the fall in economic activity, weakened administrative capacity and security concerns.” [36]

In March 2004 the coup was completed with the installation of a “transitional government.” The World Bank wasted no time in chairing a donors meeting in Washington where it was agreed, in consultation with the “Transitional Government” to launch a joint government and donors’ assessment of what sort of assistance the new regime would need from the IFI’s. [37]

Even if the OAS’s electoral fraud allegations against Aristide had been true, as Jeffrey Sachs has said, “it would be nothing different from what has occurred in dozens of countries around the world receiving support from the IMF, World Bank, and the U.S. itself. By any standard, Haiti’s elections had marked a step forward in democracy, compared to the decades of military dictatorships that America had backed, not to mention long periods of direct U.S. military occupation.” [38]

The greater blow to Haitian democracy came not from any election irregularities, but from Washington. At the same time that the IFI's and Washington were telling the Haitian government that no money would reach the government until an agreement was reached with the Democratic Convergence, the International Republican Institute -a Congressionally funded group that acts as a foreign policy arm of the U.S. Republican party and which spearheaded efforts to oust Aristide - was giving the opposition a different message. According to former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Dean Curran and others, the IRI told the Democratic Convergence that they did not need to negotiate with the government -- as a way to undermine Aristide. [39] Since the Haitian government could not survive without foreign aid, U.S. Government and IFI policy assured the downfall of Haiti's democratically elected government.

In effect, the IFI’s and the U.S. played “good cop” to the rampaging militias’ “bad cop” during a period of negotiations between the Aristide government and the political opposition when the militias stormed across Northern Haiti en route to Port-au-Prince. According to Sachs, “by saying that aid would be frozen until Aristide and the political opposition reached an agreement, the Bush administration provided Haiti’s un-elected opposition with an open-ended veto.” [40] The opposition had no incentive to negotiate; they had all the aces.

After the troublesome Aristide had been forced out, the U.S. was more than willing to “simply allow funds to flow into the country,” as Colin Powell characterized it, to the tune of $150 million from the World Bank over the next two years. [41] With bureaucrat Gerard Latortue overseeing the interim government in Port-au-Prince, the IFI’s seemed confident that their economic plan might at last be implemented in full; the World Bank planning to support “economic governance reforms” in coordination with the IMF and the IDB. [42] The World Bank’s Country Director for the Caribbean, Caroline Anstey, noted as the first post-coup international donors’ conference convened that “the interim government is made up of technocrats who have agreed not to run in the next presidential election. As a result, they are much freer to embrace a reform agenda.” [43]

Noting that “reform” of “public enterprise management” is another priority for the IFI’s, one is led to suspect that a renewed privatization plan may not be far off – despite the World Bank’s own recognition of the Haitian people’s resistance to it. [44] The Bank also notes the “increased role of the private sector in social service delivery, particularly in education.” [45]

Meanwhile, the World Bank actively pushed for Haiti to pay its arrears (some $52 million) to open the way for its reengagement. This was something Latortue was all too willing to do this, despite the many dire needs facing the poorest country in the hemisphere.

Given this recent history, international attention is needed to ensure that the IDB and World Bank – and the U.S. Government, which has effective control over these institutions – finally permit Haiti’s economic development on its own terms, respecting its national sovereignty as it formulates plans for economic recovery. Cancellation of Haiti’s debt to the banks will be an important first step for freeing up desperately needed funds that have been denied the Haitian people for far too long. But such debt-cancellation should be unconditional, free from any HIPC or other policy conditions.

Even since just a few years ago, when Aristide fought to have the IDB loans disbursed, the globalization playing field has changed dramatically. The IMF has largely lost its influence after its policy prescriptions led Argentina to economic collapse. When Argentina stood up to the IMF and actually defaulted temporarily on its loans to the IMF itself, the confrontation ended up severely eroding the Fund’s power over middle-income countries. Instead of suffering terribly at the hands of foreign investors, as many outside observers warned would happen, the Kirchner government led Argentina to a successful recovery that has seen the economy grow at about over 9% annually for the last three years. In March of this year, the newly elected government of Evo Morales in Bolivia told the IMF it did not want a new IMF program, after 20 years of operating under IMF agreements. [46] The Fund’s power diminished, Bolivia - the poorest country in South America - was able to stand up to it with no repercussions.

Countries like Argentina and Bolivia—and also heavyweights like Brazil and Indonesia--have turned away from the IMF for good reason: its policies have largely failed most places they have been implemented. [47] In Latin America, this economic failure has been drastic. Compared to the twenty years from 1960 to 1980 when Latin America’s economies grew by 82% in per capita GDP, the region has grown by only 14% since 1980. [48] Haiti experienced the worst economic failure in the region over this period. Whereas Haiti saw positive per capita GDP growth of 24% from 1960 -1980, GDP per person actually shrank 48% from 1980 - 2005. [49] An economic disaster of this magnitude is difficult to conceive of in most countries, and it underscores the extent to which Haiti desperately needs to implement pro-growth policies that will put people to work and allow them to provide for their families. It also underscores why funds are urgently needed to repair Haiti’s crippled infrastructure, revive its health care and education systems, and ensure its population access to sanitary living conditions and potable water - in short, the needs that the stalled IDB loans were intended to address prior to the 2004 coup.

The IMF visited Haiti in mid-June in a delegation. Among its recommendations after meeting with President Preval and other officials was for the government to spend more on social programs. The international community should hold the IMF to its words. Reducing poverty and addressing other urgent social needs should be the Preval Administration’s first priority and no outside government or institution should be allowed to impede its progress.

About the author: Dan Beeton is International Policy Analyst for the Center for Economic and Policy Research,

1. Other countries in the Americas, including Bolivia, Guyana, Honduras and Nicaragua, are also HIPC-eligible.

2. See for example, “A Prosperous Third Border,” speech given by the Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs, E. Anthony Wayne, to the Caribbean Central American Action's 29th Annual Miami Conference, December 7, 2005. Available via the Internet:; The White House, “Joint Statement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Chile.” June 8, 2006. Available at

3. Data from Inter-American Development Bank, World Economic Outlook, and Haitian Central Bank. Author’s calculations.

4. World Bank data.

5. For another overview of Haiti’s overall debt situation, including the odious nature of debt accumulated by the Duvalier dictatorships, see Mark Schuller, “Break the Chains of Haiti’s Debt.” Jubilee USA Network, May 20, 2006. Found at

6. International Development Association, “The Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative: Implementation Modalities for IDA.” November 18, 2005

7. World Bank, “Haiti and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Relief Initiative,” World Bank website, posted November 2000,

8. The PRSP is required for a loan from the IMF/WB’s “Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility,” which replaced the IMF’s Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility as the long-term lending program for poor countries under the HIPC initiative.

9. World Bank and International Development Association, “Summary of Discussion at the Meeting of the Executive Directors of the Bank and IDA, January 6, 2005,” February 3, 2005

10. World Bank, Operations Evaluation Department, “Haiti Country Assistance Evaluation,” (World Bank, OED, 1998) February 12, 2002, Report No. 23637

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Paul Farmer also describes the history of the embargo in detail in Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2003. pp. 85-90.

