Former Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel Constant appeared in court Monday for sentencing on his mortgage fraud conviction. Mr. Constant asked to be released, after the time he has already served, and deported to Haiti. The hearing was continued until Monday, for the judge to consider human rights groups’ arguments that he should serve the maximum prison term in New York before deportation.
Coming Attractions: The Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti is holding fundraisers in Oakland California on May 20, New York City on May 24, and Buffalo, NY on May 29. Two Haiti speaking tours are coming to North America: the Labor and Women Solidarity Tour will visit Canada from May 22-June 5, and farther ahead, Seeding Hope in Haiti, a Pax Christi speaking tour will visit the U.S. from June 16-July 23. The movie “Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits” will be screened in Seattle, Olympia, Portland OR, New York and Washington over the next month.
This week’s alert: The Haiti Debt Cancellation Resolution ( H.Res. 241) has momentum- there are now 41 Co-Sponsors 30 of them new this month.This progress came from work: by Reps Maxine Waters, Spencer Bachus, Luis Gutierrez and Barbara Lee, who urged their colleagues to join them in a May 3 letter; by folks at Jubilee USA Network and Haiti Reborn who have been calling members of Congress; and by hundreds of people throughout the country who have called or written to tell their representatives that debt relief for Haiti is the right thing to do. Another 28 Representatives co-sponsored the same bill last year, but have not renewed their support (click here for that list)
More help is on the way: A letter from over 50 religious, human rights, social justice and solidarity organizations throughout the U.S. will be delivered to Congress on May 18, Haiti’s Flag Day- traditionally a time for Haitians to celebrate independence and unity. The rest of us can help Haitians celebrate future Flag Days by uniting this year to call our Representatives and insist on the debt cancellation that will give Haiti its financial independence.
Haiti’s debt is odious and onerous. Odious because over half the debt is for loans given to “Baby Doc” Duvalier and other dictators, who diverted the proceeds to luxury goods and repressive thugs, leaving the poor peasants, market women and factory workers to pay the tab. The debt is onerous because the debt payments- $56 million this year- literally kill. The payments divert money away from public health and sanitation programs. In a country where half the people struggle to survive on less than $1 a day, that means children getting sick from drinking unhealthy water and dying for lack of simple antibiotics (See Jubilee USA’s Haiti Debt Fact Sheet for more information).
Haiti’s creditors- the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank- recognize this injustice and have accepted Haiti into their debt relief programs. But their solution is as unjust as the problem: the debt relief programs impose harmful economic conditions- including immediate cuts in government healthcare and education programs, while the debt programs will not provide relief for at least two years. In the meantime, Haiti’s government will have paid the creditors $138 million in principle and interest, and tens of thousands of children will have died from drinking water. The lucky ones will have grown older without learning how to read.
H.Res. 241 is an immediate solution to this injustice. It would direct the U.S. representatives to Haiti’s creditors to use our voice, vote and influence (the U.S. is the largest shareholder of all three) to obtain the immediate cancellation of Haiti’s debts. As soon as the debts are cancelled, Haiti could immediately invest the payments- $6.19 million in May 2007 alone- in saving lives and teaching kids.
Contact Your Representative!
This immediate solution needs your immediate help. We asked Rep. Waters’ office what would move the bill in Congress, and got back a simple answer: “Make Lots of Calls.” So call your Representative on May 18, and ask her or him to co-sponsor the Haiti Debt Cancellation resolution in the House ( H.Res. 241). Contacting Congress can be simple- just call the office, give your name and address, and saying “I am calling to urge Rep. ___ to co-sponsor H.Res 241, which supports debt cancellation for Haiti.” You may also suggest that the Representative’s office follow up by calling Kathleen Sengstock at Maxine Waters’ office at (202) 225-2201.
If you feel ready to do more, ask for the staff member who handles foreign policy issues, and engage in a conversation about this bill. Ask if the Representative will co-sponsor H.Res 241, and if not, try out some of the talking points from the Fact Sheet, the Dear Colleague letter or the May 18 sign-on letter. Remember, the people in Washington work for you.
To find contact information for your Representative, visit http://www.house.gov/writerep, or just call the House switchboard, 202-224-3121, and ask for your Reps office. For tips on lobbying by phone, see http://www.fcnl.org/getin/resources/phone_lobby.htm . To find out whether your Representative has co-sponsored this resolution, see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.res.00241 : For more information see: www.jubileeusa.org or www.HaitiJustice.org
Thank you for your time, and let us know how you do.
For more information about the Half-Hour for Haiti Program, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, or human rights in Haiti, see www.HaitiJustice.org. To receive Half-Hour for Haiti Action Alerts once per week, send an email to HalfHour4Haiti@ijdh.org.