14. Inter-American Development Bank, “Approved Projects – Haiti,” IDB website,

15. Paul Farmer, “Haiti: Short and Bitter Lives,” Le Monde diplomatique, July 2003,

16. Miles, Melinda, “Elections and 2004,” Haiti Reborn website, August 2003 See also Tracy Kidder , “The trials of Haiti: why has the US government abandoned a country it once sought to liberate?,” The Nation, No. 13, Vol. 277; Pg. 26, October 27, 2003

17. Faul, Michelle, “OAS Approves Haiti Crisis Proposal,” Associated Press, June 6 2001

18. Letter found at:

19. Tracy Kidder , “The trials of Haiti: why has the US government abandoned a country it once sought to liberate?”

20. Found at Additionally, Article VIII; Section 5(f) states: “The Bank, its officers and employees shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member, nor shall they be influenced in their decisions by the political character of the member or members concerned. Only economic considerations shall be relevant to their decisions, and these considerations shall be weighed impartially in order to achieve the purpose and functions stated in Article I.”

21. Taken from Haiti Reborn Website,

22. Roberto Machado and D Robert, “Haiti: situation économique et perspectives”, Inter-American Development Bank, economic evaluation of the country, 2001. Cited by Paul Farmer in “Haiti: Short and Bitter Lives,” Published by Le Monde diplomatique in July 2003.

23. Found at

24. Paul Farmer, “Haiti: Short and Bitter Lives.”

25. Michelle Faul, “OAS Approves Haiti Crisis Proposal,” Associated Press, June 6 2001

26. Christopher Marquis , “Citing Strife, U.S. Delays Two Loans To Haitians,” New York Times, February 8, 2002

27. World Bank, "Haiti: Country Assistance Evaluation," February 12, 2002

28. Christopher Marquis, “Citing Strife, U.S. Delays Two Loans To Haitians,”

29. Daniel Erickson, “Haiti: Challenges in Development Assistance,” InterAmerican Dialogue, October 2002,

30. U.S. State Department, “Haiti and the International Financial Institutions” Press Release. December 29, 2003

31. Michael Norton, “Haitian Parliament ratifies Inter-American Development Bank loans.” Associated Press, December 4, 2003

32. Jeffrey Sachs , “From His First Day in Office, Bush Was Ousting Aristide,” Los Angeles Times, March 4, 2004

33. Scott Wilson, “Armed Attacks Increase Pressure on Haitian Leader; Groups Extend Reach Into Provincial Areas,” Washington Post, November 18, 2003

34. Democracy Now, “President Aristide Says 'I Was Kidnapped' - 'Tell The World It Is A Coup'", March 1, 2004,

35. NBC Nightly News, “Haitian rebels celebrate departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide who claims he was forced out by US,” March 1, 2004.

36. International Development Association, “Haiti Briefing Note,” July 2, 2004

37. World Bank, “Haiti and the World Bank: Key Figures,” World Bank website,,,contentMDK:20227293~pagePK:141137~piPK:141127~theSitePK:338165,00.html

38. Jeffrey Sachs, “The Fire This Time in Haiti was US-Fueled” in Taipei Times, March 1, 2004

39. Walt Bogdanich and Jenny Nordberg, “Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos.” The New York Times. January 29, 2006

40. Ibid

41. International Development Association, “Haiti Briefing Note,” July 2, 2004

42. World Bank and International Development Association, “Summary of Discussion at the Meeting of the Executive Directors of the Bank and IDA, January 6, 2005,” February 3, 2005

43. World Bank, “Interview with Caroline Anstey, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean.” July 16, 2004. Found at,,contentMDK:20226183~menuPK:34457~pagePK:64003015~piPK:64003012~theSitePK:4607,00.html

44. International Development Association, “Haiti Briefing Note,” July 2, 2004

45. World Bank and International Development Association, “Summary of Discussion at the Meeting of the Executive Directors of the Bank and IDA, January 6, 2005,” February 3, 2005

46. Mike Dolan. “Bolivia seen likely to end IMF financing ties.” Reuters, March 07, 2006

47. See Mark Weisbrot, Dean Baker, and David Rosnick, “The Scorecard on Development: 25 Years of Diminished Progress” Center for Economic and Policy Research, September 2005

48. Angus Maddison and World Economic Outlook 4/06

49. Ibid

viv titid!

Lancet not new information, verfiable by other sources

07.09.2006 10:22

February 7, 2004 - unreported Lavalas demonstration for Aristide
February 7, 2004 - unreported Lavalas demonstration for Aristide

The Lancet Study is not new information. Our team has documented, since Feb. 29, 2004, the systematic campaign to eliminate Lavalas and resistance to the U.S.-installled gov't through violence. Any attempt to attack the credibility of any study that corroborates that reality on the basis that it is pro-Lavalas or somehow serves to whitewash history is ludicrous. Many of those in the NGO sector who claim to support the Haitian people, yet found themselves part of the campaign to justify Aristide's removal, are now forced to keep up appearances by obfuscating and cloaking this reality. Their main premise for finding themselves on the side of the U.S. State Dept. and USAID/CIDA-funded NGOs has always been that Aristide's removal was justified because he had lost the support of his people.

Charles uses this same tactic when he states "The Aristide government should have been brought down by the moblisation of progressive forces. Unfortunately the poor majority had become so demoralised by the constant betrayals and deceptions by pseudo-leftist leaders, that they preferred in the main to look on rather than take action." Our team documented one of the largest demonstrations in Haitian history on Feb. 7, 2004 where more than 100,000 people took to the streets of the capital demanding that Aristide be allowed to fulfill his five year term in office. This did not represent a "demoralised" poor majority but rather the courage of those who supported their right to choose their own gov't and had the courage to defend it given the dangers in the streets during that period. Another example of this can be found in coup apologist Michael Diebert's recent book. Look for any mention of that demonstration in his book and you won't find it because it didn't fit into his sanitised analysis of Aristide having lost the support of the Haitian people. Conveniently, it's as if it never happened- yet we have hours of video and photographs to prove that it did in fact occur a mere 22 days before the coup.

The same can be said for the reason behind the extreme repression of Lavalas demonstrations demanding Aristide's return following his ouster. The lie of the "international community", the NGO sector, "civil society" and the Latortue regime was exposed every time thousands took to the streets to protest the coup and demand the president's return. How could you honestly say Aristide, and by extension Lavalas, had lost the largest political base of support in Haiti when thousands would continue to risk their lives by taking to the streets calling for Aristide's return. Extreme repression was necessary to silence those large demonstrations because each time they occured they would expose the big lie that was the main premise for Aristide's ouster, namely, he had lost the support of the poor majority.

Unfortunately, it has become a well-worn tactic to label anyone who would dare to document the repression against Lavalas during this period as pro-Lavalas or too close to Aristide to tell the truth. It is a tactic that is used by the apologists for the coup of Feb. 29, 2004 running the spectrum from the Haiti Support Group to the Haiti Democracy Project and Michael Diebert. It has become almost as convenient as labeling those who resisted the coup early on in Haiti as merely "gangsters" and "chimeres" as a means of justifying their imprisonment and slaughter.

Haiti Information Project
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Listen to What the Haitian People Say

07.09.2006 23:01

There are many reasons to criticize the Lavalas governments, as there are to criticize any government, especially in a poor country that needs to make unsavory compromises with the world's existing power structures. In fact, Haiti's urban and rural poor, Lavalas' main constituency, made and still make bitter critiques of certain policy and personnel choices of the governments they elected.

But to confuse this kind of criticism with a desire to topple the government understimates the intelligence of Haiti's poor. They understood, and understand, that every government they elect will be under massive pressure from Haitian elites and the world's powerful governments and institutions, and that they will have to perpetually struggle to provide a counterweight to this pressure.

The Haitian people also understand, like few people in the world, the consequences of an overthrow of their imperfect government. The Lancet study's findings of massive, brutal repression may be new to some people, but not to poor Haitians. They, and independent human rights investigators like Harvard Law School, the National Lawyers Guild (US) and the Center for the Study of Human Rights, have been reporting the same information since the week after the coup. And it is the exact same pattern reported under the 1991-1994 de facto dictatorship following President Aristide's first ouster. The people knew what was coming in 2003 and 2004, as the attacks against their government mounted. They declined to join with Haiti's right wing and its self-described progressive elite in overthrowing democracy, not because they were tired, but because they knew that the bloodbath that The Lancet study documents would ensue, and that it was their blood that would be spilled, once again.

Well-fed northerners with good internet connections can argue all day and all night about the merits of Haiti's governments. But in the end, our opinions don't mean much compared to the opinions of Haiti's poor. And their voice is unequivocal: in every election in Haiti since 1990, the Lavalas candidates have won by a landslide, usually with levels of participation far above voting participation in places where voters don't have to walk miles to the polls or wait hours in the hot sun to vote. In 1990, President Aristide won 69% of the vote despite having 14 competitors. President Preval won over 80% in 1995 (albeit with a low turnout then). President Aristide won again in 2000, with 92% of the vote, with a turnout of over 55% (the US government, Haitian elites and their allies say the turnout was closer to 10%. But the only independent monitoring group for those elections found that the higher number was consistent with their observations. A Gallup poll commissioned by the US government before the vote predicted the landslide, and another one after the election confirmed both the result and the turnout. Both were classified). Preval won again in 2006, with just over 50% of the vote in a 33 candidate race.

Fact Check

On the Globe and Mail's High Standards

09.09.2006 05:08

The Dominion
media analysis

September 08, 2006
On the Globe and Mail's High Standards, The Lancet, Haiti and the manufacture of controversy

by Dru Oja Jay

On occasion, a study or report will appear that significantly embarrasses--or even shames--people in positions of power. In such cases, one can expect those who see themselves as being slighted to mobilize their resources to attack those whose findings caused them to suffer. The result is an open battle over who has the ability to state facts without becoming the centre of "controversy".

This is the case with UK-based medical journal The Lancet's recent study that suggests that after the US- and Canadian-backed overthrow of Haiti's government, an estimated 8 000 people were killed, and 35 000 women were sexually assaulted in Port-au-Prince. The study, which was peer-reviewed by four advisors, interviewed a random sample of residents of Haiti's capitol.

[A similar case involving Human Rights Watch and Lebanon was recently explored in an article by Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook.]

Because Canadian officials have repeatedly claimed that Canada's intervention was conducted in order to improve the human rights situation, and because Canada is responsible for training and vetting the police officers who are named as a significant source of political violence (along with UN soldiers), the report qualifies as embarassing.

At least two similarly high-profile human rights reports--from teams from the University of Miami and Harvard University--long ago reached very similar conclusions about the coup and the attendant increase in political violence. Despite their thorough documentation, the Canadian media almost entirely ignored both reports.

The Lancet report, perhaps in part due to the publication's high profile, proved harder to ignore. In its last weekend edition, the Montreal Gazette published a front-page story on the findings. The next day, a followup story reported that Canadian soldiers had made death threats during house raids and sexually threatened women while off-duty. The report attracted interest from CBC's The Current and As It Happens.

The response to the report, which emerged a few days later, has been characterized by its attempts to discredit the author by raising the standards by which such reports are judged to comical levels of purity.

The Globe and Mail broke from its long-standing de facto policy of not reporting on human rights reports that implicate Canadian operation in Haiti with a report by Marina Jimenez with the headline "Author of Lancet article on Haiti investigated: Writer critical of Canadian peacekeepers worked at orphanage founded by Aristide."

The report raises two concerns. First that nine years ago Athena Kolbe, one of the report's authors, worked for an orphanage started by Jean Bertrand Aristide. Second, that she once wrote articles under the name Lyn Duff. There, the substance ends.

Jimenez quotes a letter by Charles Arthur as claiming that the study could have been "skewed or biased in order to exonerate Fanmi Lavalas/Aristide supporters from accusation of involvement in human-rights violations." Jimenez and others do not mention that Arthur and his Haiti Support Group are affiliated with numerous organizations that receive funding directly from the Canadian government and Rights and Democracy.

The Guardian, a newspaper with a more progressive reputation than the Globe, also opted to avoid covering the story until the "investigation" became news. The sub-headline reads "Report appeared to clear Aristide camp of blame," and the story opens with "The Lancet medical journal is investigating complaints that it published a misleading account of violence in Haiti that appears to exonerate the supporters of [Aristide]."

Attentive readers, however, may be confused when they read the actual Lancet report and find the statements like the following: "Political groups on both sides of the spectrum were named as responsible for violent and criminal acts... Lavalas members and partisans of the Lavalas movement were also named as having committed such acts."

But the reason for a story's importance, such as it is, is always in the headlines: the author is being "investigated". It is only through close reading that one determines that the only source cited for the fact of the "investigation" is Kolbe herself and her editors at The Lancet. The patient reader of the Guardian will reach the fourteenth paragraph and discover Lancet publisher Richard Horton stating that "The Lancet is checking that all the correct procedures for the research were followed."

He adds: "It is not suggested that the Lancet report had misreported its findings or that Ms Kolbe had any other agenda than the welfare of ordinary Haitians at heart."

Investigation, indeed. "Checking" doesn't have quite the same ring to it. (Jimenez, in the end, only cites Kolbe herself to establish the fact of an "investigation"; Kolbe has said she is in fact not being "investigated" and said that Jimenez falsely attributed her statement to that effect.)

In their enthusiasm for objectivity, however, the Globe, the Guardian and the Associated Press, which ran a similar story, may have lost some perspective. The Globe's Jimenez cites Rights and Democracy's Nicholas Galletti, who complains of the "author's background" calling into question a "study 'based on flawed methodology' whereby responsibility for crimes is attributed to groups without a proper criminal investigation or trial."

The question is, to whom does the standard that "responsibility" should not be delegated "without a proper investigation or trial" apply? Rights and Democracy receives millions in annual funding from the Federal Government (the "majority" of its funding, by its own account) and its President is appointed by the Prime Minister's Office. One has only to visit the falsely-named "Non-Governmental Organization's" web site to find numerous reports on human rights which do not adhere to this standard. If it did operate by the same standard, it's not clear how it is possible to keep track of human rights abuses in countries (Haiti, for example) where such crimes go unprosecuted.

Rights and Democracy's reports do differ in one significant respect: they almost uniformly do not inspire front-page articles that embarrass those in positions of power in Canada.

* * *

Postscript: This is not the first time that the Lancet has been attacked for a study examining the impact of a military invasion on human rights. An analyst at the UK's MediaLens pointed out some of the inconsistencies in the media's coverage of various Lancet reports.


Death threats against Kolbe

12.09.2006 14:04

September 11, 2006
"You Are a Dog. You Should Die!"
Death Threats Against Lancet's Haiti Human Rights Investigator


"You are a dog ... you should die. We are going to necklace you," whispered a British-accented caller into the phone. It was the latest in a round of death threats that Athena Kolbe, Human Rights Investigator and Master's level social worker at Wayne State University, had received. According to police officials, Kolbe first began receiving threatening calls at home and on her cell phone at 4:00 AM on the morning of Monday September 4.

Kolbe, who co-coordinated a human rights study carried out in late 2005 by the Wayne State University School of Social Work with Dr. Royce Hutson, led a team of twelve Haitian interviewers in surveying 1260 randomly selected households in the greater Port-au-Prince area. The Haitian researchers interviewed Port-au-Prince residents about their experiences with human rights abuses since the installation of Gerald Latortue as interim Prime Minister following the violent overthrow of Haiti's elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The Lancet article titled "Human Rights Abuse and Other Criminal Violations in Port-au-Prince Haiti: A Random Survey of Households" exposes massive human rights violations in Haiti, under the foreign-installed interim government of Gerald Latortue. It estimates that 8000 persons were murdered and approximately 35000 sexually assaulted in the greater Port-au-Prince area between February 2004 and December 2005. More than 90% percent of the sexual assaults reported in the study-involved penetration, explained the authors. The study first became public knowledge on August 30 when Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints aired an interview with Kolbe and Royce discussing the findings of the survey. It has stirred controversy ever since.

Days after an interview with Flashpoints' Dennis Bernstein, Charles Arthur, president of the UK's Haiti Support Group, denounced Kolbe as a "pro-Lavalas Family journalist" implying that Kolbe manipulated the survey findings. Articles about the study were quickly published in the Guardian and the Toronto Globe and Mail in which Charles Arthur was prominently quoted, but much remained unexplored --most conspicuously the findings of the study--but also what Kolbe has had to endure since the study was published.

It was her volunteer service in 1995 with Lafanmi Selavi, an orphanage for street children and child domestic servants in Port-au-Prince which Arthur claimed makes Kolbe too"biased" to conduct research. Aristide founded the orphanage when he was a parish priest ten years prior. Kolbe met Aristide and says she was "impressed with commitment to promoting the idea that children are people who need to be loved, respected and valued." Kolbe volunteered in several orphanages during postings in Haiti, Croatia and Israel.

Kolbe formerly wrote for the Pacific News Service writing under the name Lyn Duff (her mother's maiden name), publishing a smattering of articles during the next ten years about the experiences of marginalized Haitians including rape survivors, homeless children, factory workers, child laborers, and human rights victims. It was her experiences in Haiti and other developing countries that Kolbe says motivated her to return to university to peruse an academic career. Kolbe's co-author in the study is Royce Hutson, a former doctoral fellow at the Madison, Wisconsin-based Institute for Research on Poverty and a current associate professor of social work at Wayne State University.

Kolbe says, "I felt that in academia I could have a greater impact on developing ideas and policies which would help promote justice and healing for human rights victims," explaining that advocating for social justice is an essential tenet of the National Association of Social Worker's code of ethics. When starting her studies in late 2004 Kolbe decided to go by her father's surname rather than the hyphenated name she had been using previously. That decision, she says, was to avoid persecution for her sexual orientation, as she had previously been the subject of media reports about discriminatory treatment of gay youth.

In response to Arthur's allegations of "bias", Kolbe replies, "I am in no way a Lavalas propagandist as Arthur implies. Just because I wrote about Haiti and do not believe Aristide was a dictator, that does not make me Fanmi Lavalas. That is ridiculous," she said. "This survey was conducted fairly and accurately. The researchers conducted themselves without bias and interviewed and gathered information from 1260 randomly selected homes. To insinuate that the report is misleading is to allege a grand conspiracy involving dozens of people including our university's ethics committee which had full knowledge of my past history in Haiti and had no problem with it when they approved our research protocols."

A Haitian resident of London, who wishes to remain anonymous due to the death threats, explains that on Sept. 2 Charles Arthur told her and several other people that "We need to find this woman?s phone number so people can contact her and complain to her directly." The following day a flyer emblazed with Kolbe's photo was released titled "Who is Athena Kolbe?" Respond to Fanmi Lavalas Propaganda!!!!" Another witness, wishing to go unnamed due to the fear of being targeted, explains that Arthur was responsible for distributing the fliers. The flyer's text is identical to portions of Arthur's letter to the Lancet, which he posted online. It ends by encouraging people to "ask her why she is hiding her affiliation with Fanmi Lavalas" and gives Kolbe's phone numbers, email address, home address, and the address and phone number of her family members.

The calls began the next day, Kolbe explains, as she received over a dozen. One caller with a "clearly Haitian accent" called her a "Lavalas chimere" saying, "Do you know what we do to Lavalas chimere? You deserve to die painfully. We know where you are. We know who you are." In a later call she was threatened with rape, evisceration and death, said a police official. The harassment is being investigated by the FBI who have given the Wayne State University researchers "several options" to find the callers, says Hutson.

On September 6, Kolbe received a dead rat in the mail. Postal investigators are investigating the source of the package, which was postmarked in Brooklyn, New York. Just six days after Kolbe received the dead rat in her mail a frequent poster on the Internet forum, Michel Nau, a senior analyst at Georgetown University, commenting on the Lancet survey claimed it smelled "like a dead rat."

"Intimidation and violence against journalists and human rights investigators critical of the coup government is nothing new, as Kolbe's death threats are the most recent." explains Randall White editor of, which frequently covered assaults on the poor by security forces of the interim government. Radio WKAT reporter Abdias Jean was executed on January 12 2005, according to witnesses after photographing the summary execution of three young men by Interim government police. Later that year, in September, SWAT members of the Police Nationale d'Haiti (PNH) arrested American journalist Kevin Pina and a Haitian photojournalist working for AP Jean Ristil. Ristil was arrested again and subjected to torture later in 2005 on orders from Haiti's Central Headquarters of the Judicial Police.

The persecution of those who expose human rights abuses is to be expected, says Hutson who explains that the research team expected ?our methodology and findings to be subjected to intense scrutiny because we examined patterns of violations by political actors who might not have wanted those violations to be exposed.? But, he says, "the charges of bias are baseless. We were aware Athena had written under another name and found no conflict. Our concern is the way UN soldiers are interacting with Haitians." Lancet Publisher, Richard Horton, explains the study had excellent credential and peer reviews, stating in the UK?s Guardian newspaper, "It was very thoroughly reviewed by four external advisers," he said.

Several other human rights studies, such as those by the Miami University of Law, the New York University School of Law, the National Lawyers Guild, and Amnesty International, found the interim government and paramilitary forces guilty of extra-judicial violence, reports that received little coverage in the press (Sprague, 2006). One of the few local Haitian human rights groups to focus on violence within Port-au-Prince's slum communities, the Association of University Graduates Motivated For A Haiti With Rights (AUMOHD), has reported frequently on violence against Lavalas communities.

Kolbe concludes, "Our type of study can not be used to prove that no violations happened by a particular group; it can only be used to show broader patterns of abuse against the populace. Human rights workers reported patterns of violations by political actors against people throughout Port-au-Prince during 2004 and 2005 and that?s exactly what we found."

The Lancet study found that 21 percent of the killings were attributed to members of the interim government's Haitian National Police (HNP), 13 percent to the demobilized army and 13 percent to anti-Lavalas gangs such as Lame Timachet. Most of the rest of the violations were attributed to criminal elements. The study also found a high amount of sexual violence committed since Aristide's ouster, much of it committed by anti-Lavalas political actors. Although Kolbe points out that the study found a number of sexual threats and threats of physical violence were issued by UN troops and Lavalas supporters.

Charles Arthur's organization the Haiti Support Group acknowledges amongst its associates a number of organizations which failed to report on the interim government's wave of violence upon Haitian slum dwellers, such as the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) which received funding from the Canadian quasi-governmental agency "Rights and Democracy", a partner with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Also affiliated with the Haiti Support Group, the Batay Ouvriye (BO) who called for Aristide to "leave the country" is the recent recipient of $450000 USD in NED and State Department programs through the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS). Camille Chalmers, head of the Haitian Advocacy Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA) another group affiliated with the Haiti Support Group, lobbied for the resignation of Aristide and coauthored a letter labeling Aristide a "dictator" with another PAPDA official, Yves Andres Wainwright who later become environment Minister under the Latortue government. Chalmers then established close ties with the Canadian "Democracy Promotion" agency Alternatives, who works with the NED and receives 50% of its budget from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Christian Aid a financer of the Haiti Support Group receives significant funding from the British government as well as CIDA.

The controversial human rights activist Pierre Esperance and his organization National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) refused to go into poor neighborhoods after the coup, which they explained to a Quixote Center delegation in March 2004. Esparance at the time of Aristide's ouster was a treasurer of POHDH, while his other organization NCHR received $100000 USD from CIDA, renewable every six months.

While the Lancet study was run on a small budget the aforementioned groups heavily funded and closely connected with Canadian, European, and U.S. government and quasi-government agencies have yet to subject their claims on human rights abuses in Haiti to similar peer-review.

Joe Emesberger is a writer living in Canada with an interest in Haiti.

Jeb Sprague is a graduate student and freelance journalist. Visit his blog at

Imanol García

Brazen lies

14.09.2006 11:40

The piece entitled "Death Threats Against Lancet's Haiti Human Rights Investigator" by Jeb Sprague and Joe Emesberger published by the US-based Internet newsletter Counterpunch, on 11 September, 2006, contains a number of statements about things I am alleged to have said and done that are absolutely, and unequivocally, untrue.

I wish to state, for the record, that I have not been, and am not, involved in any way whatsoever with any threats of any kind made against Athena Kolbe. The statements about me in the Counterpunch piece are pure fiction.

Charles Arthur

Charles Arthur

Charles Arthur - The Lancet and the Truth

14.09.2006 23:28

David Peterson's Blog @ ZNet

September 12, 2006

David Peterson: Shoot the Messenger

September 12, 2006

The important study "Human rights abuse and other criminal violations
in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of
households," by Athena Kolbe and Royce
Hutson of Wayne State University in Detroit, was initially posted to
The Lancet’s website on Thursday, August 31, two days prior to its
release in print as a feature article in the September 2 issue of the
journal (Vol. 368, No. 9538).

Today happens to be Tuesday, September 12. This means that the Kolbe
- Hutson study has been in circulation online for 13 days, and in
print for 11. During this period, I've been able to find three
reports about the substance of the study bylined by Jeff Heinrich and
circulated via the CanWest News Service in Canada (which has meant
that multiple Canadian print dailies have published these reports
beginning with the first of them on September 1); one report by
Andrew Buncombe for the September 4 Independent (also republished
that same day in the Belfast Telegraph); one commentary by Ira
Kurzban in the September 7 Miami Herald; a single 175-word news blurb
placed into circulation by Associated Press over September 7 and 8;
one report by Marina Jiménez for the September 7 Toronto Globe and
Mail; one report by Duncan Campbell for the September 8 Guardian;
and, finally, one editorial in the September 11 Montreal Gazette.
(Note that during these 13 days, the Montreal Gazette published three
reports by Jeff Heinrich.)

Now. It is always possible that something else appeared some place
else, and I simply didn’t find it. But from what I have in fact
found, a perfectly reasonable inference follows. Namely, that within
the English-language news media, there has been very little interest
overall in the Kolbe – Hutson study.

As our friends over at the U.K.-based Media Lens group put it in
their September 11 Media Alert (“Haiti – The Traditional Predators”

In 2004, with the US, UK and French governments eager to see Aristide
demonised and removed from power, the British and US media published
hundreds of articles about the human rights situation in Haiti.

Dozens of journalists lined up to vilify a democratically elected
Haitian government that, in reality, had temporarily thrown off the
"traditional predators" promoting Western interests.

Just two years on, a peer-reviewed report published in a prestigious
scientific journal showing that Western policy has again unleashed
mass killing on Haiti has simply been ignored. The US and UK
governments have of course responded with silence. As though
functioning as a fully-fledged state-run propaganda system, the
watchdogs of our 'free press' have followed suit.

You see, it all depends on whom is doing the killing. And, more
precisely, on whether or not the killing and the suffering can be
blamed on an officially-designated demon. As a rule, when killing
and suffering can be blamed on an officially-designated demon--and my
absolute favorite example over the past 15 years has been Slobodan
Milosevic or the Bosnian Serbs or simply ethnic Serbs per se during
the contests over the fate of the former Socialist Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia, ca. 1991 through the present--though I should add that
the case of the light-skinned Arabs of Khartoum ranks pretty high,
too, as does "Islamic Fascism" more generally--then the professionals
who work for the news media will zero-right-in on the blameworthy,
leaving no stone unturned, no corpse uncounted, no missing person
uncommemorated. And this practice occurs regardless of whether the
blame is fair and balanced or an out-and-out fabrication.

But what is most striking about the last four items that I catalogued
at the outset (i.e., by AP, the Toronto Globe and Mail, The Guardian,
and the Montreal Gazette) is that each one of them takes an interest
in the Kolbe – Hutson study only because, and only insofar as, other
parties have sought to discredit it.

Thus during its very short public life (i.e., the study is not quite
two-weeks-old yet), the Kolbe- Hutson study has gone from being
almost completely ignored (except in Canada) to being trashed, all
without ever passing through a period when its findings were so much
as reported.—Can you imagine a report published in a highly
respected, peer-reviewed, scientific journal making comparably
startling claims about the levels of violence--including sexual
violence--in theaters of conflict such as Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Kosovo, or The Sudan receiving the same kind of ignore-it or bash-it

Still more precisely yet, it isn’t so much the Kolbe – Hutson
findings of large-scale violence in post-Aristide Haiti that have
come under criticism and attack. Quite the contrary. It is the
integrity of the researchers themselves that is under fire. And one
researcher in particular—Athena Kolbe.

Thus each of the three reports by AP, the Globe and Mail, and The
Guardian, as well as the editorial in the Montreal Gazette, have
focused on what they or the people they are quoting descry as a
alleged “conflict of interest” in Athena Kolbe’s background.
According to AP (“Haiti: UK medical journal investigating author of
study,” Sept. 7 - 8):

British medical journal The Lancet said Thursday it is investigating
an alleged conflict of interest by an author of a report in the
current issue that claims 8,000 people were slain under Haiti's
interim government.

A critic of the study accused one of the report's authors of being a
supporter of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose ouster
following a violent uprising led to the installation of the
U.S.-backed interim government that ran the country from 2004 to 2006.

Astrid James, a deputy editor of The Lancet, said the journal is
investigating the allegations, but stands by the report, which also
said up to 35,000 women were sexually abused while the interim
government ruled the troubled Caribbean nation.

The journal took the action after learning that Athena Kolbe, one of
two U.S. authors of the report, had volunteered in 1995 at an
orphanage founded by Aristide and has written articles in various
newspapers in support of Aristide while he was president and after.

Kolbe, a researcher at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan,
denied any conflict.

As the Globe and Mail described it (“Author of Lancet article on
Haiti investigated,” Sept. 7 ), “Ms. Kolbe
herself is now the subject of controversy after revelations that the
30-year-old master's degree student at Wayne State University's
school of social work in Detroit used to be an advocacy journalist
who wrote under the name Lyn Duff and worked at a Haitian orphanage
founded by Mr. Aristide.”

Then in the very next two paragraphs, excerpts from a “letter of
complaint to The Lancet” drafted by one Charles Arthur of the
U.K.-based Haiti Support Group were reproduced. These two paragraphs
read as follows:

"How can Kolbe/Duff's research into the issues of human-rights

violations be regarded as objective when she herself states that for
3.5 years she worked with the Lafanmi Selavi centre for street
children, where she befriended Aristide himself and presumably some
of the boys who later left the centre . . . [who] then acted as armed
enforcers?" Charles Arthur, co-ordinator of the British-based Haiti
Support Group, wrote this week in a letter of complaint to The Lancet.

"There is a concerted international campaign to distort news and
manipulate information about Haiti with the apparent aim of repairing
the reputation of Aristide. I am concerned The Lancet has unwittingly
been used as part of the pro-Aristide propaganda campaign."
Athena R. Kolbe and Royce A. Hutson, The Lancet, Vol. 368, No. 9538,
September 2, 2006

"UN peacekeepers in Haiti," Editorial, The
Lancet, Vol. 368, No. 9538, September 2, 2006

“Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample
survey,” Les Roberts et al., The Lancet,
Vol. 364, No. 9448, November 20, 2004

"Open season on Haiti's poor, study finds: UN soldiers often
identified as perpetrators," Jeff Heinrich,
Montreal Gazette, September 1, 2006

"Canadian troops in Haiti accused of making death, rape threats,"
Jeff Heinrich, Montreal Gazette, September
2, 2006

"Police and political groups linked to Haiti sex attacks,"
Andrew Buncombe, The Independent,
September 4, 2006. (Republished in the Sept. 4 Belfast Telegraph.)

"Latortue's disturbing legacy," Ira
Kurzban, Miami Herald, September 7, 2006

“Haiti: UK medical journal investigating author of study,” Associated
Press, September 7 – 8, 2006

"Military police probe claims troops threatened Haitians," Jeff
Heinrich, Montreal Gazette, September 7, 2006

“Author of Lancet article on Haiti investigated,”
Marina Jimenez, Toronto Globe and Mail,
September 7, 2006

“Lancet caught up in row over Haiti
murders," Duncan Campbell, The Guardian,
September 8, 2006

"Haiti study deserved to be trashed," Editorial, Montreal Gazette,
September 11, 2006

“U.S. – Haiti,” Noam Chomsky, ZNet, March 9, 2004

“The Illegal Coup in Haiti,” Marjorie
Cohn, CounterPunch, March 31, 2004

“Who Removed Aristide?” Paul Farmer,
London Review of Books, April 15, 2004 (as posted to ZNet)

“Option Zero in Haiti,” Peter Hallward,
New Left Review, July 1, 2004 (as posted to ZNet)

"Invisible Violence: Ignoring murder in post-coup Haiti,"
Jeb Sprague, Extra!, July/August, 2006

For more on Haiti, also see the material archived by the
U.S.-based Council On Hemispheric Affairs

“Haiti – The Traditional Predators,” Media
Lens, September 11, 2006

"'You Are a Dog. You Should Die!' -- Death Threats Against Lancet's
Haiti Human Rights Investigator," Jeb
Sprague and Joe Emesberger, CounterPunch, September 11, 2006

"The Lancet on Haiti -- Whom Are Its Critics?"
Media Lens Forum, September 13, 2006

"Terror in Haiti," ZNet, September 2, 2006

"Shoot the Messenger," ZNet,
September 12, 2006


Lancet article proves pitifully little

20.09.2006 21:22

Dear Charles,

I'm a Dutch development economist and became interested in Haiti because of a former job for a fundraiser for orphans in Haiti and other Central and Souht American countries.
My most direct information about Haiti is through contact with a priest/doctor who works in the slums of Port-au-Prince.
For him I follow the news that appears on internet that is relevant for him.

Until proven wrong I suppose everyone publishing about human rights in Haiti has the best interests in mind of the Haitian people and especially of the most vulnerable Haitians, the utterly poor majority.
Having found some of your earlier writings about Haiti on internet, you certainly seem to fall in that category.

Having noted the news about the Lancet article and having read the report itself, I'm wondering how you feel about the way your criticism of Athena Kolbe's possible conflict of interest has been picked up in the media.
The Lancet article focuses on getting more "reliable evidence of the frequency and severity of human rights abuses in Haiti after the departure of the elected president in 2004".
It explicitly states that it does "not assess changes in human rights violations over time" for lack of comparable quantitative data for earlier periods.
It does put itself in the context of supporters of Aristide and Fanmi Lavalas "accusing UN troops, the Haitian National Police (HNP), personal militias hired by private citizens, and military irregulars associated with the disbanded Haitian army, of mounting a campaign of human rights abuses aimed at members of the Lavalas political party" and counterclaims "of rampant human rights abuses by Lavalas partisans and pro-Aristide gangs" by "leaders in the interim Haitian government, members of the Civil Convergence political movement opposing the Aristide government, and other political groups".
It defines "human rights abuse [...] as crimes [...] for political purposes."

Before starting your criticism of the Lancet article as "Lavalas Family propaganda" you state that "it does confirm reports from civil society organisations in Haiti and from some parts of the Haitian media indicating that human rights violations and criminal violence in Port-au-Prince have significantly increased in number over recent years".
Would you agree that it is a pity that your criticism has served mainstream media to ignore or doubt this confirmation of deterioration of the human rights situation following the departure of Aristide?

You see "a concerted international campaign to distort news and manipulate information about Haiti with the apparent aim of repairing the reputation of Aristide".
Others see "very little interest overall in the Kolbe – Hutson study" and other accounts of violence against the poor in Haiti except where "other parties have sought to discredit it" (e.g. David Peterson
Would you agree that public discussion could better concentrate on
1) the extent of human rights violation,
2) who are the main perpetrators and to what extent they are politically motivated and
3) most importantly on how to stop it?

Can we devise a way to redirect the discussion in such a more constructive direction?

A starting point could be the question what the Lancet article really proves.
Pitifully little, I'm afraid.
The total numbers of victims of 8 types of criminal violence have been estimated with the usual 95% certainty margin.
An estimate of 8.000 murders in the greater Port-au-Prince area in the 22 months from 29 February 2004 until end 2005 really means that the chance that this number is lower than 5.000 or higher than 12.000 is less than 5%.
The number of sexual assaults is ascertained to be between 28.000 and 41.000, for physical assaults between 11.000 and 22.000, government arrest (mostly without proper legal procedures) between 8.000 and 17.000, kidnapping and extra-judicial detentions between 6.000 and 15.000, property crimes between 25.000 and 39.000, death threaths between 29.000 and 51.000, injury threaths between 54.000 and 85.000 and sexual threats between 17.000 and 37.000.
That's about it...
No way or attempt to compare these figures with figures from before Aristide's departure.
Because the definition of human rights violation is linked to political motivation, one has to excluse the perpetrator categories "criminals", "unknown/undisclosed" and "others".
The resulting figures for criminal violence by "UN troops, the Haitian National Police (HNP), personal militias hired by private citizens, and military irregulars associated with the disbanded Haitian army" can then be compared with those for "Lavalas partisans and pro-Aristide gangs".

The first group committed between 2,7% and 68,4% of the murders, the second 0%.
But only a small part of the "criminals", "unkown/undisclosed" and "other" perpetrators would need to have been politically motivated and part of the second group to make the claim that this type of human rights violations is to be blamed more on one group than on the other unverifiable.
Only 2,7% (even at the 95% certainty maximum) of the unknown group needs to be really part of the pro-Lavalas/Aristide group eliminate the statistical significantce of the difference with the 2,7% - 68,4% for the other group.
This holds true for the other types of humuan rights violations too (except for government arrest, which can't logically be blamed on a group without government power in this period).
For respondents to not blame the pro-Lavalas/Aristide group for human rights violations is only required that they are afraid to tell.
The researchers don't seem to have taken the precaution to take respondents apart.
Quite a few may have been afraid or unwilling to tell all they knew, because others could hear their answers.
The article indeed states as one of its limitations: "Respondents might have feared repercussions or hoped to further their political cause by blaming the violation on foreign soldiers or political groups that they oppose."

The article doesn't clearly establish that the criminal violence is directed unevenly at the poor.
The "Post-strati.cation analysis" distinguishes between densely populated areas as a whole and other areas a whole.
It concludes that differences for murder and sexual assault between the two types of areas are not statistically significant.
Only for physical assault the difference is found to be statistically significant: between 1,1% and 2,5% of the population in the densily populated areas suffered from this type of criminal violence as against between 0,5% and 0,9% elsewhere.
Average income levels don't differ in a statistically significant way between the densily populated part of the research area and the rest, however.
No figures are included for this type of analysis for other types of criminal violence.

It is possible to draw some conclusions if we compare the data given for smaller areas, however.
Average income levels do differ in a statistically significant way in some cases.
Port/La Saline/Cite Soleil is at one extreme (mean per-head income per week in gourdes between 252,2 and 368,2) and Petionville on the other (between 623,8 and 892,8).
For murder the differences between these two areas are still not statistically significant (between 0% and 0,6% for Petionville versus 0% - 3,0% for Port/La Saline/Cite Soleil).
For sexual assault (0% - 1,2% versus 3,1% - 12,3%) and physical assault (0% versus 0,5% - 4,9%) the difference is statistically significant.
There are a few more such combinations of a relative poor are and a relatively rich one that differ in a statistically significant way for either sexual of physical assault, but none for both.

All-in-all the article gives few if any hard clues on what the authors and we would like to know: who suffers most and predominantly at whose politically motivated hands.
Only that outcome would allow us to suggest political solutions (curbing the power of one or the other group) for the human rights violation that's undoubtedly still going on at a too high level.
Apparently the random sample survey was simply too small to support conclusions that would have been of real use.
It can be interpreted as giving some confirmation of the qualitative research referred to in the Lancet article, but hardly any hard proof.
That's a real pity.

I sincerely believe that both the authors of the Lancet article and you and everyone else participating in the discussion primarily have the interests of the Haitians most vulnerable to criminal violence in mind and not harming or repairing the repution of one or the other side of the political arena (to the extent that these are clear).
Let's please restart the discussion on the basis of that assumption.
If anything is not proved by the Lancet article it is that Aristide/Lavalas supporters are blameless.
It even states so explicitly: "Political groups on both sides of the spectrum were named as responsible for violent and criminal acts".

With friendly greetings,

Wim Nusselder

Wim Nusselder
mail e-mail:
- Homepage:

Response to Arthur on Corbet

26.10.2006 01:47

This was a reponse to Charles Arthur's denial reposted above.

This is in response to "Re: 29160: Charles Arthur (response) Sprague and Emesberger's lies (fwd)"
All information in regards to Mr. Charles Arthur's alleged statements and activities within our piece entitled "Death Threats Against Lancet's Haiti Human Rights Investigator" published by the US-based Internet newsletter Counterpunch, on 11 September, 2006, is supported by testimony from London residents. We contacted Mr. Arthur days prior to publishing the article and received no response. Also, not mentioned in our article, it is clear by Mr. Arthur's post on a UK based website that he circulated information on churches that Ms. Kolbe and her parents attend. To our knowledge a police investigation, with cooperation from British authorities, is underway.

Authors of the Counterpunch piece,
Jeb Sprague & Joe Emersberger


Batay Ouvriye catches Jeb Sprague lying about Haitian workers

25.12.2006 14:09

What else is he lying about?

"Jeb Sprague’s erroneous perception of US imperialist domination on Haiti made him blind to the fact that the Lavalas régime under Aristide, Préval and Aristide was completely submitted to US imperialism. The latest neo-liberal plan was accepted and signed by Aristide since 1993, while he was in exile."

Sprague’s Fallacies and Haiti Progrès’ Dirty Campaign against Batay Ouvriye


On Sprague’s Alleged “Smoking Gun”

Batay Ouvriye, Haiti Progres, Jeb Sprague and the War Against Haitian Workers

Letter to the Editor re: Death Threats against Lancet's Haiti Human Rights Investigator


28.01.2007 00:29

Batay Ouvriye is a discredited organization that launches attacks on all those who discuss it's US State Department program funding.

$449,965 in NED/State Department funding for ACILS 'Solidarity Center' Program with Batay Ouvriye
by Jeb Sprague
and Joe Emersberger
September 30, 2006

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[Editor's note: This is in response to a letter to the editor by Batay Ouvriye about Sprague and Emersberger's article on the Lancet Study on Haiti. In Batay Ouvriye's letter, we noted that there was no mention of the tragic implications of the Lancet study: 8,000 deaths and 35,000 rapes, most of which are attributable to the coup. It would be a shame if the implications of this study are lost in the debate.]

The most prominent international labor organizations active in Haiti, the ICFTU, AFL-CIO, ILO, and ORIT, working to support and strengthen labor organizations that agitated for the ousting of Haiti’s democratically elected government, have simultaneously refused to condemn the massive layoffs and persecution of public sector workers and trade unionists committed by its illegally-imposed successor (the interim government of Gerald Latortue). These labor institutions have chosen only to work with labor organizations that agitated for the ouster of the Aristide government, such as the the Coordination Syndicale Haïtienne (CSH), the Group of 184 labor front which they were instrumental in constructing, and the Batay Ouvriye. In June of 2006 Labor Notes Magazine revealed that the Batay Ouvriye is the current recipient of an American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS) Program with a total NED/State Department funding of $449,956. ACILS is also known as the Solidarity Center. The following provides greater detail in regards to this funding/program relationship. For more context read the June 2006 LABOR NOTES article: Failed Solidarity: The ICFTU, AFL-CIO, ORIT, and ILO in Haiti.


The NED has a $99,965 grant with ACILS (Solidarity Center) to work with the "May 1st Union Federation - Batay Ouvriye."

The grant states: "American Center for International Solidarity $99,965. To promote the development and capacity of democratic unions in free trade zones. ACILS will work with the May 1st Union Federation- Batay Ouvriye to train workers to organize and educate fellow workers. Training will include developing organizational plans, networking with workers outside their factories, forming community and factory unions, and researching and monitoring working conditions. Finally, NGOs and trade unions from the U.S. and Canada will visit to discuss working conditions in Haiti."


The US State Department has a $350,000 grant with ACILS for its program with the Batay Ouvriye. The Solidarity Center acknowledges that its officials began meeting with Batay Ouvriye in 2004. Also see below excerpts of a November 2006 recorded interview with Solidarity Center officials:

Teresa Casertano: The solidarity center has 2 grants that are working in Haiti. One grant was awarded in May of 2005 and the 2nd is the NED grant for September 2005. Those are the only grants that we have for the Haiti work between 2000 and 2006. That May 2005 grant is from the anti-sweatshop fund from the democracy rights and labor department of the U.S. Department of State. Harry Kamberis: Democracy, human rights, and labor bureau of the Department of State…Question: How much was that for? Teresa Casertano: $350,000...Question: I’m just curious why the solidarity center has not spoken out against these massive layoffs [of trade unionists following the coup]? Teresa Casertano: The executive council made a statement on haiti following feb 2004 [Note from the authors: The statement did not mention the persecution of trade unionist nor the specific persecution of trade unionist supporters of the ousted government. It made no mention of the massive layoffs. It made no mention of the persecution, jailings, death threats, and attacks on workers of the CTH, FTPH, and other labor organizations]. We make public statements. We make plenty of statements...Harry Kamberis: The solidarity center works very closely with the ICFTU who represents the voice of labor around the world... [note from the authors: The ICFTU and it's fraternal organization ORIT helped found the CSH, which would later become the labor component of the Group of 184 and agitated for Arisitde's ouster.]


Charles Arthur, director of the Haiti Support Group (HSG) acknowledges that the HSG works with the Batay Ouvriye, which is often featured on its website. Labor organizations that supported Haiti's constitutional government and were heavily persecuted following the 2004 coup have been completely ignored by the HSG.


One of Batay Ouvriye's main speakers, Paul Philomé, at a tape recorded March 2004 Batay Ouvriye meeting with a Quixote Center Delegation explained, Batay Ouvriye, "..had worked to denounce all of the plans that the Fanmi Lavalas government had, we denounced them and fought to make sure those plans were not successful, and we also took positions so the government can leave the country.." Two months prior to the coup, the Batay Ouvriye declared "Down with the blood thirsty Lavalas thieves, criminals!" See


On January 9, 2006 the Batay Ouvriye acknowledged part of its ongoing program with the Solidarity Center, after the release of classified NED grant documents obtained by Canadian researcher Anthony Fenton and published on the website Following the publication of the documents the Batay Ouvriye responded, " appears Haiti’s Batay Ouvriye union may be a 'targeted beneficiary' for $100,000 this year, through the Solidarity Center which solicited the NED." See


Joe Emesberger is a writer living in Canada with an interest in Haiti. Jeb Sprague is a graduate student and freelance journalist. Visit his blog at


Mitchel Cohen's great response to Jeb Sprague's filthy lies...

31.01.2007 02:52

"Sprague’s “documentation” was a complete lie. Instead, he casts a fantastic net of guilt-by-citation; Sprague cites the names of some US government reports that apparently drew on public information that Batay Ouvriye had issued concerning agricultural workers and sweatshop workers in Haiti. Wow, what a smoking gun! (I say sarcastically.) That’s it! That’s like saying that LeftNews is in the pay of the CIA because an LN footnote was cited by the CIA in one of its internal documents!"

Read Cohen's full statement on Jeb Sprague's lies here:


Cohen lies. BO has 450,000$ program via NED and US State Department

01.04.2007 02:05

Cohen wrote that statement above prior to the full amount being revealed. This was discovered by Canadian journalist after the NED let it slip months before its annual budget was released. The NED acknowledged a funding of 100,000$. Months later Sprague interviewed Solidarity Center officials who said they had an additional $350,000 from the US Department of State. So the total funding is 450,000. Read the labor notes article by Sprague from May 2006 that clear it all up.


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